Fiction Contest

 

Fiction Contest

Past Winners: 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009

We are excited to present the longlist of awardees for the 2020 Leapfrog Fiction Contest and to announce a collaboration with Can of Worms Press in London, England. The 2020 winning submission will be published simultaneously in the US and the UK by Leapfrog Press and Can of Worms Press respectively in the fall of 2021.

This list has been divided into the categories of honorable mention, semifinalist, and finalist with links to the biographies and synopses below. The first-prize winner will be announced shortly.

The finalist manuscripts will be critiqued by this year’s finalist judge, Cris Mazza.

Entries to this year’s contest totaled 364 and came from numerous countries, and included adult and young adult novels, novellas, and story collections.

We would like to thank every author who submitted to our 12th annual fiction contest. As always, it was our privilege and pleasure reading so many excellent manuscripts.

The 2020 Leapfrog Fiction Contest

Finalists

Winner

Wife with Knife (stories) by Molly Giles

Finalists

Epoch 2000 (novel) by Ronald Dunham
Frank’s Bloody Books (novel) by Mack Green
Magnetism (novel) by Gay Walley
Guardians and Saints (stories) by Diane Josefowicz

Semi Finalists

Sulo & Ladonna (novel) by Tricia Dower
The Girls of Jerusalem (stories and novella) by Marsha Lee Berkman
Last of the Icemen (stories) by M.D. Baumgartner

Honorable Mention

Stuck on Go (novel) by Steve Bunk
The Marbinays Save Central Park (middle-grade novel) by Lance Contrucci
Far West (stories) by Ron Tanner
Free Ms. Greene (novel) by Jan Richman
Upton Arms (novel) by Scott Craven
Edwin’s Requiem (novel) by Megan McNamer
The Slinger Electric (novel) by Kevin Ducey
iWater and Other Convictions (stories and essays) by Robert Kirvel
Soaked (stories) by Toby LeBlanc
A Train Passing Over Water (novel) by Greta D’Amico
Peach Tree Summer (novel) by John Mort
Easy Journeys to Other Planets (novel) by Diane Josefowicz

 Biographies and Synopses

The Girls of Jerusalem (stories and a novella) by Marsha Lee Berkman (California)

My recently completed work of literary fiction, The Girls of Jerusalem is a collection of fourteen stories and a novella linked thematically through Jewish history and memory, spanning the pre-modern period of the Enlightenment to the early twenty-first century. Within these parameters, the narrative conveys the Jewish experience and the sweep of historical forces. Here is the old world and the new: stories about love and loss, piety and heresy, mysticism and rationality. However, what is unique about The Girls of Jerusalem is the way in which it reinterprets Jewish history and archetypes to reassert the primacy of memory: the shadowed world of the past as it continues to haunt the present and shape the future, with characters who are emblematic of the commonality of the human condition caught in the crossfires of history, as timeless and relevant as today’s headlines.

Marsha Lee Berkman has published her prize-winning fiction in literary magazines and journals, university presses and anthologies, both nationally and internationally. Her work has been called “original and powerful,” and has appeared in The Schocken Book of Contemporary Jewish Fiction, Writing Our Way Home, Mothers, Shaking Eve’s Tree, Feldspar Prize Stories 2, Lilith, The Long Story, The Jewish Women’s Literary Annual. Chicago Quarterly Review, Sonora Review, REAL: Regarding Arts & Letters, Cottonwood, Confluence, Compass Rose, Talking River, RiverSedge, Western Humanities Review, Other Voices, Sifrut Literary Review, Mosaic, Westview, Entropy, New Laurel Review and many other publications.

She is co-editor of the acclaimed collection, Here I Am: Contemporary Jewish Stories From Around The World, published by the Jewish Publication Society and awarded the prestigious PEN/Oakland Josephine Miles Award. The anthology has been praised “as a superb collection of beautifully written stories by outstanding editors.”

