Read Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” and David Markson’s Wittgenstein’s Mistress. Finished Blake Butler’s Sky Saw and Raymond Queneau’s The Flight of Icarus. Started Diane William’s Vicky Swanky Is a Beauty and Loorie Moore’s Anagrams.

We should crown Diane Williams as the god-like ruler of short-story collection titles. Vicky Swanky Is a Beauty? Romancer ErectorSome Sexual Success Stories Plus Other Stories in Which God Might Choose to Appear? It’s just no contest. I’ve read some of her work in various lit mags, mainly old copies of The Quarterly. The stories in this collection are very good, and she’s tightened her sentences even more. I’m enamored with the way her and Gary Lutz make plot feel like a repercussion of language.

More small notes after the jump.

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Read Kate Zambreno’s Heroines, Jane Bowles’s Two Serious Ladies, Jac Jemc’s My Only Wife, and Michael Kimball’s Big Ray. Started Blake Butler’s Sky Saw, Raymond Queneau’s The Flight of Icarus and finished Daniel Levin-Becker’s Many Subtle Channels.

Zambreno’s Heroines is, on the surface, difficult to categorize. It’s a book length work of both literary criticism and memoir. However, the form works and seems very natural — it fosters my belief that fragmentation is often more natural than adherence to traditional form. Heroines is unashamedly subjective, justifiably angry, and very readable. Sometimes when reading a book I think that it’s something we are going to have to come to grips with as a culture, and this is one of those books. Zambreno has identified an unacknowledged problem — how the literary cannon, psychiatry, and the culture as a whole has sold these women short, and how we continue to dismiss creative young women.

I read Big Ray in one evening. I can’t remember the last time I’ve read a book in a single sitting.

I’ve got some thoughts on Diane Cook’s story Flotsam, appearing in Redivider 10.1, after the jump.

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Bodies and Homes


Thrilled to announce that Caketrain Press will publish a chapbook length collection of my short stories this summer. Lake of Earth (formerly Bodies and Homes) was chosen by Michael Kimball as the runner-up manuscript in their fiction chapbook competition.

I’ve been working on the stories in Lake of Earth for over two years now. Its got seven in it — six small/medium ones, and a long, half crazed story called “Lake of Earth.” All of the statistics referred to in this post are still accurate except for one.

Caketrain has been around for ten years now, and they’ve put out collections by Ben Mirov, Sarah Rose Etter, and Ryan Call. They’re based out of Pittsburgh, and the previous fiction runner-up was “Short Dark Oracles” by Sarah Levine. I’m overjoyed to be in such good company.

(Image Source)


I’ve been working on a collection. Here are some stats:

Body Count – 18

Human Disappearances – 3

Major and Minor Characters – 31

Forests – 4

Stories in First Person – 4

Stories in Third Person – 3

Average title length – 5.14 words

Previously Published – 3

Unpublished – 4

Cults – 3

Uses of the word “moon” – 5

Uses of the word “swaddled” – 4

Uses of the word “circle” – 12

Uses of the word “square” – 3

Uses of the word “bodies” – 6

Uses of the word “homes” – 7


Blew through Brian Evenson’s new collection Windeye. Some notes on the title story after the jump.

Read Sarah Levine’s collection Short Dark Oracles. Some absolutely jawdropping stories, particularly “A Promise.” There is an straightforward logic to the story — a mother and daughter’s well being is provided by the sacrifice of their relationship — but she pushes it to a terrifying conclusion. And the line “It’s like a promise,” just brings the hammer down.

Started Ryan Call’s The Weather Stations. Was initially leery of it. The first story seemed too twee, too meandering, like he was trying to substitute whimsy for plot. But his work has grown on me as the collection continues. It’s rare for an author to communicate such enthusiasm for a subject, particularly one as seemingly mundane as the weather, but Call makes it infectious. There is also a layer of menace in it that I didn’t appreciate when I began reading, perhaps because Levine’s conflicts were more clear and up front.

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on Characteristics of Aberrational Cultic Movements

Characteristics of Aberrational Cultic Movements appeared in Caketrain 9 late last year. It is available here.

Most of my father’s side of the family is in an extreme Christian sect, the kind other Christians call “aberrational.” The religion has no name; they don’t identify as anything, but people outside the church refer to them as the Two by Twos. Their preachers (known as workers) own no possessions. They used to be very anti-technology, although that has softened — they use the internet, don’t have to hide radios when the workers visit. My father thankfully left the church in his teens.

I should mention that I don’t think the church is a cult — they employ systems of control I consider abhorrent and unethical, but they don’t have many of the warning signs of a cult. They lack any central charismatic leader. They communicate with people outside the church. In many ways they are similar to conservative evangelicals. But still, the memory of being young and knowing that my extended family was involved in a secretive, nameless sect had to have contributed to this story.

The other point of reference was simpler, rooted more in horror movies and half remembered news reports of my childhood. The source is much more dramatic than the story I ended up writing, but the fear drove it. Read transcripts of John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats talking about horror movies (here, here, here) and you’ll get the idea.

The actual writing of it was unusually quick and straightforward. I had at first intended more specific voices, but I liked how they jumbled together into one collective voice. The characters of the children came about pretty organically, and they became the most distinctive narrators.

The title I owe to this website.

I’m reasonably happy with how it turned out. The arc of the narrative feels clunky and maybe should have been extended near the end. It feels like there isn’t enough build up. I tried to strike a balance between narrative tension and a more natural approach, but didn’t succeed in either. The language usually works though, and the collective voice makes sense.

That’s about all. I’m grateful to the editors Amanda Raczkowski and Joseph Reed for the acceptance. The other work in the issue is excellent and the book is wonderfully designed. I’m happy to have been included.