Category Archives: Publications

Good News: The Massachusetts Review, Pine Hills Review, Poets & Writers

The Massachusetts Review

Three good things, all at once! My story “This Is a Test of the System” is in the spring issue of Massachusetts Review; Pine Hills Review published my story “What Would John the Evangelist Do?” (you can read the whole thing online); and 200 words that I wrote in praise of Hannah Tinti‘s editing are in the March/April 2015 issue of Poets & Writers, as part of a feature titled “The Moment of Truth: Eleven Authors Share Stories of Life-Changing Retreats,” edited by the great Kevin Larimer.

This all makes me feel kind of mid-aughts-ish: I wrote “This Is a Test” in 2005 at the Albee Foundation, “What Would John” feels like a story that could only happen in the early to middle years of the last decade (the two female characters met at the Radcliffe Publishing Course, for example), and my contribution to “The Moment of Truth” is a (true) story from April 2006. I’m going to include it here (with permission):

In 2006, I spent the month of April at the Ucross Foundation in Clearmont, Wyoming. A friend of mine, writer and editor Hannah Tinti, also happened to be there at the same time. I’d gotten my MFA from NYU the year before, and since I knew how to make a galley from my work at a small press, I’d self-published one hundred copies of my thesis: perfect bound, small trim size, matte pink cover. I’d been giving them away to friends, and I gave one to Hannah at Ucross; she liked one of the stories in the book enough that she wanted to run it in One Story, the literary magazine she co-founded and edits. We worked on “The Samoan Assassin Calls It Quits” over the course of a few evenings, when we were done with our writing for the day. I had the great experience of watching Hannah make masterful edits to the story. She made it better than it had been. In a small way, it felt like how George Saunders responded to the news that he’d won a MacArthur: “I feel smarter already!” I hope always to have brilliant writer and editor friends like Hannah, and I hope that unhurried, meticulous editing, and the slow time and beautiful isolation of places like Ucross, never go away.

More mid-aughts: here’s a picture of Hannah and me at AWP Austin in March 2006, taken by indefatigable indie publishing genius Shannah Compton:

Hannah Tinti, AWP Austin

And some related, mid-aughts-y old posts here: a picture of the little pink book, Some Notes on Wyoming, and a number of photos I took with a tiny, terrible camera that I loved, but that was rendered totally obsolete by new technologies like the iPhone: Wyoming One, Wyoming Two, Wyoming Three. (Also my idea for Red-County Tourism, inspired by Wyoming, which I still think could work.)

All posted back in the olden times, before blogging, too, was rendered totally obsolete!

Good News: Ten Things About “The Mohel Mulligan”

2014.08.17 Mohel Mulligan copies

Ten things about “The Mohel Mulligan,” published last week in the Chicago Tribune‘s Printers Row Journal fiction insert (hooray!):

1) The story, in its very first draft, was titled “It Takes Balls to Be a Dick.” This was something I said to a bunch of fellow musicians after a show at CB’s 313 Gallery. (When was this show? Maybe the Marc Rosenthal / Gloria Deluxe / Holly Ramos show on Saturday, 18 March 2000? (“[A]fterparty at Parkside Lounge,” says my calendar. I have vague memories of this being an amazing night.)

The line was the punchline to a story I don’t remember. I wrote it on an index card and put it in my mother’s old recipe box, where, pre-Evernote, I stored loose phrases and quotes and ideas. Starting grad school, I thought I should use it as a title for a short story. I’m glad I didn’t.

2) I workshopped the story twice at NYU. In workshop, it was titled “Blind Date.” Like me, the story is a lot more Jewish than it was ten years ago.

3) The draft I submitted to the Printers Row Journal was the thirteenth. It was the twenty-ninth time I’d sent out the story. (I’m grateful to Dan and Nicole and Jamie for encouraging me to keep sending it out.)

4) The story is an homage to / riff on Carver’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.” It’s the same basic setup: four people drinking and telling stories. The narrator is named Nick; the husband of the other couple is named Mel. Terri and Laura become Abby and Molly.

5) Riffing/signaling-of-riffing in the opening two sentences:

Carver:

My friend Mel McGinnis was talking. Mel McGinnis is a cardiologist, and sometimes that gives him the right.

