Cosmonauts Avenue in St. Petersburg fka Leningrad.

Good news this week, as Cosmonauts Avenue has accepted my short story “Forget Me” for publication!

This will be my 25th short story publication overall–a nice little milestone there–and my first in Canada. Although, since Cosmonauts Avenue is an online journal, the journal itself is kind of everywhere, or everywhere it can be loaded onto a device. Still, their offices are in Montreal and I’m checking it off my list. Get published in Canada. Check.

Here’s a bit about Cosmonauts Avenue, which is run by the same folks who put on the standard-bearer of international literary programs, the Summer Literary Seminars. (Long-time followers might remember that I’ve been a four-time finalist for the SumLitSem contest. Sadly I’ve never been able to work out attending one of their programs. Someday…) (The 2015 contest is open now, btw, with first-prize carrying full tuition, airfare, and accommodations to this summer’s Disquiet program in Lisbon.) Anyway. Cosmonauts Avenue:

We’re located in the lovely and ethereal city of Montreal, but our namesake, Cosmonauts Avenue, is a long residential thoroughfare on the southwestern outskirts of St Petersburg (nee Leningrad). Laid out in the early-1960s, it was one of the initial “micro-districts” of state-owned co-op apartments which started springing up in large Soviet cities around the time, on then-Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s initiative. The great majority of St. Petersburg’s citizens (as well as Muscovites, or the denizens of any large Russian city) live in similar residential locations radiating from the core of the city center in ever-widening concentric circles. Take a walk with us along Cosmonauts Avenue (because if you’re walking alone, it’s boring as hell, and in winter, also very cold).

Thanks to everyone who helped out with this story. Travis Thieszen and Amber Mulholland, in particular, for all their heavy-lifting in parsing through a very different early draft, and CCB for his expertise on creep-thoughts, and everyone in the Brent Spencer workshop at Creighton for their help in refining the focus and tone. Also, thanks for CA editors Mikhail Iossel and Madeleine Maillet for making a home for this piece.

More updates to follow on when the story will be online, of course. For now, here’s an excerpt from “Forget Me”:

Andy audited the expense accounts of junior executives. It was cold, predictable work. He had a thousand words for why he didn’t like his job, words he used on Mondays and Wednesdays. Nothing made the job worthwhile, except that he might get promoted. That’s why he was at the office on a Thursday night instead of his apartment nearby, where he lived alone. On weekends he flipped through magazines while he watched TV, or tried to pick up women at a sports bar called The Penalty Box if he was depressed. Andy didn’t know many people outside work. But he’d been popular in high school, he was sure. His friends had repeated stories about him: the time he used his truck to capsize Principal Wheeler’s above-ground swimming pool, or when he poked a hole in a basement wall at Amy Johanssen’s house with a billiards cue and pissed in the opening, or how he nearly lost his virginity to Jenny Charles in a canoe at church camp, in junior high, until the canoe tipped and Jenny screamed in the cold water, naked from the waist down. Andy had felt legendary by graduation day. Then he went one state over for school and people forgot his stories. If someone did remember, it was just to laugh about how stupid he’d been.

Cheers!

There will be more of a formal announcement for all this soon, but I’ve been itching to share about a project I’ve been working on as part of my association with Akademie Schloss Solitude, so here you go.

This upcoming February I’ll return to Germany to participate with other fellows and guests of the Akademie in a two-day, cross-discipline workshop titled “Quotes and Appropriation.” I’m very excited to return to Stuttgart for this, as its a culmination and redirection of the book project I’ve been working on the past five years.

In addition to panels and workshops, there will be an opening night presentation called “Omaha Uninitiated: Music, Cultural Artifact, and Historical Event in the Recreation of Civic Trauma.” This project contains three elements–a set of readings from On the River, Down Where They Found Willy Brown, a novella based on events surrounding the Omaha Courthouse Lynching of 1919 (more on this below); a presentation of photographs and video that have been important to the creation of On the River, and my related full-length novel The Uninitiated; and a DJ performance by Darren Keen.

