For three days in August, a diverse group of writers met at the Sonad Glen Brook workshop in Marlborough, NH. The authors group focused on fiction, with a particular emphasis on ‘writing the other’: taking the imaginative leap outside one’s own experience. Our form was the short-short story (roughly 1-2 pages in length), and each participant composed several short pieces in response to prompts focusing on various aspects of the writing craft. We then workshopped these stories as a group, offering constructive feedback, and each participant chose one piece to revise and perform at a public reading. All seven participants have generously offered to share these final stories, which are published below in the following order:
“A Boy in Velour” by Tien-Yi Lee
“Neighboring” by Joshua Krugman
“Family Photographs” by David Sherman
“Dawn” by John Campion
“Teeth” by Jennifer De Leon
“The Green Dress” by Leo Steinmetz
“Unending Labor” by Irene Miller
At the bottom of the page, I have included an excerpt from “Slipknot,” the short story I read at the Sonad faculty presentation. A different version of this story appeared in the magazine TriQuarterly.
Thanks for reading!
A BOY IN VELOUR
BY TIEN-YI LEE
Any other day, it would’ve been Mama to take me shopping for my costume for the end-of-year fourth grade play. But it just so happened, Mama had a last minute choir rehearsal that day, so she sent me off with Dad, huffing and spitting under her breath, about how it was time he man up, take some goddamn responsibility for his son already. Mama was always spitting under her breath those days, never looking at Dad, even, or especially, when she spoke to him.
I gripped Dad’s hand as we made our way through the parking lot into Sears. Dad’s hand felt clammy. I don’t think he liked shopping, except maybe when it was for lawnmowers or electric-powered tools he’d never buy. But I was excited. I knew exactly what I wanted, and inside the store, I sprinted ahead, plowing my way through the clearance racks, not even stopping to rub my face against the corduroys and polyesters and denims that smelled new instead of like moth balls or rain.
When I stepped out of the changing room, I twirled around twice, gave a wobbly curtsy, ended with a low bow. Dad’s mouth opened and shut like a fish. I glanced at my reflection in the tall mirror. My cheeks glowed, matching my loaf of red hair. I ran my hand up and down the sleeve of the green velour dress I’d donned. It was a beautiful green dress, soft, shimmery, with the kind of skirt that flares out when you spin. “Leprachaun, I’m a leprachaun!” I said. Dad’s expression didn’t change. Maybe some part of me suspected, then, that a boy wasn’t supposed to wear a dress, because I found myself digging a run in those pea green tights I’d so carefully managed to squeeze on.
“Son,” said Dad. “Son,” he said, quietly. He didn’t say anything else. But we brought the green velour dress on its hanger to the register, where the saleslady with pink lipstick smiled and smiled as she wrapped the dress in layers of crisp tissue paper.
“Fourth grade play,” I said.
“Gotcha,” she said, giving my dad a wink. “How about a line then, fella?”
I looked up at Dad. He nodded.
I put one hand on my hip. I put on a grin. I said, “Let me show you how we spin straw into gold.”
The night of the fourth grade play, it poured. The next morning, I found a note in my damp, left galosh: “I’m sorry, son. Take care,” was all it said.
Later, Mama would say, good riddance. She’d take up with an Irish man named Lester, who used to sing in her choir and deliver manure for our garden. He smelled like potato salad and beer, but Mama must’ve liked him a lot, because she started wearing eyeshadow and speaking in a normal voice, and he’d move in with us, just two months later.
But that night, after I found the note, I shut myself in my bedroom and locked the door. I took the green velour dress out of the closet. Then I laid it out on the bed. Carefully, I cut it into two inch wide strips. And then I cut those strips into two inch wide squares. And then I kept cutting and cutting, until all that was left was shreds.
Tien-Yi Lee lives in Cambridge, MA, where she works as a graphic designer. Her writing has been published in The Southern Review and The Gettysburg Review, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
BY JOSHUA KRUGMAN
Una and James Bordello wanted to live in a more respectable neighborhood than this one was becoming. Mother and dad didn’t talk about the Bordellos; it was almost as if they felt protective of the subject. Yet I knew or became to see how the Bordellos felt: they protected their lawn and plantings like the shrine to an abducted child. Like a holy vocation, they kept that wedge of lawn one exact shade of algal green whose overexerted radiance reminded me of the firespat wall-to-wall carpet in our livingroom Mother and dad always planned to take out. Black spots pocked the growing green rug like the dents of rot beckoning on the fruit dad brought to us on Sunday afternoon from his brother’s grocery. The spots on the floor were from the shellac that exploded off the limbs of chairs we burned one winter early on when the cold stayed longer than Mother and dad had planned, and all that grew around the house was bittersweet brambled acquiescing to fragmites at the near edge of the marsh, no good for heat.
