Special thanks to Karissa Chen for publishing my short story “Stop Hitting Yourself” in Hyphen Magazine’s forthcoming Adoptee Lit folio. It’ll be on newsstands and shelves in early November.
I recently stumbled on Sherman Alexie’s classic essay “Superman and Me,” in which he discusses how he first discovered the joys of reading. Later on, after he becomes a noteworthy poet and short story writer, he visits schools on reservations and encourages the students to write their own stories and poems. “I am trying to save their lives,” he writes, noting that “A smart Indian is a dangerous Indian.”
My take on Alexie’s essay is that there are entire generations, entire groups who have been beaten down so long that they don’t realize that their lives and experiences have value. Teaching someone how to re-discover and raise their voice is certainly a noble task, one that affirms the value of one’s life and presumably leads to additional quiet benefits that can last a lifetime. And in terms of politics, to paraphrase Alexie, a smart Indian who realizes their worth can start to raise their voice and challenge the status quo. And that’s important–it is my opinion that in our current political climate, we’re going to need a bottom-up and top-down approach to make any meaningful or lasting change.
I’m proud that Sarabande Books (which is a nonprofit based in Louisville, KY) does a lot of literary outreach work and works hard to promote local writers and literature. This year, they’re participating in the Community Foundation of Louisville’s philanthropic event “Give for Good Louisville” on Thursday, September 14. Every dollar Sarabande raises will be increased with a proportional match and additional prize dollars, so it’s a great opportunity to maximize your giving. I’m donating, and I hope you’ll be able to join me.
A few days before I started grad school, Pitt’s MFA Program Director invited all the MFA students from all genres to the back room of Hemingway’s Cafe. It was a great way to meet everyone, and I’m sure that 23 year-old Robert made a terrible impression on many of his future classmates.
For this reason, and many others, Hemingway’s Cafe has always held a special place in my heart. If you’re in town next Tuesday, 35 year-old Robert will be there to make another terrible impression, as he plans to read some new material. Details: 3911 Forbes Avenue in the back room, 8PM.
Even better, you can also come hear:
Joan E. Bauer is the author of The Almost Sound of Drowning (Main Street Rag, 2008). Recent work has appeared in Chiron Review, Cider Press Review, The Paterson Literary Review, Slipstream, Uppagus, US 1 Worksheets, and Vox Populi: A Public Sphere for Politics & Poetry. Joan worked for some years as an English teacher and educational counselor and now divides her time between Venice, CA, and Pittsburgh, PA where she co-hosts and curates the Hemingway Summer Poetry Series with Jimmy Cvetic.
Sheila Carter-Jones has been described by Herbert Woodward Martin as one who writes with “immediacy of tone, voice and language.” Much of her work to date charts in images and music the lived experiences of a small-town girl brought up in a house across from the boney dump of Republic Steel Coal Mines outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She has been published in Pennsylvania Review, Pittsburgh Quarterly, Tri-State Anthology, Blair Mountain Press and Flights. Grace Cavalieri, producer and host of “The Poet and the Poem from the Library of Congress” says that Sheila’s recent book Blackberry Cobbler Song premiers a narrative poet in the greatest tradition of American storytellers. She is currently working on a new poetry manuscript and a memoir.
Karla Lamb’s work has appeared in Word Riot, Brooklyn-based A Women’s Thing Magazine, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Pittsburgh City Paper, Runaway Hotel, and Voices from the Attic Vol. XIX. Lamb is a current MFA candidate in Carlow University’s Creative Writing program, and is currently working on her full length manuscript. She edits for After Happy Hour Review, and curates DOUBLE MIRЯOR EXHIBIT in Pittsburgh, PA.
Arlene Weiner is the author of City Bird (Ragged Sky). A city bird herself, Arlene Weiner grew up in pre-gentrification Manhattan and now lives in Pittsburgh. She has been a cardiology technician, a college instructor, an editor, and a research associate/member of a group developing educational software. She belongs to the US 1 Poets’ Cooperative, Pittsburgh Poetry Exchange, Squirrel Hill Poetry workshop and Madwomen in the Attic. Arlene has had poems published in Pleiades, Poet Lore, The Louisville Review, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, anthologized in Along These Rivers, and read by Garrison Keillor on his riter’s Almanac. Poet Joy Katz wrote of Arlene’s previous collection of poems, Escape Velocity (Ragged Sky, 2006), “I want to keep my favorite of these beautifully alert, surprising poems with me as I grow old.” Her play, Findings, was produced this past March by the Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company.
