Support Local Writers

We should support our local artists, whether they are writers, musicians, or painters. This is a sound philosophy, even if it is sometimes difficult to follow: we can only be so many places at once, afford so many babysitters, stay up late so many nights of the week. We’ve all been there, I’m sure. I want to support my friends’ band, but why are they playing at 9 p.m. on a Tuesday? That reading sounds great…let me find a sitter. However, we can read on our own time—how perfect! So buy some books and magazines and support your local artists. The following list will get you started.

For this post I’m focusing on our local writers and their works that have been published this year. What do I mean by local writer? I’m including those who currently live in Georgia, as well as those who have lived here in the past. Many writers have been to school and /or taught in Georgia, while many current Georgia writers have deep roots elsewhere.


Stephanie Perkins now resides in Asheville. I am super excited to read her debut YA novel, Anna and the French Kiss (Dutton) which comes out in December 2010. Her second book, Lola and the Boy Next Door is set to come out in the Fall of 2011. About Anna:

“Very sly. Very funny. Very romantic. You should date this book.”

— MAUREEN JOHNSON, NYT bestselling author of 13 Little Blue Envelopes and Scarlett Fever



Josh Russell gave us the fantastic Yellow Jack (W.W. Norton, 1999) and now My Bright Midnight, A True Story (LSU Press, 2010).  

“I’ve been waiting for more of Josh Russell’s NOLA since Yellow Jack, waiting patiently, most of the time, and now it’s paid off. This book flat out kicks ass in its New Orleansness but also in its humanness, a novel firing on all cylinders, amazing characters, killer details, lyrical language and a plot that keeps the pages turning. A book worth the wait and worth its salt, a novel to read and reread, to savor, to treasure.”
—Tom Franklin, author of Hell at the Breech and Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

Ben Spivey’s debut novel, Flowing in the Gossamer Fold, has received blurbs from Brian Evanson and Gary Lutz.

“Ben Spivey’s alluringly melodial debut novel of a marriage gone asunder unreels itself with the indisputable logic of dreams and delivers, along its phantasmagoric and dazing way, emotional clarities that feel entirely new.”

–Gary Lutz, author of Stories in the Worst Way and I Looked Alive


 Much of this short fiction news is lifted from The New South’s Writing Workshop news page. Visit the site for more news.

Sonya McCoy Wilson published the “The Rigor Tree” in Diverse Voices Quarterly as well as “Brown Paper Bags” in TimBookTu (July 2010).

Karen Gentry’s story “Treasure Island,” which appeared originally in NÖO Jornal, has been selected for the Wigleaf Top 50 [Very] Short Fictions 2010.

John Holman’s story “Credentials” (which first appeared in Mississippi Review) has been reprinted in Fictionaut. Holman’s profile of the South’s best bird appears in the Oxford American‘s Best of the South 2010 (May ’10, Issue 69).

Josh Russell’s story “Young Woman Standing Before a Window” has been published in Epoch (Vol. 58, Number 3).

Dionne Irving’s story “Florida Lives” was a finalist for the Mid-American Review‘s 2009-2010 Sherwood Anderson Fiction Award.

Cheryl Stiles has published a work of creative nonfiction, “Systems Failure,” in Southern Women’s Review. This essay is part of a book length manuscript of essays entitled On Nelson Street.

If you have additional news, corrections, or links you’d like me to add, please leave the information in the comments section of this post. Thanks for reading.

May 2010 News

Great News: My friend Stephanie has many exciting things to share about her journey through publishing.

Good News: The first four chapters of This Novel are thoroughly revised and nearly polished: thirteen more chapters to go. I researched the heck out of 1945 and now I’m wondering—what was the most elitist champagne to be served in 1988? Any ideas? Give me your 80s memories.

Bad News: Georgia continues fall from grace, grace being the elevation granted by one tiny thread holding it up above Mississippi. I’m talking about education [sic].


I haven’t ceased to be baffled at some people’s self-centered nature and lack of courtesy, never mind lack common sense and basic driving ability. Today I was sitting on my couch grading a pile of literary analysis essays when I witnessed another instance of this. My living room has a ten foot wide picture window which allows me a great view of the outdoors…and passing traffic.

We have a new mail-woman, who I don’t know personally but simply adore for the basic fact that the mail now comes daily, and also before noon. Before, the mail came around six at night and only a few times a week.

