The 2015 Barthelme Prize for Short Prose

June 24, 2015 § 2 Comments

Steve Almond

Gulf Coast is now accepting entries for the 2015 Barthelme Prize for Short Prose. The contest is open to pieces of prose poetry, flash fiction, and micro-essays of 500 words or fewer. Established in 2008, the contest awards its winner $1,000 and publication in the journal. Two honorable mentions receive $250 and will also appear in issue 28.2, due out in April 2016. All entries will be considered for paid publication on the Gulf Coast website as online exclusives.

Steve Almond will judge this year’s contest. Almond is the author of eight books of fiction and non-fiction, including the New York Times bestsellers Candyfreak and Against Football. His short stories have appeared in the Best American and Pushcart anthologies. His most recent collection, God Bless America, won the Paterson Prize for Fiction and was short-listed for The Story Prize. His journalism has appeared in the New York Times Magazine and elsewhere.

Entries are due August 31, 2015. The $17 entry fee includes a year-long subscription to Gulf Coast.

The folks at Gulf Coast will accept submissions via an online submissions manager and via postal mail.

Visit for more information.

All About “Winkles” and Other Rumors

April 3, 2013 § 1 Comment

0x600Author Blake Butler recently spread One Hundred Literary Rumors over on the Vice blog.  Apparently, a few of our nonfiction brethren are a little wackier than we knew them to be. Or at least according to Butler:

— Though he can see fine, Michael Martone prefers to read braille.

— Steve Almond’s childhood nickname was “Winkles.”

— Cheryl Strayed suffered a three-week phase where she could eat nothing but chopped walnuts.

— Lorrie Moore won’t play Monopoly unless she can be both the banker and the iron.

Butler offers up lots of other juicy tidbits about our literary heroes and heroines, but there are many that he has missed.  What (friendly, fictional) rumors do you think are missing about our prominent nonfiction brethren? Drop them below in the comments, if they aren’t too slanderous.


The Fake Memoir

April 21, 2011 § 8 Comments

Steve Almond usually manages to be wise, amusing, and sensible all at once in his occasional Rumpus pieces, and he’s kicked the proverbial triple pickle again this week with his post The Heroic Lie: A Brief Inquiry into the Fake Memoir

Here’s an excerpt, but when you have a moment to spare, hop on over and read the entire thing.  Make your students read it.  Tattoo it on your dog:

You will have heard, by now, of the curious case of Greg Mortenson, the author of Three Cups of Tea. As documented by the author Jon Krakauer, among others, Mortenson appears to have falsified vast swaths of his best-selling memoir, including a dramatic abduction by the Taliban.

Over the past decade, the fake memoir has become a genre unto itself. A few years ago, an Oregon writer named Margaret Seltzer wrote a fake memoir called Love and Consequences, about her years running drugs in South Central Los Angeles. Around the same time, Misha Defonseca wrote Misha: A Mémoire of the Holocaust Years, in which she claimed to have lived with a pack of wolves, while wandering Europe in search of her parents. Defonseca was not even Jewish. The list goes on.

Every time one of these memoirs gets debunked, writers and critics debate what constitutes non-fiction. Often, there’s an argument put forward about something called “emotional truth,” which is supposed to provide moral cover for lying. My definition of creative non-fiction is simple. It is a radically subjective account of events that objectively took place.

The moment you start making up events that you know did not take place, you’re doing another sort of work. It’s called fiction.

Thank you, Mr. Almond.

On Ambition, Empathy, and Literary Editing

September 2, 2010 § 1 Comment

The always interesting Steve Almond cuts through the haze once again to find meaning in the tragedy over at Virginia Quarterly Review.  Here’s an excerpt of his Rumpus essay:

12. My own sense of Genoways is that his ambition outstripped his empathy. He had the drive to put VQR, and himself, on the map. But as he rose to prominence, the demands on his time overwhelmed him. Here were all these writers and underlings demanding his attention, sending him needy, guilt-provoking notes (like mine) and so he punished them with neglect. Most of this, I suspect, was unconscious. He lost touch with how he was making those around him feel.

13. This happens all the time. It’s happened to me. And to you.

14. Earlier this year, Genoways wrote an impassioned piece for Mother Jones lamenting the decline of the literary journal. He expressed disgust for the ranks of newly minted MFAs who want to write but don’t bother to read, and for those authors who “seem to have forgotten how to write about big issues – as if giving two shits about the world has gotten crushed under the boot sole of postmodernism.”

15. As cri de coeurs go, this was right in my roundhouse. But there was also a curious impatience in his tone. “Stop being so damned dainty and polite,” he concluded. “Treat writing like your lifeblood instead of your livelihood. And for Christ’s sake, write something we might want to read.”

16. It was almost like he was angry at the people who submitted to him.

Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life, or Encounters With Steve Almond’s Annual Meat Hoard

May 7, 2010 § 2 Comments

Steven Church, editor of that waffle-rocking litmag The Normal School and contributor in the most recent issue of Brevity, discusses meat, smoke, the essayistic urge, and Steve Almond’s newest book:

A few years ago, while living for a time in Providence, Rhode Island, I met and became friends with the writer, Steve Almond. I still have a mix CD Steve gave me labeled “Providence Shuffle,” emblazoned with a quote from my son, “I made a bad choice,” written in blue Sharpie.

