Admit This to No One by Leslie Pietrzyk

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 255 pgs.
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Admit This to No One by Leslie Pietrzyk is a stunning collection of short stories that are interconnected in ways that will surprise you. All of these stories are in and around Washington, D.C. One of the stories also appeared in the anthology, This Is What America Looks Like (my poem is in there, too, and is how I discovered this collection was being published!)

Pietrzyk’s prose will lull you into a false sense of security before she strikes with lines that upend her stories or characters. Readers go into each story believing they know who these powerful and not-so-powerful characters are, but eventually, the story reveals what we all refuse to admit — we need and crave love and acceptance, even if we do things to make it so hard for people to love and accept us.

From “Till Death Do Us Part”: “What that money adds up to is a satisfying figure, almost a super-tremendously huge figure. That’s me knowing how much he loves me, which might be pathetic if the figure weren’t so satisfyingly huge.” (pg. 15)

From “Wealth Management”: “Winning seems like enough, or all there is anyway, and it’s these thoughts that are in his head during the drive home as Chloe stares straight ahead, eyes glittery with tears she won’t dare let him see.” (pg. 42)

The Speaker of the House looms large in the collection, with his influence reaching far outside the capital, whether his impact on his illegitimate daughter or his first-born daughter or his trusty right-hand woman. Fatherly relationships play a central role in this collection, as do the influences of men on how women perceive themselves, want to be seen, and struggle to be while maintaining their independence.

Like the churn and turbulence of the Potomac River, Pietrzyk provides a glimpse into what political life in D.C. looks like, but she also demonstrates the emptiness and tense tightrope walking that it requires. Admit This to No One is a short story collection for the modern age and definitely one you won’t put down before turning the final page.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Leslie Pietrzyk is the author of the novel Silver Girl, released in 2018 by Unnamed Press, and called “profound, mesmerizing, and disturbing” in a Publishers Weekly starred review. In November 2021, Unnamed Press published Admit This to No One, a collection of stories set in Washington, DC, which The Washington Post called “a tour de force from a gifted writer.” Pietrzyk’s collection of unconventionally linked short stories, This Angel on My Chest, won the 2015 Drue Heinz Literature Prize and was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Kirkus Reviews named it one of the 16 best story collections of the year, Her previous novels are Pears on a Willow Tree and A Year and a Day. Short fiction and essays have appeared in Southern Review, Ploughshares, Gettysburg Review, Hudson Review, The Sun, Shenandoah, Arts & Letters, River Styx, Iowa Review, Cincinnati Review, TriQuarterly, New England Review, Salon, Washingtonian, Southern Indiana Review, Washington Post Magazine, and many others. She has received fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and in 2020, her story “Stay There” was awarded a Pushcart Prize. Pietrzyk is a member of the core fiction faculty at the Converse low-residency MFA program and often teaches in the MA Program in Writing at Johns Hopkins University. Raised in Iowa, she now lives in North Carolina.

Giveaway: Gaithersburg Book Festival 2022 Is a Wrap!

The 2022 Gaithersburg Book Festival was a resounding success at its new location, Bohrer Park. It had far more shade and the tents seemed to be full from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

We had a lovely reception at Asbury Methodist Village for the authors and presenters, and I’ll share those photos here (Thanks to Photographer Bruce Guthrie!):

Here are some of the photos I took from the Edgar Allan Poe tent where the poetry programming was located.

We had 2 mixed genre panels as well — one with short stories (brilliant Tara Cambell’s Cabinet of Wrath) and poetry and another with nonfiction/memoir (brilliant Leslie Wheeler’s Poetry’s Possible Worlds) and poetry. (these are my own photos, except for the one with Jay Hall Carpenter, Lisa Stice, and Lucinda Marshall)

We also announced the winners of the High School Poetry Contest. While the first and second place winners were not available for the ceremony, we did have a good crowd with the third place winner and the other honorable finalists.

Gaithersburg Book Festival High School Poetry Contest Winners and Finalists 2022 (taken by city staff)


Win a package of poetry books from the book festival. The books are:

Deadline to enter is June 3, 2022, at 11:59 p.m. EST. You must be 18 years old and up to enter.

Leave a comment below with your email to be entered

May 21: Gaithersburg Book Festival

Search the Adult Schedule for your favorites, including a great lineup of poets in the Edgar Allan Poe tent.