Wife With Knife (stories) by Molly Giles (California)

I don’t know why I find it so difficult to describe my own work, but whenever I am asked what my stories are about, I draw a blank. I remember my mother looking up from my first collection with a puzzled expression. “They’re so sad,” she said. I was surprised. I didn’t think my stories were sad at all. I thought they were funny. When an early reviewer slapped the “lives of quiet desperation” label on my second collection, I disagreed. I thought the lives I wrote about were rich and rowdy, and not the least bit desperate. It’s true I write mostly about women, for frankly I have known more women than men, and it’s probably also true that most of my stories are a little…dark…but it is the nature of short stories to be a little dark. I have to admit that I end far too many of my stories with a character driving off in a car (oh man I wish I hadn’t just noticed that!) and it’s doubtful that any of my characters drive very well or will go very far. Over half the pieces in Wife With Knife are short, some no longer than a page or two, as flash is a form that appeals to me, that quick in and out, but I have loved lingering in the longer stories as well. I guess the only way to describe what my stories are about is simply to say they are about the human quirky things that I love, that give me joy or cause me pain, that interest me and that I hope will interest others.

I always wanted to write but as a single mother supporting three girls I found it difficult to find the time. I took a correspondence course in short story writing from UC Berkeley, which led to a summer scholarship at the Squaw Valley Community of Writers.  When a friend lent me the $75 needed for tuition, I enrolled in writing classes at San Francisco State University. I finished my undergraduate courses at night and began an MA in Creative Writing. Asked to step in for a professor who had fallen ill, I spent the next 35 years teaching fiction workshops, first in San Francisco and later at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. During this time, I published three collections of short stories, a novel, a chapbook of flash fictions, an e-book, and countless book reviews. I also mentored and edited the novels of Amy Tan. My first collection, Rough Translations (U. of Georgia Press) won the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, the Boston Globe Award, and the Bay Area Book Award. My second collection, Creek Walk and Other Stories (Papier Mache Press) won the Small Press Award for Fiction and the San Francisco Commonwealth Club’s Silver Medal for Fiction. My chapbook, Bothered, won The Split Oak Award. My third collection, All the Wrong Places, won the Spokane Prize for Short Fiction. My novel, Iron Shoes (Simon and Schuster) didn’t win anything. I’ve been the lucky recipient of an NEA, the National Circle of Book Critics Award for Book Reviewing, and several fellowships at MacDowell and Yadoo. My stories have been published in the Pushcart Prize collections (twice) and in the O.Henry (once) and in many anthologies and textbooks. I am presently retired from teaching and live in Northern California. I have just finished a memoir of flash fictions based on my life spent crossing and re-crossing the Golden Gate Bridge and I am working on a historical novel set in Hawaii.

 

Stuck on Go (novel) by Steve Bunk (Idaho)

Perry Clarkson has an age-old problem: before he was born, his father abandoned his mother. But his father is not the typical deadbeat dad. For decades, he has changed identities and locations frequently, as the founder of a movement he described in a popular book that sparked a dangerous fascination with escape. Perry’s father, who calls himself Aka, encourages young, unmarried people to temporarily leave home without notice. He believes this will help them gain self-direction by freeing them from the expectations of friends and family. The movement develops a strong following but it also creates social chaos. It is labeled a cult and its adherents are thought to suffer from a psychological disorder. After Perry grows up, marries, and has a small child, his wife encourages him to track his father down. On the road, he collects stories from people who met Aka, which leads to an eerie encounter with a man who might or might not be his father. STUCK ON GO is a literary novel draped in the trappings of a mystery. It explores concepts central to self-fulfillment, including the damage that can be done by zealous commitment to ideology.

 

For years, Steve Bunk kicked around the world as a freelance magazine writer. He reported from Europe, Australia,  and throughout Southeast Asia, albeit without changing his name. He coauthored a nonfiction best-seller Down Under (The Stump-Jumpers) and then, back in the U.S., wrote a YA novella on commission (The Uprising), and authored a nonfiction book on a Northwest environmental movement (Goliath Staggered). He’s now a magazine editor in Boise and a guy who appreciates what being a dad has done for him.

