News & Events


How the Town Harlot Got Her Name

Back in 2006, I had the honor of participating in an auction to benefit the First Amendment Project. Authors auctioned off the right to name characters in their writing to support the good work of protecting freedom of speech. At the time, I was writing a novel set in 1930s Berlin, so I asked for a German name. But the person who won my auction said she’d be thrilled to have a character named after her, and her name was Irish. So I asked if she’d be willing to wait for an opportunity to arise.

That person is Quinn Heraty, a partner in her own firm specializing in entertainment law. (I was thrilled as all get-out to discover that she works with John Hall, who is also a lawyer, but known to me as a poet; back in the day he was the genius behind the spoken-word band King Missile.) And the fictional Quinn Heraty now stars as kind of the town harlot in “The Once and Future Capital.” (Don’t worry, I asked Ms. Heraty before I used her name for that purpose. She was game. Because she’s cool!) I am thrilled that I finally got to honor our peculiar little contract. Hooray for free speech, and for cool people, and for fiction’s mysterious alchemy.

When you read the story, send some mental thanks her way! To me, the name seems just right for the character: interesting, unexpected. The story wouldn’t be the same without it.



“The Once and Future Capital” in The Massachusetts Review!


The Summer issue of the Massachusetts Review

I have a new story, “The Once and Future Capital,” in the new issue of The Massachusetts Review. I couldn’t be more excited! It’s about Kingston. Please go read it!



The Satirical Bumper Sticker Manufactory


(There are Yves Gundron bumper stickers, too.)

Not long ago, we were driving down my father’s road—winding, unpaved, only a few houses on it—when we saw a parked car with a magnetic decal on the side. Usually, such decals advertise local businesses, but this one was promoting a novel. As I continued to drive, Tom took out his hand-dandy Internet device and we looked up the book, which turned out to be . . . possibly a little kooky? It promised to reveal truths about the universe (it sounded a little Secret-esque); and the few sentences we read were gummed up with adverbs. But we felt fundamental kinship with the driver of that car (an author? An author’s friend? Either way). And thought we’d like to do something similar—if a little more tongue-in-cheek.

So we are happy to present The Hopkins and Barton Emporium. At present it features one Brookland bumper sticker, another for Yves Gundron, one that kind of sums up our position on the sorry state of political dialogue in this country, and another reminding people not to text and drive. (Since they’re for cars, and it’s such an important safety issue.) Wanna head over and buy one? We’d be tickled. And maybe we’ll think up some kind of contest soon and give a few out as prizes.



We’re selling our beautiful house in Kingston, NY!

In order to take my current wonderful job as the Elizabeth Drew Professor at Smith College, we moved to Northampton, MA. As a result, we’re selling our beautiful house in the Hudson Valley. If you teach at Bard, Vassar, Marist, SUNY New Paltz, or UCC; or if you work in Albany or NYC and could make an easy commute (by bus, train, or easy access to the Interstate); or if you’re a writer, artist, or other person who works at home, it would be a great house for you. (Before it was our house, it belonged to the beloved Jewish children’s book author Simms Taback, who won the Caldecott while living there.) We also think it would make a fabulous weekend house for New Yorkers who’d like the appurtenances of a country house (lots of space, quiet, a deep, beautiful yard) while retaining the perks of living in a town (such as being able to walk to a great farmers’ market, organic coffee, an incredible butcher, and the best bar at which it has ever been my pleasure to drink a cocktail). The house is a three-bedroom, 1.5-bath on a quiet, friendly block. We put in an all-new kitchen, replaced the floors on the first story, and just upgraded it to a high-efficiency natural gas furnace. And we’re offering it at a break-even price because we don’t live there anymore.

If you like the sound of it, take a peek at this flattering write-up on Upstater and at the official listing. If you can pass this information on to anyone who might be looking, we’ll be grateful!



A new story, out soon in the Massachusetts Review!

I’m very excited to have a new story, “The Once and Future Capital,” forthcoming in the Summer 2014 issue of The Massachusetts Review. Details TK!



Do you need some advice on finding an agent or applying for an MFA?

I’m flattered that in the past few months I’ve been inundated with requests for advice about such topics as finding an agent or publisher and when/why/how to apply for an MFA. The advice section of this website features concise, practical thinking on these topics. (And can tell you how—and how not—to request a letter of reference.) I hope it can be of service to my students, former students, readers, and friends. If there’s a topic I haven’t yet addressed that you’d like to see an article on, please message me on my Facebook page. I’ll try to get a response up quickly!



A hypothetical prize for BROOKLAND

Many thanks to Erica Wagner, who chose to write about Brookland in this article for the Folio Prize’s website about books that people would have liked to see win the prize. What a kind mention—it’s an honor to be a hypothetical Folio Prize winner!



Hello, Smith

I’m delighted to announce that I’ve been named the Elizabeth Drew Professor at Smith College from 2013 to 2015. This is a real honor—Prof. Drew served as Sylvia Plath’s thesis adviser, and the chair has been held by some remarkable writers in the past. (My favorite? Kurt Vonnegut.) So, hello Pioneer Valley. I’ll look forward to seeing you this fall.



YVES GUNDRON is an eBook!


The Testament of Yves Gundron is at long last available as an eBook! So if you haven’t yet read it and would like to do so on your Kindle, Kobo, Nook, or iPad, it’s waiting for you at Amazon.com or via the iBooks app on your iPad or iPhone. You can also still get it in paperback, if you prefer to do your reading the old-fashioned way. Would it be ironic to read this novel about the complexities of blindly pursuing progress on a snazzy piece of technology? Maybe. But I’d like to think that the widespread adoption of these miraculous gadgets makes this book more relevant than ever. I hope you’ll enjoy it.

A few people have asked if Brookland is also available as an eBook. Mais bien sûr! This link will get you to the Kindle edition, and you can also download it via iBooks for your Apple device. Thanks for asking!



A Dialogue with Susan Bernofsky in PEN America


In the current issue of PEN America (#16: Teachers), director of Columbia’s MFA in Translation Susan Bernofsky and I have a dialogue about our practices as teachers of undergraduate and graduate students, and the lessons we bring to the classroom from our own teachers. (Michael Martone, are you reading this?) Although I’m erroneously identified as teaching at Columbia (which is not true this year), I’m proud to be part of the issue and pleased with how the piece and the issue as a whole turned out. I hope you’ll enjoy reading it! (As a side note: Check out the Bill-Clinton-lookalike Vassar undergrad, c. 1958, on the cover!)



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