Wednesday, September 16, 2015

"Ordinary Sins" by Kirstin Valdez Quade

This evening, the University of Las Vegas' Black Mountain Institute is presenting Kirstin Valdez Quade as part of its Emerging Writers Series. You don't need to know that the National Book Foundation has named her one of 5 under 35 to understand how supremely talented--just read her work. ("Nemecia" is one of my favorites!)

Or listen to her read it: "Ordinary Sins" from The New Yorker.

And here she speaks a writing it.

Kirstin Valdez Quade

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

"The Spaces in Between" by Len Kuntz

Len Kuntz could be one of the hardest working writers I know. According to Connotation Press, he has published more than 700 stories, in print and online. Awhile back, as the editor of a certain local Vegas publication, I had the honor of receiving a submission from him, a sad, beautiful story about a troubled boy, his nasty mother and strawberry-picking. Of course, I published it. However, that magazine is long gone, so I can't share it with you.

But I did find another tragic piece about a child suffering for all the fucked-up adults around her. Here's "The Spaces in Between" from Fwriction: Review.

Love this? Want more? Kuntz recently published his first collection, The Dark Sunshine. 

Len Kuntz

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

"Trilobites" by Breece D'J Pancake

I'm currently reading The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake, the short fiction of an exceptional writer whom, in 1977, at the age of 27, shot himself. Thereafter, he was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Here's a great piece about him and his mostly-posthumous career, from The New Yorker.

And here is the perfectly-crafted, emotionally taut, lyrically exceptional and utterly human story that took my breath away: "Trilobites" published in The Atlantic, in 1977.

I'm always partial to a blue-collar story, but this one could be my absolute favorite.

Breece D'J Pancake

Monday, August 31, 2015

"My father: Charles Manson's right-hand man" by Claire Vaye Watkins

"Ghosts, Cowboys," the opening story in Claire Vaye Watkins' Battleborn, is one of the most jaw-dropping short stories I've read in some time. It's intriguing for so many reasons, the least of which is its autobiographical nature: The narrator's name is Claire; her father's name is Paul Watkins.

So, surely there must be some truth to this, the reader thinks while devouring this story that weaves the history of Reno and its gold rush with Hollywood westerns; the Spahn's Ranch (where Charles Manson and his followers made their home); the death of the narrator's mother; and the character of Razor Blade Baby, a woman said to survive birth for the intervention of Manson who sliced her laboring mother "from vagina to anus."

I've read the story several times, dazzled by Watkins' ability to make these connections..., so seamlessly. Then today, having read it again, I just had to know. I came across this personal essay, "My father: Charles Manson's right-hand man," this monkey dance, from The Guardian, on my first hit. And suddenly, everything makes sense!

Of course, Watkins would have spent a lifetime seeking such connections! That this story is, essentially, a life's work is partially what makes "Ghosts, Cowboys" so utterly fantastic. Well..., that and Watkin's gifts for writing and storytelling. If you haven't read this collection, yet, seriously, do.

But first read "Ghosts, Cowboys." Then the essay.

Claire Vaye Watkins

Monday, April 13, 2015

Looking For Bigfoot by Jeffrey Ricker

This week, at AWP, I stumbled on a whole slew of Canadian literary journals I hadn't ever heard of. Then I spent a big part of today scouring them. Here's a great short story I discovered at Little Fiction Big Truths (Isn't that the best name ever for a journal?)

Looking For Bigfoot by Jeffrey Ricker
Jeffrey Ricker

Saturday, March 14, 2015

"Romaine Remains" by Megan Mayhew Bergman

Of the title of Megan Mayhew Bergman's most recent collection, Almost Famous Women, my teenage daughter moaned out loud. "That's a terrible title. It's so heartbreaking, so tragic. Why would you read that? It's got to be depressing."

She was wrong. And right. This was a collection of tragic and heartbreaking stories. But reading it was anything but depressing. In fact, in Mayhew Bergman's capable hands; in her gorgeous and pinpoint prose; in her honest telling, there is something very uplifting about these stories created about real women in history.

Despite the author's talents, part of the joy I experienced in reading this collection was surely brought about by the fact that, finally..., finally, these stories are being shared. Although the women at the heart of these pieces are long gone, Mayhew Bergman brings them back to life in characters that will live forever. And I find something really positive in that.  

Anyway, as share worthy as the stories are, let me share one with you.

"Romaine Remains" by Megan Mayhew Bergman, published by AGNI.

Megan Mayhew Bergman

Friday, March 13, 2015

"The Punch Line" by Jared Yates Sexton

I came across this short piece at Juked and it caught my eye because I have my own "Punch Line" story at MonkeyBicycle.  Then I decided to share it because I love the way that Sexton (who, by the way, is the editor of Bull, a literary magazine tailored to men) ratchets up the tension throughout, and I like the interesting way he uses the term, punch line.

Also, I can't stand laughing gas, absolutely can't stand the idea of being out of control in a dentist's chair, so this story freaked me out enough to enthrall me.

"The Punch Line" by Jared Yates Sexton

Jared Yates Sexton (photo from Bull Magazine)