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)


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!

mad V performance.jpg

So You Wrote a Book? Steven Dunn

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.


Nancy: Can you tell us what the book is about in exactly six words?

Steven: Challenging standard heroic/patriotic military narratives.

You call this book an ethnography, which is an anthropological term used when researching and then writing about a different culture. Some might argue that the military is not a culture but an organization. What are your thoughts?

I think it is both, organization and culture, like any work place has its own culture, but with the military you live and work in it. Plus it has its own laws, holidays, rituals, conventions, dress codes, behavior codes, and so on.

I see this book like a literary collage: Army codes, recruiting posters, comics and “official” language are presented as artifacts but also juxtaposed against your story and the stories of the other soldiers. Talk about your choice to go with this form as opposed to, say, a straight memoir?

I didn’t want a memoir because I was more interested in multiple truths instead of facts, so I call it a novel, plus there are some straight up speculative fiction elements. Like people argue over the facts of whether Chris Kyle (American Sniper memoir) killed 200 or 160 people. It’s an important fact, but focusing on those numbers ignores a lot of maybe more important truths about why/how this thing is celebrated and publicly worshipped, and the truth that that is a lot of killing. But mainly, I wanted to include other voices that don’t often show up in military literature, especially from women, people of color, LGBTQ voices, and voices from foreign civilian victims or our wars.

In this book you do a series of anonymous “subject interviews”. Did you find using this kind of source material made it easier to write the book or more challenging? How do you reconcile multiple visions?

Oh my god, yes, more challenging (at first), because I was trying to control it. But after a while of writing it, I knew I had to let the book be a mess, to be wild by letting these multiple visions collide and/or agree with each other, hoping to slow down the automated ways we think about the military. What helped me see this was Joyelle McSweeney’s quote in an essay on genre in Ghost Proposal: “I love when a structure is badly wired and it shorts out and sends up dazzling sparks and all kinds of fatal events.” So this book needed to be a badly wired ethnography that presents itself as one thing but shorts out and unravels into a hot mess (which is a lot of our experiences in the military) that we might or might not be able to make some sense of.

One moment that stood out for me was when one of your “subjects” says that he only joined the Army for the G.I. Bill…and so did all his friends. As a college professor I see many of these students on the other side, “cashing in” their G.I. Bills but also attempting to reconcile and write about their (often difficult) experiences in the military. Would you say this pathway into the military is typical? What would you say to a high school student considering this path for these reasons?

That answer is so complicated for me. I joined for the G.I. Bill also, but chose to go to a private university afterwards, which the G.I. Bill stopped fully funding private schools during my sophomore year in 2011. So it wasn’t completely worth it for me. But it’s been worth it for a lot of other people. So I’d tell a high school student that if that’s the only reason they’re joining, maybe consider a few other options first. But I also know that the military specifically recruits its enlisted members from below the poverty line, so sometimes that’s the only option for people.

You are donating 10% of the author proceeds to the International Refugee Committee. Can you tell us about this organization and why you feel passionate about it?

I’ll give the info from their website: The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is a global humanitarian aid, relief, and development nongovernmental organization. Founded in 1933 at the request of Albert Einstein, the IRC offers emergency aid and long-term assistance to refugees and those displaced by war, persecution, or natural disaster. The IRC is currently working in over 40 countries and 27 U.S. cities where it resettles refugees and helps them become self-sufficient.

The IRC conducted operations across Iraq from April 2003 through December 2004. The organization resumed operations there in 2007, and is now expanding programs throughout the country. In addition to aiding displaced Iraqis within the country, the IRC is also providing assistance to Iraqi refugees in Jordan and Syria, as well as to those granted refuge in the United States

I’m often guilty and ashamed of having been in the military and benefitting from it socially and economically—and contributing to that organization who destroys other economies and people. So it’s important for me to contribute to the IRC, who is doing the opposite of what the military is doing: trying to keep people alive. This doesn’t absolve me or anything, or make me feel less guilty. I don’t know. I feel dumb talking about it sometimes because I haven’t worked it out yet, and don’t know if I ever will.

This isn’t your first book. You also published Potted Meat in 2016. How is Water and Power different from Potted Meat?

Potted Meat was narrow in geographic space (confined to one small town), and more internal, and ignorant of the past and future. It was very much focused on the mess of the present tense. water & power is wider in geographic space (Hawaii, Japan, Thailand, under the pacific ocean on a submarine), more external by including voices and viewing the military from multiple critical lenses. It also brings in histories and speculates on the future.

You are currently part of a project to bring Potted Meat to film. What is that experience like? Do you have to let go and let the director’s vision take over at some points?

