Essay featured in new anthology: Against Death: 35 Essays on Living, edited by Elee Kraljii Gardiner
I’m beyond thrilled that my essay, “Let This Be Familiar,” is included in this riveting and powerful anthology, so thoughtfully compiled and lovingly edited by Elee Kraljii Gardiner, for the Canadian publisher Anvil Press.
A note from the anthology’s editor, Elee Kraljii Gardiner:
Against Death is a natural outgrowth of my experience with vertebral artery dissection and stroke. The adage “write the book you need” applies here: as I thought about my own experience and processed it, I understood how helpful it would be to connect with others who have grappled with mortality, too. Building this community in writing helped many of us figure out how we relate to our familiar circumstances with a radical shift in perspective.
Three of our contributors died before they could see their words in print. John Asfour, Susan Briscoe and Harry Langen were enthusiastic and curious participants in recording their experiences, and it was an honour to learn with them. I send their families and communities much love and hope their words here are a comfort.
Contributors: Adrian M Zytkoskee, Aislinn Hunter, Amanda Earl, Angela Rawlings, Becky Blake, Ben Gallagher, Bruce Meyer, John Asfour, Joe Average, Emma Smith-Stevens, Fiona Tinwei Lam, Harry Langen, Jane Mellor, Jennifer Van Evra, Susan Briscoe, Jennie Chantal Duguay, Jessica Michalofsky, Jill Goldberg, Kateri Lanthier, Kerri Power, Kiera Miller, Laurie Lewis, C.M. Faulkner, Lisa Neighbour, Maureen Medved, Mikaela Asfour, Moira MacDougall, Nikki Reimer, Rabi Qureshi, Rachel Rose, Rebecca Fredrickson, Sarah Lyn Eaton, Susan Cormier, Tanis MacDonald, Vera Constantineau.
The writers of these essays are courage embodied, honesty defined, strength incarnate. They refuse to look away, to be polite, to soften the blow. If you are willing to go where they are brave enough to take you, you will emerge awake and aware, a little joyful, a little frightened, and determined to live a little bigger every day.
—Pam Houston, author of Deep Creek, Finding Hope In The High Country, and Cowboys Are My Weakness
The nimble, serious play of the title, Against Death: 35 Essays on Living, is an accurate reflection of the range of tones, approaches, and experiences with death (which is to say, living) inside this vibrant, tender collection. While one need not be grieving to find resonance here, those who grief has touched will not feel silenced or pushed outside. In eloquent, luminous prose, these essays will be a companion to many and will be a collection to return to (again lives inside against). As editor Elee Kraljii Gardiner reminds us, “To be against something can be to reject or refute it. But to be against death can also mean to be in contact with, pressed up next to, to be intimately proximate with mortality.” This is all of us. I am grateful for this gathering and for this expansive (re)framing.
—TC Tolbert, author of Gephyromania and co-editor of Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics
In “Books, Bodies, and Blossoms: Notes From AWP 2019,” featured on the Center for Literary Publishing’s website, writer and Colorado Review editorial assistant, Kelly Weber, recounts highlights from the conference, including highlights from the panel I was on, “Chronic Illness and the Writer,” along with Ilana Masad, Nafissa Thompson-Spires, and Lorraine Berry.
I am thrilled to be attending AWP in Portland, OR this year. Especially since I’ve been mostly housebound due to illness the last 3+ years, this is a major leap forward. It’s exciting to visit a city I love so much and most of all to have the opportunity to connect with writer friends (new and old), and to read alongside some incredible writers, participate in a fascinating and important panel discussion, and sign copies of my debut novel, The Australian.
* Schedule *
“Chronic Illness and the Writer” with co-panelists Ilana Masad, Nafissa Thompson-Spires, and Lorraine Berry ~ AWP: Portland, OR [info]
When: March 28th, 2019 // 3pm-4:15pm
Where: E141-142, Oregon Convention Center
Dzanc Reading (off-site) with co-readers Julia Dixon Evans, Jason Tougaw, Alice Hatcher, Jac Jemc, Chrissy Kolaya, Robert Lopez, Jarrett Middleton, and Lance Olson ~ Portland, OR [info]
When: March 29th, 2019 // 7pm-9pm
Where: Erickson Gallery
Emma Smith-Stevens: The Australian Book Signing ~ Portland, OR
When: March 30th, 2019 // 9:30am-10:30am
Where: Dzanc Books @ AWP Book Fair, Booth #6010, Oregon Convention Center
6th Annual Rock & Roll Reading: Hosted by Daniel A. Hoyt ~ Portland, OR [info]
When: March 30th, 2019 // 1:30pm-3:30pm
Where: Mississippi Studios
Please come by any/all of my events and say hi! I won’t bite (unless you ask nicely). Also, I’m a maximalist book signer. If you come to my scheduled time at Dzanc’s AWP book fair table with your copy of The Australian (available for purchase), you’ll find out what I mean.
