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This made no sense to Hettienne. Strange? Saturn? How could anyone ever think that Emerald Park was scary, lonely, and strange? Here was where you ran and yelled like Indians, and no one on Earth could stop you. Here was where nine nobles strove to defend castle walls and never once were defeated. Here was where lightning bugs answered flashing stars across gold bays of meadow hemmed in purple forest and sheltered by navy sky.

from The Legend of the Albino Farm: A Novel published by Unbridled Books

On the campus of Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, in a recital hall where the novel’s main character, Hettienne Sheehy, attended concerts and chorals, 18010796_10211570021757432_8848822537898277000_nwe launched The Legend of the Albino Farm: A Novel at the Unbound Book Festival. If you have not put this festival on your literary map, please do so now. Its second year was spectacular. Here’s a recording of the interview among Unbridled Books editor, Greg Michalson, and two of his authors, Peter Geye (Safe from the Sea; Lighthouse Road) and me: https://vimeo.com/214373398. The night before, staying at Michalson Farm, we toured past the Stephens College stables, where, in the novel, Hettienne taught equestrian. And at Michalson Farm, I must add, we comforted a very pregnant mare out of Holy Bull.

“Happenings @ the Library

from LibeWire, Staff Newsletter of the Springfield-Greene County Library

It was standing room only at the Library Station on Sunday, April 23, for Steve Yates’ talk about his new book “The Legend of the Albino Farm.” Fifty-five people attended and enjoyed Steve’s reading and the Q&A that followed. Collection Services Manager Lisa Sampley sold out the 30 copies of the book she brought. “Thanks to her for keeping us classy at the book signing,” said Branch Manager Kim Flores. “It was especially gratifying to see so many people inside the library on the first nice weather day we’ve had for a while.” Steve followed up with a full house of 36 in the Library Center room B on Monday, April 24. Photograph at the Library Station by Kim Flores.20170423_140714

Steve responded on Monday with this note of thanks: “I am just dizzy with wonder at the two events we just achieved. Thank you all so much for your help! Lisa, who stayed and stayed while patrons chatted, had only four copies left last night. Wow! Here’s a video of the reading at The Library Center, https://vimeo.com/214676117 and the Question and Answer is at https://vimeo.com/214677380 ”

18119238_927327530703761_8737146363786523239_nIn addition to the two library lectures, successful signings happened at BookMarx and at Barnes & Noble-Springfield, where Reneé has been a supporter of every book I have published. Nightbird Books in Fayetteville, Arkansas, also had a happy turnout and a nearly full room. It was great to see old friends and meet new readers! The photograph above is by Allis Hammond of the University of Arkansas Programs in Creative Writing and Translation.

Signed books are available in limited supply at

BookMarx
325 E Walnut St
Springfield, MO 65806
Reserve your copy at (417) 501-1062

Barnes & Noble-Springfield
3055 South Glenstone
Springfield, MO 65804
Reserve your copy at(417) 885-0026

Nightbird Books
304 W. Dickson Street
Fayetteville, AR 72701
Reserve your copy at (479) 443-2080

Media Coverage

Tailgate Guys Countryside BBQ Radio Show

The Springfield News-Leader

USA Today Entertainment Network

KSMU Ozarks Public Broadcasting

Ozarks Alive

Midwestern Gothic

Missouri Review Podcast

KRFU Columbia Morning with David Lile

KSFG Author of the Week with Nick Reed

I spoke to W. D. Blackmon’s Creative Writing class at Missouri State University and, after a vigorous Q & A, I signed books for the students, who had already read the novel. This is the class in which I learned to write fiction, and I was there in service to the professor who taught me how to write.

I concluded time in Springfield as the featured speaker of the Drury University English Symposium, sponsored by Sigma Tau Delta, honoring Drury’s graduating seniors. This was a moving ceremony—Drury’s English Department has clearly created an intensely supportive community among its students—and I was quite honored to be part of it. See the reading at https://vimeo.com/215009850

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Squirrel pot pie, tomatoes, onions, fried okra and squash, ham and beans

Squirrel pot pie, tomatoes, onions, fried okra and squash, ham and beans

In Dr. Brooks Blevins’s class in Ozarks Literature and History, the first question a student asked struck at the heart of what I am wondering at now. A longing for the Ozarks, being away from the Ozarks, living in the Deep South, how does this separation affect my writing?

