The Southern Review Shipping Now–featuring “The Missing”

Late on Friday I heard from The Southern Review that their autumn 2015 issue (featuring my story “The Missing”) is currently shipping and should be out in the world soon. If you’re already a subscriber, keep an eye out this week. Otherwise, TSR is offering a “friends & family” discount that I’m able to share here for 25% off the purchase of single copies of the journal or any subscription. Use this coupon code: FRIEND514.

The issue also contains fiction by Erin Flanagan, Steve Amick, and Matthew Baker, and poetry by Floyd Skloot, David Kirby, Fleda Brown, and David Wojahn, among others. (Check out the table of contents here.) I haven’t seen the issue yet, but I’m really looking forward to it. Some exceptional company to keep, as I’d expect.

Here’s what I wrote when “The Missing” was originally accepted for publication back in January, if you’re interested in some deeper background. In short, “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. This story represents a couple different progressions for me. One being an engagement of a more dynamic style, something I worked on extensively while on fellowship at Akademie Schloss Solitude last summer while working on a new novel. And the other development being that the story addresses issue of fatherhood and anxiety about childbirth and responsibility from that point-of-view. Usually it takes me a long time to digest things emotionally–so a five-year lag between becoming a father myself and being able to work on a story like this isn’t so bad.

Thanks again to Fiction Editor Emily Nemens for taking the story and for all her hard work editing “The Missing” into the best shape it could be.

Soaking it up down at the beach.
Costa del Sol, El Salvador.

This is going to be a good week, I think. I had a great time at the Omaha Lit Fest this weekend, and held my own during my panel. (Thanks so much to Timothy Schaffert for putting everything together this weekend, and to Douglas Wesselmann and Marilyn Coffey for sharing the panel with me.) Plus, Notre Dame beat USC in an entertaining rivalry game; the Royals are up 2-0 in the American League Championship Series after yet another huge comeback and could clinch a World Series spot in the next couple days. We harvested a bumper crop of carrots and beets from the garden today. My contributor copies of The Southern Review are on their way. What’s not to like?

Solitude Atlas Arrives in Omaha

My copy of the Solitude Atlas arrived in the mail today, so I thought I’d share a few photos with you all. See below for those. I already wrote about the publication at length back in August–so see this post for more information on how the book came together to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of Akademie Schloss Solitude. It’s interesting stuff. Also, here’s the webpage for the book, where you can order a copy of your own.

I’m happy to finally have this in hand, and am of course proud to be one of the 145 authors of this atlas of Solitude. Also, it’s always gives me a little extra thrill (or is that self-importance?) to see my work translated. So there’s that too.

Thanks so much, Jean-Baptiste, for sending this copy my way.

Solitude Atlas

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Akademie Schloss Solitude, this summer the Akademie and Edition Solitude put together a phenomenal book project called Solitude Atlas that brought together 145 participating authors (all former or current fellows) to contribute vignettes of varied form that describe the cities where they live. It’s quite a project. By the numbers, Solitude Atlas includes letters, poems, essays, and illustrations from nearly 100 different cities and 48 countries. When I was back at Solitude in February I talked to designer Phil Baber about the process he was going through to put together the book and the difficulties of making contributions that are in 20 different languages and feature numerous non-Latin alphabets all work in a single volume. It’s pretty remarkable.

Check out an interview with the book’s creators here.

For my contribution I ended up doing a few brief folk histories of infamous Omaha intersections–something that interests me a lot and is important to my process, listening to stories, digging up the history of a neighborhood or street corner or building. Looking at maps and atlases is one of my favorite pastimes too, particularly old maps that are useless except for the history they tell, so this narrative strategy seemed a natural fit to me.

A glimpse of the contribution from Palestinian architect and cartoonist Samir Harb.

Here’s a bit of it:

40th & Farnam

A lot of bars, two breweries & a coffee shop with tables outside coffee-shop-people sit at. Things have been cleaned up recently. Sullivan’s moved into the gutted & redone corner spot. Before that it was called Cheaters, which is clear what the owners were thinking. The city shut them down after an off-duty cop shot a 15-year-old boy in the street outside here. Both were drinking. When the teenager started trouble a melee bloomed. The off-duty chased the teenager into the street & wounded him about as benignly as a service revolver can wound. Dropped him in the middle of the street. The off-duty got in a bunch of trouble over this. Cheaters was pretty notorious so it was shut down. The spot was very ugly. There was white siding & a wood-panel door that looked like it had been kicked in a few times. The new guys, Sullivan’s, tore off the siding & cleaned up the original brick underneath, & there’s a fluorescent sign above the front door. A long time ago the same building was the Omaha Community Playhouse—founded by Dodie Brando, Marlon Brando’s mother. In its first season Henry Fonda got his start as an actor on that stage at the Omaha Community Playhouse. Fonda had a big career as an insurance actuary all lined up before he went into acting. There are lots of actuaries in Omaha—it’s a big city for that sort of thing. Marlon Brando also made his debut on that stage, at 40th & Farnam, where years later an off-duty cop would chase a drunk teenager out of a bar called Cheaters & put a bullet in a meaty part of the kid’s leg.

