Good news today: Publishers Weekly chose Praying Drunk as one of 20 “galleys to grab” at BookExpo America, the four-day conference and party for American booksellers, librarians, publishers, critics, agents, book scouts, and journalists.
Worldwide hero Kristen Radtke sent this picture from my Mission Creek Music Festival reading at the Clinton Street Social Club in Iowa City last Friday night, which was sponsored by Jim Beam, believe it or not. Maybe the free-flowing whiskey had something to do with the warm reception from a sweet-natured crowd I’d happily take with me to every reading in every city in the country if I could.
I also won the fun times lottery when the poet Henry Finch invited me to join the Fig Wellingtons, a collective of writer-musicians hailing from New York, Iowa City, Mumbai, and all points in-between. The lineup the evening this picture was taken: (clockwise from lower left) Kyle Minor (guitar & vocals), Devika Rege (drums & percussion), Ben Shattuck (banjo), Henry Finch (upright bass & vocals), Henry Finch (upright bass & vocals), Thessaly La Force (viola), Daniel Cesca (guitar & vocals), Wells Tower (guitar & vocals), Anna Noyes (guitar, spoons, & vocals), and Kiley McLaughlin (mandolin).
You can only see the side of my face in the lower left-hand corner of this photograph, but if you’re like me, you’d rather see all those other handsome faces, anyway. I left feeling fondly toward everyone, and wanting to make more music.
It was difficult to choose from among ten or so beautiful cover designs by Kristen Radtke and Kirby Gann, so I let the publisher decide. I’m happy with the choice. In a couple of months, Advanced Reader’s Copies will be mailed to book reviewers and booksellers, and the book will be available everywhere you might buy books in February 2014.
The new issue of The Iowa Review is out today, and it includes a new story of mine, titled ”Seven Stories about Kenel of Koulèv-Ville ,” a story about catastrophe, power, friendship, love, and human kindness. You can find a copy on the newsstand of most independent bookstores, Barnes & Noble stores, and Books-A-Millions. You can also receive a copy directly from the magazine by clicking the link above. Other contributors include Molly Patterson, Thisbe Nissen, Cole Swensen, and D.A. Powell.
The second (generous, happy-making) blurb came in today for Praying Drunk, which will be published in 2014 by Sarabande. Daniel Handler wrote it. He’s the author of several books I admire, including Adverbs and The Basic Eight. He also wrote A Series of Unfortunate Events, under the pen name Lemony Snicket.
“Praying Drunk gets the whole thing down: the cosmic muck and the local glory, the big questions and the tiny lives, the bullies and the saviors, the screaming at the sky and the lights by the side of the road late at night on a long drive. I finished this book with my heart pounding and grateful, my coffee cold and my smile wide and crying like a baby.”
- Daniel Handler
George Singleton wrote the first. He’s the author of several story collections I admire, including The Half-Mammals of Dixie and Stray Decorum and These People Are Us. His is so good and generous I want to read it over and over again:
“When the characters residing in Kyle Minor’s engrossing and lively Praying Drunk find a toehold on the good life, I hope that it’s autobiographical. When the characters find themselves enveloped in desperate situations, irreversible circumstances, and despair, I pray that it’s solely out of the writer’s imagination. These fine stories–up there with the best works of Padgett Powell, Donald Barthelme, and Robert Coover–never straddle a milquetoast fence: they’re extreme in humor, extreme in sorrowfulness, and 100% individually-wrapped masterpieces. I am haunted and mesmerized by this collection.”
- George Singleton, author of Stray Decorum
Sarabande Books has acquired my second collection of short stories, titled Praying Drunk, for publication on February 15, 2014. The stories in the book originally appeared in Gulf Coast, The Iowa Review, Ninth Letter, Forty Stories: New Voices from Harper Perennial, and other magazines and anthologies.
Sarabande is known for making some of the most beautifully-designed books in American publishing (I pasted a few representative covers in the space below), and for publishing some of America’s most interesting writers, including Laura Kasischke, Ander Monson, Caitlin Horrocks, Paul Yoon, Edith Pearlman, Lee Martin, Mark Jarman, Brock Clarke, and Lydia Davis. In recent years, Sarabande authors have won National Book Critics Circle Awards, Guggenheim Fellowships, and the PEN/Malamud Award. I’m happy to keep such good company.
I became a member of the National Book Critics Circle this week. The NBCC was founded in April 1974 at the Algonquin Hotel in New York City, by John Leonard, Nona Balakian, and Ivan Sandrof, in the hope of extending the goings-on of the Algonquin round table to a national conversation. They sponsor readings, forums on criticism, and the annual National Book Critics Circle Awards.
I’m writing an audiobooks column, alternating weekly installments with Laura Miller, for Salon.com. Here’s one of them, a review of the audiobook edition of Every Love Story is a Ghost Story, by D.T. Max . And here’s another recent review, from The Faster Times, of Donald Ray Pollock’s The Devil All The Time.
1. Swing for the fences every time.
2. If there is a thing you want to get paid to do, but no one would think of paying you to do it, do it for free, and place it wherever it will reach the most eyeballs.
3. Don’t waste your time doing things for money which won’t get you closer to the things you really want to do, unless you need the money to live.
4. If you’re a prose writer, study poetry as much as you study prose.
5. Be humble enough to do things that you ought to be “past,” if they will help you get better. Stature comes from your work, ultimately, not your institutional position.
6. Write in other genres.
7. Do things that carry with them a high probability of failure. Keep failing at them until you’re not failing at them anymore. Continue reading