Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Mention on The Motor

Many thanks, as always, to Alternating Current for the shout-out on their author news column The Motor!


Monday, April 27, 2015

Review of A Tree Born Crooked on Necessary Fiction

A Tree Born Crooked was recently reviewed in the April installment of Necessary Fiction. As you know, I love a well-thought out, well-written, analytical review and Matt Kimberlin doesn't disappoint.


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Nixed: A Short Story

In case you missed it, I recently had a short story published over at The Gambler. "Nixed" is a quirky, noir-ish story, almost pure dialogue, that I had a lot of fun with. Enjoy!


Sunday, April 19, 2015

UCF Book Festival!

Many, many thanks to those of you who came out to the UCF Book Festival in Orlando yesterday, and also thanks to those who have supported me and helped spread the word about the event. This was my first time speaking on an author panel for A Tree Born Crooked and the experience was incredible. I met some fantastic authors and literary folks and, most importantly, readers. With a standing-room-only crowd, terrific fellow panelists Robert Williams and James O. Born and interesting, thoughtful questions it was an hour, and an event, to remember. Here's to many more in the future!

                                   (ooooh..... Fancy Steph at the Friday night author reception)

                                                   (Getting ready for the panel to start.)

                                                             (Signing books afterwards)

                                                                      (End of the day....)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

#getslaughtered: An Interview with When You Cross That Line author Sam Slaughter

I don't think anyone can argue with me on this: Sam Slaughter is a force to be reckoned with. When he's not writing, he's reading. Reviewing. Interviewing other authors. Running a Books and Booze series. Promoting writers. Just being an all around badass literary citizen. His chapbook entitled When You Cross That Line debuts this May and I was lucky enough to get my hands on an advanced copy. This collection of five choice stories is startling and fresh. Sam's style is gritty and honest and his storylines unexpected. His stories showcase underbelly characters and presents them in their own light, on their own turf. Keep reading and you'll understand exactly why Sam Slaughter is my kind of writer...


Steph Post: Okay, I've got to start with the obvious here: what's with you and wild animals in the trunks of cars? Is this something you've had experience with?

Sam Slaughter: Oh lord. There was this one time when I lived in Montana that we were tooling around in this beefed-up Dodge Nitro and we may have been a little drunk and it was us or the baby bear and, well, ‘Murica.


It didn’t occur to me that it was a thing until this question—maybe because the first one is a hatchback? I realize that’s a lame excuse and that it should honestly be chalked up to coincidence. The short answer is no, I don’t have experience with putting animals in trunks. The closest I’ve come is when I would transport puppies for a humane society and one puked in my backseat one time. I think the reason that it came up in almost as many stories as it didn't was that—especially in the case of the latter story—there’s an element of surprise in having an animal in there. What is contained one moment isn’t in the next and that is when all hell breaks loose. In reality and seeing as I grew up in the suburbs, if I were to encounter a wild animal in a trunk unexpectedly, there’s about an eighty percent chance that I’d scream at the top of my lungs.

SP: Maybe it's just because I live in Florida, too- the state where anything and everything strange happens and no one bats an eye- but I got the sense that your stories all started with a real moment, a real event that you witnessed or heard about. Given that the stories in When You Cross That Line are borderline bizarre (alligators, a welding grinder, an old man in a kimono brandishing a sword and so forth), I have to ask- where did these ideas come from? Are they purely fiction or is there some truth lurking about?

SS: Each of the stories is rooted in something that really happened. There is a Twitter account (and a sub-Reddit) called “Florida Man” (as well as “Florida Woman”)—and now that I think about it, a documentary—that catalogues all of the Sunshine State stupid that happens. [As a sidebar, I think Sunshine State Stupid needs to become the motto of something. Anyway.] They’re the stories that make you stop and go, “What in the hell?” Each story could just as easily appear on the Onion as it could on a real news outlet. That was my starting point. Having spent a couple years down here now, a day doesn’t go by where something doesn’t happen (and, to make sure of this, the first headline to pop up, only 16 hours old, is “Man who was kicked out of Florida bar lights bouncer on fire,” so there you go). With that in mind, there was plenty of fodder to choose from. I can quote any number of writers who talk about using real life, but we’ve heard all the sayings before, so I’ll just leave that right there.

