Happy Winter, friends!
As you probably know, every December I do an annual wrap up of my favorite Books By Friends, just in time for the gift buying season (and in solidarity with the Icelandic book flood). Because if you’re going to gift books, why not gift books by friends?
In past years that list has been 10, 15, maybe 20 books, but this year is different. Unbeknownst to me, this was the year of the:
COVID BOOK BABY BOOM!
Yes, that’s right! Remember how all those soldiers came home from WWII and got busy making babies? Well, my theory is that writers everywhere got busy during Covid making book babies….and 2022 was the first year of what I am now declaring the Book Baby Boom! (Some writers even had twins)!
So hold on, because this is the biggest Books By Friends list I have EVER put together: 36 books (and I’m probably forgetting someone!)
Holy macaroni, that’s a lot of book babies!
In fact: I’m going to stop talking now and just get to it!
Books By Friends 2022 Edition:
(I’ve provided the publisher or author’s direct link if available)
P.S. The majority of these books were released in 2022–a few of them were missed from my last year’s list and/or only discovered by me in 2022.
(in no particular order)
Kim Chinquee: Pipette
A novel told in flash fiction style. Pipette starts with a woman on a train returning from the ballet, to her dogs, her partner. Trouble at home escalates. The country is on edge. She tries to escape a threatening situation. Then comes a pandemic; our protagonist hangs out with her dogs, manages remote teaching. With leitmotifs of skiing, dogs, trains, waterways, birds, nature, spiritual guides, triathlons, she writes, she teaches, she swims/bikes/runs. The novel dips into her past―trauma, relationships, activities, working in the lab―which pendulums, then finally propels forward.
Erika T. Wurth: White Horse
An ancient bracelet, a personal haunting and an overdue reckoning. In Erika T. Wurth’s new horror novel, White Horse, a woman searches for the truth about her vanished mother, an investigation that involves confronting literal and metaphorical ghosts.
Robert Vaughan Askew
If everything has a label, Robert Vaughan is here to peel back the sticker and run his mouth across the residual chemical traces. ASKEW speaks for the askance, the sidereal, the sidelong glance when leaving a bus in a town filled with strangers, while asking more difficult questions about the stability of identity and selfhood in a shifting world. To decay and reconvene in the ruins, to meet the speaker among the crumbling rocks, to find words for the shapes of our absence–to be alive in the ravish of that.
Crisosto Apache: Ghostword
Crisosto Apache’s Ghostword is a haunting collection about love, the pain of childhood brutality—and the stark, and gentle, beauty of the Mescalero reservation. Lines like “Not only history…but murder,” remind us of the way in which the past is never really the past. There is so much insight, beauty and awareness of what time can do in these lines, and words like “all they remember is me sitting at the edge of my bed/with the war still in my hands,” will stay long in my mind.
Dwell: An Anthology of Poetry Supporting The Village Institute
Dwell is a collection of poems about home. “I never knew I could dwell / in my own skin / until I made it mine– / Cleansed it from necessary poison, / injected it with hope, / sculpted it into future, / carved it into home.” – Hayden Dansky, from “Carved Into Home”. All proceeds go to The Village Institue, a live/learn/work center for refugees and immigrants in Aurora, Colorado.
Tommy Dean: Hollows
In Hollows, Tommy Dean reveals the crawlspaces and attics of American families, the places we dread and the places we yearn for—moments we didn’t know we needed until they were already lost. These fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, brothers, wives, and best friends crack and bend under the pressure of conventional love, running away and toward one another, longing for a space to call home, often giving in to the hollow securities of their lives.
Renuka Raghavan: Nothing Respendent Lives Here The struggle is real. These 33 tales of flash and micro fiction are rife with the intensity of desolation and heartache. We are introduced to a motley array of characters clinging to hope as internal and external forces put a strain on their lives. Do they find the light, or do they succumb to the darkness? Through brevity and clarity of prose Raghavan’s stories carry weight and deliver punches. Just when you think you know where the story is going, the narrative takes an unexpected turn.
Chelsea Stickle: Breaking Points
In thirteen slick, innovative, and gut-wrenching flashes, the young women and girls in Breaking Points, the debut chapbook from Chelsea Stickle, hit the walls around them—walls constructed by family, friends, significant others, and insidious cultural perils.