The experience so far has been so damn great and collaborative. The director (Cory Warner) and producer (Flora Ortega) constantly check in with me in terms of the script and the visual tone. They want to stick as close to the book as possible, so whenever I need to let go and the directors’ vision take over, I’m totally fine with it. Which the only thing so far has been some arrangements of some of the stories to work for the film. I’m learning a lot about visual storytelling, and other filmmakers/films that I never knew about. But overall, it’s been cool as hell. My cousin, Drew Lipscomb, is producing the soundtrack, as well as rapping on it too, and some of my homies I grew up with are featured on it: Deep Jackson and C.Y.N. This shit is fire too!

You have published both your books with Tarpaulin Sky Press.  Can you tell us about your road to publication and/or your publishing process?

I’d been a fan of Tarpaulin Sky for years, and loved that they published books that were wild as hell, that weren’t following many rules about what I used to think “literature” was, plus I knew they made beautiful books from the layout to cover design to paper quality. Tarpaulin only publishes 2-3 books every other year, so when I saw they had an open reading period, I submitted. Luckily I was one of the books chosen. It was in the contract that Tarpaulin could have first look at my second book, and if they wanted to publish it, I could say yes or no. So I got lucky again, and said yes because I love love love TS.

boxing fbomb cropYou are going to be one of the challengers in November 20th, “Fbomb Heavyweight Challenge of the Century” throwdown against Jonathan “Bluebird” Montgomery who said, “I feel confident going toe to toe with anyone at the mic.” The Vegas polls are tied. Can you give us any insights into your strategies for the match and what viewers should expect?

Bluebird, or Hummingbird as I call him (to get in his head), is a super high energy performer, so I’ll let him do what he does, he can flap his wings 80 times per second in the first few rounds, but he doesn’t have stamina, and then BAM, I’ll knock him out once he’s tired. That’s all folks!

Finally: What advice do you have for someone writing their first book?

Take your time, if you can afford it and aren’t dependent on books for income (not that we make money anyway). Take a musician and/or athlete approach to writing in terms of practice. And what worked for me, was to not submit it to 100 places, you know, the conventional wisdom of casting a wide net to better your chances. Tithe to the community: go to readings, write authors nice notes if you loved their books, interview people if you have a platform, review books.

Anything else you want to add?

Thank you for this interview, and all of the great questions. Oh, and I love your new book, and your performances of it.

Awww, thank you! The admiration is mutual. xoxo

Steven Dunn is the author of two novels, Potted Meat and water & power. Some of his work can be found in Granta and Best Small Fictions. He was born and raised in West Virginia.

Visit Steven’s website to learn more!

Saturday Oct 13: Quadruple Book Release with Steven Dunn, Jason Arment, Julia Madsen and Nancy Stohlman

This Saturday! I’m super psyched to be part of this event (and Nick Busheff will be making a mini musical appearance, BTW). I’d love to see you there! (Everyone cross your fingers that my books arrive in time–yikes!!)


7935 E 14th Ave, Denver CO 80220

7-9 pm

Please join us at Counterpath on Saturday, October 13th at 7pm for a lovely evening of readings and joint book release for Steven Dunn’s water & power (Tarpaulin Sky), Julia Madsen’s The Boneyard, The Birth Manual, A Burial: Investigations into the Heartland (Trembling Pillow Press), and Jason Arment’s Musalaheen (University of Hell Press), and Nancy Stohlman’s Madam Velvet’s Cabaret of Oddities.

Steven Dunn is the author of two novels, Potted Meat and water & power. Some of his work can be found in Granta and Best Small Fictions. He was born and raised in West Virginia.

Julia Madsen is a multimedia poet and educator. She received an MFA in Literary Arts from Brown University and is a PhD candidate in English/Creative Writing at the University of Denver. Her first book, The Boneyard, The Birth Manual, A Burial: Investigations into the Heartland, is forthcoming from Trembling Pillow Press.

Jason Arment served in Operation Iraqi Freedom as a Machine Gunner in the USMC. He’s earned an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Although unagented, he’s collaborated with Fox Sports, been published and nominated in the Best American Essay series, published in the New York Times and just had his memoir Musalaheen come out–of which many pieces have been published in cool/prestigious places. You are probably friends with Jason on facebook.
(He uses twitter as an author bio.)

Nancy Stohlman’s books include Madam Velvet’s Cabaret of Oddities, The Vixen Scream and Other Bible Stories, The Monster Opera, Searching for Suzi: a flash novel, and Fast Forward: The Mix Tape, a finalist for a 2011 Colorado Book Award. She is the creator and curator of The Fbomb Flash Fiction Reading Series, the creator of FlashNano in November, and the co-founder of Flash Fiction Retreats. Her work was recently anthologized in the WW Norton anthology New Micro: Very Short Stories. She teaches writing at the University of Colorado Boulder. Find out more at www.nancystohlman.com

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