The extent to which the real comes through in the fiction varies, though. Take, for example, the first story, “When You Cross that Line.” The bit that I took from real life was the fact that a guy tied a ring to a gator and proposed to a woman with it. Beyond that, the rest was a fiction. As much as it may seem like fun to involve the craziest things one comes across, it just sometimes doesn’t work, so it was my job as the writer to figure out how to best use the nuggets that I extracted from the Florida Man stories. I laughed out loud when I heard about the gator thing and knew that I needed to use it, so it was a matter of finding the right place for it. To add to that, I guess, as a writer there are times when you just know in your gut that a certain thing has to go a certain place. With all of these stories, that was generally how it went. There are plenty of options out there, but these little bits were the ones that spoke loudest to me. Or really, since this is Florida, they were the details and instances that announced themselves by riding on an air boat, blasting Skynyrd and chugging some High Life while shooting a shotgun in the air.

It was clear I needed to use them, somehow.

SP: One of the many elements that you do very well in When You Cross That Line is the crafting of honest dialogue. I could hear every word that your characters spoke and this added greatly to their development in the small space allowed for a short story. How important is dialogue to your work? Do you find it harder or easier to write than straight narration?

SS: First, thank you. I guess the voices in my head are finally paying off. Anyway. When thinking about dialogue I think about the piece of advice that I heard somewhere—and I’m sure that countless writing professors and writers have said this over time—make every word count.

In a short story and ever more so in a flash piece like these are, this idea really applies. Any word that is not conveying some sort of important information and advancing the story forward shouldn’t be there. I don’t know if I’m always great at that yet, but I’m learning. In general, I firmly believe that we’re reading stories because they’re what isn’t happening (or can’t happen) to us. I don’t read stories or novels to read about something eating breakfast or going to the bathroom or even having sex unless it adds to the story somehow. I go to the bathroom every day, I know what goes on in there. It doesn’t need to be in a story.

This is where dialogue comes in—it’s extremely helpful to relay important information in a small amount of space. People rarely talk in full sentences and so, by utilizing clipped or fragmented sentences you are able to use fewer words while getting ideas across.

The important thing then, on a craft level, is to make sure that it sounds natural. You can use all the fragments you want, but if they suck, then, well, the dialogue will suck, simple as that. I need to be able to hear it in my own head first, then I need to be able to say it out loud so that I can hear it and be okay with what I’ve written. 

SP: Your work is all over the place right now. In addition to the publication of When You Cross That Line, you have many short stories, non-fiction pieces and book reviews published. You're also involved with several literary magazines, internet hubs and events. And you have a forthcoming novel! I'm not even going to ask how you have time to do everything... but I would like to know what part of your literary career you find the most rewarding. And the most challenging?

SS: Good question. I’d like to pause here to bring up that the words ‘literary career’ are not ones that I’ve necessarily associated with my own work yet (they’re in the trunk with the wild animals). Those are my own hang-ups, I guess.

On to actually answering your question, though. The most challenging part is easy to answer and, I think depending on who you talk to about me, the answer may vary: I feel forever behind. I never feel like I’m quite where I want to be. I’m not missing deadlines necessarily, but I never feel like I’m where I should be. I’ve had this conversation with a fellow editor and friend Nick Sweeney and he’s usually the one to talk me down and remind me that I’m doing just fine, which is nice of him. Even if he’s occasionally lying to my face. I’m okay with it if he is. (Keep it up, Nick.)

The most rewarding? I think seeing something published is always a great thrill. With social media, it’s fun to pass it along and if someone comments on it, well hot damn. I’m happy someone took the time to read something I wrote and it reminds me to do the same with others. Independent literature is an amazing place to exist within and it’s amazing because the people involved are doing amazing things. Simple as that. That’s rewarding, too, being able to interact and work with people who fucking rock.

SP: Considering the upwards trajectory you're currently on- where do you see yourself in five years in terms of your writing career?

SS: My pipe dream is to run an artist residency/independent publishing company/distillery. Books and booze are both very close to my heart (in the literal sense, even, as I have a Sam-I-Am tattoo on the inside of my arm and he’s carrying a wine bottle) and at this point in my life I’ve decided that I’m not going to let anyone stop me from doing whatever the hell I want. I’m smart, I’ve got degrees, I’ll have another degree soon enough and the rest I can figure out along the way. That’s what Google is for. And Networking. And getting people boozed up at AWP. I’ve talked with many people much more talented than I am in a number of different fields and I plan to continue doing that so as to find the requisite knowledge for accomplishing the aforementioned dream because, let’s be real, who wouldn’t want to go to the Slaughterhouse Artist Residency (or be published on Slaughterhouse Books or, and this one is key, drink Slaughterhouse Spirits)? To wit, all of these would work perfectly with #getslaughtered and #slaughterhoused. I’m just saying.

In reality, this probably won’t happen in five years, I see those three things happening (ideally) over the next ten to fifteen. In five years, I hope to have another book published, maybe even two. I’m going to keep writing and see what happens.

SP: Is there any one book that served as the catalyst for you wanting to become a writer?

