1
Jul 20
I’ve been invited to read for the Sumarr Reading Series! This Sunday, July 27 at Pop-Hop in Highland Park, I’ll be getting into some Vegaboy business. Come have a listen to these amazing writers! And mega-props to Diana Arterian for the invite.

I’ve been invited to read for the Sumarr Reading Series! This Sunday, July 27 at Pop-Hop in Highland Park, I’ll be getting into some Vegaboy business. Come have a listen to these amazing writers! And mega-props to Diana Arterian for the invite.


2
Jun 23
Just returned from a three-week residency at Yaddo. Things I learned there: I need quiet. I need a cool space (as in not warm) so I can finish things. I am healthiest when I write for long hours and then run and then socialize with geniuses because feeling humbled by their company really gets me going. I need a space of my own, particularly when it is Sylvia Plath’s old studio, with a desk so old and worn and smooth under my wrists it feels like medicine. Residencies work for me. I hope I may go back one day.
Next up: a lovely long month in Los Angeles to read what I wrote and self-censure like crazy.
After that: the Breadloaf Conference in Vermont, where I will be a work-study fellow. This is officially the summer of writing in the East. So grateful for these opportunities. 

Just returned from a three-week residency at Yaddo. Things I learned there: I need quiet. I need a cool space (as in not warm) so I can finish things. I am healthiest when I write for long hours and then run and then socialize with geniuses because feeling humbled by their company really gets me going. I need a space of my own, particularly when it is Sylvia Plath’s old studio, with a desk so old and worn and smooth under my wrists it feels like medicine. Residencies work for me. I hope I may go back one day.

Next up: a lovely long month in Los Angeles to read what I wrote and self-censure like crazy.

After that: the Breadloaf Conference in Vermont, where I will be a work-study fellow. This is officially the summer of writing in the East. So grateful for these opportunities. 


1
Apr 15
At this weekend’s LA Times Book Festival I saw all the stars. I saw Ruth Ozeki and Karen Joy Fowler and Sandra Cisneros and many other brilliant readers and speakers, all of whom are funny and well-spoken and perfectly charming in front of a crowd. But first thing Saturday morning, on a panel dubiously titled ‘Stories from Around the Globe,’ I watched as NoViolet Bulawayo quietly killed it. She is very soft-spoken, very serious. Her Zimbabwean accent is thick. But nobody, not a single other writer at the festival, delivered a reading like hers. She dared to be poetic. She read a section riddled with repetition, lacking a character, with only her subtle language to guide her. And it left us all a little speechless. Around her, the other panel members tried to make up for their stunted readings by being loud. The clever Lebanese writer and a brash American were funnier and showier than her. They crowded her out. They cut her off. But we all know she’d won. She won the festival.
Later that night, Bulawayo also won the The Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction for We Need New Names. The novel is narrated by Darling, a Zimbabwean child living in a shanty-town called Paradise. Her life is a string of games, her country is a mess, and her family can only try to save her by sending her to crime-ridden Detroit. The coming-of-age story is terrifying, sad, funny and perfect. And the writer, for all her quiet ways, was the loveliest of all this weekend’s writer-stars.

At this weekend’s LA Times Book Festival I saw all the stars. I saw Ruth Ozeki and Karen Joy Fowler and Sandra Cisneros and many other brilliant readers and speakers, all of whom are funny and well-spoken and perfectly charming in front of a crowd. But first thing Saturday morning, on a panel dubiously titled ‘Stories from Around the Globe,’ I watched as NoViolet Bulawayo quietly killed it. She is very soft-spoken, very serious. Her Zimbabwean accent is thick. But nobody, not a single other writer at the festival, delivered a reading like hers. She dared to be poetic. She read a section riddled with repetition, lacking a character, with only her subtle language to guide her. And it left us all a little speechless. Around her, the other panel members tried to make up for their stunted readings by being loud. The clever Lebanese writer and a brash American were funnier and showier than her. They crowded her out. They cut her off. But we all know she’d won. She won the festival.