Search the Children’s schedule for your child’s favorites.

Useful Junk by Erika Meitner

Source: GBF
Paperback, 104 pgs.
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Useful Junk by Erika Meitner is a poetic exploration of memory and desire, but also a collection of perspectives on the body and how it is seen and what it sees. The collection opens with the poem, “I would like to be the you in someone’s poem.” Here, Meitner’s narrator expresses a desire to be seen in all her glory and quirkiness, even if it is just a fiction.

When you enter this collection, you’re in a surreal world where the poet explores what the junk mail knows about us and our finances, but also what junk mail fails to know about our feral nature and our desires to be wanted and seen with all of our flaws. Meitner’s poems offer vignettes of “multitudinous and wild pasts” and our many futures. “don’t you worry about how/scattered memory gets (pick-up-sticks, a box//of buttons, shards of plastic beached across/an entire coastline) and how we’re just trying//to find the origin,” (from “All the Past and Futures” pg. 18-9)

She tells us in “Medium Adam 25”: “I am not an abstracted/self in the wet night. I am not a static/enterprise either, and as I move through//time and space, many things are vanishing/in exchange for a wanting with no end…” Isn’t it the truth of each of us. We are not this abstract perception that others have of us; we are fluid and changing even if it isn’t as obvious by our physical selves — though those change too.

Useful Junk by Erika Meitner is intimate and existential all at once, and readers will swim in the morass and indulge in memory and perception imparted with quick wit and contemplative angst. Meitner provides us with a bridge between our memories and their changing patterns and our desires to be seen coupled with the anxiety of how we are perceived by others and ourselves.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Erika Meitner was born and raised in Queens and Long Island, New York. She attended Dartmouth College (for a BA in Creative Writing and Literature), Hebrew University on a Reynolds Scholarship, and the University of Virginia, where she received her MFA in Creative Writing as a Henry Hoyns Fellow, and her MA in Religious Studies as a Morgenstern Fellow in Jewish Studies.

Model Home by Jay Hall Carpenter

Source: GBF
Paperback, 61 pgs.
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Model Home by Jay Hall Carpenter is a collection reflecting on the homes we build, beginning with the landscape of “Common Ground,” in which the inside of a home may not be tenable but the land around it may be familiar and a place to start when building connections.

One of my favorite poems in this collection also speaks to connection, but in a way that kids and the kids within us will understand — the moments of our days. “Like Kids” explores the spontaneity and the curiosity of childhood, allowing us to shrug off adulthood and its responsibilities to run with the kids after the ice cream headache. These moments are fleeting, and as the string of our kites breaks and the kite drifts off into the air, we are made aware of the past and the present all at once. It is hopeful yet saddening.

“Model Home” speaks to the surface seen by others, but opens the doors wide to expose the fissures of family and the imperfections that we house. Carpenter has a deft hand in these poems, and even as many of them rhyme (something I don’t prefer as a reader), I was captivated. His ability to rhyme without distracting me as a reader was a welcomed surprise (though I have read a children’s manuscript he wrote and that rhymed, so I’m not sure why I should be surprised).

You’ll want to take your time touring Jay Hall Carpenter’s Model Home, scrutinizing the decor, exploring the dark corners, sledding down the snowy hills, examining the model home we, as America, pretend to be for the rest of the world. Our home may not be as perfect as we market it to be.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Jay Hall Carpenter is an author and artist living in Maryland. His written works include plays, musicals, children’s books, and poetry. For several years he published The ACE Occasionally, a small literary humor magazine. “Dark and Light” is his first collection of poetry.

Carpenter’s career in the visual arts spans forty years and began at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., where he designed 520 of the Cathedral’s sculptural embellishments, including gargoyles and angels. His public sculptures, monuments, smaller bronzes, and drawings can be found throughout the United States and at JayHallCarpenter.com.

Gaithersburg Book Festival 2022

It’s that time again. After two years running virtual book festival programs, the Gaithersburg Book Festival is aiming high for an in-person event on May 21, 2022.

Here are a few of my favorites:

I’m already receiving poetry books published between May 2021 and April 2022 from publishers and poets. If you’re a local poet or one willing to travel to Maryland for the book festival, you’re welcome to apply.

Information on how to apply can be found here.

Materials need to arrive by Nov. 1, 2021.

Link to the application can be found here.

Make sure you read the tips provided to help applicants with the process.