Tuesday, September 2, 2014

"The Alliance"

Shannon Stoker has been writing her entire life. She decided to give writing a serious try after her husband bought her a small dog as a birthday gift. Nucky stole her heart immediately and she wanted a job that provided more flexibility to stay with him.

When she’s not writing Stoker enjoys watching an insane amount of television shows as well as horror movies. She got a little taste of television herself when she competed on an episode of TLC’s Four Weddings. You can catch her episode in replays on the channel. Her latest book is The Alliance: A Registry Novel.

Stoker was born in Clawson, Michigan and raised in Elgin, Illinois. She currently lives in DeKalb, Illinois with her husband Andy and small dog Nucky.

Stoker applied the Page 69 Test to The Alliance and reported the following:
From page 69:
“You did fabulous today,” Flo said. “May I come in?”

“Please,” Mia said.

The Prime Minister walked in and sat down on Mia’s bed.

“I am surprised nobody commented on my accent,” Mia said.

“I may have told them my guest suffered from a speech impediment and not to make note of it,” Flo said.

Mia laughed a little at Flo’s ingenuity.

“I have to say I think it is good enough to fool an American,” Flo said. “And everyone traveling with us tomorrow knows of our plans.”

“When I first arrived you said I would be part of those plans,” Mia said.

“And you will,” Flo said. “Right now there isn’t much to discuss. We land in America and we will be escorted across the country to the Capital. Then I will attend your husband’s wedding while the group breaks into the Mission and destroys the Registry. Then you will be broadcast on television and share your story with the world complete with proof you are who you say you are.”

“It doesn’t sound like I have much of an active role,” Mia said.

“You have complete discretion for whatever words you chose dear,” Flo said. “And what you say is the most critical part of all of this. Never underestimate the power of words. In the event we are unable to wipe out the Registry your words might still spark a rebellion. You are a leader Mia.”
On page 69 Mia is having a conversation with a new character, a sort of role model for her. She is being complimented but also kept out of plans still. I think this a great snapshot of the transition she is going through. In The Alliance her primary concern to herself is to have more of an active role in the choices that affect her.

The way that she backs down and accepts that she still doesn’t really have a say in what is going on is perfect for how her personality is at this point. I think she is still very eager to please. I really like how this snapshot sets up her character evolution.
Visit Shannon Stoker's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Shannon Stoker & Nucky.

Writers Read: Shannon Stoker.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 1, 2014

"Dear Committee Members"

Julie Schumacher grew up in Wilmington, Delaware, and graduated from Oberlin College and Cornell University. Her first novel, The Body Is Water, was published by Soho Press in 1995 and was an ALA Notable Book of the Year and a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award and the Minnesota Book Award. Her other books include a short story collection, An Explanation for Chaos, and five books for younger readers. She lives in St. Paul and is a faculty member in the Creative Writing Program and the Department of English at the University of Minnesota.

Schumacher applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Dear Committee Members, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Should Ms. Temple matriculate at Torreford State under these conditions, I shall wish her well and be the first to welcome her to “the writing life,” which, despite its horrors, is possibly one of the few sorts of lives worth living at all.

Jay Fitger
Professor, Creative Writing and English – Payne
My jaded letter-of-recommendation writer, Professor Jay Fitger, exhibits his most admirable and despicable traits in this particular letter – on page 69 of Dear Committee Members – which he submits on behalf of an undergraduate, Iris Temple, who is applying for MFA programs in Creative Writing.

Never content to limit himself to the attributes of the people he recommends, Fitger lashes out as he sees fit. He spends very little time describing Iris Temple’s qualifications, instead summarizing his own personal and literary frustrations, and then critiquing the MFA program to which he is submitting his letter.

On the plus side, his critique is based on a demand for equity and funding for Iris Temple, as well as a defense of arts education – provided students don’t go deeply into debt to receive it.

I confess I am terribly fond of Jay Fitger – though I would not ask him to write me a recommendation.
Visit Julie Schumacher's website and Facebook page.

