Five New Online Magazines You Should Read

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I’m not sure when it happened, but online literary magazines have become a lot like food trucks in Los Angeles. They are popping up everywhere and some of the new ones are deliciously inventive. Below are five new online magazines you should check out.

Martin Ott

Jam Tarts – Hot off its debut issue, Jam Tarts Magazine has delivered one of the best online debuts in recent memory. Very rarely does a new lit mag dial in such a compelling mix of poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and art so quickly. The intent of the magazine is to “question taste” and in doing so delivered some delicious appetizers and entrees from writers such as Mukoma Wa Ngugi, Rachel DeWoskin, Rose Lambert-Sluder, and Richard Hoffman.

The Offing – Promoted as a channel for the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Offing is an online literary magazine publishing creative writing in all genres and art in all media. Its mission is to publish work that challenges, experiments, and provokes, and it actively seeks work from those often marginalized in literary conversation. Representative writers include Juan Felipe Herrera, Maruan Paschen, Matthew Rohrer, and Alissa Quart.

Okey-Panky – Early this year the fine folk from Electric Literature began delivering a weekly online magazine of short, darkly comic, ironic, and experimental fiction, essay, poetry, and graphic narrative. Authors include Heather Altfield, Stephen Dixon, Anne Gisleson, Mark Halliday, and Sharma Shields.

Prelude Magazine – Launching in September of last year, Prelude is a journal of poetry and criticism based in New York and has quickly become one of my favorites. The format is both print and online, with work available on the website. Old guard poets such as John Ashbery mix elbows with the likes of Mira Gonzalez and Michael Robbins, and new work is published monthly.

Then and If – Jessie Carty, the founding editor of Referential Magazine, is back with another interactive online magazine Then and If. The mag is in a laid-back tumblr format and encourages writers and artists to engage with work in the magazine and if they like it then to submit a response in multiple formats (text, photo, video) and in any genre (poetry, fiction, non-fiction, comic, stage/screen). A poem by Amorak Huey kicked off the magazine a couple of weeks ago.

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Writeliving Interview: Aimee Bender

Aimee Bender Photo

I read the short story collection The Girl in the Flammable Skirt after graduate school and I knew immediately that a fresh and important  literary voice had arrived on the scene. I was thrilled to be able to take a UCLA extension writing course with Aimee Bender not long after I read her book and she made an impression on me as a teacher–how to take chances and explore possibilities. Two of the stories in my forthcoming short story collection Interrogations started in Bender’s class. Hope you enjoy insights into her creative life.

Martin Ott

Who has been a major influence on your writing?

How to pick one? Today I will pick William Maxwell, because I’ve taught his beautiful novel So Long, See You Tomorrow many times and every time it reminds me something crucial about plot/absence of plot and how big feelings can revolve around tiny moments.

Can you give us insight into your creative process?

Blocks of time, stopping at a predetermined time even if it’s going well, no windows to look out of, no internet, no coffee shop, perhaps a yogurt.

How has being a teacher affected your own writing?

It supplies structure in my day and the pleasure of talking to smart students about writing which validates my own investment in this strange and wonderful and difficult thing a group of us do! Teaching is social, which provides a useful foil for the solitude of writing. The two acts are so different.

What is the best advice you can give to a writer finding her/his voice and subject matter?

Tangents are useful. Staying on point is not the point, especially in early drafts. Wander, explore, make messes.

How does writing short fiction and novels impact the other genre?

My stories are often longer now that I’ve written novels. Novels have helped train me in scene writing. Stories help with sentences, though sentences are pretty key to novels too. Both are hard and fun in different ways.

What are you currently working on?

Finding a novel.

Have you read anything recently that really got you excited?

So much! The first of the Knausgaard series was fantastic, Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill, and Silence Once Began by Jesse Ball both thrilled me, and I just read the David Shields’ conversation book I Think You’re Totally Wrong and found that pretty fun and stimulating to read, too.

Can you share an example of overcoming adversity to keep your writing dream alive?

All the piles of rejections from journals and magazines I gathered over years. It was a trudge and I felt discouraged a lot. An agent said my stories were ‘little’ in a way that felt very defeating.