On the street I live, our mailboxes are on our front porches, which requires the mail-person to stop the mail truck on the road, then get out and deliver the mail by foot. This is the case in plenty of Atlanta neighborhoods. Trucks stop in the right lane, and sometimes they pull a bit onto the sidewalk. Everyone knows mail trucks, just like UPS and FedEx trucks, must stop on the street to then make deliveries. Mail trucks even have fast flashing signal lights on the back to remind you of this fact. It is a pretty basic concept. So, today our mail-woman pulled over and delivered some mail; at least, I got my mail before I witnessed the confrontation.

The mail truck, stopped with flashing lights, is then rear-ended by a woman in a giant dark blue SUV. Now, this road is a long straight away and four lanes. This driver had plenty of time to see the stopped mail truck and change lanes. Instead, this woman, set to smash into it I guess, swerved and rear-ended the back left side of the truck. This road is also residential, has a 35 mph speed limit, and is littered with traffic lights and crosswalks. Suppose someone was driving too fast?–that would be the courteous excuse to give this woman. So:

Pink Shirt Woman does a u-turn after hitting the truck and stops her gargantuant boat in the right lane on the other side of the road and puts on her hazards. Pink Shirt Woman gets in  the mail-woman’s face, points her finger at her, and is obviously yelling. This is when I open my window. After screaming at the mail-woman about it being her fault and how she shouldn’t have her truck in the street, Pink Shirt Woman stomps back near her car to make a phone call. I hear every word of her end of the call.

Even though she is across four lanes of traffic, I can her because her voice is so shrill . She calls some man named Lance and informs him that she has had a wreck because a “Stupid Ass mail truck” was stopped in the street. She screams “Stupid Ass,” so loudly that I, and certainly the mail-woman can hear. Then, to my chagrin, she begins screaming at this Lance: “Why do you think it’s my fault? Why are you assuming it’s my fault? You’re not even here!” I think Lance is familiar with Pink Shirt Woman’s driving skills.

Before a cop is able to arrive, Pink Shirt Woman crosses the street twice more to come yell at the mail-woman. I consider going outside because it seems like such a ridiculous thing for the mail-woman to be putting up with, but the mail-woman appears young and un-rattled, so I just watch.

The cop pulls up and Pink Shirt Woman runs to him to tell him her sob story. Long story short, as this encounter goes on nearly forever, Pink Shirt Woman argues with the cop and the mail-woman. I couldn’t hear anything the cop said, but he looked at the back of the mail truck and wrote Pink Shirt Woman at least one ticket. I’m sure he looked at the truck and said, Well, you rear-ended it. You ran into a parked mail truck, lady.

I couldn’t help but note the irony of the fact that Pink Shirt Woman had her SUV parked in the right lane with its hazards on. I wanted to say to her, How about I come rear-end your car and then claim it is your fault because your car is stopped in the road? Although, she might not understand such a comparison, as her Me-Me-Me! blinders are squishing her brain.

Recently Seen and Heard

Guilty as charged: terribly remiss in my blogging. What have I been doing? Cool projects like this one:

It is amazing how breaking crayons and organizing the colors into various patterns can occupy a four-year-old for days. 200 degrees, six to eight minutes, and you’re all good. Additionally, I’ve been grading many essays and working on the NOVEL. And then, for some reason, I’ve gotten all hyped up again my non-fiction project, the proposal for which I had shelved close to a year ago.

To get my feet wet again, I thought I’d review some recent goods. 

The Chieftains were awesome. Thanks to some fabulous folks, we also had incredible second row seats at the Fox.

The Pogues show was great, but a show at the Tabernacle following on the heels of a show at the Fox got me a little down about the acoustics at the Tabernacle.

Itty Bitty Titty Committee = worst movie ever. Maybe it was written and directed by eighth grade drama students?

Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten is an impressive documentary. I must get me some Clash.

I read Katherine Anne Porter’s Old Mortality, the first of three tiny novels in Pale Horse, Pale Rider. I enjoyed it, and I admire the size: plenty of impact compressed, generations tied into a little bundle.

Friends in Smokelong

Two of my friends, Liane LeMaster and Christopher Bundy, have stories and interviews published in issue 23 of Smokelong Quarterly.