It will be amazing to bring five year’s worth of research and writing on this topic to Germany, and I’m particularly excited to see what Darren comes up with for the music component, what will be a mashup and cross-fertilization of music from the World War I era that was important to the creation of the novel (ragtime, propaganda music, American folk, jazz) mixed with music from Nebraska in the last fifteen years.

The final part of all this is publication of the aforementioned novella (On the River, Down Where They Found Willy Brown) by the Reihe Projektiv imprint of Edition Solitude. If you heard me read at the Key West Literary Seminar in January, Solitude Nacht in July, or last Friday at the Fair Use Reading Series in Benson, that is some of the same material. Todd Seabrook (editor/designer with The Cupboard) is working on the design and I’m pretty excited how it’s turning out.

More on all this later.

Same as last year, I’m a little slow in posting this, but nonetheless I’m happy to note that my short story “The Current State of the Universe” was named as one of “Thirty Other Distinguished Stories” in the latest edition of New Stories from the Midwest.

This is the second year in a row that my work achieved notice there. I’m pretty proud of that, as this year’s edition features fiction by Mary Morris, Rachel Swearingen, Roxane Gay, Steve De Jarnatt, Ian Stansel, and a bunch of other great writers.

“The Current State of the Universe” was originally published by The Cincinnati Review as winner of their Robert and Adele Schiff Prize in Prose. Buy the issue here.

Be sure to check out New Stories from the Midwest 2013, from New American Press. Jason Lee Brown and Shanie Latham do a great job putting this together, and it’s something Midwestern writers in particular should be proud of and support.

I’m very pleased to share that my short story “Impertinent, Triumphant” has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize!

The story was nominated by Mark Wisniewski, a contributing editor with the small press vanguard, and a fine writer in his own right.

“Impertinent, Triumphant” appeared on FiveChapters in February of this year. Check it out if you haven’t read the story yet. I haven’t written too many new short stories the past few years, and this is probably my favorite from the period. It was great to have it accepted such an incredible venue as FiveChapters in the first place, and even better to receive this recognition for the story now.

This is my fourth nomination for a Pushcart, with no wins yet tallied. “Welcome Home” (featured in both Boulevard and Best New American Voices 2009) was listed as a “Special Mention” story in the 2010 Pushcart anthology.

Here’s a bit about the Pushcarts, in case you’re wondering, from their web site:

The Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses series, published every year since 1976, is the most honored literary project in America.

Since 1976, hundreds of presses and thousands of writers of short stories, poetry and essays have been represented in our annual collections. Each year most of the writers and many of the presses are new to the series. Every volume contains an index of past selections, plus lists of outstanding presses with addresses.

The Pushcart Prize has been a labor of love and independent spirits since its founding. It is one of the last surviving literary co-ops from the 60’s and 70’s. Our legacy is assured by donations to our Fellowships endowment.

Wish me luck!

From inside the Wiener Riesenrad, the giant wheel in the Prater.

From inside the Wiener Riesenrad, the giant wheel in the Prater.

This post has been sitting in post-op for quite a while but I’d still like to make a few points and share a bunch of photos from my last few weeks in Europe this summer. I’ve been back in Nebraska, more or less, since the end of August and have been kept busy readjusting, recovering, and trying to make up for lost time with the girls. So the blogging has been neglected. Hopefully nobody is too crushed by this fact.

My three months at Solitude served me and my body of work very well. Quantitatively, I wrote a whole new novel from beginning to end, sans a few scenes that didn’t quite take off that I’ll get to soon; conceived of and planned out a multimedia project and presentation (more on this in the coming months) that will illustrate a lot of the research and creative process that went into writing my first novel, the historically-set The Uninitiated; yet another small revision of The Uninitiated before sending it off to agents; and one new short story.

