A Literary Celebration

In my 40 years of teaching, I’ve been fortunate to work with more than 2500 students in my classes, at writer’s workshops and privately. Here’s a literary update, my celebration of their achievements as they’ve supplied them to me over the Internets.

Alas, I only had email addresses for less than 10% of that number and have just plain lost track of the others, though I’ve seen their work in print. Where are you…

Toni Graham, Susan Faludi, Jean Gonick, Suzanne Jurgenson, Caryn Huberman, Marc Vincenti, Jordan Mechner, Lisa Margonelli, Genoa Shepley, Kate Frankman, Jay Gummerman, David Khoury, Linda Eckhardt, Bo Caldwell, Phyllis Dorset…

…and anyone and everyone else I’ve missed?

The Celebrities

For the latest on who God communicated with other than Israelites, check out David Perlstein’s profound new book, God’s Others: Non-Israelites Encounters With God In the Hebrew Bible (iUniverse, 2010). Also in the works, David’s two geopolitical satires, Slick! and San Café. Both brilliant and funny.

If mysteries are your thing, John Billheimer may well be your man. Set in West Virginia and featuring failure analyst Owen Allison, John’s five mystery novels — The Contrary Blues, Highway Robbery, Dismal Mountain, Drybone Hollow, and Stonewall Jackson’s Elbow — have won him a sizeable readership and no small amount of attention from the press. And if mysteries aren’t your thing and baseball is, check out his non-fiction book, Baseball and the Blame Game, about players like Bill Buckner and Fred Merkle, who have been damned for life for mistakes they made on the diamond.

Emerging from the not-quite-distant past, Beth Lein reports she has a play coming out this year in 2010: The Best Ten Minute Plays, (Smith & Kraus, 2010). She’s also recently finished a full-length play of an indeterminate number of minutes and writes for teevee, though, “nothing that has yet to be spoken by actors.”

Joan Gelfand’s poetry collection, A Dreamer’s Guide To Cities and Streams was published in 2009. Her three-story chapbook, Here and Abroad, won the Cervena Barva 2010 Fiction Award. Her story, Losers, was published in 2009, Better Days made it to print in February 2010, while Holiday and Girls’ Night Out are due out later this year. She is past president of the National Woman’s Book Association.

Lalita Tademy writes that she’s had two New York Times bestselling novels, Red River and Cane River(which was also a summer 2001 Oprah Book Club Selection). “That’s all I’ve got!” she claims. Knowing Lalita, though, I’m sure she’s already navigating that next river.

I know this is jumping the gun, but Alvin Ziegler reports that Gridlock was a big hit at this year’s Thrillerfest in Manhattan, garnering a number of requests from agents for looksees.

Devout Oakland Raider fan, Canada College writing and film instructor and close friend Mike Nagler has published two wonderful short story anthologies, Stolen Moments and Wives and Husbands. Even if you don’t have time to read the evocative stories, make sure to buy the books and read the thoughtful introductions.

I hadn’t heard from Betty Auchard for nearly a decade only to learn that she published her first book, Dancing In My Nightgown: The Rhythms Of Widowhood in 2005 at the age of 75, when she won an IPPY memoir category award. Another memoir,The Home For the Friendless: Finding Hope, Love, and Family, will be released in November, 2010, when, if I have my math right, Betty is 80. And the memories — and memoirs — just keep on comin’!

Wichita Sims (not her real name, but the one she prefers to be known to readers by) has had a number of pieces in the East Bay Monthly including Finer Than Frog Hair, A Word Comets, Rebound, and Scars. Check her out and see if you can figure out who she really is.

Published in 2008, Bill Gould’s novel of a lifelong obsession, A Little Score To Settle garnered him a place at the table with a dozen other Stanford authors for an afternoon presentation to a full house of their fans and readers. Sharing the stage with Bill was Tobias Wolff and other local notables.

First-rate storyteller and esteemed college professor Jerry Burger has published four stories in literary magazines over the last years, including The Hand You’re Dealt (Bellevue Literary Review), The Pitcher (Karamu), The Palmers (Lynx Eye), and The Last Laugh (Potpourri). His non-fiction book, Returning Home: Place Attachment and Connecting With Our Past (Rowman-Littlefield) will be out in 2011.

Bob Levy has had short fiction and non-fiction published in Other Voices, The Macguffin, Jewish Currents, Flashpoint, and elsewhere. He won the Annual Fiction Award in Lone Mountain and New Millennium Writings, won the Langston Hughes Award in Cottonwood, and was a finalist for the Chicago Tribune’s Nelson Algren Award in 2002.  We’re also almost identical in age, and we both had Brooklyn Dodgers jackets when we were kids.

Humbly, Colleen O’Driscoll submits, “my stories saw print in a handful of minor lit rags, none of which now exist, except Porter Gulch Review.” She also garnered an honorable mention in the Boulevard. Nothing to be humble about, at all, I think.

