Jerrod E. Bohn's poetry collection Animal Histories releases on August 17, 2017. It is a stunning collection that is lyrical and brave. The poem above is just a brief snippet of what the entire collection possesses.
You can pre-order the book via our website or find it at your favorite retailer.
On August 8, 2017, we will release Martina Reisz-Newberry's newest poetry collection Take the Long Way Home. We are thrilled to share this book with you as Martina is such a touching and brave poet. We asked Martina a few questions, so you can get to know her better! Here is what she had to say:
In an effort to facilitate some hearty promotion, we'd like you to answer the following interview questions.
1. What literary journeys have you gone on?
I tried writing short stories and a couple of novels when I was first taking myself seriously as a writer, but they never really satisfied me. Poems, when I’m writing well, are like a good meal. Very satisfying.
2. What is the first book that made you cry?
One of the books in the Wizard of Oz series. I still have them all--a gift from my son one Christmas--the entire set of the Oz books. I cried somewhere in each book.
3. Does writing energize or exhaust you?
It depends. When I’m mud-wrestling words and I win, it’s extremely energizing. When the words and I just continue to fight each other, it’s very tiring and depressing. I write every day and every day is a different experience.
4. What are common traps for aspiring writers?
They don’t read enough.
5. Does a big ego help or hurt writers?
Hell, I have no idea! It’s not the size of the ego; it’s that a writer needs to have as much respect for the craft and for the reader as she/he has for him/herself.
6. Have you ever gotten reader’s block?
I’ve never heard this term before. No. I can always read.
7. Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
No. I like my name pretty well.
8. Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
It depends on what is being written. I don’t know any writers who don’t feel emotions strongly, but I know poets and novelists. I suppose someone could write business or technical or research papers without emotion.
9. What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
Sad to say, those writers who were my dearest, closest friends and who influenced me to a huge degree have died. Larry Kramer was my mentor and teacher and brother. His work has influenced mine for decades. Marcella Carrie, a sister of my soul, was a writer who was just beginning to produce wonderful work when she died recently. “Friends” is a tough word for me. I’m very shy and a bit of a loner. My closest friends now are not writers or they no longer write.
10. Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
I think I’d like each book to stand on its own, and, at the same time there are definitely connections. Certain characters and stories come up in lots of my poems. They visit me all the time. I have to tell some of them to go away and come back later. I tell them, “I already wrote about you today.”
11. What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
My Norton Anthologies are my treasures. I have a Norton Anthology of Poetry, 1970 which is falling apart and I can’t part with it. Several other of the Norton anthologies are also writer’s tools which I am so glad I bought. I have them handy all the time.
12. What authors did you dislike at first but grew into?
C.S. Lewis is one. I didn’t much like his writing until I read his Space Trilogy and the Narnia Books. After falling in love with those, I came to like his other work very much.
13. What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
I think I was born knowing it. I began reading way before Kindergarten and loved words and the way they sounded and felt in my mouth and mind. My father was a grand storyteller and some of my most wonderful memories are listening to him speak. His stories made me laugh and wonder and sometimes cry.
I have experienced the beauty and the terrible harm of language. I have never believed that “sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me.” That’s nonsense. Language has great power to hurt. I remember vividly the first time I was told I was ugly, the first time my ex-husband said he hated me. But then there is the beauty of language. When my dear friend/mentor, Larry Kramer called me a “real poet,” I remember exactly how it affected me and where we were, and what the weather was, etc. There is a remarkable Spoken Word Artist named Monte Smith who uses language in a way that each word is palpable--you can smell, taste, feel his life in every word.
14. What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
“Under the Volcano” by Malcolm Lowry is one. I love the book and don’t know too many people who share my opinion of it. I also like “Wolf” by Jim Harrison.
17. What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?
I owe them the privacy of not using their real names unless it’s a dedication or epigraph.
18. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I have three books in progress and they aren’t published.
19. What does literary success look like to you?
I think I’d feel successful if I had a kind of following--maybe a couple hundred people who actually buy my books when they come out. And, maybe hearing from those readers that I affected them somehow. I am so grateful for those who do like my work, I guess I just wish there were more of them buying books and saying so.
20. What’s the best way to market your books?
Pardon my French, but I have no fucking idea.
21. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I am always writing poems, always thinking of how to weave them into a book. I read all the time, nearly as much as I write. I look up anything that strikes my fancy: subjects I hear people discussing on the bus or train or in coffee shops, odd names and places I hear on the news, bits of information I see in my reading. To me, researching is listening as well as reading.
22. How many hours a day do you write?
I write either on paper, on the computer, or in my head all day, every day. I am at my desk writing at least 4-5 hours per day.
23. What periods of your life do you find you write about most often? (child, teenager, young adult)
They all sort of blend in my mind. I write about all of them.
24. How do you select the names of your characters?
They knock on the door of my heart/mind and introduce themselves to me.
If you didn’t write, what would you do for work? And if writing isn't your "day job", what are you currently doing to pay the bills?
I think I’d like to be a very, very exclusive, high-priced Call Girl.
What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
What are your favorite childhood books?
Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz series
Does your family support your career as a writer?
My husband is extremely supportive he is an artist in his own right, a Media Creative, and is incredibly respectful of everything having to do with my work as I am with his.
Today, we'd like to share our interview with Chris Ludovici, author of The Minors. Enjoy!
What is the first book that made you cry?