Cheryl J. Fish: Off the Yoga Mat
With age 40 and the year 2000 (Y2K) looming, Nate, Nora, and Lulu find their lives unraveling, their aspirations dashed. Off the Yoga Mat explores jealousy, bends of the body, and the courage to confront traumatic memory. Told in alternating chapters by Nate, Lulu, and Nora, the novel takes the reader on three risky coming-of-middle age journeys through sensuality, emotional evolution, and breathing, deep.
Pedro Ponce: The Devil and the Dairy Princess
We are all taught that love is destined to happen with our soul mate and that hard work eventually leads to success. But when faced with circumstances that no longer fit the chosen narrative, some protagonists cling to their outmoded stories with greater fervor, while others realize the old stories no longer suffice. Perfect for any reader who enjoys literary realism or speculative fiction, The Devil and the Dairy Princess reveals the episodic history of humanity’s romance with narrative, from first love to breakup to hopeful reconciliation.
Robert Scotellaro: God in a Can
God in a Can is a sharp, unpredictable story collection full of humor, absurdity, and colorful characters who remain doggedly hopeful for better times. Here gods and humans share center stage: Hell stops in at a roadside diner, a man grows a colossal flare of peacock feathers, sumo wrestlers offer a personalized heating service, couples outwit the schadenfreude police, cope with new body parts, and keep love alive in a world that has been tilted askew. With a poet’s eye, Scotellaro hones in on vivid details and those small, sudden moments of elation.
Robert Scotellaro: Ways to Read the World is another masterwork by a brilliant weaver of the compact tale. Robert Scotellaro’s ability to compress whole worlds into a few sentences is singular, profoundly entertaining, and illuminating. As with the author’s previous flash fiction collections, this new offering challenges the reader’s complacency and imagination—a sudden turn of phrase and the train is off its tracks and bound in unexpected directions.
Annie Bien: Messages from Under a Pillow
Messages from a mother to her child, notes sent from beyond to here, the appearance of drawings on a page, words that conjure up history, another place, kept alive by words, which are both a type of silence and conjurers of images. Annie Bien’s tender and layered Messages from Under a Pillow is a collection of seven prose poems or flash fictions, intentions or explanations for drawings the recipient should look out for.
Marina Pacheco: What the Pauper Did
A body swap mystery romance set in historic Lisbon, 1770. Herculano wakes up in a strange body in an unfamiliar house. All he wants is to know who he is. So why is he chasing after a missing man? And what does this have to do with the prince and a power struggle for the kingdom?
Three Can Keep a Secret: Editors Laura Keenan and Linda Martin
A captivating collection of flash fiction, Three Can Keepa Secret showcases work from eighty-one established and emerging Western Australian writers. One hundred stories simmer with shadows, secrets and silences beneath the surface of everyday lives. Playful and reflective, comic and raw, the collection explores human relationships, grief, vulnerability and celebrates the extraordinary in the ordinary.
Merissa Nathan Gerson: Forget Prayers, Bring Cake
Grief is all around us. In the world of today it has become common and layered, no longer only an occasional weight. A book needed now more than ever, Forget Prayers, Bring Cake is for people of all ages and orientations dealing with grief of any sort—professional, personal, romantic, familial, or even the sadness of the modern day. In a moment in which community, affection, and generosity are needed more than ever, this book is an indispensable road map.
Jay Halsey: Barely Half in an Awkward Line
Jay Halsey’s debut work Barely Half in an Awkward Line takes the reader into liminal spaces, where dualities exist but are often ignored or overlooked. His poetry, prose, and photographs ask the reader to linger in the sacred spaces where urban and rural meet in oft-overlooked visual and linguistic intersections. His work draws the reader’s attention to the fault lines that prevail in the aching dichotomy, eliciting deeper consideration of the powerful heartbeat of humanity.
Sara Hills Evolution of Birds
In The Evolution of Birds, Sara Hills demonstrates her mastery of the short form as well as her deep understanding of the human condition. More than once I found myself holding my breath while reading these short, sharp miracles of narrative. These tiny stories, some no longer than half a page, glitter darkly, expose truths with precision and guts. Wild and raw and compellingly electric, Hills’s stories and the characters who inhabit them, will sear themselves into your heart and brain.
