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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