I’m not sure, probably Flowers for Algernon.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Like most writers, it’s probably both - when it’s going well I feel energized by it; when it’s a struggle I feel exhausted.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Worrying that what they are doing isn’t any good. I’ve known a lot people who said they wanted to write but they started a story and hated what they wrote and quit. The first draft of anything isn’t really about being good so much as it is working out the basic shape and structure of what it is that you’re trying to do. It’s foundational.
A good story does a lot of different things well, and it’s almost impossible to do all those things simultaneously because they all require the writer’s full attention. It’s really hard to think about character and dialogue and plot and pacing and prose all at the same time. I think the trick is to basically do one pass on the narrative itself, where you’re laying down the beats and scenes of the story, and then you go through and do revisions to fix all the stuff that you did wrong the first time.
There have been plenty of times where I knew what I was writing was bad but pressed through anyway, because I didn’t know exactly how to fix it and I wanted to just get to the next section or chapter or whatever. Then, later, when working on a different section the answer of how to fix the bad section revealed itself. Or, in thinking about why something didn’t work I was able to tease out what was missing and fix it. But you can’t do that without it being down on the page first.
Does a big ego help or hurt writers?
I think that if I’m good at writing at all it’s because I spent a lot of time listening to the people around me and trying to understand their perspective in order to understand their actions.
I think ego in that respect is often a problem because it can make it hard to listen to people and to empathize with them. I don’t particularly like the idea of moralizing or judging my characters or looking down on them. And I think ego can impede that empathy.
Ego can also get in the way when accepting constructive criticism. What I really want is to be heard and understood. If I’m writing a character who I want to be funny or scary or loveable or whatever, and people tell me this isn’t reading as funny or scary or loveable or whatever, I need to be able to hear that and adjust, or else I’m only talking to myself.
That said, it’s also important to have enough of an ego that you trust your own instincts as the final arbiter, in part because a writer will almost certainly get conflicting feedback, but also because ultimately it is the writer’s story to tell.
I think the key word is big. I don’t think having a big ego is particularly useful, but I do think that a healthy ego is required.
If that makes sense.
Have you ever gotten reader’s block?
Readers block? No. I read too many different types of books to ever get any kind of block - if I get tired of one type of book I switch to another. There hasn’t been two days in a row over the last couple decades where I wasn’t actively reading something.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
Sure. I think, first of all, that “strongly” is a relative concept and that one person’s strong feelings are another person’s repression, so it’s hard to say what strong really means. I know that there are, for instance, a lot of modern filmmakers who get the rap of being cold and unemotional, guys like Christopher Nolan or David Fincher come to mind. They’re often called clinical or dry or detached or whatever, but I find their work to be intensely emotional. To me, they’re very personal, very emotional story-tellers, and I connect with them on an emotional level. I have no doubt that there are prose writers who work the same way but I don’t read enough literary criticism to know who they are.
Secondly, a lot of the emotion in a story is brought by the reader. He or she sees something they connect with and that they invest with their own meaning. It could be that a writer is like an architect who designs beautiful spaces for other people to fill with their own emotions.
Third, there are people who don’t feel strong emotions and they’re right there in the world with the rest of us, they deserve to have a voice and to be understood. I said this earlier but I’m a big fan of empathy and maybe it would be useful for me to learn what it’s like to not have strong emotions, maybe that would help me understand the world a little better.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
My wife is a writer and any and all success that I have as a writer is completely because of her. Putting aside the fact that she’s my manager, she’s also my editor and my fiercest critic. She is not afraid to tell me when something isn’t working, and even if she didn’t want to tell me, I know her well enough to know when she doesn’t like something. She’s been a writer much longer than I have and she takes it ultra-seriously, and if she doesn’t like something she takes it very personally because she considers it a waste of time to be reading it in the first place. Frankly, her criticisms can border on cruel from time to time, but I also know if she does like something it’s because it has value.
Also I’ve been friendly with a handful of other writers, from novelists to journalists and screenwriters and people who write for television. I would say the most helpful thing they’ve done is just to being people that I know and who were friendly. Like, I think when you want to do something like writing it can be easy to think of it as this impossible task that only select people can do. But when you’re friends aunt is a novelist and you’ve spent nights in her den watching Mystery Science Theater 3000 when you were in high school, or your other high school friend ends up writing for Cougar Town eventually creates a show on ABC starring Eva Longoria, it feels more attainable because it’s a thing that people you’ve known have done.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
My cat was my spirit animal.
What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?
I mean, I don’t really base my characters on real people very often. I sometimes take real-life situations and put different people into them in order to talk about something that I think is interesting, but the people who inhabit the situation are made up. I guess the closest person I’ve ever actually based a character on is my little sister, but I don’t owe her squat because she put a crease in my Sandman number eight back in nineteen ninety-seven after I specifically told her to be careful with it. That comic was signed by Neil Gaiman.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I have one unpublished novel that I co-wrote with my wife that we’re in the process of editing, and one novel that I’ve almost finished the first draft.
What does literary success look like to you?
Success is a disappearing horizon. When I was younger I just wanted to write a book for its own sake to prove to myself that I could. Then I wanted to write something that I actually thought was front to back good; then I wanted to write something that actually sold, and so on.
Now that I’ve had a book published I think success would be having three or four more books published. I want to feel like I was able to sustain and build a readership so that people who read The Minors would be interested in something else that I did. Right now, that’s what success looks like to me.
But if that were to happen and you were to ask me what success looked like I would almost certainly have a completely different answer.
What’s the best way to market your books?