Be sure to check out Solitude Atlas at the Akademie’s online store. Whether you’re connected to Akademie Schloss Solitude or not, the book offers an interesting perspective into how artists see the world while demonstrating how these perspectives and voices come together under a single roof at Akademie Solitude (or in this case, between the the two covers of a book).

Boulevard Will Publish “Violate the Leaves” in Spring 2016 Issue

Boulevard No 81I’m pleased to share the news that my short story “Violate the Leaves” has been accepted for publication by Boulevard and will appear in their Spring 2016 issue!

This will be my fifth story with Boulevard. I’ve written a lot in this space about what the journal means to me, so I’ll keep it brief this time. Thanks to Editor Richard Burgin and Managing Editor Jessica Rogen for everything. (Subscriptions, which include the next three issues, start at $15, btw.) Also, a special thanks to CCB, Amber, and everyone in the winter workshop last December (Amy, Amy, Brian, Bob, Felicity, and Ryan) for their help working on the story. You guys are the best!

“Violate the Leaves” is a story I’ve been working on for quite some time, with parts of the original idea having been developed circa 2003 when I was in undergrad. It’s something I picked at every once in a while until the right elements finally came together last summer when I was at Akademie Schloss Solitude. It’s a father-and-son story about how the two deal with each other during a summer when the boy’s mother is overseas, in Iraq. The story is told in a fragmented voice, something I’ve been experimenting with a lot the past couple years. A spare, reticent voice has almost always been a hallmark of my work and I this story tries to push things further in that direction. This was the first thing I worked on while a resident of Schloss Solitude, so it should come as no surprise that the major features include: 1) a parent who leaves his/her family for an extended period, 2) a central character who is nearly incapable of expressing himself verbally, 3) an examination of nationality, and what it means to be a later generation German-American, if anything.

The story is also featured in my collection Bad Faith, forthcoming from Queen’s Ferry Press in July of 2016, and will be a good preview of the book for the dear readers of Boulevard. I have a couple stories coming out this fall and it’s nice to have next year’s calendar starting to fill in a bit as well.

Here’s an excerpt:

In the evening there were video calls with Mom. She was just getting up. Or just going to bed. I don’t remember what time it would have been over there. She was tired. My father dialed in the PC that sat on the floor next to the television, but he went outside before she answered. I brought the fishbowl downstairs to brag how I was keeping my goldfish alive.

She talked about the food she ate, once the PC was dialed in, the kinds of equipment she had around her neck and in the pockets of her med kit. Her stethoscope, her thermometer. Rubber gloves. Her voice digitized, sometimes doubling over itself in echoes. She always wore her hair up, over there, wore khaki tee shirts that fit tight around her. She smiled big when she saw me. So big the video broke up in pixilation. She asked how my day went and told me about her day. She tried to tell me about the people she worked with, or the bunker she rushed to if the Sense & Warn detected incoming, she said; and the geography, the mounds of desert that blew in under the doorways; and on the airplane going over, watching the sunset and sunrise only three hours apart over the Arctic Ocean.

I didn’t hear any of that. 

If she told me to shut up about asking when she was coming home, I would.

Omaha Uninitiated: Live from Solitude, 2.19.15

A couple months ago I posted some photos from my February trip to Stuttgart and performance of “Omaha Uninitiated: Stateside Race Riots & Lynching in the Aftermath of World War I.” Now the art, science & business program of Akademie Schloss Solitude has posted some video of the performance on their web site for the ongoing “Quotes & Appropriations” series. Unfortunately the video and music montage portion of Omaha Uninitiated–basically Darren Keen’s part–can’t be put online because of copyright laws. That’s really too bad, as Darren did some great work. However, if everything goes as planned with the novel that’s based on this same material we’ll be reprising Omaha Uninitiated before long in even more venues.

Thanks so much to Jean-Baptiste Joly, Lotte Thieroff, Valeska Neumann, Hagen Betzwieser, and everyone at Akademie Schloss Solitude for making this possible, and more specifically for producing this video. Also, a special thanks to The Durham Photo Archive, Omaha Public Library, and Omaha World-Herald for the use of images presented in the video.

