My latest up at Ploughshares:

Indie Spotlight: Sarabande Books


Founded in 1994 in Louisville, Kentucky by Sarah Gorham and Jeffrey Skinner, Sarabande Books began with a mission to publish and distribute with “diligence and integrity” books of poetry, short fiction and essays. Their first two titles appeared 20 years ago as winners of the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction and theKathryn A. Morton Prize in Poetry (this year’s reading period for both prizes opens March 15). Now Sarabande publishes 10 to 12 titles per year and has added two regional prizes—The Linda Bruckheimer Series in Kentucky Literature and The Flo Gault Poetry Prize for Kentucky Undergraduates.

Even the shortest selection of Sarabande’s most recent titles shows the press’s impact on contemporary American literature. Kerry Howley’s collection of essays on the lives of two cage fighters, Thrown, made at least a half-dozen “best of” lists in 2014, Caitlin Horrocks‘ collection of stories This Is Not Your City earned a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers distinction in 2011, and Amy Gustine’s collected stories You Should Pity Us Instead with a hot-off-the-press February 2016 publication date is already piling up a year’s worth of accolades.

Adding to their award-winning offerings in fiction, poetry, and nonfiction, Sarabande has published a varied and valuable collection of anthologies as well as their Quarternote Chapbooks, a remarkable series of titles from contemporary American poets including Stephen Dunn, Louise Glück, C.K. Williams, and James Tate.

Sarabande’s careful expansion over the years extends beyond book publication. The press produces the online resource Sarabande in Education, which provides reading guides and interactive material for educators, runs a writers’ residency program at Bernheim Arboretum and Research forest near Louisville, and operatesSarabande Writing Labs, which delivers arts education to underserved communities in Kentucky.

For Ploughshares, Editor-in-Chief Sarah Gorham shares her insights on Sarabande’s place in independent publishing today, and gives readers and writers a preview of where the press is headed in the immediate future.

Click here to read the rest.


My latest up at Ploughshares:

Indie Spotlight: Stillhouse Press

stillhouse press

Founded in January 2014, Stillhouse Press has one book out of the hopper, five more slated for publication in 2016, and the press is poised to take the literary scene by storm. Stillhouse was founded by novelist Dallas Hudgens, who also began Stillhouse’s sister imprint, Relegation Books, and the press operates as a collaboration between Northern Virginia’s Fall for the Book festival and students from George Mason University’s creative writing programs.

Stillhouse’s first book, Helen on 86th Street and Other Stories, is aHelen86_Final Cover.inddwonderfully sardonic collection of stories by the late Wendi Kaufman, author and professional champion of authors through her work with Alan Cheuse’s NPR show “The Sound of Writing.” The title story of Kaufman’s collection appeared in the New Yorker, and the rest of her book is equally as strong, with a terrific cast of women narrating their navigations through the modern world at various stages of life. Stillhouse’s other titles, which are slated for release throughout 2016, look to be an exciting mix of poetry and prose by new and established authors.

Currently, Stillhouse accepts submissions of poetry, literary fiction, and creative nonfiction, asking a mere $5 reading fee through Submittable. Stillhouse also awards the Mary Roberts Rinehart prize—$1,000 plus publication; the Rinehart prize alternates between nonfiction and fiction each year for a literary manuscript of 60,000-90,000 words. The 2015 winner is Jacqueline Kolosov, whose manuscript Motherhood, and the Places Between, will be published in September of 2016.

For Ploughshares, Editor-in-Chief Marcos L. Martínez elaborates on the genesis of Stillhouse and shares the essentials of what readers and writers need to know about this exciting new press.

Kate Flaherty: Your website describes Stillhouse as a craft publishing venture, “combining traditional print methods with new technologies and working closely with our authors to develop and promote their work.” Could you explain this in more detail? What’s the benefit of having writers more involved in the process of shaping a book with your editors?

Marcos L. Martínez: Just as craft distilleries and breweries are know for the care they take in making unique batches of libations, we aim to deliver the unique Stillhouse Press voice to readers. The concept of “craft publishing” really stems from this idea of taking our time, working closely with our authors on everything from narrative structure, flow, developmental opportunities, and line edits to font selection, cover design, marketing, and promotional campaigns. We plan to publish 4-6 books a year, which allows us to truly nurture each book project. Click here to read more–

My latest up at Ploughshares:

Indie Spotlight: The Backwaters Press

backwaters banner

Eighteen years ago, The Backwaters Press was established by poet Greg Kosmicki in Omaha, Nebraska, and immediately made its presence known with the anthology Times of Sorrow, Times of Grace: Writing by Women of the Great Plains/High Plains, which won two Nebraska Book Awards in 2003. The Backwaters Press has continued to produce illuminating anthologies celebrating the work of writers living and working in the Great Plains/High Plains, including Road Trip, a collection of interviews with Nebraska poets, as well as anthologies of personal reminiscences about unsung, brilliant writers Weldon Kees and Thomas McGrath. In addition to these titles, The Backwaters Press also has published literary fiction and nonfiction, but the bulk of its books are collections of poetry.