Louis B. Jones will go down in my history as the student that made me enforce a per-semester word limit. He’d show up with a new story every week, all pretty wonderful and one better than the next. [ASIDE: Eric Solomon, my literature professor at San Francisco State once told John Gardner that he wrote books faster than he, Eric, could read them. Same with Louis and me.] Irrepressible and incredibly talented, he’s published three novels (Ordinary Money, Particles and Luck, and California’s Over), all New York Times “Notable Books,” had stories in The Threepenny Review, The Sun, Open City and the Santa Monica Review, and was awarded a National Endowment For the Arts Fellowship. His fourth novel, Radiance, will be published in 2011.

Hot off the email press (her message literally arrived as I was writing these blurbs), Claudia Long’s stunning and disquieting historical novel — Josefina’s Sin (Artria/Simon & Schuster) ­— about a beautiful landowner’s wife and her ill-fated run-in with the Inquisition in 17th century Mexico, is due out in August 2011.

She flunked the math portion of the Kelly Girl test, but she persevered and now Lolly Winston can boast (though she never does), two New York Times bestsellers (Good Grief and Happiness Sold Separately), both of them optioned by the movies, the latter of which as a star vehicle for Julia Roberts. She’s also had stories in The Sun, The Southeast Review, Girls’ Night Out, and others, and has contributed essays to Kiss Tomorrow Hello and Bad Girls.

Multiple award-winning children’s book author Jane Cutler has published seventeen books, among them Darcy and Gran Don’t Like Babies, The Cello Of Mr. O, My Wartime Summers, The Song Of the Molimo and The Fraser Brothers Adventure Series. She’s been on C-Span Book Notes and has made several author appearances on NPR and KQED-TV. Her adult fiction earned her a PEN award, as well as San Francisco State’s coveted Herbert Wilner Award. And lest she forgets to mention it, she’s even had a story published in Playgirl.

Claudia Arndt writes that she has made a near-career of honorable mentions and semi-final finishes in contests and competitions around the country. Still, Irritable Heart — a semi-finalist in a Writer’s Network contest — was published in Anthology magazine, and that ain’t half bad, Claudia.

On the road to becoming the first Finnish Amy Tan, Ellen Filppu entered From Finland With Love in the San Francisco/Peninsula California Writers Club Jack London Writers Contest in 2009 and won in the novel category.

I used to say that lawyers rarely made good writers and then along came Tom Lee to prove me wrong. Old World Heirlooms (Brink Magazine) was published in 2008, Nova Initia (Asia Literary Review) came out in 2009 and Reminders Of Absalom was awarded Most Highly Commended in the 2008 Tom Howard/John Reid Short Story Contest, and also appeared in 2009 in Eclectica.

Just heard from Jan Maulhardt who single-handedly kept me solvent for nearly three years by recommending me as a speechwriter to the Adobe Systems Executive Committee. Thank you, Jan. And thank you for your story What Price Electrolysis in The Iowa Review, your insightful personal essays in The San Jose Mercury News, and your stories and poems in the Santa Clara Review.

In residence at the Tin House Writing Conference in Portland, Shelly King writes that The Sweetgum Tree took first place in the Palo Alto Weekly 2006 fiction contest and second place in The Writer magazine’s fiction contest in 2007. Stone Cabin was a third place winner in the 2007 Palo Alto Weekly fiction contest, while Sugar In My Bowl was published in the Spring 2010 issue of the GW Review. Coming out in September 2010 in the Slow Trains Journal is In a Relationship.

The last time I saw Susan Harperwas about ten years ago at an awards ceremony for our former SF State writing professor, Leo Litwak (whose collection, Nobody’s Baby and Other Stories, incidentally, is one of my favorites). We chatted, promised to stay in touch, but didn’t. Still, I’d like to mention her wonderful short story collection here, The Year Of the Buck and Other Stories, partially (and selfishly) because Susan dedicated it to me, but mostly because the stories are so beautifully wrought and evocative. If you can find a copy, do yourself a favor and buy it.

In case you were wondering what ever happened to Janelle Brown (I was, in any event), fame and fortune came her way with no small thanks to her large talent. Her first novel, All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, was a national bestseller and named one of the best books of 2008 by Library Journal. Her second novel, This Is Where We Live, was published in Spring 2010.

Longtime student and friend Lisa Nerenberg has had short stories in Other Voices, GSU Review, Vines, The Jewish Women’s Literary Annual, Phoebe, Riversedge, and Confluence. Her non-fiction book, Elder Abuse Prevention: Emerging Trends and Promising Strategies, was published by Springer in 2008. Being an elder, I’m rooting for those promising strategies.

747 captain and writer of memorable scenes (check out the murderous chimpanzee or the  assassinated/refrigerated dog in The Omega Point)  Mark Mozden’s aforementioned novel was published in 2009. His short story, Tina, appeared in American Way Magazine and he has also received two honorable mentions in the Writers Digest Fiction Writing Competition.

