Recent Work By Jen Michalski


In early 2008, Caitlin Shetterly, an established NPR radio reporter, theatre director, and writer, and her husband, Dan, a photographer, drove cross-country to LA with their dog and cat, hoping to dip into the prosperity that had lured so many of their friends. Then the recession hit. Less than a year later they drove back, with a newborn in tow and no job prospects, forced to live in a room of Caitlin’s mother’s home in Maine. Shetterly chronicled their hardships on a radio blog for NPR’s Weekend Edition, and suddenly to thousands of Americans, the new face of the recession was younger and more educated. In a memoir born of her blog and radio diaries, Made for and Me: Going West, Going Broke, Finding Home (Voice 2011), Shetterly shines a light on our worst fears—that everyone, even the young and educated, is vulnerable to poverty, to joblessness, to loss of hope.

FINNY, the coming-age-story of a defiant fourteen-year-old girl, Finny, has been described as a combination of Charles Dickens and Judy Blume with a dash of John Irving and JD Salinger. However, the most surprisingly fact about this tender debut novel is not its influences but its author, Justin Kramon. His ability to channel the angst and confusion and will of a fiery female outcast and her quirky circle of friends and lovers is an oddity in a sea of male-authored novels about, well, guys. Here, Justin Kramon, a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop whose stores appear in Glimmer Train, StoryQuarterly, Boulevard, and others, tells Jen Michalski what gives.


Jane Mendelsohn is the author of three novels, including the critically acclaimed I Was Amelia Earhart and her latest, American Music. American Music interweaves four generations of an American family with the music of Count Basie and Billie Holiday, the origins of cymbals in 17th-century Turkey, the film industry in the 1920s, and 20th-century New York. In this TNB interview, I talk with Jane Mendelsohn about why she wanted to write a concise history of the 20th century, what American symbolism means to her, her approach to writing, and more.

These days, the author Sarah Braunstein is not hard to find. Her debut novel The Sweet Relief of Missing Children was released by W.W. Norton & Co. earlier this year, and she was recently named one of “5 Under 35” fiction writers by the National Book Foundation.  And yet, several years ago, as a new mother and the owner of two master’s degrees, one in social work, she wondered when she would even find the time to write. Thanks to an anonymous nomination, the Rona Jaffe Foundation, which honors emerging female writers, awarded Braunstein a $25,000 scholarship, making sure that she did not fall through the cracks. Braunstein pays the gift forward in The Sweet Relief of Missing Children, in which she chronicles three children/teenagers who go “missing,” a term that winds up being different for each, and for the reader as well.

Heather Fowler is a Renaissance woman, and I’m not speaking of her lush lips, her vibrant red hair, or her jeweled eyes. She is a writer, poet, playwright, screenwriter, painter, and mother, and now she is the author of a debut collection of stories, Suspended Heart, just out from Aqueous Books. It’s a dazzling collection of magical realism, from boys made of clay and girls made of razor blades, to Philip Dick-esque replicants, to vampires and heroic parrots. I talked with Heather about the collection, her emotional pulses, her inner old lady, and more:

Henning Koch’s Love Doesn’t Work, just released from Dzanc Books, is a collection of seven “dualist” tales that examine the struggles of the human condition with sharp satire but also surprising vulnerability. I picked up the collection at AWP and couldn’t wait to talk to Koch, an ex-screenwriter and literary translator living in Berlin, about his influences, the minefields of publishing, and why he thinks love doesn’t work.

So we did, and here it is.