May 14 Reading at Lincoln’s Indigo Bridge Books Added to Events

Another date has been added to the whirlwind 4-month, 3-city world tour to promote my debut chapbook On the River, Down Where They Found Willy Brown, with a third stop booked for Thursday, May 14 in Lincoln, Nebraska, at Indigo Bridge Books (701 P Street, in The Creamery Building).

After doing the big Omaha Uninitiated performance at the first two stops in Stuttgart and Omaha, this will be a more traditional, straight-forward reading without the A/V component.

The exciting part of this event–besides reading in my hometown for the first time in five years–is that I’ll be opening for Julie Iromuanya as she presents her debut novel Mr. and Mrs. Doctor. (Available for pre-order now, btw.) It will be great to share the stage with Julie.

Our paths briefly crossed when were both readers with Prairie Schooner earlier this decade (and were both published by The Kenyon Review around the same time–hers and mine) so I’m excited to see her first novel come out with a great publisher like Coffee House Press. Julie is a young author to watch, and what better way than by coming to the reading on May 14!

Here again are the details:

Thursday, May 14 @ 7pm  /  Indigo Bridge Books  /  701 P St. Lincoln, NE 

“Hyphenates” Story Wins an AWP Intro Award & Will Be Published in Artful Dodge

The string of good news continues, as I learned late last week that my story “The Hyphenates of Jackson County” has won an Intro Journals Project award from AWP and will be published in a future edition of Artful Dodge!

Check out the announcement here, with the results for the three winners in fiction about halfway down the page. (Fyi, from the page: “The Intro Journals Project is a literary competition for the discovery and publication of the best new works by students currently enrolled in AWP member programs.”) (And if you don’t know what AWP is, check here.)

Thanks so much to Creighton University for nominating “The Hyphenates of Jackson County” and judge Erin McGraw for selecting it.

I’ve mentioned a few times how good it feels to have some of my Germans in Nebraska during World War I material published–as it has been in Boulevard, in The Four Quarters Magazine, and most recently in my chapbook On the River, Down Where They Found Willy Brown. Seven years into that project and with no publication in sight for the novel, things like this help keep me from feeling too much in the woods with the project.

So, of course, I’m very thankful to have “Hyphenates” recognized by such a prestigious award series.

Long-time friends of the blog will surely recognize the title of the story, as this was the original title of my World War I novel, what has since become The Uninitiated. In its earlier versions the novel focused entirely on the character of Jake Strauss (fka Jacob Strauss fka Jakob Strauss fka Jacob Bressler) and his introduction to the underworld elements of Omaha after being forced to flee his rural home of Jackson County. This short story is basically the opening scenes from that iteration of the novel.

More generally, the story is set in the fiction Jackson County, Nebraska, during World War I, and deals with a German immigrant and his two sons’ struggle to hold together their family, church, and farm amid threats both local and global.

More on all this later, particularly as the publication details are worked out with Artful Dodge. For now, I’ll let good feelings suffice and wish congrats to the other winners.

That, and here’s an excerpt to tide you over:

With the war in Europe raging late that summer, Jake was awakened by his father in the middle of the night more than once, the Pfarrer compelled to voice a worry that the German army would claim Fred and Jake, somehow, conscript them into service over on the Eastern Front, because that’s the side of Germany the Pfarrer was born to, in West Prussia, south of Danzig. There were always rumors of Kaiser Wilhelm’s reach, but the Pfarrer’s mania was peculiar and unfounded, as it always boiled over in the middle of the night. With all that had happened, he felt something was lacking in their connection to the Lord. “There’s a debt there,” was how the Pfarrer put it.

Jake and Fred agreed. But what was there to do about it?

That August, Jake found his father sprawled in the creek on the other side of their claim, water damming up and washing over his naked body. His clothes lay out on the grass. The jacket was on top, a shirt showed under the lapels. His pants were below with a shoe at the bottom of each leg, laces tied. It looked like the Pfarrer had been sucked out of his clothes, the way they’d been arranged. Two bottles of wine nearby, a half empty jar of horse cleaner. Jake didn’t know if his father had poisoned himself or not, if he’d soon die. Jake had heard of people doing that—eyes lost pigment after drinking horse cleaner, hair fell from heads. It hurt horribly. His father was naked in the cold creek, rolling to be facedown. He was pale, his breathing slow as Jake yanked him from the water and demanded to know what he’d done. He woke looking into Jake’s eyes. “I couldn’t do it,” he said. “The horse cleaner?” Jake asked. “No. I didn’t.”

