My story “The Vatican,” which was published last year in Electric Literature, was performed the other day by Joanna Gleason as part of the pledge drive for Selected Shorts. You can watch it here on YouTube if you like.
For about a month now I’ve been doing a Story Hour every day on Instagram Live, and will continue to do so for… well, the foreseeable future, anyway. I’m reading my own stories and other people’s stories and even some poetry from time to time. It’s every day at 5:00 Pacific / 8:00 Eastern, though the readings are also available to watch afterward on IGTV. If you have any story requests, feel free to DM me—or just show up and start shouting about whatever it is you want to hear.
Also: If you enjoy the Story Hour readings and would like to leave me some kind of tip, please don’t! Go and give that money to some people who are making masks and face shields and other equipment for nurses and doctors and other front line workers. On the other hand, if you’d like to leave a short review of my latest book somewhere (on Amazon or Goodreads or Barnes & Noble, for instance), I would be much obliged!
I did a mini-interview with Tommy Dean about writing flash fiction (stories under 1,000 words), and you can read that here if you’re interested.
Also, Editors Lincoln Michel & Nadxieli Nieto revealed the cover of their upcoming anthology, Tiny Nightmares, which will be out on Oct. 13 from Black Balloon Publishing. It features a new story of mine called “Pictures of Heaven,” alongside work by Brian Evenson, Amber Sparks, Rion Amilcar Scott, and Stephen Graham Jones, among others. You can pre-order it here if you like.
And finally, I’m excited to announce that I’ll be working with the Adroit Journal Summer Mentorship Program this year. If you’re in high school and a writer (or interested in becoming a writer), check it out! Applications are due on March 15, and the program itself begins at the end of June.
I have a story called “God” up in BOMB Magazine today! I’ve been working on it for a long, long time (even though it’s only 997 words), and am so glad to see it finally out there in the world. Many thanks to BOMB editor Raluca Albu and director Libby Flores for making it happen, and to Victor Boyda for the wonderful art!
This story has also been adapted to chamber ensemble and voice by composer Nathan Hudson (who previously adapted my story “The Duck”). We’re hoping to schedule some performances of that piece around the country this year.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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….
I wrote a story about a strange little town and a weird book; it’s called “The Magic Mountain” and it’s in the new issue of A Public Space (No. 28), alongside work by Jamel Brinkley, Elisa Gabbert, Kelly Link, and Matthew Zapruder, among others. Find a copy at your local newsstand, or pick up a digital or print subscription here.
Many thanks to Antoine Wilson, Brigid Hughes, and Megan Cummins for making this happen—A Public Space is a truly wonderful journal and this was a dream come true!
A few years ago, composer Nathan Hudson adapted my story “The Duck” (from Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day) for chamber ensemble and voice as his Master’s thesis at Stony Brook University. (You can listen to a recording of that here if you like.) Now we’ve collaborated on another piece, this time for Nathan’s PhD, working from a new, as-yet-unpublished story of mine called “God.” The thesis defense will be on December 3rd at Stony Brook on Long Island, but look for a performance near you some time in 2020!
I also love this poster art by the immensely talented Victor Boyda:
“There once was a man who was tired of breathing…”
I have a story called “Joan of Arc” in the new issue of The Adroit Journal, alongside work by Oliver de la Paz, Kimberly Grey, and Noor Hindi, and interviews with Mary Ruefle and Heather Christle. You can read it here:
In other news, my story “The Trespassing Forest,” which appeared earlier this year in Issue 5 of Cherry Tree, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize! The issue is only available in print, but you can pick up a copy here if you like.
And lastly, I just learned that Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Vol. 5, which contained my story “The Rock Eater,” just won the 2019 British Fantasy Award for Best Anthology! Congratulations to the editors, Robert Shearman and Michael Kelly, and many thanks again for including my story! It was a thrill and an honor.
I’ll be in San Francisco this weekend, reading a few stories as part of Just Ahead is Darkness, a show featuring live music and dance curated by my friends Megan and Shannon Kurashige at Sharp & Fine. It’s at Counterpulse at 8pm on Saturday, Oct 26. $20
Some other news: My story “The Monster” (from Tales of Falling and Flying) is up on the Selected Shorts Podcast now, read by John Cameron Mitchell (of Hedwig fame!). The episode (Episode 3: “Fables and Fairy Tales”) also features Maulik Pancholy reading Somerset Maugham’s “Appointment in Samarra”—one of my favorite stories—and Kirsten Vangsness reading “The Fairy Handbag” by Kelly Link.
Other story news: I wrote a story called “Pictures of Heaven,” which will be out next year in the Catapult anthology Tiny Nightmares (a spooky sequel-of-sorts to last year’s Tiny Crimes). I’ll also have stories out soon in Adroit and A Public Space.
On Friday, Nov 1, I’ll be reading a story at the book launch for Cathy Ulrich’s Ghosts of You, the first release from Okay Donkey‘s new publishing arm. Other readers include Anna Vangala Jones and Marisa Crane. Stories Books and Cafe in Echo Park — 8pm and it’s free!
My story “The Cape,” from Tales of Falling and Flying, is on the Selected Shorts podcast right now. It’s Episode 35: Dance in America, as read by Broadway stage actor Tony Yazbeck, and begins around the 21:00 mark.
If you’re interested, there’s also a dance based on the story which Selected Shorts commissioned from Gabrielle Lamb of Pigeonwing Dance, and which was performed at Symphony Space in New York last December. You can watch that here if you like (it’s amazing).
In other news, I have a story called “It is Illegal to Enter the Graveyard” in the new issue of Post Road magazine (Issue 35), which should be available for purchase soon.
My story “James K. Polk,” from Tales of Falling and Flying, has been reprinted in Making History: Classic Alternate History Stories, edited by Rick Wilber. It’s a great anthology and a real pleasure to be included alongside Karen Joy Fowler, Harry Turtledove, and Michael Bishop, among others.
I also have a story called “Carla” in Writers of Mystery and Imagination, an anthology put together by some friends and fellow writers as a tribute to the wondrous and magical Bookfellows Bookshop of Glendale, California (1988-2016). My favorite place in the world, while it lasted (and even now).
In other news, I went on a brief whirlwind trip to New Orleans to do a reading at the second ever Disorder Salon at The International House Hotel. I had a great time, drank a lot of French 75s, made a pilgrimage to Congo Square, ate a delicious Shrimp Po’ Boy, and got to meet the amazing Kristen Iskandrian, author of Motherest, and someday-soon proprietor of the very best bookstore in Birmingham, Alabama. I also failed to take any photos, except this one (that guy on the horse was some asshole):