SS: I don’t think it was any singular book, but I’ve been an avid reader since I was a kid. I’d walk to the local library and load up a book bag with ten to fifteen books at a time. My parents were very encouraging of this habit. I was kept busy and I was building strong back muscles. Win-win. 

As I got older there were a few authors I read voraciously that probably contributed to me wanting to write. Starting in sixth grade or so when I started writing stories: Brian Jacques (author of the Redwall series), Caleb Carr, Jonathan Kellerman, Kurt Vonnegut, and TC Boyle.

In the beginning I was all about finding mystery and intrigue and those were the books I hunted down. I’m probably still a reader and a writer today because even when I was reading things for school that I didn’t like (mostly because I was too damn dumb to understand them) I kept reading what I did like. Eventually, I got a bit smarter and started reading from “the Canon” and whatever else I thought I should be reading because I was finding more value in the “literary” works I was being told about.

SP: Finally- and you're the perfect person to ask as you seem to read and review books like it's going out of style- who or what should I be reading right now? What books or authors would rock my literary world?

SS: Some authors whose books I’ve enjoyed reading or will enjoy reading when they come out:

Taylor Brown (Fallen Land)
Laura Van Den  Berg (Find Me)
Matt Bell (The Scrapper)
Kiese Laymon (How to Slowly Kill Yourself)
Mary Miller (The Last Days of California)
Roxanne Gay (Bad Feminist)
Ted Wheeler (Bad Faith)
Juliet Escoria (Black Cloud)
Amelia Gray (Gutshot)

(There are so many others, though, that I’m sure I’m blanking on. That’s the problem—I see so many books, sometimes, that I forget that I mean to read X or Y until I finally happen to see it on my shelf again. I’d really love to have personal book butler, who can just hand me books without me having to think about it. That’d be fun.)

Some presses who are doing amazing things:

Alternating Current
Two Dollar Radio
Akashic Books
Publishing Genius
Curbside Splendor
Civil Coping Mechanisms
Coffeehouse Press
Atticus Books (I’m partial, obviously, but I don’t care)

(Again, I’m fairly confident with the fact that I’ve missed a lot here. Entropy Magazine does a great series where they interviewing different presses, so I’d say check that out at well.)


Ahem, now do you see why Sam Slaughter is better than sliced bread? You can learn more about him (and check out all of his publications) here. Then, go pre-order When You Cross That Line. Read it, review it, love it. Trust me- you will.



UCF Book Festival This Weekend!

If you're anywhere near Orlando, Florida this weekend, stop by! I'll be reading at 10am and signing at 11. There are so many amazing, talented authors speaking at this event- it's going to be an incredible time!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Say what? A Giveaway?

Enter now to win one of three signed copies of A Tree Born Crooked. Don't miss out!

                        (obligatory crazy dog photo to get you to enter. or at least make you smile)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Round the Horn with Madeline ffitch: An Interview

In case you missed it, I reviewed Madeline ffitch's fantastic story collection Valparaiso, Round the Horn over at The Small Press Book Review earlier this month. Now, I have the pleasure of bringing you an interview with the author. ffitch tackles my tough questions with ease and sheds some amazing insight into the writing process and life.  
Steph Post: Because I am novelist and occasional flash-fiction writer, I'm always in awe of those who can write fully formed, traditional length short stories. This is something I struggle with, but you make it look effortless. How much time, from inception to final copy, do you normally spend on a story?

Madeline ffitch: Well, first of all, it's good for me to hear that anyone who writes novels could be in awe of my process, because the feeling is mutual. I'm working on my first novel, and have no idea how to do it, I'm just feeling my way through it as I go along.  I think that craft should be lively, imaginative and surprising, a constant inquiry, in some way un-masterable.  I have always wanted to be a writer.  When I was a kid and a teenager, I wrote and wrote, but didn't really ever have any finished work.  Every piece of writing was open ended.  So the first important thing for me to learn when I started writing seriously was how to finish something.  And I've been learning that for so many years now, that my next challenge is to learn how not to finish something.  If I can understand that all endings are somehow arbitrary, then that can free me up to continue to experiment with craft and how vastly different endings can be.  And also I am trying to learn how to keep opening and opening the story so that it can become something as expansive as a novel.  
On a very practical level, I'll also say that I work well with deadlines.  This comes from my years working in a theater company where we would book the tour before we had even finished writing the play.  The strictness of deadlines helps keep me disciplined and honest, and I can always fail to meet them if I need to.

SP: Almost every story in your collection mentions animals of some kind. Racoons, turtles, rabbits... Reading your stories is like being out in the wild. Why are animals so heavily featured in your work? Are they there as themselves or are they representing something larger?