Check out Christopher’s “Earthrise.” I can’t wait to read the novel he mentions in his interview:

The novel BIG IN JAPAN, which I’ve just finished, is a satire of celebrity set primarily in the mountains of central Japan, where I lived for several years. The novel chronicles the struggles of American Kent Richmond, has-been gaijin-tarento (foreign talent) on Japanese television, after the loss of his celebrity and the disappearance of his wife. The book alternates between tabloid articles, letters, YouTube video, excerpts from an unfinished memoir, manga story boards, botched interviews, notes scribbled on napkins, and the primary text, a third-person narrative.

Doesn’t that sound fantastic? Liane’s “Alien Lunch” made me laugh out loud, and I’m still thinking about it. Take a look; it will definitely take less time than a smoke break.

Letters to the Weekend

Flight of the Conchords: You rock my world. Where have you been? Oh, I love you Netflix, for your spot on recommendation. And, Stephanie and Adam, if you are reading this, I know you recommended these dudes too!–but I failed to make the connection until Matt told me so. But now I know. Everyone: rent season one.

Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay: You were a waste of time, I’m afraid. I was disappointed in you. You could have done better.

El Tesoro: You have such a nice little location in that old house where the Decatur Jake’s Ice Cream used to be, next to Twain’s. I was going to eat at Twain’s, but then I saw you. Your tomatillo salsa is delicious. Your tacos are wonderful, especially the three mushroom kind. Your vegan chipotle tacos are impressive by their mere existence.

Taj Majal Imports: I finally came to you, after recommendations by friends years ago. You have the best deal on authentic nag champa in the whole city. I bought the last 12 pack box you had. I will be coming back.

White Oleander: You are the best juicy escapist novel I’ve read in a while. I know a good friend gave you to me, probably years ago, and you sat on a shelf with all the other unread orphans. BUT, I love you now that I know you, now that I finally took the time. Dear reader, if you gave me this wonderful book, do speak up.

Album Debut: Rocksploitation. Plus, Sunday Adventure.

As promised, Rocksploitation put on a rocking show at Limerick Junction last night. The occassion was a CD Release Party for Rocksploitation’s self-titled debut album. We only stayed for the first set, but it was a great show as usual. Stephanie rocks the drums. I sometimes can’t get over Adam’s voice. And Eric tears up the bass. And I abuse active verbs.

This 16 song compact disc brings the trio’s stripped down sound to your living room, where you can enjoy their take on the most easily imitated aspects of 1950’s rock and roll, Merseybeat, and garage rock in comfort and (depending on your living room) style. What’s more, it’s all done in just over 30 minutes, because Rocksploitation is the only rock and roll group that respects your busy lifestyle. All the other bands are just narcissists who only care about themselves, so don’t give them your money. The exceptions to this rule are of course, anyone we’ve played with, who’s helped us, or is thinking of helping us.

The band-mates of Rocksploitation are awesome folks and good friends of mine. That said, many people suck. College started a couple of weeks ago, and because of this fact there was an elevated level of douche-baggery going on among the population infiltrating the VA Highlands on this holiday Sunday. Before we even made it to the VA Highlands, we tried to stop for dinner at a restaurant in Emory Village, but then got back in our car and fled in horror.

We then stopped for dinner at Diesel. Our appetizer and my salad were tasty, and at first I wondered what was wrong with the Creative Loafing guy that gave such a salty and downright nasty review of Diesel’s food. However, our main dishes were truly sub-par. I can’t even go into all of it. But my Green Tomato Burger with a black bean pattie had neither a big juicy piece of fried green tomato, nor the spicy horseradish promised on the menu; the black bean pattie was not legally a pattie, but sort of slop. The black bean slop was tasty, but I’d wanted a burger, and particularly a slice of fried green tomato with some spicy horseradish on it. There were many other variations of burger I could have ordered if I did not want these two things. They didn’t even have Matt’s entree and just served him something else, which was quite ridiculous. If you’re going to be a bar with some food, then do that and simplify your menu so you can actually rise to the occassion. If you’re going to be a restaruant, then, well, I don’t know what you should do, but something. Now we know.

We saw some good friends at Limerick and listened to great music. But the crowds grew, and then it was time to go. It was time to go when I started wishing I had a fire extinguisher to spray people. Before we left I apologized to the woman sitting next to me at the bar for our departure. I’d been prepared to pretend I was her long lost friend, should any of the numerous bozos hassling her cross the line.

