Alix Ohlin at Skylight Books

OK, I’ve been bad lately about getting to my monthly literary calendar. As in: I haven’t posted one for nearly a year. Sorry. And thanks to those who missed my posts and inquired.

I nearly got my act together earlier this month because I wanted to help promote Steve Almond‘s appearance at Skylight Books with his new story collection God Bless America (which includes “Donkey Greedy, Donkey Gets Punched,” featured in the most recent Best American Short Stories). And now comes along one of my very favorite short story writers, Alix Ohlin, appearing tomorrow (June 21, 7:30) at Skylight Books with both a new novel and a new story collection. I discovered Ohlin in the 2005 edition of Best American Short Stories–her story “Simple Exercises for the Beginning Student” is a small miracle. I then went on to read and review her collection Babylon & Other Stories.

Ohlin’s new collection, Signs and Wonders, is drawing praise from the likes of Joy Williams, Richard Bausch and Jim Shepard. And the new novel, Inside, was just named Book of the Week by none other than Oprah. She’s deservedly getting a lot of press these days, including this nice write-up in The Globe and Mail. Along with Richard Ford, she was featured earlier this week on the new Los Angeles Review of Books show on KCRW.


Literary LA August ’11

A light calendar as most literary venues scale back for the month:

  • Thurs 8/4 7pm, John Burnham Schwartz comes to town with his novel Northwest Corner, which revisits many of the characters from his earlier bestseller Reservation Road – at Book Soup in West Hollywood.
  • Fri 8/5 7pm-10pm, the Highland Park art gallery and performance space Public Fiction presents the debut issue of a new literary journal of the same name, featuring some good names like Trinie Dalton (Wide-Eyed). The event will feature negronis, beer and wine; live DJ set and other performances – 749 N. Avenue 50 (corner of Ave 50 and Aldama). [Event info is not up at their website, but if you click on the About link you can sign up for email alerts]
  • Sat 8/13 5pm, readings from Fire in the Moonlight, an anthology of writings from the “radical faerie” movement – at Skylight Books in Los Feliz.
  • Sun 8/14 7pm, the New Short Fiction Series presents “Life Cycle of the Sturgeon” and other stories by Elizabeth Ziemska – at The Writers Junction, 1001 Colorado Avenue in Santa Monica (doors at 6:30, $10 in advance, $15 at the door).
Published in: on August 2, 2011 at 1:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

Literary LA July ’11

  • In a relatively light month, too much going on at Los Feliz’s Skylight Books to capture fully but here goes: Wed 7/6 7:30pm, LA Times columnist Meghan Daum moderates a panel of local luminaries (among them Seth Green, Leslie Schwartz and Diana Wagman) on the intersections and differences between fiction and narrative non-fiction; Thurs 7/7 7:30pm, El Monte’s own Toni Margarita Plummer and her debut story collection The Bolero of Andi Rowe; Fri 7/8 7pm, a launch party for the second issue of Afterzine, described by the Skylight folks as “uber-hip” which is usually a bad sign but can you go wrong with the likes of Miranda July, Maud Newton and (gulp) Zooey Deschanel?; Sat 7/9 5pm, a meet ‘n greet for the PEN Emerging Voices Program, featuring a short reading and panel discussion, followed by a cocktail reception (also catch the PEN reading at the Hammer, Wed 7/20); Thurs 7/21 7:30pm, local litmag Slake presents readings from their third issue (you can also catch them at Vroman’s on the 25th); Wed 7/27 7:30, Emma Straub arrives with her new story collection Other People We Married; and finally, Thurs 7/28 7:30pm, a writer I don’t know but several local bloggers think highly of, Dana Spiotta, reading from her Los Angeles-set novel Stone Arabia
  • The New Short Fiction Series delivers a one-two punch this month: Tues 7/5 6:30pm-7:30pm, a special evening of writings on the theme of independence (also at a special location, the Annenberg Community Beach House, 415 PCH in Santa Monica); and Sun 7/10 7pm, the regularly scheduled July show (at their new venue, The Writers Junction, 1001 Colorado Blvd in Santa Monica), ‘The Wild Grass & Other Stories’ by David Malasarn
  • A couple of good events at UCLA’s Hammer Museum, one of the best places in town to catch a reading: Wed 7/13 7pm, readings from Jesse Ball (most recently The Curfew) and Daniel Orozco (whose stories have appeared in both the Pushcart and Best American anthologies); and Wed 7/20 7pm, readings from this year’s PEN Emerging Voices Fellows
  • And finally, you can close out the month with the always spirited proceedings of Vermin on the Mount: Sun 7/31 8pm, a 7th anniversary party featuring Andrew Foster Altschul, James Freed, Charles Yu and others; at Chinatown’s Mountain Bar
Published in: on July 3, 2011 at 5:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

