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Monday, November 3, 2014

In Memoriam: Derek Alger

(18 November 1953 – 29 October 2014)

We are all “reeling over the untimely death of [our] good friend, Derek Alger,” as Charles Salzberg writes in Honoring Derek Alger.

Derek was a graduate of the MFA fiction-writing program at Columbia University, a Contributing Editor for Serving House Journal, and a former editor-at-large at Pif Magazine, where more than 100 of his interviews with writers have been published over a period of 14 years.

Seven of those interviews appear in Serving House Journal, with four reprinted from Pif and three published in SHJ for the first time (Terese Svoboda, SHJ-2; Lauren B. Davis, SHJ-5; and Bruce Holbert, SHJ-7).

Derek’s fiction and essays appear in Confrontation, Del Sol Review,, The Literary Review, and Writers Notes, among others.

“One on One” Archive of the interviews at Pif Magazine

Posted by Clare MacQueen
Associate Editor/Webmaster
Serving House Journal
Serving House News

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Okla Elliott Joins Editorial Team at SHJ

We’re pleased to announce that Okla Elliott has joined Serving House Journal as a Contributing Editor.

Elliott is the Illinois Distinguished Fellow at the University of Illinois, where he works in the fields of comparative literature and trauma studies. He also holds an MFA from Ohio State University.

His drama, nonfiction, poetry, short fiction, and translations have appeared in Another Chicago Magazine, Indiana Review, Jacket Magazine, The Literary Review, Natural Bridge, New Letters, North Dakota Quarterly, A Public Space, and The Southeast Review, among others.

He is the author of a collection of short fiction, From the Crooked Timber, and three poetry chapbooks: The Mutable Wheel, Lucid Bodies and Other Poems, and A Vulgar Geography. He is also the co-editor, with Kyle Minor, of The Other Chekhov.

Several of Elliott’s short fictions appear in Serving House Journal, and he was our Featured Author in Issue 5.

—Clare MacQueen
Associate Editor and Webmaster
Serving House Journal
Serving House News

Friday, August 10, 2012

Stories by Tom Sheehan
Nominated for National Book Award

I’m pleased to share with you that The Westering, a collection of 21 short stories by Tom Sheehan, has been nominated for a National Book Award. Matt Tempesta has details for you at The Daily Item.

Sheehan has been writing far longer than most of us have been around. He began at the age of five, and that was 79 years ago! Hundreds of his stories have been published, and his work has been nominated 15 times for the Pushcart Prize.

Two of his stories appear in Serving House Journal: “The Old Man in the Garden of Long Shadows” (Fall 2011), and “Last Call for a Loner” (Spring 2011).

(Parenthetically speaking, one of my favorites by Sheehan is a war story—a genre which I almost never read, but I’m glad I gave it a try last year, because “Parkie, Tanker, Tiger of Tobruk” is stunning, one of the best stories ever. It appears in the January 2011 issue of Contemporary World Literature.)

Brief bio of Tom Sheehan

Thank goodness Tom shows no signs of slowing down or retiring: The Westering is the first in a series of nine (!) volumes of his stories about the American West to be published by MilSpeak Books.

Winners of the National Book Award will be announced in mid-November. Congratulations, Tom, and best of luck!

—Clare MacQueen
Associate Editor and Webmaster
Serving House Journal
Serving House News

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Murdering the Mom:
"a truly striking accomplishment"

“You’re killing me, Duffy. You’re killing me,” the mom always said. Murdering the Mom is a story that elevates the obscene to the sublime. Duff Brenna takes all the materials of hardship and abuse during an unhappy childhood and sculpts [them] into art, into something transcendent. This is a heart-rending memoir that exceeds the expectations one normally has of a memoir, that is, it reads like a captivating novel.

—From the publisher, Wordcraft of Oregon

Read Chapter One...

5-Star Review at

...Brenna reaches deep into the darkest recesses of the human psyche. All too often parents treat their children, the very ones they’re supposed to love most and protect, with anger and selfishness, violence and neglect, and Brenna, the child, is indeed a victim of circumstance. But Brenna, the man, is not. No one escapes this world unscathed, but in Brenna’s case it’s something of a miracle, given his upbringing, that this memoir wasn’t written from Death Row. With great skill, insight, wisdom, introspection, and above all a sense of humanity and forgiveness, a brilliant writer transcends the tragic and turns this powerful, raw, heartfelt story into the finest art.

—James Brown, author of The Los Angeles Diaries and This River

There are some memoirs that seem so artful in the dissection of the joys and horrors of a life that they resonate long after that last page. Duff Brenna provides just such a story.... many people recalling wrenching childhoods, his emotions surged with ferocity and he was left to ponder the truly momentous questions of life and, especially, of love. He writes “[B]ut love changes—it evolves, the purity of it becoming perverse mixtures of love and adoration, hatred and jealousy, tenderness, passion, devotion, loathing. What was left of those tumultuous emotions? I couldn’t sort it out. I still can’t sort it out.”

Even with this admission, though, Brenna provides a compelling attempt to untangle the emotional threads of his childhood. By viewing his past with such a sense of honesty and compassion, he delivers a memoir that’s a truly striking accomplishment.

—Elizabeth Millard, ForeWord Reviews (see full text)

This, I think, above all, is Brenna’s grand achievement here. He is not settling old scores—and god knows there were scores he might well have wanted to settle if he’d a mind to. But no, he is exploring—unsparingly, unflinchingly, but above all fairly, with balance and breathtaking honesty—the humanity of a group of people born into and continually creating a kind of hell in which they thrash around without a clue as to how to get out.

—Thomas E. Kennedy, Inside Higher Ed (see full text)

Somewhere, a long time ago, I read that honesty is telling the truth to other folks, but integrity is telling yourself the truth. Duff Brenna is a man of profound integrity, and this book is concrete proof of that.

Murdering the Mom: A Memoir
220 pages, ISBN 978-1877655746
published by Wordcraft of Oregon

Please feel free to visit Duff’s website, too, where you’ll find a complimentary MTM bookmark and lots of information, including reviews and excerpts, about his other most excellent books.

--Clare MacQueen
Associate Editor/Webmaster
Serving House Journal
Serving House News

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

New Book of Poems "Takes Us On An Exuberant Journey..."

by Steve Davenport
Misty Publications, 2012

“Steve Davenport has taken the slapdash lexicon of a mortally wounded industrial base and stitched, jammed, jumbled and creased together this searing collaboration of form and function.” —Tyehimba Jess *

B. H. Fairchild calls Davenport’s new poems “brilliantly improvisatory as well as stunningly energetic and daring.” *

As Davenport himself says, “A key thread running through my new book of poems, OVERPASS, is the plight of a character dealing with metastatic breast cancer. Her name’s Overpass Girl. The poem I’m posting here [“Sauget Dead Wagon”] comes late in the book and expresses the frustration and anger that accompanies her battle against a disease that will not let go. It also expresses mine as author whose work has limited effect. A dead wagon, by the way, is a common name given to the vehicle that travels the countryside, picking up carcasses of farm animals, and delivers them to a rendering plant.” [Facebook post dated 5 July 2012]

With its unsettling image of chemo capsules dangling from an herbaceous plant on the front cover, and a table of contents which reads like an enticing list of mainstream magazines, this new book intrigues from the get-go.

As Martha Collins sums it up: “Overpass creates a startling and delightful tension between its richly gritty content and a craft that crashes through its own formal restraints with deft use of wordplay, syntax, allusion, and joyful sound.” *

* Quotations excerpted from back cover of book.


Nine Poems and Three Fictions, chapbook by Davenport published online by The Literary Review, which includes several poems from Overpass

Review by Eric Miles Williamson of Davenport’s first book of poems, Uncontainable Noise

Two stories from Davenport’s “Black Guy, Bald Guy” series:

  Black Guy, Bald Guy   The Last Set of Machetes

Davenport’s story, “Bomb, Reporting From Inwit,” is from a novel-in-progress.

—Clare MacQueen
Associate Editor, Serving House Journal

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Mathias B. Freese Wins an NIEA for 2012, and more…

The sixth annual National Indie Excellence Awards were announced last month. On behalf of Serving House Journal, I'm delighted to share with our readers that a collection of essays by Mathias B. FreeseThis Möbius Strip of Ifs, took first place in the general Non-Fiction category. 

I'm pleased to add that we listed This Möbius Strip of Ifs on our Bookshelf of recommended reading last fall, in Issue 4.

Work by Freese also appears in Issue 2 (“Soap,” an essay) and Issue 3 (“Sincerely, Max Weber,” a short story). Which leads me to the next item of awesome news:   

Freese’s collection of stories, I Truly Lament, has been chosen as a finalist in the 2012 Leapfrog Press Fiction Contest.

From Leapfrog Press:  “I Truly Lament is a varied collection of stories, inmates in death camps, survivors of these camps, disenchanted Golems complaining about their tasks, Holocaust deniers and their ravings, and collectors of Hitler curiosa (only recently a few linens from Hitler’s bedroom suite went up for sale!) as well as an imagined interview with Eva Braun during her last days in the bunker. The intent is to perceive the Holocaust from several points of view.”  

Congratulations, Matt!  And best wishes for many more such accolades!  

--Clare MacQueen 
Associate Editor/Webmaster
Serving House Journal 
Serving House News

Friday, May 25, 2012

SHJ Author Chosen as Finalist for Best of Net!

On behalf of Serving House Journal, I'm so pleased to announce that Yahia Lababidi's essay, "Meditation on Murder," was chosen as a finalist for the 2011 Best of the Net awards, sponsored by Sundress Publications.  The essay appears in Issue 2 (Fall 2010) of SHJ. 

The 2011 Best of the Net Anthology is available online by clicking on the general headers of Poetry, Fiction, and Nonfiction, and then on individual entries within the lists. 

As the Best of the Net website says, "This project continues to promote the diverse and growing collection of voices that are publishing their work online, a venue that still sees little respect from such yearly anthologies as the Pushcart and Best American series. This collection serves to bring greater respect to an innovative and continually expanding medium in the same medium in which it is published." 

If you've not had an opportunity yet to read Lababidi's thoughtful, and thought-provoking, essay, I hope you will soon. And I hope you'll agree that it's one of the finest pieces of writing you'll find anywhere, not just on the Web!  

Clare MacQueen
Associate Editor/Webmaster