A couple of years ago, my colleagues and I at the University of Baltimore Creative Writing MFA program watched with pride as D Watkins published The Cook Up and The Beast Side, a memoir and a collection of essays from two major publishing houses, and quickly became recognized as a major voice of his generation of African-American writers. D had just graduated from our relatively young program, and his level of success was a first for us.
Things have snowballed with four more graduates hitting bookstores with their debuts. Here’s the scoop, including dates where you can celebrate with several of them. (I’ll be the lady with the gray hair, the horn-rimmed glasses, and the big smile, passing out cigars.)
We knew her as Liz Bamford when she graduated with an MFA in 2013; under the pseudonym Vivian Shaw, she has begun what is already a hit series featuring Dr. Greta Helsing, physician to the undead. Published by Orbit in July to an extraordinary chorus of raves from Kirkus, PW, Booklist and Library Journal, Strange Practice is “[o]ne of those knock out, near perfect books that – in any genre – comes along all too rarely. This time it’s urban fantasy, but urban fantasy as it’s seldom seen: smart, grounded, fresh and funny….a rollicking adventure with real substance, rooted enough in the traditions of the genre to have real weight, while also firmly located in the modern world.” Her horde of new fans will be thrilled to hear that she’s got a three-book deal and #2 is set for next summer.
Signing: Thursday, October 26, 7 pm, Barnes and Noble at the Power Plant.
Chris Doyle was one of the first graduates of our program back in 2009, and his success underlines one of my articles of faith about writing: The way to succeed is never to quit.
Chris’s debut, Purchase, is a historical novel set in the world of country music, coming this month from Blank Slate. When Isaiah and A.D. – one a black fugitive from the law, the other a white fugitive from an abusive home – are forced to flee their jobs as janitors at the Peabody Conservatory, they light out for the Blue Ridge Mountains. Through their quest for the music and the musicians behind it, they find fame and fortune… and great danger.
Launch Party: Sunday, October 22, 3 pm, Make Studio, 3326 Keswick Rd. in Hampden. Hosted by Nico Doyle and Chris’s wife, the acclaimed author of the memoir Moonface, Angela Balcita.
Looking ahead to January 2018, we’ve got Kill Me Now from Timmy Reed, MFA class of 2013, on the way. Kill Me Now will be Timmy’s seventh book in print… but this one seems born under a particularly bright star. It was represented and sold by the author Madison Smartt Bell in one of his first forays as a literary agent. And he sold it to legendary indie publisher Jack Shoemaker at Counterpoint Press (they did The Glen Rock Book of the Dead, very beautifully.)
Reed’s novel is the journal of a misfit skateboarder on the threshold of high school, struggling against his parents, his younger identical twin sisters, his probation officer, his old friends, and his summer reading list. My jaw dropped when I saw the rave it got from Kirkus: “Reed convincingly writes a three-dimensional teenager whose self-consciousness, emotions, and hormones threaten to crush him… A coming-of-age story capturing male adolescence in all its disgusting, irrational, and messy glory.” Read the whole review here.
Also lighting up our lives in 2018 will be Anthony Moll’s Out of Step: A Memoir, forthcoming from The Ohio State University Press/Mad Creek Books. Out of Step tells the story of a left-leaning bisexual boy running off to join the army in the era of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and is being published as the winner of the Non/Fiction Collection Prize, selected by Michael Kardos. Those of us who read early versions of these stories in class at UB – Anthony graduated in 2014 – are expecting big things. His beautifully written essays are more important than ever in the current climate.
Congratulations also go to 2016 graduate Andrew Sargus Klein, who received a Rubys grant from the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance to continue work on his gorgeous thesis project, Breezewood, a collection of poetry focused on a region in Southwestern Pennsylvania.
So that’s all the bragging I’m going to do for today. See you at the bookstore.