An anthology I edited, The Lineup: 20 Provocative Women Writers (Black Lawrence Press) is out today!

Thomas full cover_rev

I’m thrilled to announce that The Lineup: 20 Provocative Women Writers is finally out, TODAY! Three years in the making, I’m honored to have been a part of this. Not only did Diane Goettel do an excellent job overseeing this project that I pitched to her what seems like a million years ago, but we got a wonderful photo from Jennifer Moore for the cover, and a fantastic foreword from Alissa Nutting. The stories, do I have to even talk about the stories? When I think of literary fiction, these are the women that I think about, and not only are these stories thoughtful, lyrical, and packed with power, but they step into the darkness, where they take on provocative material in a variety of ways. Who is in this collection? Let me tell you:

Laura Benedict, Paula Bomer, Karen Brown, Shannon Cain, Kim Chinquee, Monica Drake, Kathy Fish, Amina Gautier, Tina May Hall, Nancy Hightower, Jessica Hollander, Holly Goddard Jones, Stacey Levine, Kelly Luce, Nina McConigley, ŸJanet Mitchell, ŸEthel Rohan, ŸKarin Tidbeck, Damien Angelica Walters, and Claire Vaye Watkins.

And how about these blurbs:

“These are stories that live on the edge of the cliff. They’re wild and unpredictable and important and wonderfully unsettling. Somewhere in this volume, you’ll find your new favorite voice.”—Rebecca Makkai

The Lineup is full of ferocious, dark, and brilliant voices. The book as chorus both troubles and dazzles, as all great fiction does.”—Lauren Groff

“The writers that make up The Lineup are more than just provocative. With its anorexic ragamuffins and organ-thieving medical students, its doomed shot-girls and exterminator-besotted housewives, this anthology will pry your eyes open wide and weeping with gratitude to the spectacle of lives being lived under transcendent duress. By turns searing, heartrending, hilarious, grim, profoundly tender and indelibly macabre.”—Adrian Van Young

Pick up your copy today.

Book Covers: Work Edited and/or Published by Richard Thomas

I wanted to start a list of the beautiful book covers that I’ve either edited or published or both. I hope you enjoy the art and if you want more information, I’ve included links to Amazon, for those books that are already on the website. They are in reverse chronological order.

UPDATED: July, 2016

ScratchScratch by Steve Himmer
Publisher: Dark House Press
Cover Art: Alban Fischer
Design/Layout: Alban Fischer
Release Date: October 11, 2016

PaperTigersPaper Tigers by Damien Angelica Walters
Publisher: Dark House Press Cover
Cover Art: Alban Fischer
Design/Layout: Alban Fischer
Release Date: February 29, 2016

VileMen Vile Men by Rebecca Jones-Howe
Publisher: Dark House Press
Cover Art: Alban Fischer
Design/Layout: Alban Fischer
Release Date: September 8, 2015

ExigenciesCover_FinalExigencies, edited by Richard Thomas (anthology)
Publisher: Dark House Press
Cover Art: Daniele Serra
Design/Layout: Alban Fischer
Release Date: June 9, 2015
Stories by David James Keaton, Letitia Trent, Kevin Catalano, Usman Malik, Faith Gardner, Axel Taiari, Damien Angelica Walters, Kenneth Cain, Amanda Gowin, Jason Metz, Joshua Blair, Rebecca-Jones Howe, Brendan Detzner, Sarah Read, Bill Johnson, Barbara Duffey, Adam Peterson, Marytza Rubio, Nathan Beauchamp, Heather Foster, Alex Kane, and Mark Jaskowski.

DoorsFinalCoverThe Doors You Mark Are Your Own by Okla Elliott and Raul Clement (novel, trilogy)
Publisher: Dark House Press
Cover Art: George C. Cotronis
Design/Layout: Alban Fischer
Release Date: April 28, 2015

ThomascThe Lineup: 20 Provocative Women Writers, edited by Richard Thomas (anthology)
Publisher: Black Lawrence Press
Cover Photo: Jennifer Moore
Foreword: Alissa Nutting
Release Date: November 1, 2015
Stories by Laura Benedict, Paula Bomer, Karen Brown, Shannon Cain, Kim Chinquee, Monica Drake, Kathy Fish, Amina Gautier, Tina May Hall, Nancy Hightower, Jessica Hollander, Holly Goddard Jones, Stacey Levine, Kelly Luce, Nina McConigley, Janet Mitchell, Ethel Rohan, Karin Tidbeck, Damien Angelica Walters, and Claire Vaye Watkins.

