Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Tolstoy's most recent bit of goodness

"'Yes, but then how often the happiness of these prudent marriages flies away like dust just because that passion turns up that they have refused to recognize," said Vronsky. “But by marriages of prudence we mean those in which both parties have sown their wild oats already. That’s like scarlatina — one has to go through it and get it over.”

“Then they ought to find out how to vaccinate for love, like smallpox.”

- Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina 

Saturday, December 1, 2018

My Story "The Last Friend in Red Knife" today @ COG

I had a story submitted around for the past three months or so called "The Last Friend in Red Knife" that was roundly rejected by all the journals I hold in any kind of regard. That's always a sad string of events for a writer, of course, but it's nothing compared to the elation felt when the exactly perfect journal accepted that same story.

In today's new issue of COG, the literary journal of Cogswell College in San Jose, California, my long-traveled story "The Last Friend in Red Knife" appears alongside a host of amazing writers and work. Those I'm happy to share space with include:

Maddy Raskulinecz. Hugh Minh Nguyen. Cassandra Dallet. Glen Armstrong. Marni Berger. Robert Wexelblatt. April Sinclair. Casey Killingsworth. Holly Day. Jed Myers. Judith Cody. Gene Goldfarb. Emily Zasada. Travis Tyler. Ron Austin. duncan b. barlow. M.A. Vizsolyi. Charles Rafferty. Roger Camp. Zahara.

And before I move on to the links to read this packed issue, let me say that the directing editor of COG, Soma Mei-Sheng Frazier, was amazing. She reminded me again how an editor is meant to work with writers, guiding, suggesting, closely reading each piece. She is an example for all those putting literature out into the world.

The new issue is out today. Visit and have a look at the newness. I honestly hope you'll take a little time and read through the issue. These folks are doing good work.



Monday, November 26, 2018

I Bought Hillbilly Elegy for $3.99 and I'm Going By God Going to Read It

Here's a confession: I've not read Hillbilly Elegy. But, to be fair, I've only been critical of it a few times publicly.

That will very likely change and I will spout many venomous phrases and ideas in good time. I bought the book today. So far I've only read the first sentence: "My name is J.D. Vance." I'm already mad. I'm not sure why, but I honestly am.

I know I'm going to agree with my many legitimate hillbilly friends who scorn this book. For one, you should never try to write about the hard life from a Buckeye point of view unless your name is Donald Ray Pollock. I know there's exceptions to that rule, but I've not met them yet that I know of (Chris Holbrook's collection Hell and Ohio is what's on my mind when I say that). It's been years since I read Chris's fine collection, so I can't say for sure what role Ohio plays in it. Being honest here.

So this memoir by Vance. Let's see what the deal is so I can talk about it like a good and real and informed hillbilly.

Monday, November 19, 2018

The Heart Is an Organ on Fire and Other News

Since September a lot of good things have happened for me on the literary front.

I've been publishing short stories and poems in indie lit journals and books for small presses for parts of the last nine years. Parts because a great number of those years were not exactly productive. I drank away a lot of them, wrote nothing, read less. In short, I traded life as a writer for life as an alcoholic and drug addict.

When it was over (See also: hit rock bottom as a drunk and started taking responsibility for my actions as best as I could) all I wanted to do was read. The writing followed after about six months of that, and I started sending stories, reviews, and columns out into the world again. As what I considered my personal projects, I also started to write books again, with no hope anyone would ever read them except me.

Steadily I found my way back into the community with various publications over the course of about a year and a half. Editors and journals that shared my work during that time will always hold special places in my heart and mind. They gave me back a life I thought was mostly over.

Now, with three years of sobriety and my compulsion to write returned, here's the developments.

Of course this began with my prior announcement that I am now under contract with West Virginia University Press to write a book about Breece D'J Pancake and being Appalachian. I'm about half way through a rough draft on this work, which I can only refer to as a biography/memoir, though I'm trying to not toy much with labels. I'm letting this book feel its way around, breathe. I'm still in a general state of shock that I've been given the chance to write a book on Pancake. Derek Krissoff, Director at WVU Press, is going to work with me to make what I hope will be a book all of us can be proud of across Appalachia. That's my hope at least.

Some weeks later, my short story "Remodeling" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize by one of my favorite journals, Cowboy Jamboree, and its editor Adam Van Winkle. It never fails to lift my authorial spirits when my peers give me this kind of recognition. If we can continue lifting each other up like this, the independent literary community will only ever need one another. Not very much longer after this nomination, Adam wrote to tell me of his plans to start Cowboy Jamboree Press, adding he wanted to see a manuscript from me, if I had anything. I sent a draft of a novel I'd been holding onto for a good while called Dysphoria. He liked what he saw and now it's another book project and my head's spinning and this about when the surreal started to set in. Read "Remodeling" in the current issue of CJ here.

In the same week, my story "South of Cincinnati" was published at my other favorite journal, BULL: Men's Fiction. Editor Ben Drevlow has always been great to me, so much so at times that his support and that of Adam's have been the only reason I've continued to submit work. I count them both, along with Sheryl Monks, editor at Change Seven Magazine, Mike Lafontaine editor at Vending Machine Press, Rusty Barnes at Fried Chicken and Coffee, and Christopher James, editor at Jellyfish Review, as true friends. Read "South of Cincinnati" here.

And just this past week Mike published another story of mine at Vending Machine Press called "The Heart Is an Organ on Fire" the title for which I directly lifted from a poem by the god-like Michael Ondaatje. In this story I've continued to work toward an occasional blending of the place I'm from, here in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky, and a sense of the fantastic in many forms. In a lot of ways, I've never left behind my childhood days reading Stephen King novels and short stories. Should you be inclined, read the story here.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Is Lee Klein a literary critic genius?

I discovered a website curated by Lee Klein (former editor of and author of The Shimmering Go-Between and others). Lee is a kind of literary critic genius, so you'll want to put on your thinking cap when you visit him there at Literary Fundamentalism Forever or Lit Fun Forever.

I had a second short story accepted by Ben Drevlow at BULL Men's Fiction. It's called "South of Cincinnati" and it's about a hillbilly looking for work and purpose, and a little bit about how people view hillbillies and how that view is most of the time wrong. It contains a joke used as a framing devise that a lot of my fellow hillbillies will possibly not like very much. Let me say that, along with publishing a ton of great content, BULL is also the most beautifully designed journals out there. Just top notch. I think of this every time I visit the site. You will too I bet.

At the risk of all kinds of things, I can say that work is going great on my first attempt at a book of creative nonfiction, which I've taken to calling the Pancake book because I can't get a title in my head that fits. This one is the book that'll be coming out from West Virginia University Press. It's been about a week since I wrote any on it, but I understand my process better at age forty-two than I did at nineteen when I tried writing my first book. There's going to be month-long period when I write page and page after page every day and then there are going to be times when I won't write a word for weeks and weeks, sometimes even months. It'll kick back in.

Been reading more nonfiction the past month. Joan Didion, Helen Macdonald's H is for Hawk, Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts. Reading these (especially Didion) I'm getting a sense of how I can incorporate creative devices in nonfiction. And that's what I need because the book so far (and to be continuing I imagine) has included aspects of memoir, interview, biography, fiction, essay, and personal narrative.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

If you'd like to subscribe to my TinyLetter account I, HILLBILLY

So I'm going to be doing the TinyLetter thing for the next long while. I'd love if you'd subscribe to it. Just use the subscribe link below and you'll start receiving entries right away from I, Hillbilly.


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Tolstoy's most recent bit of goodness

"'Yes, but then how often the happiness of these prudent marriages flies away like dust just because that passion turns up that t...