Thinking about these things numerically isn’t usually the best, but I think the work is pretty good too. I’m really excited about the new novel–called Safe Haven, for now, or maybe From the Files of the Chief Inspector. It’s kind of crazy thinking about how it took three years to finish a draft of my first novel (with rewrites coming in each of the two subsequent years to get to a draft that I feel is more-or-less done) and that a first draft of the second novel pretty much took about five and a half weeks to get down. The book isn’t quite done, so hopefully I’m not jinxing myself, but it’s interesting to look at the differences of the two projects. The second book is set in in 2008, so obviously there’s a big difference in the amount of time demanded by research. Also, I had a much clearer idea about what the second book would be about and how I’d structure its different parts, which is probably the biggest change. Anyway, now that the first draft is nearing completion, I’m excited to get onto the 1-10 years of revising before it’s ready to let anyone else actually see it.

From the Files of the Chief Inspector, or, Safe Haven, or, More Work, a novel.

From the Files of the Chief Inspector, or, Safe Haven, or, More Work, a novel.

Just a teaser, a literary crime novel, the book features love stories set in the context of a post-9/11 domestic spying campaign. If you’ve followed this blog for a while and are familiar with my reading obsessions the past few years (Bolaño, D. Johnson, U. Johnson) then you probably could approximate the tone and style of this new project. It’s been fun to write, I’ll say that.

Thanks so much to Mr. Joly, Silke, Marieanne, Claudia, Lu, Clara, Lotte, Sophie, Maria, the other fellows, and everyone else at Akademie Schloss Solitude for their assistance and support during my residency. Solitude is an amazing place made so much more so by the people there.

My final few weeks allowed for just a little more travel in Europe. After taking longer trips to Amman, Italy, and Paris (x2) I decided to keep my last few cities decidedly Germanic, sneaking in a few days in Hamburg, Berlin, and Vienna. Rushing through these cities didn’t do them any kind of justice, but a taste is better than nothing.

I will say that the best Mexican food I had in Europe was at Tin Tan in the Mitte area of Berlin. There were some decent burrito stands in Paris, but Tin Tan was faraway the best. This turned into a running-joke by the time I left Germany, but I was really craving good Mexican food so much. I like paprika and pimento peppers as much as the next guy–probably more–but it wasn’t so easy to go on without a steady supply of chili peppers. (I had plenty of Döner, currywurst, and schnitzl too, don’t worry. Would have liked to live on crepes a few days, but that wasn’t really in the cards.)

Continuing our summer travels in Seattle. Note how the girls took to sticking out their bellies in photos just to make fun of me.

Continuing our summer travels in Seattle. Note how the girls took to sticking out their bellies in photos just to make fun of me.

Pretty much right after getting home to Nebraska we set off for the Pacific NW to celebrate the weddings of a couple friends. It was a great trip. More travel for the girls–planes, trains and boats this time. Maddie was pretty appalled at how slow and low-tech Amtrak trains are, having worked her way up to a college sophomore level of pretentiousness about rail-travel after summering in Europe. Not everything is the TGV, honey.

While I was definitely not in the mood to spend more time on an airplane at this point, it was great to catch up with so many old friends during my homecoming weekend.

In fact, I was pretty much awed by the reception I received in returning. From Nicole and the girls and the extended family, to the writers at Creighton, even to the security guards at the courthouses I cover for work. People are nice. It was really quite touching, like I’m George Bailey or something.

After that, October saw three trips to Kansas City to following the Royals on their historic run to the World Series. In all, I saw the madcap, 12-inning Wild Card game victory over the Oakland A’s with my brother, drove down for the ALCS rainout with Nicole, and parlayed what we sold the ALCS rainout tickets for into two seats for Game 2 of the World Series against San Francisco. What a crazy run.

A bunch of photos:

I’m happy to share that today is release day for Amina Gautier’s newest collection of short fiction, Now We Will Be Happy, which won the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Fiction and is being published by the University of Nebraska Press.

