WordTasting Tour May/June

Starting May 1st I’ll be hitting the road again as part of Asymmetrical Press’ 32-city WordTasting tour. I’ll be sharing the stage with Brooklyn songwriter Skye Steele and fellow Asym authors, Colin Wright and Shawn Mihalik up into Canada, down the Pacific coast, and back up through the Rockies.

The events are all free. I’ll be promoting Shapes the Sunlight Takes. Colin (Considerations), Shawn (Particles), and Skye (Up from the Bitterroot) will showcase their new work. Many of the cities will include local special guests, and for part of the tour we’ll have Asymmetrical Founders Joshua Fields Millburn or Ryan Nicodemus on board with The Minimalists’ upcoming book, Essential.

Dates and Cities

May 1 — Missoula, MT (free tickets)

May 2 — Hamilton, MT (free tickets)

May 4 — Whitefish/Kalispell, MT (free tickets)

May 5 — Helena, MT (free tickets)

May 7 — Billings, MT (free tickets)

May 9 — Great Falls, MT (free tickets)

May 10 — Calgary, AB, Canada (free tickets)

May 11 — Edmonton, AB, Canada (free tickets)

May 14 — Vancouver, BC, Canada (free tickets)

May 15 — Victoria, BC, Canada (free tickets)

May 18 — Seattle, WA (free tickets)

May 20 — Olympia, WA (free tickets)

May 24 — Portland, OR (free tickets)

May 26 — Ashland, OR (free tickets)

May 29 — Reno, NV (free tickets)

May 30 — Sacramento, CA (free tickets)

June 1 — Berkeley, CA (free tickets)

June 2 — San Francisco, CA (free tickets)

June 3 — Santa Cruz, CA (free tickets)

June 5 — Los Angeles, CA (free tickets)

June 7 — San Diego, CA (free tickets)

June 9 — Phoenix, AZ (free tickets)

June 10 — Tucson, AZ (free tickets)

June 12 — Albuquerque, NM (free tickets)

June 13 — Santa Fe, NM (free tickets)

June 15 — Denver, CO (free tickets)

June 17 — Fort Collins, CO (free tickets)

June 19 — Casper, WY (free tickets)

June 20 — Provo, UT (free tickets)

June 22 — Salt Lake City, UT (free tickets)

June 23 — Boise, ID (free tickets)

June 25 — Spokane, WA (free tickets)

“Shapes” Chapter One – download, audio, video

Last week Asymmetrical Press released “Shapes the Sunlight Takes” chapter one as a blog post and free audiobook, and you can listen to it right here:

Purchase Shapes the Sunlight Takes:
Paperback ($17): Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Ebook ($7): Kindle | Kobo | iBooks | Google Play | Nook

Reviews and Press:
Missoula Independent review
Missoulian feature article

 Praise for Shapes the Sunlight Takes

“Wagner’s novel does what all good novels should do: it made me think about the way that I think…. an odd, intimate story about the messy and complicated relationship between reality and fantasy.”

Theo EllsworthCapacity, The Understanding Monster

“With an attention to feelings and language that I’m inclined to describe as enviable…. Wagner remembers what it’s like to be a teenage lesbian and does the dirty work of reminding the rest of us.”

– Molly Laich; Missoula Independent (full review)

Wagner reads from Shapes:

Shapes the Sunlight Takes Reading – Chapter 0

Shapes the Sunlight Takes – Derwin and Mirielle

SHAPES THE SUNLIGHT TAKES: coming this winter


Cover Design by Colin Wright

In 2011 I wrote four short stories that had absolutely nothing to do with one another.

  1. An alcoholic man who turns into a woman after a certain combination of drinks
  2. A 15-year-old girl’s creepy crush on a senior girl
  3. A boy who imagines the circumstances behind his own conception
  4. A group of old people plotting to break out of their retirement home

Even after a few revisions these stories felt incomplete (I’ve never really gotten the hang of the short story), but I liked them enough to keep tinkering away. A few months later I ended up taking a character from #2 and making her the protagonist of #3. I took the guy from #1 and located him in the retirement home from #4. Before long I was imagining all these stories taking place in the same town, at roughly the same time. Meanwhile, a larger plot line was slowly taking shape in my mind, and these four stories turned into chapters that would become the building blocks of a new book.

Three years later, Shapes the Sunlight Takes is finished and due to launch through Asymmetrical Press on January 20th, 2015. Much of the book’s first draft was written while traveling throughout Europe in the fall of 2012, and I wrote the last sentence in the summer of 2013 while living in the Flathead. Since then it’s been a lot of rewriting, editing, and tearing my hair out. The book draws a great deal from my own high school experience. In many ways it’s probably my most personal work of fiction so far, which might explain why I’m so damn nervous for anyone to read it.

“Nine million different shapes for the sunlight to take. Nine million different ways that light slows itself down to experience time.” 

From the publisher’s website:

“Lexie, a fifteen-year-old outcast, believes she can see the future.

When her best friend’s dropout brother Derwin rides back into town, Lexie has a vision that he and her senior crush, Mirielle, are destined to have a child who will grow up to save the world. Even though Mirielle and Derwin hate each other, Lexie believes it’s her job to bring them together if only for one night.

As she navigates between fantasy and reality, Lexie struggles to make sense of her visions, seeking answers from the old folks at a high-tech retirement home, a clique of self-proclaimed eco-terrorists, and a story her ex-girlfriend once told her about a grotesque tongue that seduces souls at the world’s end.