What is something about you that writers and readers may not know?

I can play the beginning part of “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd on the guitar. The easy part.

About the Author:

Aimee Bender is the author of five books, including The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake and most recently, The Color Master, a NY Times Notable book of 2013.  Her short fiction has been published in Granta, Harper’s, The Paris Review, and more, as well as heard on “This American Life.”  She lives in Los Angeles.

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Making Time to Write in Our Busy Lives

As a marketing professional and father, scheduling time for writing has always been an area of focus and a challenge.

Every morning, I get up on the early side and begin my day writing over coffee and breakfast to make sure I prioritize it in my day.

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At work, when my schedule permits, I walk to a nearby office park with a view of a sculpture and write while I eat lunch. This happens at least three times a week.

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I am also never without either my laptop or paper and pen (which I even keep in my car). Many times I write during breaks in my schedule, including the twenty minutes it took for my jaw to get  numb during a recent trip to the dentist:

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I have also adopted a daily, weekly, and monthly word count for my novel-in-progress. For the month of February, I’m averaging 250 words a day. I didn’t reach my goal but the accountability helps.

Please feel free to comment and share any tactics that you use to make time in your life for your own writing.

Martin Ott

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Internet Literary News, January 2015

Mark Strand

Here are five literary news stories in January that got me and other people buzzing on social media.

Martin Ott

“Sponsored” by My Husband

Writer Ann Bauer touched a nerve from her article in Salon: “Sponsored” by my husband: Why it’s a problem that writers never talk about where their money comes from.  I read no fewer than a half dozen responses to this. Colette Sartor rounded up a number of different responses to this article along with her own response: Stolen time: writing while financially challenged.

Mark Strand: Living Gorgeously

This link made me teary-eyed. Maybe I’m a softie. Maybe I’m moved by Mark Strand’s recent death and love of his collected poems. Please take a moment and read Charles Simic’s moving article on his friendship with Mark Strand.

Would This Happen to a Male Author?

There was a wave of deserved outrage when celebrated author Colleen McCullough was described as ‘overweight’ and ‘plain’ in an obituary.

Arizona Education Officials Ban Multilingual Poem

In a letter stating that Tucson’s public schools are illegally promoting ethnic solidarity and the overthrow of the U.S. government, Arizona education officials say that it’s illegal to recite this poem in school.

Are You Being Watched While You Read?

In her article They’re Watching What Your Read, Francine Prose expands upon an article in the Guardian on how ebook platform Kobo is reporting statistics to publishers on when customers stop reading their books.

 

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To All Those Writing Late Bloomers Out There

Yes, for those of us who have taken awhile to mature as writers these lists can be annoying: Best Writer’s Under 40, Most Promising Debut Writers, Yale Younger Poetry Prize Winners.

Some of us take longer than others to publish a book. Here is by no means an exhaustive list of what I wrote, sometimes with collaborators, before publishing my first book in 2011:

  • 500+ Poems
  • 30+ Short Stories
  • 6 Novels
  • 12 Screenplays
  • 1 One Act Play

It took me nearly 15 years after graduate school to publish a book. But it took less that 5 years after that to get to 6 books published (or soon-to-be-published).

What has been the difference in my recent publishing success? Simple: I have gotten better as a writer.

I have many writing friends who have the talent and material to get a book published, but have yet to break through. I am convinced that they will, but there is some level of luck involved.

My book “Captive” won the De Novo prize, C&R Press, after being a finalist 20 times in poetry book competitions. I never wavered in my writing, my reading, my submissions, or my belief in myself. This is where understanding yourself and what motivates you as a writer becomes important.

I love the process of writing. It is a part of my life. It is my hobby. My passion. My outlet. My greatest love (outside of my family and friends). While I understand that publishing and readership are arrows on the path to becoming a better writer I have also, at times, been motivated by self-competition, external competition, jealousy, accolades, a need to create art, obsession.

One of my favorite self-mantras is that “Writing is a marathon, not a sprint.” Writers at every age should feel encouraged to continue working in their craft. Success, if at all, may not come or may not come to the level we believe. As long as we believe in our work, we will get better and others will eventually take notice.

