Teaching at Skillshare

I am excited to announce that my first creative writing class for Skillshare is now available! It is titled “Crafting Complex Characters (Quickly) for Short Fiction.”

From the class page:

Whether you’re writing a 400 or 4000-word short story, you need to know your protagonist’s tics, joys, and sorrows in order to create a believable connection with an audience. As such, the goal of this class is to provide writers of all skill levels with a quick and easy multi-part project designed to build a credible character in under an hour. By the end of this class, you will have not only a mini character bible, but will have also “spoken” with your character, which will assist you in choosing the right point-of-view for your story.

I’d love for you to take a look at the class, and Skillshare has provided me with a special link that will allow you to sign up for two FREE months of premium membership. This gives you free reign to take any class you want! Click here (or the picture above) for the link.

Random Uncategorized

The big list of what I read in 2014

As far as I can remember, these are the books I read (or re-read) this calendar year. Most are new; some are older.

Particular gems published in 2014 are in bold.

  • A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
  • Young Skins by Colin Barrett
  • Before, During, After by Richard Bausch
  • Arts & Entertainments by Christopher Beha
  • The Betrayers by David Bezmozgis
  • Train Shots by Vanessa Blakeslee
  • Adventures in Immediate Unreality by Max Blecher
  • A Brave Man Seven Stories Tall by Will Chancellor
  • Man V Nature by Diane Cook
  • Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires by Julio Cortazar
  • Academy Street by Mary Costello
  • Every Kiss a War by Leesa Cross-Smith
  • Outline by Rachel Cusk
  • Can’t and Won’t by Lydia Davis
  • Wonderland by Stacey D’Erasmo
  • The Family Cannon by Halina Duraj
  • The Wilds by Julia Elliott
  • Together We Can Bury It by Kathy Fish
  • Dreaming Rodin by John Michael Flynn
  • When Mystical Creatures Attack! by Kathleen Founds
  • An Untamed State by Roxane Gay
  • The Up-Down by Barry Gifford
  • Never Mind Miss Fox by Olivia Glazebrook
  • After the People Lights Have Gone Off by Stephen Graham Jones
  • Airships by Barry Hannah
  • Ray by Barry Hannah
  • The Big Seven by Jim Harrison
  • The Spark and the Drive by Wayne Harrison
  • The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman
  • The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison
  • If It Is Your Life by James Kelman
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
  • Sleeping with Gypsies by Ginny MacKenzie
  • The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai
  • I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You by Courtney Maum
  • Birds of America by Lorrie Moore
  • The City Under the Skin by Geoff Nicholson
  • Granma Nineteen and the Soviet’s Secrets by Ondjaki
  • Wouldn’t You Like to Know by Pamela Painter
  • Twenty-Something by Tatiana Ryckman
  • Skylight by Jose Saramago
  • By the Book by Diane Schoemperlen
  • Antigone by Sophocles
  • All Days Are Night by Peter Stamm
  • The Last Reader by David Toscana
  • The Big Green Tent by Ludmila Ulitskaya
  • The City Son by Samrat Upadhyay
  • The Isle of Youth by Laura van den Berg
  • The Least Cricket of Evening by Robert Vivian
  • God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut
  • Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West  
  • Mobile Library by David Whitehouse
  • The Elusive Moth by Ingrid Winterbach
  • The Wallcreeper by Nell Zink
Random Uncategorized

#MyWritingProcess Blog Tour


You may be here thanks to a link from the wonderful Natalia Sarkissian, my partner in crime over at Numéro Cinq Magazine, who invited me to participate in this dervish known as the My Writing Process Blog Tour. If so, let me welcome you to my small little sliver of the web. If not, well, I’ll still welcome you. I’m a welcoming guy.

The #MyWritingProcess tour is intended to connect writers from all over the world. The way it works is pretty simple: I’m going to answer 4 basic questions below. Then, I’ll introduce a couple of my writing pals, who will keep the tour rolling with a similar post one week from today (March 17).

Let’s dig in.


