The UNO Publishing Lab & Each Vagabond by Name

The UNO Publishing Lab & Each Vagabond by Name

Last fall, I took my favorite course of my MFA, a Publishing Institute run by UNO Press. The course requirements included reading through a slush pile of submitted short story collection and novel manuscripts, picking ones that gave me the feels, ones that I felt were publishable, ones that could make it in the world. The class then debated all of our favorites to select the one we would work on editing and publishing. That selection turned out to be Margo Orlando Littell’s Each Vagabond by Name, a novel about a one-eyed bartender whose life is disrupted when a group of wandering gypsies roam into his small Pennsylvania town.

You can check out our process on the Lab’s website!

Littell came to New Orleans to launch the novel at the Tennessee Williams Festival this past March. It was amazing to listen to her give a reading from a book that we as a class closely read and edited. I learned a lot from working with her manuscript. She used short vignettes at the beginning of chapters to build setting and create an air of mystery. She slowly revealed backstory about the damaged characters’ pasts in a way that wasn’t tell-y or overwrought. It was all well-integrated into the story.

And she taught me another very important lesson. She trusted the editing process completely and gracefully.

Today is the Publication day for Each Vagabond by Name. If you’re looking for an engrossing, fast-paced but substantial summer read, I can’t think of a better book! Go buy it!

Summer Reading List – Week of May 30th

Summer Reading List – Week of May 30th

I have an extra day off this week, given that it’s Memorial Day weekend, and with the craziness of my brother’s graduation dying down (even though I miss the celebrations and all the family that was in town), I’m finally able to read read read! Now, granted, B and I did go canoeing on Black Creek in Mississippi yesterday, but I think that actually made me sore enough to want to stay on the sofa with a book all day.

Bread & Butter by Michelle Wildgen

I picked up this novel, about three brothers who operate two different restaurants in a small Pennsylvania town, because I am lucky enough to have its author be my mentor at the upcoming Tin House workshop this summer. I wanted to get to know her writing style to better understand her perspective on my work. Other than leaving me hungry, this novel is definitely touching on some great insider-knowledge about working in food service. From Leo’s point of view, the reader gets this: “He sometimes wondered if any of [the staff] were worth the trouble. That was one thing Harry would get a taste of: the enduring, Sisyphean struggle, on any given day, not to fire your entire staff,” (135). Having managed before, I totally loved this line and related to the feeling!

I saw myself in another sentence, which describes one of the kitchen employees in the restaurant: “Oh, Lionel…he was one of those tortured souls who stumbles through the world but fries a great eggplant,” (130). I mean! I felt like that could have been me, only replace “fries a great eggplant” with “makes a stellar cappuccino” or “never leaves the inside of the cannoli shell empty.”

Loving it so far, super-enthralled, hungry all the time. Hopefully will finish this week and get into her other novel, You’re Not You, this weekend.

You Came Back by Christopher Coake

I don’t remember how I stumbled upon Coake but the novel has similar themes to the one I’m working on, most notably the notion of finding a lost family member. I’m interested to see how another author deals with a potentially maudlin and sentimental topic while keeping the reader interested and having the feels.

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

I am definitely reading this for the parallels to my novel, and because Dessen is a well-known, well-respected YA author. I didn’t know much about the genre before I started writing it, so reading this novel will hopefully teach me something about how to create the right tone and story for a YA audience.

Also on my radar:

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler – I lucked out and happened to notice Friday that she was in town giving a reading at Octavia Books so I got to hear a bit of the book and am so looking forward to reading.

Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self by Danielle Evans – I don’t know how I’ve managed to go so long without reading her.

The Night Guest by Fiona McFarlane – The NYT review of her short story collection pointed out all the craft that I could potentially learn from this writer I’d never heard of. I’ll start with her novel then move onto the collection, The High Places.