Spring/Summer Schedule for PTL Literary Pub Quiz

51fzkloefyl-_sx327_bo1204203200_Some pub quiz news to share, as last week we finalized the schedule of guest hosts for the Pageturners Lounge Literary Pub Quiz through July. As a refresher, this is more or less a traditional trivia night–21 questions, teams competing for prizes, we meet at 8pm on the first Wednesday of every month–with the twist that we feature a literary guest to introduce to the community via a short interview and a special category of questions that the guest presents. Fellow Omaha writers Drew Justice and Ryan Borchers co-host the event with me. It’s been a lot of fun so far and the reception has been great.

Some of the categories so far include more usual topics like US Cities, Christmas Stories, and 20th Century Literature, and range to saucier topics like Buryin’ the Librarian, Hollywood Hunks, and Hotboxing with Baudelaire. See how much fun this is?

Having authors and editors come in to share a little about their work has been an interesting aspect to manage, particularly with the eclectic group of novelists, poets, editors, and librarians we’ve had in during the first five months. A lot of the time the whole idea of an author event can be kind of awkward in the sense that it’s typically an opportunity to sell the persona of the writer, and not necessarily their actual written work. That’s the cynical view anyway–and the pub quiz kind of cuts to the chase as far as this goes, hopefully generating some exposure for our authors and their projects. All the guests have seemed to enjoy themselves at least. And I’m really excited about who we will be welcoming the next few months. (JCC!)

Here’s a link to the Facebook page for our March 2 event, if you’re looking for more specific information. Otherwise, check out the extended schedule below.

PTL Pub Quiz Schedule (First Wednesday, 8pm, 5004 Dodge Street, Omaha, Neb.)imp-final

March 2: Douglas Vincent Wesselmann, author of the novels Imp: Being the Lost Notebooks of Rufus Wilmot Griswold in the Matter of the Death of Edgar Allan Poe and Tales of the Master.
April 6: Blue River, literary journal run by the MFA students at Creighton University.
May 4: Jennine Capó Crucet, author of Make Your Home Among Strangers and How to Leave Hialeah.
June 1: David Philip Mullins, author of Greetings from Below.
July 6: Monsters of Short Fiction Tour, feat. Tyrone Jaeger (So Many True Believers), Dave Madden (If You Need Me I’ll Be Over There) and Theodore Wheeler (Bad Faith).

Miscellany on a Snowy Day

12633710_423636127833827_391863279269080749_oSince it’s a slow, blizzardy day here in Omaha, and I’ve got a few minutes before the girls wake up from their naps, here’s some miscellany of interest to the blog.

-First off, happy book birthday to Amina Gautier, who’s third collection of short fiction The Loss of All Lost Things was officially released from Exilir Press! Here’s what Christine Schutt had to say about the book: “Loss, loss of home, family, love–the freighted loss of children themselves–these are Amina Gautier’s subjects but prepare for enthrallment and surprise: These unexpectedly comforting stories of loss mend loss with reminders of our heroic inadequacies to love well. The Loss of All Lost Things is a touching collection of limpidly composed, irresistible stories,tempting to read in a sitting.” Make sure you pick up a copy, either from Amazon or SPD.

-Congrats to Julie Iromuanya, whose debut novel Mr. and Mrs. Doctor made the shortlist for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize! The Bingham Prize honors “an exceptionally talented fiction writer whose debut work—a novel or collection of short stories—represents distinguished literary achievement and suggests great promise. The winner receives a cash award of $25,000, a stipend intended to permit a significant degree of leisure in which to pursue a second work of literary fiction.” Just announced today, this is quite an honor, and very much deserved. Way to go, Julie!

-Yet more congrats are in order, as a couple weeks ago Jaquira Díaz was awarded one of two 2016-2018 Kenyon Review Fellowships! KR fellows are supported for two years while they complete a significant book project and teach one class a semester at Kenyon College. It’s a pretty cool thing. I met Jaquira at the 2012 Key West Literary Seminar as part of what turned out to be an exceptionally talented class of scholarship winners. She’s definitely a writer to watch.41q8ajkcfal-_sx322_bo1204203200_

-This is a couple weeks of an early happy book birthday, but check out (and pre-order) So Many True Believers by Tyrone Jaeger, a short story collection that’s due out on February 16 from Queen’s Ferry Press. While still in the planning stages, it looks like I’ll be getting out and doing a few readings/signings with Ty this summer. More on that later, of course, but for now… “So Many True Believers gives voice to the wanton, the restless, and those hellbent on self-destruction. The Nat Mota School for at-risk youth is the nexus of Tyrone Jaeger’s spiraling narrative; loosed from it is an array of characters yearning, raging, and chasing down their misguided dreams. There is Jeremy, mourning the loss of his girlfriend to a UFO cult; Harold, the betrayed husband exploring intimacy in unfamiliar waters; and Ginny, the teenage runaway hiding out with a band of video-obsessed squatters. Mystery, magic, and gritty realism are coiled against a backdrop of failed relationships and addictions in this darkly humorous debut collection depicting the frayed edges of the American psyche.”
 