I think I’m pretty good at talking, maybe interviews and readings? We’ve done a few and they seemed to go pretty well.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I don’t do a lot of research before I write because my books take place in the present and any real facts that I would need are available on google or whatever when I need them. Like I might want to make sure that a movie or song was out in a specific year or that one city is a specific distance from another or something like that. I use google maps to get street views in order to describe certain locations better too. I also have friends who I call when I have questions about specific things that I might have, like I have a friend who is a lawyer and went to school at the University of Chicago and he was helpful for little details about life in a law firm or the area specifically around U of Chicago.
That said, there are books that I would like to read sometime in the future that I would want to do research on, but they would mostly be psychology and sociology books.
In the book I’m working on now I actually have the characters actively using their smartphones to look up details about things and learning while they are interacting with other people, so if there’s something that I’m interested in for the story I often make the character interested in it and actively research it quickly.
How many hours a day do you write?
I don’t write in terms of time, I write in terms of words. I have a set number of words that I want to get in a day and I usually don’t stop writing until I get to that number, and if I don’t hit that number, the difference rolls over and is added to the next day.
So when I’m starting something I usually try and spend the first few weeks getting down five hundred words a day. Then, when I feel like the five hundred is coming easily, I up it to seven-fifty, then a thousand. At that point, I usually stick to a thousand words, sometimes I will do more if inspiration strikes or whatever, and I’ll end up doing fifteen hundred or even two or three thousand words in a day. But that’s super rare and only when I’m in the middle of the climax or something like that.
What period of your life do you find you write about most often? (child, teenager, young adult)
Mostly I’ve written about childhood, teenagers and young adulthood, but as I get older I write more and more about adulthood. When I wrote The Minors I was thirty two and my protagonists were sixteen and twenty eight. I’m thirty eight now and in the new book I’m writing the protagonist is thirty two or so. I don’t think I like to write about something until I’m at least five or so years older than the person experiencing it. That’s not a hard and fast rule, but it tends to be where I end up more often than not.
How do you select the names of your characters?
Usually pretty randomly. I’m not great at remembering names in real life, I just look at the books all around me and I think of the names that pop out at me, either writers or characters, and I put them together in ways that sound appealing. That’s what I mostly do anyway, sometimes there are more personal reasons. Like my favorite name is Sam, for a boy or a girl, so it was the name of the main characters in a lot of the stuff that I wrote, and also my cat’s name, and also the name of my son.
So now I think I’m pretty much done with naming anyone Sam.
If you didn’t write, what would you do for work? And if writing isn't your "day job", what are you currently doing to pay the bills?
I currently am a booker for a talent agency.
What is your favorite childhood book?
If I had to pick something specific, it wouldn’t be a prose book. It would probably be Calvin and Hobbes or Peanuts.
Does your family support your career as a writer?
Completely. My wife is my manager and editor and best reader and I literally would be dead in a ditch without her.
August 1, 2017 -- We are proud to release our nonfiction essay anthology From All Corners that features the essays that were selected as finalists from the nonfiction essay writing contest this year. The authors, Michael Murray, JoeAnn Hart, Willow Curry, Mick Bennett, and Erica Zilleruelo offer up different perspectives, ranging from hilarious to solemn.
You can find the book on our site or any major retailers, including Amazon.
From All Corners: An Anthology
These essays were selected as finalists (and the grand prize winner) through our nonfiction essay writing contest held in 2017. The contest resulted in the selection of Michael Murray’s essay taking the grand prize, and earning him the chance to write a full-length manuscript with publication by Unsolicited Press.
Pre-orders now available.
Price includes shipping and handling.
For the last six years, we've been holding inventory in our office for every single book we've put out. As you can imagine, that's a lot of space being held by books. But that's not the issue. For these years, we've been doing all of the order handling ourselves too. Sticking books in packaging, printing/writing labels, and taking books to the post to be shipped to readers.
In addition to handling those in-office orders, we were also working with a fulfillment center that wasn't the best...we've had plenty of dropped orders, wrongly shipped items...well you get the point. The publishing business becomes 100 times more difficult when you are doing every little thing in-house.
We initially did everything ourselves because of money and motive. First, we had zero capital to store our books anywhere but in the houses of our editors (how kind of them!). Second, we wanted that publisher-to-reader feel about everything. But it got daunting. And just to complicated.
This year, 2017, we have been able to put enough money back into the business that we were able to fire our old fulfillment company and pick a better company. We've teamed up with Ingram to warehouse our books. And that just made sense because last year, we began the long process of hiring Ingram to help us with everything from distribution to sales. By the end of 2017, all of our books will be distributed and handled through Ingram -- including printing. By taking some of those jobs off our plates, we now have more time to edit, to read, and to make our authors see their books come to the shelves.
Where the heck is this post going? Well, you need to know that we are no longer handling the orders for current titles. We are processing pre-orders, but that's because we like to make pre-orders important and special. Our readers who commit to a book deserve the best treatment.
But current titles, which means any book that has already seen its publishing date come and go, can be purchased from a major retailer. Amazon, Powell's, Barnes & Noble...you name it, they should have it. You can still find all of our current and forthcoming titles on our BOOKS page.
Thanks for your support!
If you haven't been keeping up with us via the newsletter, then you may have missed out on the pre-order for Brian Looney's book Alcoholic Murmurs.
The poetry is a lyrical movement that follows an alcoholic from the depths of addiction and into the qualms of recovery. The speaker experiences a range of state's of mind including disorientation, hallucinations, self-made arguments, and more.
To get a better feel for Looney's book, we interviewed him about Alcoholic Murmurs and writing. Here is what he had to say:
Is this your first published work?