At the time he gave it to me, Steve had no children besides his books and the one at the moment was a collection of stories dubbed  The Evil B.B. Chow.  I’m pretty sure he and his girlfriend, Erin thought of my son mostly as a charming oddity, sort of like a snow globe from Iraq or a talking monkey. EVERYTHING he said was funny. Steve was working hard to be known as a fiction writer (he is, by the way, one hell of a short story writer) and not as much as a nonfiction writer, which is what I hoped to become, and what I now try to teach people how to become, and what I’m convinced everyone wants to become.

I happened to meet Steve during the time in his life that makes up much of the present action in his new nonfiction book, Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life, a laugh-out-loud-on-the-airplane, smart, and sweet-sounding tribute song to the music Steve has been foisting on others for years. Though I can’t be sure, I’m fairly confident Steve made the Providence Shuffle CD for me, which includes several bands and artists mentioned in the book, after I’d just witnessed to something I will call the annual “Steve Almond Meat Hoard.”

This festival of sorts occurs just before the first really hard freeze of the year, after which grilling meat on your rusting Weber Smoky Joe becomes, in Boston, not just inconvenient but a potentially life threatening choice. At this point, his girlfriend Erin had already moved to California to complete an MFA in writing, leaving him to his own bad choices, some of which included large quantities of meat.

I’d occasionally just drive from Providence up to Boston under the some pretense or another but really just because I was desperately lonely and wanted to hang around in Steve’s apartment full of chocolate and music. It was dumb luck that I showed up for the annual Meat Hoard. Each year, just as the winter was practicing its first howling approach, Steve would load the Weber with charcoal and cook pounds and pounds of meat—chicken, sausage, steaks, and shrimp. When things got rough in the dark days of January, he’d thaw his bags of grilled meat and enjoy the taste of summer amidst the long press of winter that seemed to me to end sometime around July.

The night I was there, Steve froze everything except for a few select cuts, one celebration of his downfall—his so-called “verboten pie,” a homemade pizza no “good” Jew would eat, a pizza covered with sausage and shrimp, truly a “bad choice,” but one that tasted delicious and sacrilegious . . . but I digress into memory and story, pictures of that day, laughs and other tangents, perhaps because on some level I’m thinking like Steve.

This is what the best essayists do. They let you think like they do and allow you to watch their mind at work on the page. They create a conversational style that invites you into their thoughts. I’m not sure Steve gets enough credit as one of the best essayists working today. For years I’ve been raving publicly and privately about the genius of his Kurt Vonnegut essay in his last book, Not That You Asked—a truly stunning piece of . . . what? Criticism? Memoir? Essay. Just essay. A meandering, poignant dallying of thought, a critical celebration of Vonnegut that will make anyone want to go out and read everything the man has written.

With his new book, Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life, I’m calling Almond out as a lyrical critic, a daring poetic gadfly of the best kind who reveals both the heights and depths of human endeavors by turning a mirror upon our selves through the sort of self-reflection that essay aficionados crave. He’s like the mutant love-child of Montaigne and Mark Twain, a writer of the sort of books that (believe it or not) nonfiction patriots like David Shields should embrace. The book cannot be easily categorized or pigeonholed; it’s a meditation that moves at the speed of Almond’s consciousness–a mad, bouncing, digressive journey through his love of music.

This book is not a collection of rock star profiles or, I would argue, even a collection of essays, but is instead a book-length essay, one long talk on Rock-and-Roll. It’s neither sycophantic nor ironically distant, rarely flippant or silly but frequently hilarious. Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life is not an “insider” book or tell-all memoir but still somehow deeply personal. It’s not journalism but it is journalism. It’s not a novel, not even terribly plot driven or scene-heavy, but still moves like a great blues jam with freight-train intensity. It’s a book about music, of course, but also about love, friendship, and the power of fatherhood to change forever the kind of choices you make. It is simply a damn fine book. You should read it before midnight.

In case that doesn’t convince you and you need a more personal reason to read this book, how about this: I recently shared Steve’s book with a poet friend, who consumed it in a day and, somewhat overwhelmed by the experience (evidenced by his frantic downloading of music) asked me, “What’s it like hanging out with Steve,” and I thought about all the stories, the choices I could make in what to tell him, but instead I just pointed at the book and said, “It’s pretty much like that.” And it is. Reading this book is like listening to the electrified surge and flow of Steve’s stories, hanging with a good friend as he’s turning shrimp on a grill with a salad fork, hickory smoke billowing up into his face from the wood chips he sprinkled over the fire.

Best of the Web 2008 anthology

July 28, 2008 § Leave a comment

Dzanc Books’ Best of the Web 2008 anthology is now available and can be ordered online, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or from Dzanc’s website.

We are happy as well that the following Brevity authors are included in what we hope is an annual publishing event:

Abby Frucht – Blue Shirt – Brevity

Robin Behn – Childbirth in Alabama – Brevity

James Frey’s Obituary

December 17, 2007 § 1 Comment

Steve Almond, writing a tongue-in cheek-obituary, in the VQR’s Writers on Writers edition. Frey deserves this, and it is hilarious:

In 2028, Frey’s eldest son, Malcolm X Frey, published a searing memoir that detailed his life “as the son of America’s most notorious liar.” The younger Frey portrayed his father as a laxative-popping sexual predator who routinely made his children watch him do squats and who ate entire roasted turkeys in one sitting. Freyed at the Edges was an instant bestseller.

His other children and two of his ex-wives condemned the account. Frey himself filed a defamation suit seeking to halt publication. The case was settled out of court after his son agreed to include a disclaimer in future editions, noting that portions of the book were fictionalized.

Writing in Vanity Fair, journalist Christopher Hitchens accused the entire Frey clan of staging “an elaborate and deeply cynical publicity stunt.” A suit against Hitchens was filed and later dropped.


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