If you grew up in a small town, or ever wondered why people care so much about football, or just want to read some of the best journalistic writing on the planet, I recommend Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger. It’s better than watching high school football. It’s better than the TV show by the same name, or watching James VanDerBeek say “I DON’T WANT. YOUR LIFE!”

It’s race, politics, corruption, seedy Texas, slick Texas, the origins of George Bush, and all sorts of other goodies. Read about what author Larry McMurtry described as the “Worst City in the World” and why football became their religion.

Reading this as part of the ongoing research for an upcoming book (working title Stillwell), which is mostly researching the culture of the town I grew up in. It’s been fascinating.  The route I traveled to this book is equally interesting. Recently went to go see Hanif Abdurraqib speak with Kaveh Akbar and Leslie Jamison at a killer panel by Literary Arts and went poring over his bibliography afterward. Turns out he wrote the forward to a book called Friday Night Lives which is a retrospective photo-driven project which intercuts photos of the players from Bissinger’s book with where they are decades later. I was curious why a poet/genius like Hanif Abdurraquib would be passionate enough about these books to write the forward – now I get it.

It’s high school football as a fascinating keyhole through which to peek in on humanity and small town America – and it hit plenty close to home.


Huge thanks to Heather Ransom, Willamette Writers, Josephine County Library, and Oregon Books & Games for just about the best visit an author could wish for. Some incredible sharing from the Young Willamette Writers crew, a warm reception (with cookies) at Oregon Books & Games, an epic dining experience at Oregon POUR Authority  and a chance to hang with authors like Heather and Casey Dunn? Yes please. Can’t wait for next time!

Winner of the Oregon Books & Games audio treasure hunt! Well done!

The setup.

Listening to some epic sharing from the online participants of the Young Willamette Writers workshop.


oregon book awards, ya book awards, jc geiger ya book award, jc geiger awards, oba geiger


Of all the awards — the Oregon Book Award holds so much magic for me. Legendary winners like Kesey, Le Guin, Palahniuk, Laini Taylor, April Henry — I mean, these are the people who made me want to be a writer. It’s also the first serious kind of award nod I’ve ever gotten, so I got to be jaw-dropping excited and jump all around the room and call my mom and all that good stuff. My parents are flying out for the awards ceremony which is that suspenseful kind of “open the envelope and see” affair which I really enjoy. So grateful Literary Arts pulls this whole thing together – can’t wait to see everyone on April 25! 


The Great Big One, novel, jc geiger

That guy eating waffles with my daughter? He’s a rock star. And he helped inspire The Great Big One.

(If you’re wondering about the whole liner notes concept, more here.)

Went down like this: Emily and I drifted into Thinking Tree Spirits on a random date. Nice vibe, mellow inside. Felt just like a Tuesday. One of the few guys in the place, cozied up in a corner, pulled out his guitar and the whole room went still. A player with the kind of talent that grabs hold of the room like it’s got a handle on it. The song was Young’s “Harvest Moon” – you could feel the harmonics buzz in your chest. Em and I listened, stared at each other, and cried. Alright — this just happens sometimes when we actually have a date. But that particular Cocktail of Tears was one part romance, two parts gin, three parts Matt Hopper.

Never had been a huge fan on Neil Young, or that song. Something about his playing cracked the tune wide open and made me fall in love with it forever. At the end of the set, Em and I introduced ourselves.

Within minutes, Matt told me something like – “I locked myself in a cabin in Alaska and did nothing but spin Neil Young tunes and play guitar for a month.” We loved him immediately. He’s like that. I gave him a copy of my 1st novel, then a few weeks later, texted him and asked if we could be friends. (For real. I’m still like a third grader passing notes.)

Since then, The Hop has blown into town now again for a No Shame show or a wild steampunk barn party. My daughter fell in love with him over breakfast at Off the Waffle. I’ve rocked out to Hopper on road trips, manic cooking adventures, garage cleaning sprees, and late night writing sessions. His renditions of “Harvest Moon” and “False Alarm” transformed pivotal sections of my novel. I can’t honestly say what the book would be like without him.