After the People Lights Have Gone Off by Stephen Graham Jones (stories)
Publisher: Dark House Press
Introduction: Joe R. Lansdale
Cover Art: George C. Cotronis
Interior Illustrations: Luke Spooner
Design/Layout: Alban Fischer
Release Date: September 30, 2014
WINNER: Best Short Story Collection of the Year, This is Horror
NOMINATED: Best Short Story Collection of the Year, Bram Stoker Awards
NOMINATED: Best Short Story Collection of the Year, Shirley Jackson Awards

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000026_00001]US Version (Medallion)

BTUK_TitanUK Version (Titan)

Burnt Tongues, edited by Chuck Palahniuk, Richard Thomas, and Dennis Widmyer (anthology)
US Publisher: Medallion Press / UK Publisher: Titan UK
Introduction: Chuck Palahniuk
Cover Design: US – Jay Shaw
Release Date: US August 12, 2014 / UK September 5, 2014
Stories by Neil Krolicki, Chris Lewis Carter, Gayle Towell, Tony Liebhard, Michael De Vito, Jr., Tyler Jones, Phil Jourdan, Richard Lemmer, Amanda Gowin, Matt Egan, Fred Venturini, Brandon Tietz, Adam Skorupskas, Bryan Howie, Brien Piechos, Jason M. Fylan, Terence James Eeles, Keith Buie, Gus Moreno, and Daniel W. Broallt.
WINNER: Best Anthology of the Year, This is Horror
GOD MEDAL WINNER: Best Anthology of the Year, INDIEFAB
NOMINATED: Best Anthology of the Year, Bram Stoker Awards

Cover_ECHOLAKEEcho Lake by Letitia Trent (novel)
Publisher: Dark House Press
Design/Layout: Alban Fischer
Photography: Helena Kvarnstrom
Release Date: July 22, 2014

Cover_TNBThe New Black, edited by Richard Thomas (anthology)
Foreword: Laird Barron
Publisher: Dark House Press
Design/Layout: Alban Fischer
Interior Illustrations: Luke Spooner
Date: May 13, 2014
Stories by: Brian Evenson, Stephen Graham Jones, Craig Clevenger, Paul Tremblay, Lindsay Hunter, Roxane Gay, Kyle Minor, Benjamin Percy, Roy Kesey, Craig Davidson, Matt Bell, Richard Lange, Micaela Morrissette, Joe Meno, Vanessa Veselka, Nik Korpon, Antonia Crane, Rebecca Jones-Howe, Tara Laskowski, and Craig Wallwork.
NOMINATED: Best Anthology of the Year, This is Horror (2nd Place)

Interview Up At Mourning Goats. The Goat Asks Me 20 Questions.

So, I finally got the call. I made the big leagues! Mourning Goats has been doing interviews with some of the most compelling, visionary, and talented authors out there—so many of my idols, mentors and peers. I’m thrilled that I got to sit down with the smelly beast and answer some of the most thoughtful and challenging questions of my career. They obviously did their homework. I join the ranks of Stephen Graham Jones, Monica Drake, Craig Clevenger, Paul Tremblay, Chelsea Cain, Donald Ray Pollock, Lidia Yuknavitch, Joe Lansdale, Nik Korpon, Rob Roberge, Megan Abbott, Brian Evenson, Holly Goddard Jones, Paula Bomer, Cheryl Strayed, Shya Scanlon, Craig Wallwork, and so many others.

My essay, “Ten Essential Neo-Noir Authors” is live at Flavorwire.

My essay “Ten Essential Neo-Noir Authors” is up at Flavorwire in case you missed it. What exactly is “neo-noir” and who are the voices you absolutely have to know? Click on through and read up. Maybe you’ll recognize the names and maybe you won’t, but these are some of the most powerful authors writing and publishing today, and some of my favorite voices as well. They’ll all been major influences on my own writing, and I encourage you to pick up their work ASAP.

