Tag Archives: Amber Sparks

Laura Straub’s END O’ THE YEAR list

21 Dec

My futon’s favorite people:
Matt Bell & Brian Oliu, Amber Sparks, and Tyler Gobble.

Cool Presses that started working with Vouched the past six months: Lazy Fascist, Sarabande Books, Queen’s Ferry Press, Curbside Splendor, Spooky Girlfriend, and Black Ocean.

COVER ART: May We Shed These Human Bodies and The Collected Works of Scott McClanahan, Vol. 1

People I’m still confused to have not met IRL yet: Mel Bosworth and Christy Crutchfield

My Husband’s Budding Bromances: Ben Kopel, Tyler Gobble, and Kory Calico

Top 5 Stage Presences in no specific order: xTx, Devan Goldstein (when reading and also when he sings the shit out of some Bon Jovi), Amy McDaniel, Zach Schomburg, Peter Davis.

Favorite Dance Party: Lit Party @ AWP- duh! 

Thing that makes me feel like !!! every time I read it: Ravi Mangla’s Visiting Writers from Uncanny Valley Press

Favorite special thing: Electric lit’s recommendations in my inbox. SO RAD. Also Matthew Salesses’ Writer in Residence series at Necessary Fiction.

These book tours came and BLEW ME AWAY: Bloof books tour, The Southern Comfort Reading Tour, & the Over the Top tour.

Awful Interviews that still make me laugh big and large:  Joshua Ware, Michael Nye, Matt Bell, & Nicholas Tecosky (who still owes me an arm wrestle…)

May We Shed These Human Bodies by Amber Sparks

7 Dec


May We Shed These Human Bodies
Amber Sparks
Curbside Press

A Vouched guest review of our own Amber Sparks’ May We Shed These Human Bodies is being hosted by our friends at Fanzine. Here’s a taste:

Brief and incisive, May We Shed These Human Bodies packs thirty stories across 141 pages. Sparks renounces traditional plot arcs and returns to stories of instinct. Context, when needed, exposes itself as plot develops. Otherwise it is dispensed––there is little need to tarry in the past. “Vesuvius” takes place on a single page. A senator’s wife sets fire to her home. As it burns, she watches her husband on TV.

Read the rest.

Awful Interview: Amber Sparks

17 Oct

You may have heard of Amber Sparks. If you haven’t heard of her yet, and are just now reading her name, Amber Sparks, for the first (and second) time, you may assume she has super powers. For instance, you may imagine sparkles coming out of her fingertips. This is a safe assumption. The latest bit of  lightning her hands have produced is this book called May We Shed These Human Bodies, recently released from Curbside Splendor. She’s coming to read for Vouched Presents in Atlanta on Nov. 9th, so we got to talking…

So, Amber- your new book is titled May We Shed These Human Bodies. How does one go about shedding her human body? In my mind it would look like something out of the 1988 film Beetle Juice.

I love Beetle Juice! I had a huge crush on Michael Keaton in that movie. Yes, I know. That’s odd. I don’t really know how someone would shed their human body, but I picture it sort of like Jeff Goldblum in The Fly, or maybe David Naughton in An American Werewolf in London. I imagine there is a lot of pain, a lot of suffering. I imagine it’s not very pretty and it’s a messy, grisly thing. We don’t give up these bodies easily, I think, much as we might want to.

If you were to go through the agonizing process of shedding your human body- what would you want to turn into?

I’d be a tiger. I’ve given long thought to that one. Sleek, fierce, gorgeous, fast, powerful, terrifying–almost at the top of the food chain. As a small weak-looking female person, there is something awfully attractive about the idea of being beautiful and strong and deadly.

I couldn’t agree more! Plus, you’d make a great tiger. What would you do, as a tiger, in Washington D.C?
Would you become a lobbyist?

Ha! I think more likely I’d go after the lobbyists. Actually, what I would do is just go sit on the floor of Congress and lick my lips and stare pointedly at the Republicans until agreed to every single Democratic piece of legislation put forward. I’d browse on the leg of a Congressman or two, if he or she started getting all legislatey about women’s lady parts.

Sounds like you’d be quite the menace! What’s your favorite Memorial/Museum in Washington D.C.? Also- what do people who live in D.C do in the evenings? It’s difficult to imagine day-to-day life in D.C. beyond field trips.

Hmm…I’d say the Lincoln Memorial. It’s incredible. It’s the one memorial here that I feel really humbled by, every time I go. Museum, oh, probably the Hirschhorn, which is the modern art museum. It’s free! Ha! D.C. is just like any other city – you have the tiny part of the city, the Mall, which is the touristy part. And then there’s the rest of the city, which is actually a pretty fun and hip city with tons of good restaurants and bars, a good music scene, and even a burgeoning lit scene! It’s a very young city, and very international. It’s like any tourist city: there’s a secret city inside that the locals live in and love. So I do what anyone does: go out to eat, meet friends for happy hour, go to museums and galleries, catch shows, go to bookstores – just live in the city.

Have you ever been in any of the secret underground tunnels throughout the city? I heard you have those. Do you have secret passages in your apartment/house even?

