I’m over the moon excited to announce the all-new January issue of (b)OINK. Flash Fiction! Poetry! Creative Non-Fiction! Art! And “Voices,” from the literary world-at-large. Thanks fellow editors Rob Parrish and Chelsea Laine Wells. Thanks Al Fuelling for your web skillz! Thanks to Meg Tuite for “Voices,” and David Carter and Rob Kibble for “Art.” And every single person who sent us over 150 submissions for this issue: we loved your work, we did our best, we had a blast. Please read this issue, and share it. Then send us a (b)OINK submission for February. We’ll be eating.
As a writer, it’s a given that one reads. Some of my favorite childhood memories are discovering new books. That excitement has never gone away. And, so although it’s not quite the year end, I wanted to post my annual 2016 reads here:
My 2016 reading list:
I’m Not Supposed To Be Here and Neither Are You- Len Kuntz
Kinda Sorta American Dream- Steve Karas
The New York Stories- Ben Tanzer
A Fractured Mind- Robert B. Oxnam
Bone Black- Bell Hooks
Robert Altman- Mitchell Zuckhoff
Haints Stay- Colin Winette
Mira Corpora- Jeff Jackson
Lithium for Medea- Kate Braverman
In Paran- Larissa Shmailo
lined up like scars- Meg Tuite
The Sound of Gravel- Ruth Wariner
Hotels of North America- Rick Moody
The Astonished Universe- Helene Cardona
Literary Outlaw: William S. Burroughs- Ted Morgan
Keith Haring Journals
Agnes Martin: Her Life and Art- Nancy Princenthal
The Gods Are Dead- Joanna Valente
Sex and Death- Ben Tanzer
Dear Mr. You- Mary-Louise Parker
Your Sick- Elizabeth Colen
The Mysteries of Pittsburgh- Michael Chabon
Did you Ever Have a Family- Bill Clegg
Portrait of An Addict- Bill Clegg
Atlas of Remote Islands- Judith Shalansky
Short Cuts- Raymond Carver (re-read)
Ordinary People- Judith Guest (re-read)
The Art of Memoir- Mary Karr
Updike- Adam Begley
This Must Be The Place- Sean Doyle
Rimbaud- Edmund White
Secret Historian- Justin Spring
Space, in Chains- Laura Kasischke
No Stopping Train- Les Plesko
What Belongs to You- Garth Greenwell
The Narrow Door- Paul Liscky
I’m From Electric Peak- Bud Smith
The Queen of the Night- Alexander Chee
It Starts With Trouble: William Goyen and the Art of Writing- Clark Davis
Lynch on Lynch, edited by Chris Rodley
Purity- Jonathan Franzen
Life on the Loose- Cari Taylor-Carlson
Not Nothing- Ray Johnson
Mortal Lessons: Notes on the Art of Surgery- Richard Selzer
A Manual for Cleaning Women- Lucia Berlin
Ninety-Nine Stories of God- Joy Williams
Potted Meat- Stephen Dunn
The Argonauts- Maggie Nelson
Communion & Other Stories- Curtis Smith
The Girls- Emma Cline
Cowboys and East Indians- Nina McConigly
Grief is the Thing with Feathers- Max Porter
Night Sky With Exit Wounds- Ocean Vuong
The Professor’s Quarters- Albert Degenova
Be Cool- Ben Tanzer
Rain Check- Levi Andrew Noe
Notes on my Dunce Cap- Jesse Ball
Cronenberg on Cronenberg- David Cronenberg
Life in Suspension- Helene Cardona
The Vig of Love- Bill Yarrow
Trier on Von Trier- ed. by Stig Bjorkman
Intersex- Aaron Apps
What we Know So Far- Robert Scotellaro
Ozone Journal- Peter Balakian
The Vegetarian- Han Kang
Measuring the Distance- Robert Scotellaro
Compression Scars- Kellie Wells
Joe Gould’s Secret- Joseph Mitchell
Bukowski in a Sundress- Kim Addonazio
The Reactive- Masande Ntshanga
Floating- Anne Pierson Wiese
The Loved Ones- Sonya Chung
New Jersey Me- Rich Ferguson
Bad Motel- Robert Scotellaro
Salute the Wreckage- Clint Margrave
Find Me- Laura Vandenberg
The Consumation of Dirk- Jonathan Callahan
Rhapsody of Fallen Objects- Robert Scotellaro
Sing the Song- Meredith Alling
Deer Michigan- Jack C. Buck
Here Comes The Sun- Nicole Dennis- Benn
Happy Holidays everyone! I hope you have a chance to “hole up” with a good book during these last weeks of 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:
(L): Sharon Foley reads poetry; (R) Christine Baerbock reads a haunting short story
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:
(L) me reading “Mother/ Father/ Clown”; (R) Karen Stefano reading Secret Games of Words (F-BOMB Reading)
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.
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:
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:
(L) Buzz Cafe, Oak Park; (R) Bill Yarrow reading from The Vig of Love
Bottom: Daniel Weinberg reads his letters to MAD Magazine
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.
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!
Here comes the JUDGE!
I was completely transformed by judging the recent fourth Bath Flash Fiction Awards:
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!
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).
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).
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:
Overall, I would do this again, and again. Soulful, inspiring. Deeply satisfying. Please, sir, may I have some more?
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:
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.”
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:
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).
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.
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!
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:
(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:
Left: Bathroom windows painted by D.H. Lawrence! Right: Painted stairs to Mabel and Tony’s rooms.
“Salon Talk” in Mabel’s room, Robert Vaughan and Katherine Seluja!
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.”
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:
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:
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:
(Art by Katelin Kinney). Thanks Megan Giddings, and staff at Smokelong Quarterly for this opportunity to guest edit your magazine.
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:
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.
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!
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.
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:
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.
Last week was the annual AWP#16 writer’s conference, hosted in downtown Los Angeles. Here are some photos and a recap:
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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!