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Laura-Fraser-authorI probably don’t have to tell any reader of The Nervous Breakdown that it’s harder than ever to publish a book through traditional corporate channels. And certain categories — like collections of essays — have become virtually extinct, a situation which affects me directly. When I started out telling personal stories as a commentator on NPR in the 1990s, there was a lot of interest in the essay — publishers were looking for the next David Sedaris. These days, though venues have opened up online for individual pieces, and we continue to see themed anthologies  on various aspects of parenting, eating, divorce, travel, etc., it’s very rare to find a collection of essays between covers by anyone other than, well, David Sedaris.

Henderson_Author PhotoArtis Henderson is the author of the debut memoir, Unremarried Widow, published by Simon & Schuster this January. The title comes from the official Army term for women like her, whose husbands died in combat. The term could also be applied to her mother, since Henderson lost her father in a civilian plane crash when she was only five. Part of what makes this book so layered and complex is its double story: how Henderson finally understands her mother’s grief by coping with her own. She chronicles two surprising love stories: between a seemingly mismatched husband and wife and between a fiercely attached mother and daughter.

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It is with great sadness that we report the passing of author Ned Vizzini, who committed suicide in Brooklyn on December 19th.  Our thoughts are with his friends and family.

Below, in its entirety, is his December 2012 interview with Brad Listi on the Other People podcast, which Ned called the most candid he’d ever done.  If you would like to learn more about his life and work, please visit his website.

PHOTO-CRIS-MAZZA-CROPPEDWhen my graduate school mentor and longtime friend, Cris Mazza, first told me over dinner that she was writing a memoir about—among other things but pretty front-and-center—her lifelong inability to reach orgasm, my reaction can only be described as…well, pretty much begging her not to.  Despite some fairly personal short essays on TNB, I am, bluntly, chickenshit as a nonfiction writer: I have never attempted a book length memoir, and the mere thought of divulging any of the ugly, raw kinds of truths that would make any memoir worth reading fills me with enough terror that I might rather become the author of Harlequin Romances rather than “go there.”  My god, I told Cris, do you really want your new students in every workshop knowing these details about your physical being—do you really want to have to deal with all your male colleagues knowing this crap in faculty meetings?  I needed an extra glass of wine on Cris’ behalf, and when she later sent me an excerpt of the book, I believe I urged her all over again to rethink the endeavor…

h1203034Two Dollar Radio, the Columbus, Ohio boutique publisher of works such as Grace Krilanovich’s The Orange Eats Creeps and Joshua Mohr’s Termite Parade, recently announced the addition of a micro-budget film division, Two Dollar Radio Moving Pictures, set to release its first three titles beginning in 2015 with Editor-in-Chief Eric Obenauf’s I’m Not Patrick.  Subsequent films will include The Removals, written by Nicholas Rombes and directed by Krilanovich, and The Greenbriar Ghost, co-written and co-directed by Scott McClanahan and Chris Oxley.  I recently spoke via phone with Obenauf to learn more about Two Dollar Radio’s crowd-funded foray into indie film.

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A few months ago, while my Twitter and Tumblr feeds were being entirely overwhelmed by the animated gif version of Tao Lin’s novel, Taipei, and it seemed that it was about to become 2013’s answer to Gangnam Style, I began exploring the Alt-Lit movement, and it struck me that this was a sort of update on the Beat Generation.

With the rise of Alt-Lit, we have seen a group of urban hipsters once again come to prominence and stamp their name on contemporary literature. Where Kerouac and Ginsberg brought spontaneous prose and jazz rhythm to their narratives, Alt-Lit writers have incorporated their own internet age-vernacular and challenged established literary convention.

Darci Picoult headshotPlease explain what just happened.

I heard children playing outside and a classical piano playing next door. Now there is a horn beeping. A man laughing. Life.

 

What is your earliest memory?

Seeing a lion on the wall of my bedroom and screaming for my brother to kill it. He made it vanish (with his fist? mind? a combo of both? don’t remember) and I thought he was a hero. Still do. A few years later I yelled to my sister that a cow was outside my window. She didn’t believe me until she looked and alas, saw it too. It wandered up the road from a nearby farm. We both had a hard time getting it to leave. Called the police who thought we were drunk and at a bar. “A cow outside your window?” I was maybe 12 years old. Finally the owner came and wooed the cow back to pasture

epperson-0105Please explain what happened.

A dog barked down the street. The tree in front of my window was flooded with early-morning sunlight. The flow of life on our beautiful planet continued.

 

What is your earliest memory?

I was trying to climb up on the back of our car and it was slick with rain and I slipped and gashed my knee on the bumper. Bled like a son of a bitch. Still got the scar. Want to see it?

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Please explain what just happened.

It all happened so fast…

 

What is your earliest memory?

Being doused in talcum powder by my older brother when I was a toddler.

David Lowery
Please explain what just happened.

The AC just stopped working in my house. Dire circumstances in Texas in July.

 

What is your earliest memory?

Playing with some toy trucks in a sandbox outside a red brick building. I think I was two. This memory might have been significantly bolstered by photographs of the same event. If so, then my other first memory is my grandmother’s face.

Beth_Ann_BaumanBeth Ann Bauman writes about women and girls with humor, grace, insight, and unflinching honesty. Her three books mostly take place at the Jersey shore, where we meet a diverse cast of compelling female characters. Beth’s latest novel, Jersey Angel, is about 17-year-old Angel Cassonetti, who is so spot-on that it’s hard to believe she doesn’t really exist. Jersey Angel received high praise from the New York Times, Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and other publications. Here are six sex questions for the irrepressible Beth Ann Bauman….

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Jeff Selingo’s new book, College Unbound: The Future of Higher Education and What It Means for Students (New Harvest, 2013), finds the editor at large for the Chronicle of Higher Education articulating the challenges to contemporary higher education. He also explores possible new directions for a future in which learning may well be unbundled from many of its traditional structures.

I interviewed Selingo and published a short version of our conversation at the Huffington Post under the title “When the Jobs of Tomorrow Don’t Exist Today: Jeff Selingo on College, Liberal Arts, and the Possible Future.” Here, I let the conversation expand to its full flowering, and then move at its close to issues of contemporary publishing.

7Please explain what just happened.

I read this email from you in bed, took a shower, ate breakfast, then sat at my desk to answer these questions.

 

What is your earliest memory?

Seeing Revenge of the Nerds in a movie theater with my dad and uncle.  Based on the release date of the movie, I must have been almost 3, or maybe they saw it second run and I was 3. Anyway, I don’t remember much of the movie, but I do remember my dad’s hands covering my eyes and ears several times throughout. So I would be looking at this giant image and hearing these loud sounds, then I would see and hear nothing, then images and sounds again.  I’m sure this has something to do with my love of cinema and the quality of mystery and excitement that it still holds for me.

ErikaRae_2010Erika Rae knows a lot more about the Bible than most people. She was a devoted and educated Evangelical Christian for all of her childhood, adolescence, and early college years. Today she is a devoted memoirist whose writing is frank, humorous, compassionate, and tolerant of all people. Like many smart women I know, Erika writes and thinks about sex, too. If you haven’t read Erika’s hilarious and insightful memoir, DEVANGELICAL, yet, check it out soon!

 Who is the sexiest person in the Bible?

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R. Clifton Spargo knows how to find the un-findable.

When confronted by the great absence in the late portion of doomed jazz age/literary power couple F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald’s mad and troubled romance—their undocumented trip to Cuba—he did what any debut novelist with enough gumption to change careers would do: he fabricated (and went to Cuba himself), with style and perceptive nuance.