Last week, I had two reasons to head home to Springfield and the Missouri Ozarks. The Seventh Annual Ozarks Studies Symposium at Missouri-State-West Plains honored me as its keynote speaker and asked me home to read from my story collection Some Kinds of Love: Stories. And Dr. Brooks Blevins was teaching my novel, Morkan’s Quarry, in a class called Literature of the Ozarks and Literary History of the Ozarks (students can enroll in the class for credit either in English or in history).

1,329 miles reads the odometer in the Blue Avenger. Flowood, Mississippi, to Springfield, Missouri, to West Plains, Missouri, then back to Springfield, thence back to Flowood once more.

For a living, beginning author, to have a novel taught within a university setting as part of a body of literature, this seems miraculous to me. Most writers have to be dead for that to occur. Morkan’s Quarry is but three years old now. In book years, though, that is moldering-in-the-grave old. Driving home, my wife and I reflected that had either of the two New York agents who burned themselves out trying to sell Morkan’s Quarry, had they succeeded and placed the novel with one of the five remaining publishers in New York, the novel would now long have been remaindered, pulped, and gone. For, while it made happy money for me and for Moon City Press, it did not achieve what a New York publisher requires for success. Had I not found the perfect boutique publisher in Moon City Press, which keeps the book in print indefinitely, Dr. Blevins could never have taught it. Most New York publishing houses pulp a novel deemed unsuccessful within six months. Now, three years after publication, thirty students have read Morkan’s Quarry, discussed it, written impression pieces on it, and thoughtfully considered how the novel fits within Ozarks Literature.

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Dr. Blevins put no limits on me, and suggested I just say what I usually say when starting a reading. Being in my hometown, the Springfield that gave Bob Barker his intellectual underpinnings, I did my best Guy Smiley (my hero! And also, I believe, from the Ozarks), and we played quiz show. Our multiple choice game is, Who wrote this sentence?

“The tales which follow were omitted from my earlier publications, because the editors objected to certain inelegant expressions.”

Was it A) Donald Harington in a soon-to-be-released posthumous collection of short stories entitled Will Tell; B) Vance Randolph in his preface to Pissing in the Snow & Other Ozark Folktales; C) Henry Rowe Schoolcraft in the just discovered manuscript he titled More Stuff That Uncouth Backwater Hayseeds Told Me; or D) me in my apologia to my parish priest Fr. Gerard Hurley begging him not to excommunicate me after University of Massachusetts Press published Some Kinds of Love: Stories.

The answer was immediately guessed correctly, and on the first try! The winner received a free copy of Big Fiction Magazine, containing my novella, “Sandy and Wayne,” winner of the magazine’s inaugural Knickerbocker Prize.

In addition to reading from Rude Pursuits and Rugged Peaks, I read from this, one of many extraordinary entries in The White River Chronicles of S. C. Turnbo, http://thelibrary.org/lochist/turnbo/v4/st111.html

Between the scientific distance of Schoolcraft and the raw, brainwave cadence of Ozarks speech in The White River Chronicles of S. C. Turnbo, that’s where I wanted the narrator of Morkan’s Quarry to fall, insatiably curious about his people but not without the capacity for dismay or even indignation at what people are capable of doing.

Two of the dangers I see in being so far away from the Ozarks yet writing about home: nostalgia and boosterism can take hold. I love the Springfield I left in 1990, and the Fayetteville I left in 1998. When we hit the first winding curves, the first balds and limestone bluffs around Imboden and Ravenden, I have trouble speaking, and I am always glad that this is Tammy’s part of the drive. Reading and researching in local records with the help of Brian Grubbs at the Springfield Greene County Public Library Saturday, I was on the trail of a Springfieldian of some note from 1900 to 1914, Frank Headley, Jr. Newspaper articles praised much of his agricultural prowess, much of it corroborated by the structures he built at Springlawn Farm, but then, boosterism crept in to the record. One article, not contemporary to his zenith but from the 1990s, incorrectly stated that he introduced the first Percheron herd to America because he owned several show champions; the next article summarized that and polished it to a boosterish glare—our local citizen had introduced the Percheron breed to America. The error, repeated and expanded in journalism, accretes with nostalgia for a simpler, grander time into a faux fact. What we love and miss can make us rave. That is not why I write.

