Small Beer Podcast 21: Mary Rickert’s “Cold Fires”

Wed 20 Jan 2016 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , , , , , , | Posted by: Julie

You Have Never Been Here cover - click to view full sizeBeing the internet age, I’ve learned as much about Mary Rickert from her Facebook feed as I have from the biography on her website.

These are the facts I am confident are true: Mary Rickert dislikes the Distraction Culture of smartphones and loves flowers, she is open to new adventures and has spent many hours hiking the Sequoia National Park, she is generous and gracious and deeply appreciative of her friends.

As this is also the Fragmentary Age, I also “know” some facts that are likely some percentage of wrong: she is a serious practitioner of yoga, she spent years working and reworking her critically-acclaimed first novel, she has a dog.

Finally, there are the facts I gleaned from her writing itself. No external proof is required; her stories are the proof. Mary Rickert sees the darkness inside all of us and still cares. She loves children, real children, the kind who are selfish and volatile and loving and oh-so vulnerable. She understands that people often fail to be their best selves. Mary Rickert doesn’t flinch. That’s what makes her fiction so powerful. But beneath the disquiet and darkness, or intertwined with it, her stories contain an intense belief in the redemptive power of human caring. Her stories are immersive and beautiful and full small human kindnesses.

The story I chose for this podcast, “Cold Fires,” is about pirates, and strawberries, and enchantments, including the enchantment of love. It is also about what happens when people love too much and what happens when they fail to love enough.

Mary Rickert earned a MFA from Vermont College of Fine Art.  Her novel, The Memory Garden, won the Locus award for best first novel and won rave reviews from such places as io9, NPR, and Publishers Weekly. Her stories have won or been nominated for the World Fantasy Award, the Nebula, the Crawford Award, and the International Horror Guild Award.

Episode 21: In which Julie C. Day reads Mary Rickert’s “Cold Fires” from her collection You Have Never Been Here.

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Small Beer Podcast 20: Carmen Maria Machado’s “I Bury Myself”

Tue 11 Aug 2015 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , , , , , , , , | Posted by: Julie

Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet No. 33 is a strange and extremely personal cultivation. Guest edited by Michael J. Deluca, it themes and focuses and ponders on our ecological future in a way that doesn’t seem to limit the writing at all. LCRW No. 33 is about people and relationships. It is also about this new epoch we find ourselves in, the Antropocene.

These days, humanity’s impacts on the earth are like some virulent and ugly form of magical realism infecting our nonfictional world. And yet in other ways nothing has really changed. We living humans are no more immersed in our environment than our ancestors were two or five or ten thousand years ago. And just as it has always been, after we die our organic matter feeds and scatters and transforms.

In a way that I find surprising and occasionally gut wrenching, Carmen’s story “I Bury Myself” takes on one personal experience of the inevitable end. It is a wonderful addition to LCRW No.33.

Carmen Maria Machado is a fiction writer, critic, and essayist whose work has traveled across many fictional boundaries. As well as LCRW No. 33, her work has appeared in such places as  The New Yorker, NightmareGranta,  ShimmerThe Paris Review, LightspeedAGNI, Interfictions, and NPR. You can find more of her work at

Episode 20: In which Julie C. Day reads Carmen Maria Machado’s “I Bury Myself” from Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet No.33.

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Small Beer Podcast 19: Nathan Ballingrud’s “You Go Where It Takes You”

Tue 14 Jan 2014 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , , , , , | Posted by: Julie

North American Lake Monsters cover - click to view full sizeNathan Ballingrud is one of those authors who should be far better known. Hopefully, this collection will do something to bridge that particular gap.

I don’t write fan letters and I don’t read stories that sometimes fall across the border into grotesque, but then Nathan Ballingrud’s North American Lake Monsters came along. Immediately after I finished the collection, before I even knew I was going to record this podcast, I had messaged Nathan directly to tell how how I felt. The thing is—I don’t do things like that.

Even as I type this blog entry, I am holding back my over-eager fangirl. Ballingrud’s stories are that good. They are dark and unique and beautifully written. The prose is Ballingrud’s alone, but it reminds me of Raymond Carver after Gordon Lish had cleaned up his work. (Here’s a link for those of you who don’t know that particular story. It is a psychological horror story all its own.)

Ballingrud’s stories blur that artificial line between psychological, supernatural, and physical horror. But they do more than that. These are stories about people who make hard and, often morally uncomfortable choices, and yet remain emphatically human. We may not approve of what they do, but we damn well understand it. In the end, after traveling through Ballingrud’s world, I didn’t feel anxious or scared, I felt lighter, as though his stories had carried off some darkness within myself. Best of all, I felt entertained.

Episode 19: In which Julie C. Day reads Nathan Ballingrud’s “You Go Where It Takes You” from North American Lake Monsters.

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Small Beer Podcast 18: Kelly Link’s “Stone Animals” & Cider

Tue 24 Sep 2013 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , , , , , , , , | Posted by: Julie

Old friends never go out of style. Yet, somehow, too often they manage to slip into the dusty corners of our lives. Each time one pops up and disrupts my helter skelter schedule, I feel a frisson of rediscovery. “Yes, this is why we remember each other. This really is how it used to be.”

This latest Small Beer podcast is exactly such an old friend. Recorded a while back, I got nervous about the time involved in editing it down, then distracted by a number of non-podcast related deadlines, and finally let the recording slip into some forgotten crack. Dear, Lord, what was I thinking?!  The discussion is opinionated, amusing and thoughtful in just the right measure. Months later it makes me want to go back and reread “Stone Animals” all over again.

Spoiler Alert: The details of the story are discussed at length. If you have not yet read “Stone Animals” consider this your excuse to do so now. Not. One Wasted. Moment. I promise.  You can purchase the beautifully illustrated chapbook from Madras Press, knowing all proceeds go to the Fistula Foundation, or you can read it for free (under a Creative Commons license) as part of Kelly’s Magic for Beginners collection.

Episode 18: In which Julie C. Day, Jennifer Abeles, Dusty Buchins, & Geoff Noble discuss Kelly Link’s “Stone Animals.”

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