Archives For kore press

Writing fiction—much less, pursuing an artist’s life—
was not part of the culture in which I was raised….
You didn’t make it if it wasn’t useful, if wouldn’t be for the greater good.
We had canning and quilting. And no one called these things “art.”

Patricia Grace King grew up in North Carolina and spent years in Spain and Guatemala. She holds an MFA from Warren Wilson College and a Ph.D. in English from Emory University. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in Narrative, Nimrod, and elsewhere. Her chapbooks, The Death of Carrie Bradshaw and Rubia, won the Kore Press Short Fiction and the Jeanne Leiby Memorial contests, respectively. She is the recipient of a fiction fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center and is the 2013-2014 Carol Houck Smith Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing. She lives in the Printers Row neighborhood of Chicago with her husband. Patricia is at work on Gringos in Paradise, a collection of linked stories and a novella set in wartime Guatemala.


Kingcvrfrntlo-res_000Read more by and about Patricia:

Story: “Rooster Hour” in Narrative

Chapbook: The Death of Carrie Bradshaw (Kore Press)

Review of The Death of Carrie Bradshaw

Excerpt: from “Dogs in Guatemala” in Nimrod

How Patricia Grace King Became a Writer

This is the next installment in the How to Become a Writer interview series, which will post here at Ph.D. in Creative Writing every other Sunday (or so) until I run out of writers to interview, or until they stop saying yes. Each writer answers the same 5 questions. Thanks to Patricia for saying yes!

1. Why did you want to become a writer?

I wanted to be a writer since before I can actually remember—before I could technically write. I loved stories: having them read to me, making them up. In my pre-literate years, I made dozens, maybe hundreds, of “books”: stories I illustrated, stapled together, and dictated to my mother, who transcribed them for me.

Nine was a pivotal year, though. I found Little Women and went sort of nuts. I read it nine times that year. I even read Alcott’s obscure stuff, like Under the Lilacs and an Old-fashioned Girl. I wrote my own novel, plagiarizing Little Women. (I wrote another, plagiarizing National Velvet, two years later.) Nine was also the age when Anne Frank got me started keeping a journal—I named mine “Ellen,” the way Anne called hers “Kitty”—and filled up more than forty of those lined “Record” books they used to sell at Eckerd Drugs.

The film editor Walter Murch once said, “Your chances for happiness are much increased if you wind up doing something that reflects what you loved most when you were between nine and eleven.” I think he’s right. I think you can call my pre-adolescent obsession with stories “wanting to become a writer.”

But in another sense I had no notion at all that there were such people as writers—that being a writer was an actual career or vocation.

Writing fiction—much less, pursuing an artist’s life—was not part of the culture in which I was raised. I grew up Mennonite, the granddaughter of Mennonite preachers on both sides of the family. Arbeite und Hoffe, work and hope, is the traditional Mennonite motto. It might sound like a fine motto for a writer too, but in the Mennonite context work means specifically, Work the land. And hope? Hope your soul’s saved.

Mennonite Quilting Circle;
Courtesy of, article by Wendell Garrett,Garret’s Attic

Such art as there was, for the more conservative Eastern Seaboard Mennonites among whom I was raised, was functional only. You didn’t make it if it wasn’t useful, if wouldn’t be for the greater good. We had canning and quilting. And no one called these things “art.”

I didn’t get it that writing fiction was something people did anymore. I didn’t attach it to any activity going on out in the world beyond me. It was just this secret personal thing that I did. Not so secret, because I wrote in the middle of my large, active family, but secret in that only I knew what I was up to in those pages in front of me. In our old home movies, there’ll be this long table of my relatives talking, and I’m the one at the end with my head down, lost in my journal.

Maybe that’s the best reason of all to become a writer. Because you can’t not write. Because it’s this thing you just do—all the time, in the middle of the rest of your life, whether or not anyone else pays attention. Because you can’t help it, and there’s nothing in the world you’d rather do.

2. How did you go about becoming a writer?

The short answer is: It took a life crisis.

The long answer is: I didn’t know what to do with my love of stories except study the stories other people had written. When I started high school, I’d stopped writing fiction. I’d be an English professor, I thought. But I was never very good at it. I know this because all through grad school, I kept wanting to do other things. I’d run off to Guatemala: to work as a translator for medical brigades, to accompany refugees and other victims of the civil war with the human rights organization Witness for Peace. A friend and I traveled around North America for a year with an art project, “100,000 Faces,” that we made during the Persian Gulf War.