Coming Soon: Chronicles of my vacation to Arkansas and Louisiana, including, but not limited to, an unfortunate Elvis themed “boutique” hotel in Tupelo. I took pictures.

James Joyce Irish Pub

Well, we can say we did it. Last night we went to the James Joyce Irish Pub. We went because we felt we needed to complete our mission of having visited every Irish bar in town. We can all agree that Atlanta is not the most happening place for such a mission, which can explain our perpetual disappointment with many such establishments.

First of all, the place is not a pub. It’s more like a Fridays. There were a good number of kids there when we arrived: the tail end of the dinner crowd. We waited for the four-year-old boys perching on bar stools and playing with the video trivia machine to fall on their heads; we certainly didn’t want this to happen, but it really did look inevitable. Alas, it didn’t happen and all youth left unscathed. The place did have a bar and booze, but it was all too new and clean and full of Irish themed schlock to pass itself off as a true pub. We felt like we were in the burbs. It felt like the high school hangout, but then I reasoned that the kids at the end of the bar possibly were twenty-one, and then I felt old.

As a couple, we always attract the crazies. Strangers always approach us to talk about something or other, or we will walk into the middle of some poor girl being harrassed by a drunken old dude. Last night, we met Holly. I saw Holly when we first came in; she was drinking a gin and tonic. Later, Holly found us at the bar and introduced herself. She was not in possession of all her faculties. We had to talk to her for a very long time. She insisted, many many times, Matt looked like Giovanni Ribisi, which I don’t think is true. Anyway, she was all over us, perching on the backs of our stools, asking the same questions over and over….then telling me how good-looking my guy is and how I did good. I have heard this more than once from drunk women in bars. I nod. She rambled over to me later to tell me I was so cute! It could have become a bad situation if it had escalated beyond the point where she gave me, and then Matt, a freaking kiss on the cheek. I thought Matt might lose it, but he restrained himself from communicating any obvious disgust to the booze-addled Holly. A man said to us between interactions, she’s been giving everyone the creeps all night.

We won’t be going back. Not becuase of Holly, but because the pub was not really a pub; there wasn’t any good vibe going on. On a revelatory note, the place turned out to be next to Skips, the hot dog place, and I had been wondering Where in the hell is that Skips hot dog place people talk about?  Mystery solved. Not that I eat hot dogs, but I’m not that familiar with the whole Avondale Estates area. We’ll be sticking to our regular haunts, especially Limerick Junction. Since The Angel closed, we are eagerly awaiting the opening of The Grange Public House.

Yellow River P— Ranch. Or, What Mommies Do

I’ve been facing the challenges of working from home for a while. Over the last year I’ve had several part-time jobs at once, many of which I could do from home. Since the semester ended, I just finished teaching an English 1101 course. This required me to hold class at Georgia State, but most of the grading and lecture prep took place at home. I work for two literary magazines–I do all of that work at home. I work on my own fiction an non-fiction projects. And this won’t come as a surprise, but no one pays you for that stuff until you actually produce something great. Oh, and let’s not forget finishing up grad school. So, the struggle is to produce, to nurture that production, while ignoring the fact that there may be dirty dishes to wash, that you  may not be completely stocked up on special milk which a certain little someone might ask for when he gets home from school, that you need to do umpteen different life-admin tasks. But these things never go away. I’ve been re-learning this fact. There will always be more dirt, more field trips, more doctor appointments. And what am I doing right now?–blogging about this fact when I have a stack of submissions I need to read through. By tomorrow.

Then there’s a phenomenon I know all Mommies know well. It has something to with how a twenty-minute doctor’s appointment can take up four hours of your time or how a four hour field trip can take up eight hours of your time. I haven’t had to go to work, physically, for the last couple of weeks, and where has the time gone?

I spent one day accompanying my son on a field trip to the Yellow River Game Ranch. I love taking him there. One, because it is a place I went on field trips as a child and I remember how fascinating it was at the time. Two, he loves seeing all the animals. He feels proud of himself for picking out the right kind of food for each animal. The ducks like crackers, the donkeys like carrots…So, since the timing was right I decided to go on the field trip with my son’s school (a montessori school for infants through age six).