(Can you tell the happiness of a person from the color and condition of his carpet, or is it somewhere else, in the food he eats, where his wealth stands forward?)
The Bordellos only invited Mother and me over once and that was after Mother lost the baby again. Everything in the Bordellos’ house gleamed bluntly in glass cabinets and cases like the well-scrubbed invalids on visiting day all lined up on the porch of Woodcastle Home where dad used to work cleaning. I knew they only invited us over because Ralph had died again. I thought maybe if they had another baby brother again, they would name him differently and he’d survive. Instead there weren’t more brothers of any kind. The second Ralph lasted only about two weeks. A different Rabbi came this time to talk to Mother and dad. Those days they didn’t see me. As if I’d died instead, as if I’d gone under the green algae and was invisible to those alive.
But it was different just that one day when we went over to the Bordellos. That day Mother saw me very well, so she made sure my dress was starched out like concentric lampshades in the sun, my hair she combed until half of it stayed on the comb. Thrice washed my face but my awning eyes were dark, no blue opals, and it wouldn’t come out. She put me in a pair of dad’s turtleshell shoes. For Mother took the visit to the Bordellos very seriously.
James was not there when we arrived. Una showed us the house. One side of it was all windows. I didn’t hear what she said though her voice chimed rapidly, as if moved, forming her and around us until it collected its echoes in the other empty glasses behind the frosted panes of the china cupboards over the sofa, the white sofa which sat on a sea of winking hardwood. Seeing it was to desire to lie on it and not keep perked up like an expectation, like a good girl, like Mother said, “Abigail Slimovitzky I wouldn’t let it be true that you would slump like old fish when we are seeing Mrs. Bordello in that good dress, in your dress straight from the store.” The couch was white, some fabric that could hide you soft as Mother’s singing.
I was keeping perked up, but I was thinking about the time we’d been raking leaves in the yard, Mother and me, and made a pile on a canvas by the border of the yard for dad to take to the thickets near the marsh to leave there the leaves the next day. But that same night, storms came from the north, blew the shingles off the southern roof like feathers through a brick wall, blew the leaves off the canvas right across Una Bordello’s lawn.
In the driveway the next day, putting acorns in paths, I saw Una Bordello yell from her driveway, “James! James, you won’t believe what they’ve done.” I was still arranging acorns that uncrossible while after James had seen the diaspora of leaves glowing yellows and dun oranges across the sacred bloom of his lawn when Una came down past the thickets to talk to me. Her voice was like something that is still very loud, something that is amplified by a collusion of colors and missed time. I don’t remember anything she said.
Joshua Krugman is a writer and composer from Sunderland, Massachusetts. He has been schooled at Deerfield Academy in Deerfield Massachusetts and Wesleyan University in Middletown Connecticut. He has worked as a cook, a writer, a musician, and a fieldhand. He enjoys a daily meditation practice.
BY DAVID SHERMAN
I had just started my third year teaching piano to the Howard kids. Every Monday after school I would drive to their oversized house in one of the wealthier suburbs of the city. Sam was now 15 years old and could have been quite a reasonable pianist if he actually put any time into it. Andréa was four years younger. She was entering her experimental phase: different hair, nails, outfits depending on the week. She didn’t have much facility for the instrument, though. Three years of watching her struggle without making progress was a pretty painful way to spend a Monday afternoon. It was not just that she would never play an F-sharp or count, but that sure was part of it.
Especially now that the kids were older, I rarely saw either parent. They would leave a check for me on the piano with an occasional note about scheduling. To help pass the time, especially during the tedium of Andrea’s lesson, I would often wander around the living room, the kitchen and this little study area calling out from time to time, “That‘s coming. Try it again.”
