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Launch Day for THE DEVOTED

THE DEVOTED is officially available for purchase in bookstores or online! Here’s a roundup of some of the most exciting things that have been happening with the book:

On launch day, I signed copies of The Devoted at bookstores in New York, including The Strand, McNally Jackson, and Kinokuniya. And I read at the amazing H.I.P. Lit series.

TIME MAGAZINE reviewed The Devoted, in conversation with R.O. Kwon’s The Incendiaries! Eliana Dockterman writes, “Both novels set themselves apart from others in the genre with a terrifying but insightful warning not to look for easy answers offered by false prophets”: False Prophets Come Under Fire in Two Timely Summer Novels

The Rumpus reviewed The Devoted! Maikie Paje writes, “The Devoted is a personal journey. Who you are informs your reading experience. Hurley leaves you thinking and sorting through feelings long after her final page”: Finding Her Way: The Devoted by Blair Hurley

Thanks to all the teachers, readers, writers, and friends who have brought the book to bookstores, and continue to support its release.

News about my Novel, THE DEVOTED, coming August 21st

It’s almost here, readers — THE DEVOTED will be available online and in bookstores on August 21st! It would mean a lot if you pre-ordered, on Amazon or at the Indie bookstore of your choice:
Amazon pre-order
Indie pre-order

Recent News about THE DEVOTED:

Booklist gave THE DEVOTED a starred review! Here’s an excerpt:
“Hurley’s debut is a breathtaking performance, portraying not just the ugly corners of an abusive relationship but also how faith can color the contours of our lives. With absolutely spot-on descriptions of Boston, this spellbinding story adds much-needed nuance to the discussion of faith and what we’re willing to forsake in the name of absolution.”

Library Journal picked THE DEVOTED as one of its Summer/Fall Best Reads and wrote “All lovers of great fiction with complex characters as well as anyone fascinated by narratives about religious cults will want.”

And THE DEVOTED is on the Center for Fiction’s longlist for its First Novel Prize!

I’m so excited to see the responses that have started coming in. And finally, I’ll be doing events this summer and fall in Boston, New York, Chicago, and beyond to launch The Devoted. Check back at my Events Page to see new events added. I hope to see you there!


EVENTS

AUGUST 21, 2018 / New York, NY
7pm: H.I.P. Lit Reading Series at Nowadays Bar

SEPTEMBER 5, 2018 / Toronto, ON
7pm: Reading at Ben McNally Bookstore

SEPTEMBER 12, 2018 / New York, NY
7pm: Reading and conversation with Darin Strauss at McNally Jackson Bookstore

SEPTEMBER 13, 2018 / Brookline, MA
7pm: Reading and conversation with Laura Van Den Berg at Brookline Booksmith

SEPTEMBER 22, 2018 / St. Louis, MO
Panel discussion at Bookfest St Louis

SEPTEMBER 25, 2018 / Providence, RI
Point Street Reading Series at Alchemy

SEPTEMBER 28, 2018 / Elkins Park, PA
8pm: Author Cabaret at St. Paul’s Elkins Park

SEPTEMBER 30, 2018 / Chicago, IL
2pm: Panel discussion at Storystudio Writers’ Festival

OCTOBER 1, 2018 / Chicago, IL
7pm: Reading and conversation with Rebekah Frumkin at Volumes Bookcafe

OCTOBER 12, 2018 / Princeton, NJ
6pm: Reading and conversation with Joyce Carol Oates, Rachel Lyon, and Lillian Li at Labyrinth Books

OCTOBER 13, 2018 / Boston, MA
Panel discussion with Sam Graham-Felsen, Yang Huang, and Fatima Farheen Mirza at Boston Book Festival

From my March Newsletter: How THE DEVOTED Began

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THE FIRST PAGE OF “THE DEVOTED” STARTS WITH A PROBLEM. I’d written a shaky short story for my fiction workshop. It was about Zen Buddhism, and growing up Irish Catholic; it was about getting sucked into religious devotion that became more like sexual worship. But it was talky and vague and technical and confusing. The workshop hadn’t gone well. But at the end of the painful discussion, my teacher said, “it’s not working well because there’s too much here. There’s a novel here.”
I rode the train back to my apartment in Brooklyn, clutching my wrinkled stack of commented stories, thinking about what my teacher had said. The story was a disaster; but I knew there was something there, the seed of a story, the characters and ideas I’d been mulling over, wrestling with, for most of my life.
Back in the apartment, I pulled out my 1935 Royal typewriter, a graduation present from my parents. Sometimes when the blinking cursor on a blank page on my computer felt too overwhelming, I turned to this ancient, creaking machine to get my writing done. Every key press was an effort. It felt like I was really doing something heroic. I looked out the window, let the quiet of the afternoon fill me, and I wrote a page. It was the same character I’d been writing about in my failed short story, but now the central problem of her life was laid bare, and Boston was wrapped up in it too, those long trips on the train, those muddy backyards and strangers walking by with their coat collars turned up. This time, the first page of the story was an open door into everything I wanted to say about belief, about sensuality, about family and devotion and their hard irreconcilability.

