Write in the Heart of Appalachia!

Write in the Heart of Appalachia!

In my vain attempts to hold onto the summer, I’d like to share some thoughts about West Virginia Wesleyan College’s Low-Res MFA program. I’m incredibly proud of our students, and I’m proud to be a core faculty member.

I’ll keep it brief, but in the first photo, that’s Larry Thacker, a 2018 poetry alum who returned this year as Conference Assistant. He also led a wonderful craft seminar filled with weird antiques. It was all about engaging with the tactile world. Our MFA program has long prided itself on its multigenre approach: you can find his story collection Working It Off in Labor Country (WVU Press) here and one of his poetry collections here. For more info about his other books–and his Netflix show (!)–click here.

Since we’re talking about publications, here’s 2016 alum Lara Lillibridge’s author page at Simon & Schuster. Her two books are Mama, Mama, Only Mama: A Single Mom Shares Her Inspiring and Hilarious Tales of Parenting, Full of Love, Advice, and Humor and Girlish: An honest, unfiltered memoir about a girl with an unconventional family. Girlish was a 2018 finalist for the Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards (LGBT Adult Nonfiction category) and an award-winning finalist for the 2018 Best Book Awards sponsored by American Book Fest.

I could keep talking publications and awards, such as my former student Kellie Tatem being a 2021 finalist for the New Letters Literary Award or my former student D.L. Logan’s wonderful essay here. And here.

I also want to mention my former student Abigail Benjamin, a novelist, attorney and business pioneer who co-founded Buckhannon’s first bookstore in ages. Since its grand opening last year, Argo Books has become an important hub for literature and culture in Upshur County.

Lastly, I want to mention my former student Heather Humphries, pictured below during graduation. At 84, she holds the Wesleyan record for the graduate with the most life experience. In this article, she’s quoted thusly: “I thought about an interesting thing, a story to tell about my family. Three generations in China, and I thought well. I’ll just write this book. This whole journey of going through journalism to fiction to creative writing is a tough one.” And it’s been great working with her on that journey.

As you can see, it’s an outstanding creative writing program with an eclectic faculty and scrappy, hardworking students. It’s the kind of program where you can blow off steam after a residency by shooting pool at the local train-themed dive bar–and your program director will bring you cheese fries. Our program also helps students prep for teaching in various ways. That’s my former student Emily giving her graduate seminar in the last photo.

Anyway, if you’d like more info, please don’t hesitate to email me or contact me on Twitter. The program’s official website is here.

A few highlights from the 2022 Summer Residency:

Ada Limón is the Nation’s 24th Poet Laureate

Ada Limón is the Nation’s 24th Poet Laureate

“Poetry is a way back in, to recognizing that we are feeling human beings. And feeling grief and feeling trauma can actually allow us to feel joy again.”

Limón’s poetry always struck me as warm and human and accessible in the best possible way–I think she’s perfect for the role. And I’m proud to say that Autumn House Press published her first full-length collection, Lucky Wreck, in 2006.

Image description: the cover of Lucky Wreck. A painting of a yellow life preserver floating on a blue ocean.

For more information on the 15th (!) anniversary edition of the book, click here.

Quote is from this article by Elizabeth A. Harris in The New York Times.

LW book cover is from Amazon.

Eighty Days makes new Carnegie Library List

Eighty Days makes new Carnegie Library List

It was a thrill this morning to see my debut novel listed alongside literary heavyweights Michael Chabon, Stewart O’Nan, and Hilary Masters.

If you’re a Steelers Fan, you should check out Laurie Koozer Icano’s What Happens on Sunday. As someone who lived in Squirrel Hill for years, I also have a soft spot in my heart for Ellen Litman’s collection The Last Chicken in America.

Special thanks to Elden Lord Sal Pane for letting me know about this list. His debut novel Last Call in the City of Bridges is a perfect time capsule of the city circa 2008, and it’s of course so much more–a generational marker, a meditation on technology and connection.

And of course, thanks to Tessa from the East Liberty branch for including me. I wrote parts of EDOS at the Carnegie Library in Oakland, and I conducted research for my second novel there.

Impossible Children turns two!

Impossible Children turns two!

It is very, very hard for me to believe, but my debut collection is now two years old. Celebrate with me?

The book cover, which is a three-dimensional blueprint of a house.
The author reading in front of a small crowd inside White Whale Books in Pittsburgh.
The book on a shelf at the Carnegie Library, Allegheny Branch in Pittsburgh’s North Side.
Blurbs and reviews: “[Yune] has a playful imagination, which he exhibits to fabulist effect in these stories that showcase his original takes on Korean immigrant assimilation. This is a sly, entertaining debut.”
Publishers Weekly

“In his latest, the Mary McCarthy Prize winning collection of 18 short-stories, Impossible Children (Sarabande Books), novelist Robert Yune clearly gets [‘showing’], using place and well-rendered, self-aware characters to great effect, making for some of the most compelling reading I’ve done in a while.”
Pittsburgh Quarterly

“Touching upon diverse genres including science fiction, the fairy tale, and the Gothic tale, the interconnected short stories comprising Impossible Children are impressively and deftly crafted literary gems.”
Midwest Book Review

“Robert Yune’s magnificent and richly assured debut, Impossible Children, takes us across the United States, from New Jersey to Michigan to Alaska, portraying the lives of the itinerant, the wanderers, and the lost. Like Stuart Dybek’s Coasts of Chicago or Edward P. Jones’s Lost in the City, the stories―through a fully realized community―embody and evoke generations, history, and the history of war and migration. Many of the stories focus on the experience of Korean Americans, though one of the many striking aspects of this book is that it never stays within the borders of a single culture or community, but rather continuously expands across landscapes that are at once familiar and yet difficult to categorize in simple terms. This is a collection that is both precise―in language, in imagery and tone, revealing key moments in a life―and vast in geography, events, and the heart.”
Paul Yoon, judge, April 2017

#NewStoryAlert: “Bright Lights, New Century”

#NewStoryAlert: “Bright Lights, New Century”

According to Encyclopedia Brittanica, a hairstreak butterfly is “any of a group of insects in the gossamer-winged butterfly family, Lycaenidae (order Lepidoptera), that are distinguished by hairlike markings on the underside of the wings.”

Hairstreak Butterfly (Review) is also Colorado College’s literary journal. I’m proud to say I have a story published there. If you’re a fan of 80s nostalgia, short second-person pieces, or the novel Bright Lights, Big City, you should definitely check it out. It’s really cool to be published alongside writers such as Amber Sparks, Brandon Shimoda, Jennifer Tseng.

Special thanks to Natanya Pulley and Olivia Belluck for all their editorial magic.

Firecracker Awards Finalists Announced

Firecracker Awards Finalists Announced

Congratulations to the finalists and their presses! It was truly an honor to judge this year’s fiction entries alongside Natanya Ann Pulley and Irene Yoon. For more info about the winner, tune into the virtual awards ceremony, which will be hosted by The Center for Fiction on June 23, 2021 at 7pm ET.

Fiction Finalists and their Presses

David Tung Can’t Have a Girlfriend Until He Gets Into an Ivy League College by Ed Lin, published by Kaya Press
Fiebre Tropical by Juli Delgado Lopera, published by Feminist Press
Further News of Defeat by Michael X. Wang, published by Autumn House Press
Hezada! I Miss You by Erin Pringle, published by Awst Press
Silence Is My Mother Tongue by Sulaiman Addonia, published by Graywolf Press
Silverfish by Rone Shavers, published by CLASH Books
Telephone by Percival Everett, published by Graywolf Press
Temporary by Hilary Leichter, published by Coffee House Press
When the Whales Leave by Yuri Rytkheu, translated by Ilona Yazhbin Chavasse, published by Milkweed Editions
Where the Wild Ladies Are by Aoko Matsuda, translated by Polly Barton, published by Soft Skull Press

Boom! I’m a Judge for the 2021 Firecracker Awards!

Boom! I’m a Judge for the 2021 Firecracker Awards!

I’m proud to announce that I’m a fiction judge for the CLMP’s Firecracker Awards, which “are given annually to celebrate books and magazines that make a significant contribution to our literary culture and the publishers that strive to introduce important voices to readers far and wide.”

You can read more about the awards (and the open submission period, which is Oct 1 to Nov 16, 2020) here.