Writers Read: Julie Schumacher.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 31, 2014

"A Blind Spot for Boys"

Justina Chen is the acclaimed author of young adult novels including A Blind Spot for Boys, Return to Me, North of Beautiful, and Nothing But the Truth (and a few white lies), which won the Asian Pacific American Award for Youth Literature. She is a co-founder of readergirlz, the online book community for teens, and lives in the Seattle area with her two children.

Chen applied the Page 69 Test to A Blind Spot for Boys and reported the following:
From page 69:
“You are standing in Huacaypata, the Square of War and Weeping.”

War and weeping. That, I understood. Just the idea of my final conversation with Dom was enough to make me want to war and weep against the memory of it.
Sometimes life packs a particularly hard punch. An unexpected betrayal. A loss of a soul mate. Unimaginable heartbreak that lands you in the Square of War and Weeping.

I’ve never really had the luxury of staying in the Square of War and Weeping—a place of self-pity and anger. Not when I grew up with parents who are of the when-life-hands-you-lemons-you-bake-lemon-bars variety of people. Making lemonade out of life’s lemons was nonsense. No, you create something more filling, something more sustaining.

My lemon bar parents immigrated to America for my father’s PhD, arrived with no money, lived on eggs since they were cheap, and to this day, never complained about their rough start. The life lesson: some how, some way you eke out something good from your hardships. And if that’s impossible, you keep trudging forward until you’re out of the Square of War and Weeping.

(This lemon bar attitude, however, is a particular challenge today when the new house I moved into just two months ago has sprung a leak from a malfunctioning sump pump. Carpets torn up! Sheetrock cut! I am telling myself through gritted teeth that this may open up a new story idea.)

So a few years back, I found myself startled to be in a relationship with a man who brined himself in resentment. At first, he had seemed like a lemon bar kind of guy: all grins and good-natured teasing. Fast forward a few months, and he started replaying all the wrongs other people had committed against him. Over and over, I’d hear about the same stolen ideas. The same unfair business practices. All true, all terrible, but at the same time, life was twinkling and opportunities spooling before him. And he was missing it all, refusing to move from his own personal Square of War and Weeping. That was more tragic than the previous tragedies of his life.

With A Blind Spot for Boys, I thought it would be interesting to contrast the lemon bar people with those who rage against their lemon juice life. The ones who are resilient versus the ones who are resentful. So meet Shana, the winner of the genetic lottery with her trifecta of naturally blonde hair, long legs, and willowy figure. After a devastating break-up, the man magnet puts herself on a Boy Moratorium. But when her dad finds out that he only has six months before he goes blind, her family packs up to see the world. And there, trekking to Machu Picchu, she sees the truth about herself, her parents, and her past. And only then is she able to see the path out of her Square of War and Weeping into the wild world of life.
Visit Justina Chen's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 30, 2014

"The Haunted Library"

Dori Hillestad Butler is the author of more than 40 books for children. Her books often appear on children's choice state award lists, and her Buddy Files #1: Case of the Lost Boy won the 2011 Edgar Award for best children's mystery. She has a new children’s series launching this fall called The Haunted Library.

Butler applied the Page 69 Test to The Haunted Library (book 1) and The Haunted Library: The Ghost in the Attic (book 2) and reported the following:
I wasn’t sure about contributing to this blog. I’m a children’s author. Page 69 of a children’s book falls at a completely different place in the story arc than page 69 of an adult novel. In fact, it’s well past the halfway point in my Haunted Library books. But I was curious whether my children’s books would pass the test, so I took the challenge. Since there are two books out in my new series, I figured I’d just write about whichever book passed. Fortunately, they both pass the test.

We’re right in the middle of the action on page 69 in both The Haunted Library and The Haunted Library: The Ghost in the Attic, so I think readers would be inclined to read on. In both cases we are actively looking for someone and the stakes are high. Kaz, my main character, must make a decision about what to do next.