Jude Higgins The Chemist’s House
A collection that pokes softly at the spaces between people: sister, brother, father, mother, neighbour, friend. Higgins’ stories reveal moments where small truths, and lies, dwell. Understated and quiet, these small fictions paint lives gently, but oh so colourfully. / In interconnected, finely wrought flash fiction stories, Jude Higgins creates a coming-of-age tapestry — of family love and conflict; and of a girl’s passage into womanhood. Higgins’ flash pieces blend into one masterly and moving whole: poignant, loving, and profound in emotional impact.
Jayne Martin: The Daddy Chronicles
One out of three women in the U.S. identify as fatherless. An absent father who occasionally appears to bestow his affections only to disappear again leads a daughter to seek out others like him – men who are charismatic, but emotionally unavailable – throughout her lifetime. In this emotionally-charged memoir written in cinematic vignettes, Jayne Martin fearlessly bares the parts of her that were broken when her father left the family upon her birth and, in doing so, leads readers on their own journey toward wholeness and healing.
Meg Tuite White Van
The fifty pieces in this book make up a collection of prose, poetry, and hybrid pieces that unflinchingly examine the worst we humans have to offer. You’ll meet serial killers, pedophiles, and child pornographers and the women they seek to victimize as we struggle to make sense of our brutal species. With a beautifully foreboding cover by Adam Robinson, this book will take you all the places you’re most afraid to go.
Claire Ibarra: Fragile Saints
Fragile Saints is a story of souls – the living and the dead – searching for their rightful resting place. With the same skill that silkworms weave their thread throughout this delightful read, Ibarra crafts a memorable love story that takes us on a sensual journey from California to Peru. Scenes rich with the sights, sounds, smells and beauty of the Peruvian countryside allow us to connect with the living and the dead – those fragile saints – who ultimately find their hidden strengths.
Mathias Svalina: America at Play
America at Play is a collection of instructions for children’s games. Part poetry, part whimsy, part despair, games such as “Freight Train Tag,””Baptism,” & “World War” teach valuable lessons, such as how to play & how to be American. It is, Heraclitus said, reality’s nature to remain hidden, but its rules are easily observed.
Lynn Mundell: Let Our Bodies Be Returned to Us
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.
Hillary Leftwich: Aura
Aura is more than a memoir— it’s a spell book for survival, a powerful promise from mother to son, and an intimate examination of power, spirituality, and the abuse of both. Hillary Leftwich weaves together the stories of her life to create startlingly raw memories that are both personal and profoundly universal. She explores the devastating impact of patriarchy in her own life while searching for answers in witchcraft, womanhood, and motherhood.
Sommer Browning: Good Actors
At birth we are given a role—it is our name. Good Actors is a side-eyed illumination of the artist as self-help guru, oracle, and sage, but more importantly as mother, lover, and friend. Part psychological experiment, part conceptual art piece, part screenplay, Good Actors is 100% a joyful celebration of language and life. And because it is Sommer, the book is hilarious, melancholy, and existential.
Michael Loveday: Do What the Boss Says: Stories of Family and Childhood
A daughter nervously visits her father who has now become a stranger; a young Irish girl substitutes a cardboard cut-out for her presence within her own family; a naive schoolboy is tricked by a more streetwise passer-by; a child tries to impress her village by breaking the world record for stepping in and out of a doorway. This chapbook offers you a kaleidoscopic view of the pressures, conflicts and joys of childhood and family life: from surreal fables to memoir, to idiosyncratic realism, to ghost stories about weird encounters.
Michael Loveday: Unlocking the Novella-in-Flash
Unlocking the Novella-in-Flash: from Blank Page to Finished Manuscript is the first ever full roadmap for creating your own novella composed of flash fictions, or very short stories. Whether you’ve written a novella-in-flash before, or are a beginner newly experimenting, this flexible, step-by-step craft guide will support you to produce a high-quality manuscript of linked narratives
Jonathan Bluebird Montgomery: Nine Books (At Once!)
Nine Books are about the number nine. There are literally nine separate books of nine different themes and nine different colors, each with nine pieces written over a roughly nine year period: The Book of School, The Book of Food, The Book of Pain, The Book of Nature, The Book of Birds, The Book of Writing, The Book of Love, The Book of Baseball, and The Book of Nothing.
Jonathan Cardew: A World Beyond Cardboard
A World Beyond Cardboard collects twelve of Jonathan Cardew’s award-winning micro stories, each investigating a character or characters at crisis points, in worlds at once familiar and in the end very strange. With his minimal, rhythmical prose style, Cardew cracks open narratives at crucial moments, diving into the fissures and frustrations of ordinary life, exposing the unknown and the unseen.
