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Home News by Category Articles or Essays Interview - Supposedly Fun Things

Interview - Supposedly Fun Things

Ryan M. Blanck (, @RyanMBlanck) has published a collection of narrative and critical essays influenced by David Foster Wallace, Supposedly Fun Things.

If you followed his Letters to DFW or Supposedly Fun Things…  Essays and Reflections Inspired by the Non-fiction of David Foster Wallace then you'll be familiar with Ryan's passion for David Foster Wallace and may well find his collection of revised essays Supposedly Fun Things just the thing to tide you over until next year's critical works about Wallace.

Ryan agreed to a little chat about his passion for writing, for David Foster Wallace and the nexus of the two, Supposedly Fun Things. Enjoy. (It's long, so make sure you click on read more if you're reading this on the front page)


Nick Maniatis -  Thanks for joining us, Ryan! How about we start with a little introduction about yourself?

Ryan Blanck - I am a high school English teacher (and newly appointed department chair) at a charter school north of Los Angeles. I've been teaching for 14 years in a variety of public and private schools. I am a husband and father of two girls, ages 7 and 10. My daughters are incredible dancers and voracious readers and freakishly smart. My younger daughter wrote and published a book last summer; it's nice to have a child following in my footsteps. My wife is a "retired" teacher who stays home with the girls.

I've been writing for about ten years; writing seriously for about the last four. My Letters blog played a big part in getting me focused and motivated in my writing. Supposedly Fun Things is my third book.

Aside from teaching HS English and writing, I also teach an online creative writing class and am the part-time youth director at my church. In the little free time I have, I have taken up the sport of curling.

NM - Writing for about 10 years? How did that come about?

RB - I've sort of always been a writer. In elementary school I would write very lengthy and very imaginative stories. But it really started in earnest in college. Some friends and I had aspirations of writing and producing a magazine, but it was hard to do when we had no money and very little time to do so.



A few years later, after graduating, I started writing for an online faith-based publication called Relevant Magazine. I wrote my first book about that same time (2003), titled Engaging the Media. It is a faith-based book that helps teens make decisions about entertainment and media consumption.

NM - How did you first encounter Wallace's writing? What impact did it have on you?

RB - My wife's book club decided to read Consider the Lobster, along with the "Cruise Ship" essay in spring of 2009. About halfway through the essay, she handed it to me, thinking I would like it. I absolutely loved it. That summer I went on to read Consider the Lobster and the entire ASFTINDA book. You could say I became a little bit obsessed. The guy in the group who first introduced me to DFW continually apologizes to my wife for doing so.

Wallace has had a huge impact on my way of viewing the world around me and those who inhabit it. He showed me the "irony of the banal" and encouraged me to see beneath the surfaces and facades of what is in front of me. His writing got me to think about things in ways I never had before and to ask questions I had never considered.

But mostly, he has had a huge impact on my writing. Many have said that Wallace sounds like the voice in your head, and that connection helped set me free - so to speak - in my writing. I can put it all out there. And footnotes opened up whole new worlds in my writing. As Bruce Keener said in his review of my book, we think in footnotes and tangents. Writing in footnotes allows me to tell so many sides of a story.

NM - You have a few blog projects, Letters to DFW is one of the earliest. How did it come about?

RB - After my first book, I really struggled in my writing. I lacked focus and motivation and discipline. Then I watched Nora Ephron's 'Julie & Julia,' which is about Julie Powell's attempt to blog her way through Julia Child's cookbook. This sounds really lame, but the film inspired me to begin a blog and my new-found obsession with DFW provided me a subject. I grossly underestimated the task of reading and blogging my way through his works; I thought I could do it all in a year.

Through doing research on Wallace, I found the Fantods site, which led me to Wallace-l. I instantly loved the sense of community and lively discussions on Wallace-l. My kind of people, as my wife put it.

Reading and blogging through DFW's works did everything I had hoped and so much more. It helped me hone my craft as a writer and provided so many wonderful opportunities. Opportunities to grow as a writer and to meet some incredible people.

NM - The Supposedly Fun Things... blog was your next project. What were you trying to achieve with it?

RB - It started with a trip to Disneyland as a Grad Nite chaperone. I wondered aloud, first to my wife and then on Wallace-l what Wallace would have to say about such an event. There was so much great fodder for a writer like him. Several of us on Wallace-l decided to start a group blog. It was short-lived, but we had a lot of fun. The blog did give me an outlet for exploring the art of creative nonfiction and to further develop my written voice and to perfect the art of footnotes (although I'm still working on that one).

