Humans & other beings: My story, “A History of Burning” is now available in the Summer 2018 issue of Midwestern Gothic. This is a dream pub for realsies. Much like my story, “Must Believe in Ghost” and its appearance in The Normal School, I could hardly imagine a more fitting place for this story than Midwestern Gothic.
This is the story that won the 2015 Tom Williams Prize in Fiction at the end of my MFA. Judge Kevin Brockmeier admired this story for “its energy, its color, its empathy, and most of all, because nearly every sentence is perfectly tuned to its own intentions.” Despite rejecting it, GC Waldrep praised this story for its “bravura opening” and for “making a wily virtue of telling rather than showing.” Tom Payne said, “Its narrative voice gets me, sailing far above this darkest blue of blue collar worlds with a sharp, historical intelligence.”
For me, this story was written in a single weekend, mostly out of a writer’s block of frustration. It’s also one of the most autobiographical of my stories. About 80% of what’s in this story are true events filtered through the lives of the characters on the page.
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Shadow CV: This story was rejected 38 times before it found its home.
This summer I’ll have at least two new publications out: My story of high-octane American childhood grief, “A History of Burning” will be published by Midwestern Gothic and “The Bangor Crows”, a tale of a woman overwhelmed by depression and the mystery of the chthonic evil that inhabits the town that Stephen King calls home, in Longleaf Review.
I’ve only just finished grading for the semester, a taking a quick jaunt to Wisconsin for my dad’s 60th birthday, then returning home to write a goddamned novel if it kills me.
It’s been two years of depression and writer’s block and it’s time to get busy writing. I’ve found ways to keep engaged: teaching writing and editing for Outlook Springs, but I’ve hardly written anything, paralyzed by the gap between how great I felt finishing up my MFA and the harsh reality afterward of my blank screen with the monsters of what-is-art-for-especially-in-the-face-of-advancing-fascism chanting, chanting, chanting, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” and shutting down all avenues of escape.
Creating characters, a whole world, is like getting into a new relationship: you have to be ready for the deep dive, to learn another person completely. But since the end of my MFA and the aftermath of the election, I have this bandwidth problem, this lack of signal, this literary attention-deficit disorder where I can’t pay enough attention to do the deep dive, to put in the time and attention of making people. There’s enough horror in the world; why should I torture fictional people too?
And suddenly, I am inspired to write a story where everyone gets exactly what they deserve.
As I wrap up my MFA (which means a new subtitle to this blog is in order!) there have been a lot of lasts lately, like my last workshop which is this Thursday, my last day of teaching, my last Read Free or Die, the last time I’ll see people from my cohort who are going off to wherever their careers are taking them. (I have it on good authority that the place everyone goes to during the first several post-MFA months is Deep Depression, and from there, on to their careers.)
But there’s also some firsts which is ending my MFA years on a rather high note. As you may have seen, I was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and I just found out on Tuesday that my story “Must Believe in Ghost” has been accepted for publication in The Normal School, which is a magical magazine and if you’re not reading it, you should. I met them at AWP last spring and was immediately impressed, got a subscription, and began avidly reading their fantastic work (which is beautifully designed, by the way.)
“Must Believe in Ghost” primarily concerns the content of this photograph.
I MUST BE IN THIS!, I said, and sent them the one story I had that I thought would really fit their aesthetic. DING! DING! DING! (See, kids, it pays to read a journal to understand its editorial inclinations and target your submissions, rather than carpet-bombing your story to everyone.)
I’ll update later when it’s out and available, or you can order a subscription now! It’s only like $12 a year. CHUMP CHANGE! Flaunt your affluence! Make it rain! Then, when April or May rolls around and I’m all getting in your grill to go buy my issue, you can be all, hey man, I’ve already been grooving on these sweet, sweet narratives!
I’m excited to announce my story, “Punchline Number Nine” will appear in the February edition of decomP magazinE. I’ll also be recording an audio version of the story for them this week as well.
This is my first official publication since I started down this path in earnest and not too shabby for the third story I ever wrote, though it’s been heavily revised since that first rough draft tumbled its way out of me back in the spring of 2012.
“Transam Bird” by Russ Pekkonen
Who knew, back then, that my little faux-noir story of a recovering alcoholic subpoena process server driving around in a beast of a TransAM looking for his artist ex-girlfriend would be my first publication?
I’ll update later when it’s live and you can see the beaut. Right now, I have to go update my CV and publications page and my Submittable bio.
As my son said, I’m playing on the pro courts now.