 

Magnetism (novel) by Gay Walley (New York)

MAGNETISM is a about a woman who still wants to have passion for and eros in her life, even though she is no longer young. She goes about finding it, through music, in relationships with men, a friendship with a Holocaust survivor upstairs who does have it, and through adventure and sorting through what makes a life passionate. The main character, Mira, will not settle to go gently into that good night. She wants to be as, the woman upstairs jokingly calls it, “Venus as she ages.”

Gay Walley has published 4 novels, Strings Attached (finalist for 3 awards), The Erotic Fire of the Unattainable (finalist for one award), and Lost In Montreal and Duet. She is also screenwriter for The Unattainable Story, starring Harry Hamlin. In addition, she has a film she wrote and acted in currently in 5 (virtual) film festivals, The Erotic Fire of the Unattainable. Love Genius And A Walk, a play, is scheduled to open in London in May 2021. She teaches writing in NYC, and edits.

 

EPOCH 2000 (novel) by Ronald Dunham (Pennsylvania)

Ronald was an identical twin, delivered ten minutes after his brother in December of 1950. Introspective and cerebral, he lived his entire life genially and with quiet philanthropy. A skilled carpenter by trade, a gardener and writer by inclination, nothing gave him greater pleasure than beholding the results of his labors, whether a perfectly turned chair leg, a new rose, or a novel. His published works include Allegheny and Skyline, set in his hometown, and Last Word Tales set in the Great Unknown's clearinghouse. Ronald passed away before the results of this contest were announced.

 

Sulo & Ladonna (novel) by Tricia Dower (British Columbia, Canada)

In her latest novel, the three-part Sulo and Ladonna, Dower explores issues of guilt and grief through the lens of a boy, a girl, and the adults they become, evoking time and place as the story moves through decades and eras. Seventeen-year-old Richie Sulo accidentally kills a New Jersey police officer while breaking into a drug store with his cousin and idol, Buddy. When Buddy takes his own life, his eighteen-year-old wife Tereza must carry on for the sake of their baby daughter. Nineteen years later, Richie, now Sulo, the creator of a dystopian comic book series called Marvalous and Sarge, and Tereza, now Ladonna, a voice artist, meet up again, Buddy’s ghost looming over them. Will they unmask the past each has carefully hidden from others, awaken the sadness and trauma each has tried to repress? Can one truly get away with murder? Sulo & Ladonna addresses the painful reconciliation of action and consequence.

A dual citizen of Canada and the United States, Tricia Dower lives in Sidney, BC. Her Shakespeare-inspired story collection, Silent Girl (Inanna 2008) was nominated for the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award and the George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature. Herizons magazine called it "ambitious and powerful." Her first novel, Stony River (Penguin Canada 2012 and Leapfrog Press 2016) was shortlisted for the Canadian Authors Association Award for Fiction. The Globe and Mail wrote, “...Dower is a masterful storyteller." With the publication of her second novel, Becoming Lin (Caitlin Press 2016), the Vancouver Sun wrote, “Some of the most powerful and eloquent Canadian novelists of the 20th and 21st centuries...including Margaret Atwood, Margaret Laurence and Ethel Wilson...open up what had been cloaked in silence, the oppression of women and their self-discoveries in resistance. We can now add to this important liberation canon the name of Tricia Dower.” She won first prize for fiction in The Malahat Review’s 2010 Open Season Awards and first prize for creative nonfiction in subTerranean Magazine's 2015 literary awards. Her short fiction also has appeared in The New Quarterly, Room of One’s Own, Hemispheres, Cicada, NEO and Big Muddy.

 

The Slinger Electric (novel) by Kevin Ducey (Wisconsin)

Set in Montana in the early 1900s, during the Custer County Electricity Wars, this is the story of the people caught up in the battles between Westinghouse and Edison – a.c. and d.c. – on the frontier of the modern era. The people of Electric, Montana are partisans of direct current under pressure from the a.c. syndicate to get on the grid. Carl, the d.c. headman, believes his battles are over when his old pal Calamity Jane arrives for a visit. Jane has her own designs upon the town, however, she’s looking for a child to join her on the carny circuit as her daughter, or son. Over the course of her career, Jane has discovered that playing Jane, professionally, is more lucrative than being Jane. She believes she’s found her latest protégé, her latest Jane Jr., in Carl’s daughter, Andrea. Andrea learns the dangerous lessons of frontier Shakespeare and Edison’s belief in the transmigration of souls.

