If you’re looking for a raucous adventure story that mashes up genres and influences you can’t do much better than Molly Tanzer’s Vermilion. After reading about the book in seemingly every possible corner of the internet I couldn’t have asked for more than what I got, which was a couple weeks of delightful reading. The icing on the cake is that I got an opportunity to interview Tanzer for the Downpour.com blog.
Graphic novelist, Richard Sala is unique amid the landscape of modern cartoonists and illustrators. I’ve been a fan of his work from the very first piece of his I saw. It was a pleasure to have an email exchange with him for Electric Literature. Many thanks to the good folks at EL and Sala as well!
I recently had the distinct pleasure to speak with T.C. Boyle on the phone. It was a wonderful experience. Boyle has been one of my favorite writers for roughly half my life. We spoke for nearly an hour and at least a third of that was just us chatting. I felt like we clicked instantly, and the conversation flowed naturally from the very beginning. I am very thankful to Electric Literature for putting it together, and to Boyle himself for being so kind.
I started 2015 off reading The Last Illusion by Porochista Khakpour and it turned out to be the one of the most enjoyable reading experiences I’ve had in years. As I read I kept thinking about how much I would like to talk to her about the book, so I bucked my usual reluctance to pester people and reached out to Porochista on Twitter and the folks at Electric Literature to see if they’d be interested in an interview. Lo and behold both parties were down for some fun.
I’m extremely proud of how the interview turned out, and it’s reinvigorated me in many ways. I’m looking forward to doing many more of these in the future.
It is with immense excitement that I am now able to say that my next book will be out in September of this year, from the ever-supportive Civil Coping Mechanisms. The most gratifying part of saying this is what the book actually is, what it represents as a part of my writing life.
Over the years I have talked about my collection of Alaska stories. That is this book. It is called Nothing but the Dead and Dying. It is a book that houses every ounce of my soul. Its publication will mark the satisfaction of a long, and often harrowing journey.
When I started the second semester of my MFA program, I met with Craig Lesley, the faculty member I would work with for the semester and he asked me about my background, about the stories I wanted to tell. I told him I wanted to write about my time doing construction in the arctic, but that I didn’t know how.
It was the simplest of things to say, but he told me to just to write. Sit down and write about the people, the place. And so I did. The first story was called “Like Swimming,” named after a song by the band Morphine, but focusing on an aging construction worker, clinging to his job because it’s all he’s ever known. [READ IT]
From there a few more stories came in quick succession, and when I wrote a story called “Glaciers” I knew I was a different writer than I had been before.
My MFA thesis consisted of six stories, worked on with heroes of mine like Pete Fromm, Jack Driscoll, Bonnie Jo Campbell, Brady Udall, and the aforementioned Craig Lesley. The last story I wrote during my time in the program was called “All Things Infinite,” and was dedicated to Driscoll, in part because I stole the title from the end of his novel How Like an Angel. [READ IT]
About a year later I had finished another six stories and had a manuscript I felt good about. It was a slim volume of stories I killed myself for, and I began to query small publishers as well as agents. As is (incredibly) normal, I was greeted with a slew of rejections, many of them being incredibly kind and supportive. One editor called it a masterpiece (looking back, I can’t help thinking how wrong they were, for much would change over the following years). More than one agent and editor told me they couldn’t sell a story collection either to publishers or readers. Meanwhile more stories were coming out of me. So I continued adding to the manuscript and six months later sent out another wave of queries. Several publishers expressed interest, but, without getting into specifics, that interest disappeared one publisher at a time.
Still, I kept writing. The manuscript kept growing. Stories continued being published here and there. Seasons turned into years. Friends read the manuscript and gave me advice. All in all, four different versions of the manuscript made the rounds in various waves of submissions and queries.
Then another publisher showed interest. This time a seemingly significant interest. An editor, Dawn Marano, was hired to work with me. And for another year I worked on revising the stories I’d been writing and editing for five years. It was a rewarding experience, even as exhausting as it felt after bleeding for so long. When we finished I was confident and nearly giddy to send it back to the publisher. But ultimately they decided they didn’t want it after all.
It’d be a lie to say I wasn’t crushed. For the thousandth time. I think most artists have the objectivity to tell you when something is truly their best work. There is a different feeling in it, from infancy to completion. And I knew that about these stories every step of the way. For six years I’d championed not just words I had compiled into stories, but my heart. I never stopped believing in the stories, but I’m not ashamed to say that many times throughout those six years that the experience made it hard to believe in myself as a writer, a hole I am still trying to dig my way out of.
I am also not ashamed of having an ego, nor to say with all honesty that I believed this manuscript was the work that would bring my writing career to a different level, that if, decades after I cease to exist, people were going to remember me, it would be for this book.
When CCM expressed interest in doing another book with me I asked if they would look at the Alaska stories. And now the rest will be history, even if only personal. Maybe I will never ‘graduate’ to another level in terms of my writing career, maybe my books will never be remembered. It’s pretty audacious to imagine either could even be possible. One thing I know is nothing else I ever write will make me as proud as the stories in this collection, that if I die without ever writing another word, I will be proud of what I accomplished while calling myself a writer.
Artists are told to bleed for their art. We are told to leave it all on the page, canvas, what have you. Too often that ends up including our mental and emotional health. That is what I have done with this book. Everything I have to give as a writer, whatever that amounts to, is in these stories. If you read the book this fall, I hope you feel that on every page.
Winterswim is now just two months away and I am pleased to introduce the book’s official website. Information will be continually added regarding where to pick up the book, any reviews, etc, plus hopefully some insider looks at the production of the audiobook!
It’s always an incredible pleasure to have work in Wigleaf, and I am pleased to say it has happened again. Today my story “A Million Ways to Lose a Toe” appears. It is an homage to Hemingway’s story, “The Killers” and is actually the most recent story I’ve written.
I’m very excited to have a story in the new issue of Corium Magazine. The story is called “Haul Road” and is one of the earlier stories written for my Alaska-themed collection, Nothing but the Dead and Dying that is out in the ether looking for a home. Many thanks to Lauren Becker for giving the story a home.
Update: I was very honored to see that Longform made “Haul Road” their Fiction Pick of the Week!
It’s been a while since I posted any Winterswim news, but I’m excited to share the cover. It was a strange journey coming to this final version and I’m working on an essay about the process, which I hope to share in the months leading up to the book’s release. I’m also pleased to say in addition to the paperback there will be an audiobook version published by Blackstone Audio, the largest independent audiobook publisher in the country!