I was never driven to do scholarship. When I began dating my husband, Dave Janzen, who’s a Hebrew Bible scholar, we both had tenure-track teaching jobs; in the summer we’d go do our research. I’d watch Dave at his work, and he was so into it—in a way I never was—I’d be awed. Knowing Dave, who is a true scholar, helped me to see I’m not one.

I still did not understand that I was—that I am—a writer. It took a new set of experiences in Guatemala, where Dave and I worked shortly after we married. Those were the two hardest years of my life, and somewhere in the middle I started asking myself: What do I really hope to accomplish in this life I’ve been given? What would I most regret not having done, if someone told me I’d die tomorrow?

It was writing—writing stories. Writing as I’d done it as a child.

Our last year in Guatemala, I started writing fiction again. I haven’t stopped since. When we returned to the States in 2005, I took a half-time teaching job and used all my spare time to learn how to write. Fiction writing was a profession, I saw, and I wanted to become part of it. But it took training. It takes training: a training as long and arduous as my Ph.D. work. I read books on fiction writing (James Wood’s How Fiction Works and Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer were two of the best). I read Poets & Writers. I joined a local writers’ group and went to my first workshop, at the Iowa Summer Festival, at age 39.

Mainly, though, I just wrote. Summers and other days off, I wrote for six to eight hours a day. I’d denied the desire so long, I was starved for this exact work. I wrote and I wrote and ended up throwing out everything from those first years, but it was all part of the training. I sent my work out eventually. A few of my stories found homes. When I’d gotten as far as I could on my own, I joined the MFA program at Warren Wilson College, from which I’ve just graduated.

3. Who helped you along the way, and how?

The person who has helped me most is my husband, Dave. My teaching half-time for eight years has been crucial to my development as a writer, but I could not have done this—I could not have afforded to live on that salary—without Dave’s serious financial investment and personal sacrifice. He also supported and helped me finance my recent MFA studies.

Dave believed in me as a writer from the moment I began trying to be one—long before there was any concrete evidence that I could make it work. He values good literature almost as much as I do and sees it as a worthwhile pursuit, to a degree no one else in my personal life ever has.

Maybe what it comes down to is this: It’s incredibly hard to be a writer—to be an artist of any stripe, I suspect—without significant financial and emotional backing. And Dave Janzen has been both for me.

4. Can you tell me about a writer or artist whose biography inspires you?

I no longer follow up on the bios of writers I like. It’s another change from being a Ph.D. in English—where reading was so much about context—to being immersed in creative writing, where it’s all about the story and how it works.

I’m almost afraid now to know too much about the writer herself. I don’t want it to get in the way of how I experience her story. I’d rather read the story for the story itself.

However, because of Malcolm Gladwell’s essay, “Late Bloomers,” in the October 20, 2008 New Yorker, I am somewhat aware of Ben Fountain’s biography, and I admire it. I probably wouldn’t admire it as much if I didn’t also just downright love Fountain’s first book, the short story collection Brief Encounters with Che Guevara. It is on my all-time Top Ten Books list (right up there with Little Women, for obvious sentimental reasons). Fountain does in those stories what I try to do in my own. He wakes you up to an often-neglected part of the world and then just immerses you in it: all the ethical and cultural and political complexity of the place. And Fountain’s a kickass story teller. I resonate with his biography in that he gave up a seemingly much more viable career to try to become, in midlife, a fiction writer. And I love his commitment to knowing Haiti so well that he’s been there at least thirty times! Finally, I love the tribute that essay pays Sharon Fountain; Gladwell rightly calls her Ben Fountain’s patron.

I’ve also been inspired by the life (as well as the poetry) of Muriel Rukeyser. My long-ago dissertation was on American women who witnessed the Spanish Civil War and wrote about it (talk about a “niche” dissertation!), and Rukeyser was my favorite of them. I admire her chutzpah and her fabulous cheekbones. I’m also moved by her lifelong commitment to social justice and the way that commitment interacted with and shaped her writing. Rukeyser didn’t just write about social justice problems—she went to the places where people were living them and literally bore witness to them. Her poetry became a second, longer-living form of testimony.

Image from; click for link

5. What would you say in a short letter to an aspiring writer?

The first thing I would say is: Don’t think of anyone else—NO one else: not your mother, not your teacher, not your writing group or your agent or editor or future audience: NO one—while you are writing a story. Stay inside the dream world that is your story. Don’t let the outside intrude.

