What I Read and Wrote and Did in 2019

So what happened this year? Well, let’s see. I published 5 new stories: “The Trespassing Forest” and “The Statue in the Park” in Cherry Tree, “It is Illegal to Enter the Graveyard” in Post Road, “Joan of Arc” in The Adroit Journal, and “The Magic Mountain” in A Public Space.

“The Trespassing Forest” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Cherry Tree Pushcart Nominations

I had two previously published stories anthologized: “Carla” in Writers of Mystery and Imagination, and “James K. Polk” in Making History: Classic Alternate History Stories.

Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Vol. 5, which included my story “The Rock Eater” (from Tales of Falling and Flying), won the 2019 British Fantasy Award for Best Anthology! It was a thrill to be included, and wonderful to see editors Robert Shearman & Michael Kelly honored for their work.

My story “The Duck” (from Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day) was on the Valentine’s Day episode of This American Life again (which makes four times—here’s hoping for more!). My stories “The Cape” and “The Monster” (from Tales of Falling and Flying) popped up on the Selected Shorts podcast, read by Tony Yazbeck and John Cameron Mitchell, respectively. (You can also watch the dance adaptation of “The Cape” which Selected Shorts commissioned from Pigeonwing Dance here.)

Speaking of adaptations, composer Nathan Hudson, who a few years ago adapted my story “The Duck” for chamber ensemble and voice as his Master’s thesis at Stony Brook University, has done it again! This time we collaborated on a new piece, based on an as-yet-unpublished story of mine called “God.” Hopefully there will be some performances of the piece around the country in 2020, so be on the lookout for those!

I also love this poster art by the immensely talented Victor Boyda:

God • Victor Boyda art

What else? A long string of nightmarish “headline” tweets I wrote during the early days of the Trump administration were collected by Julia Ingalls and included in this volume, alongside work by Brendan Constantine, Henry Hoke, Anne-Marie Kinney, J. Ryan Stradal, and other LA literary luminaries.

And finally, it looks like both Tales of Falling and Flying and Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day are being translated into Turkish! This all just happened at the end of the year, so I’m still waiting on the details—but it looks fantastic and I am thrilled by the news.

•••

What else? I went to New Orleans and did a reading at the Disorder Salon along with Kristen Iskandrian, author of Motherest (and owner of the just-opened Thank You Books—if you’re ever in Birmingham, Alabama, stop by and say hi!). I read some stories in concert with the Sharp & Fine Dance Just Ahead is Darkness show at Soundwave 9 in San Francisco (and was also somehow talked into dancing live onstage). I did readings at LitCrawl LA, the Idyllwild Arts Writers Week, the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program Annual Publication Party, the Difficult to Name Reading Series, the Ghosts of You launch party, and with friends Bud Smith and J.S. Breukelaar, among others.

Ben Loory at Stories

I continued to teach short story writing at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and at the Idyllwild Arts Summer Session. I had students accepted into the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, the MFA Program at UC Riverside, and the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop. Others had stories published here, here, and here; one put out the second book in her current YA trilogy; and another has her first novel on the way from FSG. The kids make me proud! Amazing stuff.

•••

On a sad note, my mentor Dennis Etchison died this year. He was brilliant, hilarious, and despairing, and his favorite book was Kenneth Patchen’s The Journal of Albion Moonlight. I’d never written a story in my life when I signed up to take Dennis’s writing class at the Mystery & Imagination Bookstore 15 years ago, and I owe him absolutely everything. If you’ve never read anything by Dennis, may I recommend the incredible career retrospective It Only Comes Out at Night. I recommend you don’t read it after dark.

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with Dennis Etchison

•••

Reading-wise, 2019 was good to me! I read about 153 books, if my records are accurate (my records are always accurate). Here are some of my favorites:

I wrote a thread about my top 25 or so on Twitter, you can read that over there if you like.

My favorite stories that I read this year were “The Return” by Roberto Bolaño, “Nocturne” by Thomas Tessier, “Remedies” by Kali Fajardo-Anstine, “Wild Milk” by Sabrina Orah Mark, “Cecil Taylor” by Cesar Aira, “The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky” by John Hornor Jacobs (technically a novella I guess), “The Debutante” by Leonora Carrington, “Kino” by Haruki Murakami, “Escape from Spiderhead” by George Saunders, “The Atlas of Hell” by Nathan Ballingrud, “Levitation” by Joseph Payne Brennan, “The Last Cheng Beng Gift” by Jaymee Goh, and “Sisters” by Brian Evenson, which had my favorite story opening of the year: “We had just moved in, hadn’t even done anything to our neighbors yet.”

And as always, you can follow all my reading on Goodreads; I’m not as active as I used to be, but who is….

 

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