Monday, April 15, 2019

When Your Past Wasn't Present: Semi-Finalist in 2018 Faulkner Competition

And then there was the time I realized, nearly a year later, that my novel, Hezada! I Miss You, was a semi-finalist in the 2018 Faulkner Competition.

So, good news, folks. ;)
I'd like to thank Google for logging my past so I can learn about it later.

And better news, Awst Press​ is publishing Hezada! in February 2020 
Which is to say, some things about my life I do know in advance. This version of the novel is also twenty thousand times (or so) better than the past version.

Should you want to read my name on the list of semi-finalists, here's the link:


Monday, April 8, 2019

Read This Book: Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture, edited by Roxane Gay

Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture, edited by Roxane Gay (Harper 2018)

Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture is a collection of essays by writers across the spectrum (of gender identity, sexual orientation, social class, culture) who discuss the experiences, silences, and analyses of what it is to live in a society enshrouded by rape culture. This is no ordinary book but it is full of ordinary experiences made extraordinary by our continued insistence on disregarding, gas-lighting, and denying that these experiences happen all the time.

In "The Life Ruiner," Nora Salem writes, "What is it about secrets that endows them with so much power? More pertinent: Why was I so obsessed with keeping mine? Why for so long?"

In "Good Girls," Amy Jo Burns writes, "The good girl is nothing more than a myth. We long for her for the same reason we long for utopia: Neither exists."

Stacy May Fowles, in her essay "To Get Out from Under It, begins by reminding everyone that part of the effect of this culture on personal memory is that "... the world fills you with doubt over the legitimacy of your own story."

From Roxane Gay's introduction regarding the project of this book to the final essay, "Why I Didn't Say No" by Elissa Bassist, the book is an intense and important examination of, and testimony to, the relationships of ourselves to others, of ourselves to our culture, of trauma to shame, silence to ghosts, of culture to our interpretations of who others expect us to be.

This book is not a primer for those who have been unaffected by Rape Culture, though this book certainly demonstrates, by its culmination of voices, that no one is unaffected, even those who believe themselves exempt (who would? how could that even happen?).

In reading the book, I remembered what it was to go to books when I was growing up in a very rural and small town, when books were the only reliable and safe place to learn about life because I had the distinct feeling that, in person, I was not being told the whole truth about the world. And maybe that was because people didn't know how to speak about it. Or because people didn't want to hurt my feelings. Or because the darkness of the world hurt their feelings and they thought I would be affected similarly (as though the world might heal itself if we didn't tell it about its wounds).

Or because they had bought into some mythic beliefs about keeping me innocent (based on their beliefs about innocence and how they imagined me) or because they were censoring the world in the way they wished the world to be instead of how it was. Or because this is how the world was given to them, and so this is how they knew how to give it--as not quite itself, as part wish, always.

Or because no one had spoken to them honestly about the things I expected to be spoken to honestly about, and so, eventually, they'd forgotten that these were things to speak about.

Or because no one knew the questions I would have except for the books that anticipated both my questions and different ways to consider the questions.

Or because people maybe thought that if they were to talk to me about things that they had no solution for, I would think less of them, as though solutions are required before acknowledging problems, injustices, conundrums, gray spaces, confusions, errors, and anything else that a tried and true narrative can't, or refuse to, contain (or allow us to avoid).

Not That Bad is a book you probably need to read, in your own time, in your own safe spaces, at a pace you can handle. And before you decide not to read it, first pick it up and read from it. Hell, skim it, even before you settle in to following every word to the next. 

But here, before you think this book isn't for you: no one would have written the essays in this book if they'd read essays like these elsewhere, if they'd already seen films that cover what they're writing about, if they'd already heard in everyday passing the words that they're setting down on the page. Roxane Gay would not have thought to create this book, collected these essays, found a publisher for them if she thought other books did a great job of doing exactly what she's doing here. These are not essays you've read 1,000 times before. All of these writers have clearly written essays for you to read. Roxane Gay has clearly chosen essays for you to read. The publisher has clearly published a book of essays that should be read. In some ways, the book reminds me of one of the rape counselors in the book who tells one patient that her reactions are like the reactions of so many others who seek her out, but only the counselor sees the pattern and can transmit this because the clients have been shamed out of ever sharing these stories, so all find themselves thinking it's just them. The book is a conduit. That's what I'm saying.


Here's the link to Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture

Monday, March 18, 2019

Novel Progress Countdown: 11 Months from Hezada! I Miss You


Book Publication: February 2020
We are 11 months away from the publication of my next book, a novel, Hezada! I Miss You

I like a countdown. So, every month closer to the release, I'll provide an update on what's happening behind the curtains; there's much that goes into the production and publication of a book, and I find it all pretty interesting. Of course, not every publisher follows the same path, but once you've worked with two publishers, you start to recognize the basic arc from acceptance to contract to publication, and I'm seeing similarities now that I'm with book publisher number three.

Before we review what's happening in March, here's what happened December 2017-March 2019:

December 2017
I finished Hezada! I Miss You after years of work. I then stepped away from the novel because it centers on events that break my heart, and I couldn't look at it anymore. It was done.

