In the Classroom

  • Train Dreams: A Novella
    Train Dreams: A Novella
    by Denis Johnson
  • Bluets
    by Maggie Nelson
  • We the Animals: A novel
    We the Animals: A novel
    by Justin Torres

Tell Everyone I Said Hi

Janey took the above photo somewhere off I-80 west of Iowa City at the end of December. We'd spent the night in Iowa City mostly so we could shop at Prairie Lights and eat some good food before the new year began and I had to go back to school.

About a week later, I received a phone call from the University of Iowa Press letting me know I'd won the 2012 John Simmons Short Fiction Award, juried by Jim Shepard*, for my story collection, Tell Everyone I Said Hi.

I've spent most of the past month ecstatic, wanting badly to share the news, and yesterday it finally became official. You can read the press release here, and you should, since it also contains some info on Marie-Helene Bertino and her 2012 Iowa Short Fiction Award-winning collection Safe as Houses.

I quit Facebook about a year and a half ago, but Janey's starated an author page for me, hoping people will 'Like' it. Which is always the case, it seems. You make the thing and hope somebody out there finds it and spends some time with it, that they find that time they spent worthwhile.

*Jim Shepard! Whose stories I love. Whose novel Project X is one of my favorite little books.



I spend a lot of my time preparing to teach classes. This usually involves reading either "professional" stuff or early drafts of student fiction and nonfiction. Whatever I'm reading, I tend to go at it heavily with a pencil, altering sentences, asking questions in the margins, jotting down talking points at the end of the thing. It's kind of become a way of being for me, this communicating with other texts while holding a pencil in my hand.

I decided a while ago that I wanted to make texts that arose wholly out of the words and images and questions I left behind on other people's work, but I kept putting it off for some reason. Finally, last year, I began jotting my notes down before I returned the story to the student or the book to the shelf. I sort of liked what they were doing. I titled a folder in my computer "Feedback" and began depositing texts there. I sent around queries to a couple of online magazines to see if they'd be interested in something like a monthly column where I could publish a couple of these pieces, but no one bit. HTMLGIANT, however, liked the idea, and decided to publish one of the examples I sent. You can read it--and a slightly different explanation of what I'm getting up to with this project--here.

After that piece came out, I was contacted by an editor, Nicholas Liu, who told me about the inaugural issue of a magazine he was in the process of putting together: Unswept. From the journal's website: "It owes its name and mission to the genre of mosaic called the asarotos oikos, or unswept floor. Its overriding interest is in the already-given—not just the canon, but what was published last month, or yesterday, or which has been consigned to the ash heap of literary history—and what writers do with it."

He asked me to send him some pieces, and he liked them, and I'm so glad, because the journal looks really beautiful, and that first issue has quite a lineup. You can read my stuff here. But I suggest you start at the beginning.

Photo courtesy of Jane. It's the home her ancestors built and lived in for several generations, not too far from here.



The good kids over at Origami Zoo Press conducted a little e-interview with me earlier this week, and the thing just went live. There's a link in the interview to a pretty excellent five-minute documentary about a man who sells piano parts. Everybody should watch it. There's also a very brief discussion of Clams Casino, whose music I've been writing and feeling things to lately.

Speaking of feeling things...I believe I posted a video of Tom Waits' "Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis" last year, but I'mma post it again, because it slays me. Happy holidays, everybody.


Anne Carson

I'm putting this up here so I remember to watch it when I have an extra minute. Anne Carson is one of my absolute favorites.

Thanks to Matt Bell for making me aware of it.


Necessary Fiction

I've enjoyed for a while the various projects the writers in resdience over at Necessary Fiction have come up with, and I was thrilled when Kathy Fish, December's Writer-in-Residence, asked me to send something her way.

I submitted an old story that was supposed to be published a long time ago but never saw print because the magazine kind of disappeared. It's called "Moussaoui Remembers Fire," and you can read it here. A pretty lengthy author's note follows the story, so I'll hold off on saying anything else for now, other than this:

I adore Kathy's stories, and I'm humbled she thought to ask me to contribute. Plus: I'm glad this story is finally making its way into the world. It seems Kathy's put together a pretty aweome line-up for the holidays, so keep checking in over there. I know I will be.

 As (almost) always: The above photo appears courtesy of Jane.

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