Some exciting news to pass along this week: The Southern Review has accepted my short story “The Missing” for publication!

I’m beyond thrilled about this. First, because The Southern Review has felt like it might be my white whale as far as lit journals go. A journal that is nearly unrivaled in its strong contemporary reputation and oft-cited tradition. (Robert Penn Warren and Cleanth Brooks were famously among its first editors in 1935.) For a few years now my stories have felt like they were getting closer and closer without getting there, despite some very nice feedback and encouragement from former editor Cara Blue Adams that kept me trying. Thanks so much to fiction editor Emily Nemens for taking a chance on the story.

Second, I’m very pleased to find such a good a home for “The Missing,” a story that marks a more ambitious path for my work, begun last year with this story (after Key West) and continued while writing a new novel of a similar bent during my fellowship at Akademie Schloss Solitude. More episodic and fragmented, voice-driven, stylized prose used as characterization, and, in this case especially, writing candidly about the anxieties of fatherhood. There are much bigger risks to take in life than writing a new way, of course, and much bigger tragedies than having your work being poorly received. But, still, I worried, and am ecstatic to have this story on board with TSR.

A bit about the story: “The Missing” follows a young father who runs off to visit a friend in El Salvador rather than face the prospect that both his wife and daughter-to-be could die during childbirth.

Here’s an excerpt:

Worthy told him wild stories about El Salvador. Bus rides up chuck-holed alleys into ghettos where even police were afraid to go because gangs controlled that territory—that San Salvador was the murder capital of the world, no matter what claims were made by Kabul or Baghdad or Tegucigalpa. Worthy told about getting drunk on something called coco loco. And girls dancing in clubs where the Salvadoran Getty Lee played bass with one hand and keys with the other. And girls dancing in clubs who were on the hunt for American men, for the green card, but were often left behind in San Salvador if pregnant, and there was little recourse for a woman of that kind. In long phone calls Worthy told about girls dancing in a nudie bar called Lips that had a taco bar next door that was also called Lips. Worthy was persuasive. Even the plastic baggies filled with soft, slimy cheese that Worthy bought on the street, that was called queso fresco, even that sounded attractive when Worthy talked about it. Even when the Mrs grabbed the phone and told Worthy that if anything bad happened she’d know who to hold responsible.

Do you understand? the Mrs told Worthy. If he doesn’t come back, I will come down there and fuck you up.

This will be my 26th published short story, and joins a group of forthcoming publications for 2015 that includes “Shame Cycle” in Gargoyle, “Attend the Way” in Heavy Feather Review, and “Forget Me” on Cosmonauts Avenue, along with the February release of On the River, Down Where They Found Willy Brown, a chapbook published by Edition Solitude. Things are going to be busy.

Special thanks to CCB, Amber Mulholland, Dave Mullins, Ryan Borchers, Drew Justice, Amy O’Reilly, Charlotte Spires, Felicity White, and everybody else who helped this story along.

Cheers!

This is probably coming a little late, but I wanted to help celebrate the release of Denton Loving’s debut collection of poems, Crimes Against Birds.

Denton was one of the housemates at the William Skelton House during the 2012 Key West Literary Seminars. In addition to his poetry, he also co-edits the literary journal Drafthorseedited the anthology Seeking Its Own Level: an anthology of writings about water, and co-directs the Mountain Heritage Literary Festival. All that, and he lives on a farm near the Cumberland Gap. Busy guy!

Here’s what literary superstar Ron Rash has to say about Crimes Against Birds:

“Do the wonders around me exist if mine are the only eyes to see, Denton Loving asks in one of this collection’s early poems. The answer is a resounding, Yes, because Loving has the talent to convey what he has seen that we too might see, and feel, and know more deeply. Crimes Against Birds is an impressive debut by a very gifted poet.”

Congrats, Denton!

Here’s the cover image for my forthcoming chapbook (“On the River, Down Where They Found Willy Brown”) that will be published by Reihe Projektiv/Edition Solitude later this winter, in late February, to be exact.

This will be the first writing I’ve had published about the Omaha Race Riot of 1919 and the lynching of Will Brown at the Douglas County Courthouse. I’ve posted here many times on the subject, one I’ve been researching and writing fiction about for over five years now. I’WheelerCoverm both excited and nervous to finally be sharing this work with audiences. Hopefully it’s found to be pertinent and well-considered work.

The chapbook will be released in conjunction with my upcoming presentation at Akademie Schloss Solitude as part of their two-day, cross-discipline workshop titled “Quotes and Appropriation.” DJ Darren Keen and I have been hard at work on our opening night event that will feature readings from the chapbook and a DJ set from a melange of music that was important to the writing of the chapbook, plus a presentation of photographs and film from my research. It will be a good time.

If you heard me read at the Key West Literary Seminar in January, Solitude Nacht in July, or in December at the Fair Use Reading Series in Benson, this is some of the same material. It includes what I read then and quite a bit more.

If you’re interested in acquiring a copy of the book, the best way would be to just stop in at Akademie Schloss Solitude in February and pick up a copy at the event. If Stuttgart is a little far afield, other options will be available thereafter, hopefully in both hardcopy and digital editions. More on that to come.