Amina and I met this January at the Key West Literary Seminar, where we were in the same workshop. She’s a fantastic writer, a fellow Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts alum, and I’m excited that we get another of her books. Her first collection, At Risk, won the Flannery O’Connor Book Prize and came out in 2012. At Risk was one of the first books that was reviewed on Briefly Noted when I co-edited the feature with Claire Harlan-Orsi for Prairie Schooner‘s blog.

Here’s the jacket copy of her latest:

Now We Will Be Happy is a prize-winning collection of stories about Afro-Puerto Ricans, U.S.-mainland-born Puerto Ricans, and displaced native Puerto Ricans who are living between spaces while attempting to navigate the unique culture that defines Puerto Rican identity. Amina Gautier’s characters deal with the difficulties of bicultural identities in a world that wants them to choose only one.

The characters in Now We Will Be Happy are as unpredictable as they are human. A teenage boy leaves home in search of the mother he hasn’t seen since childhood; a granddaughter is sent across the ocean to broker peace between her relatives; a widow seeks to die by hurricane; a married woman takes a bathtub voyage with her lover; a proprietress who is the glue that binds her neighborhood cannot hold on to her own son; a displaced wife develops a strange addiction to candles. 

Crossing boundaries of comfort, culture, language, race, and tradition in unexpected ways, these characters struggle valiantly and doggedly to reconcile their fantasies of happiness with the realities of their existence.

Way to go, Amina! Congrats!

Cover art for TFQ August 2014 by Stephen Mead.

Check out my short fiction piece “In Her Place on Capitol Ave, 1917″ that’s live today on The Four Quarters Magazine, an online literary journal from India with varied tastes and global consciousness.

This is the second excerpt I’ve placed from my historical novel, The Uninitiated, along with a longer piece that came out in Boulevard last autumn. Overall this is my twenty-second short fiction publication, with two more forthcoming later in the year. Out of all those, however, this is the first time I’ve had a story published overseas. Something notable, I think, even if it is published online overseas. I’ll take it though, seeing as expanding my global awareness is pretty much the theme of the summer.

Thanks so much to Nabina Das and the other editors at TFQ for making this possible.

paris brunch

Brunch in Montparnasse.

Nicole and the girls stopped by for a three-week visit recently. Here are some highlights:

-We met in Paris and stayed four nights. It didn’t seem like the best idea to jump into such a bustling world metropolis right off the bat, but things actually worked out better in the end, I think. We had an apartment in Montparnasse through AirBnb–so there was a kitchen, separate rooms for adults and children, and the flat usually was home to two boys the same ages as our girls, so there were toys and appropriately sized beds that allowed for a long nap once the family arrived. Maybe I’m remembering things rosier than they actually were, but the time difference wasn’t such a massive problem as I feared it would be. For one thing, we kept finding ourselves stranded from the apartment late at night. Since we didn’t bring along car seats, this meant long walks through the city after midnight. Maddie put in a lot of miles over a couple nights, with complaints that seemed to taper off as the routine of getting lost and marching, marching, marching took hold. I think she was a little excited/scared to be out so late too, even if it only felt like late afternoon to her body.

I had one night in Paris before the family arrived and also spent the night wandering around Montparnasse. As someone who’s spent a lot of time walking at night, Paris after dark was irresistible.

Notre Dame along the Seine.

Notre Dame along the Seine.

In general the girls got along pretty well in Paris. Everything was new and exciting. We had that on our side. Look, the Eiffel Tower! Look, Notre Dame! Look, Van Gogh’s Starry Night! Look, jugglers on a Seine quay! Only about every twenty minutes did one of us stop and ask, “What the hell were we thinking?”

Clara developed an interesting habit of shouting out dire warnings at inopportune times. Like, “Everybody get off this airplane now!” And, “Oh, no! The Eiffel Tower is falling down! It’s broken!” Luckily she doesn’t actually have the shining. None of her visions came to pass.

