PTL Literary Pub Quiz Returns for Autumn Schedule

After taking off a month to recharge and tour behind the release of my debut short story collection Bad Faith, the crew behind Pageturners Literary Pub Quiz will be back this Wednesday, September 7 at 8pm! Ryan, Drew, and I have put together some entertaining and mildly challenging book trivia for your enjoyment, along with some cool prizes for the top two teams. We hope to see you there!

(Click here for more information.)

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

Sept 7: Prairie Schooner, grandame of lit journals, with managing editor Ashley Strosnider

Oct 5: 1877 Society Contest Reception and Winners Announcement

Nov 2: Steve Langan of the 7 Doctors Project

Dec 7: Jonis Agee, author of The Bones of Paradise and The River Wife

 

On Briefly Noted–a Review of Richard Burgin’s Hide Island

My short review of Richard Burgin’s recent short fiction collection, Hide Island, is up on Prairie Schooner‘s website, in their Briefly Noted feature. Hide Island offers “an unsettling and honest appraisal of the contemporary American neurotic” and is yet another quality book from Burgin.

Check out the review here. Get the book here.

Stay strong, PSBN.

 

Summer in Review (2012)

It’s been quite a while since I last offered up a review of my activities. All the way back in April! A few things have gone down since then, such as…

-I finished a draft of my novel, The Uninitiated, that I’m very happy with and sent it off to agents for consideration. (Read here about the finishing.) So far I’ve heard back from two of my top five choices that were queried, with one passing and another asking for full manuscripts on both my novel and short story collection! Who knows if anything will come of this–as the one who requested the fulls did so despite not technically considering new clients at the moment–is that a good or bad thing?–but I’ll take good news when I can get it. We’ll be heading off to New York for a few days in October, and it would be nice if I had a couple meetings/interviews to add to the itinerary by then. We’ll see.

-Not a lot of travel over the summer months. A trip to Niobrara for a few days, a weekend in Kansas City for my mom’s graduation from seminary school and Clara’s first Royals game, a week of commuting to Lincoln for the Nebraska Summer Writers Conference. The fall should offer a bit more excitement. NYC, El Salvador. (!!!)

-I was tipped off recently that my story “Welcome Home” from Best New American Voices 2009 and Boulevard was taught at Southern Connecticut State University this fall. I know of three other colleges where the story has been taught–Penn, Drexel, and City College of San Francisco as part of a program for returning veterans–in addition to a high school in Illinois. This is so cool, and delights me to no end.

-My novel was also named a finalist for Tarcher/Penguin’s Tarcher Top Artist writing competition. I haven’t seen or heard anything about a winner being named, so I guess it still is a finalist.

-I left Prairie Schooner after four years plus of service. See post-mortems here and here.

-My book review of Shira Nayman’s A Mind of Winter can be found here, and of Roberto Bolaño’s The Third Reich here, or Richard Burgin’s Shadow Traffic and Ron Rash’s The Cove here. My review of Yannick Murphy’s The Call is in the current issue of Pleiades.

Sporting: As the final couple weeks of regular season major league baseball wind down, the KC Royals look to have a solid hold on third place in the AL Central division. They’re still pretty mediocre (owing to long stretches of horrible play in April and July) but at least haven’t been nearly as disappointing as the Indians and Twins have been for their fans. Or for Tigers’ fans, for that matter. That’s something, I guess. Life in the AL Central isn’t so much about winning games, it’s about being less miserable than your rivals.

Notre Dame is off to a rousing 3-0 start, their best on the gridiron since Ty Willingham’s 8-0 start in 2002. With a home game against Michigan tomorrow night, and with Stanford, @Oklahoma, and @USC still on the schedule, this team could still easily go into the tank. That being said, I’ll still predict an Irish victory over the Wolverines this weekend. I’d feel a little better if ND had a few mini-Ditkas on the team, but I’ll stick with my gut here. Notre Dame 87, Michigan 2.

Dispatch from The Uninitiated

“Fred was the one who found him face down in the creek, over on the other side of their claim. He drank horse cleaner. That’s how he did it. It must have hurt horribly. His eyes lost their pigment. Hair fell from his head. Fred came and got Jacob. He showed their father unmoving in the creek. They wrapped his body in a blanket and brought it to the barn. They didn’t dare bring it in the house. Neither said this, but they both understood. The body stayed in the barn until the Pfarrer came out with the J.P. to get it.”

Just Finished

The Wilding by Benjamin Percy. A readable and well-done book. Nice suspense. I really didn’t like the epilogue, although I pretty much never like epilogues. A good book, though, certainly.

