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Scenes from the Heartland: Stories Based on Lithographs by Thomas Hart Benton

Description When a contemporary writer turns her imagination loose inside the images of an iconicartist of the past, the result is storytelling magic at its best. Here are nine tales that bring to vivid life the early decades of the 20th century as witnessed by one of America’s most well-known painters. Thomas Hart Benton sketched fiddlers and farm wives, preachers and soldiers, folks gathering in dance halls and tent meetings. Though his lithographs depict the past, the real-life people he portrayed face issues that are front and center today: corruption, women’s rights, racial inequality. In these stories we enter the imagined lives of Midwesterners in the late 1930s and early 1940s. A mysterious woman dancing to fiddle music makes one small gesture of kindness that helps heal the rift of racial tensions in her small town. A man leaves his childhood home after a tragic accident and becomes involved with the big-time gamblers who have made Hot Springs, Arkansas, their summer playground. After watching her mother being sent to an insane asylum simply for grieving over a miscarriage, a girl determines to never let any man have any say over her body. Then as now, Americans have struggled with poverty, illness, and betrayal. Thesefictions reveal our fellow countrymen and women living with grace and strong leanings toward virtue, despite the troubles that face them. About the Author Donna Baier Stein is the author of The Silver Baron’s Wife (PEN/New England Discovery Award, Bronze winner in Foreword Reviews 2017 Book of the Year Award, more), Sympathetic People (Iowa Fiction Award Finalist, IndieBook Awards Finalist), Sometimes You Sense the Difference (poetry), and Letting Rain Have Its Say (poetry). She was a Founding Editor of Bellevue Literary Review and founded and publishes Tiferet Journal. Her work has been published in Virginia Quarterly Review, Writer’s Digest, Saturday Evening Post, New York Quarterly, Prairie Schooner, and many other journals and anthologies. Praise Scenes from the Heartland is an unforgettable collection, as lovely as it is honest, refusing to sentimentalize, transcending nostalgia, and looking directly at the riven, triumphant, glorious hearts of its characters. Donna Baier Stein provides a necessary reminder of everything we share, no matter how distant we may be in time or place. Read more…

Down to Earth (A Book of Improvisations)

Description The Kid wanted to do something for me—and the question was, would I let him? He’s on his way up in the world these days, and there’s no telling how high he’ll soar. I figure he’s got the goods, but when I put my mind around what he’s aiming to do, my breath catches. Really what Dusty struggled to do on the grand scale—take the world by the tail and change things at the core. It takes a kind of high-feathered ambition all right—to think you’re the one who’s going to make a difference. On the outside it looks like arrogance. And it takes a powerful imagination About the Author Gladys Swan has published six novels, Carnival for the Gods (Vintage Contemporaries Series), Ghost Dance: A Play of Voices (LSU Press, nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award), A Dark Gamble, Small Wonder, and Dancing with Snakes, as well as seven collections of short fiction. Her poetry and essays, and short stories have appeared in many literary magazines and anthologies. Much of her work is set in New Mexico, where she grew up. Though she has spent most of her career as a writer, she has devoted much of her time during the last two decades to painting and exploring the creative process. She was the first writer since the inception of the Vermont Studio Center to receive a fellowship for a residency in painting. She also received a fellowship from the Lilly Endowment for a year’s study of Inuit art and mythology and a Fulbright Award as a writer-in-residence in Yugoslavia. Her paintings have appeared as the cover art for various literary magazines and books, including the most recently published, The Tiger’s Eye: New & Selected Stories. She has twice been a Guest Writer at the Vermont Studio Center and has held residencies at Yaddo, the Chateau de Lavigny in Switzerland. the Fimdacion Valparaiso in Spain and others. She has taught literature and creative writing at various colleges and universities, notably, in the MFA Program at the Vermont College of the Arts and at the University of Missouri-Columbia. She received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Western New Mexico University and gave the commencement address. The Carnival Quintet, an outgrowth of her first novel, is being published by Serving House Books. The first volume, Carnival for the Gods, appeared in September, 2014. She has done the cover paintings for the series. Praise Swan keeps the men and women in her sensuous, bittersweet stories dreaming and reaching, in the very best traditions of American storytelling. Read more…