Excerpt from The Haunted Library:
There was still one room he and Claire hadn’t searched: the craft room.

But Cosmo wasn’t there, either. He didn’t seem to be anywhere in the library.

So where was he?

Kaz swallowed hard. If Cosmo wasn’t anywhere inside the library, then…he must be outside the library.
Excerpt from The Haunted Library: The Ghost in the Attic:
“Or…maybe he’s hiding from you. Like a game.”

Like hide-and-seek? Kaz thought. Finn loved hide-and-seek.

But this wasn’t a time for games.

Kaz and Finn’s haunt was gone. Mom, Pops, Grandmom, Grandpop, Little John and Cosmo were all gone.

If Finn was here, he and Kaz had to stick together.
The series features a ghost boy and a “solid” girl who solve a stand-alone ghostly mystery in each book (story arc) while trying to find the ghost boy’s missing family (series arc). What I find interesting about this page 69 test is that in both of these books, page 69 is doing more to advance the series arc than the story arc. That was absolutely not intentional.

I’ll be anxious to apply the page 69 test to book 3 when it comes out. Will page 69 in that book advance the story arc or the series arc?
Learn more about the books and author at Dori Hillestad Butler's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 29, 2014

"The Big Crowd"

Kevin Baker is the author of five novels, including the “City of Fire” trilogy of historical novels set in New York City, Dreamland, Paradise Alley, and Strivers Row.

Baker applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, The Big Crowd, which is also set in New York, just before and after World War II, and reported the following:
The Big Crowd is based on a true story about a mayor of New York, who was forced to flee to Mexico, because he was accused of being involved in the greatest unsolved murder in mob history. The victim was the witness who sent the notorious “Murder, Inc.” gang of killers to the chair. It became part of the very first, nationally televised hearings on government corruption, and it was a huge sensation throughout the country at the time.

The whole sequence of events that leads to that killing gets started on p. 69, with a revolt of the longshoremen on the Brooklyn docks, who are rising up against the gangsters who had taken over their union:
No one could remember anyone challenging the Camardas on their own docks, with all their goons and their shlammers. The squat, swarthy enforcers, with dead eyes and new coats. Strutting the docks all day with their hands shoved deep in their pockets, their lengths of lead pipe wrapped in newspapers. Walking right through the men when they came down to the wharves, like wolves culling sheep.

Then Panto started holding his meetings all over Red Hook and the Heights. He looked too thin and too tall to be a longshoreman, but he was wiry and deceptively strong. Not yet thirty years old. A kindly smile under that silly little moustache and the silly little gigolo’s hat he wore, hook slung over his sleeveless undershirt. For the rallies, he took care to dress up in his one good suit and tie, the hat slung over his eyes at a rakish angle. In the movies, he would have been cast as the bad guy, the Mafioso, or the false lover. In person there was something touchingly genteel about him, something careful and dignified, the air of an impoverished provincial signore.
Peter Panto was a real person, still in his twenties, insanely courageous. He led this grassroots union revolt against these terrifying mob killers, and the mayor’s much younger brother, Tom O’Kane, who’s this very idealistic law student working with the union, is completely captivated by him. He worships his older brother, too, but Charlie O’Kane is part of the political machine that runs the city, he’s much more cautious and political. Charlie doesn’t see how things are changing now with the war, it’s no longer going to be possible to have these little groups of men in backrooms running a city as enormous and diverse as New York. But Panto understands this, he sees how everything is changing now:
They loved him in the musty local halls, where there hadn’t been a union meeting for ten years, twenty years, or maybe never. In the little parish churches built by congregations of long-vanished Protestants. The walls painted the color of the Mediterranean now, filled with statues of the Virgin, and the favorite saints of Sicily and Calabria, Castellammare and Altomonte. The men shouting his name from the moment he walked up to the front of the hall, or to the altar, standing on chairs and pews just to get a look at him. To hear him tell them the same thing, every time.