That first paragraph got tweaked and shuffled around a bit from draft to draft, but in the final work, it’s still there — and all the energy and mood, the promise of it, was what kept me going through the years it took to reach this story’s completion.

This month, I’m off to the AWP writers’ conference, which is always a huge jolt in the arm for me; it’s tremendously inspiring to learn of others’ projects, successes, and failures, and to re-connect with writers I’ve met from around the country. Coming soon will be some of the first scheduled events for The Devoted — so stay tuned.

New Awards and Honors

I’m pleased to report that I’ve had several successes this month with new short stories.

“A Night Odyssey” was a finalist in Glimmer Train’s Fiction Open.

“These Things Happen Here” was a finalist in AWP’s scholarship competition, and judge Lori Ostlund had these kind words for the piece:

Because the world of “These Things Happen Here”—an urban community college classroom—is so familiar to me, I was prepared not to be surprised by the story. How wrong I was. In fact, what was most impressive to me about this story is the way that the author constantly takes risks, writing with great honesty about a main character who is vulnerable and wants what is best for his students but is in way over his head. The unspoken secret of the classroom is that sometimes teachers dislike their students, and this author goes there also, as well as into the complicated relationship between art and revenge. The ending is complex and spot on. Like all great stories, this one stayed with me after the first reading and the second, but the meaning kept shifting, changing and evolving.

“The Deconstruction” was shortlisted for The Masters Review Anthology.

I’ve also been selected as a resident at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts and as a scholar at Sewanee Writers’ Conference.

Letting Go of the First Page

I have a new piece of flash fiction appearing in the March issue of the Tahoma Literary Review. I also wrote a blog post for these fine folks about the importance of letting go of the first page. Read an excerpt below, and read the entire article here.
The blank page of a new story can be terrifying. Even if an idea is fresh and vivid in my mind, I still find myself looking at that first empty page warily as someone stepping out onto a frozen pond, wondering if I can build a structure that will hold me up, marveling that I ever have in the past. Eventually, I begin — with tricks and prompts, or just by edging out into that space, testing the waters with either keyboard or pen. The first page of a story is delicate. It’s the page that gets you into the conflict, that helps you discover a character, that allows a writer to discover what she’s writing about. And for all those reasons, it’s often what must go.
I see it again and again in my students’ work, and I see it in my own; somehow it takes a page to sink into the rhythm of writing, and to get used to speaking with that particular voice. So often my students write of their characters getting up and brushing their teeth; they write about the weather; they write about getting coffee. It’s only on the second page or so that someone knocks on the door, and the story really begins.
I’m guilty of this too. In the first pages of my drafts, characters go wandering through the woods or feel the need to explain who their parents and siblings and uncles and aunts are. They have to tell me about their jobs and what clothes they’re wearing. That’s all good and fine, but
when it’s time to look back at a story and revise, I’m stunned by how often cutting the entire first page dramatically improves a piece. Just try it! The drama of your story will emerge, sharp and vital, right out there at the front of the charge.
This might be one of the most important edits you make in terms of publishing your story as well. As an editor of a small lit mag myself, I know how a strong first page can catch my attention — and how a weak first page can make even lovely writing that follows a hard slog. I’ll read past a weak beginning, but now the story is living on borrowed time; I’m looking for reasons to reject. With a vivid first page, I’m far more eager to read on.

Continue reading at the Tahoma Literary Review

Now Offering Manuscript Consulting

I’m excited to report that I’m now offering professional manuscript consulting. I’ve been helping writers with their manuscripts in many different ways as a college instructor and instructor at adult writing workshops for years, and now I offer such services in a private capacity. It’s a way for me to do something I really enjoy as part of my job — helping writers shepherd their manuscripts toward success.

Since 2003, I’ve been offering tips, secrets, and techniques for improving your writing; now for a much more personal guiding hand on your story, you can hire me.

I offer in-depth manuscript critiques, line-by-line story editing, and private writing coaching. You can visit my new editorial site to learn about the many ways I help writers, from query letter assistance to proofreading and more. Contact me today about preparing your manuscript for success.

The Two Cities Review Podcast

tcpodcastlogoReaders, I must share with you an exciting new project that I’ve been working on along with my co-editor at Two Cities Review. We couldn’t be more excited about our newest venture, the Two Cities Review Podcast.

