My 2017 in Reading and Writing

My second collection, Tales of Falling and Flying, was released by Penguin in September. It got a great review from NPR, a starred review in Kirkus, and was chosen as one of The Paris Review Staff’s Favorite Books of 2017.

I was profiled on the front page of the LA Times Book Section and interviewed by Steph Cha at the Los Angeles Review of Books. I appeared on OtherPpl with Brad Listi and went to the Harbor Springs Festival of the Book in Harbor Springs, Michigan, where I bought a great sweatshirt and ate some delicious cookies. My story “The Monster” appeared on Selected Shorts, read by John Cameron Mitchell (a.k.a. HEDWIG!).  Tales of Falling and Flying went into a second printing.

My book tour took me up and down the east and west coasts, as well as to the Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver, Colorado (where I first read H.P. Lovecraft and P.G. Wodehouse when I was little). While I was there, I stopped off at the Lighthouse Writers Workshop and gave a guest lecture and drank a lot of coffee.

I signed with Rich Green at ICM to handle film & TV rights, and with Jessica Craig at Craig Literary to handle foreign rights.

I continued to teach short story writing at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, and spent the summer up in the mountains, teaching adults and high schoolers at the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program in Idyllwild, CA.

I had eleven stories published in magazines and journals in 2017, including in TASTE, Fusion, The New York Tyrant, The Sewanee Review, Another Chicago Magazine, Hobart, Lithub, and Eleven Eleven. I also had stories accepted by Post Road, The Kenyon Review, and A Public Space; looking forward to seeing those in 2018.

As for reading: it was a good year. I read 156 books, and only hated a few of them. My favorite by far was The Path to Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Volume One by Robert Caro, which my dad had been telling me to read for 25 years. Well, it turned out he was right. I’ve found that I can’t do this book justice by talking about it, so all I will say is this: I didn’t know a book could be so good.

Beyond that, I loved Scott McClanahan’s The Sarah Bookbut I love everything Scott McClanahan writes, so that was no surprise. Other favorites: Colonel Rutherford’s Colt by Lucius Shepard (which really needs to be republished with a better cover, for god’s sake), Little Virtues by Natalia Ginzburg, Mind of My Mind by Octavia Butler (her whole Patternmaster series is amazing), We Others: New and Selected Stories by Steven Millhauser, The Night Ocean by Paul La Farge (probably the most fun I had reading a book all year), Submission by Michel Houellebecq, Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin, Abbot Awaits by Chris Bachelder, Revenge by Yoko Ogawa (the best book of interlocking stories I’ve read since J Ryan Stradal’s Kitchens of the Great Midwest), Outline and Transit by Rachel Cusk, Behold the Void and Sacculina by Philip Fracassi, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos (with a new forward by Jenny McPhee), Insurrections by Rion Amilcar Scott, Use of Weapons by Iain Banks, They All Saw A Cat by Brendan Wenzel (a picture book which made me inexplicably burst into tears at the end), Underground Airlines by Ben Winters, Acorn by Yoko Ono (which I liked even more than Grapefruit, if that’s possible), Reflections in a Golden Eye by Carson McCullers (which is completely bonkers btw), and Work by Bud Smith– which, besides being hilarious, heartbreaking, and almost frighteningly brilliant, turned out to also be the first (and only) book I’ve ever read that actually mentioned me in it. I existed in the book! How crazy is that?

What else? I also really enjoyed For the Sake of Heaviness: The History of Metal Blade Records by Brian Slagel & Mark Eglinton (though, to be honest, I will read and enjoy anything about 80s thrash metal), and Aaron Burch’s Stephen King’s The Body, which taught me not a whole lot about Stephen King’s “The Body,” but quite a bit about Aaron Burch’s life and childhood, and, by extension and comparison, my own. I also had a great time rereading The Dark Country by Dennis Etchison, which I hadn’t read in years, and which turned out to be even scarier and more beautifully written than I remembered. I continued my journey through Richard Stark’s Parker novels, particularly enjoying The Seventh and The Rare Coin Score. I read three books by Marcy Dermansky (Twins, Bad Marie, and The Red Car) and three books by Victor LaValle (The Ballad of Black Tom, The Devil in Silver, and The Changeling), loved them all, and look forward to reading everything else they ever write.

My favorite stories I read this year were: “Further Interpretations of Real-Life Events” by Kevin Moffett, “Toda Luna, Todo Año” by Lucia Berlin, “Mandala” by Philip Fracassi, “Soldier of Fortune” by Bret Anthony Johnston, “The Atlas of Hell” by Nathan Ballingrud, “Zolaria” by Caitlin Horrocks, “The Nimble Men” by Glen Hirshberg, “It Only Comes Out At Night” and “It Will Be Here Soon” by Dennis Etchison, “The Siege at Whale Cay” by Meghan Mayhew Bergman, “After the People Lights Have Gone Off” by Stephen Graham Jones, “The Grammarian’s Five Daughters” by Eleanor Arnason, “My Flannel Knickers” by Leonora Carrington, “The Fall River Axe Murders” by Angela Carter, and “Eisenheim the Illusionist” by Steven Millhauser.

If anyone wants to see everything I read during the year, you’re welcome to friend me on Goodreads.

My reading resolution for 2018 is: I will no longer force myself to finish books I don’t like.

Fuck ’em.

On a personal note, I also went to Sweden and Finland for a week in 2017, and had a great time! I took precisely one photo. Here it is:

Sweden and Finland.jpg

Happy 2018, everybody! Let’s hope it is full of wonders.

One thought on “My 2017 in Reading and Writing

  1. This is Spanish detergent and quite possibly the only brand in history to make doing dishes fun. Loved your story about the duck and the rock, heard it on an archived episode of This American Life this morning. Cheers

    Liked by 1 person

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