I was deeply touched by the enthusiasm and curiosity of the thirty students in Ozarks Literature, and with every minute astonished at how deeply they had all read and discussed the novel. The first question was, Now you don’t live in the Ozarks and you wrote some of Morkan’s Quarry while not living in the Ozarks. What affect does that long displacement have on your writing?

My gut answer was truthful, and I didn’t mean to be flip. I put a lot more snow and ice in Morkan’s Quarry because once I moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas, and especially when we moved to Flowood, Mississippi, I was doing without snow and ice. Many other great questions came, about Springfield history, quarrying, accidents at quarries, Ozarks geology, classes at Missouri State (Southwest Missouri State when I was there), which quarry in town inspired me, whether Leighton’s Galway was Galloway Village, the agency of African American characters in the book. What an unforgettable wonder that these readers had absorbed so much!

The Ozarks Studies Symposium continues its inclusiveness, a wonderful openness when you look at the program and presenters. Look at the variety here, from musical instruments to weather and religious studies, prohibition, and a celebration and memorial of University Press of Mississippi author, the late W.K. McNiel, who wrote Ozark Country for University Press of Mississippi. Would that all symposia on regions could be so open-minded! That the symposium would devote its keynote to a writer of literary short stories and the book, Some Kinds of Love, really brought inclusiveness home powerfully to me. I was doubly honored in that both Dr. Blevins and Lynn Morrow, co-creator of The White River Chronicles of S.C. Turnbo, were there to hear me read from the story “Starfall.”

Steve Yates reads from Some Kinds of Love: Stories at the Ozarks Studies Symposium West Plains, Missouri from Steven B Yates on Vimeo.

Too bad Tammy and I both had head colds that were obnoxious, and barely held in check by cold pills and plain good luck. I hope it doesn’t show in how I read. After the dinner—squirrel pot pie, paw paws, and gooseberry pie for desert, plus the gift of elderberry wine from Howell County News editor and publisher, Kim Wehmer, and the signature of editor and poet Anthony Priest, who included me next to Daniel Woodrell in Yonder Mountain: An Ozarks Anthology—we limped home to Springfield and family and the research I’m doing on a new project.

Still, driving to my other home, to Flowood on Sunday, there remains that lingering question, what does all this distance do to me? What does it do to what I can write?

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Steve Yates won the 2012 Juniper Prize for fiction, established in 2004 by the University of Massachusetts Press in collaboration with the UMass Amherst MFA Program for Poets and Writers, presented annually for an outstanding work of literary fiction. His collection, Some Kinds of Love: Stories, will be published by University of Massachusetts Press in April 2013. Sabina Murray, author of The Caprices and Tales of the New World among others, was the judge. The dozen fictions in Some Kinds of Love: Stories were all published in nationally renowned literary magazines such as the Missouri Review, Southwest Review, and TriQuarterly. One was honored by Richard Russo and the editors of Best American Short Stories 2010 as among the 100 Distinguished Stories of 2009. Another story was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Yates was born and reared in Springfield, Missouri, attended Greenwood Laboratory School and graduated from Glendale High School. He then graduated from Missouri State University and later earned his MFA in writing from University of Arkansas. His first novel, Morkan’s Quarry, set in Springfield, the surrounding Ozarks, and St. Louis in the Civil War, was published by Moon City Press in 2010. Yates is assistant director / marketing director at University Press of Mississippi in Jackson, and lives in Flowood with his wife, Tammy.

Q: So Some Kinds of Love: Stories is a short story collection. It’s not the sequel to Morkan’s Quarry?