1. What are you working on?
At the moment, I have several plates spinning. If you’ve glanced at my site already, you’ll see that I write book reviews in addition to fiction. And right now I have a small stack of books I’m in the middle of reviewing. I probably shouldn’t mention titles here (for ethical reasons), but I can say that I’ve got pieces to write for Rain TaxiNecessary FictionPublisher’s Weekly, and Numéro Cinq. These will all probably arrive online or in print within the next 3-5 months. If you want to read a recent review of mine, check out my thoughts on Lydia Davis’s new collection, Can’t and Won’t.

I also have a few author interviews in the pipeline. One is with Stacey D’Erasmo, which should pop up any time now in PW. Her new novel, Wonderland, is amazingly good. Certainly check it out. Another is with Lydia Davis, a follow-up of my review for NC, which is slated for June. A third project that I’m pretty excited about is a Skype roundtable I’m hosting for the West Hartford (Connecticut) Library, where I’ll be connecting with Laura van den Berg, Ethan Rutherford, and Jessica Hollander to discuss the art of short fiction for a local audience. The event will be recorded and hosted online. I’ll be sure to post a link when it happens.

Creatively, I’m working on a series of short stories. I’d like to say I’m focusing on a manuscript, but my brain doesn’t seem to work that way. Instead, I just write one story after another. Most are extremely short (under 500 words), though some top out around 2500 words. I’m not interested in writing long narratives, for some reason. Anyway, I have a couple of stories floating out in the Submittable void right now, and I’m polishing a couple others to start sending out soon.

Oh, and did I mention that I help edit a literary journal? It’s called Atlas and Alice. You should take a look.


2. How does your work differ from others of its genre?
Not sure how to answer such a question. I mean, I truly believe there’s no such thing as originality in art. If anything, we all work with variations of established forms, don’t we?

I suppose one thing I can say is that I have very little interest in stretching a narrative for length. To me, a perfect story can last as little as a hundred words. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy a long yarn. I just don’t think I could ever find the patience to write one. I find comfort in short, often ironic, darkly humorous, slightly unsettling literary fiction.

3. Why do you write what you do?
I write fiction because I love the art of storytelling. Story, regardless of length and genre, allows audience transportation. As a storyteller, I feel like a magician. That’s fantastic.

As for literary criticism, I find it incredibly important to spread the word about great books. I do my best to treat every title equally. I understand the amount of work that goes into writing, and I just don’t see the point in dragging an author through the mud. As such, all of my reviews attempt to weigh the positives and negatives in every book. A completely negative review is pointlessly cruel.

4. What is your writing process?
Most of my ideas come while I run. Though I used to run 20-30 miles a week, I’ve cut back some over the past year or so. But running really allows me to focus on narratives. Kernels percolate and I jot them down here and there in an idea notebook. Sometimes, I’ll spin a story in my head for weeks (or months) before I start to write. Occasionally, though, I’ll have to immediately get to work.

The writing itself comes in spurts. I steal away moments when I can: sitting on the couch at night, sitting at my desk in the morning before work, hanging around my classroom (I adjunct part time at a couple of local colleges) before students arrive. I juggle a few different jobs, so my schedule can be fairly sporadic. But I do try to surround myself with inspiration when I write. My desk is cluttered with books, with craft essays, and with quotes and toys. My guitar is always nearby. Sometimes I strum while thinking.

Does the strumming help? Sometimes.


Now let me introduce you to two great writers I’m proud to call friends: Sarah Seltzer and Brendan Todt. You can check their sites next Monday to hear what they have to say about writing.


Sarah Seltzer is a journalist and writer living in New York City. Her recent fiction has appeared in Joyland and Lilith Magazine. Her journalistic work has been published pretty much everywhere: The New York TimesMs. MagazineJezebelRolling Stone, and about a million others. She’s the real deal, folks. UPDATE: Here’s the link to her entry.


Brendan Todt is a poet and fiction writer living in Iowa. He’s the Editor-in-Chief at Atlas and Alice, and his work has been published in Ninth Letter, Tin House (online)Roanoke ReviewPANK, Nano Fiction, and others. Oh, and his poem “At the Particle Accelerator at Krasnoyarsk” was anthologized in the 2013 Best American Non-Required Reading. Yup, he’s pretty damn talented. UPDATE: Here’s the link to his entry.

Interview Uncategorized

PW interview clears paywall


My chat with Jessica Hollander has now cleared the Publishers Weekly paywall. You can read it here. Oh, and her book would make a great stocking stuffer!