Congratulations to Sarah Viren for her upcoming memoir To Name the Bigger Lie, published by Scribner. It begins as Sarah researches her high school English teacher—a man who taught his students to question everything—in preparation for a new book. As she delves into the effects of his teaching, however, her wife Marta is informed that she’s being investigated for sexual misconduct. Sarah knows the accusations must be false, but when she’s drawn further into the investigation, Sarah struggles with the nature of truth, skepticism, and what is fact.
A thrilling, labyrinthine and ultimately illuminating reckoning with what it feels like to caught up in a vortex of post-truth, conspiracy, and lies, Sarah Viren’s To Name the Bigger Lie is a fascinating and deeply disturbing account of our contemporary age of weaponized falsehoods. That what most of us experience only through the news came for her life so personally makes for heart-in-throat reading. This is a memoir, yes, but it’s also a view into a terrifying aspect of modernity, and Viren’s ability to unspool complicated tangles for the reader is unparalleled.
Alex Marzano-Lesnevich, author of The Fact of a Body
Sarah Viren has written an essay collection, Mine, which won the the River Teeth Book Prize and the GLCA New Writer’s Award. Currently, she is an assistant professor in the creative writing program at Arizona State University and a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine. To learn more about her, visit her website.
Sarah Viren’s To Name the Bigger Lie is a work of radical moral philosophy as much as a memoir of one woman’s confrontation with the seeming contradictions of certainty and doubt, truth and conspiracy, of the sometimes unbridgeable distance between the truth we know and the one we can prove. This is one of the most astonishing books I’ve ever read—a beacon in these uncertain times.
Lacy M. Johnson, author of The Reckonings
To Name the Bigger Lie will be available in June of 2023. Pre-order it here.
Congratulations to Roxanne Doty for her debut novel Out Stealing Water, published by Regal House. Originally a finalist in the Autumn House 2019 fiction contest, Out Stealing Water follows Emily, who must live without water after the city shuts off her family’s access. Her uncle Dwight, who doesn’t believe he should pay for water, simply steals it from others. This is when Emily and her cousin Paula begin stealing, too, trying to collect enough money to leave Phoenix. As their crimes escalate, Dwight joins forces with an armed anti-government group to keep his land out of the government’s hands.
…The consideration of class energize[s] the narrative, which quickly but effectively builds to a suspenseful final act. Sublime characters stick together in moral dilemmas and gripping drama.
Roxanne Doty taught and did research at ASU for 30 years in the School of Politics and Global Studies. Her work has been published in Forge, I70 Review, Soundings Review, Four Chambers Literary Magazine, Lascaux Review, Lunaris Review, Journal of Microliterature, NewVerseNews, Saranac Review, Gateway Review and Reunion-The Dallas Review. Her short story “Turbulence,” published in Ocotillo Review, was nominated for the 2019 Pushcart Prize. To learn more, visit her website.
The current conflicts in our different Americas are an integral part of Out Stealing Water, not just touched on but the very foundation that holds the plot together from privilege to poverty, spirituality to doubt, money and power to hardscrabble lives lived on the brink of our cities. The story explores our culture in which losing and winning come down to the dreams and promises on a postcard. Read this illuminating book! It will shine in the dark while you stay awake, hurrying to find out what is next, but slowing down to savor Roxanne Doty’s writing and the depth of her novel.
Congratulations to Chauna Craig for her new short story collection Wings & Other Things, published by Press 53. While her characters differ in terms of circumstance, each story centers around women trying to fly: a widow searching for her past self, a stranded artist accepting a ride from a stranger, lovers sequestered in a cornfield. Her collection is both a migration and a transformation, filled with unusual, eye-catching phrases. Railroad tracks morph into an “infinite number line,” and a lightning bolt becomes a “tentacle of the unseen.” Craig captures longing, loss, and freedom as she tells the women’s stories.
The women in these stories are certainly willing to pay to get where they need to go—whether it’s out of bad relationships or into new formed lives. These stories are full of hard-won wisdom, sharp insights, and generous compassion. Her characters suffer from and bear up under ordinary though devastating failures and disappointments, but through force of will, wit, and wonder they persevere and often prevail.
Kerry Neville, author of remember to forget me
Chauna Craig grew up in Montana. Her work has appeared in Jellyfish Review, Blue Fifth Review, and elsewhere. To learn more about her, visit her website.
In small-town, rural, or city life, these women, in perfectly drawn revelatory moments, show us what we settle for and how we are haunted by what could’ve been. These stories and the characters in them disquiet and rivet, demanding our attention and inviting our reflection on how one reconciles the desire for escape with the need to stay put. Subtle and artful in its choreography of miscommunications and conflicting desires, this is an intelligent and absorbing collection.
donna miscolta, author of Living Color: Angie Rubio Stories
Author of House on Mango Street and a dozen other books, Sandra Cisneros has published a collection of poems for the first time in twenty-eight years. Woman Without Shame, published by Knopf, details Cisneros’s journey to embracing her identity as a woman and an artist through song, elegies, and declarations. Using both Spanish and English, Cisneros is both blunt and humorous in her collection.