Kevin Ducey is the author of the poetry collection Rhinoceros (Copper Canyon), awarded the American Poetry Review’s Honickman Prize. His poetry, short fiction, and nonfiction ­appear regularly in journals and ­anthologies. He’s the recipient of awards from the Higgins Labor Foundation, AWP, and the ­Wisconsin Arts Board, and various journals. He’s taught writing and graphic arts and ESL in the United States and abroad. Currently, Ducey lives on the west coast of Wisconsin, in La Crosse.

 

Last of the Icemen (stories) by M.D. Baumgartner (Tennessee)

The eleven stories collected in Last of the Icemen deal with the ends of things. Relationships, childhood, a last day at a summer job, a failed jazz combo. They were each conceived as somehow pre-apocalyptic: which is to say concerned with the choices we make at the edge of who we are and what we might still become. In “Landing on Water,” a woman daydreams about plane wrecks during an unexpected visit from her ex. In “Diamonds and Rust” a marriage proposal goes horribly wrong and takes a turn for the surreal. “The Great Siwash Shoe War” tracks a group of kids through a summer of layoffs; when the neighborhood’s shoes turn up missing one morning, chaos quickly follows. There are some dark stories here, reflective of the troubled times we live in. To me however many of these stories are also strangely joyous, a celebration of weird old America at the edge of whatever is next.

M.D. Baumgartner lives in Johnson City, TN, with his wife and children. In 2010 he earned a PhD from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, where he was a Schaeffer/Black Mountain fellow in creative writing, and in 2005 he earned an MFA degree from Bowling Green State University. His work has been published in several literary journals, including The Southern Review, Confrontation, Fugue, Best of Ohio Anthology, Bellingham Review, Phoebe, and Wisconsin Review, among others. He has worked as a fiction/prose editor at Witness, Mid-American Review, and River Styx, and is currently Editor of Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature. Notes on stories in Last of the Icemen: “The Great Siwash Shoe War” won the 2014 Fugue prize in short fiction, judged by novelist Kevin Canty. “Diamonds and Rust” was a finalist for Bellingham Review’s Tobias Wolff Prize in fiction (2014). “Siwash” and “Like Gods of the Sun” were both nominated by their respective journals for inclusion in the Pushcart Prize anthology. 

 

Frank’s Bloody Books (novel) by Mack Green (Colorado)

Frank’s Bloody Books traces one man’s journey to redemption, slow and hard-won, thanks to the unlikeliest of companions. Jack Half-Pint Crowe returns from the Vietnam War to the sweltering South. Traumatized in combat, Jack has also been exposed to greater truths by Frank, a saintly corpsman. Jack’s new vow of non-violence cannot withstand fanatical forces back home that draw him toward murder. Jack makes the life-altering choice to kill the abusive husband of a fragile woman and her child, crushing his own path to transcendence. But the unseen hands of friends both dead and alive deliver Jack from evil into a new life. It is the blood-stained, shrapnel-torn books of his “holy” friend Frank and a phone call from Louisiana, fifty years later, that bring Jack to the brink of simple wholeness. 

Mack Green is a retired neuropsychologist and current activist for progressive causes. He is a supporting member of Lighthouse Writers in Denver, Colorado. As a young man he served two tours of duty in Vietnam with the U.S. Marines and received two purple hearts. He is a member of Veterans for Peace and lives in Colorado. 