The Dream Seekers

Description There it stood, all in sunlit glory, lost in the radiance of itself: towers, roofs, casements, doorways, intersecting planes of white and dazzle: the Seventh City. Beneath, the lavender glow of bluffs reflected by the sun, from which the city seemed to float, dissolve into luminous turquoise unmixed with cloud. And beyond, the peak enclosed by mist, Mt. Xibalba, home of the gods. Merely to look brought an exquisite pain—the leap of joy and longing beyond the ache in his bones, from the night, the many nights, on hard ground. The white radiance washed over him like water. Filled him, floated his heart into his eye, turned him—the Kid—into his gaze and lost him there. About the Author Gladys Swan has published six novels, Carnival for the Gods (Vintage Contemporaries Series), Ghost Dance: A Play of Voices (LSU Press, nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award), A Dark Gamble, Small Wonder, and Dancing with Snakes, as well as seven collections of short fiction. Her poetry and essays, and short stories have appeared in many literary magazines and anthologies. Much of her work is set in New Mexico, where she grew up. Though she has spent most of her career as a writer, she has devoted much of her time during the last two decades to painting and exploring the creative process. She was the first writer since the inception of the Vermont Studio Center to receive a fellowship for a residency in painting. She also received a fellowship from the Lilly Endowment for a year’s study of Inuit art and mythology and a Fulbright Award as a writer-in-residence in Yugoslavia. Her paintings have appeared as the cover art for various literary magazines and books, including the most recently published, The Tiger’s Eye: New & Selected Stories. She has twice been a Guest Writer at the Vermont Studio Center and has held residencies at Yaddo, the Chateau de Lavigny in Switzerland. the Fimdacion Valparaiso in Spain and others. She has taught literature and creative writing at various colleges and universities, notably, in the MFA Program at the Vermont College of the Arts and at the University of Missouri-Columbia. She received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Western New Mexico University and gave the commencement address. The Carnival Quintet, an outgrowth of her first novel, is being published by Serving House Books. The first volume, Carnival for the Gods, appeared in September, 2014. She has done the cover paintings for the series. Read more…

Inventing the World: The Fiction Writer’s Guidebook for Craft and Process

Description This book is meant to stimulate thought on the various elements of fiction and on the techniques of writing good fiction and avoiding the bad. Most of the articles in this collection are on the various elements of fiction — character, point of view, structure, theme and idea — and how to handle these well. Also included are some articles on different technical challenges a writer is likely to face, including handling dialogue, writing solid prose, creating voice, and avoiding clichés. Beyond these fundamentals, other articles consider different lengths of fiction, from the shorter to the longer: flash fiction, the short story, and the novella. The book ends with interviews of a number of notable writers, three of them Pulitzer Prize winners, a National Book Award winner, and one a winner of both prestigious awards. Like the articles, these interviews focus on the craft of fiction. About the Author Jack Smith has published four novels: Miss Manners for War Criminals (2017), Being (2016), Icon (2014), and Hog to Hog, which won the 2007 George Garrett Fiction Prize and was published by Texas Review Press in 2008. He has published stories in a number of literary magazines, including Southern Review, North American Review, Texas Review, Xconnect, In Posse Review, and Night Train. His reviews have appeared widely in such publications as Ploughshares, Georgia Review, American Book Review, Prairie Schooner, Mid-American Review, Pleiades, Missouri Review, Xconnect, and Environment magazine. He has published a few dozen articles in both Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market and The Writer magazine. His creative writing book, Write and Revise for Publication: A 6-Month Plan for Crafting an Exceptional Novel and Other Works of Fiction, was published in 2013 by Writer’s Digest Books. His coauthored nonfiction environmental book entitled Killing Me Softly was published by Monthly Review Press in 2002. Praise “A generous collection of essays, interviews, and conversations that does nothing less than throw a light onto the mystery of the creative process, Jack Smith’s Honing the Elements of Fiction is an indispensable guide for any writer at any stage of his or her career.  Highly recommended. Read more…

The Best of Bumpus

Description Fifteen stories and the sixth story collection by Jerry Bumpus, the unique and celebrated master of the short story form, and the author of the much acclaimed novel ANACONDA. Twenty-four of Bumpus’s 121 published stories have been anthologized and taught in colleges from New York to San Diego. His stories and novels model the weirdness of not just our species but all species of every sort, including giant spiders and flying pigs. If a critic had to pick a dominant theme that the author obsessively explores, that theme might be: life is absurd. This is the author as fans have come to know him: bedrock real one moment and shifting sands unreal on the page opposite. Some of his characters have one foot in here-and-now certainties, while the other foot toes the lunacies of a dream, revealing tenuous connections between bizarre behavior and pure accident and the oddities of unforeseen collisions between minds conventional and minds caught in a maelstrom. Bumpus is sui generis, inhabiting a class all his own. Prepare to be delighted. Prepared to be astonished. About the Author Jerry Bumpus is Professor Emeritus at San Diego State University. He holds a BA in English from the University of Missouri, and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Iowa. He has published 121 stories, 24 of which have been anthologized. He has also published five story collections and two novels. His third novel has been brewed and is in the final stages of polishing. His work has appeared in Esquire, The Paris Review, The Best American Short Stories (1974 and 1975), Tri-Quarterly, The Iowa Review, and dozens of other respected journals. Praise I think of Jerry Bumpus as a king of the underground writers. I treasure a rare copy of his novel Anaconda,and have taught the story collection, Things in Place, to graduate writing students. Jerry Bumpus has a following; of it I am a devoted member. —Vance Bourjally, author of Brill Among the Ruinswhich was nominated for the National Book Award We are chilled as we shift in and out of various hostile places—mental wards, forests; or that we may confront a vicious dog who finally outwits us. [Bumpus] is masterful at arousing laughter and then drawing us in with a shaft of unexpected power. Most of the stories are, finally, conundrums, in the way that Borges’ best fiction is. Read more…

