Street Talk

Braddock Avenue Books: The Drowning Boy’s Guide to Water is your first book. How long did you work on this collection before it won the 2017 Rising Writer Prize at Autumn House Press?

Cameron Barnett: I worked on the poems in the book during the three years of my MFA at the University of Pittsburgh between 2013 and 2016, with a couple of exceptions: the oldest poem in the collection, “Nigger,” is a revision of a piece I first wrote in 2008; the newest three, “Redwoods in the Hood,” “Muriatic,” and “Fresh Prince” were all written after I graduated. The title and concept of the book came well after most of these poems were written too—that is, I didn’t quite realize what I was writing toward for a couple years until some key conversations with peers and mentors. I made some tweaks to it a few months after graduation and began sending it out. That’s how it found a home with Autumn House Press.

Catherine Zobal Dent

Homegrown: An interview with Catherine Zobal Dent


Braddock Avenue Books: Let’s start at the end. The final story in your collection, “Unfinished Stories of Girls,” is also the title of the entire collection. Why did you decide to use this title for the book and why did you decide to put that story last?

Zobal Dent: That last story is drawn from a novel I’m working on in which a daughter of Italian-American immigrants struggles with various accounts she’s been given of her family’s movement through time and space. This story, a narrative thread of the novel, draws from a folktale called Gatti sotto il mare, or “cats under the sea.” It’s this disturbing tale of good sister versus bad sister, and in the end, of course, the “good girl” wins and the “bad girl” loses.

Braddock Avenue Books: Although the pervading idea of Your Life Idyllic is the setting of Detroit, the collection depicts vastly different characters from many walks of life; yet each one has his or her own voice and personal idiosyncrasies. They feel authentic and are very accessible to us as readers. What was your goal in compiling these individual stories with Detroit as their common thread?

How do you write critically about a game that, for all intents and purposes, boils down to steering a spaceship on a flat, fixed line and shooting two-dimensional bugs that resemble undulating amoebas?

Robert Yune: As the title suggests, memory plays an important role in this novel. In general, what is the value of memory nowadays, especially in a society where seemingly everything is recorded, tracked, or documented?

Braddock Avenue Books: Your first novel, Borrowed Horses, clearly indicates that you have a very special relationship with horses, that you’ve spent a lot of time with them. It’s more than just a love; it’s like the horse is part of you. How does this kind of relationship develop?

Robert Yune: I first read Geni’s work in 2011. I was the fiction editor of The Fourth River, and our readers had passed on a story to me with enthusiastic notes: “Stuck w/ me long after I finished,” “DROP EVERYTHING, READ NOW.” And I did.

Michael Gerhard Martin

Writing Process Blog Tour


What are you working on?

My friend and publisher Jeffrey Condran asked me if I’d like to write this post, and I was delighted. You can read his response here:

If you’re a writer and you don’t like attention, get out of the business.

Jeffrey Condran

Writing Process Blog Tour


I was incredibly pleased to be asked by University of Pittsburgh writing instructor, Robert Yune, to participate in this Writing Process Blog Tour!

Braddock Avenue Books: Both the backdrop for the magical aspects of The Tide King as well as the properties of the herb burnette saxifrage, is Reszel, Poland. Is your use of this herb and the story you have woven around it based in Polish myth or legend?

Jen Michalski: A little of both. There is an actual herb, burnette saxifrage, and an actual witch, Barbara Zdunk, who was the last person executed for being a witch in Poland.