Storyville Column is up – Top Ten Authors You’ve Never Heard Of Before

Where to start, yeah? For this column I talk about ten powerful voices in contemporary literature that you may never have heard of before. Each one of these voices is somebody that has impressed me with their words, destroyed me with the honesty and emotion, and become a name that I will follow for the rest of my life. Head on over to see what I say about them, but here are the names anyway: Matt Bell, Tina May Hall, Craig Davidson, Holly Goddard Jones, Kyle Minor, Roxane Gay, Benjamin Percy, Lindsay Hunter, Alan Heathcock, and xTx. There’s something here for everybody, but know this: they all take risks, and they all hold nothing back.

Complete list of book reviews by Richard Thomas

This is a list of all of my current, live book reviews. It is in reverse
chronological order by web site. Last updated 3/22/15.

Entropy

Ugly Girls by Lindsay Hunter
Bird Box
by Josh Malerman

Spent
by Antonia Crane

The Nervous Breakdown

In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods by Matt Bell
Don’t Kiss Me
by Lindsay Hunter

Red Moon
by Benjamin Percy

Donnybrook
by Frank Bill

The Next Time You See Me
by Holly Goddard Jones

Vampire Conditions
by Brian Allen Carr

Battleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins
At-risk
by Amina Gautier

May We Shed These Human Bodies
by Amber Sparks
Nine Months
by Paula Bomer
Little Sinners and Other Stories
by Karen Brown
Swallowing a Donkey’s Eye by Paul Tremblay
My Only Wife by Jac Jemc
Cataclysm Baby by Matt Bell
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
THREATS by Amelia Gray
Ampersand, Mass
by William Walsh
Damascus
by Joshua Mohr
NowTrends
by Karl Taro Greenfeld
The Necessity of Certain Behaviors
by Shannon Cain
Crimes in Southern Indiana
by Frank Bill
Short Bus
by Brian Allen Carr
The Devil All the Time
by Donald Ray Pollock
Follow Me Down
by Kio Stark
Zazen
by Vanessa Veselka
Drinking Closer to Home
by Jessica Anya Blau
Cowboy Maloney’s Electric City by Michael Bible
The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch
Volt by Alan Heathcock
Normally Special by xTx
You Don’t Look Like Anyone I Know by Heather Sellers
Sarah Court by Craig Davidson
The Ones That Got Away by Stephen Graham Jones
In The Mean Time by Paul Tremblay
Cut Through The Bone by Ethel Rohan
The Wilding by Benjamin Percy
Daddy’s by Lindsay Hunter
The Avian Gospels by Adam Novy
It Came From Del Rio by Stephen Graham Jones
The Physics of Imaginary Objects by Tina May Hall

Triquarterly

The Cost of Living by Rob Roberge

Lit Reactor

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
Joyland
by Stephen Kin
g
11/22/63
by Stephen King

Outsider Writers Collective

Wild Life by Kathy Fish
Hiram Grange and the Chosen One by Kevin Lucia

Emerging Writers Network

“Windeye” by Brian Evenson
Black Tickets
by Jane Anne Phillips

Bookslut

Men Undressed: Women Writers and the Male Sexual Experience
ed. by Stacy Bierlein, Gina Frangello, Cris Mazza and Kat Meads

The Cult

Cape Cod Noir edited by David L. Ulin
Forecast by Shya Scanlon
Slut Lullabies by Gina Frangello

Dueling Columns 3 – MFA Programs: Yes or No, with Caleb J. Ross

TODAY AS PART OF THE EPIC CALEB J. ROSS STRANGER WILL TOUR, CALEB AND I WILL DEBATE MFA PROGRAMS. HE WILL TAKE THE CON AND I WILL TAKE THE PRO. ENJOY. OH, AND PICK UP HIS BOOK, HE’S SO TALENTED. I’M HONORED TO BE ON THE SAME LABEL AS CALEB.

Dueling Columns – To MFA or not to MFA

This is a guest post by CalebJRoss (also known as Caleb Ross, to people who hate Js) as part of his Stranger Will Tour for Strange blog tour. He will be guest-posting beginning with the release of his novel Stranger Will in March 2011 to the release of his second novel, I Didn’t Mean to Be Kevin and novella, As a Machine and Parts, in November 2011. If you have connections to a lit blog of any type, professional journal or personal site, please contacthim. To be a groupie and follow this tour,subscribe to the CalebJRossblogRSSfeed. Follow him on Twitter: @calebjross.com. Friend him on Facebook: Facebook.com/rosscaleb

AGAINST MFA PROGRAMS – Caleb

In the third installment of Richard Thomas’s Dueling Columns series, he and I stake our positions on the idea of an MFA. At this point in my life, I land in the “not to MFA” group.