Think of these other people only after you’ve written the story and revised it and revised it again: only after you’ve pushed the piece as far as you can and are ready to send it out to the world.

Always have something to write on (and with) within your arm’s reach. Sometimes the best writing happens when you’re not actually at the desk or computer. Don’t lose those ideas that come to you when you’re falling asleep, waking up, taking a walk, or riding a train. (A train, it turns out, is a very good place to write.)

That said, do sit down at the desk every day. Do it for a good chunk of time. Don’t be afraid if you don’t immediately know what to write. Even moving stuff around on the page is part of the writing and can help trigger ideas. Or open a blank document and do what I charmingly call a “mental vomit”—write without stopping to edit yourself or even trying to type properly. The thing is to get some ideas on the page. Later on you can play with them, pretty them up, see if they work in your story.

Find or get some people around you who understand how important writing is and who are 100% behind your pursuit of the writing life, even if they don’t do anything like it themselves.

Also: Know other writers. Get an MFA if you can. If you can’t, go to writers’ conferences, or join a workshop. Get out there; get connected. Read Poets & Writers. Be supportive of your fellow writers’ work too. Writers almost always work alone, but we are also a community, and we need each other.

Thanks to Gemma Alexander and CultureMob for this super-smart review! If I tweeted, I would totally tweet this.

An Appraisal of Kelcey Parker’s ‘For Sale By Owner’

  • by Gemma Alexander | 03/28/12 | Published at CultureMob

It’s easy to think of short story collections as appetizers or bonbons – an assortment of tasty, bite-sized treats that wouldn’t make a meal. If you tend to consider short stories to be literary snacks, then the stories in Kelcey Parker’s book, For Sale By Owner, published by Kore Press, are more like tapas. They may look like hors d’oeuvres from the world of stay-at-home moms and their domestic difficulties, but when you bite into them you discover rich, savory morsels that stay with you long after you’ve moved on to the next bar.

These are not light stories. Parker manages in only a few pages to achieve an emotional weight that many novels lack. I laughed out loud reading the beginning of “Domestic Air Quality,” a stay-at-home mom’s air quality journal for a consumer products survey. Although it’s obvious from the first page that the story won’t really be about air quality, I still cried when I got to the real issue. Later, I walked around with Maugham, the disaffected mom of teens, stuck in my head for days before I could move on to the next story.

[Read the rest here.]

A review!

A gloriously long and detailed review of my book For Sale By Owner and Laynie Browne’s The Desires of Letters (Counterpath) was just posted at the awesome site/resource/lit journal, Literary Mama. Here’s an excerpt:

Thus, while the stories are in fact disturbing at times, these disturbances create layers of interest and intrigue. Parker causes the reader to reconsider the things she takes for granted (healthy children, mental well being, family connections) and asks that she appreciate these things a little more, hold them a little closer to her chest.

…Parker’s collection is at once practical and poetic, somber and funny, abstract and exact.

A question!

At the AWP Kore Press 20 Year Anniversary Poetry Reading, an audience member asked, “How can the average reader support independent publishing and women writers?”

The panelists and moderator addressed the importance of buying books, especially from the publisher, and making donations. I was just another audience member, but I chimed in with my own response: Talk about indie books, tell your friends about them, teach them in your classes, write about them on your blogs, interview the authors, link to them on Facebook. If you tweet, tweet about them.

So, in the spirit of buying and talking about books published by indie publishers…

a bag of books!

…here are the books and lit journals that I picked up at AWP:

Irlanda, Espido Freire, trans. by Toshiya Kamei (Fairy Tale Review Press)
— ooh la la, this is pretty, and the opening pages irresistible. Rilke epigraph: “How would I begin to recall you, dead as you are, you willingly, passionately dead? Was it as soothing as you imagined, or was not being alive still far from being dead?” First line: “Sagrario died in May, after much suffering.”

The Louisiana Purchase, Jim Goar (Rose Metal Press)
–stunning cover; tells how we got the moon: “President Jefferson walks off the mound. The Cardinals take the field. Ozzie Smith falls over dead. The crowd falls silent. Phil Niekro throws a ball at the sky. The ball does not return. We call it the moon. It becomes a crescent. When Jefferson holds up two fingers, the moon breaks into the dirt.”

