Happy Holidays 2016

Hello friends! We are coming up on Thanksgiving, one of my favorite holidays. Family, terrific food, nice wine, and over-eating. Can’t beat that combo.

I wanted to extend some gratitude for these events in which I’ve participated:

On October 20th, Kim Suhr of Red Oak Writing hosted a terrific Writer’s Showcase:

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(L): Sharon Foley reads poetry; (R) Christine Baerbock reads a haunting short story

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In New York City, at the venerable KGB Bar, I read in two events: F-BOMB on Friday, Oct. 21 hosted by Bud Smith, and Best Small Fictions on Saturday, Oct. 22,  hosted by Paul Beckman:

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(L) me reading “Mother/ Father/ Clown”; (R) Karen Stefano reading Secret Games of Words      (F-BOMB Reading)

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Top: (L) Meg Tuite reading from lined up like scars; (C) Len Kuntz reading I’m Not Supposed To Be Here and Neither Are You; me reading “A Box” (Best Small Fictions). Bottom: (L to R): me, Dawn Raffel, Dianca London Potts, Eliel Lucero, Tina Barry, Paul Beckman, Nancy Ludmerer, Britt Haraway, Anne Elizabeth Weisgarber, and Courtney Sender.

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November 10th, Jonnie Guernsey and Laurel Landis launched A Picture And A Thousand Words. I read “Behind the 8-Ball” and we all used their excellent photography as prompts, hosted at Sugar Maple in Bay View, WI:

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On November 14th, I was featured in the Traveling Mollys, hosted by Nina Corwin at Buzz Cafe in Oak Park, Chicago. The other featured reader was Bill Yarrow:

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(L) Buzz Cafe, Oak Park; (R) Bill Yarrow reading from The Vig of Love

Bottom: Daniel Weinberg reads his letters to MAD Magazine

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On November 19th, I attended Robin Chapman’s course for Red Oak Writing: “What Poetry Can Teach Writers of Any Genre.” It was terrific, and thanks, Kim Suhr, for setting up so many great Saturday workshops throughout 2016. More information here: http://redoakwriting.com.

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Update on FUN HOUSE: my fifth book! Publisher and I hope to get FUN HOUSE to you by December, 2016! We have an astounding cover (thanks artist Ron Kibble), and almost all blurbs are accounted for. FUN HOUSE has four sections: micro/ flash fiction; 26 kids in a classroom with kickass art by Bob Schofield; prose poems assembled by master crafter Eryk Wenziak, and longer short stories. Stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

 

Bath Flash Fiction Awards: October 2016

Here comes the JUDGE!

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I was completely transformed by judging the recent fourth Bath Flash Fiction Awards:

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When founder/director Jude Higgins asked me to do this, I was excited, but also unprepared. You can read Jude’s comments about the October judging here: http://bathflashfictionaward.com/2016/10/award-round-up-october-2016/

And also, my own comments about the contest are here: http://bathflashfictionaward.com/2016/10/october-2016-judges-report-robert-vaughan/

I was so smitten by the amount of talented submissions, repeatedly baffled by these word masters, and prose slayers! Writers and readers who appreciate this genre know how difficult it is to write flash fiction, let alone to reach new levels of gravitas, brilliance, wit, and pathos- all in a page or two. And imagine: 748 submissions from 28 different countries! Astounding.

First, I received the vetted Long List of 50 top stories: http://bathflashfictionaward.com/2016/10/october-2016-award-long-list/

From these, I narrowed it down to a Short List of Top 20: http://bathflashfictionaward.com/2016/10/october-2016-award-short-list/

And so, drumroll please, THESE ARE THE WINNERS:

FIRST PLACE: Helen Rye, “One in Twenty-Three” http://bathflashfictionaward.com/2016/10/helen-rye-october-2016-first-prize/

SECOND PLACE: Christopher M. Drew, “The Perfect Fall” http://bathflashfictionaward.com/2016/10/christopher-m-drew-october-2016-second-prize/

THIRD PLACE: Julianna Holland, “White Matter” http://bathflashfictionaward.com/2016/10/julianna-holland-october-2016-third-prize/

TWO COMMENDED (honorable mentions):

Caroline Reid, “Lost Dog” http://bathflashfictionaward.com/2016/10/caroline-reid-october-2016-commended/

Michelle Elvy, “Whale Shark” http://bathflashfictionaward.com/2016/10/michelle-elvy-october-2016-commended/

Deep thanks, Jude, for allowing me to judge this worthy competition. Congratulations to the winners, and also to every single person who entered. Thanks for making my job so complicated. And yes, the Bath Flash Fiction Awards are now officially OPEN!!! Next judge? Kathy Fish. Best of fortune to all who enter!

