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Book signings at The Conium Review’s AWP Conference table

The Conium Review will be exhibiting at the 2016 AWP Conference, and we’re featuring three signings at our table. We’re located at table number 1238, and we hope you’ll swing by to meet these talented authors. Please share the details invite others to the Facebook event pages for each event. We hope to see you there!

Caitlin Scarano — Thursday, March 31st, 2016, 3:00pm to 4:00pm

Caitlin will be signing copies of her Conium Press micro-chapbook, Pitcher of Cream. This story won our 2015 flash fiction contest, judged by Laura Ellen Joyce, author of The Luminol Reels and The Museum of Atheism. Pitcher of Cream is also scheduled to be anthologized in the Best Small Fictions 2016 (forthcoming from Queens Ferry Press). Laura Ellen Joyce calls Pitcher of Cream “haunting and beautiful.” Copies of this micro-chapbook are free during the signing! We’ve done a limited-run of just 50 copies, so be sure to snag one for free while supplies last. Find this event on Facebook.

Carmiel Banasky — Friday, April 1st, 2016, 4:15 to 5:00pm

Carmiel Banasky will be signing her Dzanc Books novel, The Suicide of Claire Bishop, directly after The Conium Review‘s innovative fiction panel. Colum McCann, author of Let the Great World Spin and TransAtlantic, calls Carmiel’s book “Daring, precise, and linguistically acrobatic,” and Publishers Weekly says The Suicide of Claire Bishop is “A memorable, intricate, and inventive debut. . . . both an intellectual tour de force and a moving reflection on the ways we try to save ourselves and others.” Find this event on Facebook.

William VanDenBerg — Saturday, April 2nd, 2016, 2:00pm to 3:00pm

William VanDenBerg will be signing copies of Lake of Earth (Caketrain Press) and Apostle Islands (Solar Luxuriance). Brandon Hobson, author of Deep Ellum, says Lake of Earth is “a terrific and daring book, and Michael Kimball, author of Big Ray, says “William VanDenBerg writes so much story into so few lines that it’s easy to get lost in these bright fictions.” Find this event on Facebook.

Carmiel Banasky at Wordstock

As we announced earlier this week, Carmiel Banasky will be a panelist at an upcoming AWP panel presented by The Conium Review.

Meanwhile, Carmiel will be involved in the Wordstock Festival in Portland, Oregon. We hope that our Pacific Northwest readers will come out and show their support.

The Wordstock Festival is on November 7th. It takes place throughout the day, then the inaugural Portland Lit Crawl kicks off in the evening. Carmel Banasky will give a Pop-Up Reading at 1:00pm in Northwest Art (Main Building, 3rd Floor), followed by the panel “Lost and Found: Fiction on the Threshold” at 4:00pm in the Whitsell Auditorium (Portland Art Museum, Main Building, Lower Level).

Carmiel is also reading at Lit Crawl Portland later on! See her at the “Tell Your Truth: Write with the Writers” even at the Burnside Proper Salon and Showroom. From the description, it sounds like the reading transitions into a brief collaborative workshop, so be prepared for an interactive experience.

Tickets for the Wordstock Festival are still available, and the full Lit Crawl schedule is available here. (FYI, you do not need a ticket for the Lit Crawl. Tickets are specifically for the Wordstock bookfair and events taking place earlier that day at the Portland Art Museum).

Carmiel’s debut novel is The Suicide of Claire Bishop, out now from Dzanc Books. Other authors at the event are Monica Drake and Debra Busman.

Find this Lit Crawl reading on Facebook and invite your friends!

2016 AWP Panel: “What the Heck Does Innovative Fiction Actually Mean?”

The 2016 AWP Conference schedule is now available. The Conium Review is pleased to be presenting an informal talk on innovative fiction. The panel is called “What the Heck Does Innovative Fiction Actually Mean?: Authors Cut Through the Jargon.” It’s scheduled for Friday, April 1st at 3:00pm on the Scott James Bookfair Stage.

Panelists include Carmiel Banasky, Ashley Farmer, Lindsay Hunter, and Stephen Graham Jones. James R. Gapinski moderates.

Carmiel Banasky is a writer and teacher from Portland, OR. Her debut novel, The Suicide of Claire Bishop, confronts the portrayals of mental illness in art. After earning her MFA from Hunter College, Carmiel spent four years on the road at writing residencies. She now teaches creative writing in LA.