Yes and no. This is the first work that I’ve had published with a company like Unsolicited, but I’ve already done some work previously. Mostly chapbooks, but I do have 1 poetry book, Food to Fill Your Belly With, that I published with Publish America.
Did you have a system to get things published?
Well, I wrote part 1 of Alcoholic Murmurs five or six years ago. Mostly, I just was googling stuff, submitting maybe 10 places to the different publishers I thought would fit with the book.
So how would you describe the style of this compilation?
I would say it’s a mix between prose and poetry, like narrative poetry.
Follow up to that: Do you prefer poetry or prose?
I like blurring the lines. I’m not a fan of traditional rhyming. It limits your creativity. This way, I get to play with the language and also communicate what I want.
Do you have a routine when you’re writing? Do you like to write in public, by yourself, pen and paper or computer?
Well I write almost every day, but I don’t write in public. If I have a particular phrase or word, I’ll jot it on my phone and then work on it later at home. I prefer computers. Writing on paper is just more secretarial work, because then I have to transfer it to the computer. Everything I do is pretty heavily edited, by me. I don’t really go for creative circles, as the work I do is usually very personal.
What inspired you to write about alcoholism?
Personal issues in my past, so it is kind of based on my past, but there is some embellishment.
Any idea what’s next for you?
I’m pretty much always working on something. Not shopping around [looking to submit], but I’m always working. The process of cover letters and rejection letters can get to me. I’ve started drawing three years ago, and I do the covers for my work.
What are you doing that’s exciting?
I’m currently in a residency with the Pike’s Peak library district out here [in Colorado]. I go from library to library, drawing in some and teaching some classes in others. People can stop in and talk to me while I’m drawing. It’s nice to start to get a foothold in the region.
What’s something that you want people to know about the book?
Well, as I said before, part 1 was written five or six years ago. Part 2 was at the request of Unsolicited. I think that the writing style has a matured a little bit. The pieces are longer [in Part 2], and help to finish the narrative.
Part 1 was a chapbook, well initially a short story, but I chopped it up into the chapbook that was called Fragments of Frailty.
Who are some of your inspirations?
They aren’t poets, but novelists. The two biggest are Victor Hugo and Marcel Proust. One of my favorite books is Remembrance of Things Past [as known as In Search of Lost Time].
The Last Map explores language’s role as the mediator between humanity and nature. Combining a deep reverence for the power of language with profound anxieties about language’s tendency to contaminate that which it represents, these poems reside between the impulse to succumb to the seductive qualities of words and the drive to penetrate through words into the unmediated world.
Narrative modes ranging from history to mythology, from folklore to family legends, and from cosmology to apocalyptic eschatology are simultaneously exploited for their aesthetic potency and subjected to skeptical internal critique. Each poem engages ongoing human efforts to manage and articulate encounters with the radical otherness and uncanny familiarity of the natural world.
The interpenetration of humanity and nature is revealed as both exhilarating and terrifying, and, as the cumulative effects of these encounters proliferate, the contact between these two worlds becomes increasingly fraught with complications for both. As the personae that populate these poems struggle with nature within and nature without, they come to question conventional ways of understanding themselves, their relationships, and their values. They consequently begin to perceive a new world ripe with strange possibilities, a world that all of their maps, both literal and figurative, seem ill-equipped to describe.
Zilleruelo's poems display a deep commitment to pursuing poetry’s aesthetic dimensions. His disciplined, musical free verse reminds readers that poems are more than mere ideas meant to be interpreted--they are also aesthetic artifacts intended to be experienced.
Where to Buy It
You can purchase a copy of Art's book on our website, or any major retailer such as Amazon, BN, and more! An ebook is available via Amazon.
Anne Leigh Parrish's collection of short stories By the Wayside was just honored by the International Book Awards. Parrish was named as a finalist in the Fiction: Short Story category and we are thrilled for her.
Of course, as her publisher, we could have told you she was going to win. Have you read her stories? They are soooooooooo good. Beyond good. Her craft reminds us of Pam Houston's work. It's real. It's nitty gritty. And most of all, it sucks you in and when you get to the last page of the last story, you want another.
What People Are Saying
"Anne Leigh Parrish’s third collection is both a charm and a gem, a vividly imagined work that introduces us to genies hidden in spare tires, Virgin Mary images concealed inside body parts, and Jewish professors disguised as Calvinists in small-town South Dakota. In stories that are crisp and poignant, yet told with a hint of wonder, Parrish captures the details of domestic life with its inexorable echoes of childhood and its family vortices. Rich and nuanced, conjuring up the spirits of Muriel Spark and Henry Green, By the Wayside belongs very much at the center of our literary road."
-- Jacob M. Appel, author of The Topless Widow of Herkimer Street.
"Anne Leigh Parrish is one of the best of a new wave of American short story writers reinvigorating the form. Many of these writers specialize at flash fiction-- a genre at which Parrish is a master. She also, however, excels at stories of more traditional length. Her tales, long or short, are highly readable but also convey intelligence and meaning. Few writers today create as much compassion for their characters, or draw as much emotion from their situations, as does Anne Leigh Parrish."
-- Karl Wenclas, Editor, New Pop Lit.
Cornelia Street Cafe Reading with Mark Belair, Ohan Hominis, Eleanor Levine, and Gemma Cooper-Novack!
The 2017 Nonfiction Essay Contest gave us the chance to read amazing voices from emerging and established voices from around the country. We want to say thank you to those of you who submitted and to those who have support Unsolicited Press in the last five years. Okay, okay, let's just do this already.