A lifelong writer, Justin Vicari is a widely published poet, critic and translator. His first collection, The Professional Weepers (Pavement Saw, 2011), won the Transcontinental Award. His work has appeared in Barrow Street, Spoon River Poetry Review, 32 Poems, Hotel Amerika, The Ledge, Oranges & Sardines, American Poetry Review, Southern Poetry Review, Third Coast, and other journals. He lives in the South Hills of Pittsburgh.
From Sarabande Books’ announcement today:
We are pleased to announce the winner of the 2017 Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction judged by Paul Yoon is Tiny Heroes, Tiny Villains by Robert Yune.
This means Tiny Heroes will be published by Sarabande sometime in 2018. Sarabande is one of the nation’s premiere independent publishers, and they’re also doing great education and advocacy work. It took a long time to publish this collection, but I can’t imagine a better home.
As my former Readings students could tell you, I’m a huge fan of Paul Yoon–even taught Once the Shore a couple years ago. If you missed my FB announcement, here it is:
If writing a novel is like creating a world you start to live in, then writing a short story collection is more like curating a museum exhibit. Putting together TINY HEROES, TINY VILLAINS meant meeting (and sometimes confronting) past versions of myself: the angry MFA candidate with something to prove, a young writer suddenly untethered from the conventions of writing workshops, a desperate adjunct professor adrift during a recession, a bored writer suddenly obsessed with breaking rules, and so on.
Any good exhibit could have its own exhibit displaying the countless researchers, archivists, librarians, and unlikely contributors who made it possible.
THTV had a long, winding path to publication, but over the past five years, one thing that will always amaze me is the unwavering support from my family and friends. Throughout the years, many of you saved these stories from my worst impulses and all of you encouraged me to become a better artist and person. I’m proud of these stories, but I’m even prouder that this book is a monument to all the wonderful people who made it possible.
There’s not enough room to name everyone here, but I do want to say that this book would not exist without Geeta Kothari, who saved it from being a malformed novel, literary hero Sarah Gorham, and judge extraordinaire Paul Yoon. Congratulations to all the finalists as well!
If you’re in Pittsburgh this Wednesday, June 28, I’ll be reading with Paola Corso and Nancy Krygowski for The Bridge Series, which was organized by local literary hero Kris Collins. Most of the proceeds from the reading go to a local humanitarian or social justice organization each month.
Proceeds for this one will benefit the Greater Pittsburgh Literary Council. Thanks to Jen Ashburn for inviting me, and hope to see you there!
Thanks again to Ken Salzer, who, through the glitchy miracle of technology, transformed me into a beam of light and shared me with his students yesterday.
I’m teaching an intro to lit course right now, and I’ve dedicated a fair amount of class time to showing video interviews with authors and discussing the author’s life and inspirations. I think it’s important to see authors as human, not as dusty relics from the distant past.
While it’s probably true that you should never meet your heroes (and I’m not saying that I’m anyone’s hero), it’s dangerous to think of authors as remote, priestlike oracles. Writers are smart, tenacious people, but most of all, they’re people who are bold enough to take part in a conversation with culture, with other writers living and dead, with the distant past and future. It’s easier to join that conversation if you view authors as people who procrastinate and eat Cool Ranch Doritos while fretting about money. It’s much harder if you view authors as mythic giants. (That said, who wouldn’t like to be a mythic giant?)
It’s a pleasantly strange experience speaking to any group of people as an author. As someone who was once an undergrad at Pitt, it’s surreal to think that students in the same classrooms are reading my novel and writing papers on it (especially after they’ve just read Mysteries of Pittsburgh and other books that were on my shelves as a teenager). Ken’s students were really engaged and asked some great questions; I’d hope I did them justice.
As an aspiring writer in grad school, it was something of an epiphany to meet writers like George Saunders, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Dan Chaon. Sitting there, watching them eat and talk about 80s music, it started to dawn on me that writing wasn’t some kind of magic superpower bestowed by the gods. It was something that took hard work and practice, but it was certainly something within the realm of possibility.