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Center for Writers News

Anthony Neil Smith's first book

This debut novel from Center graduate and editor of the late online magazine Plots with Guns is a noir nightmare that asks how much is too much in a relationship, and what is the cost of leaving? Ken Bruen calls it “the darkest song I’ve ever read.”

“Because Lydia didn’t have arms or legs, she shelled out three thousand bucks to a washed up middleweight named Cap to give her ex-husband the beating of his life.”  But the beating turns to murder, and the murder into lust and desperation between Lydia and an underworld clean-up man. Meanwhile, overgrown frat boy car thieves take up cop killing as a side hobby. When these paths cross, a horror show of violence unfolds as they all slide into a hell of their own design, surrounded by the neon and noise of the casino strip on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Anthony Neil Smith's Psychosomatic. Violent, vivid, life at hyper-speed. Forthcoming from Point Blank Books.

Quick reports

Michelle Reese's collection of poems "Following Phia" has been accepted for publication by WordTech Communications. It will come out in June of 2006. Marvyn Petrucci (Ph.D. 2000) continues to teach at Auburn University where he was nominated for the 2004 Instructor Award.  He has work in the Winter 2005 issue of the Southern Humanities Review, forthcoming in the Santa Clara Review, and in the current issue of The South Atlantic Review, a regional MLA publication.  Tracy Heinlein (M.A. 1997) serves as editor of the literary and art magazine Crosscurrents at Washington Community and Technical College Humanities. She also teaches for North Seattle Community College, this summer an online course from Beijing, China. Troy Camplin (M.A. 2000) took his doctorate in the Humanities at UT-Dallas in August 2004. A recent poem can be found at Poetry Renewal. Troy also recently gave a talk to the Dallas Philosopher's Forum titled "The Emergence of Everything." He teaches at Richland College in Dallas.  John Hughes (M.A. 1984) recently published The Novels and Short Stories of Frederick Barthelme with The Edwin Mellen Press of New York. He is teaching at Valencia Community College in Orlando, FL. Michael Smith (Ph.D. 2002) has a short story, "Dos Mujeres," coming up in the Texas Review, and another, "Anywhere," recently published by the Summerset Review, was named a Notable Online Story of 2004 by the Million Writers Award. Michael teaches at Auburn University.

Dermansky novel due in October from William Morrow

Marcy Dermansky's wonderful first novel, Twins, reminiscent of She's Come Undone and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime,  will be released on October 1, 2005 by William Morrow. The book is available for pre-order.

Told in alternating voices, Twins is the heartfelt and unsettling honest story of identical twin sisters trying to make it to 18. Sue, younger by four long minutes, idolizes and resents the seemingly perfect Chloe for being prettier, smarter, better than she believes she can ever be. On their 13th birthday, the sisters get tattoos to prove their bond is stronger than DNA.

Over the course of five years, the girls will survive heartbreak, unhappy vacations, parental neglect, eating disorders, pill abuse, and the first painful explorations of love and sex. As they try to stay sane in the face of turbulent, often confusing change, both Chloe and Sue reach out to new mentors who will help them overcome apathy and despair to redeem each other. Funny, bitter, and affecting, TWINS introduces a supremely talented and confident writer to watch.

Marcy Dermansky, a 1998 graduate of the Center for Writers, is the winner of STORY Magazine's Carson McCullers prize for the short story and the Smallmouth Press' Andre Dubus Novella Competition. Her stories have been published in numerous literary journals, including McSweeneys, The Alaska Quarterly Review, and The Indiana Review, and included in the anthology Love Stories: A Literary Companion to Tennis. She is a film critic for and belongs to the New York Online Film Critics Society. She lives in Astoria, New York. She is not an identical twin.


Pfefferle's Poets On Place shipping

From the description: Out to see America and satisfy his travel bug, W. T. Pfefferle resigned from his position as director of the writing program at Johns Hopkins University and hit the road to interview sixty-two poets about the significance of place in their work. The lively conversations that resulted may surprise with the potential meanings of a seemingly simple concept. This gathering of voices and ideas is illustrated with photo and word portraits from the road and represented with suitable poems.