From the beginning of our little magazine’s inception, we always knew we wanted to create a magazine that captured the complexity of modern urban life. That meant seeking out stories about bridging the gaps between dreams and reality, between geography and localness, between technology and human connection. We always wanted our magazine to be a media-rich publication, a digital experience that actually took advantage of its digital format. So a podcast was pretty much inevitable. The podcast as a form is experiencing a golden age these days; we’re surrounded by a great richness of story, delivered in a way that lets you listen at all hours of the day. And Two Cities Review, we knew, should be participating in that great urban flow of anytime, anywhere story.

Our podcast will be a mixture of us and you. That is, you’ll hear from us each episode, talking about what it takes to create the issue; you’ll get insights from us into our editorial process, what makes us accept or reject a story, and why we do or don’t love a piece. We’ll answer your questions about being editors and writers and what we’re looking for. But the podcast will also be a dialogue with our magazine. We’ll share our authors, reading their poems and stories, and we’ll interview authors too, getting their special insight into the process of creating their wonderful work. We will be cheerleaders, enthusiasts, and discriminators. We will try to give you a little window into what it’s like to be a gatekeeper in the literary world, but we’ll also let your words sing.

We plan to have a new episode appear on the website and iTunes (coming soon) every two weeks. It will give you a whole new dimension of the current issue, and a whole new dimension of understanding into the editorial process.

Listen to the podcast

Issue 7 of Two Cities Review is Here!

Cities_Issue_7_webI’m excited to report that the issue my co-editor and I have been working very hard on, our special Fall Contest issue, is now available to be read online at Twocitiesreview.com. Take a sneak peek at the letter from the editors here:

IN THE FIRST YEAR AND A HALF SINCE WE BECAME A MAGAZINE, we have published poems, stories, essays and artwork by over 100 different authors, featured written and audio versions of creative work on our blog and run our very first prose contest. Having lived in several different cities, we realize that every city has its ups and downs. Whether it is the weather or the public transit or just the people you spent time with there, each city has its own unique blend of wonderful and gritty, inspiring and burdensome.

For our first contest, we sought stories and essays that examined the underside of cities. We received submissions about shootings and natural disasters, inmates and family members, growing up and growing old. We are excited to share the winners and runners-up from our contest in this special “Cities Gone Wrong” edition of Two Cities Review. We have included some poetry and art that we received during the same submission period that also fit the theme.

There’s much to be excited about at Two Cities as our magazine and website continue to evolve. We want to take advantage of all the forms of art that an online issue allows, so you can expect more use of audio and a soon-to-be-announced serial project. We can’t wait to present new visions of the literary city in upcoming issues.

We hope to make our contest an annual event; thank you all for your support of our writers and our magazine.

Happy reading!
Blair Hurley & Olivia Tandon

Read the new issue here

Issue 7 of Two Cities Review is Here!

Cities_Issue_7_webI’m excited to report that the issue my co-editor and I have been working very hard on, our special Fall Contest issue, is now available to be read online at Twocitiesreview.com. Take a sneak peek at the letter from the editors here:

IN THE FIRST YEAR AND A HALF SINCE WE BECAME A MAGAZINE, we have published poems, stories, essays and artwork by over 100 different authors, featured written and audio versions of creative work on our blog and run our very first prose contest. Having lived in several different cities, we realize that every city has its ups and downs. Whether it is the weather or the public transit or just the people you spent time with there, each city has its own unique blend of wonderful and gritty, inspiring and burdensome.

For our first contest, we sought stories and essays that examined the underside of cities. We received submissions about shootings and natural disasters, inmates and family members, growing up and growing old. We are excited to share the winners and runners-up from our contest in this special “Cities Gone Wrong” edition of Two Cities Review. We have included some poetry and art that we received during the same submission period that also fit the theme.

There’s much to be excited about at Two Cities as our magazine and website continue to evolve. We want to take advantage of all the forms of art that an online issue allows, so you can expect more use of audio and a soon-to-be-announced serial project. We can’t wait to present new visions of the literary city in upcoming issues.

We hope to make our contest an annual event; thank you all for your support of our writers and our magazine.

Happy reading!
Blair Hurley & Olivia Tandon

Read the new issue here

New Story Available at Day One Lit Mag

Readers, I’m excited to announce that a short story of mine, “Grimalkins”, is now available for download in Amazon’s online literary magazine, Day One. The story can be read on any Kindle or any Kindle app for iPhone or Android.

I worked hard on this story, which is loosely inspired by my stay at an artists’ colony and the very interesting characters one meets there. Somehow the story ended up being about motherhood and the gulf that exists between young and older artists as well.

Please support this writer by buying an issue or subscribing — there are some really excellent poems and stories to be read in the issues. Here’s the link:

Amazon: Day One