I got a rejection for a story from Copper Nickel, but lots of fun other little details in the works. I feel really grateful.
In the mean time, check out a slew of readings and workshops and panels I've added to my events page. Reading a week from today with Colin Winnette in Chicago at the Book Cellar, in Tempe AZ, Mexico City, Tampa, Skokie with other spots to be added soon! Hope to see you!
My poetry manuscript was rejected by Curbside Splendor almost three years after I submitted it there. I guess we'll call that a bullet dodged.
Thanks so much for reading my work this year, everyone! Really grateful for such a fruitful year!
Three small things to share:
1) One of my heroes, Dan Chaon, picked The Grip of It as his favorite book of 2017 for this Publishers Weekly article.
2) Another hero, Jeff VanderMeer, was kind enough to say more kind words about The Grip of It in his Year of Reading Round-Up at the Millions.
3) Finally, FSG gave me a disposable FujiFilm camera and I used it to document how my life this semester, living in a temporary apartment, where the wind whistles through the window casings at a frequency not unlike a sort of chant, ended up mirroring The Grip of It. This is a part of their Developing Stories feature and you should definitely check out the entries by other contributors like Lindsay Hunter and Samantha Hunt! So terrific.
My semester's winding down and I'm looking forward to finishing up my grading and getting on to some other projects in the new year! Hope you're muddling through despite all.
The Grip of It was a top write-in vote for the Horror category of the Goodreads Choice awards and you can vote for it as a Semifinalist now! Please do!
I have a new story in the Southwest Review along with new poems from Christopher Citro. You can order a copy of that here.
And I am one of many who did not receive an NEA, but at least there's still an NEA? Yeah!
Hey friends! I wrote you this spooky story about Kool-Aid Man because I love Halloween! Enjoy!
Kool-Aid Man was on his way home from a long hard week of mascoting for Kool-Aid, a brand of flavored drink mix. It happened to be Halloween, the spookiest day of the year.
The fall weather had Kool-Aid Man feeling nostalgic for times past. Kool-Aid man thought back to the time he dressed up as a surfer, wearing a Hawaiian shirt, swim trunks, and flip flops – so original! He’d trick-or-treated with his friends Mrs. Buttersworth who’d dressed as a sexy cat and the Hamburger Helper Helping Hand dressed as a Indigenous People’s Day turkey. It had been so relaxing to ring people’s doorbells politely together. Kool-Aid Man knew he had a reputation and it was nice to prove people wrong about himself that night, even if it meant being on the receiving end of a lot of jokes from homeowners grateful they lived in houses covered in siding rather than bricks.
Kool-Aid Man thought back to the good old days when the Kool-Aid company had moved beyond powdered drink mix to the realm of Kool-Aid Bursts, plastic pods of soft drink that kids went nuts for, but the sugary drink tax and a rising interest in healthy eating had sent their sales plummeting. He thought back to when punk kids’ resorted to rubbing the packets of powder into their scalp, staining their scalps a shade brighter than the dull wash that colored their poorly bleached hair. Now, every drugstore had a whole aisle of options that worked better. And cost more, Kool-Aid Man thought, but Kool-Aid Man was sweet not bitter.
Kool-Aid Man looked up and saw a house that didn’t look familiar to him. Had he wandered off his beaten path on his way home, lost in his memories of better days?
The house looked old and run-down. Skulls topped each of the iron fence’s pickets. Spiderwebs stretched across the front porch with spiders the size of AC Beebop, his friend and drummer for the California Raisins. A black cat ran across the path, but Kool-Aid Man was curious.
The gate creaked open and Kool-Aid Man entered the yard, eyeing the skeleton hands pushing up through the lawn as if on cue. The sky darkened and Kool-Aid Man looked up to see the moon where the sun had been, a wispy cloud drifting over it. Kool-Aid Man veered off the path. He struggled past some dead bushes to peek in the window, and couldn’t believe his eyes. A witch stirred a cauldron and the lights flickered on and off. A werewolf howled inside and a mummy flipped open his tomb struggling to climb out. In the corner, Kool-Aid Man saw a small boy, in knickers and a short coat. The boy looked beside himself, cowering in fear of the company surrounding him.
I must save that child! Kool-Aid Man thought. He paused for only a moment to consider going around to let himself in through the front door, but he knew his Kool-Aid girth would not fit through the narrow entry. This is what no one understood about Kool-Aid Man. It wasn’t that he was impolite. It was just that regular human homes were not built to accommodate a being of his size and shape. Busting through walls was his only way to get to the children who needed help.
But this was no ordinary day when a child needed flavored hydration and fast. A child’s life was in danger, and so he would do what he did best.
He gathered all of his sugary gumption, backed up a few paces, and busted through that wall, bricks parting around him. “OH YEAH!” he cried, as loudly as he could. He muted the pain in his belly and hands. While strong, Kool-Aid Man would ache for days after exerting such courageous force. His actions were not without sacrifice.
The witch recoiled in horror at the surprise. She jumped on her broom and zoomed to the sky. The mummy pulled his sarcophagus shut. The werewolf raced through Kool-Aid Man’s legs and fled into the night. The lights, though, did not stop flickering.
“You’re safe, kid! I scared off those ghouls for you!”
The look on the child’s face turned from sadness to menace, his eyes glowed a fluorescent red and his body melted into a green blob. Tombstones of teeth jutted out of his mouth and clawed hands reached for him. “You are the one who is not safe!” the being shouted and Kool-Aid Man stumbled backward through the opening he’d made. It was not a child at all, but Slimer, the mascot of Hi-C’s Ectocooler, his truest archnemesis.
Kool-Aid Man ran as fast as he could and Slimer flew through the air after him. At the gate, Kool-Aid Man tripped on a loose brick and fell to the ground spilling his contents on the pavement.
Slimer paused at the gate, snickering at Kool-Aid Man, stranded on his back. “Best of luck in the modern era,” Slimer said, and retreated into his house. He had gotten what he wanted.
Kool-Aid Man rocked, trying to right himself, wishing there were someone he could call for help the way the children had summoned him for all these years, but he was alone. And empty.
He thought of his favorite poem by Marge Piercy: “The pitcher cries for Kool-Aid to carry and a person for work that is real.”
The Masters Review wrote to say they liked The Grip of It and asked if I had anything spooky they could share on Friday the 13th. Behold "Hunt and Catch," a story I've had on submission for a year and a half. So glad this little creeper found a home!
Check it out at The Masters Review.
My novel, 11 years in the making, The Grip of It, exists in the flesh today. You can read chapters of it at Barnes & Noble Readouts, and then maybe you will order a copy?
Lots of positive reviews to be grateful for over on the book page of this site.
Today is also the pub day of for four books by people I admire/love very much:
Benjamin Percy's The Dark Net
Megan Stielstra's The Wrong Way to Save Your Life
Kristen Iskandrian's Motherest
Augustus Rose's The Readymade Thief
If you're already in the bookstore or placing an order, why not tack one of these books on?
And why not preorder Lindsay Hunter's Eat Only When You're Hungry while you're at it? You won't regret it. Masterpiece.
Grateful. Happy. Tired of talking about myself. Blessed.
I received a kind rejection for my too-long story from The Oxford American.
One week til The Grip of It comes out and it had a little cameo in this month's Marie Claire! #grateful
Very kind and encouraging note from the Nashville Review and a form rejection from Hayden's Ferry.
I just got back from a research weekend in Munich and the surrounding area and I'm ready to sit at a desk again while my body heals from traipsing around with a heavy backpack.