-Finally, be sure to check out this interview with Alexander Chee, “Maybe It Was Worth It,” on The Millions this week. In addition to talking about his second novel, The Queen of the Night, which also releases today, Chee addresses at length the issues that confront novelists working in the age of omnipresent social media presence. Here’s a longish excerpt from the interview, and be sure to check out the whole thing over at The Millions:

TM: Did you feel commercial pressure, or worry about your own livelihood?

AC: This is a constant under capitalism though, right? But nothing in the book is there to make it more commercial or I would have used quotation marks around the dialogue. Other people may be able to write cynically, but when I do I want to die. Which was never the point of writing.0618663029-01-lzzzzzzz

The biggest pressure was when I had run out of the money. I was paid for this book, everything else was essentially unpaid work during which time I also had to work to pay bills. And the longer the novel wasn’t published, the more it seemed to endanger everything in my life — my ability to get teaching work, to successfully apply for grants, my relationship, future projects. Each small delay, each mistake, each wrong turn in the writing became enormous as a result and it was unendurable in the last two years.

The novel also ruined every family holiday vacation for a decade, too — typically the down time between semesters when you can get writing done.

Right near the end, I had a student write a story about the workshop, in which she was unkind to everyone in the class except herself, who she portrayed as a talented writer and a great beauty. This is something that happens at least once in every writing teacher’s life — the student who thinks it is brilliant to write about the class and make everyone talk about what she thinks of them. Me? She portrayed me as a failed writer who couldn’t sell his new book.

All I can say is, I look forward to when this happens to her.

 

January Pub Updates

ptl back doorSince it’s been a while since I offered a general state of the blog type post, here’s the latest in the world of the uninitiated.

-A pub date has been set for Bad Faith! My short story collection will drop on July 12, 2016. And while you’re hurriedly marking your calendars, I’ve also set up a pre-release party at Pageturners Lounge for Thursday, June 16, which will the first opportunity to purchase the book, have it signed, and toast with the author.

Between working through final edits on the book, the first blurbs coming in, and setting up events for later this year, it’s been an exciting, sometimes nerve-wracking experience. There will even be a cover before long. It’s happening!

-A few of my short stories will be coming out in the next couple months. “Violate the Leaves” in the spring issue of Boulevard, in March; “The Hyphenates of Jackson County” in Artful Dodge, by the end of February; and “On a Train from the Place Called Valentine” in New Stories form the Midwest.

-You may have noticed a few updates around the site. The last year I’ve slowly been transitioning this space from its blog roots to more of a proper web site befitting a published author with multiple books to his name. Or something. The process should be finished shortly, with a static front page and all that. I’ll still be blogging here every once in a while, maybe even a little more frequently. The whole “travel” part of the blog kind of took a backseat the last couple years, as I wasn’t traveling much, saving up money for potential book tours and bigger trips. Posting the same photos of me at Royals games over and over didn’t quite have the same panache as the posts from my summer touring Europe.

-One last thing, I want to include a note about the success we’ve seen with the literary pub quiz I’ve been putting on at Pageturners with buddies Ryan Borchers and Drew Justice. The turnout has been great, and it seems like the enthusiasm grows each month. The next edition is in a week, on February 3 with guest host Wendy Townley of the 1877 Society. We’re getting some great guest stars lined up for the spring/summer season, and I can’t wait to share the lineup. But I will wait, and hope to have that posted here soon. The series has been a lot of fun and I’m psyched to keep this going through the rest of the year. If you’re around Omaha the first Wednesday of the month, stop on in and talk some literature with a copacetic group of bookish folks.

“On a Train” Selected for New Stories from the Midwest 2015

new20stories20201320front20cover20201420aug2016The last days of 2015 are dwindling, but there’s still a little time to sneak in some good news before the calendar turns. So…I’m happy to share that guest editor Lee Martin has picked my story “On a Train from the Place Called Valentine” to appear in the New Stories from the Midwest 2015 anthology!