Mf: I think of my stories as very full of a lot of inventory, people, work, and motion.  I am interested in the chock-fullness, the constant teeming of the world.  Animals are a part of that.  Animals must be encountered, and in some way dealt with, either emotionally or practically.  And animals are never completely within human control, even though many people have this notion of animal ownership or dominion over animals or something.  That kind of thing always breaks down in interesting ways. The animal is wild, it gets sick, it behaves oddly, you have to deal with its body, it doesn't care as much about you as you care about it.  You're a little afraid of it.  You ascribe human traits to it, but then those don't quite work.  Also, lately, I have been particularly interested in the closeness that people have with animals when they are also planning to kill and eat those animals.  Before I moved to a rural area, I didn't know hunters, or road-kill eaters, or butchers.  Now I do. Now I know small children who love it when the baby lambs are born in the spring, but also discuss dispassionately that those lambs are also going to feed them over the winter, and all that that entails.  This is a startling perspective for me to encounter. 

SP: Do you have a favorite story from Valparaiso, Round the Horn? Is it possible to like some stories of your own more than others?

Mf: The most recent of these stories I wrote this past year, and the oldest story in the collection is probably ten years old.  I tend to be more interested in the newer pieces.  But I respect the fact that when you make a piece of art and put it into the world, it's out of your control, and your personal feelings about it are sort of beside the point.  I've noticed that people can't seem to tell which are the older stories, so I try not to be self conscious when someone says something nice about something that I wrote at a very different time in my life, even though there's a part of me that feels like someone's reading my diary from when I was thirteen.  This is my first book, and I am so glad that people are reading it at all.  I feel very lucky when I get feedback about the stories, and when people seem to connect with them.  

SP: Many of your stories feature 'unlikeable' characters and it was those characters, and their stories, that I was most drawn to. Do there need to be 'likeable' characters in fiction?

Mf: It doesn't make sense to me to set out to write a likable or unlikeable character, just as it doesn't make sense to me to set out to write a sad or a happy story, or a funny or dramatic story.  In the type of storytelling that is interesting to me, these binaries don't have much of a place.  In fact, a great starting point for a story can be investigating a moment, an image, a dynamic, a person that is un-sortable, or unclassifiable.  Of course, as I get deeper into a story, it can be great fun to add horrible, excruciating details to certain characters, but I still try to let them surprise me, and not to overdetermine them.  I am most interested in writing about what I love, and I love some very complicated and unlikeable people, so sometimes my biggest challenge is to not let my overwhelming love of my characters stop them from being as nasty and irksome as people can actually be.

SP: Along the same lines, do there need to be characters that the reader can relate to? Or does that even matter?

Mf: Here, I tend to think not about myself as a writer, but about myself as a reader.  As a reader, I care about resonance, but I do not want to be related to.  I want to be transported, astonished, and convinced.

SP: You have to tell me about the "punk theater company" you are a founding member of. Where did this come from and what sort of works are performed by The Missoula Oblongata?

Mf: The Missoula Oblongata was a collaborative experimental theater company that toured original theater around the country, transforming neighborhood spaces into theaters.  We wrote, produced, and performed in our own plays, built our sets mostly from found materials, and performed in vacant lots, warehouses, schools, community centers, and even a post office and a grocery store.  That theater company was my primary career for six years, and helped me to understand myself as a working artist, part of a large coast to coast punk community that finds connections between radical grassroots social and environmental justice movements, experimental music and visual art, writing, performing and more. 

SP: Who or what have you read recently that you feel needs to be shouted and celebrated from the rooftops?

Mf: I just went on a short book tour and got the chance to be introduced to and encounter several amazing writers for the first time.
In Brooklyn I read with Tommy Pico, a fantastic poet and performer, who I understand has a book length poem forthcoming.  I got a few copies of his "Nature Poem" and have been passing them along to friends.  In DC, I also loved the poems of Mark Cugini, and he opened his set by reading a wild and necessary poem by Danez Smith.  
Lately, these poems are helping me to imagine writing a novel, if that makes any sense.
See, this is why ffitch and her work are amazing. Just saying.... You can check out my review of Valparaiso, Round the Horn here and then be sure to pick up your own copy to read and review.

Saturday, April 4, 2015


In case you missed it- my poem titled "Pinpricks" is in the April issue of Foliate Oak. Take a look and be sure to check out all of the other fantastic poems, short stories and artworks featured in the magazine. Cheers!


Friday, April 3, 2015

Shitty First Drafts and Writing

I needed to re-read this today: "Shitty First Drafts" from Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.

If you're struggling, you might need to read it, too. So, cheers.


And if you need the short and sweet motivational speech, just remember-