The Writer’s Handful with Chris L. Terry


Writers + Mondays = Finally something to look forward to.


Happy, happy, happy to feature Chris L. Terry on The Writer’s Handful today. Chris’s debut novel, Zero Fade, was just released from Curbside Splendor and already it is garnering quite a bit of buzz and fine reviews. Kirkus gave the book a starred review, calling it, “Original, hilarious, thought-provoking and wicked smart: not to be missed. Jake Austen of the Chicago Tribune says the book is “funny, funky and pitch perfect.” And Emily Roth of Chicago Literati writes: “As a whole, Zero Fade succeeds, entertains, and sets the bar (and my excitement) high for Chris L. Terry’s future novels.”Zero Fade Front Cover

Not bad stuff for a new guy, huh? But don’t just believe what others tell you. For a taste of this delicious stuff, check out the trailer.

Then read an excerpt on VOL.1 BROOKLYN.

And then go to your favorite bookstore and get a copy – or order it here.

Welcome, Chris!


Did you write today? If yes, what? If no, why not?

No, because my 34-year-old ass decided to stay out until 1am on a Sunday night, seeing a terrific punk band called the Future Virgins. I usually write in the morning before work, but that did not happen today. I got some stuff done yesterday, though. I’m collaborating on a story with Zero Fade cover artist Ezra Claytan Daniels and we worked on that at Metropolis.

What’s the first thing (story, poem, song, etc.) you remember writing, and how old were you when you wrote it?

In third grade, we had to write a story. Mine was about a caveman couple named Sonny and Cher. I made a layered cover where the top sheet had a hole torn in it to look like a cave opening. It was the first time I cared about an assignment at school.

What are you reading right now?

The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Just finished the issue of Truckface zine about the CPS teacher strike.

What’s the most important advice you ever received? (Writerly or otherwise.)

I like in On Writing when Stephen King says to write every day. I’m a firm believer in keeping the machine greased.

Also, my dad used to say, “Don’t shave naked, you might drop the razor.”

If your writing were an animal, what animal would it be? Because…

My writing would be a raccoon because it’s out there at dawn, going through all sorts of shit.

Photo Source
Photo Source

Fun Facts about Chris L. Terry (from his website

  • Lived in Boston, Richmond, Brooklyn and Chicago.
  • Black father, Irish-American mother.
  • BA in English from Virginia Commonwealth University.
  • Spent late teens and early twenties touring North America and Europe, singing for punk bands.
  • Over five years’ experience editing writing.
  • Has contributed to Razorcake magazine since 2006.
  • Past jobs that start with B: babysitter, bartender, barista, bassist, baker, bicycle mechanic.
  • Runs 15-20 miles a week.
  • Cooks at home as often as possible.

And Chris got his MFA from the Fiction Writing Department at Columbia College Chicago.

→Follow Zero Fade and Chris on Facebook: And see Chris’s work space on View From the Keyboard. Thanks again, Chris, for taking the time to chat. And thanks to everyone for reading! -PMc←


Something Besides Latte-Making ~ Chris L. Terry’s View From the Keyboard

Each year, The Chicago Reader publishes a fiction issue of its weekly newspaper. The editors get hundreds of fiction submissions, and have to choose a very small numbers of stories to publish. This year, Chris L. Terry’s evocative and tasty story, “Red Velvet,” is among those editors’ picks. Chris also happens to be another of Columbia College Chicago Fiction Writing Department’s very fine graduate students. I’ve had the great privilege to hear him read a number of times, and to be invited to be part of his Chicago reading series, Neutron Bomb. And now I am pleased that he has invited us in to his work space for a View From the Keyboard.

Chris: This is the desk where I write when I’m not in my living room, where I’ve convinced myself that the WiFi doesn’t work. My girlfriend Sharon ( and I have lived in this Uptown apartment since we moved from Brooklyn in 2008. The realtor told us that this third bedroom was an office because it was “too small to count as a bedroom.” Only in Chicago, man. She edits her videos in the second bedroom. We brag on GChat about which cat is in our respective laps. I try to bang out at least an hour of writing every morning, the time of day when I’m sharpest.

On the left, the orangey photo leaning against the records is of a church in Granada, Nicaragua, snapped by Sharon moments before a late afternoon thunderstorm. Nicaragua is one of the few places we’ve been where people recognized the Caravaggio  tattoo on Sharon’s back and asked, “Es ‘esu’, y Maria?” instead of, “That your baby?” At the bottom is a postcard of one of my favorite writers, James Baldwin, looking summer-fresh in a white polo shirt.

I got the lamp in 2004 when my old roommate Johnny Fink and I were moving out of the bottom floor of a farmhouse in Richmond, Virginia. I was going to Brooklyn to use my English degree for something besides latte-making and he was heading west to work in state parks. These days, he’s a park ranger at Yellowstone.

Speaking of making lattes, the red and pink painting on the top right is by my old friend Jonathan Vassar. I met him while working in a Richmond coffee shop. Below that is a print called “Arrival” by Neil Burke. It’s the first piece of visual art that I’ve paid for, unless you count tattoos. Both Jonathan and Neil are talented musicians. I’m a huge music fan and spent my teens and twenties touring as a punk singer. I dig people whose creativity is multidisciplinary, bleeding over and making their entire life an act of creation. Painting guitarists, writing chefs…

I’m working on a fictional young adult novel about a 7th grade boy whose father figure is in the process of coming out of the closet, and a series of nonfiction stories about my own half black/half white biracial identity. The excerpt below is from an in-progress nonfiction piece, about the difficulties of finding a hairstyle when you’re nappyheaded, and everyone around you has straight hair.

For more info about the punk-themed reading series Neutron Bomb that I co-host with two other Columbia College Chicago Fiction Writing grad students, please visit


When Mom cut off the mullet, I got her to leave a rat tail. It shot out from the back of my head like six inches of cinnamon jet exhaust.

When braided, the rat tail curled in like a pig’s tail on a barbecue sign. So, I slid on a wood bead and twisted a rubber band onto the bottom. My hair finally hung down and I was a rocker. To the sounds of “Night Train” by Guns ’n’ Roses, I’d turn my head fast to feel the rat tail lift with centrifugal force, like an amusement park ride. The lyrics, “Take the credit card to the liquor store,” intended as a sign of seedy decadence, seemed quotidian to suburban me. I’d seen Dad take the credit card to the liquor store before. No biggie.

If I turned my head, the rat tail would snake around my neck and rest on my shoulder. In my quest for coolness, I ignored the fact that having your mother show you how to braid your rat tail, or beading it with leftovers from your arts ‘n’ crafts box was inherently uncool. But, I knew something was awry when the other black kids at my school frowned in confusion at my styles.

→For more of Chris L. Terry’s words, check out Columbia College Chicago’s Marginalia, a graduate student blog. Thanks, Chris. And thanks for reading. Oh, and if you feel so inclined, vote for this blog (All Things Writerly) for a Best Writing Blog Award. Link to the right! -PMc←