The poets are James Harms, David Citino, Martha Collins, Linda Gregerson, Richard Tillinghast, Orlando Ricardo Menes, Mark Strand, Karen Volkman, Lisa Samuels, Marvin Bell, Michael Dennis Browne, David Allan Evans, David Romtvedt, Sandra Alcosser, Robert Wrigley, Nance Van Winckel, Christopher Howell, Mark Halperin, Jana Harris, Sam Hamill, Barbara Drake, Floyd Skloot, Ralph Angel, Carol Muske-Dukes, David St. John, Sharon Bryan, Donald Revell, Claudia Keelan, Alberto Rios, Richard Shelton, Jane Miller, William Wenthe, Naomi Shihab Nye, Peter Cooley, Miller Williams, Beth Ann Fennelly, Natasha Trethewey, Denise Duhamel, Campbell McGrath, Terrance Hayes, Alan Shapiro, Nikki Giovanni, Charles Wright, Rita Dove, Henry Taylor, Dave Smith, Nicole Cooley, David Lehman, Lucie Brock-Broido, Michael S. Harper, C. D. Wright, Mark Wunderlich, James Cummins, Frederick Smock, Mark Jarman, Carl Phillips, Scott Cairns, Elizabeth Dodd, Jonathan Holden, Bin Ramke, Kenneth Brewer, and Paisley Rekdal.

Poets on Place is an extraordinary and unique collection of interviews with American poets. Collected with intelligence and wit by W. T. Pfefferle on his cross-country travels, these interviews on the importance of place and landscape in poetry—better than any anthology of poetry or prose I can think of—exhibit the profound  richness and dazzling diversity of American poetry and its poets.”
          - David St. John 

“In Poets on Place, the intrepid and resourceful explorer W. T. Pfefferle journeys deep into the American heartland to stalk, record the sounds and songs of, and photograph poets in their habitat. The result is a fascinating series of portraits by an expert naturalist and observer of a rare and often misunderstood species, the American poet.”
          - David Citino

"Every generation or so we are reminded that thinking about “Place” is enormously significant, especially to us North Americans. Notice the name: who we are is where we are. “Place” is intelligence and emotion as well as geography, but it IS geography, and this amazing collection of interviews reminds us all of that fact and of that glory.
          - Bin Ramke

Theron Montgomery's novel published March 14, 2005

Theron Montgomery, a 1982 Ph.D. graduate of the Center for Writers, is publishing his novel, The Procession with UKAPress. Pub date is March 14, 2005.  Theron teaches English and creative writing at Troy University in Alabama.  He is presently fiction Editor for the international e-zine, The Blue Moon Review.  Writing about The Procession, Rick Bragg, author of author of All Over But The Shoutin' and Ava's Man, said, "Montgomery just flat-out knows how to tell a rich, full, lovely story. He made me love all over again my American South."

Darlin' Neal's recent stories

Darlin' Neal, a 2001 Ph.D. graduate of the Center for Writers, now teaching at James Madison University, has been writing and publishing a lot recently, and in very good places. At our request she sent a list of selected pieces of interest.

"Stone Rubbing" forthcoming in The Shore
"Stragglers" The Arkansas Review, Volume 35, Number 3, December 2004 (nominated for the Pushcart Prize)
"Blue Star" Night Train, Issue IV, 2004
"Liddy" Thought Magazine, Issue 6, Spring/Summer 2004
"Things She Can Hear" Puerto del Sol, Summer 2003
"Lafayette" The Gingko Tree Review, Volume 1, Number 1, Spring 2003
"Open House" The MacGuffin, Volume 20, Issue 1&2, Spring/Summer 2003
"Honey, Don't" Shenandoah, Volume 52, Number 1, Spring 2002
"A Man Wrapped In Gold" The Southern Review, Volume 36, Number 4, Autumn 2000
"Ghosts" The Oklahoma Review, Volume One, Issue One, Spring 2000
"Piercings" Caprice, November 1999

In addition to these, Darlin' Neal has a chapter on Larry Brown's Facing the Music appearing in Jean Cash's forthcoming book Larry Brown: Voice of the Yeoman South.

