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Here’s a great story that ran on NPR’s All Things Considered last month about Richard Rubin’s search for the last living American soldiers who served in World War I. It’s pretty fascinating to hear some of these stories, with the best part being the audio recordings of the old doughboys themselves telling stories about things they haven’t mentioned in many decades, some in over seventy years. Very touching.
Give it a listen! Or read Rubin’s book. The Last of the Doughboys looks pretty interesting too.
More good news this week, as my novel The Uninitiated was selected for the long list in Inkubate’s “Literary Blockbuster Challenge!”
You can find the whole list on their blog, but the gist of it is that initial readers whittled down to twenty-one finalists from the over six hundred novels submitted to the contest. (Congrats, Domini.)
Here’s what one of the readers, Nathan Feuerberg, had to say about the process:
“For two months all we did was read. There were detective novels and coming of age stories, mysteries and science fiction, historical and even some erotic literature. There were so many great entries that narrowing down our selections to just a few became a daunting task. In the end, I think we found some writers with exceptional talent, and that made all the reading worthwhile.”
Ten winners selected from the long list will be announced in August, with $10,000 in prizes divided among them–$5000 of that to the first prize winner. Each of the final ten will also receive feedback from publishing executives.
If you’ve never heard of Inkubate before, it’s certainly an interesting concept. The idea is to basically rethink the slush pile process of authors submitting queries and manuscripts to agents and publishers by creating a platform where agents and publishers instead browse author-created profiles, thus allowing the gate-keepers to narrow in on the genre, experience level, what have you, that they’re interested in. The value here seems to be for young writers just starting out and established writers who may have lost the eye of publishers for some reason or another. Basically, those with a bare-bones cover letter, or a stale one.
It’s a cool idea, although, as with anything, it’s yet to be seen how the service funds itself. Participating agents and publishers are to pay a fee to browse the site–it’s free for authors to create a profile–but will publishing professionals pay for something they already get in abundance for free? TBD, I guess, and something to watch evolve. In the meantime I’m happy to be a part of it.
After bringing home Tarcher/Penguin’s Top Artist prize earlier this year, it’s exciting to have this draft of the novel in the running for another competition. I’ll try to get an update on where I’m at with the novel later on this month, but today let’s enjoy this victory and hope that there’s more to come.
I’ve been sitting on some big news for a couple months now. Something very difficult for a guy like me who, while sneaky, is no good with secrets. So I’m excited, very very excited, to announce that I’ve been awarded a fellowship and three-month residency from Akademie Schloss Solitude!
There are many cool things about the fellowship, some of which I will enumerate here. Paid airfare to/from Stuttgart, Germany, where Solitude is based; studio space and lodging in a baroque castle surrounded by forestland (Castle Solitude, pictured); a monthly stipend to cover living expenses; a double-housekeeping benefit to help supplement my rent at home; the opportunity to live in German culture (Swabian to be exact) for an extended period, sort of a reverse of what the characters of my novel do, my German-Americans; a chance to research and work on my next novel, part of which will take place at and near Ramstein Air Base.
Best of all, families are welcome to join artists during the residency, so Nicole, Maddie and Clara will be coming over for at least part of next summer. This is a pretty rare thing for residencies. Among the many things I’m grateful to Akademie Schloss Solitude and the state of Baden-Württemberg for, the opportunity to share this with my family is up near the top of the list. In fact, we’re so excited that we’ve decided to change the spelling of our youngest child’s name from the Anglican/Latinate Clara to the Germanic Klara as a sort of tribute to my benefactors.
You can read more about the program here and its vision of Esprit Solitude here, and see what past fellows were up to during their residencies here, but the gist of it is that Baden-Württemberg funds this program in order to encourage emerging artists from around the world to expand and further their work in ways they wouldn’t be able to within the strictures of their normal home life. It’s really an astonishing investments in the arts, and a recognition that personally elicits massive amounts of humility and gratification whenever I think about it. I was actually offered an eight-month residency, but it seemed like that might be too much of a good thing. I’ll be spending the summer of 2014 in Germany.
