So You Wrote a Book? Len Kuntz

Looking into the darkest parts of humanity with compassion and honesty, the nuggets in Len Kuntz’s This is Why I Need You are keyholes into the quiet desperation of your neighbor, the painful tragedy of your lover, and the exquisite experience of being human: both pain and wonder, horror and redemption. Kuntz overturns the dark stones and pokes at the wiggling decay with a loving, careful, but unflinching bedside manner. He faces the wound of humanity, pulls out the poisoned arrows, and lets us see the rupture. And in seeing it, somehow, we are healed.

 

Nancy Stohlman: Describe this book in six words.

Len Kuntz: Stories for broken and imperfect people

NS: I’ve read several of your books, including Dark Sunshine and I’m Not Supposed to Be Here and Neither are You, and they all have that searing “Len” quality: you love to break our hearts, and we love you for it. How is This Is Why I Need You different from your other books?

LK: Honestly, I think the only thing that is different are the stories.  The voice is pretty much the same.  People still struggle with their problems.  Characters get hurt.  The only slight difference is the last linked twelve stories are a little bawdier than I usually write.

NS: You have a character, Jess, that continues to show up in multiple stories but isn’t (I don’t think) the same exact character. Can you speak to Jess as a literary device? Is Jess more of an archetype or an everyman/everywoman?

LK: Names are important, and maybe even more so in stories.  But they can trip things up, claim too much attention or even mislead the reader.  I like Jess when you need a name for reader convenience, yet the name itself isn’t crucial to the story.  I also like the quasi asexual quality of the name, how Jess/Jesse could be female or male.

NS: Many of these stories have a little thematic or imagery “hook” into the story before or after like literary chain mail. Were the hooks intentional in the writing or in the arranging process? Did you have to manipulate them or were they already apparent?

LK: I almost never know what the story is going to be about.  I just start with the first sentence, and if I like the sound of it, or the weight or potential of it, then I move to the next sentence, then the next, and so on.

NS: The last 12 stories in fact are linked more overtly, like self-contained flash sequence connected by the 14th of each month. Any significance with the 14th?

LK: Yes, it’s a linked flash-novella.  That was born out of a really cool project Matt Potter (PURE SLUSH) created where he took 30 writers and assigned us a date.  Mine was January 14th.  Then from there we had to continue through an entire year—Feb. 14th, March 14th all the way to Dec 14th.  Matt is a terrific editor and all-around great guy.  He published all of our pieces in an anthology through PURE SLUSH then separately printed each of our novellas into our own private book.  He titled mine My Uncertain Search For Myself, which I thought was brilliant.

NS: Have you thought about writing a book that was more intentionally threaded, a flash novel or novella?

LK: I have briefly, but now that you’re bringing it up I’m thinking about it more.  My best friend, Robert Vaughan and I spent a couple of months where we each challenged ourselves to write a poem a day, so we ended up with something like 120 combined.  We’re going to paginate them into a manuscript and hopefully find a publisher.

NS: Your characters are often hiding secrets, summed up perfectly in this thought: “All your life you think you know someone and then you discover you don’t. That must be how it is when neighbors learn the insurance salesman in the rambler ends up being a serial killer.” Can you talk about this impulse in your work? Should all writing aim to expose?

LK: Secrets are fascinating, don’t you think?  We all have them, and we all have secrets that are kept from us as well.  As material for writing, secrets are brimming with possibilities.  I don’t necessarily know if all writing should aim to expose, but it should jolt you in some way.  When I worked in the corporate world, I used to say that, as a leader, when you’re through talking to someone you should leave that person feeling as if a warm mitt had been imprinted on both their head and heart.  You should leave them stimulated, their mind buzzing, and their emotions stirred.  I think that’s what any type of writing should do.

NS: This metaphor seems to describe your work perfectly: “…like those wicked weeds that look plain until you touch them and invisible needles sink into your skin.” Would you say your writing is like those invisible needles?