Ashley Farmer is the author of the short fiction collection Beside Myself and two forthcoming poetry collections: The Women and The Farmacist. A former editor forAtomica, Salt Hill, and other publications, she currently coedits Juked.

Lindsay Hunter is the author of the novel Ugly Girls, which the Huffington Post called “a story that hits a note that’s been missing from the chorus of existing feminist literature.” She is also the author of the flash fiction story collections Don’t Kiss Me and Daddy’s.

Stephen Graham Jones is the author of fifteen novels, five collections, and more than two hundred short stories. More forthcoming.

James R. Gapinski is managing editor of The Conium Review. His fiction has appeared in Lunch Ticket, NANO Fiction, Cheap Pop, Word Riot, and elsewhere.

Be sure to stop by The Conium Review‘s table during the 2016 AWP Conference too. We’ll have discounted books for sale, a free micro-chapbook, and other swag. We’re at table #1238. The full map and list of exhibitors is available here.

Book Review: Stray Decorum

Stray Decorum
Written by George Singleton
Dzanc Books, 2012
ISBN 9781938103544

 
Stray DecorumGeorge Singleton releases his fifth story collection with characters who are odd sorts of people, strays in their own lives, while strangely likeable. Upon reading anything by George Singleton, the reader instantly gets a sense of his distinct voice, which is an amalgamation the small town South (as in Flannery O’Connor) and cutting, satirical humor. A first read through this collection makes it clear that Singleton is a dog lover, but most of these stories are more about people who love their animals and how they discover meaning in their lives through their animals. You will not find any Old Yeller plot constructions or any moments where the demise of man’s best friend serves as the climatic device. These stories are smarter than that.

The eleven shorts in Stray Decorum are often simple and commonplace in terms of setting and conflict. However, there is a richness in the characters that Singleton depicts here that is extremely rewarding for readers. The first story, “Vaccination,” begins at the veterinarian’s office while the protagonist, Edward, takes his dog in for his vaccinations. With the most excellent first line in a short story I have read in a while, the story begins, “My dog Tapeworm Johnson needed legitimate veterinary attention.” In the first several pages, the reader is treated with a trip through the interesting and specific ethos of Edward: that of one who respects veterinarians more than human doctors; one who is extremely suspicious of microchips implanted in pets; one who names their dog Tapeworm Johnson.

 
In “A Man with My Number,” a door-to-door salesman tries to sell the protagonist (whose thoughts often drift toward his collection of machetes and bolt cutters) numbers for his house after the protagonist’s street address numbers have coincidentally gone missing. The story seems to be about boundaries and breaking those boundaries. From “A Man with My Number”:

“But my dogs never feel the need to roam. People who know me—people who don’t show up unannounced with a stray wondering if it’s one of mine—know that my dogs somehow understand boundaries. They show up at my house for a reason, then settle in. Dogs seem to sense things we cannot fathom. They know fear, sure, that’s all been documented. But they also know what kinds of people won’t feed or pet them if they (the dogs) run out into the road or chase birds on a whim. Dogs know good music when they hear it, too.”

In “Durkheim Looking Down,” the protagonist thinks his wife’s friends are odd while he secretly uses an electric dog collar to remedy his vocal outbursts during nightmares. A pompous intellectual (who the couples are traveling together to see) triumphantly claims, “Modern dance is to ballet as slam poetry is to literature.” The nuance in character depicted here elevates these stories beyond anecdotes or cheap laughs.

As far as fiction (especially short fiction) goes, I don’t generally seek out comedy. I prefer fiction that is visceral and gritty. So, I’m typically sifting through the steady stream of fiction flowing out of the South. That’s where you’ll consistently find your viscera and grit—not that satire can’t be cathartic and revealing of universal truths that we hope for in good fiction (John Swartzwelder’s short novels are great if you’re a fan of a The Simpsons). I wouldn’t categorize Stray Decorum as specifically comedy or satire, but Singleton’s humor permeates these stories. The humor and delicate social observations serve as the laces that hold these stories together, that elucidates who these characters are and where they fit in the scheme of things. Which, by the way, is exactly what this collection is about: people who are lost, strays, searching for where they belong. And like the animals we are so attached to, these characters want only to belong to someone or something or someplace.

 
Review by Adam Padgett
© 2013, All Rights Reserved
Adam Padgett’s short fiction has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Appalachian HeritageSanta Clara Review, SmokeLong QuarterlyThe Conium Review, and elsewhere. He teaches writing at The University of North Carolina at Charlotte.