Me:

My new friend Molly had been praising the baby. She wanted to be a pediatrician, so I thought that gave her the right.

6) This is a completely fictional story. But it’s based on something that actually happened to me—a weekend-long blind date, at my date’s friends’ beautiful vacation house—which occurred on a weekend on which the sixth of July fell on a Sunday in 2003.

The real-life conversation that inspired the conversation of the story occurred on that Sunday.

The publication date for the story is the sixth of July, which fell on a Sunday in 2014.

7) The insert says $2 on it, but I can’t for the life of me figure out how you’re supposed to buy a copy. They may only be available in analog form, in Chicago, purchased with physical dollars. (Kicking it old school, Trib! This could potentially explain why the story does not yet exist at all on the Internet, according to Google. I don’t mean at all for this to sound disrespectful, but it does inspire a contemporary version of the if-a-tree-falls question: If a story is published in print, and no mention of it occurs on the Web, was it ever actually published?)

8) Emily will give some copies away on her Facebook author page. Which is an awesome reason to “Like” Emily Barton, if you haven’t clicked that button already.

9) The story-within-a-story is about a circumcision gone horribly wrong. I’ve been tempted, for a decade, thinking about that and thinking about Carver, to retitle the story “What We Talk About When We Talk About Cock.” I’m glad I didn’t.

10) Film rights are available.

Where and How and When You Can Get the Book

Update, as of March 2014: I’ve made a few updates to this post. See below for specifics.

1) I still have copies of The Year of Living Autobiographically to send out. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you could start by going here, and then here.)

Do I know you? Do you want me to send you a book? Let me know!

It might take me a little while to get it to the post office; speedy fulfillment is not my wheelhouse, at least not this summer. But it will make its way to you.

In case this isn’t clear: I’m giving them away for free. I’ve gotten some amazing books in swaps, but that’s just because I know some incredibly talented and generous writers. It’s not at all obligatory.

This is an experiment of sorts, one that lives at the intersection of what Jonathan Lethem has to say about gift economies in “The Ecstasy of Influence” and what Jaron Lanier has to say about technology in You Are Not a Gadget.

Update: The above is still true!

2) There are also copies of the self-produced galley edition (the limited, numbered run of 150) for sale at the consignment table at McNally Jackson in New York City.

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Thanks to Olivia Birdsall for the photo!

The first five copies sold out, which is totally exciting. I sent ten more, and I haven’t heard from the bookstore recently, so I’m assuming it’s still in stock.

Update: McNally Jackson sold a bunch more, but they no longer have copies in stock.

3) I’ve also made a Lulu edition. If you click here, you can go buy it at Lulu.com.

Here’s what the front cover looks like.

2013.05.28 front of Lulu TYOLA

If you’ve read the book, you might recognize when this picture is from—it’s 27 May 2012, the day we buried my dad. (Here are more pictures from that same day.)

Here’s what the back cover looks like.

2013.05.28 back of Lulu TYOLA

This one I wrote about on 3 June.

4) I’ve also approved the book for Lulu’s ExtendedReach distribution, which means that eventually it’ll be available on Amazon. I don’t totally understand how the approval process works; but as I wrote in April, as soon as I receive notification that you can buy it there, I’ll post details and a link here on my Web site.

Update: The Lulu edition is now retired. Fingers crossed for #5, below.

5) I’ve mostly sent the book to friends and colleagues, but I’ve also sent copies to agents (nine or ten in total, I think). I’m encouraged by all the kind and thoughtful responses I’ve heard from the folks who’ve read it so far that this is a book that could find a wider audience.

Here’s hoping!

Praise for The Year of Living Autobiographically

When I started the writing project that became The Year of Living Autobiographically, the intention was really more like an art project, of sorts: to circumvent the servers of a for-profit corporation and send out “status updates” into the world by way of an old-fashioned galley printer and the post office. (See this post from this past October, when I finished writing, to learn more.)

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(Above: the sample copy from the galley printer.)

It honestly never occurred to me that anyone would ever have anything to say about it at all, let alone anything as nice as what Erika Dreifus had to say about it earlier this week:

[I]t is one of the most intelligent, intimate, and imaginative works that I’ve read in a long time.

