EWN: Where do short stories fit within your life as a reader?
TW: I enjoy magazine or journal short stories as sorts of beautiful found objects. My house is often littered with magazines and books that come in the mail, and it’s a certain pleasure to pick up an object and read a short story inside without knowing what the story is about or even who the author is most of the time. My reading list is often crowded and probably too carefully curated, so that sense of surprise and wonder that comes from spontaneously jumping into something new is often lacking. Short stories, particularly stand-alone stories, fill this need in my life as a reader.
The first short review of my forthcoming debut novel Kings of Broken Things was published this morning on Kirkus Review! A thoughtful and generally insightful review, it’s pretty exciting to see my book being critiqued after working for nearly a decade researching and writing. Only 77 days until pub day! Let the sleepless nights begin.
“Underlying the novel is a taut racial division, illustrated by the yearly interrace baseball game and culminating in a false accusation which incites a sickeningly vicious lynch mob. For its descriptions of the violent outcomes of prejudice and political misconduct, this novel at once illuminates a savage moment in history and offers a timely comment on nationalism and racism. An unsettling and insightful piece of historical fiction.”
Check out this article from last month in the Omaha World-Herald by Micah Mertes that explores how Nebraska has been used as a setting by contemporary novelists.
The article focuses mostly on Dan Chaon and his new book, with some choice quotes from Stephen King, Jonis Agee, Timothy Schaffert, Rainbow Rowell, and a hot young new-comer named Wheeler with a new novel coming out this summer. It’s a fun article, and an honor to have my thoughts included with the titans above.
Here’s the full article if you’re interested, and a quote for now:
Depending on the writer’s aim, that emptiness can yield horror, despair or loneliness. It can yield solitude, serenity, God. It can yield mystery.
“And mystery,” said Omaha author Theodore Wheeler, “is what drives almost all fiction in one way or another. Every story needs something to solve, I guess.”
Wheeler’s next novel will explore a different kind of the unknown, and one closer to home: the immigrant culture of Omaha in the 1910s. “Kings of Broken Things,” on sale Aug. 1, casts fictional characters amid precise historical detail and real-life events — like the Omaha race riot of 1919.
I’m ecstatic to be featured on the page, as the TbL Q&A Series is a great resource for writers, both beginning and established. It’s well-worth your time to check out the archives, including interviews with Maggie Smith, Dana Gioia, Sandra Marchetti, Karen Craigo, and Saleh Saterstrom. The Q&As are heavy on the process of becoming an established writer and are great for writing students.
Thanks so much to Tethered by Letters for including my responses, and for Amanda DeNatale for conducting the interview.
Here’s an excerpt:
Probably like most writers, I’ve always had an inescapable urge to tell stories. Some of my earliest memories are of using a George Washington paper-doll my mom made to recreate scenes from a Time-Life series of American history books we had in the house, and I was writing some of these stories down by the time I started elementary school. That’s not a career event, of course, but where things started. For most of my childhood I planned on being either a sports writer for a newspaper or a comic book writer for Marvel when I grew up. What I do now isn’t too far off from that—my day job is as a reporter (but on civil law and politics, not sports) and I write literary fiction instead of super hero comics. Most of my life has been following an impulse to write, which led to different jobs and styles that allow me to keep going in ways that are fulfilling. I don’t think there was ever an epiphany, more just doing what has kept me engaged and happy.
I’m happy to share that my story “Me Too” was named a finalist for the 2017 Disquiet Literary Prize!
Thanks so much to the judges and Guernica magazine for thinking enough of my work to give it final consideration for the prize, which was won by Gwen E. Kirby of Cincinnati. Gwen’s story will be published by Guernica and she receives a full tuition scholarship to this year’s Disquiet International Literary Program in Lisbon, Portugal.
This continues a spectacular run of “nice rejection” for this story, including a few personal notes from big magazines that number among my nicest rejections ever. (!!!) That’s a strange sentiment to express, but for those who spend a lot of time submitting work for publication, it’s worth something. I’ll appreciate the tailwind while it lasts, at least.
Some more information about Disquiet, if you’re interested, as they’re still accepting applications for this year’s program:
The DISQUIET International Literary Program is a two-week program that brings writers from North America and from around the world together with Portuguese writers in the heart of Lisbon for intensive workshops in the art and craft of writing.
The program is premised on several beliefs: That the conversations and exchange of ideas that result from meeting writers from around the world pushes one’s own work beyond the boundaries of the self. That all writers need a community to support and sustain them. That stepping out of the routine of one’s daily life and into a vibrant, rich, and new cultural space unsettles the imagination, loosens a writer’s reflexes… To those ends: Come be DISQUIET-ed with us!
Fyi, I’ll reading from Bad Faith at the Imaginary Gardens Reading Series on Tuesday, April 18 at 7pm, with poet Katie Berger. Put on monthly by Michael Skau at Mister Toad’s downtown pub, the series is in its third year. Originally a poetry series, Imaginary Gardens recently opened its doors to prose writers, and I’m certainly excited they did.
This will be my last event to promote Bad Faith before setting my sights on the August 1 release for Kings of Broken Things. Since I’ve already done a few readings in Omaha from the collection, I’ll try something new for this event, I promise.
On a more personal note, the writers group I’m in meets periodically at Mister Toad, so it will be fun to read my work in the space. Their back room is a great space to hang out and read. Usually that’s done quietly, but reading aloud will be fun too!
The event is free and open to the public.
Imaginary Gardens Reading Series
Tue April 18, 7pm
Mister Toad, 1002 Howard St, Omaha
I’m so excited to share with you the front cover of my new novel Kings of Broken Things, out from Little A on August 1!
The cover turned out so well, I couldn’t be more pleased and excited to share the book with you all this summer. Thanks are due to Christina Chung, who did the illustration, and Vivian Lee, my editor at Little A, who painstakingly worked through many versions until this was just right. Their hard work paid off big time, in my opinion. What do you all think?
The book is now available for pre-order in hardcover, paperback, Kindle, and audio editions. The audio edition is a new addition, for all you road warriors and commuters out there. If you’re so inclined, put in your order now and have the book arrive on August 1.
In addition to giving a pretty succinct history of lynching in the United States, including biographies of heroes like Ida B. Wells, Walter White, James Weldon Johnson, and others, the site includes an impressive interactive map that allows you to click on any of the dots and pull up information on each lynching incident, including the name of the victim, the location where it occurred, and references to source material. It’s good stuff.
Of particular interest is that the archive includes information on Mexican- and Italian-Americans who were murdered in racially-motivated mob killings. After researching lynchings in Omaha for more than a few years now, I can attest that this information is harder to come by. As a case in point (pictured above) I came across reference to the 1915 lynching of Juan Gonzalez in Omaha by a posse of 200 people after he was accused of murdering a police officer. This was only four years before the famous courthouse lynching of Will Brown–which is dramatized in my forthcoming novel. In eight years of reading about the 1919 lynching, I don’t remember seeing mention of the 1915 lynching. Strange. And something else to read up on.
When you get a chance, check out MonroeWorkToday. Very informative and a powerful new research tool for students, historians, and citizens alike.
In the century after the Civil War, as many as 5000 people of color were executed by mobs believing the cause of white supremacy.
On average, mobs killed 9 people per month during the 1890s. The average was 7 people per month over the next 20 years. It was not until 1918 that one member of Congress, a Republican, attempted any action. Yet there were heroes who did not wait for that. How did this happen? What are the details?