All this, and the guy is on tour in the Pacific Northwest RIGHT NOW!!! Go if you can. You’ll be inspired. You might even get a book out of it. ❤️

Liner Notes, Uncategorized
Portland Book Fest, Geiger Portland book fest, jc geiger portland

Sat, November 13 from 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm PST
Portland Parks Foundation Tent

OFFICIAL SESSION LINK HERE: https://literary-arts.org/event/pbf-geiger-sallah/

Thrilled to announce I’ll be an in-person guest at the Portland Book Festival on Nov. 13, in conversation with Alissa Sallah and Kate Ristau on the topic of Stories of Friendship, Growing Older, and Growing Apart. Just got a copy of Alissa’s book. My son is heavy into anime right now and I felt — in a subtle nod — the addition of a few Cool Points to the Dad column when I lay WEEABOO on the table. Can’t wait to dive in. There will be a 15 minute Q&A and book signing afterward, solid Covid precautions taken. I really can’t wait to see real readers and real writers gathered together and not through a screen. Hope you can make it!



I’ve always loved liner notes. You know — the lyrics, photos, and messages included in the packaging for CDs, tapes, and records. Back in the day, part of questing for an album was seeing what the cover art looked like under the shrink wrap, how it would unfold in a paper accordion for cassette tapes; CDs had cool little booklets. I remember going through my dad’s record collection and how enormous the notes seemed – giant treasure maps, canvasses for lost art, tour photos, abstractions. I remember Thick As a Brick. The Wall. August and Everything After – a cover with faded cursive lyrics to a song that didn’t even make it onto the album. What a mystery! I loved listening straight through for the first time, flipping pages. You could feel the whole mythos of the work swirling, sinking in.

After being steeped in music for The Great Big One, I thought: What about liner notes for a book? Sure, the book already exists in print — but to me, liner notes were always about the space just outside the circumference of the main artistic product. Everything that couldn’t quite make it into the book or onto the album. Pictures, inspiration, research, anecdotes, drawings, mysteries. Since books are something we can already hold and turn the pages for, maybe liner notes could be digital.

I’m going to give it a try. I’m even going to give it a hashtag, so if this happens to be a social media project I actually manage to follow through with, one day I can type #thegreatbigone #linernotes and have a whole collection of videos, photos, deleted scenes and sections, everything surrounding a book that was – for several years – roughly the size of my life.

Liner Notes

Friends, it’s been a while.

I could lash all my apologies together like a raft and try to paddle the gulf, but I think I’ll just jump right in where we left off.

I finished another draft of my book. If you know me in casual life, that’s probably what I say every time you see me. The other night, I went out to celebrate and friends asked me: Is this your third book? Fourth? No, no. Still the second. They said — I thought we already celebrated this book? Yes. Submitting a book is like throwing a very large boomerang at New York City. You hope when it comes wheeling back it’s not so heavy with corrections it takes your head off.

Most people think of publishing as a HIT SEND kind of situation. It’s really more of a RETURN TO SENDER situation.

You send. You celebrate. Later, in the quiet, ears ringing from the popping of corks, you lie alone. You listen for your draft out there, in the wild. You cup hand to ear, wondering — how did that boomerang land out there in the big city?

What you hear is as quiet as wind whispering through cedars.

When the draft arrives, you just keep throwing it back at New York until it finally returns to you as a bound book. This is your final RETURN TO SENDER moment. This does not mean your novel is properly finished. It just means your publisher is done helping you fix this story.

I celebrate every toss of the boomerang. For me, celebration is essential to the practice of writing. Progress with a book can be so intangible, sometimes you must build yourself a trophy out of beer cans. Climb on your desk and call it Kilimanjaro. Shout your private achievements to the ceiling fan.