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann. This book had been hyped so much before I read it that it couldn’t quite live up to everything I’d heard about it. It was good, but I think This Side of Brightness was better.

A Mind of Winter by Shira Nayman. A post-war mystery set mostly in Shanghai, Long Island, and London in the 1950s, A Mind of Winter offers plenty in the way of sex and drugs, mistaken identity, and ill-fated love affairs. These are characters who believe, explicitly or not, that the rules of society do not apply to them.

Train Dreams by Denis Johnson. A compelling novella about the life of a rambler and the struggle to tame Idaho in the early parts of the last century.

Now Reading

Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson. Loving this so far. It’s been a long while since I had time to tackle a broad, long novel like this.

Up Next

The Dark Corner by Mark Powell. Not yet released, but I’m looking forward to it.

Au revoir, Prairie Schooner

Fifteen of the sixteen issues of Prairie Schooner I helped put out during my four and a half years there, beginning as a lowly Editorial Assistant, moving up to Second Reader, then two years as Senior Fiction Reader, a few months as Blog and Social Networking Editor, and, finally, a half year as Web Editor and bullpen coach.

Briefly Noted 1.4 / Nayman Review

The fourth edition of Briefly Noted–a book review I co-created and edit with Claire Harlan Orsi–went live today on the Prairie Schooner blog!

My review of Shira Nayman’s A Mind of Winter brings up the rear in the festivities, seeing as I haven’t yet got around to changing my name to Aaron Aaronson. (Stupid!)

Here’s a little of what I have to say:

A post-war mystery set mostly in Shanghai, Long Island, and London in the 1950s, A Mind of Winter offers plenty in the way of sex and drugs, mistaken identity, and ill-fated love affairs. These are characters who believe, explicitly or not, that the rules of society do not apply to them. The first section in this three-pronged narrative follows Christine as she plumbs the depths of an opium-induced spiral, chronicling her journey from glamorous state balls and the discomfiture of quid pro quo desire, to opium dens and the streets, where she becomes complicit in the operation of a child prostitution ring. In these sections, Nayman provides her take on the power of forbidden acts.

This will actually be the final issue of Briefly Noted that I’ll be co-editing. I’m hopeful, and confident, that the feature has enough steam to continue for a long while.

My Interview of Justin Taylor Now on PS Blog

Check out my interview of Justin Taylor, newly posted today on the Prairie Schooner blog. We discuss a variety of topics, including literary “patriarchal bullshit”, the writing of place, self-awareness (in writers and characters both), among others. Justin also recommends a host of great books and makes a case for a revival of Saul Bellow’s work.

This was an interesting interview for me to conduct–as I reviewed Justin’s debut short story collection, Everything Here is the Best Thing Ever, a couple years ago for The Millions. It was pretty cool to get the chance to ask him some questions about his work too.

Anyway…check out the interview!

PS: Briefly Noted Launches on Prairie Schooner Blog!

If you haven’t already, please check out the first issue of PS: Briefly Noted on the blog of Prairie Schooner‘s website. This is a feature that Claire Harlan-Orsi (Blog and Social Networking Editor for PS) and I have been developing for the past couple months–a book review in brief, with short reviews written by the staff of Prairie Schooner.

It’s really exciting to put something like this out there. Brent Spencer and Jonis Agee (two of my beloved writing professors and mentors, who also happen to be married to each other) instilled a strong emphasis on contributing to the community of writers, principally by teaching, creating opportunities for writers to read their work publicly, and reviewing. PS:BN isn’t all that fancy, but hopefully it gives back to a community that has given so much to me.

Plus, not only am I Co-Editor and Co-Founder of the feature–but I also contributed two reviews of excellent books! Specifically, there are reviews I penned of Richard Burgin’s Shadow Traffic and Ron Rash’s The Cove. Claire will be compiling the reviews for next month’s edition; she’s already limited me to only one review (Roberto Bolaño’s The Third Reich) which is kind of bullshit.

Let me know you think of PS:BN. I’m excited to see where it goes.

April in Review (2012)

The old von Schiller monument in Riverview Park. This was placed near where the main gates of Henry Doorly Zoo are now. The statue was thrown in a ditch for the duration of World War I (thanks angry mob) but was later pulled out and put back. I'm not sure what happened to it when the zoo expanded, or where it is now. Any guesses?

