Indie Spotlight: Unbridled Books

imgresUnbridled Books was founded in 2003 by co-publishers Fred Ramey and Greg Michalson, who together have more than 50 years experience in publishing plus a terrific track record for finding and promoting literary fiction that sells in the commercial market. Self-described as an independent publisher focused on producing books that are “moving, beautiful, and surprising,” Unbridled’s list is an international patchwork of well-told tales set everywhere from Cuba to Iceland to Afghanistan, as well as America coast-to-coast. For the Ploughshares blog, Ramey and Michalson share the secrets of their indie success as well as what makes a writer Unbridled.

KF: While your press publishes stories from across the country and around the globe, what seems to bind Unbridled books together is a life-affirming humanity. Even in the inherent tragedy of Solveig Eggerz’s World War II-era novel Seal Woman or in the dark criminal underworld of Ed Falco’s Toughs, for example, there exists a spirit of hope and survival that can be difficult to find in these cynical times. What attracts you, as editors, to these types of novels? 

GM: I don’t mind dark, but I’m not much interested in “despair and die.” I’ll leave that to other publishers. If a reader is going to invest the time and energy into a book I publish I’d prefer there was some pay-off that affirms something about the world. Writing, after all, is in the end a hopeful enterprise. 

FR: We’ve published a good many novels that go to dark places in the heart, but I think you’re right. We’re probably less interested in novels that are all razors and needles. It seems we’re drawn more to the story that is finally in some way affirming and that knows full well why and how it got there. This isn’t a question of our being—or the authors’ being—idealistic.Continue Reading

Seven Strange But True Tales about Timothy Schaffert’s The Swan Gondola

tumblr_n0ml6roVFd1r4lhi3o1_500Timothy Schaffert’s latest novel, The Swan Gondola, is a rollicking adventure set during the Omaha World’s Fair of 1898, and starring a romantic and rapscallion cast of vaudevillians, actresses, snake oil salesman, and all around ne’er-do-wells. Inspired in part by The Wizard of Oz, Schaffert’s tale is jam-packed with so much drama, intrigue, and delight that you will finish the book begging for more.

Here, as an exclusive to Ploughshares, Timothy shares further tales of The Swan Gondola, from the weird to the wonderful.

imagesQ: The Swan Gondola has all the elements of a Hollywood blockbuster: action, mystery, romance, and the all-important super-cool period costumes. Who should direct the movie adaptation, and why? Michael Bay or Baz Luhrmann?

A: I think they should both do competing versions. Bay hasn’t done a period film since “Pearl Harbor,” and “The Swan Gondola” would be an opportunity for him to show his softer side while also incorporating his digital expertise in recreating the Fair, and the streets of 1890s Omaha. And the book seems to fit nicely in Luhrmann’s oeuvre, with its fireworks, burlesque theaters, runaway horses, grand mansions and less-grand tenements and garrets. He seems particularly interested in the tensions between the haves and have-nots. And both Bay and Luhrmann could do it in 3D. They have my blessing.

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Awards to Ploughshares Writers

Our congratulations to the following Ploughshares writers who work has been selected for these anthologies:

the o. henry prize stories 2013Best Stories: Jamie Quatro’s story “Sinkhole,” from the Spring 2012 issue edited by Nick Flynn, will appear in O. Henry Prize Stories 2013, selected by a prize jury of Lauren Groff, Edith Pearlman, and Jim Shepard. The anthology is due out September 2013, with Laura Furman as the series editor.

Best Stories Notables: Steve Almond’s story “Gondwana,” Matthew Neill Null’s story “Telemetry,” Timothy Schaffert’s Ploughshares Solo “Lady of the Burlesque Ballet,” and Megan Mayhew Bergman’s Ploughshares Solo “Phoenix” were named as notables by The Best American Stories 2013. The anthology was released this month, with Elizabeth Strout as the guest editor and Heidi Pitlor as the series editor.

Best Essays: Charles Baxter’s essay, “What Happens in Hell,” from the Fall 2012 issue edited by Patricia Hampl, has been selected for The Best American Essays 2013. The anthology was released this month, with Cheryl Strayed as the guest editor and Robert Atwan as the series editor.

bae2013Best Essays Notables: Mary Gordon’s essay “The Taste of Almonds,” was named as a notable by The Best American Essays 2013.

Best Poetry:  Major Jackson’s poem “Why I Write Poetry,” from the  Spring 2012 issue edited by Nick Flynn, has been selected for The Best American Poetry 2013. The anthology was released in September 2013, with Denise Duhamel as the guest editor and David Lehman as the series editor.

Pushcart: Eric Fair’s essay “Consequence” and Claudia Rankine’s poem “Excerpt from That Once Were Beautiful Children,” which both appeared in the Spring 2012 issue edited by Nick Flynn, and Charles Baxter’s essay, “What Happens in Hell,” from the Fall 2012 issue edited by Patricia Hampl, have been selected for The Pushcart Prize XXXVIII: Best of the Small Presses, which is due out November 2013 from Bill Henderson’s Pushcart Press.


Our Gift to You: Free Ploughshares Solo

Happy (almost) New Year!  2012 was a great year for Ploughshares.  We published three issues edited by Nick Flynn, Patricia Hampl, and our very own Ladette Randolph and John Skoyles.  In addition, we kept busy with blog posts by guest bloggers and debuted our Ploughshares Solos series. Read more about our year here.

We’re looking forward to another year of fabulous writing, good reading, and fascinating blog posts.  To end 2012 on good note, we want you to have a free copy of one of our favorite Ploughshares Solos: “Escape and Reverse” by Chelsey Johnson.