New York, New York: Big City of Dreams

Last weekend I had the great fortune of visiting my old haunts. Staying downtown in New York City, and reading at the venerable KGB, in their relatively new third floor “Red Room.” Friday night was hosted by Bud Smith, for the roving F-BOMB flash fiction event. Readers included Bud, Meg Tuite, Len Kuntz, Karen Stefano, Michael Gillan Maxwell, Gay Degani and me. I read an assortment of stories: “Mother/Father/Clown” from Diptychs + Triptychs; “Recruitment” from Addicts & Basements; and “Sweet Surrender is all I Have Left To Give” included in the newly published States of Terror, Volume 3 (at Amazon).

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On Saturday night, Paul Beckman hosted the Best Small Fictions 2016 reading! Same spot, KGB. This reading included mostly authors selected for the recently published anthology, expertly edited by Stuart Dybek and Tara Masih. Including, but not limited to: Britt Haraway, Anne Weisgerber, Dawn Raffel, Nancy Ludmerer, Courtney Sender, Ilana Masad, Dianca London Potts, Tina Barry, Eliel Lucero, Michael G. Maxwell, Karen Stefano, Paul Beckman, Len Kuntz, Meg Tuite, Bud Smith and me. I read my piece, “A Box,” which was chosen for the Best Small Fictions, 2016 (originally in RIFT, my co-authored book with Kathy Fish).

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And then, there was the general pizazz of being in in a city I love more than any other, with writer pals/ friends I adore, admire, revere, love:

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Overall, I would do this again, and again. Soulful, inspiring. Deeply satisfying. Please, sir, may I have some more?

 

BEST SMALL FICTIONS 2016

There are certain postmarks as a writer that mean more than some others. When series editor Tara Masih sent me the news that my flash fiction, “A Box,” (originally published in RIFT) was chosen as a winner, and would be included in the second installment of Best Small Fictions 2016, I was overjoyed. The BSM 2016 book was released two days ago, and I can’t wait for my copy to arrive tomorrow. Also, it makes me even more ecstatic that Kathy Fish (we co-wrote our last book, RIFT) had her incredible story, “A Room With Many Small Beds” chosen by editor Stuart Dybek for inclusion in the same stellar anthology:

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https://www.amazon.com/dp/1938466748/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_x_cFSZxbMTVFEQP

From the Goodreads page: “This second installment of The Best Small Fictions continues to celebrate the diversity and quality captured in fiction forms fewer than 1,000 words. Forty-five acclaimed and emerging writers—including Alberto Chimal, Toh EnJoe, Kathy Fish, Amelia Gray, Etgar Keret, R. O. Kwon, and Eliel Lucero—offer readers “some of the brightest concise writing available today” (NewPages). With spotlights on Texture Press and author Megan Giddings, the acclaimed new series, with its “finger on the pulse,” succeeds in its aim to make something big from many small things.”

Best Small Fictions 2016, Featuring Small Fictions by:

Amir Adam, Daniel Aristi, Tina Barry, Paul Beckman, Laurie Blauner, John Brantingham, Alberto Chimal, Justin Lawrence Daugherty, Toh EnJoe, Grant Faulkner, Kathy Fish, Rosie Forrest,Megan Giddings, Amelia Gray, Charles Hansmann, Britt Haraway, Mary-Jane Holmes, Laird Hunt, A. Nicole Kelly, James Kennedy, Etgar Keret, R. O. Kwon, Nathan Leslie, Paul Lisicky, Eliel Lucero, Nancy Ludmerer, Melissa Manning, Michael Martone, Elizabeth Morton, David Naimon, Jessica Plante, Dianca London Potts, Dawn Raffel, James Reidel, Sophie Rosenblum, Caitlin Scarano, Vincent Scarpa, Robert Scotellaro, Courtney Sender, Janey Skinner, Curtis Smith, Robert Vaughan, Clio Velentza

Amy Hempel: “Prepare to be surprised by this striking new series–it has quickly become essential reading.”