Michael Murray has been selected as the grand prize winner of the contest and we are happy to offer him a contract for a book, on any topic or as an expansion of his essay, Spring Break.
We shouldn't forget the finalists, though. Although we wanted to select 15 writers for the anthology, we decided to narrow it down to four other writers that demonstrated an incredible knack for essay writing. After all, we refuse to select 15 essays for the sake of selecting essays, when in fact, only four other essays were worthy of publication. The finalists of the contest are Mick Bennett, Erica Zilleruelo, Willow Curry, and JoeAnn Hart.
Once we narrow down the details, we will tell you more information about the the anthology, Michael's book, and anything about the finalists!
Wednesday, May 10, 2017 at 7:00 pm
Moonstone Poetry @Fergie’s Pub
Wednesday, April 19, 2017 at 12:30 pm
University of Penn Bookstore
3601 Walnut St.
Philadelphia, PA 19104
At last! Alison Hicks' poetry collection You Who Took the Boat Out. We hit a snag yesterday in getting the media materials out, but we are happy to announce that they are out and we are proud of Alison's book.
It has been a beauty to work with. You can buy her book on Amazon (with 2-day shipping) or through our site.
Here's a bit about the collection:
A woman in middle-age takes a canoe out onto the water at night and must discern obstacles barely visible to keep her craft afloat. Her reward is a vision of stars transformed as they are reflected back through water. Her guide is the loon, whose red eye is capable of seeing underwater, and whose wail echoes and beckons. An adolescent whose mother has become ill must traverse the big country she finds inside herself to find a life worth living. A daughter mourns a father. In this collection, Alison Hicks looks beneath the surface of our emotional lives to murky shapes: the twists and turns we are unable to predict, the scrape of love and the experience of being lost, the whimsy of our fantasies, visitation by spirit guides of myth and legend, things we try to keep secret and yet seek to reveal, the hurt that has happened and the tasks to be undertaken.
We Might As Well Be Underwater is a collection of poetry split into two parts: Travelling and Not Travelling. Cooper-Novack lyrically discusses family, love, death, aging, and illness through travels. The collection travels through Cape Town, Sydney, Venice, Moscow, Chicago, Antarctica, London, Tokyo, Oregon, Florida, and many more places while also uniting the world through experiences.
Readers will enjoy the sense of space and how certain memories or ideas are sprung from a specific environment. Throughout her travels Cooper-Novack explores many spaces, cleverly exposing emotion in places revisited and sharing memories in new environments. They will both feel foreign and familiar as she leads us to both specific and general places (places that are described and could be in any community). Cooper-Novack lyrically composes stanzas that discuss the journey of life through aging and travels while also discovering home.
Anne Leigh Parrish's collection By the Wayside released just a week ago and the reviews are really swell. We wanted to share one of our favorites with you, written by Chrissi Sepe on Amazon:
Anne Leigh Parrish's stories hit an emotional nerve which ensures you will remember them. One of my favorite stories in her newest collection, "By The Wayside," is "Where Love Lies." It is about a woman named Dana who moves to a quiet, yet gossipy, island town to escape her former life. Her self-esteem is wrecked, and she wants to start over and rebuild her confidence and heal herself through her love of painting. However, as she befriends an older man and finds herself attracted to another man closer to her age, she realizes that this beautiful island town is everything but serene, and danger lurks because, as she says: "Hating was far easier than loving, and came more naturally."
Yet Dana survives, as Parrish's female protagonists seem to do. No matter how difficult situations get for these strong women, they persist and often turn out wiser and more confident and capable than they were when we first met them in their stories. Not only do we as readers discover shocking truths about them, but the characters themselves are often surprised at the capabilities they hold inside and of what they are able to achieve if they just have the courage to speak up or to make changes in their lives.
In "How She Was Found," lead character, Fiona, begins the story described as a "mouse." She is compliant and insecure, and these traits are not likely to serve her well when she sets out as the only female on an archaeological dig with her professor and three male fellow graduate students. When she finds the bone of a human hand, she believes her professor will finally take her seriously, as she feels he never listens to her.
Where to Buy Anne's Book
Q: Many of the characters in your stories are men struggling with guilt, shame, confusion, lust, and existential angst. What draws you to these characters?
You’re talking about the essential building blocks to a healthy existence! Seriously, most of us spend our entire lives wallowing in that emotional stew.
The night before my father died – at age 90 – he was still feeling angst over his father’s mistreatment eighty years earlier. Eighty years! My Dad was born during a worldwide plague, lived through the Depression, fought in World War II, almost died several times, helped raise five children, managed to construct a terrific life with a great wife and family, and live twenty years longer than he ever could have imagined. But the biggest thing on his mind as he slipped away was his abusive father.
That incident, along with a personal experience that happened a few years later and which at the time seemed traumatic, was the catalyst that led to my search for emotional peace. I was feeling guilt, discontent, and anger that, especially considering my advantaged and relatively trouble-free life, didn’t make sense to me.
Writing became my therapy, and in particular, writing about angst-ridden characters became a way to exorcise my own emotional demons. The challenge is to lose the baggage that doesn’t matter, while maintaining a proper dose of self-analysis to keep you from becoming a complete asshole.
Q: Several of your stories are about the struggle to adapt to a new reality, both from the standpoint of getting older and also because what was once familiar is quickly vanishing as technology advances. A few of your characters see the benefits of technology, but some also experience the downside, like your character in “Hecklers” that becomes an overnight YouTube star. What are your attitudes about technology and how does the tension between getting older and keeping pace with our rapidly changing world inform your writing?