I suppose I’m a bit nosy, so I did pry about a bit. I stopped short of opening drawers, but I regularly checked their schedule on the wall calendar and did a perusal of the desk to see if there was anything interesting. They had told me to feel free to grab a snack, so part of my rounds was always taking stock of what was in the fridge and the snack drawer. In addition to the healthy snacks such as hummus and carrots, there was always quite an array of junk food. I really did look forward to my weekly fix of potato chips, something I rarely had at home. I must confess that I would sometimes take a swig or two of wine if there was an open bottle in the fridge, just to wash down the chips and help make the time go by easier.
I suppose I spent the greatest amount of time in my house wanderings looking at the numerous family photographs that were displayed around the living room. I’ve always been fascinated by looking at photos, and some of these went back several generations. As an added bonus, the dad, a good looking guy now, was incredibly hot during his college and early married years. So were his three brothers. I mean, I think they were his three brothers. They could have been friends, I suppose. I made numerous assumptions as I pieced together a family history, creating stories and identities for the various people in the pictures.
I’m not quite sure exactly when I started to sense that there were some changes going on in the household. Sam suddenly started to take an increased interest in his piano studies, putting in the time previously missing in his practicing. Andrea, on the other hand, had become quite stubborn and increasingly difficult to work with. At first, I attributed it to the moodiness of a pre-adolescent, but something did seem wrong. There was also a change in the flow of the household. I had gotten pretty used to having the place to myself; well, except for the two kids, one at the piano the other somewhere in the far reaches of the house I never had a chance to explore. I began to see the mom more frequently, usually in passing, on her way in or out. A very attractive woman often in her jogging clothes, suddenly was dressed up in expensive outfits and looking gorgeous. And there were visitors. A few times I saw one of those cute guys from the photos. I asked Sam, “Is that your uncle?” He gave me this characteristic 15-year-old grunt and answered, “No, some friend.”
I think the most obvious difference in the household was in the quality of the snacks in the kitchen. Even searching behind the now numerous bottles of wine, which did give greater sipping options, it was hard to find something to munch. The snack drawer was down to cheese doodles and pop tarts.
When I came for lessons one Monday, the living room looked very different. It took me a while to realize that there were only about half the photographs around the room. There were the pictures of the kids from each year in school, those enlarged photos of the kids from Christmas cards, and all those sports shots. Some of the older photographs of grandparents/great-grandparents were still there but what missing was any family portraits of the four of them and all those cute photos of the father and all his cute friends. As I studied the array of pictures that were left, I noticed one new one; the mom with that friend I had seen visiting the house.
David Sherman has been a teacher for most of his life and is currently an adult education instructor for the Portland School system where he teaches math and computer. David received his dance training through attending the Nova Scotia Dance Camp for numerous years as well as other dance workshops and events. He trained as a recreation leader at the Eastern Cooperative Recreation School where he is currently on staff as a dance instructor. He teaches international folk dance as well as ballroom dancing. As a lifetime pianist, he also teaches piano lessons as well as being an accompanist for student recitals. David has been a part of musical theater as a dancer, pit musician and rehearsal accompanist. He is a long term member of the Maine Gay Men’s Chorus both as singer and accompanist and was the pianist at their annual winter Cabaret over the years. Starting in 1992, David spent 15 years as a summer director at the Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music in Nelson, NH where in addition to overseeing the day to day running of their international “Playing for Peace” Program, he had the opportunity to participate in chamber music groups, his foremost musical love.
BY JOHN CAMPION
(Inspired by the Charles Mingus track “The Shoes of the Fisherman’s Wife Are Some Jive-Ass Slippers”)
Another restless night. The comfort of sleep has eluded me for the past three nights. Bored of watching the shadows slowly shift form on my ceiling, my legs have carried me to bench across from the dock. I long for dawn, and for the warmth that will shake the early morning’s cold from my being. Maybe that warmth will bring along sleep.
A thick fog has settled over the dock, obscuring the definition of the shapes it has overtaken. As I watch, eleven shadows materialize. They must be our town’s fishermen. Stiff with cold, their actions are mechanical. I imagine their calloused hands catching on the twine of their nets as they pull them into their boats. I listen as their boats gently sway with the wake, their hulls creaking as the wood shifts. Faint snippets of brusque conversations can also be overheard.
These sounds echo across the water, combining to form a music-like pattern. Repeating exactly what came before it, this pattern is devoid of life. Much like the men’s movements, which are rigid with perfection. It is as if they are in a deep slumber, unaware of the surrounding world. As if they were waiting for a light to shine through the fog, and breath life into their actions.