Nope! Those are only for VIPs. You know, the people “worth” saving if something terrible happens. I definitely am not one of those people.  I wish my apartment had secret passages. I’ve always wanted to live in a house that had them. But in reality it would probably give me nightmares and I’d never sleep, expecting some ghost to come walking through one any second.

I know what you mean! Do you have nightmares often? I used to. Especially whenever I fall asleep to David Lynch films.

Oh, yes, terrible nightmares. I used to have more when I was younger, and I become a bit of an insomniac because of it. I think my body was afraid to let me sleep. Not after watching anything particular (though my sister used to have terrible nightmares after episodes of Twin Peaks!) but I have a lot of lucid dreams, so I’m one hundred percent convinced at the time that bugs are crawling all over the bed or an intruder has entered the room or whatever. The other nightmare I have, and have had since I was very small, is the one where I’m in a huge old house and there’s a murderer hiding somewhere, waiting to kill me, and none of the light switches work. I’m running from room to room and can’t turn on any lights. I still sleep with the lights on when I’m alone or in a hotel or strange place, and I can’t STAND the kind of haunted houses where you walk through and it’s dark and people grab you.  This is beginning to sound like therapy. Oops.

How does that make you feel?

Ha! Actually, sort of relieved. Can I just let you sort out my problems?

Sure thing! Well, as long as you don’t have a bounty on your head. Is anyone out to get you?

Well, literally, no. But metaphorically, yes. That is to say paranoiacly, yes. That is to say, EVERYONE is out to get me.    

Amber, I hate to break it to you, but on November 9th you’ll be reading in Atlanta with a few of those everyones (Michael Nye, Caroline Murphy, Jamie Iredell, and Kate Sweeney) to some additional everyones. So- anything you need to say to everyone?

Yes! I love you all and you damn writers will be the undoing of me yet, I guess. But what a way to be undone. I can’t wait!

Vouched Presents: a Literary Powerhouse

29 Aug

This reading really got out of hand fast. What started out as a simple “book release party for Amber Sparks”/”welcome to Indy for Sal Pane” escalated into an all out literary brawl with the addition of Lania Knight, and the REAL PAIN: FUTURE DEAD FRIENDS TOUR 2012 making a stop with Scott McClanahan, Sam Pink, Megan Boyle, Jordan Castro, and Mallory Whitten. This line-up could generate electricity for a small city.

Join us at the new Indy Reads Books store at the very north end of Mass Ave., and pack your brain full of words and moments you won’t want to forget. And, maybe some you’ll want to forget. Let’s be honest. Nights like these have a way of breeding regrets alongside remembrances.

RSVP at Facebook.

Vouched Contributors Win *All* the Awards

15 Mar

This has been a huge few weeks for the Vouched contributors. You cannot contest us. In every bout my contributors have entered, they’ve taken it home.


First, Roxane Gay dropped knowledge at the AWP Literary Death Match where she took on Pulitzer Prize-winner Jane Smiley, National Book Critics Circle finalist Major Jackson, and National Book Award winner Darin Strauss. Roxane spelled Dostoyevsky in some classic way that was all like, “Oh shit!” and came out the winner of all. Roxane gives a full recap of the event at her blog.

Her intensity will break you.

Then, at a following Literary Death Match in DC, Amber Sparks brought it out against Huffington Posteur Arin Greenwood, PEN nominee Molly Gaudry, and the ultimate Scott McClanahan. She got the boys to the yard, beating McClanahan in a 19-18 finale.

Straub's gonna knock you out.

And most recently, Vouched ATL Vicereine Laura Straub rumbled at the Write Club Atlanta Chapter Ten brawl, where she represented the idea of LAST and squared off against Myke Johns who represented FIRST. In the end, there was only one, and that one was Laura, winning for her charity of choice: WINK.

There will be a podcast of Laura’s reading on Write Club Atlanta’s site and when it posts, I will update this post with a link to it, but suffice it to say, the WCA podcasts are amazing and you should be listening to them anyway.

Congrats to all my kick ass contributors out there kicking ass!

I Review Amber Spark’s Review at The Lit Pub

3 Jun

Over at The Lit Pub, I’ve reviewed Vouched contributor Amber Sparks’s excellent review of Ethel Rohan’s Cut Through the Bone that she posted here back in March. I ended up digging into my mom’s death a few years ago, and I wonder how much that might come up throughout the month as I delve deeper into Rohan’s book.

Dealing with the grief of loss takes work, dammit, and that’s what Rohan lets us do: work. She doesn’t patronize or coddle us. She trusts us to have the strength and courage necessary to make our own bright discoveries.

I strongly believe how you respond to Cut Through the Bone will reflect how you respond to loss in your own life. If you read these stories and respond with the simple, classic classroom question, “Why is everything we read in this class so sad?” then I’ll be frank with you: you’re either ill-equipped to deal or inexperienced in dealing with grief and loss.

Read the whole thing at TLP.

SSM: wigleaf Top 50 [Very] Short Stories

11 May

I’m going to take a break from vouching specific stories today to instead vouch 50. The wigleaf Top 50 [Very] Short Stories of 2011 list was just released a few days ago, and I wanted to point everyone to it.