I am deeply conflicted on the entire issue of technology. It makes me sad to see a couple or an entire family ignoring each other at dinner, their gazes tilted into their crotches, preferring online interaction over the people in front of them. That being said, technology has been very good to me personally, and it seems an essential tool for the challenging future humans face. I am also somewhat of an early adopter, and can’t imagine life without many of my silly devices. Could life exist without Sonos? Of course not. Plus, not a day goes by that I don’t see some interesting storyline in our love of technology.
My biggest concern—and the latest literary theme that seems to be driving me—is that we are in uncharted human territory, and we don’t know how this will all develop. Communication has become so trivial, our societal heroes so plastic, that it all feels very out of control. Online communication is uniquely anonymous, so honesty, civility, and compassion are no longer valued. In many ways it has become a digital highway for hate. That was certainly a big part of my motivation for writing “One Star.”
For the first time, human beings seem to be switching ecosystems. Since our origin we have been part of the interconnected system of living organisms that make up this planet. I spend a lot of my free time working on environmental issues, and one of the things you quickly learn in how connected all living things are, and what seems to be a relatively minor disruption can have major consequences. Our blatant disregard for the earth, and our relentless drive to instead plug into the worldwide web portends a big change. It feels like we might be abandoning this living ecosystem, to jack into a manufactured world that has completely different rules, and outcomes, we might not understand.
Q: What do you think women would think of the men in your stories? Do you think most men view women the way your characters do?
Ah, that seems to be a bit of a loaded question. I am the first to admit that some of the men I write about are truly awful human beings, but hopefully the reader understands that I am usually being satirical, or in my darker stories, exploring those horrifying, yet compelling personalities that make us shudder. And I totally reject the idea that writing should be hampered by political correctness, as life isn’t politically correct.
You might not like all my characters, but they will never bore you. Sometimes I burden a single character with the terrible traits I’ve observed in multiple individuals to better highlight a point, making that personality a little over the top. Throughout the collection I also hope the reader discovers many authentic, likable men. The man in Costco Girl, and The Tower are confused romantics. The fathers in Midnight Elvis and One Star are emblematic of the strong, wonderful, flawed men I knew growing up that were just trying to provide for their families.
Q: You’re a 30-year veteran of the advertising world. How does that inform your writing?
Advertising can be a terrific training ground for a writer. Most importantly, it teaches you creative discipline. You’re not allowed to have writer’s block. Colleagues and clients are waiting, and your job is on the line. You have to create every single day, and meet every deadline. You grow accustomed, and in fact, appreciate constructive criticism and editing. By its very nature advertising forces brevity, and a multi-layered approach to communication, which can be a great asset.
It also forces you to stay culturally aware, and depending on the kind of advertising you are involved with, it can provide you with a lifetime of interesting characters: crazy inventors, bombastic CEOs (one was accused of murder), sociopath advertising directors, sex fiends, religious fanatics, a narcoleptic woman that would fall asleep in meetings while eating Dairy Queen Dip Cones, Mafia members, movie and television stars both on the way up and on the way out…. A cavalcade of awful, wonderful, slightly insane characters that inspired me with a lifetime of stories.
Q: You grew up in Montana, but now divide your time between California, Oregon, and Washington. Most of your stories are set in those places. What significance does “place” play in your life and your writing?
I’m acutely interested in the connection between place and persona, and to understand the connection I think you need to spend time there, so all of my stories are rooted in locations that I know well. I will often research a hundred years’ of a town’s history before I use it in a story. It helps me, and I think it helps the reader. I want them to literally be able to smell the place, and know how the location has shaped the character.
In my story “Impala,” a boy is kidnapped outside of Sunset Bowling Alley in Billings, Montana. Sunset is a real place that I spent a lot of time frequenting as a kid. I loved it, but it always seemed sinister to me. When I was considering the location for a kidnapping, it seemed perfect.
A lot of my work takes place in Montana—in fact I’m working on a novel right now that’s set in Montana and Oregon, the two states I know best. Generally, I just like people from Montana. The good ones have a libertarian streak that transcends the usual biases. They tend to be self-sufficient, and are generous. They’re tough, but very friendly. And they never feel inclined to demonstrate how smart they are, it just unfolds in normal conversation. Dewey, the Sheriff in The Purification, reminds me a lot of the men I grew up around. He’s economical in emotion and word, with a deep sense of duty, a wide tender streak, and a surprisingly good sense of humor. Montana also gave me my literary roots. I spent my undergraduate years at the University of Montana.
Q: Are there particular kinds of stories you’re drawn to? Ones you steer clear of?
It sounds awfully basic, but I like a story with a beginning, middle, and an end. I tend to value concept equally with craft. I want to take my readers on a journey, as opposed to just painting a beautiful scene, and I like my characters big and messy. I want a laugh, or at least a smile, or perhaps to shock you.
Q: Some of your stories are based on true events like “Dick Cheney Shot Me In the Face” and “The Big Chocolate Whizzle.” What inspires you to fictionalize and flesh out true events?
There is a basis of truth to all my stories, as I tend to be a collector of unusual events that inspire me to investigate more, and imagine the circumstances that preceded the story.
A few years ago I was in Jackson Hole, Wyoming at a fly-fishing tournament. One night Dick Cheney showed up, floating through the room like a smiling corpse, and of course the conversation among my friends migrated to his hunting skills. Cheney is so iconic, and I became very curious. I read a couple books on the man, and researched his background. While my narrator in the story is fictional, all the facts about Cheney are true, and I thought it just became an interesting way to bridge fact and fiction.