The Marbinays Save Central Park (novel) by Lance Contrucci (New York)

 

 

Peach Tree Summer (novel) by John Mort (Missouri)

Cortney (“Cort”) Miller, a high school senior from Mission Viejo, in Orange County, California, accompanies his father to Peach Tree, Arkansas, where his father has been directed to take over a small furniture factory. There is labor trouble at the factory, and Cort’s father may or may not close the factory down. The year is 1985. Because the father and Cort’s mother are on the brink of divorce, and because Cort knows his future lies in California (as a very talented tennis player), Cort feels it’s his last chance to bond with his often-absent, rather morose father, so he accompanies him despite his mother’s strong objections. The story builds to a not-quite-violent finish in which Cort saves his dad’s life, and maybe his own. It’s classic coming-of-age with a setting in a dying, small, Southern town.

John Mort’s first novel, Soldier in Paradise (1999), was widely reviewed and won the W. Y. Boyd Award for best military fiction. He has published seven other books, including two readers advisory works, two novels, and four collections of stories. His short stories have appeared in a wide variety of magazines, including The New Yorker, Missouri Review, the Chicago Tribune, the Arkansas Review, and in Sixfold. He is the winner of a National Endowment for the Arts literary grant, the Hackney Award, and a Western Writers of America Spur for the short story, “The Hog Whisperer.” In 2017 he was awarded the Sullivan Prize for his short story collection, Down Along the Piney, which was published in 2018 by the University of Notre Dame Press. Mort served with the First Cavalry from 1968 through 1970 as a rifleman and RTO. He attended the University of Iowa, from which he earned a BA in English (1972), an MFA in writing (1974), and an MLS (1976). He worked as a librarian, editor, and teacher. He lives in Coweta, Oklahoma.

 

Soaked (story collection) by Toby LeBlanc (Texas)

There is only one word to describe Louisiana fifty years from now after climate change has taken hold: Soaked. Each story of this collection explores the culture from a different angle: language, music, food, weather, wildlife, faith, government, and even farming. Themes such as repetition of history, innovation versus helplessness, and love amidst destruction are explored within the nine stories. The advancements of medical nanotechnology, self-driving cars, and meatless gumbo do little to enhance, or deter, people already born with resilience-laced DNA. Laughing in the face of oblivion, lending a hand to the hopeless, enduring when everything else is gone, is what the people of Louisiana, and the characters in Soaked, do best.

Raised on his family’s multi-generational land in Scott, Louisiana (the Boudin Capital of the World) by an extended network of grandparents, great aunts, and cousins, Toby grew in a world split between American modernization and Cajun/Creole wherewithal. Dinner tables could have hot dogs or étouffée. Conversations varied between medieval French and American slang, often within the same sentence. While he and his family now sleep under the Texas Stars, he's only able to call the prairies and bayous of Louisiana his home.

 

Edwin’s Requiem (novel) by Megan McNamer (Montana)

Edwin’s Requiem follows the daily patterns of a late middle-aged man at odds with the 21st century world. The contexts for his life thus far have been limited to office work, his childhood home, and weekly rehearsals with a community chorus.  Set loose from all three, he flails through his days, steadying himself with cryptic comments jotted down in a small notebook with a cast-off silver pen. He imagines second halves to his half-lived life, mixes memories with dreams, and ruminates on lost possibilities for his story. Meanwhile, the steps he takes into the actual world become shaky, even dangerous, though wholly necessary. This is a novel about the human need for tangible connection with other humans, no matter how awkward or defeating, the search for a sensate part of existence that might become a faint mist of real beauty, wafting across space and through time.

Megan McNamer’s first novel, Children and Lunatics (Black Lawrence Press, 2016) won the Big Moose Prize, and her second novel, Home Everywhere, was published by Black Lawrence Press in 2018. Her essays have appeared in SalonSports IllustratedThe SunTropic Magazine (of The Miami Herald) and Islands Magazine, and she has won finalist, semi-finalist, and honorable mention awards from New MillenniumGlimmer Train, Writers@Work, the University of New Orleans Writing Contest for Study Abroad, the Travelers' Tales Best Travel Writing Solas Awards for 2016, Carve Magazine's  Raymond Carver Short Story Contest for 2016, and Cutthroat Magazine. Her work also appears in the anthologies Whatever it Takes: Women on Women's SportThe Adventure of Food: True Stories of Eating EverythingHeadwatersThe Quill ReaderTruth to Power: Writers Respond to the Rhetoric of Hate and Fear; and Bright Bones: An Anthology of Contemporary Montana Writing. Megan grew up in northern Montana, studied music at the University of Montana, and earned an MA in Ethnomusicology from the University of Washington. Her home is in Missoula, Montana, where she frequently performs Balinese gamelan music with Manik Harum, a Missoula community gamelan.