We are strong. We are many. All we have to do is stand up and fight.”
Learn more about the book and author at Kevin Baker's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Big Crowd.

Writers Read: Kevin Baker.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 28, 2014

"Henna House"

Nomi Eve is the author of Henna House and The Family Orchard, which was a Book-of-the-Month Club main selection and was nominated for a National Jewish Book Award.

She has an MFA in fiction writing from Brown University and has worked as a freelance book reviewer for The Village Voice and New York Newsday.

Her stories have appeared in Glimmer Train Stories, The Voice Literary Supplement, Conjunctions, and The International Quarterly.

Eve applied the Page 69 Test to Henna House and reported the following:
From page 69:
More than two years passed. I would be lying if I said that I spent those years doing anything other than praying for Asaf to come back. No one knew, of course. I kept my single-minded devotions to myself. The only ones to rebuke me were my little idols, my only true confidants, who grew tired of my doleful lamentations and urged me to stop pining for a boy who would never come back. At least that is what I imagined they said, as I offered them grain and sage and bowed my head to their altar.

Nothing remarkable happened in those years. But when I was eleven everything changed. One day my father stumbled on his way into our house, almost falling, catching himself with a surprised grunt. It was the winter of 1930. He had news to share. A letter in his hand. My mother worked at the table, stretching out jachnun dough. He explained that his youngest brother, Barhun, Barhun’s wife, Rahel, and their youngest daughter would be leaving their home in Aden and coming to live with us. My mother relinquished her tender hold on the dough and swore that Rahel Damari wouldn’t cross her threshold, let alone come to live in her house.

“He is my brother. “ My father’s voice rose and wavered at the same time; he was incredulous, angry.

“If they come, they won’t leave,” my mother yelled. “And if she comes here, I will leave you.”

My mother had threatened many things in their twenty-four years of marriage, but never this.

“And where will you go?”

“Back to Taiz.”

“You’ll go nowhere, Sulamit!” My father coughed, a great heaving rattle, then grabbed my mother by the wrist and pulled her arm toward….
How lucky I am! Page 69 was actually the first page I ever wrote of Henna House. It is perhaps the most important page of the book. My main character, Hani Damari is in the kitchen with her mother when her father bursts in with important news. Hani’s mother is kneading dough when her father waves a letter. He reads to them the news that his brother, sister-in-law and niece from the far away city of Aden are coming to live with them. Hani has never met her uncle, aunt and cousin. Her father shares the news excitedly, but her mother is furious. Hani watches in horror as her mother spits in the dough, and actually threatens to leave the family if the “other Damaris” come. Hani wonders why her mother hates the aunt so much. She wonders what the aunt could have done to deserve such wrath. She also wonders about her cousin -- who she is? what she is like? Hani is desperate for answers to these questions and is also desperate for a companion. In the days that follow, Hani longs for her sophisticated cousin from Aden to blaze into her life and sweep away her loneliness.

I began this book with the notion that Adela’s life had to change and that it would change through the arrival of her vivacious cousin, Hani. By the end of this passage, one of the central crises of the book is firmly in place. The mysterious visitors will come, bringing with them the blessings and curses that will change Hani’s life, for the better and for the worse.
Visit Nomi Eve's website and Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: Henna House.

Writers Read: Nomi Eve.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

"Three Story House"

Courtney Miller Santo teaches creative writing at the University of Memphis, where she earned her MFA. She is the author of the novels The Roots of the Olive Tree and the newly released Three Story House.