10 new Excellence Fellowships for doctoral students in creative writing

The Center for Writers has announced that beginning fall 2005 it will offer, in addition to the usual array of teaching assistantships, ten new teaching fellowships, each with a stipend of $15,000 per year. Frederick Barthelme, Director of the Center, said, "This is a remarkable investment in our program by the university. We do manage to recruit excellent students from top schools, but we believe these new Excellence Fellowships will increase our ability to compete on an equal footing with the best writing programs in the nation."  The Center for Writers is primarily a graduate program in creative writing, housed in the English Department. At present the graduate enrollment in the program is about 40 students, half on the M.A. track, and half on the Ph.D. track. The new Excellence Fellowships, approved by the administration in late fall, will bring the total number of graduate students in creative writing to fifty. Click for details.

Ball awarded Arthur J. Schaible Memorial Cultural Enrichment Award

Angela Ball will be visiting the University of Alaska Fairbanks soon to pick up the Arthur J. Schaible Memorial Cultural Enrichment Award for literary or artistic presentations on the campus. Voted by the faculty of the University, the Schaible Award notes that "the impact of [Ball's] poetry has been recognized by faculty members across many disciplines." The award carries with it a substantial stipend and an expense-free trip to Alaska.  Angela will travel to Fairbanks to give readings and classes, and to receive this prestigious honor.

Students publishing

Publishing is one of the essential elements of being a writer and Center students are encouraged to try to place their work as soon as they are ready.  Recent reports: Jay Todd has work forthcoming in the Chicago Quarterly Review; Carrie Hoffman has new stories soon to be released in Center and in Georgetown Review; Raymond Wachter and Jordan Sanderson have co-authored an essay on Tennessee Williams's Cat on a Hot Tin Roof published on; Shanti Weiland has new poems in an anthology called The Great American Poetry Show and in The Gihon Review; Regina Sakalaryios-Rogers will read her nonfiction at the Writers in the Gallery, University of West Florida, in March; Ted Roggenbuck has an essay on Faulkner's Benji Compson from The Sound and the Fury forthcoming in Summer Mississippi Quarterly; Bob Bartholomew has an article called "A Return to the Natural Through Wilde Language" coming out in The Thomas Wolfe Review; Peggy Price has work online in Opium Magazine and Pindeldyboz.

Ken Foster's anthology Dog Culture released in paperback

In addition to radio and television interviews throughout Mississippi and Louisiana, Center for Writers doctoral student Ken Foster also did a series of readings and book signings for the paperback release of his anthology Dog Culture, which readings and signings supported animal rescue groups in New York City, New Orleans, Tallahassee, Jackson, and other cities. His work has been published recently in The Future Dictionary of America (McSweeney's Books), Small Spiral Notebook, The Shore (a new Canadian magazine), Urban Dog, and The Westchester Journal News, where his book column, "Storied Shorts," appears regularly.

Documentary director options Barthelme book

Highly regarded independent filmmaker Gary Hawkins (The Rough South of Harry Crews, The Rough South of Larry Brown) hopes to make Elroy Nights (program director Frederick Barthelme's 2004 novel) into a feature-length film with noted Hollywood actor Will Patton. Patton and Hawkins worked together on the 2002 documentary-with-fiction The Rough South of Larry Brown which was very well received on the festival circuit. Writer/director Hawkins has taught directing at the North Carolina School of the Arts' School of Filmmaking and now teaches film at Duke University and North Carolina State University. His feature-length documentary The Rough South of Harry Crews won an Emmy in 1991. Three of Barthelme's books, his first novel Second Marriage, the short novel Tracer, and his gambling novel Bob the Gambler, have been optioned for film, though none has made it to the screen.

Whorton to sign books in Jackson, Bay St. Louis, New Orleans

Center for Writers Ph.D. graduate Jim Whorton, whose new novel Frankland is noted below, will be reading from his work and signing copies of the book at Lemuria in Jackson on January 27th, and at Bookends bookstore in Bay Saint Louis on the 28th.  Thereafter he heads for New Orleans and more book signings.  Read a review here.