Literary LA June ’11

Skylight Books: Sun 6/12 5pm, the always engaging Steve Almond with a handful of his self-published books, including This Won’t Take But a Minute, Honey, which includes some excellent thoughts on the craft of writing; Fri 6/17 7:30pm, Jesus Angel Garcia with Badbadbad, intriguingly described by Kyle Minor as “the disinherited love child of Philip Roth and Flannery O’Connor”; Thurs 6/23 7:30, readings from LA’s newest literary journal The Rattling Wall (if you miss them here, catch them on the 29th at Book Soup)

UCLA’s Hammer Museum: Thurs 6/9 7pm, Vendela Vida (most recently, The Lovers) along with Heidi Julavits (The Effect of Living Backwards)–both are co-founders of the journal The Believer

New Short Fiction Series: Sun 6/12 7pm, a book release event presenting the debut story collection from Erica Bauermeister, Joy for Beginners

Vroman’s Bookstore: Sat 6/11 5pm, Erica Bauermeister and her debut story collection Joy for Beginners (see New Short Fiction Series above); Thurs 6/23 7pm, an edgy pairing of Grace Krilanovich, whose The Orange Eats Creeps rescues Northwestern vampires from Twilight mushiness; and Wyatt Doyle and his story collection Stop Requested (“Bukowski without the nasty streak”)

ALOUD at the Central Library: Thurs 6/16 7pm, Alina Simone and her tragic-comic journey through Indie Rock, with a decidedly punk Eastern European tilt

Tongue & Groove: on Sat 6/18 8pm, a special show at a special location and special time–“Boyle Heights: The Other LA” featuring Luis Rodriguez, Xavi Moreno, David Kippen and others–Grand Performance Stage, 350 S. Grand Ave LA

Word Theatre: Sun 6/19 5:30pm continues their ‘Lit by Lulu’ series with an evening of dramatic readings of short stories featuring performers like Amy Brenneman, and writers like Jane Smiley

Published in: on June 4, 2011 at 12:39 am  Leave a Comment  

“Everything Must Go”–Read the Story First

Even serious readers, when they see a movie coming up that’s based on a work of fiction, face the dilemma: Do I read the book first, or do I just go out and see the movie? In the case of the new Will Ferrell movie “Everything Must Go,” there’s no dilemma, no excuse–it’s based on a very short story by Raymond Carver that takes all of a few minutes to read.

So honor Short Story Month by reading “Why Don’t You Dance?” If this is your first exposure to Carver, and you like it, check out the collection in which it first appeared, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.

Published in: on May 13, 2011 at 4:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Literary LA May ’11

Another packed month:

  • Skylight Books: Thurs 5/5 7:30pm, Geoff Dyer (sometimes fiction writer but mainly essayist–his book on jazz, But Beautiful, is an all-time favorite) with a new essay collection, Otherwise Known as the Human Condition; Thurs 5/12 7:30pm, Patrick deWitt with his novel The Sisters Brothers, a reworking of the Western some are comparing to Charles Portis; Sat 5/14 5pm, new readings from West Coast litmag ZYZZYVA, and a chance to meet new editor Laura Cogan, who takes the helm from founder Howard Junker after 25 years; Thurs 5/19 7:30pm, Bret Easton Ellis reads from Imperial Bedrooms, now out in paperback
  • The New Short Fiction Series–LA’s longest-running spoken-word series–relocates to The Writers Junction in Santa Monica (1001 Colorado Ave) for its annual Emerging Voices Show, always a good time, featuring six fresh new literary voices–$10 in advance, $15 at the door.
  • ALOUD at the Central Library: Thurs 5/12 7pm, Gary Shteyngart talking about Super Sad True Love Story; Tues 5/17 7pm, Francisco Goldman, discussing what sounds like a wrenching novel, Say Her Name, inspired by his wife’s death
  • Some great readings this month at UCLA’S Hammer Museum, one of the best literary venues in town (all events at 7pm): Wed 5/11, release party for the inaugural issue of The Rattling Wall, an exciting new LA literary journal–readers include Neal Pollack, Sam Dunn, Matthew Zapruder and Lou Mathews; Tues 5/24, Norman Rush; Wed 5/25, readings from Salvatore Scibona and Karen Russell, whose new novel Swamplandia! is drawing a lot of attention; Tues 5/31, playwright/screenwriter David Mamet, in conversation with magician and frequent collaborator Ricky Jay
  • Vroman’s: Wed 5/11 7pm, Danzy Senna and her new collection of stories, You Are Free; Fri 5/20 7pm, Geraldine Brooks and Caleb’s Crossing; Sun 5/22 5pm, Emma Donoghue and her harrowing novel Room
  • Book Soup: Fri 5/20 7pm, Julie Orringer and her widely praised new novel The Invisible Bridge (I’ve been very impressed with what I’ve read from her story collection How to Breathe Underwater)
  • Last but not least, Sun 5/22, Word Theatre presents an evening of fiction by Charles Baxter, whose Gryphon: New and Selected Stories is just out; readers include JK Simmons and Baxter himself; doors at 6pm, show at 6:30; at Soho House in West Hollywood, 9200 Sunset Blvd

May is Short Story Month

Who says so? Dan Wickett, and that’s good enough for me.

