CAREFULLY CURATED CATASTROPHES (a hypothetical pitch), by Matthew Burnside

Dear Publisher,

This pitch, if you even want to call it that, started out as (& being about) many different things.

In the end, I decided it couldn’t be (about) one thing without being (about) everything.


What the hell even is a story if not the simple saga of someone trying?


If I wanted to impress you, here are the things I would tell you about myself: I recently graduated from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and currently teach creative writing for new media there. I was recipient of a Truman Capote Fellowship. I am author of five chapbooks, one of them interactive, two of them for charity. My stories, poems, and articles have appeared or are forthcoming in Best American Experimental Writing 2015, The Iowa Review, The Los Angeles Review, DIAGRAM, Ninth Letter, Passages North, PANK, Hobart, kill author, Pear Noir!, Gargoyle, NAP, OmniVerse, and more. I am co-founder of an experimental literary magazine called Cloud Rodeo, managing editor of Mixed Fruit, and have been a reader for PANK, The Iowa Review, and NPR’s 3 Minute Fiction. In addition, I write a monthly column for Ploughshares on storytelling and intersections between new media and literature and serve as interviews editor for BOAAT press.

The manuscript that I’m submitting, Bestiary and Other Tales of Monsters, was recently finalist in a few contests, including The Lit Pub’s Prose Contest, the Santa Fe Writers’ Market Literary Awards, and the Willow Springs Editions Spokane Prize in Short Fiction.


If I wanted to be honest with you, here are the things I would tell you about myself: At 32, I’ve applied to 32 academic jobs & received 0 interview requests. (The future’s so bright I’ve gotta wear one of those miner helmets with an industrial flashlight on it.) I only got into the Iowa Writers’ Workshop after 50 other programs cordially disinvited me to attend their programs over a period of 3 years. The manuscript I’m sending you has been rejected over 25 times now. In workshop sometimes at Iowa, my head would hurt because I didn’t understand what the fuck anyone was talking about. I would say something like, “I like the fact that this story has a pony in it. It’s very axiomatic I think,” and hope no one would ask me if I even knew what the word axiomatic meant. Continue reading

#AWP15: On Firsts


–by Chelsea Kindred


First AWP.

First plane ride where passengers are reading The Paris Review instead of US Weekly.

First snow rain in April, first city split in two and stretched across the Mississippi. The same river that crawls across the country, curving in and out of the words of writers past, present and future.

First panel, first page of notes, first inky smudge from tip of pinky to bottom of wrist on my left hand. That tell tale sign that I’ve been writing. Continue reading

#AWP15: Listen Up

–by Shannon Reed

mini apple 2

In the weeks leading up to my first AWP conference, I heard a great deal of advice. Although much of it turned out to be helpful, the words “strategize” and “survive” were so often included, I began to think of my trip to Minneapolis as a minor campaign in a small, bloodless war. Get in. Get free bookmarks. If the battlefield is clear, maybe snag a free tote bag. Avoid the panels. And then, get out. As it turned out, I enjoyed the conference a great deal more than I expected – the free tote bags guy at the London Review of Books was really nice! – but I also came away more concerned about the inclusivity of the world that AWP gathers together.

Much has been written about the representation (or lack thereof) of writers of color and LGBTQ writers at AWP, and, from my limited perspective, the concern seems justified. Here, though, I want to point to another area I worry about, one that I am better equipped to speak to: the way the conference actually unfolds, which leads to a prioritizing of one kind of communication and learning over all others. Continue reading

#AWP15 or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bookfair



–by Dan Reiter


bits and pieces

A Lawrence Weiner canvas at the Walker Art Center


I am in a dive bar in Minneapolis, waiting out the interlude between poets, watching William Tyler navigate a tractate of reverb. The thought of tomorrow’s panel discussion––”The Writing of Atrocity”––has me locked in a cycle of dread and procrastination. They expect me to speak ten full minutes, yet I have nothing prepared, no idea where to begin.

Behold the young literati: bold-rimmed, russet-bearded, baroque, well-inked. Come here for truth. Tyler’s pick sends out blistering messages; he manipulates his pedal until his guitar is playing three-part harmony. Why hadn’t I worked on my presentation last night? Who wastes a perfectly free evening unscrolling the #AWP15 twitter feed? But God, that tweet of Melville House’s––Saeed Jones (@theferocity) flaunting a gorgeous paperback of Baldwin’s last interview––was a classic: “James Baldwin and @theferocity give better side eye than you.” Continue reading

Virtual Book Tour: List, by Matthew Roberson

Matthew Roberson Banner

Melanie Page of GRAB THE LAPELS 


a Conversation with Matthew Roberson

Synopsis—Vignettes of a middle-class American family told through lists, each reflecting their obsessions, their complaints, their desires, and their humanity.

A suburban family of four—a man, woman, boy, and girl—struggle through claustrophobic days crowded with home improvement projects, conflicts at work and school, a job loss, illnesses, separation, and the wearying confrontation with aging. The accoutrements of modern life—electronic devices and vehicles—have ceased to be tools that support them and have become instead the central fulcrums around which their lives wheel as they chase “cleanliness” and other high virtues of middle American life.

Melanie Page: Could you tell me a little about the origins of List? How did you begin this work?

Matthew Roberson: The book started as a series of stories. I originally figured all the stories would revolve around “middles”–being middle class, in the Midwest, and middle-aged, stuck in the middle between children and aging parents. As the book went on, the male character was between jobs. The parents eventually in the middle of a divorce. I was really taken with the title, Lucky Middle. But then I noticed that the real unifying element of all the stories were the lists. Every story was built around a list. So, I kept on with that. Continue reading

Virtual Blog Tour: Elegantly Naked In My Sexy Mental Illness, by Heather Fowler

Virtual blog tour fowler

Heather is here as a stop on her Virtual Blog Tour  to answer interview questions regarding how she generates her wildly different stories and the role of multiple influences in her newest work.  Also here in this post is an audio reading of a story set during the French revolution.



As an author, you create work that is both highly modern in its sensibilities and also work that has historical influences.  Can you tell us what factors impact a desire to write in both realms?

Every piece of work has historical influences.  For me, it simply matters whether the history is personal or a history with reading.  In the latest collection, for example, there are pieces set in the French Revolution and during the time of the Italian bubonic plague.  There is another story set in what I would imagine to be the1920s.  These stories were driven by reading of texts that came from their time frame, literary readings.  The plague piece, for example, “Mother’s Angels,” began as an inquiry into the first historical use of the marking of Jews with the fabric badges—the persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany, and my readings done as research into how this “marking” phenomenon began.  To discover that the same sort of persecution happened in the 1300s was fascinating, and I began to read all I could find on the Catholic/Jew relations during those times and circumstances, including how both the plague itself and the instances of floods, referenced in the piece, came to be blamed on Jews by anti-Semites, partially out of the sort of paranoia mass deaths caused but also out of an ugly desire for vengeance or the acquisition of wealth. Even the politician in the piece was lifted directly from historical documents.  The relationship between the mother and daughter, however, was purely my imagination. Continue reading