 

Upton Arms: An Active Lifestyle Home for the Paranormal (novel) by Scott Craven (Arizona)

Scott Craven's "Upton Arms: An Active Lifestyle Home for the Paranormal" was inspired by the many hours he spent (wasted) inches from a 14-inch color TV watching classic horror films from the 1950s, 60s and 70s. After more than three decades as a journalist and features reporter, he tackled the type of writing that would have gotten him fired from The Arizona Republic: fiction. Touching on his reporter's instincts, he asked himself a question perhaps very few had bothered to ask: What would happen if supernatural creatures could die, only it took a really long time and their powers gradually faded? The answer: They'd wind up in a retirement home just trying to get along with others with paranormal abilities. And it probably would get ugly when they bicker over who deserved the remote control for the community-room TV.

Craven most recently worked for The Arizona Republic and The USA Today Network, specializing in the tales of unique people and places. In his 40-year career, he covered everything from sports to crime, eventually settling in and spending the majority of his time as a features writer. Recently retired, Craven now spends (wastes) many more hours watching horror films, only now it's on a 65-inch 4K TV. Such are the pleasures of getting old.

 

Easy Journeys to Other Planets (novel) by Diane Josefowicz (Rhode Island)

Easy Journeys to Other Planets interrogates our national anti-dialogue on social class and politics, interrupting this furious noise at a historical point of maximal conflict: the meaning of the Sixties to the vast majority who would have preferred to sit out the decade and called themselves decent for doing so, and whose opinions continue to shape our discourse. During 1967's Summer of Love, Tino Battuta returns home from medical school in disgrace, and without his draft deferment, only to learn that his girlfriend Primrose Tirocchi is pregnant with his baby and in love with another man, a budding astronomer whose dissertation advisor has gotten caught up in a popular movement to link political liberation to a wave of UFO sightings. Coping with these crises, Primrose and Tino discover the limits of their possibilities as well as their resilience. As they work through their outsized feelings of grievance and betrayal, of having an unfairly small slice of the American dream, they ultimately find some meaning in service to each other, their family and friends.

 

 

Guardians & Saints (stories) by Diane Josefowicz (Rhode Island)

We're born unfinished, in need of everything—love, food, attention, care. Idealizations of family conceal the truth that incompetent parents all too often render childhood a state of singular emergency. Guardians & Saints, a collection of loosely linked stories, explores the ways in which modern orphans fail to thrive. A young man accidentally discovers fatherhood by way of finger puppets and Kierkegaard. A group of friends spins helplessly around the death of a beloved teacher when his selfless pedagogy is called into question. A girl loses her mother only to re-find her, in altered form, in a grim institutional afterlife. Faced with the incapacity of those they depend on, the characters in these stories appeal, with varying success, to stand-ins: teachers, mentors, therapists, guardians, and occasionally saints.

Diane Josefowicz's fiction, essays, and reviews have appeared in Conjunctions, Fence, Dame, The Saint Ann's Review, Poets & Writers, Singapore Unbound, Necessary Fiction, and several anthologies. She is also the author, with Jed Z. Buchwald, of The Riddle of the Rosetta, a new history of the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs, published in September 2020 by Princeton University Press. She lives in Providence, RI, with her family. 

 

A Train Passing Over Water (historical novel) by Greta D’Amico (North Carolina)

A native of San Francisco, Greta has lived in Europe, the Pacific Northwest, and western North Carolina. A Train Passing Over Water emerged from the author’s years as an artist-scholar in rural Italy and from the indelible imprint of a steely female forebear. The story, set in southern Italy during the Great War, explores diasporic themes, the legacy of loss, and the alternately dim and lucid perspectives of minor players at the interstices of culture and the historical moment.   