I was pleasantly surprised how helpful a lot of Parisians were too. Like when we kept getting trapped in Metro gates because there isn’t enough time to push through two small kids while carrying luggage, stroller, etc, so the backpack or an arm gets clamped in the gate. Or the lady at our neighborhood bakery understanding my broken Franglais, sometimes sprinkled with Latin, sometimes Spanish. The waiters in the cafes we visited were particularly helpful. Very surprising. Checking three times if, “Yes? You know steak tartare is raw meat?” before being served at Au Pied de Fouet. Getting high chairs and complimenting Nicole’s French. Always having special desserts for kids–ones that didn’t have egg wash baked on top, so Clara could eat dessert too, even with her egg allergy. Not batting an eye when Clara knocked a glass of water over the table. (Even though I haven’t gotten over the fact that she washed the au poivre sauce off my steak. I’d been waiting my whole life for that sauce!) I feel like most places in Paris (within our price range anyway, which maybe pointed us in the right direction) were pretty accommodating.

-Next we took the train to Stuttgart. After sweating it out in the city, the castle and surrounding forests at Solitude were perfect. We ran around the tunnels and corridors of die Schloss, hiked in the woods, went to the city for dinners, kicked a football around the lawn. We also napped.

Maddie contemplating Solitude in the fog.

Maddie contemplating Solitude in the fog.

It seems like we didn’t do a ton in Germany. As Solitude was home, we mostly tried to recover from Paris and prepare for an upcoming trip to Rome. There were a few events around the Akademie, including an exhibition of fellow Samir Harb’s comics Introduction to [Arch]comicology about Palestine. There was getting groceries and walking out to see the horses that live here. There was finding snails and slugs and frogs on the hiking paths. Getting stuck in rainstorms on the way to Bärenschlössle im Rotwildpark, twice! Mostly we just enjoyed Solitude. It’s an amazing place up here and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to share it with my family.

-Then there was Rome. We stayed four days at Lido di Ostia, a beach resort community on the coast. This is technically part of Rome, about an hour away by train, and was the seaport of ancient Rome. More recently, the area experienced a boom in the post-war years as a tourist destination for modern middle class Romans, and apparently hasn’t been redecorated in quite some time. Everything was so wonderfully 1960s, when Federico Fellini and other Italian cinema icons transformed this stretch of beach into the Roman Riviera. Between a couple days at the beach and strolling the boardwalk, we took the train to the city and saw some sights from ancient and modern Rome.

The girls on Lido di Ostia.

The girls on Lido di Ostia.

Italy kind of surprised me. I guess I’d always thought of Italy as more-or-less the same as Western Europe, with some Southern European flair. The loud cousin, right? However, I was reminded much more of the Middle East than anything being there. This makes sense, as Italy is the gateway between Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. Just walking the streets. The attitudes and postures, the way people spoke and argued. I found it very interesting.

-A few more days at Solitude followed before a return trip to Paris by train. We stayed at one of the American style hotels by the airport. The girls were besides themselves they were so happy. Room service. Big rooms with hideaway couch beds. Showers with drains that worked. Kids’ play rooms off the cafe. Maddie wasn’t shy about letting me know that this was what she expected when we told her we’d be staying in some hotels in Europe. Duly noted, kid.

-Below are some more photos. (The good ones were taken by Nicole.) Just a couple more weeks before I head home.

 

 

A couple publication updates from the last week to share.

First, you can now preorder the summer 2014 double-issue of Heavy Feather Review, themed “Vacancies.” The issue will feature my story “Attend the Way,” along with work by a bunch of others. Check out the full roster here.

Second, because of an overload of work, and a switch from being an annual to a bi-annual, my story “Shame Cycle” has been moved to issue 62 of Gargoyle, which should arrive around Christmastime.

solitude 8

Reading on the steps of the castle during Solitude Night. (Photo by Kai Linke.)