Sandra Cisneros is currently traveling all over the US, and she will be coming to the Poetry Center in Tucson, AZ, November 9-12. Find a complete list of locations here!
Glorious . . . Cisneros candidly ticks through past lives and lovers with an approach that isn’t concerned with what people will think. . . . As in her former works, Cisneros masters scene-setting, and story, usually with a humorous angle. . . . Woman Without Shame is brave and beautiful.
Meredith Boe, Chicago Review of Books
Sandra Cisneros has won numerous awards throughout her long career as a writer: the Before Columbus Foundation’s American Book Award, the Mountains & Plains Booksellers’ Award, and others. To learn more about her, visit her website.
These lush, narrative-lyrics are written with a vivid wild girl spirit, filled with unbridled love, angst and joy! This book is a page-turner and should not be missed!
Marilyn Chin, author of Portrait of the Self as Nation
Winner of an American Book Award for his poetry collection Currents, Bojan Louis is making his fiction debut with Sinking Bell: Stories. Published by Graywolf Press, Sinking Bell: Stories is a collection that centers on collisions of love, cultures, and racism. All of Louis’s stories take place in or near Flagstaff, Arizona, and they include stunning portrayals of all kinds of people—from metalheads to construction works—struggling to live their complicated lives.
Louis’s prose carries his poetic sensibility with a decided rhythm and resonant detail, and the narrators achingly convey their outsider status. The result is immersive and powerful.
Bojan Louis is Diné of the Naakai dine’é, born for the Áshííhí. His debut novel Currents received an American Book Award in 2018. His work has been published in Alaska Quarterly Review, Ecotone, Yellow Medicine Review, and elsewhere. He currently teaches creative writing at the University of Arizona. To learn more about him, visit his website.
Sinking Bell doesn’t shy away from the dim corners of life. . . . You’re going to want to take your time with this one, and then you’re going to want to press it into the hands of all your best people.
Congratulations to Philip Gross for his upcoming poetry collection The Thirteenth Angel, published by Bloodaxe Books. Coming November 17, 2022, Gross’s collection examines patterns in the world around us and also within ourselves. It teeters between the before and after of the pandemic years, focusing in the opening sequences on almost-aerial views of London streets and Europe’s motorways. It ultimately reveals that “if there are angels, they are nothing otherworldly, but formed by angles of incidence between real immediate things.”
Moving from island to island, continent to continent, Between the Islands is concerned with memories, with resonances throughout time, but also with emergent dangers; ecological fears and the rising islands of refuse accumulating in our oceans.
Poetry Book Society Bulletin, Spring 2020 [on Between the islands]
Philip Gross has written over twenty books of poetry and won a number of awards, including the TS Eliot Prize for his book The Water Table. To learn more about Gross, visit his website.
Great poetry is like walking on water. In this paradoxical, humane collection, Philip Gross achieves that miracle.
Congratulations to Jen Michalski for her new short story collection The Company of Strangers, coming in January 2023. Published by Braddock Avenue Books, The Company of Strangers follows members of Generation X, who are often queer and always searching for meaning and happiness in their lives. Michalski examines the themes of eroding community and family in a variety of ways: from a gay man suddenly confronted with parenthood to a lesbian having an affair with her brother’s wife.
The Company of Strangers is perfect for those searching for messy characters who are confused about what kind of lives they’ve lived and looking for ways to make meaning in them.
Fueled by love, longing, and regret, these captivating stories drop us into the lives of people we come to care deeply about. These are rich, wild, surprising romps of stories with endings that wow. What an immense pleasure to be in the company of these strangers, thanks to Jen Michalski’s brilliant storytelling.
Kathy Anderson, author of Bull and Other Stories
Jen Michalski’s work includes The Tide King, The Summer She Was Underwater, Close Encounters, and others. To learn more about her, visit her website.
A kaleidoscopic and candid exploration of the gritty corners of our desires and all that is left unsaid. By turns irreverent and deeply heartbreaking, Michalski masterfully constructs a collage of sexuality, belonging, and a search for what is possible atop strip malls, parking lots, and bowling alleys. Reminiscent, in some ways, of the genre-pushing work of Zach Doss, Etgar Keret, and Kim Chinquee, Michalski unequivocally carves out a space that is all her own—daring, deeply human, and often gut-wrenching.