Like most anxious writers, I have a Google alert for my name, and recently it lead me to a blog post both moving and unexpected. In “Heritage: What House Do I Belong To?” Shelby Cardell describes how and why reading The Australian empowered her to delve into the long-kept secret of her own family history, undergo DNA testing, and have a much-anticipated confrontation with her grandfather, who had forbade her from discussing—let alone investigating—her ancestry as a child.
My first short story collection, All the Way Gone, will be published in March 2020!
I am thrilled that these 20+ stories, which I wrote over the last several years, have found a loving home with Dzanc Books, "the future of publishing" (just ask Publishers Weekly), which also published my debut novel, The Australian, with so much beauty. I'll be working on the manuscript with Editor-in-Chief Michelle Dotter, whose sharpness, intuition, formal and stylistic fluency, and authentic enthusiasm make this a true honor. Here's to round two of this whole shebang: putting a book I poured myself into in many ways, over many years, out into the world!
P.S.: My love(r), queen, the most outrageously talented Canadian, the one and only cover designer for The Australian - Carrie Guss -will be gracing All the Way Gone with her glorious art and supernatural visions once again!
It is a testament to Smith-Steven’s writing that the book’s efforts to dig into identity and masculinity are never bogged down by self-seriousness. In fact, The Australian’s strongest aspect is its levity. This is a funny and “quippy” short novel, its humor gentle but always present. Smith-Stevens’s sentences are full of sharp ironic barbs, but one never gets the feeling that she is mocking her characters. She simply points out various absurdities in worldview and the requisite criticism that comes with those views, while allowing her characters the leeway to believe what they want to believe, even if, in the case of the Australian, that is simply “to pretend to have faith” in himself. [more]
I am completely wowed by this news! Also: moved, startled, grateful, and so many other things. Tremendous thanks to Roxane Gay for including me in this vital, timely, but also--tragically--timeless anthology. I hope all who can will read it. Also, every single one of us contributors read our essays for the audiobook, and Roxane Gay reads her introduction--so that's well worth checking out, in addition to the paperback.
**Trigger Warning: Not That Bad contains graphic and deeply affecting depictions and discussion of rape, molestation, harassment, and other forms of sexual abuse and assault.
The world of independent literature is booming as small presses get the chance to flower. There are so many great independent presses out there... Here, five amazing books recently published by indie presses that we can’t wait to get our hands on. [more]
There were 1,170 submissions. 56 were short-listed, 180 long-listed. The prize is affiliated with Fish Publishing, an independent publishing company based in the West of Ireland. [more]
"Here lies a list of literature (& other bits & bobs) that features the body and/or the way it fails us." [more]
"We believe in artists and their essential role in our society. Each year, we award up to fifty $50,000 unrestricted fellowships to the most compelling artists working and living in the United States, in all disciplines, at every stage of their career." [more]
“What are the best Fiction books of 2017?” We aggregated 51 year-end lists and ranked the 571 unique titles by how many times they appeared in an attempt to answer that very question! [more]
Well, Ethan Hawke said in an interview: "The most romantic thing I have ever done is have sexual intercourse with a woman. It doesn’t get any better than that. You talk about candlelight? Being really connected to another person is about as good as it gets." I gave him a hot tip on Twitter dot com. [more]
"Along with 'Show, don’t tell,' which is super confusing and often instills in writers the idea that clarity and directness are to be avoided at all costs, 'Write what you know' is a tragic bit of instruction. I want to travel outside of myself when writing—to bridge my way to characters who may seem distant or opaque or foreign, and whose circumstances could not differ more from mine. Why not write into curiosity and the unknown?" [more]
David Gutowski writes:
2017 was another great year for the novel.
These are the 11 novels I have most recommended to friends, family, and anyone else who has crossed my path this year (my personal metric for "favorite").