My sincerest thanks go out to juror Maxi Obexer, who selected me as a fellow, Jean-Baptiste Joly, who is Director of the Akademie, and Silke Pflüger, who, as Grant Coordinator, has been dealing with my many questions.
This continues a good run of recognition for my novel, as my application was accepted based on the strength of a full manuscript version of The Uninitiated. This manuscript also took first prize in Tarcher/Penguin’s Top Artist competition, while an excerpt is forthcoming in Boulevard this fall. A different excerpt was a finalist in the recent Summer Literary Seminars contest. And now, Solitude.
A quick note today about the results of the 2013 Summer Literary Seminars Unified Literary Contest. The winners were announced last week here, of which I’m not included. Congrats to them.
While this wasn’t announced publicly, the contest coordinators did let me know that my submission was short-listed as a finalist. Good news there!
This is the fourth time I’ve been on an SLS contest short-list. Somebody there must like me, I guess. Quite a compliment considering the stiff competition the contest brings in. The significance this time is a little different for me in that my submission (“The Hyphenates of Jackson County”) was excerpted from my novel, thus continuing a string of positive momentum for The Uninitiated this year. No agent yet, no publisher. But, if you’ll excuse the recap, the full manuscript did win Tarcher/Penguin’s Top Artist Writing Contest and a different excerpt was accepted for publication in Boulevard under the title “River Ward, 1917″. The book is four years in the making, so it’s very nice to get some little bit of recognition of its quality. Hopefully the string continues to build.
Some day I hope to be a part of a Summer Literary Seminar. It’s a great institution for writers, one I’ve heard nothing but nice things about from folks who have gone out with them. Being immersed in the writing culture of a country on another continent for a month–what’s not to like? Here’s more information on their current seminars in Lithuania and Kenya in case you’re interested.
I’m excited to share that, this week, my fiction was again chosen to appear in a future edition of Boulevard! Amazingly, this will be my fourth story in Boulevard, which has really become a great home to my work these past few years. (The breakdown of each story is below if you’re interested.)
Here’s the opening of “River Ward, 1917″, which may be familiar to some of you:
It used to be a common thing for a young man to light off secretly in the night, searching for a life different from the one he toiled through at home. Jacob Bressler became an exile in this way. He left under starlight and led his horse over the brawny shoals of what would be his brother’s farm from then on. He didn’t bother with a saddle but merely slid a bridle over the nag’s muzzle and walked into the buggy paths of the river valley. In the dark he found the graveled highway that led to Omaha. There was no need to rush. His brother wouldn’t follow him.
What’s most pleasing about this pub is that “River Ward, 1917″ is excerpted from my novel, The Uninitiated, and marks the first time any of this writing will see print. It’s a landmark, of sorts, for me. Four years have past since I began work on the novel. From it’s early shape as The Open City to the early days of The Hyphenates of Jackson County to its current form as The Uninitiated, it has taken a lot of work to get here.
So it’s exciting to get some of the book out there. To have the piece run in Boulevard means even more. Boulevard was my first major publication, running “Welcome Home” in the spring 2008, really launching an encouraging string of success with the short form that saw the story reprinted in Best New American Voices and recognized in a Pushcart Prize anthology. I can only hope that “River Ward, 1917″ appearing in Boulevard in the fall of 2013 holds similar portent for my long form work. Regardless, cheers! This one feels good.
Special thanks goes out to Amber Mulholland, Travis Theiszen, Country Club Bill, Mary Helen Stefaniak and any others who helped this particular section through its early phases. And to the Lee Martin workshop at last June’s Nebraska Summer Writers Conference, who gave significant feedback and support in its latest phase. And to Richard Burgin and the editors at Boulevard too, of course. Thanks!
TW stories in Boulevard: “Welcome Home” in Spring 2008, “The Approximate End of the World” in Spring 2010, “On a Train from the Place Called Valentine” in Spring 2012, “River Ward, 1917″ is forthcoming.
