Ryan Buynak hates bios. We sat down with him to discuss his latest book and this is what happened.
What's your latest book about?
The most recent book is called Writer, Bartender, Skateboarder...and it is all about being young and dumb. I wrote it about ten years ago and just shelved it for other projects. It is about youth and figuring out who you are.
Tell me about the LA book release.
Where do I begin? I spent some time in LA a long time ago, and when I was planning the release of this book, LA became like a bucketlist destination to do the book release gig. I’ve done release parties in NYC, Florida, Montreal, but never west coast. I reached out to some of my favorite standup comedians and asked them to do time at the show, and for some strange reason, they agreed. I somehow also got one of my favorite bands (Balto) to perform. I put together this whole show that became bigger than me. It was at this cool old theater in Venice Beach. It was as close to perfect as possible. I will never forget it, and it taught me a lot about producing shows, as well as just trying to do things, putting your heart into something.
How has the skate culture influenced you as an artist?
Skateboarding has shaped me as a human and as an artist. Just the whole DIY aspect of it, combined with the don’t-take-shit part. Skateboarding is something you can do alone or with a crew. All you have to do is do it. It’s the same thing with me as an artist: I just get out there and make things. I push myself. Also, skateboarding is all about creativity and acceptance, especially if you’re weird.
What got edited out of this book?
Lots of repetitive lines (laughs). Lots of bullshit about love and death. I wanted this book to be fun, and explorative, like a time capsule of this kid growing up. I had to take out all the selfish stuff.
Which phrase in the book are you most proud of?
“Life is a funny sunset.” or “Poetry sucks.”
What's the most difficult part of your artistic process?
Time. There is never enough of it.
What's a possibly unknown book you wish everyone would read?
Oy vey, where do I start? We Meet by Kenneth Patchen, You Can’t Win by Jack Black (not the actor), Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry, Ask the Dust by John Fante...I could go on and on. But I must include The Stories of Breece Pancake, because he is the best writer no one has ever heard of.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I hated reading and writing as a kid. Something happened later in high school. I found books that I connected with (F the Great Gatsby), and I started writing in secret. I like to say that writing chose me. And I know that sounds lame, but it is true. It wasn’t until college that I realized this was more than a secret hobby; it was an addiction. And along the way, I met some really great people who taught me how to be a working writer.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
Coyote, duh! They’re scavengers and will do anything to survive.
How many unpublished or half-finished books do you have?
10-20 (and I started a new one on Friday)
Are there trends you're noticing in poetry these days?
This is a tough one because I don’t pay attention to trends; I do what I do. You will always have a few sects of poets. There are the academics who go to school for a million years, probably publish a book or two, and end up teaching. The big thing for the last decade or so is Slam Poetry, which is more performance-based. Some of my best friends and contemporaries have made names for themselves doing Slams. That’s probably the big one because it connects to the general public more so than what I do, which is unmerciful when it comes to poetry and storytelling. However, any poetry is good poetry. The world needs more of it.
What does success as a writer look like to you?
Success is relative. To me, it’s all about leaving a legacy. Just getting books out into the world. One day I will be dead, but hopefully, these books and words will still be on bookshelves or backs of toilets.