LK: Hopefully, and that’s nice of you to ask.  I tend to write about the tough stuff in life because we’ve all been through our share of it, and if I’m able to portray things authentically, yet hopefully, I think the reader can identify with the writing, even when it hurts.

NS: You publish both poetry and prose, although this book is prose. Can you talk about your own crossover? Where are you most comfortable?

LK: I love writing anything short, sometimes very short. Novels, especially tomes, bogle my mind.  I’m in awe of how an author can write about tedium without making it tedious.

Poetry is probably my favorite form.  You can do so many things with it.

But mostly I just enjoy starting small fires, pieces that (hopefully) pop and spark and bring out some sort of emotional depth, then get out of the room.

NS: This is Why I Need You is published by Ravenna Press. Talk about your path to publication with this book and/or your experience with Ravenna.

LK: Kathryn Rantala runs Ravenna.  I’ve still never met her yet I feel as if I have.  She put out three books by Kim Chinquee, one of my idols and virtual mentors.  On a lark, I sent Kathryn a note asking when their submission window would open because the site said Closed.  She wrote back that they’re always open for writers they like and to send something, so I did that very night—a poetry manuscript and This Is Why I Need You.  Kathryn was a delight to work with.  She’s just a lovely person through and through.  If I could, I’d put out all my books with her. 

NS: Anyone who follows you or your work knows that you are incredibly prolific. What is your secret?

LK: Truthfully, I’m just incredibly lucky.  I get to write full-time, every day.  So many writers have jobs and have to squeeze in 20 minutes of writing here or there.  But I do write really fast.  Usually a story will take no more than 15 minutes.  The other thing that helps so much is finding great authors who use language in surprising ways i.e, Sabrina Orah Mark, Steven Dunn, Heather Christle.  I’ll be reading their book, and a phrase or certain word will spark an idea, and I’ll put the book down every other page, vomiting out piece after piece.  Lastly, a bath with bubbles and wine works wonders.  Really.  I’ve written some of my favorite things in the tub.   

NS: What advice would you give someone who is writing/wants to write a book?

LK: Of course, it depends where they’re at in their writing journey.  For a novice, I would say, study the craft as if you’re studying to get a Master’s degree.  Ultimately, write what moves you, what brings you joy after you’ve written it.  Then get extra sets of eyes on your work before submitting.  Plead for honest feedback and don’t be offended or hurt if some of what they say isn’t what you wanted to hear.  Write you best book.  It’s going to out-live you. 

NS: Anything else you want to add?

LK: I love writing and I love writers of all kinds.  I try to be a good literary citizen to my tribe.  It all feels like such a gift. 

NS: Links to buy the book or other promo links:

I have a blog where I post new writing, or something of that ilk, every M, W, Friday without fail.  It’s at lenkuntz.blogspot.com. My last two books are on Amazon.

NS: Thank you for playing, Len!

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 Len Kuntz is a writer from Washington State, and the author of four books, most recently the story collection, THIS IS WHY I NEED YOU, out now from Ravenna Press.  You can find more of his writing at lenkuntz.blogspot.com

25 Books by Friends (just in time for Jólabókaflóð)

icelandI’m not Icelandic, but if there is one reason why I wish I was it would be to celebrate Jólabókaflóð, the Icelandic Christmas Book Flood where books–yes, books!–are exchanged on Christmas Eve. Then everyone goes home and reads. Doesn’t that sound amazing? And did you know that Iceland publishes more books per capita than any other country in the world?

Regardless of whether you are Icelandic or not, giving books–especially signed books–during the holidays is a super thoughtful gift. It says “I care about your intellectual and creative health” so much more than that bottle of wine–and lasts longer too! Plus you’re supporting artists and that’s always a good thing.

So what books will you give and receive this Winter’s Eve (and beyond)? I have some suggestions! For several years I have done an end of the year “Top 10 Books By Friends List”, and since I was a slacker last year you get double the pleasure, double the fun!