The Backwaters Press remains loyal to its Great Plains roots by publishing poets such as William Kloefkorn, Marjorie Saiser, Twyla Hansen and Mark Sanders, and the press also celebrates the work of poets around the globe through its annual Backwaters Press Prize. A small sample of The Backwaters titles include To Live in Autumn by Lebanese poet Zeina Hashem Beck, We Grow Old by Taiwanese poet Yu-Han Chao, and Bulrushes, by New York native Michael Madonick.

Current Backwaters Press titles are Only the Dead Are Forgiven, by renowned poet Greg Kuzma, and Wakpá Wanági: Ghost River by Trevino L. Brings Plenty, a collection described by Joy Harjo as “poems of a hardcore rez visionary,” that was recently named Book of the Month by the radio program “Native American Calling.”

Having made its mark in the Great Plains and beyond, The Backwaters Press’s current editor Jim Cihlar shares with Ploughshares what’s on the horizon as Backwaters Press closes in on publishing its 100th title.

Click here to read more: The Backwaters Press


I’ve been quiet on the blog posts lately because I just got a new job writing . . . . blog posts! Yes it’s true, you CAN write from home and make at least enough to buy a ream or two of paper at Staples. . .

Along with several other “guest bloggers” I’m posting on the blog for Ploughshares, a literary magazine in Boston that’s part of the Emerson College writing program. My post will appear sometime in late February, but until then check out this great blog by Rebecca Makkai on what we can learn from reality TV. . .

Free Preview!

December 1, 2012

Unknown-5In case you didn’t already know, writing and revision can be endless, but after a little crisis of confidence a  year-and-a-half ago, I decided to revise further rather than send out too soon, killing countless trees in search of a first final copy. But the manuscript is officially now out with publishers–and if you think writing takes a long time, it’s nothing close to how long book publishing takes. That is, unless you’re writing a tell-all book about a celebrity already on her 14th minute of fame or you’re a reality star on her 14th minute of fame and you have to get that beauty book/self-help book/cookbook/YA novel out before no one remembers or cares who you are. Unknown-8

images-17So, as I wait to find out the book’s fate, I thought I’d share a link to the Winter 2012 Ploughshares magazine, which has published a chapter of the manuscript. You can think of it as a free preview . . . . I’ll have one more preview chapter appearing in the new online magazine 1966, and then I hope I’ll be able to say you’ll have to buy the book to find out the rest!

This chapter is about The Miracle Worker and about body image and about the lovely and mysterious Heather, but primarily it’s about how quiet and secretive the culture of northern New England is.


Maybe it’s the climate, maybe it’s the careful conservative natures that seemed necessary for survival, but more often than not northern New Englanders never reveal our deepest fears and desires, and we certainly don’t reveal our secrets. As I write in the essay, “What I believed to be true was true—if you don’t say something, no one will ask you. If you don’t ask—and you hardly ever ask—no one will tell you anything.” Hope you enjoy; I’d love to hear your feedback.

“Heather, 1984” 



Life Intervenes

October 14, 2011

Yesterday morning as I was vacuuming for probably the first time in a couple of months, my silk scarf was suddenly sucked up into the machine, yanking the hell out of my neck and giving me a pretty crummy wake up call.  “Are you kidding me?” I thought. “I’m going to die doing housework?” At least Isadora Duncan was riding in an open top car in Nice when her scarf led to her downfall.  

I know we’ve all had these fatal visions: choking on a Dunkin’ Munchkin, running off the road while fiddling with the radio, being run off the road while riding your bike or walking your dog. And we’re certain our last thoughts will be some variation of Why didn’t I? Why didn’t I check the weather? Why didn’t I stay home? Why didn’t I chew more thoroughly? Why didn’t I listen to my mom? You can fill in the blank.

So I spent the rest of the morning rubbing my neck and contemplating the unsettling phrase, “She died doing what she loved,” and then I wondered if I’d ever get my act together and finish editing my book so if I did in fact die doing what I loved I’d have something to leave behind other than a partially cleaned rug. I recently gave an interview to a magazine I used to screen fiction for where I said, once again, that I was in the final stages of finishing my book and I needed to get ready to send it off. Admitting that made me a little queasy. I’d planned on sending it off a year ago. A year ago. 

A phrase I often like to use whenever I get stuck in the writing process is Life Intervenes, as if that’s an excuse for anything. Life intervenes for all of us in some way—we move, we take new jobs, or we get married or we have kids or we get sick or the kids get sick or the parents get sick or a tree falls on the roof or the water heater explodes—you know what I mean.

Not my house, thankfully.

And then a scarf gets caught in the vacuum cleaner or a big bite of burrito clogs the airways and I’m quickly reminded that everything I do is life, whether it’s flossing my teeth or watching my son’s first cross-country meet or going to the library with my daughter to find just one more book to read rather than working on my own. And once again I tell myself to get my act together, to face the truth that’s there’s a limit to how long I can keep my nose buried in the laptop before I have to admit the book’s as good as it’s going to get and if it gets accepted or rejected it’s not going to be because I have a perfectly placed semi-colon on page 172.

Goes with almost anything . . .

So I will do my best. In the meantime, here’s that interview I just gave, posted on the Ploughshares blog where I discuss editorial pet peeves, egalitarian reading tastes, and how strange it seems now to have grown up in the pre-Internet, pre-blog age.