NM - You attended the Antwerp Wallace conference in 2011.  What was that like?

RB - The short answer: it was amazing. So much more than I could have ever hoped for. I sent in a proposal based on what I had heard and read about the book, sort of on a whim, not expecting to actually be invited. But then I got the email inviting me to present my paper. So I had about three months to read The Pale King, write a paper, and fund a 7-day, 7000-mile trip to Antwerp. After spending every spare moment I had reading the book, I spent every spare moment writing my paper. I think I spent more time on it than I did on my master's thesis. I received some great help and advice from Adam Kelly in writing and revising the paper. Through some creative credit card financing, I was able to fund the trip.

The actual conference was incredible. I'd never been to a literary conference before, so I felt very much like the kid sitting at the adults' table. But the other presenters and participants were so welcoming, and my paper seemed to be well received. And our times of hanging out in the local cafes was great. The conversations that started in the conference room just picked right up over drinks. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

NM - What drove your decision to wrap up Letters to DFW? (at least for now)

RB - After finishing IJ last fall, I realized I needed a break. I had been reading Wallace almost exclusively for several years, and I needed to branch out and read something different. So I took a break from blogging to read other things and focus on other writing projects. As I got more involved with writing SFT, I found myself really enjoying the book-writing process. I have had ideas for several more books, and I wanted to devote my time and attention to these books rather than my blogs.

And I felt that I had reached my original goals in starting the blog: to gain the focus and discipline I needed to hone my craft as a writer. I felt like I had "graduated" and was ready to move on to bigger projects.

NM - So… Supposedly Fun Things... the book. Why?

RB - I had several reasons for writing - or I guess compiling - this book. First, out of the several book ideas I had, this one would have been the easiest to complete because much of the text had already been written on the blogs. The essays went through pretty significant revisions, but the first draft was done at least. Second, I really liked the essays in it. They were a lot of fun to write the first time, and I enjoyed revising and editing them. And third, I really wanted to publish a book as an homage to Saint Dave. He had influenced my writing in so many ways, and I wanted to write and publish it as a tribute to his memory.

NM - Were there any significant challenges you faced?

RB - No, not really. Probably the biggest challenge was the cover design. The publisher has a variety of templates, but they are all so generic-looking. And I had no idea for a concept to design my own cover. So I hired a former student to do the cover for me. I had no idea what she would do, but I absolutely loved it when I saw it. I think it is perfect for the book. The only other challenge was the monotony of reading and rereading the drafts to fine tune it.

NM - You self-published, right? I'm not a professional typesetter/book designer by any means but I have to admit, there are plenty of books on my shelves that look nowhere near as good as your book does. What was your work flow to publication?

RB -Yes, I self-published through Amazon's CreateSpace, and thank you for the kind words. That is quite a compliment. As I said above, I had a great designer do the cover for me. Everything inside the cover I did myself. It was a long, arduous process getting it just right. I spent time almost every evening working on the book while my wife and I watched TV after the kids went to bed. That time consisted of a lot of reading and revising and rewriting. It got very tiresome after awhile. Once the manuscript was finished, there was the task of typesetting and formatting. Getting the footnotes just right was problematic at times. And since I had to upload the file as a pdf, if I found a mistake I had to go back into the Word document, fix it, save the new draft as a pdf, then upload it again. It got to be a bit annoying, but it was all worth it once I had a printed copy in my hands. Writing a book is a huge undertaking, but so worth it in the end.

NM - I’ve become pretty obsessive about collecting everything about Wallace’s writing now, Particularly critical texts. Have you really stopped reading Wallace?

RB - No, I could never completely stop. Being at a new school with new students to introduce to Wallace has resparked my interest in his writing. I have already worked several of his essays into my curriculum and plan to bring in several more. I'd eventually like to return in spirit to my Letters blog and begin writing a series of reading companion books for Wallace's books. Not really scholarly criticism, but rather the gut-level personal response that was the trademark of my blog.

NM - What’s on the horizon for you now?

RB - I'm working on a number of projects right now. First, I am attempting to write some academic writing books for high school students to help them with AP English exam essays and college application essays. I am also working on my next book, another memoir that isn't a direct homage to Wallace, but I'm sure it will be heavily influenced by him. And lastly, I just started writing for an Angels baseball fan website. This one is a lot of fun because it is something very different from the other writing I've done.

NM - Good luck with your projects, and thanks heaps for joining us, Ryan!

RB - Thank you for your continued support.


Ryan's book, Supposedly Fun Things... is available now over at

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Last Updated on Saturday, 02 November 2013 20:09  

The Howling Fantods