Years ago my wife and I were on an overnight flight from LA to Australia, and when we woke up in the morning I discovered that the flight attendants had handcuffed a young man to a bathroom door in the rear of the plane. Sometime during the night he had gotten drunk, jumped up on his seat, and began urinating on his fellow passengers, which I believe placed him high on the terrible traveler scale. I researched the phenomenon, and discovered it was not all that unusual. Who would have thought that was a thing? The main episode that occurs in “The Big Chocolate Whizzle” is based on a real event I discovered during the research; a business executive overly imbibed on a flight, and ended up ruining his life. I wouldn’t have thought to make that one up.
Q: Many of your stories are darkly humorous and have hints of irreverence. How do you approach comic relief in your stories without being gratuitous?
Your question makes the kind inference that my work isn’t gratuitous. I do hope it isn’t, but sometimes it’s difficult not to cross a line, as it is often in the eye of the reader. About a year ago I received the following rejection letter from an editor: “Thanks for your submission. I found the story very insensitive and offensive on many levels, but I must say it was the best thing I read all week. It made me laugh out loud. Unfortunately, we could never publish it.” A week later another publication accepted it absent any trepidation, and it is in the collection. I will let the reader guess which story he was talking about.
Wit is its own brand of intelligence, and I admire and aspire to witty writing. Those that do it well can navigate potentially gratuitous subjects with grace. Take the fart joke. As told by guys like Adam Sandler it will always be gratuitous; more shocking than funny. But thirty years ago I read David Niven’s wonderfully witty biography, The Moon’s a Balloon, which contains the greatest fart joke ever told. I still clearly remember it; a wonderful story involving Cary Grant and a surprised fan.
Sometimes I’m unsure if I crossed a line, and I tend to call on five or six different people that I respect to read the work. Each of them has a different comic sensibility that I understand, and I look to their responses to judge if the piece is working. They almost never agree, and I don’t write by committee, but sometimes there is consensus about something that escaped me that I take seriously.
Q: What books do you remember most from childhood? Any stories or characters that really stuck with you through the years? Is there a particular book that made you want to write, and who influences you now?
My literary journey began with The Hardy Boys, Jack London, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. I remember being obsessed with Treasure Island, The Swiss Family Robinson, A Wrinkle in Time, My Side of the Mountain, The Outsiders, and The Catcher in the Rye. From there I discovered Stephen King, and a host of mystery writers often read via flashlight under the covers.
Hunter S. Thompson’s work was probably my first major literary crush as a near adult. I’ve admired Gay Talese, especially Thy Neighbor’s Wife, though I have to admit I’m a bit baffled by his newest book, The Voyeur’s Motel.
More recently I’m inspired by Tom Perotta’s ability to move from suburban wit to dark, high concept tales. I’ve had a life-long love affair with Elmore Leonard’s writing, especially his incredible dialogue. I’m a fan of Richard Russo’s dry humor, and smart, stoic men. The opening paragraph to his newest book, Everybody’s Fool, was a delightfully humbling experience. I will always read anything Cormac McCarthy writes, though sometimes it’s a bit difficult to stomach. Carl Hiaasen is a wonderfully funny satirist, and I love Dave Eggers take on culture.
A COMPELLING AND IRREVERENT LITERARY DEBUT BY A FORMER ADVERTISING
DICK CHENEY SHOT ME IN THE FACE: And Other Tales Of Men In Pain (Unsolicited Press | February 17, 2016) is an enthralling story collection by Timothy O’Leary. Unexpected, humorous, sometimes dark, and surprisingly heartfelt, here are tales that explore the secret life of men as they pass into adulthood, middle age, and old age confronting lust, pain, guilt, bewilderment, and mortality. O’Leary has won numerous literary awards for his stories and his title story was a finalist for the Mark Twain Award for Humor Writing.
You’ve probably heard about the man who Dick Cheney shot in the face, but what if he wasn’t the only victim? In the title story of the collection, we meet Henry who gets shot in the face by Dick Cheney and is blinded in one eye. It’s not anger that overcomes Henry, but a sense of guilt for not warning the next victim. In this unique and funny story O’Leary explores the shame that comes from pride, the anxiety of helplessness, and whether men of a certain age can have deep friendships with other men. While a fictional character tells this story, all the facts about Cheney are true.
Ian Davis is an obsessive-compulsive loner and a recovering alcoholic. But when a homeless man––who closely resembles the actor Gary Busey––starts harassing him on his way to work, he resorts to old habits to ease his anxiety and loneliness. Ian’s bad habits lead to a deadly confrontation and what he thinks is self- defense is quickly deemed murder. Before Ian has even been arrested, a video of the confrontation surfaces on the Internet. In “Homeless Gary Busey,” the reader is forced to question the power of perception, technology turning the public into judge and jury, and how a single event or misunderstanding can take someone from relative comfort to the street.
Kenny, a former sitcom star, is a veteran comedian who quickly realizes his act doesn’t hold up against a savvy millennial comic named Donny, in “Hecklers.” In a desperate attempt to level the playing field, Kenny tries to bond with Donny by assisting in vandalizing a patron’s car in the comedy club’s parking lot. But unbeknownst to Kenny he was being videotaped for Donny’s YouTube channel. The video suddenly goes viral and Kenny quickly finds out that overnight success isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
In eighteen stories we also meet: a distraught husband who experiences heartbreak and salvation after his wife dies in a car accident caused by a texting teenager; a successful man who returns to his hometown and finds his first love stacking jars at a local Costco; a sheriff in a Western town circa early 1900s confronts a pedophile and his own past abuse; an Iraq war veteran turned bodyguard who encounters the biggest threat of his life in a Las Vegas Nightclub; a successful attorney who abandons his legal career to play the iPad guitar.
