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Meet the folks of “Art on Foot” – Writer and comedian Brian Beatty

To kick off our new partnership with Silverwood Park, “Art on Foot,” in style we’re jointly hosting Field Trip, a day-long arts festival in late September. With this joint venture, we aim to incorporate art and literature into the park’s sylvan setting. One of the central projects of “Art on Foot,” Poetry in the Park, […]

Field Trip, presented by mnartists.org and Three Rivers Park District's Silverwood Park, is September 24 at Silverwood Park, St Anthony MN - noon - 9 pm

To kick off our new partnership with Silverwood Park, “Art on Foot,” in style we’re jointly hosting Field Trip, a day-long arts festival in late September.

With this joint venture, we aim to incorporate art and literature into the park’s sylvan setting. One of the central projects of “Art on Foot,” Poetry in the Park, allows visitors to access poems and stories by phone as they hike through the trails.

With Poetry in the Park, you simply dial up a phone number and listen to a handpicked selection of little literary gems read aloud by some of our favorite Minnesota poets and flash fiction writers. We’ve got all but one of the stops up and ready for you already, featuring poems by our 2010 mnLIT poetry winner Connie Wanek, Tim Nolan, Gary Dop; you’ll also find stories by our 2010 mnLIT flash fiction winner, Hillary Wentworth and 2009 flash fiction winner Brian Beatty; Lightsey Darst’s “cell stop”, the last one featured in this year’s “Poetry in the Park” series, will go live in the park next week.

Look for Q & As with both Darst and Connie Wanek here on the blog next week.

You can meet the “Art on Foot” participating artists in person, and hear the “Poetry in the Park” authors read their pieces live on writer-led hiking tours through the trails during the Field Trip festival next Saturday, September 24 from noon – 9 pm.

The writer-and-naturalist-led hiking tours will leave on the hour at 1 pm (Brian Beatty and Connie Wanek), 3 pm (Gary Dop and Hillary Wentworth), and 5 pm (Lightsey Darst and Tim Nolan) throughout the day.

Find the full schedule of Field Trip festival events here >>

Navigate your way through Silverwood’s trails to find your way to the art, poems and stories of “Art on Foot” with a map and instructions for accessing the “Poetry in the Park” >>

Find details on the upcoming Field Trip festival and participating projects over the coming weeks on mnartists.org/field_trip

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Brian Beatty

Meet the “Art on Foot” folks: Writer and comedian, Brian Beatty

When do you write? Do you work according to a set routine, or is your schedule more whimsical, or catch-as-catch can, depending on how the mood strikes you or opportunity presents itself?

I write at least a little bit for myself every day — between walking my dog in the wee hours of the morning and getting ready for work and/or again after dinner in the evening. Sometimes, if I’m inspired or up against a deadline, I’ll write through lunch and into the wee hours of the night, too. Depends how excited I am about what I’m working on. I write copy to pay the bills, so there’s no escape.

Do you have any rituals to help get your work going?

I obsess over a word or descriptive phrase until it assumes a life of its own. Then I just write down what happens next. It’s during this chase that I figure out if it’s a piece of prose, a poem, or some dumb joke. When I hit a dead end with the words, I get up and walk it off. I’m a pacer.

Are you a monogamous or a promiscuous reader?

I read around. Most of the time, I’m working through three or four books — usually a collection of poems, a nonfiction book of some sort and a novel or short story collection.

What books do you return to again and again?

Barry Hannah’s story collection Airships is the book I’ve read more than any other. The mad energy of the language in that book is as much a gauntlet as it is an inspiration.

What reading material is on your night stand?

I’m currently reading Kay Ryan‘s selected poems, Thomas Pynchon’s Vineland and a book outlining a Buddhist approach to happiness.

Do you have an unfinished piece that still haunts you?

It’s more of an unstarted piece: I have this idea for an odd little play I’d like to write. I thought of it while I was performing in this summer’s Fringe festival. I scribbled the opening dialogue down in a notebook, but I haven’t gotten back to it. Soon, soon. I’m curious to find out why the woman in the scene is standing on a ladder.

Who is your first, best reader? Was there a discrete pivot in your life you can point to, a particular experience or teacher or encounter, after which you decided to pursue this kind of work, or did you stumble into your writing sideways?

I don’t share my work until I consider it finished. I’ve written enough client copy to know the perils of committee opinion. But I’m thrilled that folks read what I write and listen to what I say on stage.

From grade seven until my senior year in high school, my plan was to become a high school band director. But my senior year, an advanced composition teacher demanded that I write and submit a short story to the university for a chance to earn a scholarship. That story paid for four years of undergrad. After I had my MFA, I quit writing for a year. But it turned out that I’m a terrible quitter.

Name your favorite bookstore/bookseller, and why; or maybe there’s a local writer whose work has caught your fancy?

Magers & Quinn is my favorite Twin Cities bookstore. The mix of new and used means I’ll probably find what I’m looking for, but I’m just as likely to discover something that I didn’t know existed, which is my second favorite feeling in the world, after the feeling of creating something that didn’t previously exist.

Describe the first time you encountered a writer or story that grabbed you and wouldn’t let go.

Flannery O’Connor’s story “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” blew a hole in my head when I first read it in ninth or tenth grade. The story’s cruel comedy thrilled me. I’d had no idea literature could do that.

I’m willing to bet everyone enjoys a bit of trashy stuff from time to time. What’s the best god-awful piece of writing you ever read?

I went through a pulp fiction phase a couple of years ago. Not the classics of the genre, but the quickie churn-‘em-outs that comprise the deepest, darkest recesses of today’s underground scene. The formula was half the fun. The other half of the fun was how unapologetic these writers were about the grime and gross-out aspects of their books. The prose took the idea of “unmannered” to such extremes that I sometimes wondered if the writers’ draft manuscripts had even been edited.

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Brian Beatty‘s business card reads “Writer. Comedian. Dude with a beard.” Which is entirely accurate. Brian’s jokes, poems and stories have appeared in numerous print and online publications, including Conduit, The Evergreen Review, Guffaw, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, METRO, mnartists.org, The Quarterly, Rain Taxi, The Rake, Seventeen and Yankee Pot Roast. Brian has performed his stand-up comedy and storytelling all over the Twin Cities, including at the 331 Club, Bedlam Theatre, Brave New Workshop, Bryant Lake Bowl, Club Jager, The Fitzgerald Theater, Nomad World Pub, Northrop Memorial Auditorium, The Ritz Theater, The Soap Factory, Walker Art Center and the Woman’s Club of Minneapolis. Brian is the author of the not-suitable-for-wilderness humor chapbook DUCK! He also recently acted and performed music for the Ferrari McSpeedy production, “Once Upon a Time in the Suburbs,” during the 2011 Minnesota Fringe Festival.

Poetry in the Park is part of Silverwood Park’s new “Art on Foot” program, created in collaboration with mnartists.org, which allows you to enjoy work from Minnesota artists and authors along the trails. Bring the family back to the park on September 24, and meet all of the “Art on Foot” artists in person during Field Trip, a day-long festival with live music and theater, poet-led hikes with readings along the trails, and much more. The festival is a joint effort of mnartists.org and Silverwood Park. Find additional links, work, and information from the “Art on Foot” artists and writers, and get all the details about the line-up for Field Trip online at www.mnartists.org/field_trip.

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Listen to the following stories by Brian Beatty, right now, as you walk Silverwood Park’s trails:

 “Squirrels”

“Nuts”