Exploratory Fiction at Mabel Dodge Luhan House

Hi friends!

I just returned yesterday from our week long workshop. Kathy Fish and I led an Exploratory Fiction workshop: Tap In, Dig Deep, Discover Voice. It was held at the venerable Mabel Dodge Luhan House in Taos, New Mexico. There are so many favorite moments, captured in snapshots from the entire, phenomenal week. I will include them in this post when possible.

Len Kuntz and I arrived a day early, and toured Bandolier National Monument:

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The day was perfect, and I hadn’t been there since 1987. Quite amazing memories, and new ones, also.

Our workshop participants arrived all day on Saturday, and we began the event after dinner. All week, our focus was on creative, generative writing time, supported by contemporary writing examples of exploratory fiction we all read together each morning (e.g. Lucia Berlin, Lydia Copeland, Yennie Cheung, DJ Berndt, Eileen Merriman, Bonnie Jo Campbell, Aubrey Hirsch and Casey Hannon).

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Above is Juniper Hall, where we experienced some stimulating discussions about flash fiction. Also, we had terrific fiction exercises that we used in class or as possible prompts all week for the workshop participants to pursue.

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Top (L to R): Len Kuntz outside Big House; Levi Andrew Noe on Patio

Middle (L to R): Jonathan Cardew in Gazebo; Katherine Seluja in Big House

Bottom: Meg Tuite in Room 1 of Juniper House

We also held roundtables from 3-5 pm every day. The two groups would meet with either Kathy Fish, or me. Each writer would take a turn reading her/his new story aloud, then receive insightful comments. It was truly inspiring, both to hear the new work, and the amount of distance each writer traveled in terms of risk, support, adventure, and willingness to play at 100%.

The meals were terrific: ’nuff said. All three, every single day. The staff: beyond the best!

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Workshop participants on L

Mabel Dodge Luhan Kitchen staff on R.

In addition, we held a panel discussion Tuesday night about publishing with independent presses:

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(L to R): Len Kuntz, Kathy Fish, Meg Tuite, Robert Vaughan.

And on Wednesday afternoon, we had a docent tour of the Big House, which is exquisite:

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Left: Bathroom windows painted by D.H. Lawrence! Right: Painted stairs to Mabel and Tony’s rooms.

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“Salon Talk” in Mabel’s room, Robert Vaughan and Katherine Seluja!

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Robert Vaughan, Meg Tuite and Len Kuntz on Tony Luhan’s original sleeping couch!

Our last evening in Taos, Thursday, we held a reading, hosted by Meg Tuite…all ten participants shared a new work that they’d crafted during the workshop. Also, Kathy Fish and I did. My story was called “Speed Trap.”

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None of this would have happened without my partner and cohort, the uber-talented Kathy Fish. Thanks for everything you did (and have done), to make this all a realized dream:

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And here’s the good news: we are already making plans for a 2018 return to Mabel Dodge Luhan House. In the meantime, visit Kathy’s site at www.kathy-fish.com. And I’ll be adding my teaching dates for 2017 very soon! Taos, we miss you so very much. Endless great memories made during our Exploratory Fiction: Tap In, Dig Deep, Discover Voice workshop:

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Smokelong Quarterly

Hi friends,

At the end of 2015, Megan Giddings, Executive Editor at Smokelong Quarterly, asked both Kathy Fish and me if we’d like to guest edit for this venerable online magazine. Of course, we both eagerly agreed. My week to read the submissions arrived in mid-February 2016, and they began to roll in. Fortunately, I am familiar with Submittable, where SQ makes it easy- sets the guest editor up with their personal account on their site, so every submission is queued and waiting to be read.

All ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY-SEVEN of them. Yeah, that’s a lot of stories, at one thousand words or less!

And still, as one might imagine, I quickly narrowed the field down to ten. Then five. Then three.

And then this very one.

When I first read “Prismatic” by Eileen Merriman, it felt like it was written for me. I can’t explain coherently why; perhaps the numerical form, with missing numbers. Maybe the sisterly competitiveness over love interests. Even the title was familiar, in a former life, the name of a haircutting system I used to teach for a manufacturing company.