Plutonium & Platinum Blonde

Description Las Vegas, NV— Gurlesque collides with The New York School of poetry in Angela M. Brommel’s debut chapbook, Plutonium & Platinum Blonde. Layered between works of desert love, Brommel‘s poems engage with an array of larger-than-life pop culture icons, including the reimagined 1950’s beauty queen, Miss Atomic. About the Author Angela M. Brommel, is a Nevada writer with Iowa roots. Her poetry has been featured in The Best American Poetry Blog, the North American Review, The Literary Review—TLR Share, and Sweet: A Literary Confection, among many other journals, anthologies, and art exhibitions. Angela is the Director of Arts & Culture and Advancement, as well as a part-time Humanities faculty member, at Nevada State College. She serves as Editor-in-Chief of The Citron Review. Praise “Brommel’s poems about Las Vegas are wonderful—she takes the glitz of the place and reduces the scale to human proportions. With a wicked, understated humor and a keen eye for detail, she creates a wildly entertaining original voice that’s more than up to the challenge of its subject matter.” —Jim Daniels, author of Rowing Inland (Wayne State University Press) “Brommel’s work has humor in it—wondrous juxtaposition of images, a certain flair for authenticity of voice, and a great ability to spot the absurd. She takes advantage of pop culture icons as well as film history, while at the same time locking into something very direct: ‘you heart thief’.” —Carol W. Read more…

Art, Sex, Politics

Description In a new, provocative collection of essays, William Eaton, the author of Surviving the Twenty-First Century, shares the pleasures of a life full of questions, tastes, reading and more visual arts. “That we are animals, that is as sure as ever. How savagely we behave toward one another and toward other species and inorganic others. How we rub affectionately up against one another and—however desperately—make love.” About the Author In between drawings, William Eaton has been an award-winning journalist, novelist, writer of erotic fiction, intellectual essays, and dialogues. Surviving the Twenty-First Century, a collection of his essays from Montaigbakhtinian.com, was published by Serving House in 2015. One of Eaton’s dialogues, The Professor of Ignorance Condemns the Airplane, was staged in New York in 2014. He is the Editor of Zeteo: The Journal of Interdisciplinary Writing. He holds graduate degrees from Columbia and the City University of New York, and a B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley. Praise Engaged, non-doctrinaire, well-read, independent-minded, Eaton shows us that in an age of media distraction and academic specialization a thinking person can still make a path. – Sven Birkerts, Editor of Agni and author of The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age Beautiful and wise and moving book! – Amy Friedman, author of Desperado’s Wife: A Memoir and Nothing Sacred· A Conversation with Feminism A delicacy full of surprises and pleasures. Entertaining, yet packs a quiet intellectual wallop. – Claire Stewart, author of As Long as we Both Shall Eat: A History of Wedding Food and Feasts Full of insights and speculations, and very enjoyable to read. In the Eaton world linkages are everywhere. – Nahid Rachlin, author of Persian Girls (memoir), Foreigner, and Jumping Over Fire (novels) William Eaton finds arresting themes in unusual places. The writing is masterful and wonderfully absorbing .” – Edward F. Mooney, author of On Soren Kierkegaard· Dialogue, Polemics, Lost Intimacy and Time William Eaton never doesn’t think. You may not always (or ever) agree with him. But I don’t always agree with Montaigne either. For the price of a sandw ich plus tax, Eaton’s little book could start you thinking about your own life, perhaps in ways you never before considered. – Nina Mishkin, writer and lawyer So thought-provoking and so poetic that I didn’t want it to end. It makes the reader want to respond in some way. Read more…

