Friday, December 17, 2010

Submission Manager/Reading Period

We just wanted to give everyone a heads up that we will be closing our Submission Manager to new submissions from December 20 to January 17 to give us a chance to get caught up. If you've already submitted work be assured it will be read over the next few weeks.

Everything else will be business as usual. We have the new issue coming out soon. And of course, I'll post a reminder a couple days before we're set to reopen the Submission Manager.

Thanks for understand and as always, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cairn - New Issue Teaser #3

As promised on Monday, here is a teaser from Roy Kesey's "Cairn," which appears in the soon to be released fall/winter 10-11 issue of Ninth Letter and is also excerpted from his forthcoming novel, Pacazo.

Across the Fourth Bridge, the causeway thirty feet deep and fifty yards wide, almost empty because it is spring: the Piura River is now a thread of water through mud and scattered trash. Clustered in the riverbed tight against the far bank are half a dozen shanties. Gaunt chickens skitter around them. The only green of any kind is a line of points in the loam, gourds or maybe melons.

Farther down the bank something moves along the top edge. It is long and black or dark gray, too thick for a snake and now out of sight, the bus jolting off the bridge onto the roadway. Mariangel climbs into my lap, points out the window at a speck in the sky. It is either a hawk or litter lifted by wind.

In two or three months the summer rains will start. The shanty owners will harvest their crops, will move up onto the banks as the causeway fills. For a time it will be beautiful here along the river and elsewhere in Piura: greenery on all sides. People will come to the edge to watch the water move and to be calmed.

My head and hip ache and my stomach roils and south now, through Miraflores and Castilla and down into the Sechura, a strip of desert that holds the Pacific and the Andes apart for twelve hundred miles. Two tiny patches of its sand are in a sense my central texts. Marks on the dunes are the sentences and their meanings are unstable, altered daily by wind or rain, by footsteps including my own. I read looking for patterns, the better to see what does not fit them: traces of what was written one night ten months ago.

The fall/winter 10-11 (vol. 7, no. 2) issue will be available soon, then you'll be able to read the rest of "Cairn." To make sure you get as soon as it's available, sign up for a subscription today. If you buy a subscription now, you get an extra issue, so you get 3 issues instead of just 2. To get the special, head over to the webstore and type "Holiday Sale" in the special instructions box.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Bad Writing

Here's a promising looking documentary, Bad Writing, about a guy who wanted to be a poet and his discussions with several writers, including Steve Almond (vol. 1, no. 1, vol. 2, no. 1, and vol. 4, no. 2) and DA Powell (forthcoming in vol. 7, no. 2), about writing. While the trailer seems to focus more on the filmmaker's failure as a poet, the more interesting part of it, for me at least, is the question of bad vs good writing really being about a piece either failing or being successful as a work of art. My initial reaction is to say that a piece of writing can be well written and still not be good art. Can it work the other way around? I'd have to think about it more.

Anyways, the movie is already open in select cities, so check your local listings. Stop by the Bad Writing website for more information.

Monday, December 13, 2010


The Rumpus Book Club has chosen 9L contributor Roy Kesey's first novel Pacazo as their pick for January. If you're unfamiliar with The Rumpus Book Club, check it out. The book isn't due to be released until February 15, but you can get it over a month early if you join the book club.

It just so happens that the next issue of Ninth Letter (vol. 7, no. 2) will feature "Cairn," an excerpt from Pacazo. As fans of Roy's work (he also previously appeared in vol. 3, no. 2 & vol. 1, no. 2), we're looking forward to the release of his novel. Congratulations Roy! On Wednesday, I'll post an excerpt from "Cairn" (yes, an excerpt from an excerpt) as the third teaser from our new issue.

Also, don't forget we are running our Holiday Sale, where you get an extra issue added to your subscription, so you get 3 issues instead of just 2. To get the special, head over to the webstore and type "Holiday Sale" in the special instructions box.

Friday, December 10, 2010

7.2.2 or new issue teaser #2

Before getting to the teaser for the next issue, I want to direct you to the Ninth Letter website and more specifically to the new Featured Writer, Genine Lentine, who asks, "How does a poem change in memory?" It's fantastic. Check it out.

Ok. Every day we get closer and closer to the release of the new fall/winter 10-11 issue (vol. 7, no. 2) issue. This issue has a lot of cool pieces from writers like, Jedediah Berry, Mary Miller, Peter Orner, D.A. Powell, and Margot Singer, among many others. Today's teaser is an excerpt from Charlotte Pence's poem "Bardo."

My childhood chore was to shoo away the two ghosts Dad didn't like: Grimekle and Had. Had stole oil from our Oldsmobile, streaked his cheeks with until the car burned dry and caught fire. Grimekle tramped through the garden after hard rains, making the dirt rocky, useless. He would machete down Dad's cornstalks as soon as they reached four feet tall, forcing Dad to stop writing his letters to ex-bosses, come outside with pencil paused over clipboard, yell about my neglect -- everything hulking around mid-sentence.

The fall/winter 10-11 (vol. 7, no. 2) issue will be available in a couple weeks, then you'll be able to read the rest of "Bardo." To make sure you get as soon as it's available, sign up for a subscription today. Also, don't forget we are running our Holiday Sale, where you get an extra issue added to your subscription, so you get 3 issues instead of just 2. To get the special, head over to the webstore and type "Holiday Sale" in the special instructions box.

As always, thanks for reading!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010


Every time I go to a reading someone in the audience asks the writer about their process. I'll confess, I have often been that person. There is often great curiosity about how someone creates. Today we get three writers, one from each genre, giving us a peek behind the curtain.

Essayist, Brian Oliu (vol. 6, no. 1) reveals his process for a post on Uncanny Valley.

Keith Montesano (vol. 4, no. 2) discusses the creation of his poem "Ghost Lights" at How a Poem Happens.

Finally, former 9L staffer and fiction writer, Andrew Ervin writes about his process for The Story Prize blog.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

NEA Grants

Congratulations to the following 9L poets who received a 2011 Literature Fellowship: Creative Writing (Poetry) NEA grant:

Leslie Harrison (vol. 5, no. 1)

Christopher Kennedy (vol. 6, no. 2)

Alison Titus (vol. 5, no. 2)

Again, congratulations everyone!

Friday, December 03, 2010

9L Staff News

We have some good news to share from current and former 9L staff members!

Current 9L staffer, Lindsey Drager's story, "A Brief Outline of Theories Not Addressed" is up on Elimae.

Over at HTML Giant, Kyle Minor writes about former CNF editor, Steve Davenport's poetry collection, Uncontainable Noise, in an article called, "Here is an Obscure Book of Poetry I Like."

Ted Sander's essay "To Scale" from the Cincinnati Review was listed as one of the 100 notable essay of 2009 in Best American Essays.

Micah Riecker's "History Lesson" from Mid-American Review and Steve Davenport's "Rivers to Gilead" from The Southern Review both received special mentions in the 2011 Pushcart Prize.

Congratulations everyone!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

9L Holiday Sale/New Issue Preview

Today starts our annual Holiday Sale! If you buy a one-year subscription (usually 2 issues), you get a bonus issue. Subscriptions will start with our next issue, vol. 7, no. 2 (available in a few weeks), and include vol. 8, no. 1 and vol. 8, no. 2 (aka the bonus issue). All you have to do is head on over to the webstore, purchase a one-year subscription, and type "Holiday Sale" in the special instructions box. Ninth Letter makes is a great gift for the reader(s) in your life or as a nice treat for yourself.

Also, to kick off the sale, and because we're thrilled that the new issue (vol. 7, no. 2) is very close to being ready, we're going to be featuring a series of special previews from it. Today's preview is an excerpt from Peter Orner's creative nonfiction piece, "Horace and Josephine."

Aunt Josephine used to slip fifty-dollar bills into the front shirt pocket of my brother's Cub Scouts uniform. Go buy yourself something nice, solider, she'd whisper. Then she'd put one of her long, exquisite fingers to her lower lip to let him know that her little secret of General Grant could stay between them. And even after Uncle Horace was completely disgraced and spent that week in jail awaiting trail for embezzlement before my grandfather, bless his heart, bailed him out with the little money he had left, the little money that Horace hadn't managed to steal, and they were living in 'reduced circumstances' in Aunt Molly's spare room, I could still see Aunt Josephine doing that with the fifties. Because she walked around Aunt Molly's cramped little stucco house on Wampanoag Street the same way she did that beautiful marble-floored palace way up at the top of the hill on President Avenue. The fact that Horace had been arrested didn't change her. Or the paintings she hung on her walls, the paintings she hid for months in my grandmother's attic. We all knew that the paintings were all they had left, the only things not seized by a gang of bankers and creditors who swarmed the house as soon it all went to hell, flashing their business cards and bearing reams upon reams of paper, as if anyone needed proof that their latest fresh kill was insolvent.

But to Josephine, the paintings, one of which she claimed was an early Chagall (a picture of a small elfin man raising his arms, Job-like to God, a pose my brother and I make whenever we talk about Uncle Horace) represented who she was, not who she once was. True, they now hung on the flaky yellow walls of Great Aunt Molly's living room. They no longer adorned a grand front hall like the one she used to hustle guests through with a flurry of wild waving, Darlings, don't dwadle, come in, come in! Come in! Yet even at Molly's where the change in circumstances couldn't have been more stark, Josephine's gray deep-set eyes gave nothing away. Not regret, never anger.

"Horace and Josephine" will be available in its entirety in the soon to be released vol. 7, no. 2. To make sure you get it as soon as possible, sign up for a subscription today. Remember to put "Holiday Sale" in the special instructions box to make sure you get the bonus issue.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Contributor Round-Up

9L contributors Gary L. McDowell (vol. 4, no. 1) and Kathleen Rooney (vol. 4, no. 2) list their picks for best poetry books of the year over at No Tells.

Iowa Public Radio spoke to Benjamin Percy (vol. 6, no. 2) earlier today about his new novel, The Wilding.

Dan Chaon (vol. 4, no. 2) is auctioning off the chance to name a character in his next novel after you to benefit the First Amendment Project. Margot Livesey (vol. 6, no. 1) and Dave Eggers (vol. 1, no. 1) are also participating in the auction.

The Rumpus Book Club interviews Adam Levin (vol. 1, no. 1) about his book, The Instructions.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Lobster/Verse Daily

We're very happy to report that 9L staffer, Matt Minicucci is featured on Verse Daily today! Head on over to Verse Daily read his poem, "Lobster," which appears in the current issue of Copper Nickel.

Congratulations Matt!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thank you, readers!

Happy Thanksgiving to all our readers. Many thanks for supporting us and other lit mags through the years. We hope you have a lovely day.

To make it even better, check out 9L contributor (vol. 1, no. 2 & vol. 6, no. 2) Ander Monson's fantastic video essay, "I Have Been Thinking About Snow."

Monday, November 22, 2010

5 (or so) Questions with Angela Woodward, Part 2

Sorry for the delay in posting this second part of 5 (or so) Questions with Angela Woodward. I promise it is worth the wait! Let's get to it. Here is part 2 of Philip Graham's interview with Angela Woodward.

PG: I'd say that the book's effect, at least for me as a reader, was complicated. Sure, it is sad, at times frightening, but this is balanced by the imaginative building that the couple shares, which explains without needing to say so directly their attraction to each other.

AW: There might be another link to the compressed, miniaturist form, but I don't know if I can quite say it. I took something very personal and private, the dissolving marriage, and made it on a big scale, as this conflict between countries. I don't know if this is the same as, or the obverse of, some historical novel where the personal travails are allegorical for the historical pageant. I want to take what's extremely heartfelt, and what's very personal, and see it in a different way, non-traditional, not sentimental, but still felt. So moving the landscape out, talking about these competing cultures and rival political systems, rather than focusing on the everyday reality of two people in an apartment, was a way of doing that. It may seem incredibly oblique, but for me, that was the most direct way I could get at a mudslide of emotion, to make a pretty ordinary tragedy a lens onto an extraordinary world.

PG: You certainly succeeded there -- End of the Fire Cult is quite unlike any other book I've read. And yes, there is that mudslide of collapse, but even when relations between the couple's two "countries" go sour, I found myself hoping they might return to a more productive period of co-creation -- after all, they'd done that before, hadn't they? -- and at a certain point this gave the book an odd type of dramatic tension.

AW: For me, it was implicit in the first chapter, that after that, it seemed there was no way for the couple to continue on together. I saw them as doomed. She invented her country, and he asked her if he could contribute. She said no. If she had said yes, then you've got a much happier story ahead of you. But she said no, and I never thought she could come back from that. There is some gentler co-creating in the middle of the book, where they offer the stories back and forth. There's something of a respite there. But it's only a lull, before the bad thing happens. I'm talking about this as if it wasn't me who made all these choices that steered the plot. But I remember the day I wrote the part about the invasion, and I was surprised and devastated. I could see it coming, but I couldn't deflect it. I was so sad.

PG: You mentioned "Arachne" as a turning point in the novel. Could you talk about that a bit more?

AW: The "Arachne" chapter was one of the first ones I wrote, before I really knew what the whole story was. I was toying with Ovid's Metamorphoses. The book was always in the back of my mind when I was writing Fire Cult, but "Arachne" is the only chapter that actually lifts a story from it. This is I think the only place where you really see the narrator and her husband telling their stories together. He's made up this horrible, creepy brothel in the capital of his country, and she's uncomfortable with that. And then he tells her about a spider woman who's an attraction at this place. The wife interrupts him with a different version, which is the Arachne story from Ovid, where a weaver is turned into a spider for boasting that she's more skilled than the goddess. But he gets out his story, which is that the girl was cold-hearted and cruel, and becomes a spider when her lover curses her. It seems aimed right at the wife, that he's accusing her, and the whole chapter is dark, grotesque. Some of the earlier chapters are pretty dark too, but here he's used their game in a deliberately cruel way. I actually thought of leaving this chapter out, because it distressed me. But I couldn't. And this opens the gate to the more tender section that follows, that gentler middle section where you might have been feeling your hopefulness.

PG: Yes, I have to confess I'm a sappy optimist when it comes to relationships, but you do clearly portray the husband as someone whom the wife needs to escape from. Which reminds me of one of the most electrifying moments in the novel for me, the lovemaking scene where, early in the couple's relationship, the (not-yet) wife, already catching on to the potential menace in this man's behavior, "was only dimly aware at that point of how much farther in there was to me, to both of us, and what I would do to get away, to keep him out." Does this impulse to hide later transform into the building of her imaginary country?

AW: I think so. She's got this whole complex refuge from him, and from the ordinariness and somewhat trapped economic circumstances of their lives. In a way she owes her fertility to him, that she's created this marvelous world, which then gained a lot of clarity in the ways it plays off his imagination. There's a profound debt there. But there's also an awareness of his aggression, which comes out in that scene. Something erotic and tender is at the same time dominating, setting off this tension that seems to have played out through the whole rest of their relationship.

PG: I am, as you may have gathered, a huge fan. So I can't help asking, what are you working on now?

AW: I'm in the middle of something bigger, looser, and more complex than either Fire Cult or Human Mind. The working title is "The Disasters," which in part refers to my chances of pulling this off. I can describe it as a novel in the form of lectures on archaeology, very messed up, rambling lectures. Let me not jinx it by trying to explain more than that. I barely understand myself what I'm up to.

Thanks to Angela Woodward and Philip Graham for such a fascinating discussion. To read excerpts from End of the Fire Cult, pick up a copy of vol. 7, no. 1 in our webstore.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Be back soon

Hi blog readers. I know the second part of the Angela Woodward interview should have been up on Wednesday and I'm trying my best to get it to you as soon as possible. I've been hit with a rather nasty flu, which is getting in the way of typing up the interview. I'm going to try to put it up this weekend. Thank you for you patience and understanding.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

5 (or so) Questions with Angela Woodward, Part 1

Today is the joint Cathy Day/Angela Woodward reading, which is part of the Carr Reading Series. The event starts at 4:30 in the Author's Corner of the Illini Union Bookstore and is free and open to the public. Ninth Letter fiction editor, Philip Graham, spoke with Angela Woodward recently about her work, including the stories that appear in vol. 7, no. 1. Here is part one of their conversation.

Philip Graham: Your first book, The Human Mind, is a collection of very short stories, prose poems in many ways, which explore the interiority in a serious and yet at times playful way. Your new book, End of the Fire Cult, carves out similar interior territory, though this time as a novel. How did you make that leap between short form and an extended work?

Angela Woodward: Saying something about my own work has been relatively rare for me, and I have a strong sense of being only the writer -- I groped around, saw something, heard something, and mashed it into words, but I'm far from being able to step back and think about what I've done. Nevertheless, I was there at the creation, so I'll try to draw on that.

The Human Mind is a collection of short prose pieces about thought and thinking. It reads to me as one complete piece in 20 parts, but the link between each is mostly thematic. A few characters recur -- William James, Robert Hooke, and the "I" speaker -- and I deliberately repeated words, so that they resonated as they went on. I suppose most of those pieces can stand alone, but my hope was that they gain strength and complexity by being read together. I have always liked the short short form, and some of my favorite work has been these little one and two-page things. But they were always one-offs. There's something really satisfying about saying so much in so compressed a form. But on the other hand, I'd like the reader to spend time and linger. When I wrote the first piece of Human Mind, "The Human Mind," I was struck by it being far better than the other junk I was writing at the time, and I had the idea I could keep going with more pieces. Then I wrote that book in a desperate couple of months, because I was so afraid I would lose the inspiration. I had to be inspired all over again for each piece, and they had to hit hard, and be as good as the ones that came before, for it all to fit together. By the end, I thought I had achieved the flash-fictionist's dream, in keeping the intensity of the miniature, but in making an extended work out of them. And I had done something else I had longed to do, which was write about thought in a way that was passionate, embodied and heartfelt. At least that's what I hoped to pull off. This theme of interiority, as you put it, is probably the strongest link in all my writing, and The Human Mind is probably my purest, most dead-set for that.

End of the Fire Cult is also concerned with interiority, in that most of the "action" is in the countries that the husband and wife imagine. A little bit happens in the real world, but the unraveling of the marriage is all played out between their invented lands. Like Human Mind, the book began with the first piece, "Intellectual Property" dashing itself out and seeming to have more behind it. I wrote a couple of pieces, and then wrote almost all of it in one month, where I work uninterrupted at a writers residency. Though there is a whole story to Fire Cult, which I knew at the beginning had to go towards a particular end, I still thought of the work as proceeding in tiny prose-poem-like pieces. Almost all of them came in at under three typed pages, and I set that as my limit -- if it was taking longer than three pages, then it probably wasn't good. The exceptions are some of the "Fire" chapters, and "Arachne," which is kind of a turning point. But mostly I was working out of a similar sense of form as with Human Mind. I had to have fresh inspiration over and over again, all of it was improv, it was written very quickly. I'm not sure I would call Fire Cult a novel, though I don't know what else to call it. You can call it a novel, please do! That would make me a novelist! But for me, the two books are very similar, and it was not much of a transition to do Fire Cult after Human Mind. I had gotten really well rehearsed in the miniature, and so able to play with it in a couple different ways.

PG: The wife and husband in your (well, why not, let's call it a novel!) novel create between them, as you mentioned, a private world of competing countries, each having its own traditions and histories, and the development of this world echoes the couple's marital struggles. Could you talk a little about how this world echoes the couple's marital struggles. Could you talk a little about how this world expanded for you as the author?

AW: The immediate inspiration for the beginning of the book was a student of mine from China, who became a good friend. He told me about this disputed mountain, which I gather lies between China and Korea, and the bit about two-thirds of the mountain belonging to one country seemed so odd and hilarious to me, and also that countries would fight over rights to this holiday. My friend was quite passionate in claiming rights to this holiday, outraged that others would say it was theirs. I didn't see why a holiday couldn't be shared, but to him it was an affront. I never did any more research than that, but wrote the story the next day. As I said above, this piece, like the beginning of Human Mind, seemed to arrive full force, and I felt obligated to see what else was there.

It also arrived, not so surprisingly, during the waning days of my marriage. By the time I really set to work on it, my husband had moved out. I did not want to write about my divorce, but I thought that if I avoided it, I wouldn't get past the feelings I was awash in. It seemed unavoidable, so I made myself go right at it. A lot of what I wanted to recover in the writing was the happiness and creativity of love. The playfulness of some of the "Words" and "Literature" chapters, and the one about fireflies, gave me great joy. They may have sprung from remembered love and anticipated love, more than the drained-out marriage, but that all belongs together, cyclically, and I wanted to get at that. I still find the very end of Fire Cult extremely sad, but I don't know if overall it's a sad book. I hope it takes the reader through a range of feelings, and explores a lot of strange nooks along the way.

Part 2 will be posted tomorrow. To read excerpts from End of the Fire Cult, pick up a copy of vol. 7, no. 1 in our webstore.

And don't forget to stop by the Author's Corner at the Illini Union Bookstore today at 4:30pm to hear Angela Woodward and Cathy Day read. It will be a great time. Hope to see you there!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Back Issue Spotlight: Vol. 6, No. 2/ Cathy Day

The next story to be in the back issue spotlight is Cathy Day's "YOUR BOOK: A NOVEL IN STORIES" from vol. 6, no. 2. I had the pleasure of interviewing Cathy for the current issue, which we excerpted on the blog over the summer. Cathy will also be reading as part of the Carr Reading Series on Tuesday, November, 16. The event, located in the Author's Corner of the Illini Bookstore, starts at 4:30 and is free and open to the public. It will be a great event and hopefully we'll see you there. In the meantime, here is an excerpt from "YOUR BOOK: A NOVEL IN STORIES."


You write a book. The manuscript is 241 pages long. Devotedly, you mother each of its 64,739 words, especially Fred, Helen, escape, snow, vaudeville, never, Indianapolis, time, bed, father, night.

How do you know this? These are the biggest words in your word cloud.
What the hell is a world cloud? A visualization of your word frequency.
Where do these clouds come from? That is a very good question.

How do you make one of these things? The same way you Obama-fied a picture of your cat -- you go to a website, upload a file, click "Go," and abracadabra! Your cat is red, white, and blue, and ordering you to CHILL instead of HOPE.

Why make a word cloud? Because you have just finished the 245th and final draft of the book. You've just had three martinis and you're feeling giddy, emailing your word cloud to all your friends -- until you realize that it's possible to extrapolate the entire plot of your book based solely on a 75-word cloud.

But this story isn't really about words, which is surprising, considering it's a story about a book and what happens once you've decided that it's time. You've done all the work, and so you wrap a scarf around its neck, kiss the book on the forehead, and push it into a cold, gray afternoon at the dawn of the twenty-first century.

The Big Push

Once upon a time, there lived an editor with the Midas touch. Every book he liked turned to gold. Back then, he had a twenty-something assistant who chewed sunflower seeds at her desk ("bird food," he called it). He dubbed her "Bird Brain," then "Birdie." At first he used these terms with endearment, but once she began moving up -- toward, then past him -- he used them sparingly, usually before contentious editorial meetings.

This morning, for example, when she walks into the window-walled conference room, he says, "It's not like the old days, is it Birdie? We used to sit in this room and argue about which book showed the most talent. Now we argue which book will sell." He waves his hand toward the marketing types who all stiffen in their chairs, as if he's just told an inappropriate joke.

She lets the Birdie crack go, as she always does. She isn't that girl anymore. Now, she's the one with the Midas touch. She's YOUR EDITOR, which is why your ambitious-but-as-yet-unknown-and-so-still-lowercased agent called her every Friday for six months to schedule a lunch, and she finally agreed for no other reason than his impending call was beginning to taint her Friday afternoons. When it's time, she makes her pitch to the crowded room. "This is the book we should push next summer." She observes the marketing types: the more YOUR EDITOR talks, they lean forward in their chairs, tapping their pens. When her former boss pitches his author, the marketing folks cross their arms like a gauntlet of high school principals. Even before the decision is made, YOUR EDITOR knows she has won.

To read the rest of "YOUR BOOK: A NOVEL IN STORIES" and to check out all the awesome fiction, poetry, and nonfiction, pick up a copy of vol. 6, no. 2 in our webstore. To get it for $5.95, choose, "sample copy, editor's choice" and enter "fall back sale" in the special instructions box.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Back Issue Spotlight: Vol. 6, No. 2

This month we're putting the back issue spotlight on vol. 6, no. 2. It was our second issue in the new smaller format and was designed by 11 graphic design alumni. And it featured some tremendous fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. So we're quite fond of it (although it's hard for us not to say that about our other issues). The nonfiction piece I'll excerpt from today was awarded a Pushcart Prize. Here is a look at Sarah Einstein's "Mot."

The KOA campground in Amarillo sits in a surprisingly seedy neighborhood, more urban than I had expected. A very middle-class couple with impossibly wide smiles advertises an adult video and novelty store from a billboard just before the final turn-off to the campground. Cattle graze in a pasture along the road. An unsettling mixture of the bucolic and the pornographic. Rusted trucks sit the driveways of rusted mobile homes.

I am here to visit Mot, a new and unlikely friend who wanders from place to place, dragging a coterie of dead relatives, celebrities, Polish folktale villains, and Old Testament gods along with him in his head. He left our home in Morgantown, West Virgina a month ago, heading for Amarillo, because cars, he said, can be had more cheaply out West, and he needed a car. But more than that, although he didn't say it, he needed to move on. By his own report, he hasn't stayed in anyone place for longer than three months in more than thirty years. Friends have sometimes lasted a place or two, never many, but while they are around his voices are quieter, more easily managed. Having someone real to talk with keeps him grounded, he says, and humor helps.

Our friendship is an experiment for both of us; we are trying to see if it can fend off our individual demons. His the literal sort, mine the metaphorical. Mot is dubious. "There are a lot of bad characters over here," he tells me on the phone. "And most of them don't want you around."

To read the rest of "Mot" and to check out all the awesome fiction, poetry, and nonfiction, pick up a copy of vol. 6, no. 2 in our webstore. To get it for $5.95, choose, "sample copy, editor's choice" and enter "fall back sale" in the special instructions box.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Upcoming Events

Here is a quick round-up of upcoming events featuring 9L contributors.

Dave Eggers (vol. 1, no. 1) will be on the University of Illinois campus on November 11 for the One Book, One Campus Lecture. The lecture, which starts at 7pm, is free and open to the public.

In Seattle, WA, Jo Scott-Coe (vol. 3, no. 2) will be reading on November 19 at the Elliot Bay Book Company. The reading begins at 6pm. She will also be reading on November 20 at Parkplace Books, 2-4pm, to promote her new book, Teacher at Point Blank.

Winter Wheat: The Mid-American Review Festival of Writing starts November 11 and runs through November 13 in Bowling Green, OH. Michael Czyniejewski and Matt Bell, both forthcoming in vol. 7, no. 2, are featured on panels. If you're in or around Bowling Green, be sure to check out the schedule, which also features former 9L staffer, Andrew Ervin, and stop by the festival.

The next Carr Reading Series event takes place on November 16 and will feature Cathy Day (vol. 6, no. 2) and Angela Woodward (vol. 7, no. 1). The reading start at 4:30 in the Author's Corner of the Illini Union Bookstore. To gear up for the event we'll feature an excerpt from Cathy Day's story from vol. 6, no. 2 and have 5 (or so) Questions with Angela Woodward. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Nonfiction Now Conference

The University of Iowa's Nonfiction Now Conference begins on Thursday November 4 and runs through Saturday November 6. 9L fiction editor Philip Graham is on two panels: Containing Multitudes: The Discovery of Voice in Nonfiction (Nov. 4) and When the World Changed (Nov. 5). Also check the schedule for panels featuring 9L contributors, including: Cathy Day (vol. 7, no. 1 and vol. 6, no. 2), Robin Hemley (vol. 6, no. 1, vol. 3, no. 1, and vol. 1, no. 1), Kim Dana Kupperman (vol. 4, no. 1), Michael Martone (vol. 3, no. 2 and vol. 1, no. 1), Ander Monson (vol. 6, no. 2, and vol. 1, no. 2), Lia Purpura (vol. 5, no. 1), Ira Sukrungruang (vol. 1, no. 2), and Nicole Walker (vol. 4, no. 1).

There are readings that are free and open to the public, so check it out if you're in or around Iowa City!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

new content @

The Ninth Letter website has been updated with terrific new content!

The Where We're At section focuses on the Allan deSouza exhibit at the Krannert Art Museum (KAM) in Champaign. Allyson Purpura, Kam's exhibitions curator, discusses deSouza's work and gives a quick preview of the feature that will appear in the next issue of Ninth Letter.

On the occasion of the opening of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in Indianapolis, IN, we are proud to present Marsha Koretzky's tribute to Vonnegut in the Featured Writer section.

Click on over to those sections and we hope you enjoy what you read. If you do, be sure to tell you friends, so they can check it out too. Thanks!

Friday, October 29, 2010

5 (or so) questions with Anna Carson DeWitt

Here's another Halloween treat for you: 5 (or so) questions with Anna Carson DeWitt. Former 9L staffer, Dana Burchfield, spoke to Anna Carson DeWitt about her poems that appear in the current issue of Ninth Letter as well as the role of intuition in the creative process, sincerity, and how to deal with cliches. Without further delay, here is their conversation.

9L: In both "Triptych in Salt Water" and "Walk Down the Mine," there are provocative intersections between place (geography, environment) and the body. In terms of process, were these intersections a surprise to you?

Anna Carson DeWitt: I'm not much of a planner, so almost everything about my poems is a surprise to me at first. But in retrospect, those intersections make sense. At the time that I wrote those poems, I was -- for the first time in my life -- totally fascinated by the physical geography of a place. It was this collision of familiar and strange that really took me in. On the one hand, the topography of Honduras has some things in common with my native North Carolina: small grey mountains, orange soil, the ocean nearby. But the plant life was entirely new to me, and I never got over it. There are these red trees with skin-like bark unfurling down the trunk, and jacarandas and bougainvilleas in every shade of peach and purple, and these huge, waxy thistle-type flowers as big as a baby's head. There are these ferns that retract when you touch them, as though they have muscles. On the other side of things, I was working both in the US and in Honduras as a beginner doula (labor and birth assistant), and I was consumed with seeing the female human body, this very common thing (I have one myself!) perform feats that were both very commonplace and really astonishing. One body, then two bodies. Like a plant sending out shoots, but right before my eyes. So I guess it kind of makes sense that these two prominent sources of wonder collided in my poetry.

9L: It sounds like intuition plays a big part in inspiring your creative process. I wonder what else comprises your process/practice? Is there a certain place or time where/when you write? Do you have mountains of drafts? Etc. etc.

ACD: Whenever I have a fully formed idea, I rarely write a successful poem. It's when I get a word or a phrase stuck in my head, or an image, or when I visualize a moment that feels unforgettable -- then I write poetry that I think is good. I become a little obsessed by the snippet, and if I'm smart, I start writing immediately. I write quite intensively for maybe an hour, rarely longer, and then I leave the finished first draft alone. I let a few hours or a day pass, and then I copy it over by hand to see what I've got. Then I start toying with it. Sometimes I draft more. I do this until I can't stand it anymore. Then I send it off to a trusted reader.

9L: Both of these poems wrestle with similar subject matter: motherhood, birth, life, death. All are dangerous subjects, maybe, in terms of cliche. How do you avoid the overly familiar in your work?

ACD: I suppose I don't. I still feel young and immature as a writer, and I think a big part of that is how little control I seem to have over my own writing process, especially the particular things that I write about. If I feel I am writing reasonably well, but the themes or things that appear in the poem happen to be commonplace or overdone, I tend to shrug and keep writing, because I don't know when that spark of writing well will flare up again. I'm lucky though, because I know many, many words, and I like to use them in every way that I can. I love the feel of my native language, the textures and contrasts that it accommodates. There I can delve into the unknown. So, I suppose, at this time in my youth I don't really try to avoid the overly familiar. I'm too fickle a writer to afford it, at my age and stage. Instead, in what I see as my better poems, I use language as a sort of stopgap against "same-old, same-old" syndrome. I try to make old things new with new words.

9L: I'm really interested in the fact that you practice writing outside of academia. Especially now, it seems the university is the primary setting in which most American poets are working. Do you have plans to go back eventually? PhD programs? Teaching?

ACD: I am actually teaching right now (for the first time) at a college -- community college to be exact. I'm teaching composition, not creative writing, but it is such interesting work and very rewarding so far. It also seems pretty compatible with my own writing life. I find myself making time to edit or draft every few days. I was fully prepared not to write until December when I started this job, so I am relieved. It wouldn't have been the end of the world, though. I'm kind of a camel when it comes to writing. I'll write ten or so poems in a week, and then nothing for six weeks.

9L: I think I can safely speak on behalf of the poetry editorial staff when I say we were each moved or affected in some way by the poems you submitted to Ninth Letter -- not least of all because of the incredible sense of sincerity and genuine feeling we felt as readers in response to your writing. To what extent do you see this element of sincerity operating in your own work, and what role does or should it play in contemporary poetry?

ACD: That is tremendously flattering because I've been thinking a lot about sincerity lately, exactly that word. My own taste in poetry is very skewed towards poems and poets that feel sincere to me -- Paul Celan, David Keplinger, and Michael Dickman spring to mind. In my own work, I have been struggling in particular with the difference between sincerity and truth-fullness. I make up a lot in my poems, and sometimes I worry. When someone claims, as I do, to write poems "about people," how can their observations about people be trusted if the ways of the people that they write about -- or even the people themselves -- are fabricated? Still, I feel sure that I am doing the right thing when I make up people and actions -- even when I represent in a poem the very opposite of what I have seen played out before my eyes -- because I feel very sincere about the force that propels the poem as a whole. I feel that every poem is still true, even if its constituent parts are not.

What I hadn't thought about until now is the fact that sincerity can run the other way -- in terms of the sincerity and genuine response the Ninth Letter staff felt and had as readers. The idea that the reader's sincerity of response, as you suggested, can be at the forefront of the poem (as opposed to just the sincerity that the poem itself might hope to have) is really cool for me. It's going to comfort me the next time I call myself into question.

9L: I'm intrigued by what you say with regards to sincerity and "writing about people" in poetry -- which as a genre maybe does give more room for privileging the sincerity or truthfulness of perception or feeling over literal fact. In the current issue of Ninth Letter, genre is certainly something we're hoping to pry into a bit. So, is poetry the only genre you work in? Or do you not define your work in terms of genre?

ACD: You know, I took some nonfiction workshops in graduate school, and I think that the most useful outcome for me was realizing that some ideas and/or subject matter don't fit in poetry. Sometimes I'll have the impulse to write about something, and I'll give it a shot, and it won't be successful. If I'm smart, I'll eventually lay down the struggle and acknowledge that the subject matter is not for poetry! If I'm feeling daring, then I'll give it a shot in prose. But to be honest that doesn't happen too often. I wish it did.

Thanks very much to Anna Carson DeWitt and Dana Burchfield for such a fantastic discussion. To read Anna Carson DeWitt's poems and the rest of the awesome poetry, fiction, and nonfiction in vol. 7, no. 1, pick up a copy in our webstore. Also don't forget about our Halloween special (a 2-year subscription for the price of 1!) Subscriptions start with vol. 7, no. 1.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Excerpt: Credo in Blue

Today, we offer another glimpse at the current issue (vol. 7, no. 1) with an excerpt from Carolyne Wright's "Credo in Blue."

First day of the hurricane season,
lover, our year of precarious living,
so please watch your step. Don't swallow

that bayou stoopdown, or prowl like your own
best fool through Creole colonial archways
around Jackson Square. Your scared bravado's

up for grabs, don't let anyone catch you
drowning your troubles on the levee
where the self-congratulators gather like dust

off brewhouse barrels at the Jax plant
for some stud-bucket's hop-light
mimicry. Where it's all about gimmickry

of gimcrack and fanny-whack,
blackslap bluster and manic calm-
dissolving metaphors for market share.

To read the rest of "Credo in Blue" pick up a copy of vol. 7, no. 1 in our webstore. Also don't forget about our Halloween special where you get a 2-year subscription for the price of 1. Subscriptions start with vol. 7, no. 1.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Contributor Round-Up

It's time to look around the web and see what our contributors are up to these days:

This Year's Best Dark Fantasy and Horror 2010 includes "Frost Mountain Picnic Massacre" by 9L contributor Seth Fried (vol. 6, no. 1 & vol. 3, no. 2). The story originally appeared in One Story.

9L triple threat, Robin Hemley (vol. 6, no. 1, vol. 3, no. 1 & vol. 1, no. 1) has started a new online literary magazine, Defunct. Check it out!

Over at The Walrus, you can read a new interactive novel called Lucy Hardin's Missing Period from Stephen Marche (vol. 7, no. 1).

Essay Daily takes a look at Joshua Schriftman's essay "On Silence" from vol. 7, no. 1.

WORD Brooklyn talks with vol. 4, no. 1 contributor Kim Dana Kupperman about her new book of essays, I Just Started Buying Wings Recently.

Thalia Field reviews Ander Monson's "Decidousness: The Mechanism" (vol. 6, no. 2) over at CutBank Reviews.

Adam Levin (vol. 1, no. 1), author of the recently released The Instructions discusses the novel with Riverfront Times.

The Pushcart Prize 2011 will be available soon, so congratulations again to Sarah Einstein for her essay "Mot" (vol. 6, no. 2) being awarded a Pushcart. Also congratulations to Bryan Furuness ("Man of Steel") and Kim Adrian ("Five Photographs) for receiving special mention for their work that appeared in vol. 6, no. 1.

If other 9L contributors out there have good news related to their creative lives (e.g. new books, readings dates, etc.) please let us know, so we can pass it on.

And don't forget our Halloween Special (you can get a 2-year subscription for the price of 1!) continues until Nov. 1. Details here.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Trick or Treat!

Around here, meaning the 9L office, we love Halloween and we want to celebrate it this year by offering our readers a "trick or treat" special: 2 years of Ninth Letter for the price of 1. Yes, that's right, from now until November 1 you can get a two-year subscription (regularly $37.95) for the price of one ($21.95)!

All you have to do is head on over to our webstore, purchase a one-year subscription (subscriptions will begin with the current issue, vol. 7, no. 1), and type 2YEARSPECIAL in the special instructions box. It's simple as that to get two years (one of them free!) of fantastic fiction, poetry, and nonfiction delivered to your door.

Wearing your Halloween costume while ordering is encouraged, but not required.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

G.C. Waldrep Reading

The Carr Reading Series kicks off today at 4:30pm with G.C. Waldrep. He has achieved the rare distinction of being a contributor we've published in each genre. The current issue features both poetry and nonfiction from Waldrep. In fact, his submissions caused us to (re)consider genre distinctions, which led to the current issue having an unofficial genre bending theme. Waldrep's first 9L publication was for fiction in this month's featured issue, vol. 4, no. 2. In honor of his reading, here are excerpts from the two short pieces in that issue, "My Dusty Abattoir" and "Satellite Recovery."

"My Dusty Abattoir"

I brought a dusty abattoir back from Mexico. I had difficulty at customs but in the end prevailed by convincing a bored-looking official that it was a family heirloom. When I got home I placed it in the kitchen, next to my father's dusty abattoir and my sister's dusty abattoir. My mother, alas, did not have a dusty abattoir, or any abattoir at all. My mother spent all day, every day, in the yard, among the gardenias. Once, long before, she had brought gardenia blossoms into the house, placing one inside my father's dusty abattoir and another in my sister's. The gardenias picked up the dust, became oblique, matte, rancid, almost furry, something else entirely. Not having an abattoir of my own at that time I was forced to ingest my gardenia, the way they do in Mexico, my mother told me. Not having yet been to Mexico I took her word for it.

"Satellite Recovery"

I was gardening out back when the postman brought the letter informing me I'd been accepted into the Satellite Recovery Team. I hadn't recalled applying, but I was otherwise at loose ends and so reported to work in the hangar the following morning. There were seven of us, all new except for the crew leader. He was forty-ish, with a crewcut and badly hunched shoulders, as if he'd spent the years before this job working on an assembly line six inches too short for his reach. His name was Rick. "See," Rick told us, "there's millions of square miles of America out there, and every now and then a satellite falls back to Earth. Our job is to find them and, well, recover them."

To read the rest of "My Dusty Abattoir" and "Satellite Recovery" and to check out all the awesome fiction, poetry, and nonfiction, pick up a copy of vol. 4, no. 2 in our webstore. To get it for $5.95, choose, "sample copy, editor's choice" and enter "fall back sale" in the special instructions box.

G.C Waldrep will read today at 4:30pm in the Author's Corner on the 2nd floor of the Illini Union Bookstore. The event is free and open to the public. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Ninth Letter Submissions Update

Our submissions manager is back up and running--go here to submit, and thanks for your patience.

I Hope You're Happy: A Novel

This month we're featuring vol. 4, no. 2 as part of our Fall Back Sale event. Today the spotlight is on Molly Brodak's poem, "I Hope You're Happy: A Novel." Here is an excerpt.


But when I said this is a rare girl
I meant like raw. It's not a dream.


Dear son,
I waited on the hill between an S of white mares
and a hot green Mountain Dew bottle, hard grass stubble
against my legs, reading, waiting, and you brought me her
only photo and she was making dirty eyes


The history of our last night:

You don't know my eyes are open.
Sixteen minutes later I am in a weird court,

my calf is against your shin as we sleep.
What if I have a bat for a heart?

So I grew pines there and haunted them
with owls. That was me 136 years ago.

At seven we are asleep while downstairs
someone complains of person-shaped lights.

Outside, horses.
There is no new night.

To read the rest of "I Hope You're Happy: A Novel" and to check out all the awesome fiction, poetry, and nonfiction, pick up a copy of vol. 4, no. 2 in our webstore. To get it for $5.95, choose, "sample copy, editor's choice" and enter "fall back sale" in the special instructions box.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Ninth Letter Submissions

Anyone having trouble logging into our Submission Manager? Yep, it's acting funky--but we're on it. We hope to have it fixed ASAP and will post an update as soon as we have one.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

5 (or so) questions with Whit Coppedge

We're back with the newest installment of 5 (or so) questions. I had the chance to talk with Whit Coppedge, author of "Paint" via email about, among other things, his influences, the problems of 2D meeting 3D, and the beauty of cooling towers.

9L: Descriptions of Paint's thinness walk a very cool line where they could be interpreted as metaphor or as magic realism. The story opens with him being told he'll blow away. At one point he hides behind a tree and "he turns sideways to be as invisible as he thinks possible," which actually seems to work. I loved that the story makes both options viable. What inspired that choice?

Whit Coppedge: Laziness, maybe. It may not be inspired so much as just what I could keep consistent in the story. I started out trying to write a story about a truly two-dimensional boy, but I found it difficult to follow that idea strictly as I went along. Punching him might produce paper cuts but I couldn't decide if he was like a walking paper doll or if his feet were perpendicular to the rest of him so he could stand. Same problems deciding how sex would work, 2-D meets 3-D. And then I thought I'd have to deal with his visibility too much. So he's just "thin" and I'm fortunate that I could keep that up in the story and stay a little mysterious in a consistent way. I definitely avoided words like "skinny" or "bony," since they'd produce a specific image.

I think there's some Southern-ness involved, too. I was really skinny when I was a kid, like "Cliff" in Sixteen Candles, so I'm playing with the things I always heard then, like "You'll blow away." But the word "sail" takes it a little beyond that.

9L: How much does your own history factor into your work? Do you set out to include some of the Southern-ness or does it seep in as your writing?

WC: Specific life events haven't yet shown up in my work, at least not in anything that's readable, but my history is definitely a factor. If my work were autobiographical, it would end up being really dull, so I try to take the parts I think are interesting and go from there. I'm enjoying how your current issue is so interested in fudged boundaries between genres, but I'm afraid I don't fudge the fiction line much. As far as "Paint" goes, I was a skinny kid and hunted crawdads in a creek in our backyard but I wasn't bullied by other kids or seduced by a neighbor. I had a short story called "Drought" in The Tusculum Review (2007) that was seeded by my house's foundation problems but I've never been involved with a married woman -- the affair just made it a story. I work on data networks and, consequently, tech-y stuff sometimes ends up in my stories, but the results have been mixed.

A lot of what I put down on paper ends up involving humiliation and nuclear reactors, often at the same time. My first jobs out of engineering school were in nuclear reactor construction for the TVA and then in data networks for a Department of Energy contractor ( "as seen on 60 minutes"). Those aren't jobs I'd want to go back to, but the sites themselves still fascinate me. I find cooling towers and fuel pools beautiful and the sites have such mystery and menace for the general public. They fit right in with the kind of grotesque I'm drawn to. Or maybe they started it. I once saw a Terry Gilliam interview where he said cooling towers were the most religious structures in the world and I can't put it any better than that. If you ever get the chance to stand inside one and yell, take it.

One thing that concerns me in regards to the nukes is that they are so prominently obvious subjects for me that I may have tried to tackle them before I could do them justice. We'll just have to see how that ends up.

My history affects more than just content. My engineering career seems to baffle a lot of people when they hear I also write. The conventional thinking is that the two activities are diametrically opposed but I think they dovetail in a great way. There may not be a lot of engineering grads that are interested in anything creative beyond a Rush concert, but I think all art and science and engineering with any staying power comes from someone playing around, asking "What happens if I do this?" I see stories as little widgets -- a story "works" more literally with me than I think it does for other writers. That might sound cold and calculating but I don't mean it to be. And, at the risk of sounding like Tom Peters, I've found the MFA/writing experience to be helpful on the tech side -- it's easier to hold conflicting ideas, mistakes are seen to have real value and addressing them is less personal, and problems don't have only one answer.

The Southern-ness is inescapable. I don't think I write what's generally thought of as archetypal Southern Fiction, but the speech and metaphor and just story-telling in general comes from my being Southern, and I'd argue it's pretty much the same for everyone else down here whether there's any kudzu or biscuits and gravy or dead mules in the stories or not. It may not always be overt, but I think there's a shared experience that Southerners sense and identify with in others' work. If someone thought that "Paint" was a ripoff of Mark Richard or "Jolo" by Ann Pancake, I wouldn't argue.

9L: So do you think of yourself more as an engineer who writes or a writer who works as an engineer?

WC: I don't know -- I guess it depends on how you look at it. I see them more as complementary equals. Vermont/New Hampshire. I've been an engineer longer and it's how I make a living. The idea of relying on writing for money scares the shit out of me although I could see where that kind of terror could be valuable. So many friends rely on teaching, and they often have an evangelical love for it, but I don't know how I'd fare as a teacher. As much as I talk about engineering and writing dovetailing, each can be a nice break from the other. Part of me thinks I would have a hard time writing for myself after a day of dealing with students or working as a journalist or editor, chasing down grants and such, but another part sees the value in not having to switch gears so often and waste a lot of time building up a head of word steam. I feel lucky that I've scrapped my way into a paying job that I enjoy and for which I seem to have an aptitude -- I don't know whether engineer/writers like Stewart O'Nan or George Saunders hated engineering, but I get the impression from interviews and other pieces that they were happy to leave those jobs for a more writing-immersed life. I write despite not making a living from it (like I imagine all writers I read would) and I don't know that I would be an engineer the same way if things were flipped. I might bug and hover over repairmen and techs a lot, but that's not quite the same. So, it depends. I don't think there's a wrong answer.

9L: Absolutely. I agree, no wrong answer there. Let me back up a minute. You mentioned Mark Richard as an influence on "Paint." Who/what else would you count as an influence on "Paint" and/or just your work in general?

WC: I've always enjoyed stories that had dreamy but simple language and incorporated the fantastic but I haven't been able to pull it off myself too often. I always loved Judy Budnitz's work, stories like "Hershel" -- her fascination with babies and how she gives them a mythical, fairy tale standing without getting sentimental. She and David Foster Wallace got a lot of my attention when I was first trying to write. That was the nineties, and I remember me and everyone else reciting pieces from Jesus' Son. The whole world of Elevator Theory that Colson Whitehead produced in The Intuitionist still amazes me. Jonathan Swift. I bet Edisto by Padgett Powell has some influence on "Paint." In general, Amy Hempel has been a tremendous influence on me, both as a teacher and writer, and I'm pretty sure I'm not the first to proclaim that. I'm going to miss Barry Hannah a great deal. I remember reading George Saunders' "The 400lb CEO" in Harper's and that story's probably as responsible as any for getting me to write. And, in homage to your current genre-bending issue, I'd love to point our how much I love "The Unknown Solider" by Luc Sante -- to me, it's not fully prose poem or conventional story, but it has a narrative, and I think it's just gorgeous and remarkable.

9L: Last question. What are you working on now? Any chance there are/will be more stories featuring Paint?

WC: I don't think there'll be more Paint, although I think my characters are likely to end up drinking together or starting some kind of support group. Right now I'm trying to finish a longer DOE-related novel-ish thing that I've been working on, on and off, for a while. I spent too much time polishing what I had and made no progress so now I've got to finish it. It could end up being a practice novel but that's all the more reason. Either fix it or get it out of the way of the other stuff.

Thanks to Whit Coppedge for taking the time to speak to me! To read "Paint," pick up a copy of Ninth Letter (vol. 7, no. 1) in our webstore.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

New Books

Here are some new books from our contributors:

Jo Scott-Coe's new memoir in essays, Teacher at Point Blank has just been released from Aunt Lute Books. The essay, "In/Out," which appears in the book was featured in vol. 3, no. 2. Here are some of Jo Scott-Coe's tour dates in support of the memoir:

San Francisco, Books, Inc. The Castro: October 21, 7:30pm
Riverside, California: Central Library for Arts Walk: November 4, 6:30pm
Seattle, Washington: Elliot Bay Book Company, November 19, 4:00pm
Seattle, Washington: Parkplace Books, November 20, 2:00pm

Vol. 4, no. 1 contributor, Brock Clarke's new novel, Exley, is now out in the world. He'll be reading as part of the Happy Ending Reading Series in NYC tomorrow, 10/6. For more tour dates, check his website. Brock Clarke also contributes to the special feature "The National Book Award 1960, Revisited" in the current issue.

How Should a Person Be?, the new book from Shelia Heti (vol. 4, no. 2), is now available and can be ordered through the book's website.

Adam Levin's (vol. 1, no. 1) book, The Instructions, is on sale and featured as the deal of the day at The McSweeney's Store.

The Wilding by Benjamin Percy (vol. 6, no. 2) is now available. Head on over to his website for tour dates.

Gary L. McDowell (vol. 4, no. 1) has a new poetry collection out, American Amen.

Matt Bell (forthcoming in vol. 7, no. 2) has a new fiction collection, How They Were Found, from Keyhole Press.

Also available from Keyhole Press is 9L staffer Aaron Burch's new book, How to Predict the Weather.

And finally, former 9L staffer Andrew Ervin's book, Extraordinary Renditions, was recently published by Coffee House Press.

Congratulations everyone!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Featured Writers and Artists

The Featured Artist section on the Ninth Letter website has been an integral part of 9L's web presence, so when we wanted to expand the scope of our original online content, it seemed only natural to open that section to include writers as well. We are thrilled to announce the section will now be known as Featured Writers and Artists! Pieces featured in this section can't be found in the print edition of Ninth Letter. These are Ninth Letter web exclusives.

The inaugural piece, "Tempus Fugitive" is actually a collaboration between 9L contributor Bryan Furuness (more on him in a second) and three other writers, Sarah Layden, Andrew Scott, and Matthew Simmons. The piece is a series of letters written to the Tempus Fugit corporation explaining how the writer of the letter would utilize the company's time travel technology. We love it. We hope you enjoy it, so let us know what you think.

As mentioned above, Bryan Furuness appeared in vol. 6, no. 1 of the print edition with his amazing story "Man of Steel." I also had a chance to interview him about the story for an edition of 5 (or so) Questions. "Man of Steel" is featured in the just released Best American Nonrequired Reading. To celebrate all this Bryan Furuness goodness and to continue with our Fall Back Sale event, below is an excerpt from "Man of Steel."

A commercial changed my life when I was ten years old. I was watching television in my living room, which really meant that I was tossing a basketball in the air distractedly while slipping in and out of daydreams. Sometimes, during commercials, I would sink so far inside my own head that by the time the show came back on, I would have forgotten what I was watching. But this commercial caught my attention. I don't remember what it was selling, but the product's beside the point; the point is the commercial itself.

It began with strange, warbly music and then, rising from a kind of fog, a simple pencil sketch of a man's face, but then it wasn't a man's face at all: it was a creature with large, almond-shaped eyes and a rigid brow and pointy chin. This, said a voice -- deep and pleasant to listen to -- was a creature from outer space, an alien, a traveler from a distant star. "Who knows," said the voice, "what's really out there?"

The basketball fell out of my hands and dribbled away across the carpet. Now a woman looked straight at the camera -- into me -- and explained how, on an ordinary morning, she'd suddenly felt a blast of burning pain in her hand, when, at that exact moment, a thousand miles away, her son had burned himself on the stove.
"Coincidence?" said the voice.
I shook my head.

To read the rest of "Man of Steel" pick up a copy of vol. 6, no. 1 in our webstore. To get it for $5.95, choose, "sample copy, editor's choice" and enter "fall back sale" in the special instructions box.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Contributor News

9L Featured Artist Deke Weaver's The Unreliable Bestiary: Elephant will be presented by The University of Illinois Art + Design department from Thursday, September 23 - Monday, September, 27. Performances will be in the Stock Pavilion (1402 W. Pennsylvania, Urbana) and begin at 8pm. Jim Elkins from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago will moderate a discussion after Monday's performance. All of the events are free and open to the public.

Congratulations to Khaled Mattawa (vol. 6, no. 2) for receiving the 2010 Academy Fellowship from the Academy of American Poets. He will be honored at the 4th annual Poets Forum, October 28-30, in New York City where he will read from his work and participate in panel discussions.

Kim Dana Kupperman (vol. 4, no. 1) will be reading at Boulevard Books & Cafe in Brooklyn, NY on Friday, September 24 at 7pm to promote her excellent new book of essays, I've Only Recently Started Buying Wings.

Vol. 6, no. 2 contributor Benjamin Percy's second novel, Red Moon, was picked up by Grand Central. The book is described as "a timely reinvention of the werewolf myth." Percy's first novel, The Wilding will be released next week. Congratulations!

The Rumpus Book Club has chosen Adam Levin's (vol. 1, no. 1) debut novel, The Instructions, as their next book club pick. Sign up for the book club by 3pm(pst) today to receive the book an entire month before it's released!

Now is a good time to check back in with 7 days, 7 artists, 7 rings, the ongoing writer/artist collaborative project created by Nicole Walker (vol. 4, no. 1) and Rebecca Campbell.

In other news, tonight is the first VOICE reading of the semester at The Krannert Museum of Art in Champaign. U of I MFAers Angie Hine (poetry), Max Somers (poetery), and Eric Tanyavutti (fiction) will read from their work. The event starts at 7:30 and is free and open to the public.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Today we continue with our Fall Back Sale event and throw the spotlight on another great piece from vol. 6, no. 1 (on sale for $5.95!) with an excerpt from J. Nicholas Geist's wonderful gaming essay "Completion." Of course, it is about so much more. Hope you enjoy it.

Fight Night: Round 3

My roommate Jose shook his head at me as I held the power button down on my XBox. A Mills Lane lookalike loomed blurrily on my screen, and my TV's speakers shouted numbers at me -- 8...9...10. A bell. An announcer screamed out my loss to an imaginary crowd, before the hum of the console's fan clicked quiet and the announcer surrendered to silence.
"What?" I asked, a challenge in my voice.
"It's weird to me that you play like that," Jose said.
"Why?" I asked, as the fan whirred back into action, the pixels swimming back to life on the screen.
"Because. You lost. Why'd you start over?"
"Because. I lost. Why wouldn't I start over?"

We are at an impasse. We've had this conversation on more than one occasion, over more than one game. Tonight, it's Fight Night; last night, Madden NFL 06; tomorrow, who knows. That our differences on this matter are fundamental, however, does not mean that we'll stop talking about this. Ever.
"You're supposed to lose. It's supposed to be hard," Jose said.
"I know."
"So why restart?"
"Because otherwise the loss gets recorded."
"But that's exactly the point -- restarting doesn't mean it didn't happen."
"Yeah it does. It does for the game."
And so on, interminably, until the end of time.

If life were a game, I would restart the conversation each time, carefully crafting each word, judging the tone of my voice with a pitch pipe, tweaking and tweaking until Jose understood.

The Now Habit

Not long ago, I purchased Neil Fiore's The Now Habit. Since, I have preached its myriad glories to all who would listen, and several who would not. Fiore's slim volume -- purchased as a part of my ongoing quest to actually accomplish...well, anything, really -- reached deep to the core of my procrastination and throttled it like a snake in thick, unyielding fists. Sadly, the book lost interest and wandered off long before the thing was actually slain, and is currently buried somewhere under the Saharan drifts of unfinished (and, in some cases, unbegun) work that accrete on my desk. Which I've been meaning to clean up. (Upon these ironies I meditate like koans.)

Fiore suggests that procrastination is motivated primarily by fear of failure, and more specifically by perfectionism. It was somewhat discomforting to hear a man I'd never met describe my deepest flaws with incisive, unrelenting accuracy.
"You believe that even the smallest error could be evidence that you are a worthless and awful person," Fiore told me.
"That's not true," I said. "It would be evidence that I am a worthless and awful person."
"It is difficult for you to accept yourself as you are -- imperfect and human," he suggested.
"I accept that I'm imperfect," I said. "I simply avoid those areas in which I am not likely to succeed." Or, I suppose, I ignore them while they heap up on my desk.
"You feel any criticism, rejection, or judgment by others as a threat to your very tenuous grasp on perfection," he intimated.

I shifted my weight, as an alternative to answering. I shifted it again, to emphasize.

Fiore did not respond, because books are insensitive to the subtleties of weight-shifting.

To read the rest of "Completion" and to check out all the awesome fiction, poetry, and nonfiction, pick up a copy of vol. 6, no. 1 in our webstore. To get it for $5.95, choose, "sample copy, editor's choice" and enter "fall back sale" in the special instructions box.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


One of Ninth Letter's founding editors, Joseph Squier, has a new art project, FLAGRANTWORLD. Joseph describes the project as "...part poem, painting, sound, song, cinema. Utilizing programming tools and database concepts, it assembles snippets of images, video, text, and audio on the fly and in real time, creating a kind of hybrid narrative that is dynamic and unpredictable."

It's a very cool project and one you should check out right away!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Fall Back Sale

Cool, crisp air, apple cider, Halloween -- there's so much to enjoy about fall. In fact, we like it so much, we're going to take a look back at some recent issues and offer a featured issue at a discount. We're calling it the Fall Back Sale. This month, we'll feature the spring/summer 2009 (vol. 6, no. 1) issue, which will be on sale for $5.95, instead of $9.95 (ordering instructions available after the excerpt).

The first excerpt is from Margot Livesey's short story, "Mr. Clark's Daughter."

When I saw the dark windows of my father's house, I turned and retraced my steps down the short street of elderly people and made my way to Perth Station. Despite the November weather I knew I would find him at the far end of platform 4, pursuing his mysterious hobby. During the last few months I had accompanied him here so often that the ticket collector nodded me through the barrier. On the main part of the platform travelers waited for the next train to Glasgow but for the train spotters the whole notion of travel was irrelevant. Their territory was a concrete peninsula, stretching out amidst the converging rails to that neglected part of the station where, in summer, wild lupins sprang up between the sleepers. I passed the freight office and there was my father, studying his train spotters' guide.

Even from a distance he was an odd distinctive figure, somewhere between gentleman and tramp. Over his good suit he wore a raincoat of immense shabbiness, and his white hair, without my mother to chivvy him to the barbers, straggled to his shoulders. He had grown up in Lancashire but his high coloring and blue eyes made most people think he was Scottish. While he read, the Gordon twins circled him, making jabbing motions with their hands and feet. Perhaps they were dancing, or practicing kung fu. The few other train spotting boys I had met had been painfully earnest, wearing thick glasses and anoraks, but the twins sported leather jackets and tattoos; Raymond, the older by eight minutes, had a nose ring.
"Dad," I said. "Walter."
"Elspeth, I'd forgotten you were coming. We were waiting for the Highland Chieftain. Raymond thinks it might be a Class '26' with a Sulzer engine."

The twins gyrated away, still kicking, and I sat down on the single bench. My father joined me, and stared off down the tracks. I knew he was not pleased to see me -- we were in the middle of an argument -- and I, in turn, stared at the ground. A fleck of white landed on the toe of my black boots, then another. I counted thirty-one snowflakes, the age I would be on my next birthday, before my father relented.

Read the rest of "Mr. Clark's Daughter" and check out all the awesome fiction, poetry, and nonfiction by picking up a copy of vol. 6, no. 1 in our webstore. To get it for $5.95, choose, "sample copy, editor's choice" and enter "fall back sale" in the special instructions box.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Contributor News

Here's a round-up of where and when you can find some of our contributors.

Brian Evenson (vol. 2, no. 2) will be a faculty member for Disquiet: Dzanc Books International Literary Program in Lisbon, June 19 - July 1, 2011. Applications are being accepted now. For more information on applications and scholarships, check out the Disquiet website.

Check out The New York Times profile of Ander Monson (vol. 1, no. 2 & vol. 6, no. 2).

Two 9Lers have new books coming out soon. Adam Levin's (vol. 1, no. 1) The Instructions will be released on October 22 and Benjamin Percy's (vol. 6, no. 2) The Wilding on September 28.

John Murillo (vol. 4, no. 1) will be reading as part of the Poetry Reading Series at the Pacific Standard Bar in Brooklyn, NY on September 16 at 7pm.

Speaking of readings, a few contributors will be in Urbana-Champaign in the upcoming months as part of The Carr Readings Series. G.C. Waldrep, who appeared most recently in Ninth Letter's current issue, vol. 7, no. 1, will read on October 19. Cathy Day (vol. 6, no. 2) and Angela Woodward (vol. 7, no. 1) will read on November 16. All readings are at 4:30 in the Author's Corner of the Illini Union Bookstore.