You may recall this post from last summer wherein I celebrated the fact that my novel was a finalist for the writing portion of Tarcher/Penguin’s Top Artist competition.
I’m pleased to say that word arrived today that The Uninitiated won first prize!
Here’s the announcement from Tarcher:
“Ted competed with hundreds of terrific entrants and has won the top prize for his work, THE UNINITIATED. His prize consists of $5,000 and a one-page critique of his work from Sara Carder, Tarcher/Penguin’s Executive Editor of the one and only Julia Cameron. We thank everyone who submitted their fine work, and hope you will join us in extending a hearty congratulations to Ted!”
Thanks so much to the editorial and publicity teams at Tarcher. This is great recognition for my work, and an honor I’m very proud to receive. Last year was kind of a hard slog trying to finish the book amid some pretty big life events and challenges, literary or otherwise. And although the book is still unagented, I’m excited for this new progress. The Uninitiated is something I believe in wholeheartedly. It’s nice to know that the folks at Tarcher are in my corner too.
Tom Dennison with famed lawman Bat Masterson on a rooftop in Omaha. Date unknown.
What went on in the Wheeler world the past few months, you ask…
-A few bits of feedback returned from the top handful of agents I’d submitted to, and was rejected by, sent me back into a revision cycle, one that is just now reaching completion. I feel a little nuts for going back to the drawing board after only a relative few rejections, but that’s my process and I’ll stick to it. It would be worse to sit on a good idea rather than implement it, right? Anyway, I took six weeks off to rinse my palate and clear my mind–which provided time to paint the outside of our house and stuff a storage facility full of clutter, among other chores to keep my mind busy–and then got back to it. The novel is much better for it, I believe, and slips along much more efficiently. It’s down to 103k words and 321 pages. Amazing how a little drawer time can make some appendages look less indispensable.
-During my off time a few agents requested to look at the novel, so that’s promising. I’ll have the manuscript off to them in January for consideration.
I must say too that the querying game is a lot rougher than I remember it being back in 2008, when I last had to go speed-dating for an agent. Seems like a majority of agents don’t really consider slush in a serious way anymore, and most that do read their mail don’t respond unless they’re interested. This kind of wrecks a carefully made spreadsheet. I understand why agents have taken this approach–as some receive a couple thousand queries a week! It’s logistically necessary on their part. However, this practice can only encourage bad habits among submitting writers. If a writer can’t be sure their query will be looked at, it makes more sense for them to submit to a bunch of agents at once and see what sticks. This really isn’t good for anyone, so I’m trying my best to find ways of getting noticed other than being a bad citizen. I wonder what the end game for this is, as Twitter and blogging become a better way to get the attention of an agent, and direct contact fades away.
-My review of Christopher Narozny’s Jonah Man was published on the fall edition of Kenyon Review Online. Jonathan Evison named Jonah Man one of his Favorite Books of 2012. I agree wholeheartedly. It’s a goodie.
-Travel: There was New York in October and El Salvador in November. Realizing today that this will be the first time since 2010, and only the second since 2008, that I haven’t been to Key West after Christmas. I hope the snowbirds can get along without me. Trips to Boston, Los Angeles, and Kansas City are in the works for 2013, and we’re hoping one to NYC becomes necessary as well.
-Sporting: The last time we checked in with the sporting news, Notre Dame was 3-0 headed into a prime time match up with the hated Wolverines of Michigan. I was confident about that game–perhaps a little too confident, as my 87-2 prediction was way off–but I was a little wary of how the rest of the season would unfold for the beloved Fighting Irish of Our Lady. There were still big games with Stanford, Oklahoma, and USC down the road, and ND usually found a way to eke out a come-from-ahead loss to a lesser opponent too. A few months later, ND is sitting at 12-0, ranked #1, and looking at a NCG match up with the hated Crimson Tide of Alabama. Congrats to the team, coach Brian Kelly and star linebacker Manti Teo. I almost can’t believe how well everything has turned out this year, and hope it continues as long as possible. Go Irish!