Leilani Hall's debut collection available in February 2005

Leilani Hall's collection of poems Swimming the Witch makes its debut in February with Cherry Grove Collections. Swimming the Witch moves between 17th century witch-hangings and modern-day confessions as it explores the complexities of the imperiled body.  Relying on research from records of executions, the poems speak to women otherwise unknown in history, “two feet above the ground / …dress shoes / laced sharp as lancets” (from “Station of Loss”).  Contest judges comment this is a text rich in “pagan ritual . . . imagery and physical transformation. . . . There is intelligence here, and skill.” 

Leilani Hall received her Ph.D. from the Center for Writers in 2001 and is currently Assistant Professor of English at California State University Northridge, where she teaches creative writing and theories of poetry.  She currently serves on the AWP Steering Committee for the Creative Writing Pedagogy Forum. 

Kimbrell wins National Endowment Award November 2004

James Kimbrell, who took his M.A. with us, and whose second major collection of poems is scheduled for publication by Sarabande next spring, has just been awarded an NEA Individual Writers Grant. Kimbrell has been the recipient of the Whiting Writer's Award, the Ruth Lilly Fellowship, the "Discovery"/ The Nation Award, a Ford Foundation Fellowship, and has twice received the Academy of American Poets Prize. Recent poems, reviews and translations have appeared or are forthcoming in magazines and anthologies such as Poetry, Field, Fence, The Nation, Prairie Schooner, The Boston Book Review, American Poetry: The Next Generation (Carnegie Mellon University Press) and The Bread Loaf Anthology of New American Poets (University Press of New England). He teaches at Florida State.

Victor Gishler's latest from Delacorte in April 05

Victor Gischler's third novel Suicide Squeeze follows a down and out repo man as he chases a collectible baseball card signed by Joe Dimaggio, Marilyn Monroe and Billy Wilder.  But an eccentric Japanese billionaire and former Yakuza boss wants the card for his Americana collection.  A blood-n-guts crime novel, but also a poke at pop culture and a playful examination of how America constructs a national identity.  Forthcoming in April as a Delacorte hard cover. Publisher's Weekly, reviewing Gischler's last book, Pistol Poets, wrote "With this madcap sophomore outing, after 2001's Edgar-nominated Gun Monkeys, Gischler challenges Kinky Friedman for top slot in the zany noir subgenre of mystery fiction--and for sheer mayhem and body count momentum, Gischler may triumph. . . . a far-fetched but fast and viciously enjoyable read."

James Whorton Jr.'s new novel, coming January 2005, gets terrific press

James Whorton Jr., whose novel Approximately Heaven was very well received last year, is readying a new novel for release next spring, and the reviewers are already raving about it.  Publisher's Weekly describes Frankland as a novel whose "quiet but exuberantly sly wit and a winning narrator add up to a thoroughly enjoyable escapade."  And the Kirkus Review Service, notoriously hard to please, describes the books thus: "A comedy of misunderstandings blooms to perfection in Whorton's enchanting and erudite caper, set in hillbilly eastern Tennessee. . . . A joy." Advance reviews don't get much better. The book is now available for ordering at Amazon and at Barnes & Noble.  Frankland will be published on January 6, 2005, by the Free Press.

John Holman named director of Georgia State Creative Writing Program

John Holman, a 1993 Ph.D. graduate of the Center for Writers, was recently named director of creative writing at Georgia State University, where he teaches along with poets Leon Stokesbury, David Bottoms, and Beth Gylys, and fiction writers Sheri Joseph and Josh Russell. The Georgia State program is a good one and it's been around a while.  At present they have about fifty students, about two-thirds in the MFA program, and another fourteen or so in the Ph.D. program. Holman is best known (so far) for his now-hard-to-come-by remarkable debut collection of stories, Squabble, and a particularly odd and marvelous first novel called Luminous Mysteries, also available in hardcover at Barnes & Noble.

Steven Barthelme wins 2005 Pushcart Prize

Professor Steven Barthelme has learned that his recent story published in the prestigious Yale Review was awarded a Pushcart Prize and will be included in the soon-to-be-published Pushcart Prize XXIX: Best of the Small Presses, 2005 Edition. That important annual anthology should be available in the first quarter of next year.

Kim Chinquee publishes, 2004-2005

A recent note from one of our favorite alumni, Kim Chinquee, reassures us that Kim is keeping up her torrid publishing pace.  Herewith a sampling of 2004 publications.

"Rummage” Quick Fiction. Forthcoming in 2005, “Books” Noon. Forthcoming in January 2005, “Formation” Noon. Forthcoming in January 2005, “Slope” Noon. Forthcoming in January 2005, “Tabloid” Noon. Forthcoming in January 2005, “A Slight Hole That Undid Itself” Noon. Forthcoming in January 2005, “Driveway” 5 Trope. Forthcoming in 2004, “Pretty Eyes” Cottonwood. Forthcoming in 2004, “Layover” Hobart. Forthcoming in Autumn 2004, “Party Tray” 3am Magazine. Forthcoming in 2004, “Wreck” In Posse Review. Forthcoming September 15, 2004, “Costume” Cake Train. Forthcoming in October 2004, “Cowslip” Cake Train. Forthcoming in October 2004, “Fall” Cake Train. Forthcoming in October 2004, “Mustard” Cake Train. Forthcoming in October 2004, “Beer and Pizza” So to Speak. Forthcoming in September 2004, “Attic” Smoke  Long Quarterly. August 2004, “Tree” Opium Magazine. July 2004, “Garden” Moonshinestill. July 2004, “Polka” Surgery of Modern Warfare. July 2004, “Emergency” Strong Fiction. July 2004, “Bar Scene” Salome. May 2004, “Service” War, Literature and the Arts. March 2004, “Plaid Blanket” Phantasmagoria. January 2004, “The Trauma Room” Thought Magazine. January 2004, “The Cookie Room” Thought Magazine. January 2004, “Bullet” Juked. January 2004, “Boom Box” Noon. January 2004, “Yellow Telephone” Noon. January 2004, “Cells” Noon. January 2004, “Pretty” Noon. January 2004, “Sushi” Confrontation.

Angela Ball featured at Montevallo & other news

Angela Ball was a featured poet at this year’s Montevallo Literary Festival in Montevallo, Alabama, April 2-3.  The weekend of readings and workshops also included poet Don Bogen, fiction writers Sheri Joseph and Brad Watson, Center graduate Rusty W. Spell, who read and provided musical entertainment, and others.  Ball read from her long poem on Cuba, The Museum of the Revolution, published by Carnegie Mellon University Press. 

Early this year Ball judged the Emily Pestana Mason Poetry Award for East Georgia College.  Emily Pestana, who died in 2002, earned her Ph.D. at USM with Ball as major professor before joining the English faculty at East Georgia, where she taught for several years. In 2004, USM also inaugurated a poetry prize in Pestana’s name. 

This spring Ball also served as judge of the Academy of American Poets Award for the University of California, Northridge, where another former student, poet Leilani Hall, is now Assistant Professor of creative writing and literature.

Poetry by Angela Ball appears in current issues of The Southeast Review and Great River Review.

Melanie Hendrix wins Mississippi Arts Grant

Melanie Hendrix, 1996 Ph.D. graduate of the Center for Writers, won a $5000 2004 Mississippi Arts Grant to continue work on her massive novel-in-progress.

Pfefferle book scheduled

W.T. Pfefferle, a Ph.D. graduate of the Center for Writers, published poet, former Director of Composition at The Johns Hopkins University, and author of the composition textbook Writing That Matters, spent the past year traveling the country with his wife in a 30 foot motor home. He interviewed 62 well known American poets for a new book, Poets on Place (Utah State University Press 2005). Excerpts have been appearing in Poets & Writers magazine.


Angela Ball Steps Down

Poet Angela Ball, long a mainstay of the Center for Writers at Southern Miss, has stepped down after a year as chair of the English Department. Angela is a prize-winning poet and the author of four collections: Kneeling Between Parked Cars, Possession, Quartet, and her most recent book, The Museum of the Revolution: 58 Exhibits, which was published in 1999 by Carnegie Mellon. Her poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, Partisan Review, the New Republic, Field, the Denver Quarterly, Ploughshares, Boulevard, Poetry, Grand Street, and elsewhere, and was included in Best American Poetry 2001. She has represented the United States at the Poetry International Festival, Rotterdam, and the Colombian International Poetry Festival, Bogotá. Professor Ball has received grants from the Mississippi Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Frederick Barthelme finalist for the 2004 PEN/Faulkner Award

Washington, DC-- Judges have selected five books as finalists for the 2004 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, America’s largest peer-juried fiction prize. The nominees are Frederick Barthelme for Elroy Nights (Counterpoint); ZZ Packer for Drinking Coffee Elsewhere (Riverhead); Caryl Phillips for A Distant Shore (Knopf); John Updike for The Early Stories (Knopf); and Tobias Wolff for Old School (Knopf). The announcement was made today by the directors of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation, Susan Richards Shreve and Robert Stone, Co-Chairmen.

The eventual winner, John Updike, received $15,000; the four remaining finalists received $5000 each. All five authors were honored during the 24th Annual PEN/Faulkner Award ceremony at the Folger Shakespeare Library, located at 201 East Capitol Street, S.E., on Saturday, May 8, 2004, at 7 p.m.

In Frederick Barthelme’s Elroy Nights, a fifty-something art professor falls into adventures with new friends half his age in what one critic has called a “moody, brawling meditation on the crises of middle age, on sex, longing, on the transience and perdurability of dreams.” Set in coastal Mississippi, it is Barthelme’s thirteenth novel, following The Law of Averages. With his brother, Steven, he has also written a memoir, Double Down: Reflections on Gambling and Loss. Barthelme directs the writing program at the University of Southern Mississippi.

The PEN/Faulkner Award was first given in 1981. Past winners are Walter Abish, David Bradley, Toby Olson, Tobias Wolff, Peter Taylor, Richard Wiley, T. Coraghessan Boyle, James Salter, E.L. Doctorow, John Edgar Wideman (1984 and 1991), Don DeLillo, E. Annie Proulx, David Guterson, Richard Ford, Gina Berriault, Rafi Zabor, Michael Cunningham, Ha Jin, Philip Roth (1994 and 2001), Ann Patchett, and Sabina Murray.

David Berry retires

After more years than he cares to remember, David Berry (aka DC Berry) has called it quits and retired from his position at The University of Southern Mississippi's Center for Writers. Berry, a much decorated poet with hundreds of poems published in major national poetry venues, numerous books to his credit, including Saigon Cemetery, Divorce Boxing, and the recently published Zen Cancer Saloon, is a past Charles Moorman Distinguished Professor in the Humanities and winner of three excellence-in-teaching awards. Berry was always a quirky and delightful presence at the Center and he will be sorely missed.

Ball Poem in New Anthology

Angela Ball's poem, "An Attempt," which originally appeared in Ploughshares, has been published in the new print anthology Poetry Daily: 366 Poems from the World's Most Popular Poetry Website (Sourcebooks; ISBN: 1-4022-0151-6; December 2003; $14.95), edited by Diane Boller, Don Selby, and Chryss Yost, with advisory editors Rita Dove and Dana Gioia.

Berry Takes Chapbook Contest

Zen Cancer Saloon tells of DC Berry's adventure with cancer of the spine. He tried to get off the couch last September (just another day)--and couldn't; paralysis reached his chest before surgery revealed the problem. Radiation and a sequence of small poems (haikus) followed, written in the back of whatever book he was reading at the time, usually about Buddha or Christ. This collection he sent off to the chapbook contest at Black Warrior Review, published by the University of Alabama; and of the 525 entries, Berry's took first place and a check for $1500. Previous chapbook authors published by BWR include W.S. Merwin and Rita Dove. Zen Cancer Saloon will appear in the Spring/Summer 2004 issue of Black Warrior Review. Berry retired from his long-held post in the Center for Writers in May 2004.


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E-Mail: rief@CENTERFORWRITERS.COM  The University of Southern Mississippi  AA/EOE/ADAI  Last Modified: June 18, 2006