Then I note a subtle addition to the fishermen’s pattern. A click whose echo bounces from object to object until it reaches me and resonates within my chest. The fisherman’s calloused hands briefly falter, throwing their rhythm off kilter. As it approaches, the click’s intensity builds, overtaking the fisherman’s pattern. I watch as the shadows’ actions shift, settling into this new musical pattern.
As the sound draws nearer, the men’s actions become more fluid, more graceful. As the sound resonates within my chest my limbs begin to thaw. My eyes follow the echo and settle upon a silhouette approaching through the fog. As the musical pattern builds, the fog retreats, revealing a person of average height and build. As the fog recedes, I note from the curves of its body it is a woman. I am unable to make out her features as they are completely hidden by her attire.
Her shoes stand out, though. She is wearing a pair of bright yellow high heels that radiate light through the fog. As each heel descends and strikes the cobblestone, it emits a vibrant spark, fueling this predawn world. With each step, the cold that has seeped into my bones lessens, and the shadows and fog obscuring the objects around me dissipate. I begin to hear faint murmurs of life awaken within the buildings around me. The faint melody of a songbird drifts towards me.
I close my eyes and take these sounds in. I listen to how they play off one another, and combine to compose a beautiful melody beckoning dawn. A golden shadow plays across my face as the first hints of sunlight illuminate the world around me. I smile as this melody envelops me, and carries me off to sleep.
I recently returned to the states after completing 27 months of service as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Thailand. As a volunteer I oversaw the development of child centered learning curricula at two rural Thai schools. I received my Bachelors of Music, in cello performance, from Temple University. I currently live in Philadelphia and am actively pursuing avenues in which I can merge my commitment to public service with my passion for the arts.
BY JENNIFER DE LEON
On a cold November afternoon, the elementary school secretary pages me: Roberto Sanchez, Junior. In the main office Billy Donaher slouches on the plastic sofa while a thermometer dangles from his mouth. Even his spiked blonde hair appears defeated. My father appears wearing his navy blue factory uniform. His rests a dark freckled hand on my shoulder, something he only does in public. The school secretary—whose last name I can’t pronounce because it has too many z’s and c’s in its second half—smiles at us.
“Thank you,” my father says. In English his words come out stiff, starched. His accent is a tight Sunday belt on the simplest of verbs. But in Spanish his voice is authoritative as a principal’s.
“Where we going?”
“South Crossing,” he says.
I recognize it as the part of town with hospitals. On the road, he doesn’t stop at yellow lights like he usually does. After mom died, he took me back to school shopping and planned my birthday party: bowling and wings.
“I have a doctor’s appointment? Am I gonna get a shot?”
I rub the minimal meat of my upper arm. My right arm. My pitcher’s arm. I’m the smallest kid on the team but one of the strongest, coach tells me. I inhaled the compliment even though I’d heard him tell Bobby Piantedosi the same thing.
In the parking lot of a brick building, my father presses my shoulder.
“Listen,” he says like I’m in trouble. “You’re going to get braces. But pretend your name is Chris. Still Sanchez.” He stares like he did for nine nights after mom’s funeral, after my aunts had returned home, after the city noises in winter’s window had tucked themselves into bed.
My uncle has better dental insurance, he explains. The world judges a man by his teeth, my father explains. He only had warm water and salt to clean his teeth while growing up in Guatemala. He waited in long S-shaped lines in the market to visit the one dentist for kilometers. Every day he wears the last sentence my mother knit before death: take care of our son.
Inside the orthodontist’s office a lady dressed in lavender scrubs fastens a square bib behind my neck. Suddenly I feel sleepy, light, and cold. I close my eyes. I picture myself riding in a hot air balloon, floating up, up. I’m older. Leaving for college. A white puff blinds me. I am leaving college. The air blackens. The memory of my mother has been reduced to a blurry body in the kitchen, crying at my father, demanding a better life. He worked hard. It didn’t matter. It didn’t yield what she wanted. I’m lifting now, higher in space, unafraid; I am forty, fifty, fifty-five, sixty. I am holding my father’s hand during his chemotherapy. The needle tip pokes a thirsty blue vein. He vomits, and I smell the tan liquid wobbling out his toothless mouth, down his wrinkled, proud chest.
Jennifer De Leon’s fiction, poetry, and essays have appeared in Ms., Poets & Writers Magazine, Guernica, Solstice, Kweli Journal, and The Best Women’s Travel Writing 2010. She is an instructor at the Grub Street Creative Writing Center and the University of Massachusetts-Boston, where she is completing her M.F.A. in Fiction. Jenn has received fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the Macondo Writers’ Workshop. She is currently working on her first novel and editing a literary anthology on the Latina experience in higher education.
THE GREEN DRESS
BY LEO STEINMETZ
I walk down the street with my mother past newspapers proclaiming the name Roosevelt and theaters showing Hitchcock’s Double Indemnity. We enter the giant clothing store, full of the smell of new shirts and dresses, hats and socks. Well-dressed men stare critically at piles of the same shoes. I dance to the dress aisle, where an embroidered green dress waits for me. I take it off the rack. It feels like a caressing hand and smells of newness and freshness.
An official‐looking man stands by a desk peering at a clipboard with an official‐looking boredom on his face. I approach him and ask, “May I try this on, Mr.?”
“Sure,” he says. “Dressing rooms are…” He looks up and stares at me for a second. “Tell me, little girl, are you Japanese?”
“Yes,” I say, proud that he notices my heritage.
“Give me that,” he says, pointing at the dress.
I hold onto it, wondering why his face is red.
“Give it to me!” he shouts, yanking it out of my hands. “Now go away.”
“Please, Mr. Clerk, just let me try it on,” I say.
It is very quiet in the store now. The men stop arguing about shoes and watch me. “No. Get away from me,” he says, and pushes me away.
I fall into a rack of rust-colored shirts. “Mommy!” I shout. She is here and she lifts me and holds me. I cling to her purple dress. She has a dress, why can’t I?
“Get the hell out of here,” the man shouts at my mother. “Goddamn immigrants, taking our jobs. I don’t sell to goddamn Japs. Your people murdered my cousin, hear that? We don’t give murderers anything in this country.”
I am crying and my mother rushes me out of the store. I see a couple look at us, and then look away and hurry past. I hear the man whisper, “Goddamn Japs, murderers.” I see a girl pass and I wonder if she is a murderer, too. Then my mother kisses my cheek and holds me and tells me I will get a green dress and dance in it.
I go to Renaissance Arts Academy, a middle and high school focusing on the arts, in Los Angeles. I study cello and creative writing there. I also happen to like tie-dyed shirts: if you see someone who looks like a hippie, it’s probably me.
BY IRENE MILLER
Linda, about forty-five years old, sat on the wooden chair in the exam room waiting for me. The nurse had indicated on the chart that she was here to seek treatment for a cold and cough. She did not have a fever.
I listened to her present complaint of symptoms and examined her. This strong, well-built Indian woman had indeed a rather ordinary upper respiratory infection, but she seemed so very sad. I encouraged her to tell me more and she did.
She broke down and in between sobs she related how she had lost her only daughter in childbirth just six weeks ago. In front of her own eyes, her daughter had died, while she had been encouraging her to go on with the labor. Her baby boy survived. Now the grandmother is raising him, but she has no more daughter. As I watched the tears running over her broad cheek-bones I embraced her and now it was as if the whole world suffered unending labor pains.
When I had gone out West to work on this Indian Reservation I had brought with me my own grief and pain. After a cerebral hemorrhage my balance was still precarious and my speech halting. My speech was actually the reason that I had chosen to work on Indian Reservations. Back East I could not truly gain the confidence of my patients if I stammered. Here, the Indians commented “You talk funny, you must be from a different tribe.” Or, one of them asked “Where are you from?” and when I told him New Hampshire, he said “Oh, that’s how the people talk in New Hampshire.”
But now, with this embrace and in the presence of this mother’s grief, it was not important any more and it seemed a small matter that my speech was halting.
Linda’s cold would get better, her heart would also heal, albeit with a scar. As Linda departed my office the silhouette of her back lingered against the hills and the wide, blue skies outside my office window.
Irene Miller, born in Berlin, Germany, came to the United States in her teens and with her cello. She won a scholarship to study music in the Philadelphia area and has performed with orchestras in the US and Europe. In her second career as a Physician Assistant she practiced on the East coast and out West, in China and Africa. Presently she lives in New Hampshire, has retired from practicing medicine, still practices the cello and is writing her second book.