And, okay. So 2011 isn’t even half way over yet, but wigleaf is aware of that, and the award is always somewhat retro in that 2010 sort of way.

But I want to take a quick moment and talk about how awesome this list is, not only for the readers, but for the authors who made it, because I’ll embarrass myself right now and say when Andrew from Freight Stories called me in ’09 to tell me I’d made it, I was all, “Oh, cool. That’s pretty rad. Thanks for calling.” I had never heard of wigleaf, and only knew a couple of the other authors on the list. And let’s face it, I was kind of an ass.

If you’re reading this now, and you’re on this list, and you’re thinking that: don’t do that.

Let me tell you now, there are 1000s of stories published every year that fit the requirements for this award, and I’m not just talking about Ol’ Shmoe publishing on his blog. I’m talking stories published in really incredible online journals like PANK, The Collagist, Used Furniture, Lamination Colony, Word Riot, storySouth, Abjective, &c. &c. &c. Some real competition. And from those 1000s, the editors of wigleaf cull a longlist of 200 stories, and from there, a guest editor chisels it to their favorite 50.

If the process isn’t enough to convince you where you are, look at some of the names around you: Blake Butler, Matt Bell, Tina May Hall, Tadd Adcox, Aaron Burch, Roxane Gay, Tim Jones-Yelvington, Matthew Salesses, Jim Ruland, Amber Sparks, Terese Svoboda, James Yeh, David Peak, Kyle Minor, &c. &c. &c.

If you don’t know these names yet, then get reading. I didn’t know most of them a couple years ago either, and now I feel like I’m just catching up to where I could be as a writer and a reader if I had.

To all the writers who made this year’s top 50, a huge congrats to you, and I hope you recognize the honor of it. To all the readers out there, spend some time with this list. You’ll find in it the tremblings of a new literature.

Stuff your face with stuffing, stuff your brain with these.

24 Nov

There are many things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. We should all be thankful for stories, these specifically.

Vesuvius by our own Amber Sparks is in Wigleaf, and it is a gem. Every word is volatile.

Also, in Brevity Kim Dana Kupperman unleashed to the world Small Love Letters

Last but not least, in Mud Luscious is A Music Box is Binary

Hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving!



A Name Means Everything or Nothing

6 Nov

The latest Barrelhouse has names that go whoa like Joey Lawrence.

Name like Amber Sparks who tells you about heroes and anti-heroes and becoming heroes, and there’s always a wizard, but these heroes, they always start as a man or a woman very much like you or me and there’s usually a dark forest.

Name like Aaron Burch, that’s right, the Aaron Burch who predicts the weather, and his characters like to make out in backseats and drink wine from maybe boxes, because that’s what high school was supposed to feel like, don’t you remember? Proms and pins and promises.

Name like Roxane Gay who makes me feel tough and lonely and like maybe I’d have made a good woman, a strong woman, if I had been born into that lot.

Name like Brian Oliu who plays a lot of video games and who says video games rot your brains, because Brian’s brains look beautiful on paper like, “I am a beautiful fighter.  I have such a style.  I will picture my fist breaking through the back of your skull.  I will have hair on my arm.  I want to touch the space behind where you stand.  Tell me you understand what this means.  Tell me that there is something to this.  I have my weakness but I will not tell you.”

Name like Jyotsna Sreenivasan, which I’ve never actually heard before but wow how that name feels on the tongue, and how her story swirls and spirals, there are roads like spaghetti bowls, and how we forget where we are, where are we, bearings, coodinates, God help us all.

Lamination Colony is all kinds of rays of colorlight

28 Oct

Lamination Colony‘s final (read: bummer dude) issue is closing this web journal with a boomabang. I bet you know this.

Ryan Ridge is back with another installment of “The Anatomy of American Homes.” Man, I’m so stoked about this series, really, like I’ve lived in an American home for what 22 years now, but the way this guy moves it around, shapes it, hands it over, it is shocking and even better, fun.

Peter Davis is here with three poems that shriek with personality, his honesty and humor and goodness. I think I like “Mother’s Day” best, the uniting of the skateboard and the wife as images, metaphors, etc., is tricky, but Davis lands it smooth.

Jeremy Schmall throws language around like he just figured out it’s a dangerous world. I like the first line a lot: With the dim sky out of sight I can almost—finally—be just a dude under tree branches.

Catherine Lacey in “Everybody” reminds me the importance of a name, “Everybody” is the name of the character and that just threw me for a loop, for real. Also, this story seems to take words like “eggs” and “had it” and make them unbelievably powerful.

Amber Sparks makes me like science and places I don’t know, and that’s nice. The coolest thing about this story is the way the title interacts with the content, man my mind is racing.

Cool last issue. I know a lot of people are sad about this issue, but this seems like a sweet way to end it, like seriously it’s just a super issue. AND ALSO YOU KNOW I’M REALLY DIGGING THE FACES AS BACKGROUND WITH BARE SHOULDERS AS AN EXTRA.