November 2018: Acceptance Day
In mid-November, on my son's birthday, I received an email from Awst accepting the book.

November-February: Deep Revision
I'm probably more unique in this, because once I learn that a piece will be published, my perspective on my story, book, novel shifts. Now, I see through a lens that imagines actual readers (or the pressure and dismissal I associate with actual readers and reviewers). This time when I read through the work, I see new ways to move the language, reduce the language, shape the characters, answer questions readers would have that aren't answered or maybe could be articulated more clearly.

This is not to say that I didn't perform deep revision previous to submitting, but once it's accepted the "finished" quality becomes tenuous as I read through it. As such, I am absolutely not the easiest writer to work with. For example, even though the editor made extremely light notes, I was much harder in my review of the piece and ended up, for example, rearranging the narrative arc to make it read more clearly and smoothly. So, when I say deep revision, that's what I mean. For Hezada, I went through several deep revisions from Acceptance to Contract Day (November-February).

January: Request for Blurbs
Sometime in January, I started querying writers about potentially reading the novel and writing a blurb about it; these are the blurbs that appear on the dust jacket (not the reviews you read in newspapers, etc). I probably should have waited until I had signed the contract, but I was moving through such a self-made swamp of revision that to keep my mind fresh, or boost my confidence, or to make the book feel more real, or maybe to send a light at the end, I started working lightly on the production side of the book. I also reached out to a photographer to reserve her for a future author picture.

February: Contract Day
I signed the contract in mid-February. Typically, from Acceptance to Contract Day I only tell my closest family members about the acceptance. For example, my mother didn't know until a week or so before the announcement. The space between the acceptance of a book and signing the contract of the book is often several months wide, at least, that's been the case for me in all three book instances and in most all story acceptances. We could also call this the space of highest superstition akin to the first trimester, hence the not-telling anyone.

March: Announcement Day
The day that the news goes public that a book exists and will be published. This is not the same day the contract is signed. For Hezada, we announced March 1 on social media and websites; here was Awsts's announcement; here was mine: (You'll find the same on our social media sites.)

What's happening right now?
  • The book has moved from the editor to the copy-editor. The copy-editor will complete a final proof of the work itself while formatting the manuscript for the printer (for when that time comes). This will become the Advanced Review Copy (ARC).
  • The marketing person is working on a book trailer.
  • I've completed a marketing questionnaire and created a spreadsheet for promoting the book (potential bookstores, reviewers, media outlets). I've contacted only a few at this point.
  • I have found two potential venues for the book release party.
  • There's likely even more that is going on behind the scenes, but this is what I know.
How can you help as a reader?

Book Publication: February 10, 2020
We are 11 months away.


Friday, March 1, 2019



After many years of writing, stitching, thinking, walking, running, wondering, writing more, weeping, laughing, rewriting, musing, pondering, writing and writing and word-weaving and word-cutting, I am pleased to say that I have finished. And the result is a novel named Hezada! I Miss You.

The novel takes place in a village that, in my imagination, is very similar to Westfield, Illinois, a village not where I grew up but whose children I grew up with when Casey schools consolidated with Westfield. In the novel, there is a travelling circus, one of the last tent-circuses in the Midwest, and it has come to this village every summer for over a century--the last stop of the summer before returning to Florida to hibernate until it begins its travels again in spring.

And so here we are, with a circus not as it was . . . but as it is, falling apart. Here we are in a village not as it was . . . but as it is, storefronts empty except for a diner, a hardware store, a thrift store. Both circus and village wish for a thriving past they've heard of from the memories of others, and may well never have existed.

Enter Heza and Abe, twins.
Enter Frank.
Enter Hezada! the trapeze startlet and artist who once flew in the big top but years later, after a radical mastectomy, has moved to a different tent, act, life.
Enter acrobats, jugglers.
Enter Kae. Oh, my Kae.

Enter Awst Press, a publisher in Austin, Texas that has chosen to publish this novel--which means my word-work is done, and I can give the story to you now.

On February 10, 2020, Hezada! I Miss You will be bound for bookshelves, bookcases, airplanes, bathtubs, beds, reading chairs.

And I am pleased to say that.

I hope you can celebrate with me now, and again in Spokane, in Austin, in Casey, and all the places we must meet our lives to exchange this story. I think it's worth reading, through heartache and laughter, which it has, both.


P.S. Visit Awst Press for their more official announcement of Hezada! I Miss You


Monday, February 18, 2019

BIG Announcement Coming SOON!

Here is your official announcement,
announcing an announcement
to be announced on March 1, 2019.
See announcement (below).
This is an announcement.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Book Your Stocking: Recap 2018

2018 Book Your Stocking

It somehow became 2019, so quickly, in fact, that you may have missed the 2018 Book Your Stocking Series. For much of December, writers and readers shared the one book that they'd love to discover in their winter stocking or sock drawer. So, here's the list of all the contributors. Click a name to find out the recommended book, then add it to your own book list, or your 2019 resolution reading list.