Part of what I’m calling the work’s “intelligence” may stem from its premise and structure, but the writing’s honesty and directness also enhance an overall sense of clarity and grace. The adjective “intimate” seems appropriate because we learn so much about Tom through what he reveals about those closest to his heart (including his remarkable father, who passed away during the course of the year in question, and his equally remarkable young son), his dreams, and details taken from his daily life. And I can’t help thinking that the project itself shows quite a lot of creativity and imagination.

It’s a weird little book. So I’m incredibly honored and flattered by Erika’s kind words.

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(Above: a Dunbar’s Number worth of books arrives!)

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(Above: Toby’s workshop.)

Re plans to make the book available to more readers, if you’re curious: I’m hoping to have it up on Lulu.com soon, which I think will make the book available for purchase on Amazon and BN.com in a month or two. It looks like there’s an eight-week approval process before that can happen.

Check back here in May or June. I’ll keep you posted.

Good News: BOMB, The Murky Fringe, Liars’ League NYC

Three pieces of good short-short fiction news:

BOMB Magazine is going to publish two of my stories, titled “The Way the Water All Agrees on a River” and “An Obstacle to Empathy.” (Not sure what issue yet. “An Obstacle to Empathy” is the story I read in last summer’s L Magazine Literary Upstart semifinals.)

The Murky Fringe just published my I’m-not-sure-what-you-call-it titled “The League of Men with Nipple Shoulders Is Bigoted and Discriminatory.”

And my story “It’s a Long Story, It’s a Harrowing Yet Uplifting Jewish Story, It’s Based on a True Story” will be performed at the next Liars’ League NYC event: 7:00 p.m., Weds. 6 March, at the KGB Bar. The theme is “Secrets & Lies.”

I can’t be there, unfortunately, but I hope you can!

Addendum: Here’s “It’s a Long Story, It’s a Harrowing Yet Uplifting Jewish Story, It’s Based on a True Story”—both the text of the story itself and an MP3 of the actor Jere Williams reading it at KGB—on the Liars’ League NYC Web site.

The Year of Living Autobiographically

I did it.*

And I need your help.

Here’s what I did:

About a year ago, I gave myself a year-long creative challenge. Here it is, described in the entry for the first day of the project:

Saturday 15 October 2011

The plan: Ditch FB for one year. Reader of the future: Do you know what I mean when I say “FB”? Take FB’s status-update limit of 420 characters and use it as a self-imposed creative challenge. Take my paranoia, my fear of things being stolen, lost, my unease at the Web’s impermanence, add it to my challenge. Write one exactly-420-character status update per day for one year. Privately. Don’t tell anybody. Publish it.

(Count them: from the capital “T” to the final period: 420!)

And 366 days later—this past Sunday—I finished my 366th status update.

I’m calling the whole thing The Year of Living Autobiographically.

Part of my entry for 12 November is the following:

When I wrote “Publish it” back in October, what I meant was self-publish. A homemade book. A gift.

Here’s how I need your help:

To complete the art project of this—sharing “status updates” with friends, but not online, via servers owned and operated by a publicly traded corporation; rather, in a self-published book, a homemade galley proof-type thing, sent through the mail—I need the postal addresses of those friends.

You, I mean. Your address. Where your postal delivery person brings physical things to you.

Are you interested in getting a copy of The Year of Living Autobiographically?

If so, will you let me know where I can send it?

I have to make the book first—some layout and design, then sending it to a galley printer—but I hope to finish that aspect of the work by the end of my December break. If all goes well, I’ll mail the book in early January.

I’m limiting the print run to 150. (Dunbar’s number!) So let me know sooner rather than later if you want one. (I don’t have as many friends as some friends of mine have, but I do have a few.)

PS: If you’re wondering about the 420-characters aspect of this, here’s part of my entry for 11 January:

The status-update character limit on FB is now 63,206; it hasn’t been 420 since last summer. I am chagrined. Is this project then my own private Japanese holdout, hiding in the jungle, fighting a long-gone war?

* and PPS: I should say I almost did it: that is, I wrote 366 status updates, one per day, each one 420 characters long—no more, no fewer—for one year. On the other hand, I did not manage to quit FB for a year (just for part of it). Nor did I manage not to tell anyone (just a few people).

I’m still calling the project a success, though, because I did what I think was the important part, which was the writing.

Unexpected Houseguests; or, Tablet, River Styx, P&W, Fence, Cincy, WBSSSC; or, a Good News Omnibus

Goodness, I feel like I have houseguests whom I maybe should have expected were going to come over, but for whatever reason did not.

What I mean is: this Web site, my personal site, usually gets about one or two visitors a day, according to Google Analytics. This is somewhat by design: as you can see if you know how to read the source code of a Web page, I’ve got my Robots meta tag set up according to the Robots exclusion standard.

<code><meta name=’robots’ content=’noindex,nofollow’ /></code>

So it’s surprising and wonderful that 52 unique visitors stopped by last Tuesday—all but one linking from my bio at the bottom of “Memorial Day,” the essay I wrote for the wonderful Tablet magazine.

Even the two days after that were record-breaking for tomhop.com, at least in recent memory—17 visitors on Wednesday, 7 on Thursday.

I’m delighted by the response to the essay. I’ve gotten so many kind and thoughtful notes from friends and family who’ve read it. There may be thoughtful responses elsewhere, but given how personal the piece is, and given the sort of trolls that like to lurk around tabletmag.com, I’m determined not to read any of the 18 comments that have been posted to the piece since it was published.

Also interesting, and perhaps unsurprising, is the fact that suddenly my “Judaica” category of posts got very popular last week.

So here’s one big way in which I’m unprepared for unexpected houseguests: I’ve been neglecting to post all kinds of good news about recent publications, not just about Tablet:

—My story “When the Immigrant Is Hot,” which was a finalist for the Schlafly Beer Micro-Brew Micro-Fiction Contest, is in issue #85 of River Styx, which came out this past spring;

—I wrote an article called “Network: How to Use LinkedIn to Connect With Your Community,” which is in the November/December issue of Poets & Writers—the full article is readable online;

—My story “What I Remember of My Love Affair with the Bird” is in the current issue of Fence—you can read it either in the print version (v. 14, #1-2) or online, on Fence’s excellent new Web site;

—My stories “Our Libretto Conundrum,” “The Songs Our Local Birds Always Sing,” and “Catching the Rollers” will be in the next issue of The Cincinnati Review (I’m just reading the galleys now);

—My story “The Coat My Mother Gave Me,” which was a finalist for the World’s Best Short-Short Story Contest, will be in Southeast Review v. 30, #1, which I think will come out next spring (I just signed off on galleys earlier today).

Phew!

And if you’ve never been to my site before, and you came here for the first time because you read my essay in Tablet, or any of the above articles, welcome, and thanks for visiting! The digs are modest, but I’m awfully glad you stopped by.

Good News: River Styx

(Good news catch-up post, four of four.)

My story “When the Immigrant Is Hot” is an Honorable Mention in the Fifth Annual River Styx Schlafly Micro-Fiction Micro-Brew Contest! I’m not sure what issue the story will appear in, but I just mailed back my signed contract for this one as well.

The winner gets a case of Schlafly; alas, no beer for the honorable mentions—although Emily suggests I see if I could score a six-pack out of the deal.

Frog Poets and Monkey Poets

(Good news catch-up post, three of four.)

I wrote an article titled “The Future of Family-Friendly Residencies” for Poets & Writers. It’s in the March/April 2011 issue, in the magazine’s annual conferences and residencies section. The article isn’t available online, but something extremely awesome is: Toby and Emily and I talking about the article in a video on the P&W site. It gets really good about a minute and a half in, when Toby talks about how the frog and monkey poets will be on the roof at Yaddo, but we will punch them, and also catch them, get them down, and lift them up with drink coasters.

Good News: Fence

(Good news catch-up post, two of four.)

While Emily was at Yaddo, back in late December and early January, I got a fantastic message on our answering machine: the great Lynne Tillman, calling from the MacDowell Colony, saying that she wanted to publish my story “What I Remember of My Love Affair with the Bird” in Fence. I’m not sure what issue of the magazine the story will appear in, but I just mailed off my signed contract. Maybe this fall? I’ll keep you posted.