Shellie Zacharia

Shellie Zacharia lives in Gainesville, Florida. Her debut story collection, Now Playing, was recently published by Keyhole Press.

what are you reading now

Argh! I’m always reading several books at once. Too many. I’m reading a few short story anthologies slowly, a story or two here and there: The Ecco Anthology of Contemporary American Short Fiction and My Mistress’s Sparrow is Dead: Great Love Stories, from Chekhov to Munro and the O. Henry Prize Stories 2007 volume. I’m also reading The Party Train, a Collection of North American Prose Poetry. And Cristina Garcia’s Dreaming in Cuban.

classic you’ve been meaning to read

Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.

last book to make you laugh out loud

Not sure, but maybe Elizabeth Crane. I read her When the Messenger is Hot and then I went and got You Must Be This Happy to Enter because I thought, yeah, these are fun stories.

strangest book you've ever read

Joyce’s Ulysses. I read it in grad school and I remember thinking, what?! I remember loving the Molly Bloom yes and yes and yes soliloquy, and I remember the professor saying, “Stately, plump Buck Mulligan” a bunch of times and not making much sense. But I know I was blown away that writing could be so wild.

book you borrowed and never returned

I’m embarrassed to say, but a vegetarian cookbook. It’s got good easy recipes, simple ones where I don’t have to run to the store for extra ingredients. But now I’m thinking I better return it and get my own copy.

collected stories of

Lydia Davis. Her collection just came out. I think I’ll buy it. Today. Okay.

book you've planted on a coffee table to impress someone

Ha! I don’t think I’ve planted books, but I’ve hidden books. Don’t need people knowing I’m reading that!

if you could subscribe to only one literary journal

Oxford American. And they include the Southern Music CD. Very cool. Literature and music – two of my favorite things.

most anticipated upcoming release

Well, I love the Sudden Fiction anthologies edited by Robert Shapard and James Thomas – I have them all (and the Flash Fiction ones) and go back to them again and again. I don’t know when they’ll put another one out, but I’m waiting . . .

recommended reading list:

Some Books That Made Me Say “Wow”

- The Girl in the Flammable Skirt by Aimee Bender

- The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

- The Family Orchard by Nomi Eve

- Big Fish by Daniel Wallace

- Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

- Peace Like a River by Leif Enger


Emma Straub

Emma Straub is the author of Fly-Over State, a novella published by FlatmanCrooked. Her short stories have appeared in Five Chapters, Barrelhouse, The Saint Ann's Review, Juked, and many other publications. She is the co-editor of Avery: An Anthology of New Fiction, as well as the co-editor of the Read page of the Dossier Journal website. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and cats and is currently trying not to kill a number of plants. More information can be found at www.emmastraub.net.

what are you reading now

Edwin Mullhouse: The Life and Death of an American Writer by Steven Millhauser. I read his story collection Dangerous Laughter on my honeymoon in March and have been wanting to read his novels ever since. This book, as far as I can tell so far, is about a very average boy and his psychotically obsessed best friend. It's sort of like what I imagine Mrs. Danvers from Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca would have been like as a child.

classic you’ve been meaning to read

I've picked up and put down Updike's Rabbit trilogy in every bookstore I've ever been in, but have somehow never bought the thing. Does that count as a classic?

last book to make you laugh out loud

I recently finished Jonathan Lethem's Chronic City, which I wouldn't classify as a 'funny' book, but it certainly made me laugh out loud. The Millhauser book is also hilarious. I'm an easy laugh, should I mention that? Other things that make me laugh: pictures of kittens on the internet.

most treasured book in your collection

There are of course many many books that mean a great deal to me as a collection of sentences (Middlemarch, etc), but there are only two books on my shelf that actually mean something as objects. In high school, when I was a poet, I stole my parents' ancient and gorgeous copies of Frank O'Hara's The Collected Poems and e. e. cummings’s Poems, 1923-1954. I folded down pages and underlined and stuck post-its on almost every page. I don't think my parents are ever getting those books back.

book you borrowed and never returned

I don't borrow very often, but I do have a copy of Cold Comfort Farm that was loaned to me many years ago, as well as a copy of Charles Baxter's Feast of Love that a friend left at my house by accident in college. Is it awful to admit I haven't read either one?

if you could write yourself into any story

Probably one where I could go into another world, a la Narnia or Hogwarts, though people are always trying to kill you in places like that. Maybe just a Jhumpa Lahiri story, where my thoughts would be much more nicely worded.

last reading you attended

I had a reading two days ago, but it seems weird to pick my own. I will say this, however, in my own defense. It was the Largehearted Lit series, where musical accompaniment is expected, and I had my friends sing Billy Joel and the New Kids on the Block. A crowning achievement. Before that, the last reading I went to was the finale of Jonathan Lethem's Chronic City Marathon. He read until 4am, though I pooped out at 1:30. There were cookies, and prizes. Every reading should have cookies and prizes.

if you could subscribe to only one literary journal

I love One Story. Does anyone not say One Story? I also love the The Paris Review, and my dear FlatmanCrooked.

best thing you’ve read online recently

I read The Rumpus every day. Also, The Nervous Breakdown and The Millions.

most anticipated upcoming release

My father, Peter Straub, has a really amazing novel coming out in February. It's called A Dark Matter and it will make you see stars.

recommended reading list:

Novels by Really Smart Ladies Who I Would Be Afraid to Approach at a Cocktail Party

- The Secret History by Donna Tartt

- The Great Man by Kate Christensen

- The Wife by Meg Wolitzer

- Liars and Saints by Maile Meloy

- The Keep by Jennifer Egan

- Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

- Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri


Claudia Smith

Claudia Smith lives and writes in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Her collections are The Sky Is A Well And Other Shorts and Put Your Head In My Lap. Her site is www.claudiaweb.net.

what are you reading now

The Groves of Academe by Mary McCarthy

classic you’ve been meaning to read

I don't know. Something big, fat, and Russian. I've read the abridged translation of War and Peace; I should pick up the unabridged, someday. No, I've changed my mind. Someday I really will read all of Remembrance of Things Past.

last book you finished in a single sitting

After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie by Jean Rhys

most treasured book in your collection

It's funny, I feel more attached to the words than the books themselves. It sounds arrogant but it is probably my first chapbook, The Sky Is A Well And Other Shorts. It was beautifully made, hand sewn, and it has an introduction Ron Carlson wrote. And it was a limited printing, so there aren't any more of them.

book you borrowed and never returned

Oh, I hate to admit I do this. I'm not going to say.

favorite book from childhood

Well, I still love Charlotte's Web.

most challenging book you’ve ever read

I read Ulysses from cover to cover when I was 18. That was challenging.

book you’ve planted on a coffee table to impress someone

I think this has always been something to do with art. I would pick someone who wasn't terribly famous, or at least, what I thought of as not being a household name. You know, I think I'm lying. I'm not sure I've ever done this. I have a memory of putting on Charles Ives and placing a Chinese art book on the table once to impress somebody, but I'm not sure that really happened.

Nowadays, nobody is really impressed by my coffee table. It's got permanent marker scribbles on it. It's an art table, dinner table, and homework table, but not really a prop for books.

if you could subscribe to only one literary journal

Does The Sun count? I don't subscribe to any, honestly. We're on a budget right now.

best thing you’ve read online recently

Well, I read this again recently because of the time of year.

"Bing Crosby Dreaming at The Lamp Post Inn" by Elizabeth Ellen

most anticipated upcoming release

I'm looking forward to Joe Young's Easter Rabbit. Oh, I have to order that...

recommended reading list:

Campus Novels

Well, because I'm trying to write a paper about Mary McCarthy, and I'm back at school, how about the campus novel? I haven't read most of these books – can I still recommend books I haven't read? Most of these are books I want to read someday.

- The Groves of Academe by Mary McCarthy

- Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov

- The Secret History by Donna Tartt

- Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis

- The Professor's House by Willa Cather

- Eating People Is Wrong by Malcolm Bradbury

- Japanese by Spring by Ishmael Reed


J. A. Tyler

J. A. Tyler is the author of INCONCEIVABLE WILSON (scrambler books, 2009), SOMEONE, SOMEWHERE (ghost road press, 2010), IN LOVE WITH A GHOST (willows wept press, 2010), A MAN OF GLASS AND ALL THE WAYS WE HAVE FAILED (fugue state press, 2011), & THE ZOO, A GOING (dzanc books, 2013). His work has appeared recently with Diagram, Sleepingfish, Caketrain, Hotel St. George, elimae, & Action, Yes, among others, and he is also founding editor of mud luscious / ml press. Visit: www.aboutjatyler.com.

what are you reading now

How To Take Yourself Apart, How to Make Yourself Anew by Aaron Burch (forthcoming from PANK)

Hush Up and Listen Stinky Poo Butt by Ken Sparling (reissue forthcoming from Artistically Declined Press)

Easter Rabbit by Joseph Young (Publishing Genius Press)

In Candyland It’s Cool to Feed on Your Friends by James Chapman (Fugue State Press)

classic you’ve been meaning to read

I think I’ve read all the classics I was meaning to, and though it is perhaps not a ‘classic,’ I have been meaning to get to The Tunnel by William Gass.

last book you finished in a single sitting

both Peter Markus’s Good, Brother and The Singing Fish

also Scary, No Scary by Zachary Schomburg

book you borrowed and never returned

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

most challenging book you’ve ever read

The Battlefield Where the Moon Says I Love You by Frank Stanford

perfect literary gift for a loved one

Scorch Atlas by Blake Butler (love as decay)

The Failure Six by Shane Jones (love as unfinished)

Dear Everybody by Michael Kimball (love as suicide)

book you’ve planted on a coffee table to impress someone

Poetry volume whatever (it didn’t do shit to impress anyone)

if you could subscribe to only one literary journal

Caketrain (their lit is always ripe always good always beautiful)

best thing you’ve read online recently

Ryan Call’s “How to Use This Guide” at Everyday Genius

most anticipated upcoming release

James Chapman’s The Rat Veda (Fugue State Press)

Shane Jones’s A Cake Appeared (Scrambler Books)

Peter Markus’s We Make Mud (Dzanc Books)

Roy Kesey’s Pacazo (Dzanc Books)

recommended reading list:

Books I Have Told My Wife to Read Because I Think She Might Like Them but She Hasn’t Yet and Probably Won’t

- Bob, or Man on Boat by Peter Markus

- Dear Everybody by Michael Kimball

- Light Boxes by Shane Jones

- Here They Come by Yannick Murphy

- Nothing in the World by Roy Kesey

- The Long Rowing Unto Morning by Norman Lock

- Scorch Atlas by Blake Butler


Timothy Gager

Timothy Gager is the author of eight books of short fiction and poetry. His latest (November 2009) Treating a Sick Animal: Flash and Micro Fictions (Cervena Barva Press) features over forty stories, many previously published in various literary magazines. He hosts the Dire Literary Series in Cambridge, Massachusetts every month and is the co-founder of Somerville News Writers Festival. Timothy is the current Fiction Editor of The Wilderness House Literary Review, the founding co-editor of The Heat City Literary Review and has edited the book, Out of the Blue Writers Unite: A Book of Poetry and Prose from the Out of the Blue Art Gallery. A graduate of the University of Delaware, Timothy lives in Dedham, Massachusetts and is employed as a social worker.

what are you reading now

I’m reading Steve Almond’s This Won’t Take But a Minute, Honey which is actually two books, one front to back of flash fiction and the other a guide to writing. It has no ISBN number which I find fascinating, that someone as widely published as Steve is self-publishing.

classic you’ve been meaning to read

I’ve read so many of the classics, I’d probably re-read Hemingway. I own his complete short story collection.

most treasured book in your collection

I have a few broadsides that I cherish. I have two limited edition Bukowski holiday poems that Black Sparrow used to put out and a signed chapter bound with a few staples of Billy Ray’s Farm.

book you borrowed and never returned

I always return books. I’d like some of the ones I’ve loaned back though.

last reading you attended

I hosted the Somerville News Writers Festival and I got to hear Rick Moody, Margot Livesey, Steve Almond, Frank Bidart, Lise Haines, Susan Tepper, Elizabeth Searle, Doug Holder, Sam Cornish, Tino Villanueva, Tam Neville and Richard Hoffman all read. It was like an All-Star Game.

if you could subscribe to only one literary journal

I’d keep it local if that’s all I could support, so, Ploughshares. Why would I only be allowed to subscribe to one? That’s some cruel and unusual Nazi-journal banning. What kind of game is that?

best thing you’ve read online recently

The last issue of Night Train was fantastic—that’s always a must read.

most anticipated upcoming release

It’s out already but I haven’t bought it yet… The Best American Sports Writing 2010. I love that series.

recommended reading list:

All-Time Favorites

- Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

- The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

- Goodbye, Columbus by Philip Roth

- The World According to Garp by John Irving

- Ball Four by Jim Bouton

- Big Bad Love by Larry Brown

- The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore

- Small Town Punk by John Sheppard

- Leaving Las Vegas by John O’Brien

- For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

- Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson

- Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson

- Ask the Dust by John Fante

- The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner by Alan Sillitoe

- Apt Pupil: A Novella in Different Seasons by Stephen King


Patrick Wensink

Patrick Wensink is the author of the story collection, Sex Dungeon for Sale! He is currently working on his first novel. He lives in Louisville, KY. No, not in a sex dungeon.

(A coloring contest is currently being held to celebrate the release of his new book. The contest will run until December 14th and the winning artist will receive an autographed stack of Patrick's favorite books from 2009. More information can be found at his website.)

what are you reading now

The Hundred Brothers by Donald Antrim.

I'm slowly getting into this one. The impossible feat of one hundred men having the same parents is less important than their shared paranoia and quirks. At least I think so. I'm only about 50 pages in. Oddly, Antrim doesn't divide his story into chapters or acts, so it's basically a single 200 page chapter.

classic you’ve been meaning to read

The Tin Drum by Günter Grass

This has been staring me down from the bookcase for at least three years now. It's not so long that it is intimidating. And the subject matter sounds really enjoyable. But for some reason I keep chickening out and moving on to something else.

last book to make you laugh out loud

Tales Designed to Thrizzle by Michael Kupperman

I'm not a huge comics or graphic novel reader. But this collection of comics was by far the funniest thing I've read in several years. Each one is a short burst of absurdity. The first comic is a fake advertisement featuring Mickey Rourke selling pubic hair stencils. It was so funny I closed the book, tracked Kupperman down online and sent him an email to thank him.

strangest book you’ve ever read

The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien.

Somehow it moves from 1930s Ireland to an alternate reality full of one-legged men, cops obsessed with bicycles, a theory that the universe is sausage-shaped and a secret underground layer called "Eternity" where time stands still. It’s actually much weirder than it sounds, but is still fun to read.

In the nonfiction category I have to mention The Walrus Was Paul by R. Gary Patterson. I was obsessed with this book during college. It's a very detailed account of how Paul McCartney was accidentally decapitated in the 60s and a lookalike named Billy Shears took over for him. There are websites that break all the songs and visual clues down now, but I read this book right before the internet really exploded, so I had to spin my Beatles records backwards and stare at the album covers in the mirror for clues. I have never been that fascinated with a single topic since.

book you borrowed and never returned

Triumph of the Underdog by Charles Mingus

I used to live in Portland, OR and my buddy loaned this to me, knowing I really love Mingus's music. It sat around for years and I never touched it. It's a shame, because Mingus had a crazy life and was supposedly a good writer. I actually gave it back to him before I moved to Louisville, KY. So, I guess I lied about the never returned part of the question.

favorite book from childhood

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

I couldn't name you a single story or poem from this book now, but I remember it was a hot item in grade school. I would eagerly wait for the book to be back on the shelves so I could check it out again. My mom was the librarian, so I probably got to hang on to the book a little longer than the other kids.

Fun fact: Shel Silverstein was also a highly respected songwriter in Nashville. He penned "A Boy Named Sue" for Johnny Cash.

last reading you attended

BizarroCon in Portland, OR.

My publisher, Eraserhead Press, prides itself on its bizarre catalog. They also pride themselves on readings that are an extension of this. Eraserhead put on BizarroCon and the readings were part literary event, part performance art. Some of the highlights included one story being reenacted by sock puppets, one featuring a William Shatner impersonator and one guy throwing raw meat at the audience.

book you’ve planted on a coffee table to impress someone

Movie Stars in Bathtubs (see Recommended Reading List)

if you could subscribe to only one literary journal


I'm partial to this journal because they took a chance on me and published my story "Sex Dungeon for Sale." But I can consistently go there and find something funny, which is pretty rare.

most anticipated upcoming release

Probably Don DeLillo's new book. He is one of those authors who make you feel like you suck as a writer after reading their work. I mean that as a compliment, because it’s always good to have a boot in the butt.

recommended reading list:

Coffee Table Books That Will Get a Reaction

My wife and I have a rotating crop of coffee table books. We don't leave them out to make ourselves look smarter, but they are instant conversation pieces.

- Movie Stars in Bathtubs

This is a very G-rated book, probably made in the 60s. It features a ton of still shots from black and white movies where people are in the tub. I have no clue why something like this was published, but it never fails to get cracked open when guests are over.

- How to Form a Rock Band

This was also made in the 60s. My mom's library was throwing it out about 15 years ago and I've held onto it tightly since then. It shows budding musicians how to buy their gear at the mall and wear matching suits, because that's what talent agents like to see. It's hilarious and about the most un-rock 'n' roll thing I can think of.

- Cleveland, the Disco King

Another book I rescued from my mom's library. This is an illustrated children's book from the 70s, featuring a little boy trying to impress the prettiest girl in school with his disco dancing.

- Scoundrels & Scalawags

This is a Reader's Digest book I picked up at a yard sale. It's as thick as the Bible, but features stories about the world's most famous grifters and con artists. My favorites are Charles Ponzi, inventor of the Ponzi Scheme and "The Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower.”


This was published by the army in the 40s and 50s (I think) and given to soldiers to teach them how to kill people more efficiently. Some highlights include diagrams for rigging a whistle, a tea kettle, a briefcase, a television, an ink pen or a Barcalounger to blow up when used. I bought this when my friend dragged me along to one of those gun shows at a convention center. I was surrounded by sub-machine guns, bazookas and gun nuts, but I was drawn to the book counter. Other books I should have bought but didn't: How to Make Your Own Fireworks, How to Make Your Own Munitions. Any of these are certain to get you a few odd looks during your next party.