December 3 Kendra Fortmeyer
December 4 Julia Drescher
December 5 Donna Miscolta
December 6 Regi Claire
December 7 Bonnie Brunt
December 8 Shellie Faught
December 9 Ann Tweedy
December 10 Jack Kaulfus
December 11 Michael J. Wolfe
December 12 Michael Noll
December 13 Eva Silverstone
December 14 Rajia Hassib
December 15 Melissa Stephenson
December 16 Tatiana Ryckman
December 17 John Kenny
December 18 Sarah Bartusch
December 19 Barbara Williamson
December 20 Sharma Shields
December 22 Maya Jewell Zeller
December 23 Aileen Keown Vaux
December 24 Henry


Monday, December 24, 2018

Book Your Stocking with Henry

Book Your Stocking 2018

Book Your Stocking: December 24

It has been a thrilling ride on Book Your Stocking this holiday season, and to close out the book-recommendation series that you look forward to all year, is Henry, age 5.


What book would you want to find in your stocking this year?

Henry: Give a Mouse a Cookie

Why would you want this book?
Because I have it at school.

What do you like so well about it?
I want to read it all nights until Christmas.

What is it about?
The mouse that wants cookies.

Also, I would want a book that Give a Moose a Muffin. They're painting and then a lot of paint splashed on the moose. [Uncontained laughter.] The moose fell and then boom, the pig fell also. The moose fell and the pig fell right on the moose. Oh man. They painted after the moose had a muffin.

Learn more about this series here:


About today's reader:

Henry is five and lives in Spokane.


Check out more recommendations from Book Your Stocking contributors: 

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Book Your Stocking with Aileen Keown Vaux

Book Your Stocking 2018

Book Your Stocking: December 23

Clearly, you're standing in the bookstore reading today's book recommendation because this is the last Sunday before stockings are stuffed, and because you're using Book Your Stocking as your virtual book-list. Good. 

Now that we have that established, please welcome today's reader, Aileen Keown Vaux, with your day-before-the-eve book-wish.

Prepare your stockings.


Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala cover
The book I would want to see in my stocking this year is Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala a memoir written by an economics professor who lost her family (parents, husband, and two sons) to the 2004 Sri Lankan tsunami. Wave is exacting in its recall of events from that day, along with memories of Deraniyagala's past life, and her subsequent recovery. 

I checked this book out from the public library last fall on a whim and haven't stopped thinking about it since. The book is as much a celebration of her family as it is a chronicle of devastation and those two aspects combined make for one of the most haunting reading experiences I've had in awhile.

Wave is a testament to one woman's strength, but also a record of how important language is to convey our realities to others.


Aileen Keown Vaux
About today's reader:

Aileen Keown Vaux is an essayist and poet whose chapbook Consolation Prize was published by Scablands Books in 2018.


Check out more recommendations from Book Your Stocking contributors: 

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Book Your Stocking with Maya Jewell Zeller

Book Your Stocking 2018

Book Your Stocking: December 22

'Tis the last weekend for book-buying before the biggish day, so it's good you're here for another reading recommendation for your stocking and the stockings of people you love or like.

Maya Jewell Zeller is here to help.


Daniels explores subjects with a lyricism I admire; her deft weaving of Sergei Esenin, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Leonard Wolf, and her own narrative offers a poetic rendering of the topic of mental illness. She also portrays the images of the world through a lovely slanted lensing. 


Maya Jewell Zeller
About today's reader: 

Maya Jewell Zeller is the author of the interdisciplinary collaboration (with visual artist Carrie DeBacker) Alchemy For Cells & Other Beasts (Entre Rios Books, 2017), the chapbook Yesterday, the Bees (Floating Bridge Press, 2015), and the poetry collection Rust Fish (Lost Horse Press, 2011). Recipient of a Promise Award from the Sustainable Arts Foundation as well as a Residency in the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest, Maya teaches for Central Washington University and edits poetry for Scablands Books.


Check out more recommendations from Book Your Stocking contributors: 

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Book Your Stocking with Sharma Shields

Book Your Stocking: December 20

Here we are, twenty days into December and no sign to the end of books that could appear in your stocking or the sock drawers of your favorite people. And, so, let's keep this daily book-wish experience going. 

Please welcome writer, publisher, and avid reader, Sharma Shields.


The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani, cover
THE PERFECT NANNY by Leïla Slimani

I've already read this title, as a checkout from Spokane County Library District, and I would love to own a copy. It's a dark, dark book (it begins with the aftermath of a brutal murder of two children, so don't gift this to a lighthearted reader on your list), but it's also a blunt and perfectly executed commentary on parenthood, privilege, race, and class. An expert study in pacing, it's impossible to put down, but also multi-layered, even-toned, and smart as hell. Translated from the French; it's always a great idea to gift women writers in translation.


Sharma Shields, photo by Rajah Bose
About today's reader:

Sharma Shields's newest novel is The Cassandra, out soon from Henry Holt. She is the founder of Scablands Books, began the annual reading series and anthology Lilac City Fairytales, and works actively to connect writers to readers and readers to each other. Learn more about Sharma and her writing at


Check out more recommendations from Book Your Stocking contributors: