Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Carr Reading Series: Dean Rader

The next event in The Carr Reading Series is today with a reading by Dean Rader. Here's a little about Dean Rader from his Carr bio: "Dean Rader's Works & Days won the 2010 T.S, Eliot Poetry Prize and was a finalist for the Texas Institute of Letters First Book Prize. His most recent scholarly book is Engaged Resistance: American Indian Art, Literature, and Film from Alcatraz to the NMA! (University of Texas Press)."

The reading starts at 4:30 in the Author's Corner of the Illini Union Bookstore. As always, the event is free and open to the public. Hope to see you there!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Contributor Round-Up

Northwestern University Press had published Freedom Hill, the new verse-novella from L.S. Asekoff (vol. 3, no. 1).

John Warner (vol. 6, no. 2) has a new novel out, The Funny Man. He'll be giving a series of readings to promote the book, including a stop in Urbana-Champaign as part of The Carr Reading Series on October 17.

Be sure to check out this profile of Benjamin Percy (vol. 6, no. 2).

Congratulations to Bryan Furuness (vol. 6, no. 1) on winning The Laurel Review Midwest Short Fiction prize for his story "The Lost Episodes," which is excerpted from his forthcoming novel, The Lost Episodes of Revie Bryson.

Laura van den Berg interviews Matt Bell (vol. 7, no. 2) for the Innovators in Lit series over at Ploughshares.

The musical adaptation of Cathy Day's (vol. 6, no. 2) The Circus in Winter opens this weekend at Ball State University. Tickets can be purchases at the box office or by calling (765) 285-8749.

If you're a contributor and have some news to share, be sure to email us at, so we can past it on.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Children Who Divorce

Top Chef: Just Desserts celebrated the 40th anniversary of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory this week. And the best part of the episode was without a doubt that the original actors who played the kids in the movie were on hand for the challenge.

We don't see much of these actors today, so it makes you wonder what they've been up to since they made the movie. Well, Brock Clarke imagined how their experiences on the set might have shaped them as adults in his story, "Children Who Divorce" (vol. 4, no. 1). Here's an excerpt:

Before they find Lisa in the river, before the doctor goes to prison, before any of that is just a normal pre-matinee August afternoon, and there we are, five cast members in our costumes, sitting in the room next to the boiler, talking about our divorces; and there he is, the doctor, far away in the eyes, not listening to us, thinking about something else.

"You're not listening to us," we tell him. "You're thinking about something else."

"I'm not," he says, but he is. Maybe he's thinking about the other casts he's doctored on board the Ohio River Lady Queen, a four-story steam powered paddleboat that in the Golden Age of four-story steam powered paddleboats (we're quoting directly from the Ohio River Lady Queen Players' program) hauled its passengers and their steam trunks from Cincinnati to Memphis to New Orleans and then back again. Now, the Ohio River Lady Queen is docked in the port of Cincinnati, where each summer it hosts a nightly dinner theater.

....We were once the cast of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and now we're the cast of Trouble at the Chocolate Factory: Strike! and in between we all got married and then divorced and now we want to talk about it, again, again, and we want the doctor to listen.

...We know soon someone will come downstairs, knock on the door and say, "Five minutes until curtain" and before that happens we need to say what we need to say. About how we fell in love with Gene Wilder when he was our Willy Wonka and we were his fat German, his spoiled heiress, his gum chewer, his gun-crazy American, his goodhearted Charlie Bucket.

Check out the rest of "Children Who Divorce" in our spring/summer 2007 (vol. 4, no. 1) issue.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

5 (or so) Questions with Naomi Williams

It's time for another installment of 5 (or so) Questions! This time I had the pleasure of talking to Naomi Williams via email about her story from the current issue, "Folie à Plusieurs." The story, which is part of a linked story collection about the La Perouse expedition, demonstrates the hardships and disappointments of mapping the world. During our conversation, as you'll see below, we discussed the process of putting together a linked collection, ghostly narrators, and discovery. Hope you enjoy it!

9L: One of the things that really interested me about the story was the voice. The narrator is part of the crew, yet knows things about what becomes of the places they visit. How did you go about constructing a voice that can speak from beyond the grave? Any unexpected challenges in using this particular voice to tell this story?

Naomi Williams: I guess I'd say the narrator isn't just part of the crew, but is the crew speaking in a ghostly, omniscient collective voice. I've always been interested in experimenting with point of view, but I didn't sit down and say, Ok, now I'm going to write a first-person plural story. The POV was suggested by what I wanted to explore in the story, which was this idea of a voyage of discovery that ended up "un-discovering" more than it discovered. That seemed to require a retrospective view. And the disappointment around that failure to find new places felt corporate rather than individual, hence the collective voice. The biggest challenge, voice-wise, was to keep it believably 18th-century-ish (whatever that means) while allowing for that after-the-fact knowledge. The original draft had the crew sounding much more contemporary in places. Several of my readers balked at the unevenness in tone, so I worked to smooth it out in subsequent drafts.

9L: Do you consider this to be a ghost story?

NW: I guess you could call it a ghost story, seeing as the narrators are dead. But I feel like the traditional ghost story has the ghost or ghosts interacting with the living, and these folks just talk among themselves. Although I suppose they're talking to the reader, and that's a kind of interaction. So sure--yes, let's call it a ghost story.

9L: Do you consider how a reader might interact with a story when planning or writing a piece?

NW: The short answer is no. Obviously I hope readers--some readers, at least--will find my work engaging or interesting, and in putting together the collection of which this story is part, I've worked in elements--recurring motifs or connected plot threads--that I hope an alert reader will pick up on and appreciate. But while I'm writing, I just do my thing. I show my drafts to a small group of people whose feedback I take very seriously; otherwise I don't have expectations or preconceived notions about how people might interact with a piece once it's out there. Once it's out there, it's out there, you know, and except in a narrowly conceived, legal sense, it's no longer mine.

9L: Can you talk a little about the process of putting together a linked collection? Did you have a certain number of stories in mind when starting out or was it more about exploring different aspects of the expedition to see what stories could hang together to form a larger picture? What has surprised you most, if anything, about working on the collection?

NW: The basic idea for this project came to me quite suddenly almost ten years ago, when I first learned about the expedition, but the overall shape of the collection, the total number of stories, and the kind of stories I've ended up writing have all changed a lot over time. I've thought a lot about both variety and balance as I've worked on it. I've tried, for instance, to tell stories from various points of view--first person, third person, omniscient, limited, etc.--and to cover the expedition's "highlights," if you will, so that readers of the complete manuscript will, hopefully, feel like they've gotten some sense of the voyage as a whole. Perhaps the biggest surprise has been how rich the material continues to be after all these years. Every time I dip back into the primary sources or the research available about the expedition, I come up with a new story idea. Right now I'm planning 14 or 15 stories, but I feel like there could be twice that many.

9L: Okay, last question: is there anything you wish you had discovered or would still like to discover?

NW: Sure. There are still several stories in the collection that I either have yet to draft or remain dissatisfied with, and the obstacles usually have to do with not knowing what it is I'm trying to discover. Right now, for instance, I'm wrestling with a story I want told from the point of view of a truly rank-and-file member of the crew, someone who didn't leave letters or journals behind, someone who was, perhaps, illiterate, and about whom I know nothing besides a name and job title. But I can't decide which of the 200-plus members of the crew I might pick as my point-of-view character, much less what his issues might be on the expedition or what might happen to him in the story. I have a lot of faith in the power of mulling stuff over, however. Something will eventually come to me. I just wish it would hurry up and do it already.

Thank you very much to Naomi Williams for taking the time to answer my questions and for such a great conversation. To read "Folie à Plusieurs," visit our webstore to pick up a copy of vol. 8, no. 1.

Rolando Hinjosa-Smith Reading

A reminder that the Carr Reading Series kicks off today with Rolando Hinjosa-Smith. The event is at 4:30 in the Author's Corner (2nd floor) of the Illini Union Bookstore in Champaign. To get ready for the reading here is an interview with the author.

As always the event is free and open to the public. Hope to see you there!

Friday, September 09, 2011

new content @

Be sure to check out the main site this weekend as we have some great new content up! In the Where We're At section we have Harmony Neal's fantastic "Detroit, City of the Future." A text only version of the essay appears in the current issue of Ninth Letter. The web version features photographs that beautifully illustrate the essay.

Also check out, if you haven't already, "Subliminal History of Upstate New York" and give a listen to the songs of Carrie Dashow and Jesse Pearlman Karlsberg in the Featured Artist section. This is excerpted from the current issue as well.

If you like what you see here, you'll definitely want to get a copy of the current issue (vol. 8, no. 1). Head over to our webstore to pick up a copy.

Monday, September 05, 2011

The Circus in Winter: A Musical and Other Events

Cathy Day's (vol. 6, no. 2) wonderful book, The Circus in Winter, has been adapted into a musical by the theater department at Ball State University. After years of hard work, it is ready to make its debut at the end of this month. Here are the dates for the show: September 29 - October 1 at 7:30pm and October 2 at 2:30pm. Tickets are $16 (general admission), $12 (seniors), and $11 (students). You can order tickets by calling (765) 285-8749. Be sure to check out Circuslab for rehearsal footage including a peek at how they'll create a flood live on stage! There's never been a better time to visit Indiana!

If you're in or around Boston, head on over to Newtonville Books on September 7 as Michael Griffith (vol. 7, no. 1) and Brock Clarke (vol. 4, no. 1) will be reading from their new books, Trophy and Exley, respectively, at 7pm.

The Carr Reading Series kicks off this month! First up is Rolando Hinojosa-Smith, who will be reading on September 14 at 4:30pm in the Author's Corner at the Illini Union Bookstore in Champaign. As always the event is free and open to the public.