My September Reading Journal

September is usually a rough month. The semester is in full swing. It’s still hot—seriously, it’s been nearly 100 degrees every day, and I don’t recall any rain at all. But September also means the Southern Festival of Books, which is the official beginning of the holiday season (in my house), is right around the corner. In September reading news, Kevin Wilson’s Nothing to See Here wins the month. His latest is his best and that is saying something. Here’s my recap of the month-in-reading that was:

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A New Writing Adventure

I sent my short story collection out in the spring. It’s still floating around, hoping to land at a place that gets it and loves it. It’s impossible to not think about it in the meantime, but I try my best. One thing I did to get my mind off of it was start planning my next set of stories. I sat down, and I made an outline of fifteen or so ideas I had and how the stories might connect. Things were flowing really well. I took my ideas and pinned them to my board above my desk. Then, out of nowhere, something hit me. It was—gasp!—the idea for a novel.

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My August Reading Journal

Back-to-school month is the worst. The. Worst. I didn’t have a lot of free reading time; in fact, I read the fewest amount of books in a single month out of the entire year. (Five books is it.) Oh well, the quality was pretty good even if the quantity wasn’t. The winner of the month for new reads is Valeria Luiselli’s Lost Children Archive. I imagine it’ll be on just about every book award list that comes out over the next few weeks and months.

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Interview with Shaun Hamill at The Millions

I’m always on the search for a good monster novel, so when I received an early copy of Shaun Hamill’s A Cosmology of Monsters I was already stoked. The book doesn’t disappoint. It’s terrifying for sure, but it’s also tender. It’s the perfect novel for this time of the year, as we are all preparing for Halloween. It was a treat to be able to talk to Shaun about his debut. He’ll be at my local library in a few weeks, and I’m already looking forward to learning more about Cosmology.

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My July Reading Journal

It’s been HOT this summer. So, it’s been the perfect time to get some good reading in. 2019 continues on with some excellent new releases. Dexter Palmer’s upcoming novel, Mary Toft; or, The Rabbit Queen, is one of the most original and audacious books I’ve encountered in a long while. It leads the charge in a month that delivered multiple enjoyable reads. Here’s my recap of the books I read this July:

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Interview with J Ryan Stradal at The Millions

J Ryan Stradal’s sophomore novel, The Lager Queen of Minnesota, is a book that is ripe for the summer. It’s charming, kind, and full of hopeful. The novel tells the story of three woman who seek to transform the brewery industry in the Midwest. There’s drinks and pies a plenty. This novel should be the target of many, many book clubs in the coming months.

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To MFA or Not to MFA... To MFA

Applying for MFA programs is an intimidating process. Am I good enough? That’s the question that haunts me. A lot. Anyone who knows about writing knows that rejection comes frequently. For me, this summer has been rejection season. I have, I think, four or five different stories out on submission, and they just aren’t landing. I revised them recently and sent them back out, so here’s hoping. I know that many rejections are not about the quality of the work and are, instead, about what a particular journal is looking for. Still, though, it sometimes gets to you. (I have my collection out at a handful of places, and it hasn’t been rejected yet. I’m taking that as good news. And I’m hopeful.)

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Interview with Karen Russell at Chicago Review of Books

Karen Russell and I spoke for about an hour over the phone a few weeks back. Our conversation is one I’ll never forget. We talked about monsters, and our talk helped me channel my ideas for my novel, which I think I’m making progress on. Karen’s my literary hero. The way she balances magic with real humanity is incredible. And enviable.

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Interview with De'Shawn Charles Winslow at Electric Literature

2019 is the best year for literature in a long time. There are so many incredible books out—and coming soon. De’Shawn Charles Winslow’s In West Mills is one of those books. The novel follows the lives of Knot and Otis Lee as they experience life in a rural North Carolina community. Knot is truly one of the greatest characters I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know recently. She’s hilarious. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing In West Mills throughout the year, especially as the book awards start to kick off.

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Interview with Mary Miller at The Rumpus

Mary Miller is one of my favorite writers and has been since I read her novel The Last Days of California. Well, Biloxi is even better than that book. Her latest is a novel about the South and the people who inhabit it. She captures voices so authentically, and the characters she creates are absolutely wonderful. I was thrilled to be able to ask Mary a few questions over at The Rumpus.

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My June Reading Journal

It’s the best time of the year: summer break. For me, that means lots of extra time for reading and writing. Luckily for me, June brought some of the best reads of the year. I can’t pick one highlight, but work from Chris Ware, Julia Phillips, Shaun Hamill, and Casep Cep lead the charge.

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New Story: "Losing Light" at The Cabinet of Heed

"Losing Light" is a story about a boy named Gresh who eats fireflies. No one can understand why, but his unnamed brother, who serves as the story's narrator, has an especially difficult time understanding why Gresh wants to eat these creatures. Gresh obviously hungers for them, but the brother hungers for understanding and, later, for redemption as he struggles in understanding the harsh realities of his world. This is a strange little story, but I'm super proud of it. 

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My May Reading Journal

May was BUSY, so my notes are short. Still, though, I was able to experience some really good literature. Undoubtedly, J. Ryan Stradal’s latest was the best book I read in May. Here’s my recap in reading of the month that was:

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I'm Profiled at Lit Hub Today

When I found out the folks at Lit Hub were wanting to profile me for their “Secrets of the Book Critic” series, I couldn’t believe it. I eagerly agreed, and set out to answer some questions about book world.

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