There are months for just about everything, it seems. Since 1996, April has been National Poetry Month. As the 2009 edition of National Poetry Month wound down, Dan decided to step forward and declare May Short Story Month. Dan is a tireless literary enthusiast, founder of the Emerging Writers Network, and now co-director of Dzanc Books–which under its own name and various imprints does as much as anyone on the current literary scene to bring new short story writers into the light.

In its few years, Short Story Month has gained momentum and is observed by a number of presses and literary sites. Check in with the Short Story Month Facebook Page and see what’s going on. At the Emerging Writers Network, Dan will be posting about three stories a day, many of them live on the ‘net. Fiction Writers Review will observe the month with reviews, interviews and more. Matt Bell–editor of Dzanc’s new online literary journal The Collagist, and author of the recently published How They Were Found–also promises a full slate of short fiction goodness. And don’t forget The Short Review, devoted entirely to reviewing short story collections.

Literary LA April ’11

A packed month so let’s go:

  • Skylight Books: Mon 4/4 7:30pm, Michelle Latiolais with her new story collection Widow; Tues 4/5 7:30pm, much-loved author, teacher and Santa Monica Review founder Jim Krusoe and his new novel Toward You, published by Tin House; Fri 4/15 7:30pm, Blake Butler and Justin Taylor with their novels There Is No Year and The Gospel of Anarchy; Sat 4/16 5pm, a release party for David Foster Wallace’s posthumous novel The Pale King
  • Book Soup: Mon 4/11 7pm, Alexi Zenter and his novel Touch
  • Vroman’s: Fri 4/8 7pm, not fiction, but Diane Ackerman is someone every writer should read–her new book, One Hundred Names for Love, is about her husband’s aphasia following a severe stroke (event is at All Saint’s Church, 132 N. Euclid Ave in Pasadena); Tues 4/12 7pm, Thaisa Frank and her historical novel Heidegger’s Glasses
  • New Short Fiction Series: Sun 4/10 7pm, live readings of stories by Stacey Levine (a very interesting author–more about this later)
  • Word Theatre: Thurs 4/14 7:30, in association with, their annual “The Women” showcase of up-and-coming women writers
  • UCLA’s Hammer Museum: Wed 4/27 7pm, David Bezmozgis (Natasha and Other Stories) and Deb Olin Unferth (Vacation)
  • Central Library’s ALOUD Series: Tues 4/26 7pm, a conversation with Jamaica Kincaid
  • Tongue & Groove: Sun 4/17 6pm, a reading from this year’s PEN Emerging Voices Fellows (Hotel Cafe, 1623 1/2 N. Cahuenga)
  • Vermin on the Mount: Sun 4/30 7pm, the West Coast launch of Re-Telling, an anthology of literary borrowings, with Heidi Durrow, Stephen Elliot, Terese Svoboda and Jim Ruland (at Chinatown’s Mountain Bar)
  • And finally, Sat 4/30 & Sun 5/1, the annual LA Times Festival of Books, this year moving shop from the UCLA campus to USC
Published in: on April 2, 2011 at 8:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

Lou Mathews in ‘Failbetter’

Last year Failbetter–one of the best online literary journals out there, and whose name derives from the great Samuel Beckett quote–ran a novella contest that was won by Lou Mathews, a friend/teacher/mentor of mine. The winning entry, The Irish Sextet, has been published in installments over the last few months. Now the complete work is available online. One of the stories (I won’t prejudice you by saying which) has already inspired me to overhaul the ending to one of my own stories. It’s a lesson in building toward something.

Published in: on March 19, 2011 at 4:16 pm  Comments (1)  

Submission Opportunities (3)

I haven’t posted one of these in over a year and will try to be better about that. Some interesting theme issues with deadlines coming up soon, and one contest of note:

  • Tin House has three themed issues coming up, two with April 1 deadlines: ‘The Ecstatic’ will be their Fall 2011 issue, and ‘Beauty’ their Winter 2011 issue; and for their Spring 2012 issue (deadline Oct 1), ‘Weird Science’–click the link for more details.
  • Make, a very interesting magazine out of Chicago, has a ‘Neither/Nor’ theme (the website doesn’t expand on this, so just go ahead and have fun with it), deadline April 15.
  • Ecotone (a relatively new journal getting a lot of notice) has a ‘Happiness’ theme issue, deadline April 15.
  • Also with a deadline of April 15, Harpur Palate has a theme called ‘Underground.’
  • And, finally, a contest I didn’t see listed in Poets & Writers (usually the best way to stay on top of contests). BOMB is a terrific magazine built around interviews between artists from different fields. Their literary supplement, First Proof, publishes consistently challenging stuff–tending toward the experimental, but still accessible. They’re running a fiction contest judged by Rivka Galchen (Atmospheric Disturbances), deadline April 16.
Published in: on March 19, 2011 at 3:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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