It Was Like My Trying to Have a Tender-Hearted Nature, Diane Williams (FC2)
–i bought this because of the novella-in-flash, and the flash stories with titles like, “Well, Well, Well, Well, Well,” and because it’s Diane Williams

Kino, Jurgen Fauth (Atticus Books, ARC)
— kinda got this as a sneak peek; it looks full of hip german madness

The Book of Portraiture, Steve Tomasula (FC2)
— steve runs the show at notre dame and lives in town; he’s not only brilliant, he’s super kind and welcoming to us iusb folks who always come to his amazing parties

Lizard Man, David James Poissant (Ropewalk Press)
— jamie is one of those people who i hope will remember me when he’s rich and famous

Three Ways of the Saw, Matt Mullins (Atticus Books)
— i interviewed matt here; his book has a beautiful design and i’m excited to read it

When She Named Fire: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry by American Women, ed. by Andrea Hollander Budy (Autumn House)
–i wasn’t exactly planning to buy a poetry anthology, but this one looks great. i love that there are bios and photos of each poet followed by a cluster of poems (not just one), that the poets are all women, and awesome: Lia Purpura, Kim Addonizio, Sheryl St. Germain, Aimee Nezuhukuatathil, Julia Kasdorf, Juliana Baggott, Camille Dungy, Mary Ruefle…

The Desires of Letters, Laynie Browne (Counterpath)
— reviewed this week with my book at Literary Mama (link above)

Love and the Eye, Laura Newbern (Kore)
–i saw her read at the kore anniversary reading and really loved her poems; it was one of the few kore books i didn’t already have


Absinthe: New European Writing
Midwestern Gothic
The Common
Exit 7 (first issue!)

Maybe you’ve noticed: I’ve been posting interviews, but I haven’t been blogging so much. Where am I going? AWP in Chicago! Where have I been? Busy. In a good way: Taking an online mixed media art class. Teaching my classes. Applying for grants. Writing new stories.

I’ve been here at New Purlieu Review, where my flash piece “Three Women” was published in January. There’s a Professor Plum and a Lady Bret. Here’s a snippet:

In Plum’s office Lady Bret wanted to slide across the floor to the shelves of books and inch her way into their pages, like an actual bookworm, eating away the words and pages until she created a space she could fit her whole body in. Plum said you need to develop this section and read so-and-so’s article on that section if you want to—. But Lady Bret didn’t want to. She wanted and wanted.

The art class was part of my 2012 New Year’s LIVE LOVELY campaign. Here’s a portrait I made (inspired by Alfred Henry Maurer):

I also made air-dry pottery, drawings of moths, a rhinoceros, a peacock, lots of portraits, collages, etc.

Now it’s time to head to AWPthe annual conference of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs – in Chicago.

My book For Sale By Owner will be at the Kore Press/Arcadia booth 822.

And Rose Metal Press (Table N4) will have a bit (a very little bit) of promotional material about my forthcoming book, Liliane’s Balcony, set at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater house.

I’ll be on this panel on Saturday:

Home Sweet Home: Short Story Collections and Small Presses
Caitlin Horrocks, Amina Gautier, Shannon Cain, Adam Schuitema, Kelcey Parker

(4:30-5:45 Sat. 3/3 Lake Erie, Hilton Chicago, 8th Floor)

With trade publishers less willing to take a risk on story collections and agents and editors advising writers to just finish a novel, where can the story writer turn? Five debut authors discuss their experiences with the small, independent, and university presses that are increasingly the most welcoming homes for story collections. They’ll discuss how they found their publishers, what small publishers can (and can’t) offer story authors, and how these presses are helping collections thrive.

And I’ll be spending quite a bit of time at the 42 Miles Press table – M 12.

Carrie Oeding – who was featured in my How to Become a Writer Interview series – will be there signing her book Our List of Solutions on Friday, 3/2 from 1-3 p.m.

If you’ll be at the conference, stop by one of these tables, say hello!

I’ve not been very bloggy lately. I’m ashamed to have missed Short Story Month in May. I had such high hopes of blogging about all my favorite short stories, of linking to other terrific short story blogs, of praising the fair form!

But busy prevails.

One thing I’ve been doing is teaching a summer study abroad class that leaves for Prague and Berlin on Monday. More on that in reports from the field next week…

Another thing I’ve been doing is reading book manuscripts for two different presses. One for a contest in poetry, another for open submissions in prose. And I find that what I am looking for most of all is a writer who has a sense of humor, who is having fun. My colleague articulated this one day as we sat reading through poetry manuscripts – this need for humor – and it has stuck with me as one of the main criteria I look for.

Let me be clear: I’m not talking funny ha-ha. I’m not talking LOL funny. I’m talking playful – with content or language or form. I mean the author is having fun with her art.