A: Right, these are twelve stories I wrote and published between 1990 and 2012. But, one of the stories, published originally in the Missouri Review, is really an adapted version of chapter two from the sequel to Morkan’s Quarry. So for any reader demanding to be back in the 1860s in Springfield with the Morkans, Some Kinds of Love: Stories has a taste of what’s to come.

Q: So how many of these stories are set in Springfield or the Ozarks?

A: Seven of the twelve. Four happen in Springfield, and two others happen in Niangua and then Seligman, and the last story happens in a made up Ozarks town, Lawry City, which could be Strafford or Lebanon or Springfield, anywhere where all-night softball tournaments happen. Did you know that people outside the Missouri Ozarks don’t know what all-night softball tournaments are? Isn’t that extraordinary? In the workshop at Fayetteville, Arkansas, seated around that conference table in the writing program were super-talented young writers from Ireland, Burma, Virginia, Illinois, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, California, Oklahoma, Mississippi, all over the nation and globe, and the great John Williams (author of Stoner and Butcher’s Crossing and a National Book Award winner) is leading the workshop. The last story in Some Kinds of Love is up for critique, and there is not much astonishment expressed at a seer who can only see an hour into the future or the real biblical apocalypse descending. The first questions are, “What is an all-night softball tournament? Is there really such a thing anywhere?”

Q: What are the other stories set in Springfield about?

A: One is about a detective pursuing Ether Eddie, a serial-home-invader case that maybe Springfield has forgotten. But when I was in high school at Glendale and working at the News-Leader, the ghastly, creepy invasiveness of Ether Eddie was constantly on everyone’s minds. A transformative moment when innocence and safety evaporated. The wonderful writers who have blurbed Some Kinds of Love: Stories—Ben Fountain, Steve Yarbrough, Brad Watson—and many other writers who have read the manuscript have mentioned how troubling and affecting that story is.

Q: How can a crime or a cop story be about love?

A: Oh, the detective—made up by the way, other than the details of what Ether Eddie was doing when he slipped into homes, etherized young women in Southern Hills, and watched them sleep, other than those details, I made the story up—but the detective has a daughter, and he loves her very much. Eddie represents to him the end of a way of life in Southern Hills, the end of a sort of idyll. And the detective loves his job, loves hunting complicated bad guys.

Q: Is the Ozarks all that unique?

A: The end of it that I used to know from Lake Pomme de Terre down to Fayetteville, Arkansas, certainly seems unique. Draw an oval right around those two points and think of the variety of people and landscape, think of the economic differences and energy. Especially in the crossroads marketplace that was and is Springfield. I mean, there’s a reason Sam Walton DID NOT open his first Sam’s Club in Arkansas. He did it in Springfield because we made for an awesome test market. In that oval between those points of the Ozarks, you will find the most adept and adaptable sales force in the nation, the Guy Smileys and Bob Barkers of America. They understand the dour Midwestern tone; they are totally down with the hillbilly’s wont to go-it-alone; and they can soften up to the Southerner without setting off Yankee alarm bells.

Q: Is that the sort of people you write about, sales people? I mean, these aren’t Chamber of Commerce stories?

A: I do tend to write about people who are employed and whose worldviews are shot through with perceptions gained at work. One of the oddest things for me about contemporary American writing that tries to be literary fiction is this: people seem to have no discernible means of economic support in short story after short story, novel after novel. No jobs. Magic trust-fund babies do Portland! Whee! Americans are intensely defined by the work we do; few national workforces in industrialized countries work harder and longer and yet go back for more and say they love it.

Q: So that’s where we get the list on the back of the book—pioneers, limestone quarry owners, nurses, sex toy catalog designers, attorneys, missile guidance masterminds, librarians, highway engineers?

A: From age eleven I had a paying job, whether I was a gofer at Yates, Mauck, Robinett, and Bohrer, or at sixteen, a sportswriter for the Springfield News-Leader, I was doing something for a wage, and had big, black rings under my eyes. Even in graduate school in Fayetteville when there were no teaching slots, I surveyed highways in the summers and did construction inspection. Work matters to American life, and certainly to the Ozarks I know. I don’t think I could write a story about someone without a job. I mean, even Mrs. Bridge was affected by a job and really had a job, right? She was the wife of attorney, Mr. Bridge, and mother of three. She ran a household in Kansas City, and her leisure hours confounded her.