Dispatch from The Uninitiated
“Fred was around the block when Jacob caught up, ducked behind a barrel. It was known that Fred lost the will to fight too easily. He was doleful and kept out of trouble. His forehead had a white twig of a scar from when he fell out a linden tree. Bullies noticed him. Jacob was the one with a temper, the restless one. Fred, three years elder, often chided Jacob to become humble, being of the mind that the less someone thought of himself, the more likely he’d find the right side of an argument. But Jacob wasn’t so sure of that. He was tall and fair-skinned and athletic. He’d always done well in school. He had things going for him, and modesty appealed less to him than it might to others.”
Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson.
Angels by Denis Johnson.
Dog Soldiers by Robert Stone.
Light in August by William Faulkner.
East of Eden by John Steinbeck.
The Dark Corner by Mark Powell.
I’m pleased to announce that my short story “The Mercy Killing of Harry Kleinhardt” was accepted for publication in the great, and newish, literary journal Midwestern Gothic! The story will appear in their next issue, which I believe will be Issue 8, Winter 2013. More specifics will be forthcoming, no doubt.
Here’s an excerpt from “The Mercy Killing of Harry Kleinhardt”:
Aaron never actually knew his mother, not in any real way. When he was a boy he fantasized about her coming back to rescue him from Nebraska, to take him with her to LA, New York, Chicago, wherever she’d landed. Aaron knew so little about her that these dreams seemed like they could be real. His dad never told him what really happened to her. Harry would say, “She’s alive,” if Aaron pestered him enough. “That’s all you need to know. That woman you like to call your mom is still breathing somewhere.”
Aaron didn’t learn much about the world outside Jackson until later, but even as a boy it seemed pretty obvious that things were better elsewhere—and that this was the reason his mother left. There was an old joke about how Jackson was the only town in this free Union state to be named after a Confederate general, and that about summed up how out of step Jackson was with the rest of the planet, Aaron thought.
More than likely his mother met some men in Sioux City and took off from there. Maybe another woman hooked her into a hot lead for some quick money, some liquor or drugs, or a chance to work a back room at a horse track. Over the years, Aaron convinced himself of a thousand scenarios other than those that were likely. He dreamed, at different times, that she was a nomadic bounty-hunter in Texas, a piano teacher in Vienna, a pilot for the US Navy, an Amazon explorer, an African missionary. There was a long string of them. That she was the wife of an extraordinarily rich man was a recurring theme. They were ridiculous dreams. Aaron didn’t have much to work with in creating them.
There is plenty of overlap in this story with my other work. That’s always fun. For starters, the story is set in Jackson, Nebraska; the same Jackson County as is featured in my novel, The Uninitiated. (Read here for an explanation of how my Jackson, Neb. is different from the real Jackson, Neb; and how Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, OH differed from the real Winesburg, OH in similar ways.)
Most of the crossover, however, stems from the fact that “The Mercy Killing of Harry Kleinhardt” is part of my Bad Faith series of stories, all of which have been published now. The Aaron Kleinhardt of “Mercy Killing” is the same from “Kleinhardt’s Women” (Fogged Clarity, Dec 2010) and “On a Train from the Place Called Valentine” (Boulevard, Spring 2012), which shares characters with “The First Night of My Down-and-Out Sex Life” (Confrontation, Fall 2011) and “The Man Who Never Was” (Weekday, Summer 2010).
This is the first time I’ve written a series of connected stories so long–maybe testing my stamina before writing a novel?–and it’s exciting to see all of the stories find a home. But with so much murder, sex, drugs, alcoholism, adultery, betrayal, and deception in the cycle, it’s little wonder they’ve found an audience. Midwestern Gothic is a fitting end to this stage of the stories’ publishing life, and an apt home for “Mercy Killing.” I’m glad to have the story picked up, of course, and particularly glad that it was Midwestern Gothic who laid claim to it. Cheers!