Confessions of an Accidental Professor

Description Confessions of an Accidental Professor reveals ten years of teaching college freshman through the prism of an adjunct professor. In this hybrid memoir, essays are interspersed with anonymous student evaluations, emails, and chair observations. The issues range from serious (rape and sexual assault of college students) to silly (being contacted by a twenty-five-year-old former student who sent photos of himself stripped to the waist and asked for a date.) The relationships between students and teacher reveal the challenges and satisfactions of an underpaid adjunct professor with humor, drama and immediacy. About the Author Lisa del Rosso originally trained as a classical singer and completed a post-graduate program at LAMDA (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art), living and performing in London before moving to New York City. Her plays Clare’s Room and Samaritan, have been performed off-Broadway and had public readings, respectively, while St. John, her third play, was a semi-finalist for the 2011 Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Barking Sycamores, Neurodivergent Literature, Razor’s Edge Literary Magazine, The Literary Traveler, Serving House Journal, VietnamWarPoetry, Young Minds Magazine (London/UK), Time Out New York, The Huffington Post, The Neue Rundschau (Germany), Jetlag Café (Germany), and One Magazine (London/UK), for whom she writes theater reviews. She teaches writing at New York University. Praise As an account of the contemporary academic adjunct catastrophe, del Rosso’s book should be required reading for full-time professors and their administrative bosses who are charged with maintaining the integrity of their institutions—of course, they’ll likely flinch in the face of the reality that defines the life of the adjunct professor and that seems beyond redeeming and out of their control.  It’s not, and that’s an important part of this story. However, what makes this rollicking, painful, smart, hilarious, and honest memoir required reading for all of us is its enormous heart: in adversity, del Rosso upholds and celebrates her students and her life—it is, in the end, a triumphant embrace. —David Daniel, Co-founder and former president of the Affiliated Faculty of Emerson College; Associate Professor of Creative Writing at Fairleigh Dickinson University. Read more…

Your First Page

Description Your First Page is unlike any other craft book on writing. It is based on the premise that almost everything that can go right or wrong in a work of fiction or memoir goes wrong or right on the first page. The book grew out of an experiment for which writers submitted nearly one hundred anonymous first pages of works-in-progress for analysis. The experiment proved two things: that first pages function like canaries in coalmines, forecasting success or predicting trouble. They establish the crucial bond between writer and reader, setting us off on a path toward the heart or climax of a story, or they fail to do so. The experiment also demonstrated that from first pages we stand to learn most of what we need to know to succeed as authors. About the Author Peter Selgin is the author of Drowning Lessons, winner of the 2007 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. He has written a novel, two other books on the writer’s craft, an essay collection, and several children’s books. His recent memoir, The Inventors, was named one of the best memoirs of 2016 by Library Journal. Of it the reviewer wrote, “It is a book destined to become a modern classic.” His stories and essays have appeared in The Missouri Review, Gettysburg Review, Colorado Review, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, Poets & Writers, and other journals, and have been featured in Best American Essays and Best American Travel Writing. His plays have been published and produced nationally. A visual artist as well as a writer, his work has been featured in The New Yorker and other publications. He is an affiliate faculty member of Antioch University’s low-residency MFA writing program in Los Angeles and an Associate Professor of English at Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville, where he serves as nonfiction editor and art director of Arts & Letters. Praise “The straightforward premise of Peter Selgin’s Your First Page — your story or novel is as good as its first page—is ingenious, seductive and bracingly pragmatic. A boon for teachers of writing, this charming, immensely readable handbook on writing is destined to appear in countless libraries and classrooms and be given treasured space on the bookshelves of seasoned and aspiring writers alike. Read more…

Small Wonder

Description In this second novel of Gladys Swan’s The Carnival Quintet, Curran—the small wonder of the title, at four feet one inch—receives a troubling letter from Elise, a woman he had adored long ago. Although he hadn’t heard from her in years, he is compelled to find and protect her. And thereby an adventure begins with a long trip to a carnival near a ruined city in Mexico, encountering a seductress and a wealthy bandit along the way. His real quest turns out to be finding Elise’s strange son and bringing him back through a forbidding landscape while avoiding treacherous rivals. Despite his diminutive size, Curran is a wonder. About the Author Gladys Swan has published three novels, Carnival for the Gods, (Vintage Contemporaries Series), Ghost Dance: A Play of Voices, (LSU Press, nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award), and A Dark Gamble, as well as seven collections of short fiction. Her poetry and essays, and short stories have appeared in many literary magazines and anthologies. Much of her work is set in New Mexico, where she grew up. Though she has spent most of her career as a writer, she has devoted much of her time during the last two decades to painting and exploring the creative process. She was the first writer since the inception of the Vermont Studio Center to receive a fellowship for a residency in painting. She also received a fellowship from the Lilly Endowment for a year’s study of Inuit art and mythology and a Fulbright Award as a writer-in-residence in Yugoslavia. Her paintings have appeared as the cover art for various literary magazines and books, including the most recently published, The Tiger’s Eye: New & Selected Stories. She has twice been a Guest Writer at the Vermont Studio Center and has held residencies at Yaddo, the Chateau de Lavigny in Switzerland. the Fimdacion Valparaiso in Spain and others. She has taught literature and creative writing at various colleges and universities, notably, in the MFA Program at the Vermont College of the Arts and at the University of Missouri-Columbia. She received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Western New Mexico University and gave the commencement address. The Carnival Quintet, an outgrowth of her first novel, is being published by Serving House Books. The first volume, Carnival for the Gods, appeared in September, 2014. She has done the cover paintings for the series. Read more…