Q: Okay, that’s a lot about work, but the story collection is called Some Kinds of Love. What about love?

A: Well, the book is dedicated to my wife, Tamara Gebhart Yates, also of Springfield, for a lot of reasons. For a major inspirational reason in that she was the one who dared me to write a happy ending. Why in undergraduate school at Missouri State and graduate school at University of Arkansas in the late 1980s, early 1990s were we writing all these stark stories with fatalistic, inconclusive endings? Tammy hated that vogue and dared me point blank to think outside of it. And it ended up that each of these characters I invented found their struggle was with some aspect of love, how love did not work the way they demanded it to or the way venial desires led them to believe it did.

Q: So does everybody end up happy, happy, sunsets and holding hands? Who is this book for?

A: No, I can’t conceive that Hollywood, Disney outlook. Love is work sure as life is work. And I keep fretting that people won’t recognize that some books are for adults only. This book is called Some Kinds of Love, so people in the book will tear their clothes off and do terrible things to each other as surely as they may undress and do loving or merciful things that are nonetheless adult in content. My wife will sometimes ask when I fret about this, “People realize you’re not writing Hallmark cards, right?” Watching the public at my own book signings for Morkan’s Quarry and at book signings for University Press of Mississippi, my employer, I don’t know what people recognize any more. I think they are too busy sometimes, and find themselves somewhere with their kids, who may already have seen way more violence and depravity in movies and on television than I ever want to stomach.

Q: So the other five stories, they’re about what and set where?

A: The south. One in New Orleans, two in Jackson, Mississippi, one in West Point, Mississippi, and one in Port Gibson, Mississippi. And they are about all kinds of people—a terrorist cell member and a librarian who fall in love; three gay men in a love triangle, one of whom is stealing; a lawyer in Port Gibson who is losing his daughter and his town; a missile guidance mastermind and his pig-throwing son.

Q: Pig throwing?

A: In a slow news cycle right before Christmas, a young Mississippian in West Point was arrested for a series of outrageous incidents in which he cast live animals, mainly pigs, across retail counters. In the age of the internet, this got everywhere, posting and sharing. My Mississippi colleagues were mortified that the nation was paying attention to this news story, and naturally so. I mean, imagine had this been a bored country kid hurling pigs in Marshfield or Buffalo, and it could easily have been! I obsessed about it. It was performance art, I insisted. He was casting living missiles into the heart of corporate America! My dear Mississippi colleagues were not won over to this narrative. And so I wrote a short story.

Q: What does the title, Some Kinds of Love: Stories, mean? What’s it from?

A: Only a book geek would come up with a dream like this. As soon as I conceived of the title, since again and again love seemed to be what I was writing about, I realized something in Dewey decimal destiny might happen. There is a great short story collection, which all of us in creative writing programs have read and learned from, a classic. Now that University of Massachusetts Press has published this, there exists the distinct Dewey-decimal-system possibility that in some library where fiction is shelved the spines in a row will read Richard Yates: Eleven Kinds of Loneliness, and then a humble answer, Steve Yates: Some Kinds of Love. As a kid I was left alone for hours and hours on end at the Brentwood Library. It had a pronounced effect on me.

Q: So what will you be doing in the Ozarks for this book?

A: Monday, May 13, I’ll be in Springfield at the Library Center in the Auditorium, 4653 Campbell at 7 p.m. Books will be sold by Barnes & Noble in Springfield. You can ring B & N at (417) 885-0026. On Wednesday, May 15, from 4-7 p.m. I’ll be at Nightbird Books in Fayetteville, (479) 443-2080. That’s during the Farmer’s Market, so just drop in and I’ll be signing. And we come back to Barnes & Noble Springfield on Glenstone Saturday, May 18, from 1-3 p.m., just signing there. You can link to any of these sites at the events link here on the blog

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