Santo applied the Page 69 Test to Three Story House and reported the following:
Three Story House is not only the story of the spite house the three cousins are working to save, it is also the three individual stories of the cousins. On page 69, the reader gets a taste of the dual aspect of the novel as the women explore the cupola, which perches on top of the home.
They made Elyse go first since she put up a fuss about climbing the backless stairs. Isobel followed, carrying a broom. Lizzie had tried to warn them how small the space was, but when she finally made it up the stairs, she found Elyse marveling that by stretching her arms, she could touch all sides of the cupola. Behind them a second room expanded the area beyond the telephone booth-like space that the stairs opened into. The larger room had a barn door on rollers and window seats. There were a few cast-off items littering the floor, including a smaller replica of Spite House that, if she remembered correctly had once been a mailbox. The prisms that were so much a part of Lizzie’s childhood remained in place. Isobel pushed through both rooms, spilling out onto the roof with the relief of someone who didn’t like small spaces.
You have each of the cousins reacting to the space—Elyse with marvel, Lizzie with nostalgia and Isobel once again determined not to be confined. And there is the clutter of the house’s history complete with a replica of itself. I hope that what reader’s get from this page is a picture of how intertwined these women are with each other and with the house. I want them to root for them to succeed and hate it when they fail.
Learn more about the book and author at Courtney Miller Santo's website.

My Book, The Movie: Three Story House.

Writers Read: Courtney Miller Santo.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

"Tabula Rasa"

Ruth Downie is the author of a series of mysteries featuring Roman Army medic and reluctant sleuth, Gaius Petreius Ruso: Medicus, Terra Incognita, Persona Non Grata, Caveat Emptor, Semper Fidelis, and the newly released Tabula Rasa.

Downie applied the Page 69 Test to Tabula Rasa and reported the following:
From page 69:
“This is too important for writing down!” Tilla insisted. “I am shamed! Why are you sending soldiers to Senecio’s house?”

“I haven’t….” Even as he denied it, light dawned.

Tilla said, “They are looking for your clerk and taking names and burning people’s farms down!”

“They’re what?”

“They are burning houses!” insisted Virana. “Did you not see the smoke in the sky?”

“They searched the houses and the cow-barn,” said Tilla. “They knocked over the loom and the fire-irons and licked the honey-spoon and drank the beer and broke some eggs. They said they might set fire to everything. If I had not told them I was your wife who knows what they would have done? And then they told everybody that you had ordered them to do it!”
I was surprised, and relieved, to find that page 69 embodies the central conflict of the book: the strained relationship between occupiers and occupied in Roman Britain. I’m not sure why this fascinates me, but it’s the tension that drives me to write the series.

A little context: the story is set in AD122. The Britons are still smarting from the failure of a serious rebellion that took place a couple of years ago, and the building of Hadrian’s Wall across native farmland is raising hackles once more amongst the local tribes.

Legionary medic Ruso is currently stationed on the border, charged with tending the soldiers as they build. His wife Tilla, a British woman, has introduced him to a local family, but the tentative friendship is shortlived. Ruso is dragged into an incident between soldier and native elsewhere and Page 69 captures the moment when she tells him that he’s caused serious offence.
As the story progresses, what started as a minor spat between individuals threatens to spiral out of control, leaving Ruso and Tilla marooned on opposite sides of some serious violence. Part of the problem is the willingness of each side to believe the worst about the other – a form of behaviour that’s easy to condemn from the outside, but alarmingly easy to slip into once one is involved.

To be honest we don’t really know how the local tribes saw the building of Hadrian’s Wall: all we have is a scathing remark from one of the garrisons stationed in the area, referring to them as “wretched little Brits”.

That was enough.
Learn more about the book and author at Ruth Downie's website.

The Page 69 Test: Caveat Emptor.

Writers Read: Ruth Downie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 25, 2014

"A Song for Issy Bradley"

Carys Bray completed an M.A. in creative writing at Edge Hill University in 2010. That same year she won the M.A. category of the Edge Hill Prize for the Short Story, and her stories have since been published in a variety of literary magazines. She was awarded the Scott Prize for her debut collection, Sweet Home. She lives in Southport, England, with her husband and four children.

Bray applied the Page 69 Test to A Song for Issy Bradley, her first novel, and reported the following:
Is page 69 representative of the rest of the book?