“Escape and Reverse” is available for free from the Kindle store December 27- 31 only!  Make sure to download your copy before the end of the year.  And while you’re there, check out our other Ploughshares Solos:

  • “Lady of the Burlesque Ballet” by Timothy Schaffert – $0.99 on Kindle
  • “Daydream Nation” by John Duncan Talbird – $1.99 on Kindle and Nook
  • “Phoenix” by Megan Mayhew Bergman – $0.99 on Kindle and Nook
  • “All of Us, We All Are Arameans” by Eileen Pollack – $0.99 on Kindle and Nook

We hope you have a happy and festive New Year!  The Ploughshares staff will be back in the office on January 2 ready for another year.

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A Q&A with Karolin Felix, Cover Artist of the first Pshares Single

The inaugural Pshares Single, Lady of the Burlesque Ballet by Timothy Schaffert, features cover art by Polish artist Karolin Felix. We chat with Karolin about her artistic practice, fairy tales and freak shows, and what happens to one of her characters once it becomes the star of an e-book.

Ploughshares: How did you get started as an artist?

Karolin Felix: I was always a slumbering artist (as I believe all artists are natural born), like a Sleeping Beauty waiting for a life restoring kiss, until one day something changed and I woke up.

PS: How would you describe your art?

KF: My art is dark in an odd way, sometimes sweet, both real and pop surreal… I love double, triple meanings, but dislike interpretations. What I usually intend for my paintings is to engage a spectator in a contemplation about a character/scene and their place in a world, which is never easy as my subjects are usually outcasts of society.

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First Pshares Single Published! Longer stories available in eBook formats

Over the years, Ploughshares has sometimes received longer submissions that were difficult to publish due to space considerations in the print issue. Pshares Singles is an eBook series for these lengthier stories and essays, selected by our editors. A new Single will be published every month, available for download on your Kindle or Nook. (If you do not have a Kindle or Nook device, you can download apps for smart phones, tablets, and computers.)

We are very excited to announce the publication of our very first Pshares Single, Lady of the Burlesque Ballet!

In a topsy-turvy ragtime era of side-shows and bamboozlers, Irish Maupin goes from street urchin to burlesque star. Plucked from the streets as a girl and fattened up for candy-factory advertising, she navigates a sensational career around heart-break and loneliness, gaining and losing hundreds of pounds, manipulated by the men around her even as she defies them. From acclaimed Nebraska author Timothy Schaffert, this inaugural Pshares Single is a surreal adult fairy tale about obesity, murder, and how we change our bodies to meet the needs of others.

Available for $1.99 on Kindle and Nook

Here’s a brief excerpt from the story:

            “Now don’t you worry,” the matron told Irish as she led her from the office and back down the hall. “They’re going to love who you turn out to be.”


            “The men. The men in there. The executives. They’ll love you.”

            “No, I mean, who do I turn out to be?”

            “Don’t you worry about that, darling,” the matron said. She stopped and took Irish by the shoulders, smiling big. She spoke slowly. “Who you turn out to be will be far, far better than anyone you ever were. I promise. Haven’t you always been able to trust me?”

            And who are you? she wanted to ask. I’ve trusted you?

Interested in submitting a story for the series?

If you have a longer story or essay—roughly 6,000 to 25,000 words—please read our guidelines and submit online. Make sure you select “Pshares Singles: Long Story/Novella” from the dropdown box under “genre.”

Pshares Singles Launches in just ONE week with “Lady of the Burlesque Ballet”

Timothy Schaffert‘s “Lady of the Burlesque Ballet,” our very FIRST Pshares Single, will be available just one week from today! You can get your very own digital copy for just $1.99 on the Kindle or Nook.


In a topsy-turvy ragtime era of side-shows and bamboozlers, Irish Maupin goes from street urchin to burlesque star. Plucked from the streets as a girl and fattened up for candy-factory advertising, she navigates a sensational career around heart-break and loneliness, gaining and losing hundreds of pounds, manipulated by the men around her even as she defies them. From acclaimed Nebraska author Timothy Schaffert, this inaugural Pshares Single is a surreal adult fairy tale about obesity, murder, and how we change our bodies to meet the needs of others.

We’ll give you the links when the Single is live!

PS: We are accepting submissions for future Pshares Singles. Visit our website for details.


Literary Boroughs #3: Omaha, NE

The Literary Boroughs series will explore little-known and well-known literary communities across the country and world and show that while literary culture can exist online without regard to geographic location, it also continues to thrive locally. The series will run on our blog from May 2012 until AWP13 in Boston. Please enjoy the third post on Omaha, Nebraska by Katie Wudel. -Andrea Martucci, Ploughshares Managing Editor

Omaha, Nebraska is fueled by great food, financial smarts, and an optimistic entrepreneurial spirit. This trifecta has made it the ideal home for a seemingly motley crew: indie label Saddle Creek Records, the College World Series, Herman Cain, Warren Buffett, Omaha Steaks, and Alexander Payne. Omaha’s low-cost living and independent outlook have empowered a fast-growing, fiercely loyal tribe of innovative creative thinkers who care about where they live and constantly seek ways to make it better—whether that means improved public transit or a wider array of small presses and reading series. In recent years, Omaha’s topped practically every one of those “Best American Cities for Young Professionals” lists. It’s a terrific habitat for someone with a writerly sensibility, particularly in a recession: affordable housing, some quiet time, a culturally satisfying lifestyle, and a compassionate community willing to help you see your harebrained idea through to its fruition.

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