Sequoia nagamatsu, author of how high we go in the dark
Congratulations to Lynn Mundell for her new chapbook Let Our Bodies Be Returned to Us. Winner of Yemassee Journal’s 2021 Fiction Chapbook Contest, Mundell’s chapbook is a vivid, visceral look at womanhood. Comprised entirely of flash fiction pieces, Mundell proves she is a master at reaching profound depths with only a few words.
Although Let Our Bodies Be Returned to Us focuses on women, there is no one type of woman Mundell writes about. Young and old, idealized and flawed—she writes with empathy about sisters, mothers, and women who simply are. No two stories are the same: Mundell writes as an unborn, reincarnated baby in her first story “Again,” and later she writes from Mona Lisa’s point of view in “Smile, Lisa.” Her final piece, “Let Our Bodies Be Returned to Us,” is a mesmerizing capstone to a brilliant chapbook. Let Our Bodies Be Returned to Us is perfect for those looking for a collection that’s short but poignant.
The wit, warmth, and skill of this writer struck me immediately. These stories are smart but not smart-alecky, quirky yet polished, broad in their emotional appeal and sharp in their resonance. Again and again, I was taken by surprise—by the originality of the prose, the ingenuity of each scenario, the impact delivered by such a small number of words. I felt for these characters—the sisters in “Cloise,” about to be split apart, the lonely boy in “Mother and Child,” the broken family in “Big Baby,” the pregnant women who refuse to dim their hopes in “Our Bright Lights On.” Though many of these stories are heart-rending, I also found myself smiling, uplifted. This collection and this writer are ready for prime time.
Mira T. Lee, author of the novel Everything Here is Beautiful
Lynn Mundell is a short story writer, publisher, and editor. She and Grant Faulkner founded 100 Word Story in 2010, and her story “Again” appeared in Issue 17 of Superstition Review. To learn more about Lynn Mundell, go to her website.
To purchase Let Our Bodies Be Returned to Us, go here.
We’re also very excited to share an interview that dives deeper into Mundell’s chapbook. This interview was conducted via email by our Blog Editor, Brennie Shoup.
Brennie Shoup: Much of your work is flash fiction. Could you talk about what draws you to this form, and how flash fiction appears in Let Our Bodies Be Returned to Us?
Lynn Mundell: Flash fiction enables us to tell our stories in intimate ways—a secret whispered into an ear; a tale told over a quick warm drink. We boil down the story to its essence, leaving the tea leaves or coffee grounds for later scrutiny. For me it’s been the marriage of my original writing as a poet with my lifelong love of a good story. All of the stories in my chapbook are flash. They include 100-word stories in triptychs, some using numbering and headings for short sections, traditionally plotted longer flash, and some hybrid pieces where poetry and fiction congregate. The first story in the collection is called “Again,” about a baby born over and over and over again that was inspired by a black and white photo of a happy young family. It was published in Superstition Review and remains one of my favorite stories to have told and to read to others, so thank you, Superstition Review!
BS: The original “Let Our Bodies Be Returned to Us” was published in 2018 in Booth. Could you talk about what inspired the piece and how it ended up as the title for your chapbook?
LM: “Let Our Bodies Be Returned to Us” was actually inspired by a very small airplane seat on a flight from Phoenix to Santa Fe! Where the rest of that piece came from is a mystery to me, but there must have been a lot of feelings about how women’s bodies are used and used up that fed into it. I definitely tapped into everything from being hit on when I was younger to breastfeeding my kids. I wrote it at a writing retreat hosted by Meg Tuite and Robert Vaughn that encouraged crossing the border between poetry and fiction writing. I recommend working with these writers or just any sort of a change of scenery for a way to feel freed and inspired to produce new things. I sometimes camp out in a new location for four or five days to unplug and have found my best stories come from these times where I am seeing new things while also working in total isolation. When it was time to organize my stories, “Let Our Bodies” really encapsulated the theme for the whole book, plus it made for an intriguing book title that could also provide a lot of fodder for the cover illustration.
BS: Could you discuss the main themes of your chapbook? How have these themes developed over your career? Do you find yourself writing about the same ideas over and over again?
LM: The theme of the book is women’s bodies—what they are capable of, how they are viewed and objectified, as sources of comfort and conflict, and how ultimately women own them. The book is organized from birth to end of life, and each piece is from a female point of view. The theme surprised me as I sorted through my work looking for the common thread. I have other stories I like that did not fit into the collection thematically at all, and one of the most difficult things about creating the collection was having to give these pieces the heave-ho. I have written everything from ghost stories to creative nonfiction about my early teens living in Iran. Frankly, writing wise I am all over the map.
Typically I write a piece and sort of hope that there will be something cohesive among a few years of my work, but there isn’t always—which is why it took many years for this book to come about with its theme that finally surfaced. I admire writers who can set out to write to a theme and have a collection they are purposefully working toward. I was recently trying to write connected fables about animals, but have thus far only created one I like, about a mother and baby elephant that was published in The Masters Review. I’d like to keep trying on that, but may need to expand the theme to just fables in general or even fables and fairy tales.