Jake lifted the Pfarrer to his shoulder and carried him up the hill. His father was large, but Jake showed no struggle. He had urgency on his side and his muscles responded to the charge. The Pfarrer glanced to Jake, almost shy in his drunk, tepid and put-off as he was set to the porch, surprised again at how his younger boy had grown. Jake felt it well up in his gut, in his muscled shoulders and forearms, the anger and guilt, the tension of struggle. What did his father want to accuse him of?

Gargoyle 62 (with “Shame Cycle”) is Out Now!

My contributor's copy of Gargoyle 62, along with some cool postcards that came along for the ride.
My contributor’s copy of Gargoyle 62, along with some cool postcards that came along for the ride.

The new issue of Gargoyle is out and features my short story “Shame Cycle.”

Order the issue for $19.95 from the publisher at GargoyleMagazine.com.

“Shame Cycle” is a piece I put a lot of time into, in a roundabout way. A distillation of my first attempt at a novel, the story is a Best of that defunct project and features a fictionalized version of the 49’r Lounge, a fact that may interest a few locals here in Omaha.

Here’s an excerpt:

Anna was sixteen when she approached you at a downtown record store and you began seeing her not long after that. This was the summer before your freshman year of college, when she invited you out and claimed possession of your body. She paraded you around the smoky rooms of parties. You considered it a move up in social scene from the part-time Nu Metal rebels you knew in high school to this career class of punks. The hard-drinkers, veteran sludge rockers and sometimes transients who pocked the city so visibly in those days. These were people Anna exposed you to, her friends. Hipsters who spoke of NYC so constantly and fluently that, besides the fact that they were born here and lived here, they seemed to have never heard of Nebraska. Their mouths were always full of Brooklyn. They hitchhiked to Williamsburg and ran drugs from the Mexican border for South Omaha gangs; they bought their own tattoo guns; they had shaved-in mullets and handlebar mustaches; they screamed swear words into ice cream parlors as protests against capitalism. These people were the real deal as far as you were concerned—or as close to it as one could get in Omaha.

It was all so blinding. You were an honest, unable-to-hide-it geek; Anna was stylish and sexy in a way you couldn’t comprehend. She wasn’t like the athletic blonde girls from high school or the sweat-shirted young ladies at college pre-registration events. Anna had her own system of gravity, an atmosphere of nitrogen. The grim reaper tattoo had been her idea—the ink that runs from the inside of your wrist to the vein-popping crook of your elbow, a black robe draped half-off its skeleton body—just as wardrobe changes and haircuts were before that. You were desperate to keep her, that’s why you were marked so shamefully. Even after she left, you still took a lot of pride in your appearance, because it was something Anna gave you. You followed her around like a puppy and she made a mockery of your affection. You had fun that summer, though, you certainly remember that. Hard liquor parties and hand-rolled cigarettes, house shows in boiling hot basements, nights drinking underage. It was a renaissance of delinquency, a rebellion against the kind of common sense embodied by the men of your family. You are different from them now, because Anna changed you.

Different versions of this story were previously finalists in Matrix/Pop Montreal’s 2010 LitPop contest and PRISM international’s 2012 contest. So Canadians (and Canadiens, for that matter) like the story; you probably will too.

Go check it out!

Book Launch Photos (Omaha Edition)

Some pictures from last night’s book release party for On the River and a second performance of Omaha Uninitiated at Pageturners Lounge. Thank you very much to everyone who came out. It meant a lot to see so many friendly faces, and a few old friends, make it out. Reading to a filled room always feels great too. Also, thanks are in order for Pageturners for hosting the proceedings and for all the work Darren Keen put in to make the performance a success.

(Photo credits to Nicole Wheeler and Felicity White.)

On the River Launch Party Tonight at PTL

Pageturners Flyer
Click to view bigger.