Martin Ott

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Writeliving Interview – Edward Hirsch

Edward Hirsch photo

Photo by Michael Lionstar

When I think of poetry, I think of Edward Hirsch. He has had a lasting influence on my writing and reading ever since I had the opportunity after graduate school to spend some with him and other LA writers discussing the works of other poets. I’ve enjoyed his poetry and prose over the years, and I’m thrilled he took the time to share his creative life with us.

– Martin Ott

Who has been a major influence on your writing?

My grandfather, who died when I was eight-years-old, used to copy his poems into the backs of his books. I’m not sure why. After his death, my grandmother gave all his books away, and his poems were lost. When I was in my twenties, increasingly dissatisfied with the coldness of Anglo-American modernism, I turned to some Eastern European poets for guidance. I felt I heard my grandfather’s voice coming back to me in a modified key. I’m thinking of the Hungarian poets Attila József and Miklós Radnóti, the Czech poet Jiří Orten, and the Polish poets Zbigniew Herbert and Tadeusz Różewicz.

Can you give us insight into your creative process?

I try to work every day. I read intensely, respond to the poets who matter most to me, and try to stay inside the feeling of the poem. Every poem is an attempt to work something out—nothing is figured out in advance, either emotionally or formally. I counsel myself to be vigilant and pay attention.

What is the best advice you can give to a writer finding her/his voice and subject matter to write about?

Be brave, go deeper and further. Find models. Try to take your work to its furthest logical conclusion.

After completing Gabriel, such a well-received and personal book of poetry, are you able to share what you’re currently working on?

I’ve been trying to write poems of spiritual inquiry. One is called “God and Me,” another is a variation on a verse from psalm 77 (When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands, and I would not be comforted). That’s the tenor.

What has your passion and advocacy for poetry brought to other aspects of your life?

It has brought me a deep feeling of fulfilling my vocation. It has connected me more deeply to myself while also linking me to other people. I’ve found a community of other people who are also befriended by poetry.

About the Author:

Edward Hirsch has published nine books of poems, including Gabriel: A Poem, a book-length elegy for his son, and five books of prose, among them A Poet’s Glossary, a full compendium of poetry terms.

 

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Best Writing of 2014 – Roundup

Even as I find myself reading Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Brigit Pegeen Kelly’s Song that doesn’t mean I haven’t carefully been tracking the best of 2014 writing lists that have been appearing. Please enjoy this roundup and I hope you take the opportunity to support your fellow writers. Happy holidays!