More than anything, it was the haunting essence of this startling story that I loved, first read, and continue to admire, several reads later. The story stays with you, it is lasting. And I sincerely apologize to Eileen, who turns out, lives in New Zealand- because “Prismatic” was originally published on April 11. Still, here it is:

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(Art by Katelin Kinney). Thanks Megan Giddings, and staff at Smokelong Quarterly for this opportunity to guest edit your magazine.

Readings Etc.

Hi Friends,

I do a lot of readings. They’re fun, and typically, if in a group, by listening closely, I learn a thing or two from others. I always bring a notebook, and fill a page or more with notes.

Recently, I realized that I have photos from each of my four book launches. Here they are:

Microtones

This was a reading for Red Oak Writers, hosted by our fearless director, Kim Suhr, soon after Microtones was published by Cervena Barva Press in 2012.

Diptychs

This was a reading in Chicago in early 2014 with Meg Tuite and David Tomaloff, hosted by Bill Yarrow. I’m reading from the newly published Diptychs + Triptychs + Lipsticks + Dipshits (Deadly Chaps). My pal Meg’s entire family came (or nearly). It was a blast!

A & B

I think this was shot at the Seattle AWP#14. Addicts & Basements (Civil Coping Mechanisms) had just been released. Jane Carmen’s “Festival of Language” typically kicks off the AWP Conference with an ambitious line-up on Wednesday (opening day), 5-10 p.m.

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And last, but certainly not least, a RIFT (Unknown Press) photo! This was taken by uber-talented Nancy Stohlman at her F-BOMB Flash Fiction Showcase last July in Denver. I was able to read with Kathy Fish, co-author and celebrated writer.

I recently returned from this year’s AWP Conference in Los Angeles. I had the opportunity to read in two different readings. The first, States of Terror’s “Creature Features” included many writers whose work I admire. One of them, Gabino Iglesias, wrote a stunning review of RIFT, and upon his return, published this great article about readings at Dead End Follies:

http://www.deadendfollies.com/2016/04/essay-why-most-readings-suck-and-how-to.html

I sure hope that Gabino was not referring to me! In any case, I took note, Gabino, and thanks for the succinct list.

We have a few spots left for our August fiction workshop in Taos at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, August 20-26. Please contact Kathy Fish or me. More info at www.kathy-fish.com.

Also, please join us at the Marion Center tomorrow (Thursday, April 14th) night for our Red Oak reading, a mix of writers from several of our roundtables, to honor our years spent at this venerable institution. I will be reading, too! Pot luck starts at 5:30- 5:45 and reading begins at 6:30 p.m.

AWP Recap & More

Hi friends,

Last week was the annual AWP#16 writer’s conference, hosted in downtown Los Angeles. Here are some photos and a recap:

AWP UP TableUNKNOWN PRESS AWP

My publisher, Unknown Press, shared booth #1442 with Digging Through the Fat’s Gessy Alvarez, and sister, Cynthia (pictured above). Also, Len Kuntz (above) premiered his new book, I’m Not Supposed to be Here and Neither Are You. We sold a lot of books!

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The States of Terror “Creature Feature” held their reading at BOOK SHOW bookstore on Thursday. Hosted by Matt Lewis and Keith McCleary, my friends Len and Bob attended. Also saw Jim Ruland, Meredith Alling, Gabino Iglesias, and met many more. I read “Sweet Surrender is All I Have Left To Give,” which will appear in States of Terror Anthology #3 this fall.

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Also, Thursday afternoon, Kathy Fish and I taped Otherppl podcast with Brad Listi (no, not in his Searcher camper!) in his garage on W. 4th in L.A. We had such a blast! Walking away from this experience, Kathy and I agreed it felt as if we’ve known Brad all our lives.

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Of course, AWP is all about our writer friends, allies, and support networking. Where would we be without that? Above left, is Len Kuntz, Kathryn Grant, me, and Karen Stefano. Photo shot by Robert P. Kaye. Dinner was the local Mexican restaurant, closest to our JW Marriott. We recommend the table side guacamole. Above right is Robert and Len in our Marriott lounge.

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My other reading was Hot Pillow, Joani Reese Above, right) hosted. This came with an assortment of lovely instructions, which my posse quickly turned over to Bob. It is held in a hotel (sort-of) room, and by personal invite. The reading is always the highlight of the entire AWP for me. Exquisite work shared. I read “A Box” from RIFT.

The Best Small Fictions 2017 Announcement Final-3

Just before we left for AWP, Kathy and I heard from Tara Masih, series editor of Best Small Presses that three of our stories from RIFT had been selected for the Best Small Fictions, 2016 (edited by Stuart Dybek). Needless to say, we are both over the moon thrilled about this! Our two pieces that will be included are “A Box” (mine) and “A Room With Many Small Beds” (Kathy).

Also, John Madera compiled this amazing list of “Most Anticipated Books of 2016” at Big Other, and included RIFT as a book to not miss (published in December 2015): https://bigother.com/2016/04/07/most-anticipated-small-press-books-of-2016/

Back to AWP and Los Angeles:

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Shalom Sherman, accordionist at Palermo Restaurant on Vermont Avenue. I’ve been a loyal fan of this place since the mid 1980s. We had a sublime dinner, terrific food, fantastic time.

All, in all, Los Angeles AWP was probably my favorite conference experience thus far. They just get more fun, less stressful, and it’s always great to see friends, meet new people, try new experiences. So until next year, see you all in D.C. in 2017!

RIFT gets Press!

I’ve been remiss in adding all of the fantastic news about RIFT, my collaboration with the talented Kathy Fish! I want to thank every single person who has read RIFT, who has referred another friend or family member to read it. We had so much fun writing the entire book in 2015, and again, without Bud Smith at Unknown Press, it might be sitting in someone’s drawer still. Here are the places you can read more about RIFT:

  1. A.E. Weisberger’s review at Change Seven: http://changesevenmag.com/2016/01/26/rift-stories-by-kathy-fish-and-robert-vaughan/

2. Leonora Desar’s Q & A with Kathy Fish and me at Bartleby Snopes:       http://blog.bartlebysnopes.com

3. Rachel Hurwitz’s Q & A with Kathy Fish and me at Midwestern Gothic: http://midwestgothic.com/2016/02/interview-kathy-fish-robert-vaughan/

4. Necessary Fiction let us publish our RIFT Research Notes: http://necessaryfiction.com/blog/ResearchNotesRift

5. Ray Nessly reviews RIFT at Literary Orphans’ The Tavern Lantern: http://literaryorphans.org/ttl/ray-nessly-reviews-rift-stories-by-kathy-fish-robert-vaughan/

6. Gabino Iglesias reviews RIFT at Dead End Follies: http://www.deadendfollies.com/2016/02/book-review-kathy-fish-robert-vaughan.html

Also, please check out some other great write-ups at Goodreads, like this one: https://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/9908220-rift-by-robert-vaughan-and-kathy-fish

Mainly, thanks again to every reviewer, and every single reader. It means so much to both Kathy and me!

Please do consider joining us for the Fiction Course at the venerable Mabel Dodge Luhan House in Taos, New Mexico, August 20-26, 2016. Spots are gradually filling up! You can look at the accommodations at www.mabeldodgeluhan.com. More information and registration information at www.kathy-fish.com. She’s fun to follow, too!

I’ll also be teaching the Mixed Genre course at The Clearing in September 11-18. More on that in another post.

Stay tuned for more RIFT news coming your way! Thanks.

 

Happy Birthday “Boys From Pele!”

Twenty years ago, Tori Amos released her masterful CD, Boys From Pele. I was already a fan, and David Carter, Andrea Falkenstein and I would listen to her endlessly while watching the Doonies pass us by at Jones Beach, area #6. That August 25, we had the rare chance to see Tori perform at the outdoor Jones Beach amphitheater. It was hypnotic, emotional, and we were transported by her words, songs carried on the ocean winds.

Today, at Entropy, a literary website, Patsy Petunia put together an assembly, 18 artists and writers interpret the 18 tracks included on Boys From Pele. We could create anything in relation to the specific song we chose. I came late to the project and there was only one song left: Twinkle, track #18. It’s one of my least favorites. Or- I should say, it was. But this is the thing about Tori that makes her so great- her music is infectious. The more I listened to that song, “Twinkle,” the more I began to see why I LOVE it. And I do. You can read all of the pieces here:

YOU MAKE ME FEEL #12: BOYS FOR PELE 20th ANNIVERSARY

Then go get (or listen to) your own Boys For Pele. And marvel at the rest of these monumental songs. Tori Amos is a treasure, and her music lives through us all.