25 Books by Friends 2018

(in no particular order: most published in 2017/2018)

books

The Realty Traveler by Jonathan Montgomery
Read my interview with Jonathan here:
“Jonathan “Bluebird” Montgomery has just released his new book, The Reality Traveler, a pop culture allegorical/philosophical tale with Jonny “Bluebird” as its picaresque narrator and Reality Traveling tour guide! Think Don Quixote meets the Alchemist meets the Guardians of the Galaxy.” Read more

Water and Power by Steven Dunn
Read my interview with Steven here
“Steven Dunn has just released his new book, Water and Power! This book is a literary mosaic, collaging the two contradictory faces of the military: the official face of the recruiting posters and the real faces of the people, including Steven’s.” Read more

Meet My Haze by Meg Tuite
Interview coming!

Kiss, Kiss by Paul Beckman
Read Kathy Fish’s review on the Flash Fiction Retreats website here

New Micro: Exceptionally Short Stories edited by James Thomas and Robert Scotellaro
My stories “Death Row Hugger” and “I Found Your Voodoo Doll on the Dance Floor After Last Call” appear in this amazing anthology
Read a review from the Los Angeles Review of Books here

Alligators at Night by Meg Pokrass
Interview coming!

Gather the Night: Poems by Katherine DiBella Seluja
Read my interview with Katherine here
“Katherine DiBella Seluja has just released her new book, Gather the Night, which is largely an investigation into the complex emotions around mental illness and addiction, particularly as it affects the narrator’s brother, Lou. While much literature has been devoted to the stories of people suffering with these and other illnesses, there are fewer stories that speak to the experience of the bystander, those caught in the orbit of the illnesses and getting the midnight ER phone calls. Read more

Funhouse by Robert Vaughan
Interview coming!

Other Household Toxins by Christopher Allen
Interview coming!

Flash Fiction Festival Two edited by Bath Flash Fiction Award
My story “Loch Ness” appears in this great compilation of writers who gathered in the UK in 2018.

On the Bitch by Matt Potter
Interview coming!

One of These Days by Trent Hudley
From my book blurb:
“Trent Hudley is unafraid to look at the underbelly of despair, taking us on an existential unraveling through the landscapes of loneliness, deftly weaving the crisis of humanity between the real and the surreal like a strange premonition. “This is a story without hope” says one of his characters, but One of These Days is a book striving for redemption.”

Roses are Red, Violets are Stealing Loose Change from My Pockets While I Sleep by David S. Atkinson
From my book blurb:
“David S. Atkinson’s imagination is a beast unleashed! The stories in Roses are Red, Violets are Stealing Loose Change from My Pockets While I Sleep are bizarre and hilarious, taking us into a highly peculiar landscape with scenarios that leave me wondering: Where does he come up with this stuff? Narrated with his signature intellectual deadpan (think “straight man”) and featuring labyrinthian titles that unroll all the way to near slapstick, Atkinson leads us from one outlandish situation to the next without flinching, apologizing, or justifying.”

Ripening: 2018 National Flash Fiction Day Anthology edited by Santino Prinzi and Allison Powell
My story “The Pilgrimage” appears in this tasty anthology!

Ideal Suggestions: Essays in Divinatory Poetics by Selah Saterstrom
Selah is awesome!

Nothing Short Of: Selected Tales from One Hundred Word Story edited by Grant Faulkner, Lynn Mundell and Beret Olsen
My story “Naked” appears in this great collection of tiny stories!

I’m Not Supposed to Be Here and Neither are You by Len Kuntz
Interview coming!

Glimmerglass Girl by Holly Lyn Walrath
“Bold yet delicate, sharp, intricate, and woven with fragile strength, there are many things to like in Glimmerglass Girl. The first a reader might notice is the interplay of words and images, something many writers attempt but not always with such success. Glimmerglass Girl uses classic and vintage fairy tale images to give the book an aura of innocence and nostalgia…”
Read more here

Rattle of Want by Gay Degani
Read Kathy Fish’s interview with Gay Degani here

The Plankton Collector: A Novella by Cath Barton
Read Kathy Fish’s blurb about Cath’s book here

Bad Motel: 100 Word Stories by Robert Scotellaro
From my book blurb:
“Like perfectly crafted dioramas, Robert Scotellaro’s micro stores are tiny keyholes, tableau glimpses into fully formed worlds, entire lives implied with the barest swipe of words said, and more importantly, not said.”