I’m also not talking about tricks. “No tricks,” says Raymond Carver. No gimmicks. Go ahead and show off if you’ve got it – like Frank Lloyd Wright does with his Fallingwater cantilevers or his spiraled Guggenheim museum – but don’t be a show off. (Okay, yes, Wright was a bit of a show off, a dandy, but he earned it.)

I’m definitely not talking about jokes. My favorite moments are when I read a sentence and I don’t know it’s funny, but then its humor starts to glimmer like a rising sun behind the words, and by the time I get to the end of the sentence or paragraph, dawn has arisen; it’s a beautiful day.

"what a morning — fresh as if issued to children on a beach"

Let me give a couple quick examples of famous first lines (and first lines are important) that are not necessarily funny on the surface but that reveal the author’s sense of humor:

Mrs. Dalloway said she would be the flowers herself.

– Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

This is revealed as funny when we realize that Mrs. Dalloway has servants to do such jobs for her, and that she volunteers to do this task “herself” because she knows the servants are busy, and, hey, it’s a beautiful day in London!

Call me Ishmael.

– Herman Melville, Moby Dick

As if to say: Ishmael may or may not be my name, but you can call me that.

There was no hope for him this time: it was the third stroke . . . Every night as I gazed up at the window I said softly to myself the word paralysis. It had always sounded strangely in my ears, like the word gnomon in the Euclid and the word simony in the Catechism. But now it sounded to me like the name of some maleficent and sinful being. It filled me with fear, and yet I longed to be nearer to it and to look upon its deadly work.

– James Joyce, “Sisters,” Dubliners

The humor of the first line, and it IS funny, is revealed through the rest of the paragraph. The narrator is naive, earnest, but the narrative is not earnest. And the narrative (the author) is having fun with this character’s personal drama over the word “paralysis.” There’s the funny comparison to other dreadful words. And his conflicting desires: Oh how the word fills him with fear! Oh how he longs to be nearer to it!

You are probably thinking that I have no idea what I’m talking about because these are very unfunny opening lines and I clearly don’t know what is funny. But  hopefully you can see that I’m making a distinction, that I’m definitely not talking funny ha-ha, though I can love writing that is successfully funny (in which case I am usually also looking for an undercurrent of seriousness). But the less successful manuscripts I’ve been reading tend toward the uber-earnest – toward dramatic nature metaphors or melodramatic climaxes – and I’m all like, Lighten up!


In other news, there’s an interview with me and my editor extraordinaire, Shannon Cain (who won the 2011 Drue Heinz in Short Fiction!), that just posted on the Kore Press blog, Persephone speaks. (Many thanks to Erinn Kelley for asking great questions!)

And my book For Sale By Owner is on the long list for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award.

Frabjous days

May 12, 2011 — 3 Comments

2011 Next Generation

Indie Book Award

Short Fiction Winner

(calloo! callay!)

AND, my publisher Kore Press is one of four organizations in the country (selected out of 120) to be honored by the National Book Foundation with a 2011 Innovations in Reading Prize! The National Book Foundation awards prizes to individuals and institutions that have developed innovative means of creating and sustaining a lifelong love of reading.

Kore Press
Tucson, AZ

For eighteen years, Kore Press has been defined by innovation. Whether it’s publishing the highest quality women’s literature, educating youth, or doing creative community programming, they have been on the edge of using literature to advance progressive social change. As a community of literary activists, Kore is dedicated to engaging the public through several visionary, creative writing projects. The “Grrls Literary Activism Workshop” is an after-school creative-writing-as-activism program that engages youth with America’s long, literary history of passionate writing intended for communal, public circulation in the world rather than in the private form of a book (using t-shirts, video PSAs, readings, podcasts, poems wrapped around tampons and loaded into a repurposed tampon machine that travels to public restrooms). “Bounce Back” uses literature in surprising ways to raise awareness and create safety for queer students, teachers, and staff on high school and university campuses (using a 40-foot banner, a blog, a newspaper ad, posters in elevators, coffee cup sleeves, repurposed political yard signs). And with “Coming in Hot,” Kore created, produced, and toured a play based on a collection of poetry and memoir by women in the US military as a means to both expand audiences into traditionally non-literary populations (military, veterans, teens) and to create a vehicle for dialogue.


Days don’t get much more frabjous than this.

Book Signing at AWP

February 2, 2011 — Leave a comment

My book is up at Amazon! Click here.

And here’s the flier for the Kore Press signings at AWP: