Monday, October 26, 2009

Writer's Digest 78th Annual Writing Competition

This year, I decided to enter the Writer's Digest 78th Annual Writing Competition. I sent in two entries, both in the Literary/Mainstream Short Story category, and they both placed! The Nomads placed 1st and Over The Wall placed 4th. I won a total of $1,100 and $150 worth of books, plus a copy of the 2010 Writer's Market Deluxe Edition. The competition had almost 14,000 entries so this was quite a confidence boost!

The Nomads will be published in the Writer's Digest Competition Collection, an anthology featuring the first-place winners in each category. Other categories included poetry, screenplays, stage plays, memoirs and articles.

1st place won me one hundred dollar's worth of WD books and 4th place got me another fifty dollar's worth. Not sure yet if I'll be able to pick which books I want, or if I'll end up with duplicates. If I do get duplicates, or books I've already read, I'll probably give them away here on this blog, so check back for updates on that if interested.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Annie Dillard and the Writing Life.

"If you’re doing your job, the reader feels what you felt. You don’t have to tell the reader how to feel. No one likes to be told how to feel about something. And if you doubt that, just go ahead. Try and tell someone how to feel."

That's an excerpt from a beautiful article by novelist Alexander Chee. Read the rest of it here.

Friday, October 23, 2009

How To Leave Hialeah

This is a stunning collection of earthy, uproarious stories that force you to smile even as they break your heart. Ms. Crucet doesn't hold back at all in her intimate depictions of the lives of Cuban immigrants in Miami.

I first encountered one of the stories in this book in an online literary journal and was captivated by the writer's honesty. Here's a link to the story, Low Tide. If you're not sure whether or not to buy this book, go and read Low Tide first. It will give you an appetite for more.

As always, I'd be happy to mail my copy to anyone who is on a tight budget because of the recession. Just send me an email or comment on this post if you want it.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Free Book Alert

Enter a random drawing to win one of three amazing books at

Small Kingdoms:
"Set in Kuwait during the ominous years between the two Gulf Wars, Small Kingdoms traces the intersecting lives of five people—rich and poor, native and foreigner, Muslim, Christian, and non-believer—when they discover that a teenaged Indian housemaid is being brutally abused by her employer."

Small Kingdoms is published by The Permanent Press. I'm reading one of their books now (won a bound galley in a pre-release giveaway) and am loving it.

A Disobedient Girl:
"Ru Freeman's debut novel chronicles the trials and travails of two Sri Lankan women and their pursuit of freedom. Orphaned then absorbed as a servant into a well-to-do Sri Lankan family at the age of five, Latha Kumari grows up in tandem with the family's spoiled young daughter, Thara. However, Latha's mysterious origins and ambiguous caste ensure her a future of unpaid servitude in the Vithanages's household. Resentful, she involves herself with the man meant for Thara. This choice ultimately causes her loss and suffering."

"A young prostitute seeking temporary refuge from the brothel, Rachel awakens in a beautiful garden in Arles to discover she is being sketched by a red-haired man in a yellow straw hat. This is no ordinary artist but the eccentric painter Vincent van Gogh—and their meeting marks the beginning of a remarkable relationship. He arrives at their first assignation at No. 1, Rue du Bout d'Arles, with a bouquet of wildflowers and a request to paint her—and before long, a deep, intense attachment grows between Rachel and the gifted, tormented soul".

Friday, October 9, 2009

Is US Literature Too Insular?

Herta Mueller, a Romanian born writer, has won the 2009 Nobel prize for literature. There was a bit of an uproar in the US in 2008 over remarks made by then-secretary of the Nobel Prize committee, Horace Engdahl. He commented that the U.S. is too isolated, too insular to win, and that Europe still is the center of the literary world. A lot of people were hoping, or even expecting, that the committee would find a winner outside Europe this year, but that obviously didn't happen.

Here's a pretty good round-up of reactions to the announcement.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Two More Stories Accepted

Two of my short stories have been accepted for publication in the last week. The first, Dogs and Refugees was accepted by Necessary Fiction, the web journal of So New Publishing. The second, Bus Man, was accepted by Cantaraville. It will appear in Cantaraville Ten, due out next year. Cantaraville is a PDF quarterly, which can be purchased for $4.95.

Monday, October 5, 2009


Maybe you like yourself.
Maybe you don't.
Maybe you're asking yourself that very question right now as my words jar your curiosity.
But don't answer. Not now. Wait.

So opens David LaBounty's dark novel, Affluenza, and right away you get a sense of what you're in for. The person speaking to you is Charles Dash and, while he may be a certifiable sociopath, he is also frighteningly reminiscent of the average consumer zombie. He buys, buy, buys, everything he wants, maxing out all his high-limit credit cards and using the equity in his supersized house as an ATM. He can't drive a car that's more than three years old. He has to outdo the neighbors. His kids stare blankly at an endlessly blaring TV as he finds prostitutes to stand in for his indifferent wife. She shops too, and he pays for it.

At some point, the inevitable happens and the credit runs out. The ARM mortgage adjusts. The minimum payments on the credit cards increase. Charles Dash can no longer manage to hold together the illusion of a prosperous life. And that's when the violence begins.

I didn't relate to much in this book on a personal level because I abandoned the "Affluenza" type of lifestyle a long time ago. What makes this book worth reading is the story – it's well done and compelling and draws you along from page to page. Charles Dash is a fully realized character and even pitiable at times. You can't help wanting to know what will happen to him. What makes the book valuable is the way it documents this era of disconnected spending, in a memorable way. If we manage to survive global climate change, as a species and as a culture, this is a book that I think (hope!) would be enlightening to future generations. It would tell them a lot about people of the 80s, 90s, and 00s. Yes, Charles Dash engages in acts of extreme violence and, for that reason, is not completely typical of the average American. But his violence is the violence of our day.