-My novel (The Uninitiated, for the uninitiated of you reading this) has reached it’s newest stage of done! It’s off to my trusted cadre of readers for feedback and comment. Depending on how soon I hear back from them, I hope to be nearly done-done with the novel early this summer. Then the novel will be off to agents, hoping to find representation. Exciting stuff. I’m rather fond of the book and hope it does well. It’s very exciting to have it completed. Strangely, I kind of care less about publication now that it’s finished than I did when I hardly had any of it written. Maybe I still kind of doubted I could do it. It’s always easier to dream of publishing than it is to write.

-Not much else has been going on, writing-wise. I’ve been working on a few book reviews, and toiling day and night as Web Editor of Prairie Schooner. Some highlights: navigating a reformatting tangle to get our summer issue on Kindle, helping develop a mobile app, and launching (as co-editor with Claire Harlan-Orsi) a monthly book review on Prairie Schooner’s blog. Fun stuff.

-I’m also working on a few photo features for this blog. Mostly historical Omaha stuff, but also contemporary photos of spots where things in my novel happened. I’ll get on this soon.

-Clara has been around for a month now. We’re pretty fond of her as well.

-My grandpa Wheeler died. He was eighty. He was only able to meet Clara once, on Easter, but it was pretty nice. Shouldn’t have rushed around so much. We had four generations of ____ Lynn(e) Wheelers in the same room—Billy Lynn, Dennis Lynn, Theodore Lynn, Clara Lynne. We neglected to snap a photo. Unfortunately, that turned out to be our only opportunity.

 

Dispatch from The Uninitiated

“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 out into the buggy paths of the river valley. Even in the dark he found the graveled highway that led to Omaha. There was no need to rush. He knew his brother wouldn’t follow him, not after what happened the week before. It was the kind of thing that happened a lot in Jackson County, and that’s why Jacob had to leave. He slid from his horse when he arrived on the River Ward, easing down to the pavement to land on one foot, the left one raised limp. His foot pulsed dully. He couldn’t worry about it, the Ward had his attention. It was a dark morning but he saw the dim hash marks of intersections on the hills beyond where sanitation wagons crept along knolls that slanted up from river to prairieland. There were tenements to the south, dirt-yard shacks he passed coming in from the north. The River Ward was pinned between the Missouri and downtown Omaha. It was mostly mills and warehouses, tar-topped and sturdy. There were other buildings too. Townhouses puzzled together from curb to curb, brownstones that had been fashionable once but were too close to the pig iron mills now, the constant hammering of steel and tails of factory smoke rising in the mucid morning ether. These were made extravagant, brownstone, sandstone, a blushing peach shade of brick. Jacob knew he would need money right away if he were going to survive. It hadn’t occurred to him in his rush to leave Jackson County. He was too concerned with making his life of great importance—with getting rich—that he forgot about practical things like having enough money for supper and a room. He would have to sell his horse.”

Just Finished

The Cove by Ron Rash. Set in WWI-era North Carolina, this novel deals with a German musician’s struggle to avoid anti-German violence in the rural south and a young woman’s difficulty living down the stigma of a birthmark in a superstitious town. An often beautiful and compelling novel.

The Missing of the Somme by Geoff Dyer. Really a must for anyone interested in the military history or the symbology of war.

Now Reading

Stay Awake by Dan Chaon.

Up Next

Flatscreen by Adam Wilson.

March in Review (2012)

Maddie holding Clara.

This is going to be short and late. He’s a recap of what went down here on The Uninitiated in March. It was eventful. Still recovering.

-“On a Train from the Place Called Valentine” was published in Boulevard! Read the recap here.

-“Shame Cycle” was short-listed for the PRISM Fiction Contest. Final word should be coming down any time now. Eagerly awaiting the results.

-My review of David Philip Mullins’ Greetings from Below was published in the new Prairie Schooner.

-I interviewed Sigrid Nunez for the Prairie Schooner blog.

-We had a baby! More photos of Clara Lynne Wheeler and family can be found here.

Personal Rejection Notes, Requests for More, and Other Nice Versions of No Thanks

Five Points for “Forget Me”; Massachusetts Review for “Attend the Way”; One Story for “Impertinent, Triumphant”; and, of course, “Shame Cycle” is a finalist for the PRISM Fiction Contest.

Just Finished

The Sojourn by Andrew Krivek. Pretty good. Character deaths seemed to occur at very convenient times, plot-wise. A small thing that is quite common, but it wore on me in this novel. Maybe because death was so frequent.

Signed, Mata Hari by Yannick Murphy.

Now Reading

The Missing of the Somme by Geoff DyerA fascinating examination of the mechanisms of remembrance in relation to war.

Up Next

Flatscreen by Adam Wilson.