Later that night, Bulawayo also won the The Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction for We Need New Names. The novel is narrated by Darling, a Zimbabwean child living in a shanty-town called Paradise. Her life is a string of games, her country is a mess, and her family can only try to save her by sending her to crime-ridden Detroit. The coming-of-age story is terrifying, sad, funny and perfect. And the writer, for all her quiet ways, was the loveliest of all this weekend’s writer-stars.


3
Mar 18
More excitement: This summer I will be attending a three-week residency at the amazing Yaddo Artists Center in Saratoga Springs, New York. 
The mansion was donated by the Trask family over a hundred years ago to provide artists a place to develop their creative projects. I’m so thrilled to have been invited! I’ll be there May 23-June 12. 

More excitement: This summer I will be attending a three-week residency at the amazing Yaddo Artists Center in Saratoga Springs, New York. 

The mansion was donated by the Trask family over a hundred years ago to provide artists a place to develop their creative projects. I’m so thrilled to have been invited! I’ll be there May 23-June 12. 


2
Jan 21
Fabulous to see my latest story, one from the Vegaboy Chronicles, up on the infamous Joyland, a Hub for Short Fiction. 
The story is called KOREATOWN.
Here’s the opening paragraph:
The Koreatown mission started like any other sunny four o’clock in Las Vegas. Yes, the sky was clear, the traffic humming along Charleston, Martin Luther King. Yes, we were on to Lynchburg Lemonades at a table at the Four Queens but we all called it Dixon’s for no reason that I could remember. Yes. Captain Rick was telling jokes and counting quarters, our heads rattled with new speed and our mouths were puckered— it was a very positive feeling. And also, there was the cashier. Bosscat really liked her, the cashier girl with the natural red hair and the unpainted nails. She wouldn’t look at him. What’s her name, at least. At least give me that, he shouted. Nobody paid us any mind.

You can read the whole thing here!

Fabulous to see my latest story, one from the Vegaboy Chronicles, up on the infamous Joyland, a Hub for Short Fiction

The story is called KOREATOWN.

Here’s the opening paragraph:

The Koreatown mission started like any other sunny four o’clock in Las Vegas. Yes, the sky was clear, the traffic humming along Charleston, Martin Luther King. Yes, we were on to Lynchburg Lemonades at a table at the Four Queens but we all called it Dixon’s for no reason that I could remember. Yes. Captain Rick was telling jokes and counting quarters, our heads rattled with new speed and our mouths were puckered— it was a very positive feeling. And also, there was the cashier. Bosscat really liked her, the cashier girl with the natural red hair and the unpainted nails. She wouldn’t look at him. What’s her name, at least. At least give me that, he shouted. Nobody paid us any mind.

You can read the whole thing here!


3
Dec 18
I should be writing about all the sophisticated shit I was made to read this fall in PhD school. This semester was the hardest of my whole life: I taught a gruelling freshman writing course. I enrolled in an insane Narratology class about Bleak House that required stacks of theory and not much imagination. I also wrote a novella. But as soon as I was through with all of that I devoured this novel in one long amazing day and everything was rad again. Long Live Winter Break!
Pamela Erens’ second book, The Virgins, is the sauciest novel about teenagers ever. It’s published by Tin House. It’s set in 1979, at a boarding school in New England. Everyone is on drugs and having sex like real teenagers everywhere. And everyone is angsty sad perfection. The writing is brutal. The narrator is brutal. But it breaks your heart, I swear it does. Buy this for your sisters, bridesmaids, girl crushes, pals. 

I should be writing about all the sophisticated shit I was made to read this fall in PhD school. This semester was the hardest of my whole life: I taught a gruelling freshman writing course. I enrolled in an insane Narratology class about Bleak House that required stacks of theory and not much imagination. I also wrote a novella. But as soon as I was through with all of that I devoured this novel in one long amazing day and everything was rad again. Long Live Winter Break!

Pamela Erens’ second book, The Virgins, is the sauciest novel about teenagers ever. It’s published by Tin House. It’s set in 1979, at a boarding school in New England. Everyone is on drugs and having sex like real teenagers everywhere. And everyone is angsty sad perfection. The writing is brutal. The narrator is brutal. But it breaks your heart, I swear it does. Buy this for your sisters, bridesmaids, girl crushes, pals. 


2
Aug 13

Short Form!

I love it when this happens. The website “Short Form" found an excerpt of my story and reposted. So nice! Here’s the taste that they tasted:

From “Born Again”

EXCERPT

After our fourth failed attempt in which Bosscat charged the front entryway and was deterred by a guard in navy blue, we headed to the Stakeout for a few rounds of Mind Erasers. Captain Rick footed the bill. Deborah was there with three guys up from Nellis; she kept stroking their shaved necks and pudgy cheeks. It had been my first venture away from Shelly in a week and I could breathe lightly; I played pool against the air force using straight geometry and Captain Rick fronted me a small smoke to share with Deborah in the alley beside the vat of grease. Come to think of it, that’s when the hotdog smell started. After our smoke, my fourth in as many days, the minutes at the Stakeout bubbled and popped quickly, leaving only the taste of Kahlua and salty sex in a crowded closet bathroom. I can just barely recall a square of yellow sunrise out a window the size of a fist.

We read it in The Collagist.


3
Jul 25
 
I’m so thrilled that Graywolf Press has published an excerpt of my novel on their website. This excerpt won a contest with the Summer Literary Seminars, and that is why I’m in Lithuania today. It was a massive, awesome, generous thing for these editors to choose my work for their pages. Here’s what they said about the first pages of “The Following.”
 
The winner of the 2013 Graywolf SLS Prize, awarded to the best novel excerpt from an emerging writer, is Leah Bailly, for The Following. The excerpt is haunted by the absence of Laura Barnett, a politician’s wife who disappears in the wake of a disastrous house fire. We loved the way this captures both Sierra Leone to Canada in admirable detail, as well as unexpected touches like the entry from Barnett’s encyclopedia that opens the first chapter. But it’s the slightly sinister narrative voice—the “we” of Barnett’s followers—that really captivated us. If there were a real online forum for Laura Barnett like the one that appears here, we’d likely post a question or two. Perhaps we’ve become one of “the following” as well.
 The excerpt is published here.

 

I’m so thrilled that Graywolf Press has published an excerpt of my novel on their website. This excerpt won a contest with the Summer Literary Seminars, and that is why I’m in Lithuania today. It was a massive, awesome, generous thing for these editors to choose my work for their pages. Here’s what they said about the first pages of “The Following.”

 

The winner of the 2013 Graywolf SLS Prize, awarded to the best novel excerpt from an emerging writer, is Leah Bailly, for The Following. The excerpt is haunted by the absence of Laura Barnett, a politician’s wife who disappears in the wake of a disastrous house fire. We loved the way this captures both Sierra Leone to Canada in admirable detail, as well as unexpected touches like the entry from Barnett’s encyclopedia that opens the first chapter. But it’s the slightly sinister narrative voice—the “we” of Barnett’s followers—that really captivated us. If there were a real online forum for Laura Barnett like the one that appears here, we’d likely post a question or two. Perhaps we’ve become one of “the following” as well.

 The excerpt is published here.


3
Jul 16
I am so happy to have a story in Versal, an annual journal based out of Amsterdam. Wonderful editors and the issue is beautiful. The story is almost an excerpt from my novel-in-progress. Thanks to Robert Glick and his fabulous team.

I am so happy to have a story in Versal, an annual journal based out of Amsterdam. Wonderful editors and the issue is beautiful. The story is almost an excerpt from my novel-in-progress. Thanks to Robert Glick and his fabulous team.


1
Jul 02
Benjamin Lytal’s A Map of Tulsa is gorgeous summer boyfriend-girlfriend novel by a smarty-cutey Harvard grad. It’s about Tulsa, a city so much like my oil city in Canada that I had to remind myself that his memories of wandering parking lots and empty suburbs and estate parties were all really his. It was just hot enough and romantic enough outside to read straight through. Love.

Benjamin Lytal’s A Map of Tulsa is gorgeous summer boyfriend-girlfriend novel by a smarty-cutey Harvard grad. It’s about Tulsa, a city so much like my oil city in Canada that I had to remind myself that his memories of wandering parking lots and empty suburbs and estate parties were all really his. It was just hot enough and romantic enough outside to read straight through. Love.


1
Jun 07

The Quiet Revolutionaries

There is something insipid and annoying about the rave reviews Rachel Kushner is receiving for “The Flamethrowers,” a brilliant novel set in Nevada and New York and Italy in the 1970s. Yes, it is about art, and anarchy, and motorcycles. And yes, it features a gorgeous, young, lonely female protagonist. And people are surprised how much they love it. Surprised!?

What shocks me is the shock. Of course this book is brilliant. In person, Kushner is articulate and literate. On a panel with Jonathan Letham and Marisa Silver at the LA Book Festival, she compared today’s social novel to the work of Proust and Flaubert and Russians I’d never heard of. Yet still James Woods et al seemed stunned by her intricate prose, her ability to render historical settings so realistically. It was only this article on the New Inquiry, crafted by a clever undergrad, that points to the larger unnerving question. Is this book unexpectedly brilliant because it pairs the themes of revolution and violence with femininity and youth?

This is the difficult territory to navigate, particularly for reviewers. Can a passive character be revolutionary? Can violence be intelligent? Can a feminine character be complicit in that violence without being a victim? 

Of course, the mainstream response is Gone Girl, the unfair thesis of which is “Women are Psycho." But there are far more generous novels to young female protagonists, even ones who make mistakes. In fact, ALL FOUR of the last novels I’ve read by women attempt the same combination of femininity and violence AND intellect. The contrast is difficult, unnerving, and somehow unique in each retelling.

"By Blood" by Ellen Ullman

This intense, dense novel by Ellen Ullman is an investigation of parentage: how attached are we to our blood ties? Set in the fiery San Francisco of the 1970s, a defamed professor accidentally listens in to a young woman’s therapy sessions on the other side of his office door. The young patient, a lesbian banker, wants answers about her mysterious lineage. The professor grows quickly obsessed, raking through her adoption history with a kind of scary intention. The listener is the narrator here, unreliable and insane, but the patient is the one who ventures into the very dark history of Holocaust Germany seeking answers. She is brave, smart, and willing to thwart our expectations completely. This plot is complex, and somehow manages to move forward using introspection as its driving force.

"Girlchild" by Tupelo Hassman

This Nevada novel is harrowing. Growing up in a trailer park outside of Reno can only be described as difficult, and yet somehow Hassman paints the degenerate setting with colour, wit, heart, and insight. Alcohol, predators, poverty, and social services all serve as antagonists. And somehow, despite the depravity, Rory Dawn, the narrator, is tough and gentle at once. She criticizes her bartender mother and needs her too; she loathes her trailer home and cares for it, both. The violence here is institutional and personal, and Rory Dawn is, despite her passivity, a brave a figure in a bleak, unforgiving setting. A poetic, perky debut.

"Maidenhead" by Tamara Faith Berger

This book is shocking, scary and totally hot. Winner of the Believer Book Award, published by Canadian risk-takers Coach House Books, this novel reads a lot like porn, or an intellectual treatise on slavery, or a coming of age novel. When a 16-year-old Canadian heads to Florida with her strained family, she encounters a dangerous pair, an African man and his pornographer wife. Their twisted love triangle turns awry when they follow her to Toronto and entrap her in a dangerous relationship. Insanely hot sex scenes are paired with terror in this commanding novel, proving that femininity and violence are too often intimate bedfellows. But our narrator here is not just a victim, rather, she is yet another example of a passive narrator who is, in her own way, revolutionary— smart, tough, and sexual— and only sometimes out of control.


2
May 24

I just aired a short public radio documentary with KQED (npr in San Francisco) as part of a series called Graduation Day LA. This story followed Kenzie Givens, a young poet from Los Angeles as she nears Graduation Day. 

This story appeared state-wide on The California Report and also here on KPCC’s Take Two.


May 17
I’ve got a story in the upcoming Versal 11, and the launch party will be in Amsterdam this May 30. Looks like a rad reading and they’ll have “Butcher’s Tears Beers.” I’ll be sorry to miss it!!

I’ve got a story in the upcoming Versal 11, and the launch party will be in Amsterdam this May 30. Looks like a rad reading and they’ll have “Butcher’s Tears Beers.” I’ll be sorry to miss it!!


4
May 05

About Writing

Lately, I feel like reading books that address the fact that they’ve been written. By people. By writers, actually. Living in Los Angeles, finishing my first year of a PhD in Literature, working on a bit of writing myself, I feel like I want to write about writing all the time. But no one would find that interesting— right? No one would fucking care? Well, when these brilliant geniuses write about writing, I fucking care.

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This debut novel by French genius Laurent Binet was called a masterpiece by the Rumpus. And it is! It’s plot charts the assassination of a high-level Nazi in occupied Prague. The two parachutists, one Czech and one Slovak, would be heroes for generations to come; the dead Nazi, known as “The Blond Beast” or “The Butcher” is the type of terrifying Aryan psychopath Tarantino knows well. And the writer/narrator in this novel, the one putting the events down page-by-page, is totally thrilled by these characters, he’s devastated by their failure, impressed by their feats, and annoyed at himself every time he has to invent a bit of dialogue to put their mouths. A brilliant bit of writing about writing. Voted most likely to Nobel Prize.

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It’s a weird kind of obsession, the “overshare.” Emily Gould is the New York genius who literally defined the over-share for Millennials. The literary editor-turned Gawker columnist- turned blog aficionado exposed her ex-boyfriend in a long and incredible New York Times Magazine cover story I have almost memorized by now. This is the book that came of it, a self-exposing nonfiction that charts the writer’s obsession with writing about herself. In the article, she admits, "It’s easy to compare the initial thrill of evoking an immediate response to a blog post to the rush of getting high, and the diminishing thrills to the process of becoming inured to a drug’s effects. The metaphor is so exact, in fact, that maybe it isn’t a metaphor at all." In the book, she watches herself "rise and fall and rise" again using the melancholic essay as her medium instead of a blog. Her writing has that same addictive quality as her oversharing does. It feels a little scummy and totally pleasurable to read about her waitressing/dating/writing for Gawker/being 20 in New York days. Voted most likely to screenplay.

 

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OK, this book feels old because it was written in the 90s. But Jonathan Dee knows something about New York, about writers, about emergency, about fame, and about how to flesh out characters so desperate they would do anything. During a (Rodney King-like) race riot in New York, a white guy is pulled from his car and beaten by a mob. Turns out the white guy is a failed novelist, the mob is led by a black man caught unawares by the violence— and each has a publishing company after them for the rights to their ‘stories.’ Dee’s voice is natural and assured, he deftly takes us through each player in the game: the lawyer, the film producer, the junior editor, the wife of the writer, the failed poet friend, the mother of the accused. But mostly, he takes us through the writer’s writing— how do you write a random act of violence? How the hell do you write that book? If you’re Dee, you write a novel about a memoir and you do it brilliantly. Voted most likely to win a Pulitzer late in life.


3
Apr 11
Wonderful news. I was just named the Graywolf Prize winner in the 2013 SLS Contest. Huzzah!
This means I will travel to Lithuania (see photo) or Kenya for the 2013 seminar. And, best of all, Graywolf will publish an excerpt of my novel-in-progress on their website. All is golden! 

Wonderful news. I was just named the Graywolf Prize winner in the 2013 SLS Contest. Huzzah!

This means I will travel to Lithuania (see photo) or Kenya for the 2013 seminar. And, best of all, Graywolf will publish an excerpt of my novel-in-progress on their website. All is golden! 



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