First, a bit of context. Richard has an undergrad degree in Advertising and Communications with a minor in Psychology. He is currently pursuing an MFA. I have an undergrad degree in English Lit with a minor in creative writing. I am not currently pursuing an MFA. Why is this important? To show that I am coming at this question of education with a different educational history than Richard. Furthermore, as far as I am aware, Richard’s goal is to teach creative writing at a college level. An MFA is a requirement to do so. I do not want to teach. So I must argue this as though he and I are both looking at the MFA as a way to develop one’s creative writing abilities, not as a way to ensure a career in academia. If you want to be a professor, you can stop reading now; there really is no pro vs con debate.

So, with all of those qualifiers out of the way, let’s get into the meat of the duel.

Cost analysis

At its core, an MFA program is an extension of the traditional 4-year undergrad program, and in being so carries financial and structure burdens similar to that of an undergrad program. What we are looking at then is cost. Basically, the cost of an MFA includes two things: connections and time. You’ll meet many famous writers and you’ll be forced to write. Both of these things are necessary for a serious writer. But, neither of these things is the sole intellectual property of the MFA program. For any serious writer, MFA or no, connections and productivity are things that will come as a result of dedication. Using my experience as an example (a sample size of one, I know, dangerous), within the first two years of post-undergrad life (2005-2007), I completed three novel-length manuscripts (two of which are to be published in 2011), became an editor at Outsider Writers Collective (where I’ve interacted with some of the best independent writers around), contributed book reviews to a variety of online zines, participated in Write Club (which surpassed my undergrad workshops in many ways, but not all ways), and met Richard Thomas (which ultimately led to my book being published by Otherworld Publications). Roxanne Gay, in ablogpostatHTMLGiant about this very topic of MFA, sums up my opinion nicely: “I do believe one should never pay for graduate school but that a graduate education is awesome.”

I feel any higher education in the liberal arts should focus as much on the how tos as the whys. From what I know of MFAs, there is a large why focus, specifically in regards to pedagogy, which is great. A good writer can write. A great writer can think. But again, if you have the passion to be a great writer, you’ll seek out the whys on your own. Does this mean an MFA is essentially a writing desk with a $30,000 gun to your head? Yeah.

Craft analysis

I don’t believe that the MFA program offers anything in terms of learning how to tell a story that an adequate undergrad program can’t offer. Continuing with my personal experience as an example, it may be that my undergrad experience was so great that I gained what I would consider the equivalent of an MFA (in terms of education, not in terms of papered credentials). My professor, Amy Sage Webb, continues to be one of my strongest supporters, and without her I may very well have moved right into an MFA program after undergrad. Though ironically enough Amy pushed me almost daily to pursue graduate school; perhaps in a strange Socratic way. What I learned as an undergrad, when weighing the pros/cons of grad school, is what Lincoln Michel, Master of Fine Arts and co-editor of Gigantic Magazine says in his reaction piece to ElifBatumansantiMFAreviewbookreview: “Studyingandcritiquinganartformisntthesameaspracticingit.” MFA programs train students to study and critique writing. The craft itself can be learned elsewhere. Sure, there’s a thesis/novel to be written during a two-year program, but any writer worth his own cramped knuckles will produce a manuscript in two years.

I have to end by admitting that this opinion isn’t one I intend to keep, unchanged, for the rest of my life. I may want to teach one day. In fact, I’d be surprised if I didn’t attempt to teach someday. At that time, I’ll be in line for my MFA. But professorial aspirations aside, MFA’s just aren’t worth the time and financial investment.

Takeaways:

  • An MFA may guide a student more directly than self-navigation through the vast land of education, but at a great financial cost
  • An MFA is necessary for teaching at a college. I think this is the case all around, but correct me if I am wrong.
  • Given the right undergrad program, one can learn just as much in terms of how tos and whys without pursuing an MFA.
  • If you want to be a great writer you will be a great writer; no MFA necessary
  • The internet makes it almost impossible not to network with established writers; no MFA program necessary.

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FOR MFA PROGRAMS – Richard

As Caleb mentioned in his column, if you want to teach at the university level, then you must get an MFA. And at many fine universities, you may need a PhD these days as well. In addition to that, most schools want you to have at least one published novel or short story collection (the bigger and better the press, the greater the recognition) as well as many stories published in the best journals and magazines in the country, and some teaching experience as well. But we’re not talking about that today, we’re talking about everything else that comes with your MFA experience and why you should spend the time, money, and effort to get an MFA. Here’s what I think about it all.

Forced Reading and Analysis

I know it seems like a horrible thing to say, but if you have deadlines, and if you’re spending money on something, you will most likely pay attention and work hard at it. If you have to turn in a short story, an annotation (based on a novel or collection that you had to read first, of course) by the end of each month, you are going to do it. I certainly do write stories on my own, and without deadlines, but I can honestly say that having a word count, a book (or two) to read each month, it kept me producing. My low-res MFA program down at Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky (where I’m just finishing up my studies) really pushed me—to write, to read and to analyze. I doubt I would have done this on my own. Maybe I would have, but the forced requirements left me no room to play around. And since I did pay for my MFA, no grants, scholarships or other aid, I took it seriously.

Working Outside of Your Comfort Zone

I can honestly say that there are many authors that I definitely would not have read if it wasn’t for my MFA program. While we did have the ability to pick our books to read over the course of each semester (7-11 titles), some of what my professors asked me to read were not up for discussion: the Norton Anthology of Short Fiction, The New Yorker, and the Best American Short Stories anthology series. I read a wide range of authors that really helped me to see what the literary landscape is like today, as well as in the past hundred years or so. For our fiction genre lectures as well, we read Poe, Murakami, McCarthy, and many other authors that I either didn’t know very well, had read some of their work, or were totally new to me. Since my undergraduate studies at Bradley University were in Advertising/Communication, I was lacking in my literary studies. Between the work I found on my own (Holly Goddard Jones, Mary Gaitskill, Flannery O’Connor, Ron Rash), the work that was assigned, and the authors that I already loved, and decided to re-read or dig into deeper, the scope of my reading and analysis was much wider than I would have assigned to myself on the outside, in the real world. That’s something to consider.

Mentors, Professors and Peers

I studied under Lynn Pruett my first semester and she really helped me to hone in on the authors I already enjoyed and to write the first half of my second neo-noir novel (Disintegration) which I’m shopping now. But it was studying under Dale Ray Phillips (nominated for a Pulitzer Prize) that I really pushed myself. Or maybe I should say—was pushed. DRP got me away from the crutches and tricks that I used in my genre writing, where I often leaned heavily on sex and violence and the occasional twist ending, exploring fantasy, horror, crime, neo-noir, you name it. He wanted straight literary stories where nobody died at the end. What was his big line to me? Leave the slow reveal to the strippers. It was hard—really hard. I had to focus on the story, and the classic structure of a story, find my narrative hook, explore the conflicts in the lives of my characters, and bring it to a satisfying end. Above and beyond these two professors, I talked to many talented authors, teachers, and guest authors, who really enlightened me on so many subjects, as well as a gifted group of fellow fiction writers, poets, and essayists.

Guest Authors

I was talking to some author friends at a recent residency I was awarded (Writers in the Heartland) and I mentioned to the poet that I was constantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the guest poets at MSU. The same goes for a lot of the non-fiction authors. I was always surprised at how talented all of the guests were, from fiction writer Richard Bausch making me cry with his emotional truths, and essayist Heather Sellers making me laugh with her stories of facial blindness, to poets Linda Bierds and Alice Friman showing me the power of poetry, and journalist Nick Reding exploring the haunting world of crystal meth and addiction. The readings blew me away and the craft lectures were always enlightening and educational.

Conclusion

Do you need an MFA to write? No, you do not. You are certainly, if you are driven enough, capable of reading extensively, publishing widely, and studying on your own. But if you want to work with published authors in an environment with your peers, and get that extra push you may need to read, write and publish, then an MFA is a great place to study and create. I really enjoyed my time at MSU, and this program is still a relatively unknown and emerging program. If you can get into a top program, and get some financial aid, and especially if you are still unencumbered by a wife or husband and a household full of children, then I can’t think of a better way to massage your voice and grow as an author.

 

Thanks, Caleb for being a guest today. Pick up ^ this book today, people.