Martin Ott

Academy of American Poets | Standout Poetry Books of 2014 

Africa Is a Country | Recommends Best Books of 2014

Amazon.com | 2014 Best Books of the Year: Literature and Fiction

The Atlantic | Best Books I Read This Year: Staff Selections

The Atlantic | Best Television Episodes 0f 2014

A.V. Club | Best Comics of 2014

Books Live | The 16 Best “Bests Books of 2014″ List

Book Riot | Five Book Culture Heroes of 2014

The Boston Globe |  Best Poetry Books of 2014

Bustle | 7 of the Biggest Book Controversies This Year

Bustle | 19 Small Press Books You May Have Missed in 2014

Buzzfeed | The 28 Best Books by Women in 2014

Buzzfeed | 19 Best Nonfiction Books of 2014

Dazed | Best Literature of 2014

The Economist: Books of the Year: Page Turners

Electric Lit | Jeff Vandermeer’s Favorite Fiction of 2014

Electric Lit | 25 Best Short Story Collections of 2014

Electric Lit | 25 Best Novels of 2014

Flavorwire | 50 Best Independent Fiction and Poetry Books of 2014

The Guardian | Best Books of 2014: Year in Review

The Guardian | Best Science Fiction Books of 2014

The Huffington Post | 11 Books Strand’s Booksellers Loved Most in 2014

The Huffington Post | Best Books of 2014

The Huffington Post | 2014 Best Books for Women

Hypable | 10 Best Books of 2014

Hyperallergic | Top 10 Art Books of 2014

io9 | Best Science Books of 2014

io9 | The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of 2014

Kirkus | Best Fiction Books of 2014

Los Angeles Times | David L. Ulin’s Best Books of 2014

Mother Jones | Best Books of 2014 

New Hampshire Public Radio | Best Overlooked Books of 2014

New York Public Library | Best Books of 2014

The New York Times | 100 Notable Books of 2014

The New York Times | Best Book Covers of 2014

The New York Times | David Orr’s 10 Favorite Poetry Books of 2014

The New Yorker |  Best Books of 2014 

Newsweek | Favorite Books of 2014

NPR Books | Maureen Corrigan’s Favorite Books of 2014

Oprah (via HuffPo) | Best Books of 2014

The Philadelphia Review of Books | 14 Poets for 2014: The Year’s Best Books

Publisher’s Weekly | Best Mystery Books of 2014

Publisher’s Weekly | SF/Fantasy/Horror: Best Books of 2014

Shelf Awareness | Best Books of 2014

SFGate |  Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of 2014

Slate | Authors’ Favorite 2014 Books

The Telegraph | Best Books of 2014

The Telegraph | Best Young Adult Books of 2014

Time | Top 10 Fiction Books

Up the Staircase (Ocean Vuong) | Best Online Poems from Women Poets of Color (2014)

Wall Street Journal | Best Books of 2014

The Washington Post | 5 Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Books of 2014 

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Novel Insights – Road to Publication

EthanReid_AuthorPhoto

– Guest blog post by Ethan Reid

A few weeks ago Martin Ott asked if I’d share my publication story with his readers. For those who don’t know, Martin and I attended graduate school at USC together and co-wrote a screenplay we pitched to a talent agency. Before that, I had educators along the way who helped foster the idea of becoming an author — and a wife willing to go along with the sacrifices it takes to get there.

In the mid-1990s, I had finished my undergraduate work in English with a Writing Emphasis at the University of Washington in Seattle, feeling like I still had much to learn about writing a novel. My craft wasn’t there yet, and I knew it. It’s been said that while some authors write for the process, others write to get published. I fall into the latter category and knew I needed to perfect my craft, so I entered USC’s Masters of Professional Writing Program. During my time there I met adjunct professors who helped me greatly, worked at a talent agency, and was lucky enough to meet Martin.

After Los Angeles, my path to publication nearly get derailed many times. Saddled with a student loan, I found myself working at KING TV as a news producer. My wife — a reporter at the station – was kind enough to let me shift to part-time work to finish the first novel before we had children. I wrote the second. Took three before one landed.  My son was born somewhere between two and three.

Back then, the trick was still about getting out of the agency slush pile, and as I felt so many queries were not being read, so I began to attend conferences. I volunteered at the Pacific Northwest Writers Association summer conference, working with the agents and editors behind the scenes. I pitched to many literary agents over multiple years, listening to the their reasons for declining representation for the first book, set it aside and wrote the second manuscript based on their feedback. The second MS came even closer to acceptance — by then I was hearing agents tell me I had nearly hit it out of the ballpark, but needed to refine my craft — so I put book two down and started the three novel with their advice rattling about my brain. Book three, The Undying, finally found a home.

Shortly before it did, I had a dozen agents who were ready to see my third novel. I sent the MS out in July in 2011 and months later received the phone call from the 212 area code from one of the agents I had met at the PNWA’s summer conference. I signed with Barabara Poelle of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency and she found the book a home at a new Simon & Schuster imprint, Simon451. My editor, Sarah Knight, acquired The Undying as the first novel for Simon451 and it dropped this October. They’ve since acquired the second novel in trilogy to be released in May, 2015.

This last October, the publisher flew me to New York to attend the NY Comic Con. I was lucky enough to sit on a panel with R.L. Stine. I still work with the PNWA, helping run their agent and editor pitches at th summer conference.   I’m currently editing The Undying: Shades while working on the publicity side of things. It’s all oddly familiar to other authors’ path to publication, I’m sure. Expect to sacrifice a lot. Hope for help along the way. If you want to land an agent, I’d recommend attending a conference. Listen to why the novels are rejected. And most importantly, write a kick-ass book.