How to Make a Window Snake: Three Novellas in Flash by Charmaine Wilkerson, Joanna Campbell and Ingrid Jendrzejewski 
Three great writers for the price of one!

Musalaheen: A War Memoir by Jason Arment
Veteran Jason Arment’s debut book!

The Crazed Wind by Nod Ghosh
This collection began in my Flash Books class in February–Nod is awesome!

The Boneyard, The Birth Manual, A Burial: Investigations into the Heartland by Julia Madsen
Julia is also a great multi-media artist!

Funny Bone: Flashing for Comic Relief edited by Peter Blair and Ash Chantler
My story “Clown Car” from Madam Velvet’s Cabaret of Oddities was first published in this collection of humorous flashes
Profits go to Comic Relief, a major charity based in the UK, with a vision of a just world, free from poverty.

Nothing to Worry About by Vanessa Gebbie
This is a weird little book that speaks to my weird heart!

PS: Okay, I know that was more than 25. I can’t stop!
PSS: My goal is to interview all the authors listed here in my So You Wrote a Book Series in 2019, so stay tuned!

Regardless of what you celebrate, and whether you celebrate anything at all, I celebrate the many ways that we support one another on this crazy creative life journey.
Wishing you love, rest, and inspiration this winter season.
See you in 2019!
xoxo

mad V performance.jpg

Top 15 Books by Friends 2015

icey booksJust in time to celebrate Jólabókaflóð, the Icelandic Christmas Book Flood, I was forced to expand my annual Top 10 Books by Friends to the Top 15 Books by Friends List! This is a good problem to have.

Did you know: In Iceland new books are exchanged and read on Christmas Eve with a cup of hot chocolate? Did you know that Iceland publishes more books per capita than any other country?

My Top 15 List is in no particular order and the books were only read by me in 2015, not necessarily published in 2015 (though this year most of them were).

TOP 15 BOOKS BY FRIENDS 2015

Slab by Selah Saterstromslab

From my Amazon review: “Selah Saterstrom is a visionary and her latest book, Slab, takes us to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina where our narrator, Tiger, waits to be rescued from the concrete slab where a house might have once stood.”

Buy it now!

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511bryadi5l-_sx331_bo1204203200_Peek by Paul Beckman

From my Amazon review: “It’s as if Woody Allen and Charles Bukowski got your favorite uncle hammered all weekend and made him spill the family dirt in perfect, flash fiction sized bites.”

Buy it now!

*

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kuntzcoverweb-500jpg_388x600_60b1f7acda693ca74e1b6bd8076c8a96-194x300Dark Sunshine by Len Kuntz

From my Goodreads review: “Dark Sunshine is the perfect name for Len Kuntz’ haunting collection of flash fiction. Equal parts despair and hope, this combination creates a cocktail that will leave you heartsick and Kuntz is the kind of writer who knows how to break your heart gently.”

Buy it now!

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Flash Fiction International pbk mech.inddFlash Fiction International by eds James Thomas, Robert Shapard and Christopher Merrill

From my Boston Literary Magazine review: “The writers and stories included come from diverse corners of the globe, and the Table of Contents reads like a meeting of the United Nations”

*I will be joining James Thomas, Robert Shapard, Tom Hazuka and Lynn Mundell on an AWP Panel in 2016 entitled: Where We’ve Been, Where We’re going: Five Editors Talk about the History and Future of Flash Fiction Anthologies. Friday April 1 at 3 pm. Join us!   Buy it now

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51phaopzygl-_sx326_bo1204203200_Addicts and Basements by Robert Vaughan

The front yard screams at you.
And the car.
And the buttons on your shirt.
Leaving: Yes, I am leaving.
Still, you might have the chance to get there before me.
–from “Leaving” 

Buy it now

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51cy5hoqoel-_sx331_bo1204203200_What We Know So Far by Robert Scotellaro

From my Amazon review:  “…writers such as Robert Scotellero learn to say more with less, no longer needing the extra foliage. His work takes the leap into true maturity, mastering the silences, zooming in on the subtle moment at hand and letting that one drop of water tell the story of the entire world.”