I am astonished and honored to be published along with so many writers I deeply admire. Here is a full list of contributors and their essays:
In this valuable and revealing anthology, cultural critic and bestselling author Roxane Gay collects original and previously published pieces that address what it means to live in a world where women have to measure the harassment, violence, and aggression they face, and where they are “routinely second-guessed, blown off, discredited, denigrated, besmirched, belittled, patronized, mocked, shamed, gaslit, insulted, bullied” for speaking out. Contributions include essays from established and up-and-coming writers, performers, and critics, including actors Ally Sheedy and Gabrielle Union and writers Amy Jo Burns, Lyz Lenz, Claire Schwartz, and Bob Shacochis. Covering a wide range of topics and experiences, from an exploration of the rape epidemic embedded in the refugee crisis to first-person accounts of child molestation, this collection is often deeply personal and is always unflinchingly honest. Like Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me, Not That Bad will resonate with every reader, saying “something in totality that we cannot say alone.”
Searing and heartbreakingly candid, this provocative collection both reflects the world we live in and offers a call to arms insisting that “not that bad” must no longer be good enough.
*Pre-order hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook, or audio CD here (publication date May 1st, 2018).
After I graduated from a college two hours north of New York City, where I’d grown up, I felt exceedingly lucky to have a job lined up in Los Angeles. I’d never been there.
My friend Molly and I drove across the country with my dog Phil in the backseat. I’ve got this great snapshot of my passenger-side rearview mirror reflecting Phil’s head stuck out the window, ears flapping, and the Hollywood sign straight ahead of us... [more]
Essay "I Used to Be a Writer--Then I Got Sick," originally published in Literary Hub, including on Joseph Dante's Recommended Reading #7--along with work by Ocean Vuong, Richard Siken, Joanna Valente, Melissa Goodrich, and others. [more]
"I was a writer because I made art from my imaginings and from my past. I sought through language to understand circumstances and lives and bodies that seemed remote and fascinating and necessary to me. Through writing I left myself, immersing instead in characters or memories. When I wrote, I was never aware that I had a body. As a writer, your body is something that you can forget..." [more]
Engaging, discuss-worthy, fiction from a variety of genres--perfect for your next book club read! [more]
"The Australian is an astute, often satirical look at self-actualization and what it means to be a man, partner, father and son. Smith-Stevens writes in a marvelously voyeuristic style.... The nameless man, both hero and no-hoper, is a poignant and pointed reflection of the imperfections that vex us all." [more]
The Australian by Emma Smith-Stevens proves that the picaresque will never die, not as long as there are characters like her titular, never-named fellow. It’s a bit like reading a loose biography of Jemaine from Flight of the Conchords, if Jemaine were Australian instead of from New Zealand and an aimless git instead of a musician git, but the tone is the same: Droll, quick, and occasionally cruel... [more]
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Lauren Groff, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.
Emma Smith-Stevens' brilliant novel The Australian is one of the funniest (and smartest) debuts I have read in years.
In her own words, here is Emma Smith-Stevens' Book Notes music playlist for her debut novel The Australian... [more]
The Australian by Emma Smith-Stevens comes out today! It’s a hilarious debut novel about a smiling, suntanned, backpack-wearing Australian (you know the type) and his search for meaning. We asked the author one question.
Fiction Advocate: Emma! How are you celebrating the publication of The Australian? [more]
"On the streets of Melbourne, the Australian parades around dressed as Superman, paying his way through university by posing for photos, conscious of the bulge of his cock..." [more]
"In her mesmerizing debut, Smith-Stevens reveals the inner life of a man who describes himself as “the patron saint of trying.” The first view of the titular character (who is never given a proper name) is in his Australian homeland, where he’s a young adult parading around as Superman—living in the skin of a superhero, lapping up tourist attention." [more]
A comprehensive look at what’s in store for small presses in 2017: compiled by Michael Seidlinger. [more]
"Emma Smith-Stevens’s debut novel The Australian (Dzanc) is a sui generis mutation of the coming of age story, bearing us through topographies at once recognizable and remote, physical and mental, with a compass set in “defamiliarize” mode. I was fortunate enough to read an earlier draft, but am eagerly anticipating it in its final incarnation."
“‘Some Cool Heaven’ is a linear narrative: an account of a mother taking her son to the fair for the last time. She’s dying, probably cancer. It’s one of those types of stories that we get again and again, but the difference is that Emma Smith-Stevens’ attention to detail is moving and so intelligent. This story has something to say, and it says it perfectly–in each and every line.” -Christopher Allen