Lexie’s conflict between her desire for Mirielle and the belief that she must give her up drives her at last to a furious and bizarre climax: a dramatic nursing home jailbreak, the retoxication of a transvestite alcoholic, a confrontation with a bear, and a final showdown between Lexie’s imagination and the destiny of the universe.

Shapes the Sunlight Takes is about the relationships we make with our past and future selves, and the way our passions and delusions shape who we are and how we engage with the people around us. A story of anxiety, paranoia, coming of age, and finding perspective in a culture of self-deception.

Release date, excerpts, and other info to be announced soon.

And yeah, I’m pretty flippin’ excited.

Mystery Mark

Mystery Mark is a cartoon exorcism. The story of a man who wants a new face and a new life. Clay, a man being stalked by the star of his favorite childhood television show, desperately wants to surgically alter his terrified facial expression, believing that a physical fix will help him deal with his emotional problems. All he wants is to escape his anxiety and settle into a normal life, but there’s a voice in his head who has different plans…


In 2013, I cornered Theo at his table at the Made Fair and told him that if he went into his studio, found 10 or 15 old drawings that he liked but that didn’t have a home, I’ll build a story out of whatever he gave me. He seemed keen on the idea and said he’d see what he could dig up. Meanwhile, Viscosity and I were busy trying to figure out how to develop an expanded version of our previous year’s show, Thisillusionment. Our ambitions turned out to be too big to pull off in just one year, but we still wanted a production for 2014. Our designer Scott Morris was getting fired up about masks and puppetry, which seemed to have huge crossover potential with Theo’s work. I thought maybe we could assassinate a couple birds with just one rock.

A few months later Scott and I met up with Theo at Charlie B’s in Missoula. Theo had already made up his mind to work with us, but instead of using old drawings, he wanted to start from scratch–make this a true collaboration. None of us had the first clue what our story would be about. All we knew at the time was that Theo would create illustrations, I would write a narrative around them, and then Scott would build its world in three dimensions.

Theo brought the first drawings with him that day at the bar. He handed each of us a manilla envelope with a “?” written on the outside. “It’s a mystery mark,” I said. With that flippant remark our title was born, before anyone had the first clue what it would mean.

Over the next several weeks Theo and I bounced ideas back and forth with words and images until characters and their stories started crawling into the light. The process was subconscious and weirdly organic. Theo kept drawing pages as I worked our concepts into a small novel and a script. As Scott started to dream up inventive stage, mask, and puppet designs, director Rebecca Schaffer and dramaturge Kate Morris dove into conceptual development, and a first phase installation started coming together.


The installation: A looping theatrical installation incorporated the main characters and themes from the story–with actors, masks, and puppets–and featured an original score by long-time Missoula band, “Cash For Junkers.” Kickstarter funding supported printing costs, along with design, build, rehearsal space rental and other production costs including set pieces, costumes, masks, puppets, and props.

The Mystery Mark Installation opened during the Missoula Fringe Festival in August, 2014. Since then it has taken shape as a short film by Kier Atherton and an excerpt from the book (the Midlife Dragon) was turned into an animation by Hugh Bickley.

Book one is available through Theo’s Etsy page.


Smashing Laptops 2nd Edition


Well, it’s a pretty exciting day for this little author. The release into the wild of my first novel published by people who are not me! The second edition of Smashing Laptops, now available through Asymmetrical Press, comes with a brand new face, some shiny new editing, and even a little extra content (yes, there’s a new last chapter) is up on Amazon and getting ready for wider distribution. The cost has dropped, the clouds have parted… I’m reminded again of how much I love Missoula, leaving and coming back, the thrill of the road and the comfort of home.

Pick up the book on Amazon in print or kindle versions.

You can read free chapters at smashinglaptops.joshwagner.org.

Also, I thought I’d re-share this great little teaser John Nilles put together a couple years ago when the book first came out.

If you can’t watch it here for some reason, Check it out on Vimeo.

This Thing I Love

I recently had the honor of contributing to Asymmetrical Press’s new essay compilation, Advice to My 18-Year-Old-Self, now available on Amazon. Mine is the one with the obnoxious title: “I Need to Take This Thing that I Love and Get Rid of it Immediately.”

Read the essay online.

advicetomy18yearoldself_coverBOOK DESCRIPTION
Ever wish you could travel back in time and give advice to your 18-year-old self? Well, these 12 writers did just that. Sort of. ADVICE TO MY 18-YEAR-OLD SELF is a collection of 12 letters from a dozen different writers, ages 20 to 58, who give advice to their younger adulthood-approaching selves.

Contributions from: James Gummer, Colin Wright, Joshua Fields Millburn, Ryan Nicodemus, Robert Isaac Brown, Colin Wright, Robyn Devine, Shawn Mihalik, Chase Night, Josh Wagner, Meg Wolfe, Samuel Engelen, and Markus Almond.

Turn the Corner, Sun

I guess we sprang forward. More sun, more light, more time, more openness. Less brooding, less hibernation, less silence, less fear.

Here comes the summer; I can see you tilting at the poles. The rest of 2014 promises a lot and demands just as much. Here’s what’s on the way: Two new Theatre projects, Smashing Laptops gets new distribution and a new face, a new novel slated for next fall, and a brand new comic series with Steve Saunders and artist Anthony Gregori in the works.

Details on all of these developments coming very soon!