Check it out!

Photos from Solitude / Performing Omaha Uninitiated

Check out these photos from my return trip to Solitude and Stuttgart last month. The trip was pretty successful, I think. There was a great response at our performance of “Omaha Uninitiated: Stateside Race Riots & Lynching in the Aftermath of World War I,” the multi-media contribution Darren Keen and I put together for Akademie Schloss Solitude’s “Quotes & Appropriation” symposium. The room was nearly filled for the performance. I couldn’t ask for more than that.

It was a lot of fun to bring so much of the research that went into writing my chapbook On the River, Down Where They Found Willy Brown and the related novel (still in manuscript) titled The Uninitiated. Trying to guess how an audience will react (or if they will react at all) to a piece is a constant obsession for most writers, so actually being up in front of a group of mostly strangers and talking to folks afterwards was a nice culmination of sorts, and a commencement too. Knowing that I can get the attention of a room full of Germans and artists from all of the world interested in the history of Omaha is heartening to say the least. There’s still the matter of getting the novel version of this material published, and published well, and then promoting that, but I’ll enjoy this for a little bit, while I can.

(Photos of the presentation were taken by Franzi Ziegler.)

Preview of On the River on the Solitude Blog

In anticipation of the “Quotes & Appropriation” workshop later this week, which will also mark the launch of my debut chapbook, the blog of Akademie Schloss Solitude has posted an excerpt from On the River, Down Where They Found Willy Brown. Check out the post here.

If you’ve been wondering exactly what the presentation/performance I’ve been developing with Darren Keen, and the workshop itself, is all about, this thesis from the post sheds some light on the matter.

Being as old as art itself, the concept of appropriation expounds and challenges crucial topics in the art world such as authorship, originality and intellectual property. With the development of digital media, new forms of communication have emerged, and sharing, exchanging and copying became an everyday operation. Akademie Schloss Solitude is taking up the controversial debate about the concepts of plagiarism and appropriation in a two-year project on the status of the author in the 21st century. Starting point will be the workshop »Quotes & Appropriation«, February 19 and 20, 2015, which will be opened by a reading/performance by former fellow Theodore Wheeler. The writer from Omaha/NE, USA will be showing his way of exercising appropriation: The presentation of his latest book On the River, Down Where They Found Willy Brown (Edition Solitude 2015, available as an e-book) will include historical photographs of Omaha and popular American film and music from the World War I era, illustrating the production of a novella as a combination of primary historical sources, literary influences, and original prose, »suggesting that a book is as much as about the process of its creation as it is about its content.«

We’re super excited to finally get this show on the road. It will be nice to be back at Solitude for a little while too. I’m going to get me some Afri Cola, some bretzel buns, some döner kebap mit brötchen. That, and we’re going to rock the performance.

Wish us luck!

On the River Updates–Kindle Pre-sale, Omaha Chapbook Release Party, Stuttgart Release Events

The proof edition of On the River, Down Where They Found Willy Brown.
In hand: the proof for On the River, Down Where They Found Willy Brown.

A few updates on events surrounding the release of my chapbook (On the River, Down Where They Found Willy Brown) and some info on how to obtain a copy for yourself, if you’re so inclined:

– The e-book version is available right now on Amazon for the bargain price of 99 cents. If you’re a Kindle user, check it out here.

– I’ve confirmed that the paper pamphlet version will be sold through the online store of Edition Solitude–which you can find here. Well, you can’t find it there now–unless you’re reading this in the future–but it will be there soon. Probably in March.

– If you’re a Goodreads user, check out the chapbook here.

– Promotional materials are starting to come out for the “Quotes & Appropriation” event Darren Keen and I (and many others) will be a part of at Akademie Schloss Solitude later this month. There’s more information on the event here and here and here, if you’re interested. Here’s the flyer for the event.

– A chapbook release party has been organized, and the good news is you’re all invited! The other good news is that I talked Darren into stopping by Omaha on his way to SXSW, so we’ll have our entire reading/music/film/photography presentation ready to share to a local audience too, which is important. Join us on Wednesday, March 11, at Pageturners Lounge (5004 Dodge Street/Omaha). Here’s a link to the Facebook event page, with all the details. This will be the easiest way to obtain a copy of the paper version if you’re in the Omaha-area, as we’ll have copies for sale at the event, with all proceeds benefiting the Urban League of Nebraska.

Pub News: The Southern Review!!!

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 Geddy 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!