Just a reminder that the launch party for my chapbook On the River, Down Where They Found Willy Brown is tonight at 7pm at Pageturner’s Lounge (5004 Dodge Street, parking in rear). This is the last time that the whole mutli-media performance with Darren Keen is scheduled to be put on, what was previously performed at Akademie Schloss Solitude in Germany. The show mixes readings from the chapbook with photographs of World War I-era Omaha, popular films from the era (Charlie Chaplin, Krazy Kat, Katzenjammer Kids, Sinking of the Lusitania) and a cross-fertilization of some pretty interesting music. The songs include ragtime, Louis Armstrong, Enrique Caruso, Woody Guthrie, and propaganda music from the war, mixed in with Ideal Cleaners, Bright Calm Blue, Spring Gun, Rent Money Big, Her Flyaway Manner, and other important music from Nebraska in the last decade. It’s really cool. A great melange of elements that inspired the chapbook.

In other news, I’ve been working on getting On the River into a few bookstores around the area. So far I’ve worked out an arrangement with Jackson Street Booksellers (Old Market, 1119 Jackson St.) and their satellite Solid Jackson Books (Benson, 6571 Maple St), both in Omaha. More news to come on this as it develops. Oh, and if you know of any bookstores that specialize in chapbooks or any store that might be a good fit, drop me a line about it, I’d appreciate the lead.

Photos from Solitude / Performing Omaha Uninitiated

Check out these photos from my return trip to Solitude and Stuttgart last month. The trip was pretty successful, I think. There was a great response at our performance of “Omaha Uninitiated: Stateside Race Riots & Lynching in the Aftermath of World War I,” the multi-media contribution Darren Keen and I put together for Akademie Schloss Solitude’s “Quotes & Appropriation” symposium. The room was nearly filled for the performance. I couldn’t ask for more than that.

It was a lot of fun to bring so much of the research that went into writing my chapbook On the River, Down Where They Found Willy Brown and the related novel (still in manuscript) titled The Uninitiated. Trying to guess how an audience will react (or if they will react at all) to a piece is a constant obsession for most writers, so actually being up in front of a group of mostly strangers and talking to folks afterwards was a nice culmination of sorts, and a commencement too. Knowing that I can get the attention of a room full of Germans and artists from all of the world interested in the history of Omaha is heartening to say the least. There’s still the matter of getting the novel version of this material published, and published well, and then promoting that, but I’ll enjoy this for a little bit, while I can.

(Photos of the presentation were taken by Franzi Ziegler.)

“Forget Me” Published on Cosmonauts Avenue

I have a story in the newest issue of Cosmonauts Avenue that was released today!

I’m over in Stuttgart getting reading for the performance I’m doing with Darren Keen tomorrow night at Akademie Schloss Solitude, but wanted to make a quick note of this too. Here’s more about the story, “Forget Me,” from the post announcing the acceptance if you’re interested. Cosmonauts Avenue is a cool new online publication from Montreal and definitely one to watch and support.

More reason to celebrate!

Preview of On the River on the Solitude Blog

(Photo courtesy of The Durham Museum Photo Archive.)

In anticipation of the “Quotes & Appropriation” workshop later this week, which will also mark the launch of my debut chapbook, the blog of Akademie Schloss Solitude has posted an excerpt from On the River, Down Where They Found Willy Brown. Check out the post here.

If you’ve been wondering exactly what the presentation/performance I’ve been developing with Darren Keen, and the workshop itself, is all about, this thesis from the post sheds some light on the matter.

Being as old as art itself, the concept of appropriation expounds and challenges crucial topics in the art world such as authorship, originality and intellectual property. With the development of digital media, new forms of communication have emerged, and sharing, exchanging and copying became an everyday operation. Akademie Schloss Solitude is taking up the controversial debate about the concepts of plagiarism and appropriation in a two-year project on the status of the author in the 21st century. Starting point will be the workshop »Quotes & Appropriation«, February 19 and 20, 2015, which will be opened by a reading/performance by former fellow Theodore Wheeler. The writer from Omaha/NE, USA will be showing his way of exercising appropriation: The presentation of his latest book On the River, Down Where They Found Willy Brown (Edition Solitude 2015, available as an e-book) will include historical photographs of Omaha and popular American film and music from the World War I era, illustrating the production of a novella as a combination of primary historical sources, literary influences, and original prose, »suggesting that a book is as much as about the process of its creation as it is about its content.«

We’re super excited to finally get this show on the road. It will be nice to be back at Solitude for a little while too. I’m going to get me some Afri Cola, some bretzel buns, some döner kebap mit brötchen. That, and we’re going to rock the performance.

Wish us luck!