Former Stegner fellow (and one of at least five that passed through these semi-hallowed semi-halls) Bev Jafek writes that her short story collection, The Man Who Took a Bite Out Of His Wife, was cited as one of the best story collections of the year in The Year’s Best Fantasy, as well as a finalist for the Crawford Award honoring the best new fantasy fiction writer of the year. She has published more than two dozen stories in literary quarterlies and university press magazines and won numerous awards, including publication in the Pushcart Prize anthology and The Best American Short Stories Of 1985.

And then there was/is Helen Caswell who is still hard at work on her high school band redux novel, with its far more than random flashes of brilliance. When it’s done (soon, she assures me), I think it’s going to be an amazing book. So are many of her stories, four of which by recent count have found their way into print: When Glass Breaks (Room Of One’s Own), Life In Peacetime (Compass Rose), Peg The Mortal (Timber Creek Review), and In the Spring House (Words of Wisdom). My suggestion is to locate all four and make a day out of reading them. They are all long and delectable.

Checking in today was the elusive Vicky Mlyniec (well, not really that elusive) who earned her MFA at Warren Wilson in 2009. In 2005, she won the Tobias Wolff Award For Fiction with the winning story published in the Bellingham Review. She also had a story in the Baltimore Review and placed second in its Short Fiction Contest. Another of Vicky’s stories was performed at the Beverly Hills Library as part of the New Short Fiction Series’ Emerging Voices program, and her essays have been published “here and there.” Remind me some day to describe the provocative “shower scene” in her story about the contractor who becomes smitten with his female client.

Susan Lee reports that she’s published about fifteen short stories, mostly in the mystery and fantasy genres, in magazines including Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Crimewave, and Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine. Recipient of the Writers of the Future Award — and shortlisted for a number of others — Susan has also had her non-fiction published in Red Herring, salon, the San Jose Mercury News, and Stanford Magazine.

Chitra Divakaruni says kind things about me elsewhere on this site, so it’s only fair that I mention that this amazing and prolific writer has been published in over 50 magazines including the Atlantic Monthly and The New Yorker and that her writing has been included in more than 50 anthologies.  Her books of fiction and poetry include Black Candle, Arranged Marriage, The Mistress of Spices, Sister of My Heart, Queen of Dreams, the recent The Palace of Illusions, and at least a half dozen others.

Years ago there was Prudence Breitrose. Today, she re-appeared in my inbox (though we only live about two miles from each other, so we were never that far away) with news that her children’s novel, Mousenet is going to be published this fall by Hyperion. Says her editor, it’s “a rare book — completely modern but with a classic sensibility that’s full of wonder and charm,” which also perfectly characterizes the Prudence I remember.

Tell me, what is it that Jim (aka James) Kohlberg can’t do. He’s an accomplished story, novel and screenwriter, he’s produced five films — one of which won the Audience Award at Sundance — directed plays, played some mighty fine tennis in his time, all while running his own financial services company and sitting on the board of the New York Times. Google him to find his stories The Guide, Ernest Hemingway Meets the Devil, and My Old Man’s Hands. And rent Trumbo, Two Family House, and my favorite, the disquieting Runaway.

Reed Stevens has been a writer and storyteller all her life, with columns and stories in print, on NPR and online. She also wrote an original radio drama, The Story of Crazy Nora which was aired on NPR Theater, and won the National Presswoman’s First Prize for Fiction for Treasure of Taos. Her moving 2009 memoir, Santa Fe Dreamhouse, Encounters in the Land of Enchantment also garnered a number of awards. Check it out and tell her what you think.

It’s always a pleasure to hear from Vanessa Hemingway, don’t you think? Following in the illustrious footsteps of a number of others in this literary celebration (including myself), she’s working on her MFA at San Francisco State (ASIDE: Only when I was there, so was the San Francisco Police Tactical Squad, the National Guard and S.I. Hayakawa. Ah, the memories, the sting of tear gas in the morning), and has had stories in Zone 3 (where she won the magazine’s 2009 Fiction Award), the Chautauqua Literary Journal, the Minnetonka Review, The Reader (UK) and the Chicago Quarterly Review.

The peripatetic and long-lost (to me, at least) Jill Koenigsdorf reports that she came across my website by Googling herself and discovering she was on my “long-lost” list. Perhaps you should Google yourself to see if you’re there, as well. Anyhow, I seem to remember that at one time she ran a flower shop. Or a flower cart. Something with flowers, anyway. Meanwhile, she’s been publishing stories willy-nilly, one of which was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and took first place in a Chautauqua Review short story contest and another that won second place in The Writer magazine contest. She’s also published non-fiction in Sunset and in New Mexico Magazine, lives in Santa Fe, and is working on her second novel.

[NOTE: If you’re an ex-student and would like to be part of this celebration, please email me the particulars at tom@tomparkerwrites.com]