You will wonder, aloud and alone, if the book will be successful. You will wonder, aloud and alone, what success is. Whether you choose to measure success with money or peer recognition, you’ll eventually learn – as George Saunders once stated – “success is a mountain that grows as you climb it.”

That’s good, isn’t it? Success is a mountain that grows as you climb it.

I’m just wrapping up my second book, which comes with its own specific challenges. While writing a second novel, you may recall every disappointing second album a band ever released. But it would be a mistake to dwell on these albums. Or listen to them.

Anne Lamott wrote: “Avoid looking at your own publication in the mirror.” She also said:

“Sometime later you’ll find yourself at work on, maybe really into, another book, and once again you figure out that the real payoff is the writing itself, that a day when you have gotten your work done is a good day, that total dedication is the point.”

Ah, it’s true. It’s so true I want to greet Anne Lamott at an airport, running with balloons.

It’s a lot of emotional work to write a book. You get wrung out, leaning into that computer screen, changing that hyphen to an ellipsis and then to a period and no, back to the hyphen and all the while beating your heart against the page. A lot of crying. It makes me think what’s called “a good cry” is somewhat defined by the duration of the crying. I’m healthiest writing about 3-4 hours a day. For this book, some days were significantly longer. Eight hours. Ten.

If I work too hard, for too long, I get arrhythmia. Tachycardia of the brain.

When I finished the latest draft, I didn’t know how to stop. My whole body had readjusted to a new schedule of endless working, heightened emotions. Hummingbird heart. Stay up late, wake up early. Is this book good? Is this book done? Keep writing. Keep worrying. Finally, very late one night, I hit send. Submitted the book. Shipped off. Gone. I still couldn’t convince my brain to stop.

The hamster had left the wheel. But the wheel was still spinning.

I needed a reset. My family and I flew back to the Midwest during winter break. This is a DSM-recognized sign of temporary mental illness, flying to Illinois in January.

In Illinois, I did not work. I FORCED myself to not work and it was like a Trainspotting detox situation but instead of creamed corn and a bedpan I had my mom’s deviled eggs and endless appetizers and the baby did not crawl on the ceiling but just on the ground. I played video games. Bizarrely, watched TV. I taught my son to play Magic the Gathering.

All the while, body and mind slowly remembering – there are other ways. Different tempos, paces, patterns of breathing. Other worlds to move through.

My hometown felt like a very different world. A real Midwestern Main Street with awnings and a barber pole. People who owned shovels and might get into a car to drive the distance of one small city block. It’s so cold, maybe you agree to get in the car to drive one small city block. Corn stalks shrunk to stubble in winter fields. Gray horizons and the white-noise rush of highway traffic. Good handshakes. Vegetables, a pale shade of green. TV in the background like flashing wallpaper.

I played cards. Ate. Ran on a treadmill so I could eat more.

It worked. I slept. Reset. Detoxed. My last day in town, I printed my book in a hotel lobby, took it to my favorite 24-hour truck stop, and read it like the work of a stranger. I could see what needed to be fixed. And when I went home to Oregon to fix it, the final draft felt like a gift.

That had never happened before. It felt like dessert.

Then, just days ago, I was seized by epiphanic, spontaneous joy. Just sitting at my desk – book not quite done, but getting there, and the sun lanced through the clouds and my kids were at school just an hour from pickup and suddenly the reality of life settled around me – the trees, that little spot of sun, kids to pick up, a worthy project to labor on. The day stretched out like a runway. It all felt laid out like a beautiful banquet. I smiled and smiled and wrote in Sharpie on white paper:


All around my office, if you look, you will find bold black Sharpie declarations smattering the room, but that’s one of my very favorites. I’m staring at it now. I believe it, and hope you believe it and chase it and can feel some of your days like runways, some of your existence like a banquet, and I’ve missed being in touch, but I’m back.

It’s good to be back. Thank you for reading. If you have time, drop me a line and let me know how you’re doing out there!

Plain Text & The Truth

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