I’d read a bulletin earlier in the week that informed parents the field trip was from 10-2. Since Keegan’s father drove him to school that morning, I didn’t have any reason to be at the school until 10. However, there was some event going on at 9, something to burn an hour for parents who dropped their children off early and were sticking around to wait for the field trip bus at 10. This event had something to do with pearls, yes pearls, and all I could imagine was the equivalent of a Tupperware or Pampered Chef party, except for pearls. The imaginary scene I conjured up based on this premise was nothing less than horrifying, so I promised myself I’d arrive just before ten. But, the morning-of came:

I felt guilty for wanting to miss the 9 o’clock shin-dig. I have no idea why. Maybe it was because I like the school, I like my son’s teacher, and surely other moms were there sucking it up. I negotiated with myself, the self wanting to play hookie for the mystery hour and the self full of vague guilt, and decided I’d leave my house at 9. I got there at 9:20.

I was in the main hallway, locked eyes with another mom, and immediately thought we should bolt. We could hold hands and sprint. Then, the director of the school steered me by the shoulder, told us there were two empty seats in the back row, and we were ushered into a room. The front two rows were older couples in suits, the back row mommies–mommies looking tired, sipping free coffee. I had on my Doc Marten’s, grey curdorys, and my bringht yellow Ireland hoodie. I didn’t exactly fit in. There was a man at the front of the room giving a presentation about pearl harvesting and oysters. A documentary played on the t.v., which he kept pointing to and referencing. One of the older men kept taking pictures of us. At some point I realized the speaker was also the star of the documentary, which became obvious and baffling at once.

Somewhere, you may see me in the back row of a photo of a Kiwanis Club Meeting. Because that’s what this turned out to be. A weekly Kiwanis club meeting, the weekly guest speaker, and a bunch of visiting moms from the school. Who would have guessed? I could have used the extra hour of sleep, and I wasn’t the target audience here. I don’t see myself making time to join the nation’s largest service organization any time soon. I don’t see myself visiting the only independent seller of tahitian peals in Atlanta soon, either. I survived. I ate a donut out of distress.

The bus was an hour and a half late. Imagine: school bus with three seat belts per seat, at least thirty kids between the ages of two and six, lunches and animal food in tow, many parents and teachers, now running into the lunch-time of the kiddies. The initial plan was to see the animals, then eat lunch, then go home. Now, arriving so late in the day at the ranch, lunch-time was first on the agenda, which did not please Keegan, who wanted to see the peacocks right now. You know that terrible, sinking feeling of dread that comes from the bottom of your gut? That’s what I felt as we pulled into the parking lot at the game ranch and I counted no less that 12 other school buses. Holy crap. This was not a big place, people. That’s a lot of kids.

I won’t go into the details, but seeing the animals was great (most of the animals are rescue animanls who’ve been injured in the wild, or elsewhere, and otherwise wouldn’t survive) for a couple of hours. Our mood deteriorated as Keegan missed his nap, which he still needs, and became insanely unreasonable. The exhausted and hungry three-year-old unreasonable. Like, hey, I’m going to throw myself on the ground here because I wanted to feed that duck we saw ten minutes ago, this carrot which I just noticed I had, except I didn’t get to feed him this carrot, but Julia got to feed him one and I am so slighted and will just lie here and scream until justice is served. And the duck has fled from me which indicates the world has ended, so I’ll start hyper-ventilating now.

And then there were only two working bathrooms at the end of it all. And many toddlers who needed to go. And it had gotten warm. But this is what mommies do.

Link at GSU!!!

Kelly Link will read in Atlanta this month, along with Sarah Gorham. I am not familiar with Gorham’s work, but Link is one of my favorite contemporary writers. Her collection of stories Magic for Beginners is one of the most interesting, startling, colorful, and memorable books I’ve read. My three favorite stories from this collection are “The Hotlak,” “Stone Animals,” and “Magic for Beginners.” Zombies, rabbits, magic, and fabulation aside, Link’s work is full of, simply, good stories. I was so excited about her work that I’m sure I looked like a mute idiot back at AWP in Atlanta last February when I all of the sudden realized I was standing at the booth for the press she co-founded, Small Beer Press, and of course she was standing right there too.

The reading is Thursday February 21 at 7:30, in the Troy Moore Library at Georgia State University; it is open to the public. Earlier that day the New South’s Writing Workshop will host the third annual Conference on Literary Publishing, which is sponsored in part by Five Points and Poets & Writers. However, I believe the Conference may only be open to students and faculty at GSU.

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