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About the Author:

Author of The Undying (Simon451, 2014) and The Undying: Shades (2105), Ethan Reid received his BA in English from the University of Washington and his MFA from the University of Southern California’s MPW Program, where he studied under author S.L. Stebel, Oscar-nominated screenwriter Sy Gomberg, and Oscar-winning screenwriter Frank Tarloff. Ethan is a member of the International Thriller Writers, the Horror Writers Association, and the Pacific Northwest Writers Association. He lives in Seattle with his wife and son.

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Internet Literary News – Remembering Galway Kinnell

Galway Kinnell photo

On Veteran’s Day, I wanted to give a shout out to one of our most influential veteran poets Galway Kinnell, who recently passed away.

He never looked away from the messiness of our lives and our country, and has been a big influence on my writing.

Below, please enjoy one of my favorites from him, part of his book-length poem The Book of Nightmares.

Martin Ott

Little Sleep’s-Head Sprouting Hair in the Moonlight

1

You scream, waking from a nightmare.

When I sleepwalk
into your room, and pick you up,
and hold you up in the moonlight, you cling to me
hard,
as if clinging could save us. I think
you think
I will never die, I think I exude
to you the permanence of smoke or stars,
even as
my broken arms heal themselves around you.

2

I have heard you tell
the sun, don’t go down, I have stood by
as you told the flower, don’t grow old,
don’t die. Little Maud,

I would blow the flame out of your silver cup,
I would suck the rot from your fingernail,
I would brush your sprouting hair of the dying light,
I would scrape the rust off your ivory bones,
I would help death escape through the little ribs of your body,
I would alchemize the ashes of your cradle back into wood,
I would let nothing of you go, ever,

until washerwomen
feel the clothes fall asleep in their hands,
and hens scratch their spell across hatchet blades,
and rats walk away from the cultures of the plague,
and iron twists weapons toward the true north,
and grease refuses to slide in the machinery of progress,
and men feel as free on earth as fleas on the bodies of men,
and lovers no longer whisper to the presence beside them in the
dark, O corpse-to-be …

And yet perhaps this is the reason you cry,
this the nightmare you wake screaming from:
being forever
in the pre-trembling of a house that falls.

3

In a restaurant once, everyone
quietly eating, you clambered up
on my lap: to all
the mouthfuls rising toward
all the mouths, at the top of your voice
you cried
your one word, caca! caca! caca!
and each spoonful
stopped, a moment, in midair, in its withering
steam.

Yes,
you cling because
I, like you, only sooner
than you, will go down
the path of vanished alphabets,
the roadlessness
to the other side of the darkness,

your arms
like the shoes left behind,
like the adjectives in the halting speech
of old men,
which once could call up the lost nouns.

4

And you yourself,
some impossible Tuesday
in the year Two Thousand and Nine, will walk out
among the black stones
of the field, in the rain,

and the stones saying
over their one word, ci-gît, ci-gît, ci-gît,

and the raindrops
hitting you on the fontanel
over and over, and you standing there
unable to let them in.

5

If one day it happens
you find yourself with someone you love
in a café at one end
of the Pont Mirabeau, at the zinc bar
where white wine stands in upward opening glasses,

and if you commit then, as we did, the error
of thinking,
one day all this will only be memory,

learn,
as you stand
at this end of the bridge which arcs,
from love, you think, into enduring love,
learn to reach deeper
into the sorrows
to come – to touch
the almost imaginary bones
under the face, to hear under the laughter
the wind crying across the black stones. Kiss
the mouth
which tells you, here,
here is the world
. This mouth. This laughter. These temple bones.

The still undanced cadence of vanishing.

6

In the light the moon
sends back, I can see in your eyes

the hand that waved once
in my father’s eyes, a tiny kite
wobbling far up in the twilight of his last look:

and the angel
of all mortal things lets go the string.

7

Back you go, into your crib.

The last blackbird lights up his gold wings: farewell.
Your eyes close inside your head,
in sleep. Already
in your dreams the hours begin to sing.