BY ADAM STUMACHER
Back in his country, Ricardo had a cousin who was in a motorcycle accident and had to re-learn the simplest physical actions: how to hold a spoon, how to tie a shoe, how to walk. The cousin was slight and wiry, scars spiderwebbed on his shaved head, and he would close his eyes and bite down on his lip with every shuffled step. Ricardo wonders if sometimes he makes that face himself these days, as he learns the right way to walk here in East Oakland, where all the rules have changed.
So as he files out into the hallway with the other students, he pays close attention to the snappy strut of the veteranos, the eighth grade boys who have been in this country more than a year. It is not so much a walk as a defiant dance, two parts hip hop one part salsa. So different from the slow gait of men back in Managua. Ricardo watches these boys carefully, and he adjusts his own stride by the time he reaches the door.
“Watch out, pendejo.” Alfredo Ruiz pushes past and slaps the door open, the rest of the Sureňo crew following behind in blue bandannas. Alfredo is the kid next row over in social studies, the one who spends class time making sketches of naked women with nipples that seem to glow like hot coals, so beautiful you want to cry. Or course, Ricardo has never spoken to him, and now he just looks down at the linoleum and waits for the boys to pass. Everybody says you don’t want to mess with those vatos. They will jump you in the bathroom, in the lunchline, out by the dumpsters. Don’t front.
Ricardo remembers his father’s rigid walk that final morning. Before sunrise they made their way towards the bus station, passing through the market where the old ladies were already setting up their stalls. Ricardo could feel the bills stitched inside his pant leg, his little sister’s fingers gripped tight in his palm, and the stiff pride in his father’s stride. Only temporary, his father said. He would be joining them soon, at the house of their tia in the North. And then the bus pulled away, Ricardo and his sister scrunched together in the wooden front seat.
That was nine months ago.
As he follows the boys out, he notices that towel-head girl from pre-algebra standing across the hallway. Her locker is open and she is checking out her reflection in a mirror fastened inside the door. Ricardo has never really looked at her before, and he is shocked to realize she is beautiful: tight jeans, a scoop-neck Raiders jersey, swooping silver earrings, high cheekbones and long lashes framed in one of those black headscarves all towel-head girls wear.
Then, just after he passes, Ricardo hears a shriek and turns back to see Alfredo pulling at the scarf from behind.
“Bin Ladin Bitch,” somebody mutters.
She whips around, and the Sureňo boys laugh, circling around her. “That’s not my name.” The Bin Ladin Bitch fastens her scarf back into place, but she doesn’t look down like she is supposed to. She makes her face firm as marble and turns slowly around the ring, meeting the eyes of each boy. Nobody says anything. Ricardo doesn’t want to watch, but there is something familiar in the way she holds herself; he has seen these gestures somewhere before. So he finds himself drawing to the outside of the circle.
“Mohammed hahmuna hohmuna,” Alfredo says. The other boys laugh and join in, chanting in mock Arabic while one scrawny kid pulls his sweatshirt hood up over his head and starts kneeling and bowing. Then somebody reaches up and tugs hard at the scarf again. Traffic in the hallway has stopped and everybody crowds around, jostling Ricardo until he almost drops his backpack.
“Fight! Fight!” Around the outside of the ring, little sixth graders jump up to see the action.
Ricardo holds his breath, but the Bin Ladin Bitch doesn’t do anything. She doesn’t pound her fists into their faces and pull at their sleek hair. She doesn’t let out a howl and leap onto Alfredo or kick the scrawny kid when he leans down to bow. She doesn’t even reach up to fix the scarf. She just stands there with her face stiff, only her eyes flashing around the crowd, as the bleep bleep squawk of walkie-talkies approaches and a security guard pushes through the throng. For a moment, her gaze passes over Ricardo and he shudders. Something scorching in her almond-shaped eyes, like flame.
Adam Stumacher’s fiction has been published in Best New American Voices, TriQuarterly, The Sun, The Massachusetts Review, and elsewhere, and was winner of the Raymond Carver Short Story Award. His nonfiction has appeared in the Guardian (UK) and the anthology Peace Under Fire. He holds degrees from Cornell University and Saint Mary’s College and has received fellowships from the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing and the Macondo Writers’ Workshop. He has taught creative writing at MIT, the University of Wisconsin, Saint Mary’s College, and Grub Street, and has many years experience as an educator in urban high schools. He is the author of a short story collection, The Neon Desert, and is currently working on a novel, entitled A Liar’s Opus.