Page 69 is the saddest part of the novel. Issy Bradley is desperately ill and her parents Claire and Ian are at her bedside. Claire is beginning to come to terms with the fact that Issy is unlikely to get better, but Ian is determinedly optimistic.

While it’s an important scene, I wouldn’t say it’s representative of the novel as a whole. Despite the fact that A Song for Issy Bradley is about what happens following the death of a child, it’s also a funny book - life doesn’t stop after Issy dies. Older sister Zipporah falls in love for the first time, brother Alma gets himself in a terrible mess when he ‘borrows’ a roll of bank notes and little Jacob Bradley hatches an impossible to plan to fix his family.

Would a reader skimming that page be inclined to read on?

I hope so. Nick Hornby wrote a very generous review in The Believer. He noted the novel’s initial sadness but went on to say, ‘I loved A Song for Issy Bradley. It’s wry, smart, human, and, rather miraculously, avoids mawkishness.’

I’d advise a prospective reader to also browse page 169. It’s a behind-the-scenes look at the resurrection of a goldfish (the one depicted on the cover) and contrasts nicely with the sadness of page 69.
‘I think it’s best to give her more time.’ Ian looks to Claire for support. ‘Give her a chance to turn the corner.’

‘Mr Bradley, the septicaemia is progressing and –’

‘You see children on television who’ve had their fingers and toes amputated - whole legs, hands, even arms - don’t you?’

‘Yes, you do.’ Dr Sabzwari says it so kindly and regretfully that Claire knows she is going to follow up with something awful. ‘But you almost never see children at this stage of the disease make a recovery. Isabel’s blood pressure is low which means there’s poor blood flow to her major organs and poor blood flow to the brain causes brain damage. I think we’re approaching the stage where we need to talk about what happens next.’

Claire looks from Doctor Sabzwari to Ian. ‘Do you think...do you think we could talk about this in the morning?’ she asks. ‘Our other children, we need to talk to them, they should be here...’

Ian grabs her hand and squeezes hard and she realises he thinks she’s prevaricating, holding out for a miracle, too.
Visit Carys Bray's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Song for Issy Bradley.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 24, 2014

"Sisters' Fate"

Jessica Spotswood lives in Washington, D.C., with her playwright husband and a cuddly cat named Monkey.

Spotswood applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Sisters' Fate, and reported the following:
Warning: this entry contains major spoilers for book 2 in the Cahill Witch Chronicles, Star Cursed!

From page 69:
"I'm fine." I'm not fine. What's O'Shea cooking up now? Hundreds of Brothers will be at the bazaar. Any of us could make a misstep and be arrested. Things seem so on edge. And beyond that--

"Are you worried Finn will be there?" Rilla cuts right to the heart of it.

My breath catches in my throat, and I feel such a coward. Am I that obvious, that pitiful, that everyone can see the truth written on my face?

"I don't know," I whisper, burying my head in my hands. "I miss him. So much. I want to see him but - he won't know me. Not really."

Rilla plants her hands on her sturdy hips and gives a fierce little scowl. "I could slap that sister of yours."
That's only half of page 69, but I think it's very representative of the main conflicts of the book. My protagonist, Cate, is struggling to forgive her sister for an unforgivable betrayal. Her sister hasn't shown an ounce of apology or remorse, but there's a prophecy that one Cahill sister will murder another. If Cate can't somehow find it in her heart to forgive Maura, does she risk being the one to make that prophecy come true? As if that's not difficult enough, Cate and her sisters (and friends like Rilla, who's one of my favorite side characters) are all witches in a society that has outlawed magic. A war is brewing between the oppressed witches and the priests of the Brotherhood. Brother O'Shea, the head of the Brotherhood, is indeed cooking something up - and will announce it, much to Cate's horror, at the bazaar that night. She'll also have to see her ex, Finn, for the first time since their rather complicated breakup. Which he doesn't remember. He doesn't remember any of what they once were to one another. You see, Maura erased all his memories of Cate...which is an awful lot to forgive, no?
Learn more about the book and author at Jessica Spotswood's website.