While DICK CHENEY SHOT ME IN THE FACE is eclectic in range, O’Leary has a knack for telling stories that all have immediacy and purpose. His thirty-year career creating award-winning ads has endowed him with an entertaining style, an ear for dialogue, and the ability to boil down larger issue with dexterity. In spare, at times satirical, and illuminating prose, his stories delve into far ranging issues from the homelessness crisis, to the positive and negative impact of technology, to Baby Boomers trying to navigate an increasingly complex world turned upside down by the digitization of communication and business. Fans of Tom Perotta, BJ Novak, and Carl Hiaasen will enjoy this stunning debut from an interesting and immensely talented new writer.
February 16, 2017 marks the end and the beginning (so the middle?) of a long and wonderful journey with Timothy O'Leary and his short story collection Dick Cheney Shot Me in the Face*.
It's been a wild ride. And we are thrilled to see O'Leary make his debut in a graceful and daring move as he opens his launch in Portland this weekend.
But before we get to that...we want to share one of the reviews left by a reader, Jeff Merrick.
And when you're done, head on over and get a copy before they run out! Because the just might.
In the opening and title story of his riveting collection, Timothy O’Leary returns fire, blasting the S.O.B. Cheney with true facts spun out by a fictional victim in a most entertaining way. As with all of the stories, O’Leary’s exuberant, fast-paced style bobs us down rivers of his savvy takes on the cultures, fun, fears, and realities of our time.
“One Star” gets into the heads and hearts of a struggling immigrant restaurant family and struggling, married, U.S. born customers disappointed by a declined Groupon. A drunken Yelp-like review exposes a cleavage too often exploited by politicians and leading to consequences both sides regret.
A has-been sitcom actor was content with his life of booze and pussy as a travelling stand-up comic until he is blind-sided by an up-and-coming talent using the technology and tools of today in “Hecklers.”
A widower who avoided cell phones and blames them for the death of his wife takes another look at his departed wife and the phone’s benefits when the neighbor boy shows him a video of her at her best in “The Tower.”
Each story in this collection is a gem of thought, language and craft. Some are funny, some are darkly funny (e.g., “Adolph’s [Hitler] Return”), and others are dramatic. All are superbly entertaining. Together, they process and contextualize the world around us from the perspective of someone who has been paying attention for the past four decades.
Personally, I finish about one in every nine books I begin. I finished this one in no time. My biggest criticism is that I wish there were even more than eighteen stories.
In a spirit of fairness, we have decided to hold a nonfiction essay writing contest. Most years, we do a fiction or poetry writing contest, but 2017 is the year of nonfiction, so we want to honor all of you wonderful and daring nonfiction writers.
You can read these rules and submit here.
February 10 Pub West Conference
February 16 XRAY in the Morning
8:00AM Details TBD
February 18 Mother Foucault’s hosted by Dig A Pony Bar
7:00PM @ Dig a Pony
7:30-8PM – Reading at Dig A Pony
8PM-8:30PM – Audience Q&A
Book signing + mingling at bar and bookshop: 8:30p onward.
Fact & Fiction
U of M Bookstore
Cocktail Reception to follow. Details TBD.
Barnes & Noble
Reading/Signing at 7PM
530 S 24th Street West
Billings, MT 59102
NEW YORK CITY
Reading/Stuart Elliot at 7PM
828 Broadway (12th st)
New York, NY 10003
Porter Square Books
Reading/Signing/Q&A at 7PM
Porter Square Shopping Center
25 White St.
Cambridge, MA 02140
Reading from 5-6PM
470 East Valley Road
Santa Barbara, CA 93108
Al Chavez Luncheon @ Red Barn
3539 Saguno St
Santa Ynez, CA
$25.00 Book Author Reception-Concert-Lunch
9:30-10:00 Check-in / Booksigning
11:30-12:00 Lunch (Red Barn Classic Burger)
12:00-1:00 Talk & Booksigning
In conversation w/Auggie Smith from 7L30PM-8:30PM
453 S Spring St – Ground Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Anne Leigh Parrish's "By the Wayside" short story collection releases on 2.8.17....here's a code for a discounted ebook!
Anne Leigh Parrish's short story collection By the Wayside releases on February 8, 2017. To honor that release and show our love for our readers, we would like to offer her ebook at 20% off via Smashwords!
The code: SH34U
You can get your copy HERE. Preorders are accepted. The code lasts 30 days and is available to the first 100 downloads. So get your read on and check out Anne's book!
Don't know anything about the book? Here's some information:
Marvelous. Honest. Generous. From the first story to the last, "By the Wayside" catches your attention and demands that you give into its every whirl. Each character unfolds with a precision that will have you wondering how Parrish managed to create such real-to-the-bones people within a world that captivates you with ease.
Unsolicited Press is launching a search for the very best nonfiction essay. The contest is open from February 2, 2017 through to March 15, 2017.
All essay lengths will be considered.
The Grand Prize Winner will receive guaranteed publication from U.P. for a book-length piece of nonfiction that expands upon the essay or another topic completely.
The top 15 essayists will be published in an essay collection to be distributed worldwide. Essayists will be heavily promoted as well.
Interested? Learn more here.
If you weren't able to make it out to Michael Overa's reading in Seattle, here are some stunning photos! You can follow Michael on tumblr for the latest news and events.
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