Greta D’Amico’s translations of poetry and critical theory have appeared in Columbia University’s Italian Poetry Review, in Ezra: an Online Journal of Translation, and in French Thinking about Animals (Michigan State University Press, 2015). She completed her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of New Orleans and a PhD in Comparative Literature at the University of Washington, where she taught Italian and French language as well as literature and writing, in English, for many years. Her novel was a finalist in historical fiction in the 2016 Pacific Northwest Writers Association Literary Contest. Her awards include a ten-month literary fellowship in Geneva, Switzerland, and fine arts residential fellowships at the Vermont Studio Center, the Santa Fe Art Institute, and the Anderson Ranch Arts Center.

Free Ms. Greene (novel) by Jan Richman (California)

Velma Greene teaches creative writing at an arts high school in Manhattan. One of her students hands in a story that horrifies her with its gruesome details of sexual torture, but before Velma can plan a lesson on gratuitous violence, she finds that the NYPD has been called in; the student is expelled; and she is jammed into a crowded reassignment center—a Dickensian teachers’ jail—to await a hearing on charges of professional incompetence. When The New York Times runs a front-page story on the debacle, a handful of famous authors step up to protest, and Velma becomes an accidental poster child for the First Amendment. Everyone, including her family, seems to have an opinion on how Velma should handle her dubious renown, but she must navigate this absurd array of parochial politics, collective fear, moral spasms, celebrity culture, and video-game sadism in her own sometimes bumbling, but always acutely humane way.

Jan Richman's collection of poems, Because the Brain Can Be Talked into Anything, won the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets (judged by Robert Pinsky) and was published by Louisiana State University Press in 1995. Her novel Thrill-Bent was published by Tupelo Press in 2012. She has received an NEA Grant in Literature and her writing has been published in many periodicals, including the Kenyon Review, The Nation, and Ploughshares. She lives in San Francisco.

 

Far West (novel) by Ron Tanner (Maryland)

“Far West” takes its inspiration from a real-life news item, which appears as the story’s epigraph. I wondered what situation might create that kind of stunning brief. I lived in the far west for many years and especially spent a lot of time in Nevada. The story’s about being down and out but not quite out for good. A jab at the American dream. 

Ron Tanner’s awards for writing include a Faulkner Society gold medal, a Pushcart Prize, a New Letters Award, a Best of the Web Award, a James Michener/Copernicus Society Fellowship, and many others. He is the author of four books, most recently Missile Paradise, named a “notable novel” of 2017 by the American Library Association. 

 

iWater and Other Convictions (stories and essays) by Robert D. Kirvel (California)

iWater and Other Convictions is a collection of timely essays and sui generis prose. This hybrid compilation is focused on exploring the numerous ways—subtle to blatant—subjective and personal opinions (human convictions) are shaped by highly charged political, social, and philosophical concepts and the words people use that tend to co-mingle fact and illusion or confound the distinction between the two. In contrast to scholarly treatises, the objective of the book is to entertain, move, amuse, and sometimes provoke readers who would like to make more objective sense of shifting social–psychological expressions of opinion. A central theme is the idea of personal, psychological authenticity versus its absence.

Robert D. Kirvel, a Ph.D. in neuropsychology, has works appearing in more than 40 literary journals or anthologies and is co-author of numerous articles in refereed science and technology journals. Awards include the Chautauqua Editor’s Prize for nonfiction, Fulton Prize for the Short Story, ArtPrize for creative nonfiction, and two Pushcart Prize nominations. His writing and technical contributions have been recognized by the National Science and Technology Council, Executive Office of the President (Obama) of the United States. The author has published in the U.S, Canada, U.K, Ireland, New Zealand, and Germany. Most of his literary fiction and creative nonfiction articles are linked at @Rkirvel. His novel, Shooting the Wire, was published in late 2019 by Eyewear Publishing, Ltd, London.

 

 


 

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