BS: Do you have plans for future chapbooks, short story collections, or novels?
LM: I would love to write more books. But right now I am just writing and we will see where that goes. During the pandemic I have sort of gotten off the script of life in general, and in writing toward a publishing objective of any kind, with one thing being very different from the next. This has included a long fairy tale published in Gone Long, a book review for a friend’s new collection in Necessary Fiction, a four-part piece about fishing with my father in Under the Gum Tree, a creative nonfiction about family depression written to a painting in The Ekphrastic Review, a longer mystery in collaboration with artist Merrick Adams in 7x7LA, and others that are pushing what I typically do. At the end of this year I’ll look everything over and see if there is a pattern for a new book or one thing that I like enough as a starting point for a new book. I will say that I have continued to find great joy in writing as well as reading the incredible work that is out there lately.
What I love about writing is the wonderful sense of freedom. In our daily lives we are constrained by the demands of work, family, duty, society, finances, and so forth. But in writing we can leave all of that behind to explore anything with total abandon.
Congratulations to Eric Tran for his new poetry collection Mouth, Sugar, and Smoke, published by Diode Editions. Winner of the 2021 Diode Editions Full-Length Book Prize, this collection “grieves a lover lost to addiction and also swims in the intoxication of desire.” Tran explores themes of grief, lust, and queerness using a variety of poetic forms. Although not limited to one type of poem or one specific subject, Tran’s poetry remains united to create a cohesive piece. Poems selected for the collection are visceral and candid as Tran dives into his own emotions, writing “I’m lousy and bloated / with love.” His poetry is perfect for those searching for a deep discussion of intimacy.
Wounds, here, are not ornamental. Tenderness, here, is as restless and resilient as pain. The poems refuse transformation, superficial resolutions. Instead, the language—unsparing, striking—attends to addiction and death with grace, awe. The emotional complexity is mirrored structurally: the lines waterfall and halt, a sonnet crown jolts awake the mind, sentences simmer with lyrical momentum. Eric Tran’s second book is heart-rich and deftly written—the poems will stay with you long after you finish reading it.
Eduardo c. corral, author of guillotine
Eric Tran is a queer Vietnamese writer and physician. He currently lives in Portland, Oregon. Mouth, Sugar, and Smoke is his second book of poetry, and his work has appeared in RHINO, 32 Poems, the Missouri Review, and elsewhere. To learn more about Eric Tran, go to his website.
I resent no one / the instinct to run’ writes Eric Tran in his brave and beautiful Mouth, Sugar, and Smoke. But this is a poet who never runs. In fact, he pushes deep into the raw center of desire, admitting ‘I’ve wanted your picked-at / scab, your broken voice through a / morning-night call.’ This is a book of lust and brokenness, of ‘suffering as hot / and clean as a pistol’s mouth.’
David Baker’s new book Whale Fall, published by W. W. Norton & Company, is a poetry collection that operates on both a macro and micro level. As Baker’s poetry delves into global ecosystems, it also delves into his personal life. His masterful ability to blend these themes is apparent even early on in the book. His poem “Mullein,” the second in the collection, relates the scientific names of plants to the intimate nicknames Baker’s father gave to friends and family.
Whale Fall is filled with scientific terminology. In fact, the title itself is the name of a particular phenomenon. As Baker explains in his interview with Renee Shea in World Literature Today, a whale fall is an “oceanographic term that describes three stages of [a whale’s] death and decay.” It can take years for the whale carcass to settle on the ocean floor, and its body can provide nutrients to other organisms for decades.
Baker’s poetry is known for its sense of place and environmental message, and Whale Fall follows this trend. For those looking for beautiful nature imagery grounded in environmentalism and threaded with a personal narrative, Whale Fall is the perfect poetry collection.
A virtuoso of eco-poetry and acoustics, Baker meditates on the nonpareil majesty of the planet with rigorous consideration and reverence… Baker’s careful, captivating writing sinks under the skin, summoning a long-forgotten need for stillness, wonder, and attention to the sacrosanctity of the world.
David Baker has written nineteen books, thirteen of them poetry collections. His work has been published in American Poetry Review, Antaeus, The Atlantic Monthly, and elsewhere. To learn more about Baker, visit his website.
From the shadow of the garfish to the memory of seabed in Ohio sandstone, nothing appears to be too slight or too immense for David Baker’s powers of lyric transformation. In book after eloquent book, his artistry has become more purely his own: pared down to essentials while refining its scope of generous inclusion. Baker’s method, like his subject, is the fine pulse of human encounter: here in its most distillate manifestation.
Linda Gregerson, author of prodigal: new and selected poems and magnetic north
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