Melissa Llanes Brownlee: Kahi and Lua
Pulling from both mythology and pop culture, this flash fiction inspired tale invites us to reimagine the mythical Hawaiian gods Kahi and Lua in a modern landscape as they might live and play and dream and battle with the temptations of the world. Smart, succinct, funny and poignant, Melissa Llanes Brownlee offers us a glimpse of eternity as her title characters become larger than life and also divinely human.
Dorothy Rice: Gray is the New Black
The wry and relatable narrator of Gray is the New Black—a memoir of ageism, sexism and self-acceptance—came of age in the psychedelic sixties. Now in her sixties, it’s time to take stock. After decades struggling to be thin enough, pretty, sexy and successful enough to deserve love and happiness, she devotes a year to cracking the code, a journey that forces her to confront the gnarled roots of female shame.
K.B. Jensen: Love and Other Monsters in the Dark
Strange Stories That Linger in the Shadows. Readers will encounter serial killers, alien creatures, and dark angels, as well as more “normal” narratives about the horrors of everyday love. Love and Other Monsters in the Dark features a genre-hopping blend of contemporary fiction, noir humor, speculative fiction, and horror, with an undercurrent of love and the relationships that bind us together in the darkness.
Doug Mathewson: Nomad Moon
Nomad Moon is a collection of twenty four short stories by Doug Mathewson. They have been described as “True stories from imaginary lives”. Every one is true except for the pretend and made up parts. Some stories are sad, and some humorous, but all showing the authors love of life and human kind.
Sabrina Orah Mark: Wild Milk
Wild Milk is like Borscht Belt meets Leonora Carrington; it’s like Donald Barthelme meets Pony Head; it’s like the Brothers Grimm meet Beckett in his swim trunks at the beach. In other words, this remarkable collection of stories is unlike anything else you’ve read.
Tim Craig: Now You See Him
These very short fictions are like beautiful intricate puzzles, with many layers and threads to unravel. The stories reveal the devastating nature of human existence with great observational skill and wit. I was frequently moved, yet often snorted with laughter. Tim has a unique voice. Not to be missed.
Selah Saterstrom: Rancher
To heal is to be changed, to be, potentially, revolutionized by the fracture whose initial presence signals as a wound. For all of its pain, the fracture sends out new lay lines – new paths of inquiry that necessitate new modes of knowing and being-with. Rancher follows such paths into the uncanny territories of life after rape: What happens when a lie becomes the truth? What happens when the ghost haunting your house turns out to be you?
Charmaine Wilkerson: Black Cake
In this moving debut novel, two estranged siblings must set aside their differences to deal with their mother’s death and her hidden past—a journey of discovery that takes them from the Caribbean to London to California and ends with her famous black cake. This is a story of how the inheritance of betrayals, secrets, memories, and even names, can shape relationships and history.
P.S. This is an ever-evolving list, and I’m bound to have forgotten someone! If there’s someone that should be on this list, please let me know! xoxo
Congratulations on all your book babies everyone!!
P.S. Write with me this winter!
January 23-Feb 3, 2023 (5 LEFT)
Do you have a large, book-length idea that you’ve been wanting to bring to fruition? Do you want to start 2023 with your flash novel in progress? Do you love the intensity of FlashNano or NaNoWrimo? Then get ready: In 10 days we will create a literal “flash flood” and you will leave the workshop with the bones (at least) of a flash novel.
February 6-10, 2023 (6 LEFT)
In this brand new 5 day generative workshop we will engage with unexplored or under explored avenues of potential inspiration including pop culture, music, trends, politics, fashion and more to discover unusual angles and back doors into new ideas. We will actively blur the distinctions between low brow and high brow art, and elevate the mundane to the miraculous.
Friday, December 9, 9-12 am MST
Tuesday, December 13, 1-4 pm MST
In these LIVE Zoom sessions we will gather in the spirit of revision, brainstorming, and sharing. We will examine our stories and get a sense of how they are landing with readers. Is your story saying what you want it to say? Bring your Flashnano (or other) first drafts and expect to leave with clarity, vision and enthusiasm for the second draft.
2023 Flash Fiction Retreats
with Nancy Stohlman and Kathy Fish
If you’re a flash fiction writer who’s longing for a new creative spark, an adventure to energize your spirit, and camaraderie with your creative community, then join us in 2023!