Little sleep’s-head sprouting hair in the moonlight,
when I come back
we will go out together,
we will walk out together among
the ten thousand things,
each scratched too late with such knowledge, the wages
of dying is love
.

from The Book of Nightmares by Galway Kinnell
Copyright © by Galway Kinnell

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Writeliving Interview – Antonya Nelson

Photo Antonya Nelson with dog

My first introduction to Antonya Nelson was in The New Yorker, and later as a friend raved about her as a teacher at Warren Wilson. I’m thrilled that she was able to share insights into her writing process with us.

Martin Ott

Who has been a major influence on your writing?

I have always been a very voracious reader, and the books that I loved as a young person certainly have played a role in my writing life. I loved, then and now, the clever syntax of Beatrix Potter and the gentle humor of Winnie the Pooh. As a teenager, I was drawn to works that provided me access to adventures I couldn’t quite pull off in my real life — Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Catcher in the Rye, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. It’s hard for me to separate my writing life from my reading life, to be honest; I spend much more time reading than writing, always have, and continue to be fed, both in life and in writing, by the works of many, many very fine writers.

Can you give us insight into your creative process?

My “process,” inasmuch as I have one, is not one I’d recommend to others. I am not somebody who writes every day (at least not fiction) and who has to be patient with allowing material to slowly accrue in me. It builds up (like a clogged drain) until I can’t not write. So the sink overflows. Or whatever. And then I have to work until I’m finished with the story. And then wait for the build-up again.

How has teaching impacted your writing?

Teaching has been a huge gift, as far as I’m concerned. It’s forced me to focus on the making of the stories I love, to read and re-read with an eye on design and manipulation and sheer artistry. Seeing how the masters do what they do has given me the best kind of guidance about my own (and my students’) work.

What is the best advice you can give to a writer finding her/his voice?

I’m a little suspicious of this “voice” notion, as I think it implies that writers have some unique way of saying what they say. Which isn’t true, in my experience. Rather, I think writers have a set of obsessions, a unique way of thinking, and a variable degree of discipline. Honing those things — and others — allows the work to prosper.

How does being a short story writer and novelist influenced your work in the other genre?

I would far rather write short stories than novels. And the one thing about me that I know for a fact is that any time I’ve written a novel it was because the material wouldn’t conform to the limits of the short story. When I say “limits” I mean only that the story I was telling wouldn’t feel finished in fewer than some 200 pages. The reader — and the writer — needed to spend a longer amount of time with the characters and their situations before the thing would be finished.

Many of your stories cover the dynamics of the modern family. How is this theme important to you?

There’s my central obsession, in a nutshell: family life. And the many ways that an unconventional understanding of it fascinates me. Mostly I like to take some conventional wisdom and overturn it, explore the ways in which tedious platitudes — “beauty is only skin deep” for instance — might be something to interrogate. I am bratty, at heart, and my brattiness began when I was a child in a large family. I’m still worrying my way inside and out of that character trait.

Can you share an example of overcoming adversity to keep your writing dream alive?

A lot of my stories have scared me by vaguely predicting something happened later in my life. That’s not exactly what you’re asking about, but it’s the first thing that occurred to me. To write truthfully — honestly, scarily — is to know things that might not be altogether happy or wholesome.

What is something about you that writers and readers may not know?

Hmmm. Well, let’s say I’m at a party full of extremely famous folks, of whom I am in awe, and I would love to be able to engage in some lively conversation, but odds are, I’m either in the kitchen with the caterers or upstairs with the banished children, because, in fact, those people in the end are far more likely to be funny and sweet and interesting to me. I’ll leave the famous writers alone, read and admire their work, and hang out with pets and kids and the help, whose irreverence is refreshing. But I think anybody who knows me already knows that?

About the Author:

Antonya Nelson is the author of four novels, including Bound (Bloomsbury, 2010) and seven short story collections, including Funny Once (Bloomsbury, 2014). Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, Esquire, Harper’s, Redbook and many other magazines, as well as in anthologies such as Prize Stories: the O. Henry Awards and Best American Short Stories. She is the recipient of a USA Artists Award in 2009, the 2003 Rea Award for Short Fiction, as well as NEA and Guggenheim Fellowships, and teaches in the Warren Wilson MFA Program, as well as in the University of Houston’s Creative Writing Program. She lives in Telluride, Colorado, Las Cruces, New Mexico, and Houston, Texas.

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