Chanelle Benz is The Next Big Thing

I’m so happy to play host to this Next Big Thing interview with Chanelle Benz here on my blog! Here we go…

What is/was the working title of the book?

“The Man Who Shot Out My Eye Is Dead.”

Where did the idea come from for the book?

First I wrote “Adela” (a 19th century found object piece narrated by a collective We in a baroque, Gothic style,) which came partly from an English class I’d taken called “Cultural Formations in the West Indies,” partly from my own predilection for theatrics, and partly out of the ether with this sentence by the creepy child narrators: “We did not understand how she came to be alone.”

Around the same time as I was writing “Adela,” I was starting David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas,  and I came up with an experiment for myself: what if I wrote a collection of spy, post-apocalyptic, nineteenth-century, western, etc. stories? How many could I do, if any? I’ve ended up with 9 stories ranging from a monk during the 16th century dissolution of the monasteries to a pudgy ninth grader grappling with violence, privilege and Quakerism in modern-day Philly.

What genre does your book fall under?

Literary Fiction. Short story.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Ha ha. You have NO idea how much I love this question. I’ll reveal just a few of my castings. I’d love to see either Ralph Fiennes, Richard Armitage or Alan Rickman in the embittered monk story “That We May Be One Sheepfolde.” Chad Coleman (Cutty in The Wire) as the father in “James III.” Benedict Cumberbatch as Frederick Crawford in the slave narrative “The Peculiar Narrative of the Remarkable Particulars in the Life of Orrinda Thomas.” Amber Gray as Adela. I could go on…

What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book?

“The Man Who Shot Out My Eye Is Dead” is comprised of mostly voice-driven stories that experiment in genre and form, but are thematically connected through the issues of history, gender and race.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

 3 years.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I was a theater actor before this so I feel like I have a lot to learn, to read, to see if I can do. I wanted to understand and master the mechanics of the short story—a lofty aim inspired by George Saunders. I also wanted to see how many worlds/vocal performances I could build like David Mitchell. But the stories themselves came from all over the place—ex-slave narratives, Sir Thomas More’s letters, wandering the graveyards of the Deep South, my childhood obsession with Billy the Kid.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

My story “West of the Known” is in the brilliant, new lit mag The American Reader.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

The latter.

Who are the NEXT Next Big Things?

Christopher Brunt, Martin De Leon, and Rachel Abelson.

…and a big thank you to Kit Frick for tagging me–looking forward to reading her chapbook!

ECHO, ECHO, LIGHT lands with Slope Editions!

Big news: my chapbook Echo, Echo, Light has found a home with Slope Editions! As the winner of the Slope Editions Chapbook Prize, it will be published this spring. I’m beyond thrilled to be working with Caroline Cabrera, Christopher Janke, Kelin Loe, and the whole Slope team! Here’s the press release:


Kit Frick’s ECHO, ECHO, LIGHT wins Chapbook Contest!

Announcing Kit Frick, winner of the 2nd Annual Slope Editions Chapbook Prize

We’re excited to announce that Slope Editions’ editorial board has selected Kit Frick’s ECHO, ECHO, LIGHT as Slope Edition’s 2nd Annual Chapbook Prize winner. The chapbook is slated for publication in May 2013.

Originally from Pittsburgh, Kit Frick studied poetry at Sarah Lawrence College and received her MFA from Syracuse University, where she served as poetry editor for Salt Hill. Her poems have recently appeared in places like DIAGRAM, Conduit, CutBank, Handsome, and Forklift, Ohio, and have been featured on Verse Daily. A 2012 “Discovery” / Boston Review semi-finalist, Kit is the Chapbook Editor for Black Lawrence Press. Kit lives in Brooklyn with her husband and and lives online at

Slope Editions congratulates Kit Frick, the finalists, and the semifinalists for this year’s prize. And we thank all the authors for prodding and provoking us with their work. We recognize, as editors and authors, that it is a lot of work to write a poem, let alone a manuscript full of them, and we were awed by the dedication and talent evident in the manuscripts we received.

Slope Editions is a small publishing firm, and we appreciate your support. We hope you will check out ECHO, ECHO, LIGHT.

Thank you authors and readers for your support of contemporary innovative poetry.


Slope Editions 2nd annual Chapbook Prize





Mike Krutel, BEST POEMS

Cat Richardson, SIM & NELL




Jennifer MacKenzie, PHARAOH GLIMMER



This year’s editorial board:

Caroline Cabrera, Chapbook Editor

Christopher Janke, Senior Editor

Philip Muller and Curtis Perdue, Readers

Posted: Tue, Mar 12, 2013
Updated Thu, Mar 14, 2013

Note: The featured image is of the far side of the moon, copyright NASA!

The Next Big Thing

So I got tagged in this literary chain letter of sorts, The Next Big Thing. I’ve been having lots of fun reading a host of these self-interviews over the last few months, and now I’m offering my own to the internetty world. Here goes!

What is/was the working title of the book?

Kill Your Darlings, Clementine.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

This is a rare (singular, in fact) project where the title came first for me. I was coming out of an MFA program, where the mandate to “kill your darlings” was a prevailing workshop theme. The sad father-daughter-suitor triangle in the old folk ballad, “Oh My Darling, Clementine,” was also somehow on my mind, and the two ideas merged. Once I got into the drafting, the poems quickly rooted themselves in a strange, unhappy place where the desperation of the male residents rose to the surface.


I was tired of writing about the loneliness of women. I wanted to inhabit the loneliness of men, for a change.

What genre does your book fall under?

It’s a poetry chapbook.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Oh man. This one must be easier for the novelists. I would love to see Philip Seymour Hoffman or Ed Norton take on the male lead. They do troubled menfolk well.


Edward Norton

What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Through troubled images of location, dislocation, and loneliness, the landscape evoked in this chap feels both strangely similar and coldly distant from our own.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Not long, actually. After spending 2 years agonizing over my first full-length collection, this chap came together in about three months.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I definitely had Ben Marcus’s The Flame Alphabet on the brain.


Also, a recent visit to Iowa and how amazingly flattened I felt in that landscape.


Also, I had the gift of a summer off between the end of grad school and the return to the real world, and that gave me the time to focus.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

A few of the poems have been published in journals recently, and since the only thing that makes me really excited about a poet’s work is actually reading it, if you’ve come this far (thank you), mayhaps you’d like to check these out:

Better: Culture & Lit (with audio! and video!)



Bone Bouquet (in print)

Thanks to the editors for taking an early interest in these poems! More forthcoming soon in Sixth Finch and Forklift, Ohio.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Ah, definitely not repp’ed by an agency! Clearly, this question was designed with the fictionistas among us in mind. Hopefully, it will join the small press community in the near future, and it’s currently doing the contest and open reading circuit.

Update 4.28.2013: I’m happy to announce that Kill Your Darlings Clementine will be published by Rye House Press in 2013!

Who are the NEXT Next Big Things?

First, a big thanks to Sarah Suzor for tagging me in this lovely chain letter we have going.

I’m tagging Gina Gail Keicher, Devon Moore, and Chanelle Benz, who are next HUGE things and should do this thing post haste.