A few highlights from the past couple weeks:

-A big one being that I read as part of Solitude Night here at the Akademie on July 5. The experience was a pretty cool one, not the least because my literature compatriots–Irish poet Annemarie Ní Churreáin and German playwright Anne Habermehl–shared their outstanding work. Also, the stage was built on the steps of die Schloss, with the reader facing the castle and the audience seated on the steps, facing the valley. I read from two pieces, some of “On the River, Down Where They Found Willy Brown” and the opening of the new novel I’ve been working on here. It was kind of nerve-wracking to present work that was written only a few weeks ago, but I feel like it went over okay. A number of people have told me they enjoyed the reading–and since they’re passing on good news, I have no reason to doubt them.

Thanks so much to Claudia Gehre for setting up the reading so beautifully and introducing us readers. And thanks to Akademie Director Jean-Baptiste Joly for selecting me to read on the big night.

-Also, if you haven’t seen, Akademie Schloss Solitude is now accepting applications for its next cycle of fellows, with residencies from 2015 to 2017. Residencies are typically pretty long, 6-8 months or so, sometimes longer, sometimes shorter. Stipends, lodging, and studio space are provided, along with some travel and project expenses. Writers, artists, dancers, musicians, mathematicians, chess players, art administrators, philosophers–it’s a pretty big tent out here. I’ll vouch that Akademie Schloss Solitude is certainly an amazing place to write and create, and hike, and is pretty centrally located if you’d want to do some sideline travel while in Europe. The deadline is Oct 31, 2014. Here’s a list of conditions and benefits for the fellowship. Check it out.

-After Jordan I didn’t do much traveling the past two weeks. Explored more of Stuttgart on foot, found new areas of the forest to hike, managed to turn a two hour leisurely walk to the bank into a five hour power-hike after I took a wrong turn in Wildpark. Oops.

-Today I did venture out of Stuttgart again with a trip up to Landstuhl. There really isn’t too much there, except the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, with Ramstein Air Base also in the area, so it has certain significance to recent US military history–and more to the point, a character in my new novel (Jim Allen from my story “Welcome Home” is a big character in the book) is sent to the medical center for a brief time. So it was kind of research for the novel, kind of just being curious to see what a US military town in Germany is like. I wasn’t sure if I should still go up there. There are a million other places to visit here that offer more in the way of culture and sights. The trip itself was longish, about three hours each way by train, although a lot of that was through the scenic Rhineland area, so not much to complain about there. So I went.

landstuhl

Landstuhl, stadtmitte.

This morning I was surprisingly emotional about going to Landstuhl. The medical center served as the primary hospital to treat injuries suffered in both the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, so it’s seen a lot of traffic in the last decade. I read last night that the hospital was for several years among the world’s most active hubs for organ donations. A sort of benign fact on its face, but devastating in its implication. This really stuck with me this morning.

I didn’t do much while there. Walked up to the medical center and around its gates. Everything is secured so there really wasn’t much to see besides dozens of signs promising that bad things will happen if you take any pictures of the facility. (Note: I really admire those who live by the edict that when someone tells you to stop filming, that’s the most important time to be filming. Further note: I’m not one of those people.) So nothing profound, but I’m glad I went. Like a lot of things, the process of getting somewhere is most of the trip. And I did get a few details that will make it into the first draft of the novel.

-Arriving back into Stuttgart was pretty interesting this evening. There was a big Palestinian demonstration going on all along Königstraße, a pedestrian drag through the main tourist and cultural part of the city. A little different from what I expected walking out of Hauptbahnhof train station. Lots of flag waving, some chanting, many head scarfs, a few burqas. Polizei in full-on paramilitary gear, berets, rifles, some with riot gear handy, just in case. (I’m assuming a lot of the police presence was just in case a group of fascist, anti-immigrant thugs showed up for a confrontation–something becoming more common in some places–but I’m not really sure.) Meanwhile, the Schlossplatz (castle square) is hosting its annual week of free jazz performances. So, while the the protest wraps up, there’s a jazz quintet on a bandstand playing “Everybody wants to be a Cat” from Disney’s The Aristocats (you couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried) with a bunch of hipster swing kids strutting their stuff. Kind of a strange dynamic. And a nice little microcosm for how this whole trip has gone.

 

 

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