My Book, The Movie: Star Cursed.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 23, 2014


Tom Leveen is the author of Sick, Party, Zero, and manicpixiedreamgirl. Zero was named to YALSA’s list of Best Fiction for Young Adults.

His latest novel is Random.

Leveen applied the Page 69 Test to Random and reported the following:
Hmm. Actually, my 69 falls on the start of a chapter. Reading it over, I think it would be enough to at least turn the page to 70; there is a relationship evident between the two characters who are speaking, and it’s obvious one of them is hiding something. And there’s just enough humor to keep things rolling. I think page 69 isn’t a bad … random page to read.

Ha! Come on, that was great.

…I’ll go now.
Learn more about the book and author at Tom Leveen's website.

Leveen is also the author of Sick, Party, Zero, and manicpixiedreamgirl. Zero was named to YALSA’s list of Best Fiction for Young Adults.

My Book, The Movie: Zero.

My Book, The Movie: Sick.

The Page 69 Test: Sick.

Writers Read: Tom Leveen.

My Book, The Movie: Random.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 22, 2014

"The Spark and the Drive"

Before working as a corrections officer in Rutland, Vermont, Wayne Harrison was an auto mechanic for six years in Waterbury, Connecticut. A first-generation college student, he began in his mid twenties as a criminal justice major before getting turned on to creative writing by mentor and friend Jeffrey Greene. He later received an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

His fiction has been featured on NPR’s All Things Considered. His short stories appear in Best American Short Stories 2010, The Atlantic, Narrative Magazine, McSweeney’s, Ploughshares, Crazyhorse, The Sun, Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art, FiveChapters, New Letters and other magazines. His fiction has earned a Maytag fellowship, an Oregon Literary fellowship and a Fishtrap Writing Fellowship. He teaches writing at Oregon State University.

Harrison applied the Page 69 Test to The Spark and the Drive, his debut novel, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“When my little sister was a baby,” I said, “she got a fever like a hundred and five. We had to take her to Emergency. She was laying in my lap. She needed a drink, but we didn’t have her bottle, we forgot it. She lost her voice she was so thirsty. Her eyes were all pink. Her fingers were burning up. I thought she was going to die, like I was seeing it happen. I mean she was just holding on to my finger.”

We were both sitting on milk crates at this point with the engine between us, and I could only see his legs under the exhaust ports. The legs were still.

“We get to the hospital, and my mom runs in with her. I’m just sort of wandering around between cars. I remember being in this Chinese restaurant all of a sudden, and the hostess was talking to me. Your brain just shuts off. All I could think was, she’s not coming home again. She never even said a word yet. She never walked. She never did anything wrong. If she didn’t make it, man, I don’t know what I would have done.”

I had to get up. I went over and leaned against the bay door, where I stared at the ground and smoked half a cigarette. When I came back to the engine Nick was frowning at the bearing cap, turning his coarse-toothed Snap-On ratchet so slowly you could count the clicks.

“That’s what I mean,” I said. “Just talking.”

He lit a cigarette.

“Your turn,” I said.

“What do you say we quit playing Sigmund Freud and get back to work.”
In this passage, Justin, the 18-year-old narrator, is rebuilding an exotic muscle car engine with his mentor, Nick Campbell, the greatest muscle car mechanic in New England. The engine was actually more than exotic -- it was, at the time, the most powerful American production engine, a '69 ZL1 427, one of only two built. There's a lot riding on Nick's rebuilding it correctly. In the past year, he lost his baby son to SIDS, and since then his work has been coming back for amateur mistakes he's made as a result of his grief. Justin knows that if Nick keeps screwing up, he's going to lose the shop. Justin's plan is to get Nick to open up and exorcise his inner demons so that he can be great again. But in the coming pages, Justin will find exactly out how precarious his meddling in Nick's personal business will become.
Visit Wayne Harrison's website.

--Marshal Zeringue