Many thanks to Todd Seabrook (editor/designer with The Cupboard) for his work on the cover and book design. He’s great. If you’re looking for someone to work with on a chapbook project, he’s your guy.

The news started to spread last night on social media and I’m sure, if you’re a fan of his, you’ve probably heard that Robert Stone died yesterday. The New York Times broke the news and today published this appraisal of his work. Even though my connection to Stone is nothing special, I thought that I’d add my own remembrance as well. Please indulge me.

My first encounter with Robert Stone (or the promise of one) came in the summer of 2007. Earlier that year, finishing up the second semester of my MA, I’d applied for a scholarship to the Key West Literary Seminar and learned that I’d received partial aid to attend their forthcoming session in January. It wasn’t confirmed right away, but I was also informed that Robert Stone had expressed some enthusiasm about the manuscript I’d submitted and might accept me into a special workshop he was holding during the week. A month or so later I was confirmed in his workshop, and was thrilled. Things changed quickly that summer, however, once Nicole and I learned that our first child was on the way, and then that she would be a girl, and that she was due to arrive the same week I was supposed to be in Key West in a workshop with Robert Stone. I was in Omaha that week in January, of course, too elated to worry about what I might be missing in the tropics.

I did see Robert Stone read that summer, with Richard Bausch, at the 2007 Wesleyan Writers Conference. It was a strange week for me. A lot of the other attendees were trying to chase down agents or were out partying, but I kind of stuck to myself and made only a few friends. The day before I’d left for the conference was when we found out Nicole was pregnant; she’d confirmed this with a test at her doctor’s office while I was in Connecticut. This doesn’t have a lot to do with Robert Stone–except I heard him read that week, and now I can only remember the reading in terms of what I was preoccupied with at the time.

It was five years after this that I was actually part of a Robert Stone-led workshop at the Key West Literary Seminar. Nicole was again expecting a child, although with a two-month buffer before Clara arrived. (I was kind of a mess that week in Florida. I was anxious about what the future held and drank too much pretty much every night. I got the best and worst of Key West, I suppose, and spent the better part of our morning workshop meetings sweating out what I’d drank the night before.)

Workshop 2

Robert Stone, Mary Casanova, and me waving for the camera. Stone said, “There’s one in every group.” (Key West, 2012. Photo by Kate Miller.)

To be honest, I don’t think Stone was too fond of me during those four days. He had some nice things to say during the workshop of my story, although he didn’t really seem all that hopeful for the direction I planned on taking the material. He was generous and fair during workshop, and often profound with such an easy intellect that it was breathtaking. Being around a celebrity, particularly one who’s had an influence on so many, seems like it will be such a strange experience to me, but it really wasn’t in this case, and usually isn’t when it comes to authors, who aren’t really celebrities at all, I guess. The vitality of a great writer is something to behold. In undergrad I had the opportunity to do a special workshop with Rita Mae Brown and it was the same then. She was clearly operating on a different plane than the rest of us and, the same as with Stone, it was dazzling to watch.

A few of us would stick around on the front porch of the Skelton House after the sessions as Stone waited for his ride to pick him up. He’d share some stories with us. What it was like dealing with publishers when he got started and how things changed later on; how he got into sailing and deep sea diving by volunteering to serve as crew on yachts; how he’d gotten his grandson suspended from school by sending along a diving knife for show and tell, and how supremely funny he found that to be. Stone seemed most comfortable in those moments, I thought–that and when he read “Hills Like White Elephants” aloud to the group, a moment when several of us looked to each other and grinned with such exhilaration, such content at being in the room as one master communed with another.

When I was at KWLS last year Stone was slated to read from his newest novel, Death of the Black-Haired Girl, but it was announced that he’d injured his arm and couldn’t make it. I’d been excited that we were both on the schedule for the seminar that year, and was disappointed I wouldn’t get to again hear him read. But a broken arm is a broken arm. What can you do? Just another near-miss in Key West, a common enough thing.

RIP.

“Minstrel Show, or The Lynching of William Brown”

A quick note that “Minstrel Show, or The Lynching of William Brown” is to be performed as a reading next Sunday, January 11, as part of the Douglas County Historical Society’s Second Sunday lecture and performance series. The play was written by DCHS researcher Max Sparber and takes for its subject the 1919 Courthouse Riot in Omaha. The play retells the events of the riot from the perspective of two itinerant performers.

Originally produced in 1998 by the Blue Barn Theater, and performed in the rotunda of the Douglas County Courthouse in addition to the Blue Barn, “Minstrel Show” has since been performed around the country to rave reviews. An actor from the Blue Barn will participate in the reading on Sunday, and Max Sparber will take questions afterwards.

Here’s more info:

“Minstrel Show, or The Lynching of William Brown”

Sunday, January 11, 2015, 2pm

Douglas County Historical Society

5730 N 30th St, #11B, Omaha, Neb.

(You must e-mail members(at)douclascohistory(dot)org for reservations. The event is free for members and costs $5 for non-members.)

Also, if you can’t make it to the performance, you can find video of a 2006 Blue Barn production of the play on YouTube here, here,here, here, and here.

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:

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 554 other followers