The story was originally published in Boulevard and is now part of the title/anchor novella of my short fiction collection, Bad Faith, that will be out this summer from Queen’s Ferry Press. Here’s a post I wrote about the story before, and this one too. In short, “On a Train from the Place Called Valentine” is a psychological thriller that follows heroine Amy Gutschow after she jumps a freight train outside Aurora, Nebr and through her confrontation with a pathetic but dangerous ladies man, Aaron Kleinhardt, after she hops off the train in Valentine, Nebr.

Stories of mine made honorable mention in the two previous editions of New Stories from the Midwest. (“The Approximate End of the World” in 2012 and “The Current State of the Universe” in 2013.) I’m super excited to have one of mine make it in this time!

New Stories from the Midwest 2015 should be out in three months or so, and I’ll have more links, photos, and ordering information closer to the release.

Thanks so much to the Series Editors, Jason Lee Brown and Shanie Latham, guest editor Lee Martin, editor of Boulevard Richard Burgin, and New American Press for publishing the anthology!

Photos of Trains

Amid all the great news lately about my forthcoming book publications, I’ve still been hard at work on my next novel. The novel is something I’ve mentioned a few times here and read some work-in-progress excerpts at Solitude Nacht and Fair Use reading events. This novel is set mostly in 2008. This makes research a little easier than it was for Kings of Broken Things, of course, which is set during World War I, so we’ve taken advantage of this mild Midwestern autumn to head outside and scout some locations that figure in the book. Railroad bridges in Plattsmouth, Nebr., various eateries and locales in Chicago. Fun stuff! It’s been a while since I did a travel post and I like some of these shots. Here you go.

 

 

Wheeler’s Debut Novel Sold to Little A

The last week has been pretty exciting around here.

First off, the announcement from Publishers Marketplace:

Creighton MFA Theodore Wheeler’s KINGS OF BROKEN THINGS, that follows two young immigrants to and through the Omaha Race Riot of 1919, shedding light on a tragic period in American history, to Vivian Lee at Little A, for publication in spring 2017, by Stephanie Delman at Sanford J. Greenburger Associates.

I couldn’t be happier that Kings of Broken Things has found a home with Little A, and I’m thrilled to be working with Vivian Lee. After spending eight years researching the history and creating characters who could not only live within the existing history, but also bring out the events in a compelling way, I’m finding great comfort that Kings has found a home with a publisher who can both push the work further artistically and find a wider audience to expand its reach. (Check out The Hundred-Year Flood by Matthew Salesses for a standout example of a book Vivian edited.) If you’ve followed this blog over the years, you’re with me. From the first drafts of The Hyphenates of Jackson County to the middle stages of The Uninitiated and the brief term of Red Summer and now Kings of Broken Things, a lot of well-meaning words met their ultimate demise to make this possible.

Friday happened to be my birthday. Receiving an offer to publish my novel was quite the way to celebrate! (Publishing this post from the press file room at the DNC debate is kind of cool too.)

Really, it’s been quite a year. A second trip to Germany to perform Omaha Uninitiated: Stateside Race Riots & Lynching in the Aftermath of World War I, which coincided with the publication of my chapbook, On the River, Down Where They Found Willy Brown, by Edition Solitude; Queen’s Ferry Press accepting my short story collection Bad Faith for publication (in July 2016, it’s coming up!); a string of publications highlighted by my first story to be featured in The Southern Review and more of my historically-based “hyphenates” fiction about German-Nebraskans winning an AWP Intro Journals Award; some amazing travels in Europe, New York, Chicago, Kansas City; the Royals winning the World Series; Notre Dame in the hunt for a national championship. I’m one lucky dude, obviously.

The success I’ve had the last couple years in getting this story about the Omaha Race Riot and these old immigrant communities has been very encouraging. The three months I spent at Akademie Schloss Solitude in 2014 were instrumental to refining Kings of Broken Things in a way I couldn’t have done otherwise. My experiencing Esprit Solitude really did wonders for this novel, and for my next novel, which was largely written while I was in Germany. Beyond that, Akademie Schloss Solitude helped create a wonderful platform to gain exposure for this historical project of mine, this redemptive art, as we called it, by publishing an excerpt of the novel in chapbook form and supporting a multi-media performance (Omaha Uninitiated) that focused on historical and cultural documents as objects of creation. Thanks to Director Jean-Baptiste Joly and literature juror Maxi Obexer for bringing me to Stuttgart and facilitating my work in such a generous way.