Buy it now

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51l8jlwgxsl-_sx331_bo1204203200_Grace Notes by Meg Tuite and David Tomaloff

From Unknown Press: “A stunning collaboration from Meg Tuite (prose), David Tomaloff (poetry), and Keith Higginbotham (collages), who’ve blended their work together in a powerful display that is all of these things:  crushing, mind altering, odd in the ways that shine.”

Buy it now 

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26796177Hamburgers and Berliners by Matt Potter

From my Amazon review: “Generously peppered with dry wit and historical tidbits, Hamburgers and Berliners is less a guidebook and more a window into both the loneliness and celebrations of following one’s heart.”

Buy it now

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together-we-can-bury-it
Together We Can Bury It by Kathy Fish

From my Goodreads review: “Her stories are elegant, atmospheric, nostalgic, but never trite or sentimental. She shows the irony of childhood as deftly as the confusion and difficult beauty of adulthood: loving, losing, longing, and breathing the daily poetry that is the ordinary, but always extraordinary, life.”

Buy it now

*

dicksonAll Points Radiant by Brian Dickson

From my Amazon review: “A thumbprint, a pulse, a sunflower, a missing sock, Dickson is able to imply large meaning in small details; these moments acknowledge grief, certainly, but more importantly create a mosaic of a life. A beautiful eulogy in poetry, a poignant but radiant celebration of relationships passed but never forgotten.”

Buy it now

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51jpc6-pdil-_sx331_bo1204203200_The Secret Games of Words by Karen Stefano

From my Amazon review: “The stories in Karen Stefano’s debut collection are vulnerable to the point of making me blush with recognition. Like reading someone’s emails, I, too, feel the madness and unraveling of her character(s) as I eavesdrop on her most raw and intimate thoughts. Like a voyeur, I can’t look away.”

Buy it now

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51hvg0obxbl I Saw a Zulu Woman Once by Jeffrey Spahr-Summers

Until Their Bellies Bulge and Shine by Jeffrey Spahr-Summers

Companion books of poems on living in Apartheid South Africa

Buy it now

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51mpnr9e17l-_sx344_bo1204203200_1Harrison by Nate Jordon

From Arcadia’s website: “Nestled in the heart of the Ozarks of north central Arkansas, Harrison is a small city that embodies an intriguing history within the state…Nate Jordon worked extensively with the genealogy department of the Boone County Library to bring Harrison’s early history to life.”

Buy it now

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img_3032Two Truths and a Lie by Leah Rogin-Roper

Leah Rogin-Roper’s chapbook Two Truths and a Lie was the winner of Horseless Press’s Poetry and a Pint chapbook series in 2015 and was released in September.

Buy it now

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ctjilukusaahaba
A Very F**cked Up Christmas Tale by J.A. Kazimer

From my Amazon review: “Even while giving the heimlich to the Ghost of Villainous Presents, Kazimer does what she does best—swipes her finger through the too-perfect frosting of our childhood stories and redelivers them with just the right touch of raunch, humor and irony.”

Buy it now

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9781938633676-Perfect (1).inddGlassMusic by Rebecca Snow

From Conundrum Press’ website:Glassmusic explores the sometimes devastating realities of loyalty and jealousy, with philosophy, music, and love serving as guides.”

Shortlisted for the International Rubery Award!

Buy it now

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Were you counting?? I know that’s 16…sue me!

Happy  Jólabókaflóð Everyone!