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Contributor spotlight interview in Midwestern Gothic

The good folks over at MG recently posted a contributor’s spotlight interview I did with them. Here’s the first question:

How long have you been writing?

I started writing in earnest around 14, mostly poetry and song lyrics because I was starting a band around this time. I launched into a first novel when I was 17, written in pencil on yellow legal pads. It was a day in the life of a 17-year-old suburban hoodlum who is in a punk band and tries very hard to score 40-ouncers of malt liquor and make out with girls. I never finished it because I was too busy trying to score 40-ouncers of malt liquor and make out with girls, but I’ve been steadily working on novels, short stories, essays and journalism ever since. 

More here at Midwestern Gothic.


Lucy and the Bear in HYPERtext

BearAnother installment of life in Bear County, Michigan —  “Lucy and the Bear” in Chicago’s super-hype HYPERtext mag:

First paragraphs:

The little girl wanted to be a bear. Whenever she walked, she imagined the muscles in her arms and legs expanding, ripping off her shirt and pants and sprouting coarse, black hair. The little girl learned to growl like a bear. At night, she pressed her face into the pillow and roared so loud that the back of her throat hurt. Feeling totally free of all worry and energy, she would fall asleep instantly.

Read the whole story here. 

Welcome to Gilbertville (formerly Detroit) in Belt magazine

gilbertSome thoughts on Dan Gilbert’s berserk real estate binge in downtown Detroit for Belt magazine out of Cleveland.

First paragraphs:

To average people with average amounts of money, the very wealthy can come off like the hereditary elite did to struggling and hungry pre-democracy populations. The super-rich are the object of both envy and derision. They control our economic fates to a certain degree, and the relationship takes on a paternalistic color. We smile when they coddle us and give us treats and howl with rebellion when they taketh away. What drives our fascinating is that unlike those of us limited by our incomes and access to power, the super-rich can buy whatever they want.

Read the rest here.


Blog relay: Talking Jerry Darn for “About a Character”

Courtesy of Davey Sommers of the Post Family

Courtesy of Davey Sommers of the Post Family

This is part of a blog relay to which the Great Lakes Review editor Rob Jackson invited me to participate in. Rob was invited by Don DeGrazia, author of “American Skin” and my thesis advisor when I earned an MFA at Columbia College Chicago. Basically, it’s a chain of writers all answering the same questions about a character. Read Don’s responses here. Read Rob’s responses here

What is the name of your fictional (or historical) character? Where is the book set?

Jerry Darn is drunkenly marauding around Chicago in February of 2007.

What should we know about him?

Jerry was the frontman for the band, Strange Days, and quit right before they were about to make it big in the 1990s because of authenticity issues. He is bearded, has a giant gut and drinks recklessly. He also has a huge appetite for sex and opinions. He basically tries to live like a rock star but doesn’t have any of the money or fame. He’s about to turn 30 but has only left Chicago city limits once.

What is the main conflict? What messes up his life?

His boyhood friend, Joe, is killed serving in Iraq. Jerry has to get their buddy, Mick, to the funeral. Mick was the second guitarist in Strange Days and went on to worldwide rock and roll success with his band The Cutlery, which he formed after Jerry flaked out and quit music. He now calls himself Mick Dagger.

What is the personal goal of the character?

Jerry wants to be true in life, art and love. More tangibly, he wants to make sure rock star Mick isn’t too cool to show up to the funeral. On the day-to-day, though, Jerry is happy with mugs of Old Style and trying to makeout with girls at his hangout bar, the Mutiny.

What is the title of this book, and can we read more about it?

Jerry Darn Nation. A short story of the same name was published in the Pure Fiction edition of the Chicago Reader in 2010. I’m wrapping up a draft of the novel now. Read the story here. 

The Skull House in Midwestern Gothic

Very excited to be in the summer 2014 issue of Midwestern Gothic, a great journal based out of Ann Arbor.

First paragraphs:

Lillie Korpela collected skulls. She disappeared deep into the federal forest behind her family’s old dairy farm in northern Michigan’s Bear County during all seasons for sixty years, trudging through knee-high snow in the winter to find the remains of animals that had starved to death. In the summer, the waxy green woods were a hot riot of mos- quitoes and flies. She would brave the heat and bugs to find deer, raccoon, and porcupine carcasses decomposing and rank in the steamy swamps and drag them back to the farmhouse to clean, a process Lillie had learned when she was 18 and checked out a book on osteology from the Sampo branch of the library. 

Cover image copyright (c) Tara Reeves.

Cover image copyright (c) Tara Reeves.


Here is the Midwestern Gothic to buy and cherish

Greektown 1983 in A Detroit Anthology

My contribution to “A Detroit Anthology” is the short essay “Greektown 1983.”


First paragraphs:

Stella waited for me in Greektown. She scurried down Monroe Street in her army coat covered in patches, a dozen bright-colored barrettes in her matted grey hair, crooked face leading the way. She carried dozens of shopping bags filled with what any schizophrenic needs for life on the streets. I couldn’t imagine what they were. Cans of sardines? A thousand more hair barrettes still in their packages? Plastic bags filled with more plastic bags? 

Buy this. For real. It’s all badass. 

The Final Voyage in The Great Lakes Review

My contributions to the Great Lakes Review aren’t limited to this Bear County story, I also coordinate the online Narrative Map for the journal.


First paragraphs:

Captain Frank Bjorklund stared at the silver Samsonite emblem swimming on the black suitcase like a beacon in the dark and knew it was time to flee. Age and disease had taken his vigor. He refused to look at his naked body in the mirror anymore. The sag of his underarms and the mushy lumps his muscles had become didn’t make any sense. When his wife fell asleep at night, he would do push-ups in the dark. They were weak and feeble— nothing like what he performed in the Navy years before—but they built his strength up, something he didn’t want his wife to know. It was like he was a convict planning an escape, which in many ways he was.

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