This is about to get sappy, but there are so many people to thank for their help reading, critiquing, and talking about the manuscript, and their sticking with me through the grueling process of writing a novel. Obviously this is far from over. But I should take this opportunity to thank my wife Nicole. She puts up with a lot, being married to a writer. I don’t know what I had to endure in a previous life to deserve her generous and enthusiastic love, but I’ll take it. My mother-in-law Karen West was instrumental in my writing process, tending to our girls during the day when they were little and understanding that time is something very precious to a writer. My own mom too, Marta, for being there and helping out whenever help is needed, and for teaching me to read and write, and for imparting the belief in storytelling as something sacred. My grandmother, Cleo (Blankenfeld) Croson, for all the work she’s done passing on a rich family history, and for her openness and honesty when discussing the finer, sometimes tawdry, elements of our history, a rare quality. My agent Stephanie Delman for championing the book and her tireless work in finding a great home with Vivian Lee and Little A. Also, “Country Club” Bill Sedlak, Amber Haschenburger, Ryan Borchers, Drew Justice, Sam Slaughter, Gregory Henry, Nabina Das, Mary Helen Stefaniak, Brent Spencer, Susan Aizenberg, Dave Mullins, Jonis Agee, Kwakiutl Dreher, Bob Bergstrom, Shannon Youngman, Jenn Ladino, Dave Green, Devin Murphy, Doug Rice, Darren Keen, Timothy Schaffert, Nicole Steen, Travis Thieszen, Miles Frieden, Arlo Haskell, Mary Morris, Richard Burgin, Lee Martin, Robert Stone, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, Key West Literary Seminar. I’m sure I’m forgetting to include some vital people in this cloud of gratitude, but this is just the pre-acknowledgement acknowledgments.

So I’ll stop with this: It feels pretty great to be able to remove the aspiring part from aspiring-novelist. I can’t wait to bring this book to you in Spring 2017!

More soon. For now, cheers!

“The Missing” is Nominated for a Pushcart Prize

Some exciting news to share today, as my short story “The Missing” has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize!

The story was nominated by Mark Wisniewski, a contributing editor with the anthology series, and author of the novel Watch Me Go.

“The Missing” is featured in the current issue of The Southern Review. (Go here thesouthernreview.org/issues/detail/Autumn-2015/233/ and used the code FRIEND514 for a 25% discount off the cover price.) It was such a thrill to see my work in The Southern Review, which came out just last week, and to have “The Missing” get some love already is amazing. (Read more about the story here.)

This is my fifth nomination for a Pushcart. “Welcome Home” (originally published in Boulevard and anthologized in Best New American Voices 2009) was listed as a “Special Mention” story in the 2010 Pushcart anthology.

Here’s hoping that this is the year!

Happy Book Birthday – Juventud by Vanessa Blakeslee

Congrats to Vanessa Blakeslee on the publication of her first novel, Juventud! Fresh off the success of her 2014 story collection (Train Shots, Burrow Press) Vanessa is back with her second book quickly. I had the pleasure of meeting Vanessa at the 2012 Key West Literary Seminar, then ran an essay of hers (“First Job”) back when I was web editor with Prairie Schooner, and it’s been awesome watching her career blossom.

Curbside Splendor Publishing is still running a pre-order special as of right now–click over a grab a copy ASAP! She’s also booked quite a few dates on a tour–so check out her website to see if she’s coming to a city near you.

Growing up as the only daughter of a wealthy landowner in Santiago de Cali, Colombia, teenaged Mercedes Martinez knows a world of maids, armed guards, and private drivers. When she falls in love with Manuel, a fiery young activist with a passion for his faith and his country, she begins to understand the suffering of the desplazados who share her land. A startling discovery about her father forces Mercedes to doubt everything she thought she knew about her life, and she and Manuel make plans to run away together. But before they can, tragedy strikes in a single violent night. Mercedes flees Colombia for the United States and a life she never could have imagined. Fifteen years later, she returns to Colombia seeking the truth, but discovers that only more questions await. 

In the bristling, beautiful prose that won her an IPPY Gold Medal for her short story collection Train Shots, Vanessa Blakeslee’s Juventud explores the idealism of youth, the complexities of a ravaged country, and the stories we tell ourselves in order to survive.