We've had the recent fortune of adding Adam Van Winkle to our staff as Book Editor. Not only does Adam bring to the table a diverse literary background, he brings boatloads of heart to each and every project.
No, seriously, you've never met anyone like Adam. He eats, breathes, and sleeps the written word. We're so glad to have him on board, and, after checking out the brief interview below, we think it'll be easy to see why.
*This interview involves Orson's Publishing (OP) and Adam Van Winkle (AVW).
OP: What do you look for most in a submission?
AVW: First of all, I want the manuscript to get to it. You can’t trust a reader is going to settle in with you for a long story unless you’re already one of the greats and the audience is reading your work to read you, you know? As Larry Brown says, I want “trouble on the first page,” whatever that looks like for your story. All that said, what really grabs me in a manuscript, in any fiction, are characters that feel authentic, place that matters to the story, and a voice that’s real telling the story.
OP: What are your favorite things to do outside of writing and/or editing? How do they influence your time with the written word?
AVW: I really dig folk and blues and Americana music, so I spend a lot of time listening to music and trying to bang out my best versions of it on tenor guitar or harmonica. My wife and I dig nature and the country and try to spend time getting to ‘em. Now that I think on it, both of those are prevalent in my fiction writing, and the fiction I like.
OP: Tell us about where you’re from. Does where you're from impact what you read and what you write?
AVW: Texoma, where southern Oklahoma meets north Texas at Lake Texoma, about an hour north of Dallas. My dad still lives on the family property in Madill, OK where he owns and works an autoshop. Madill and Lake Texoma are where Sonny and Jacy are running away to in The Last Picture Show. When my folks divorced my mom moved us across to Texas where I split time growing up on my stepdad’s family farm and my dad’s shop back in Madill. My first novel, Abraham Anyhow recounts a lot of the history of this region, the Lake, and fictionalizes my dad’s shop and property, so yea, this stuff works its way in…
OP: Tell us about where you’re going. Where do you hope this writing/editing journey leads you?
AVW: In a big sense, my mission is to get as much kickass literature into the world as possible. More specifically, I’m looking for that writer’s life: that day where I can live and work exclusively as a writer and editor of the stories I dig.
OP: This whole writing and publishing thing isn’t always lucrative. How do you pay your bills?
AVW: Yea, speaking of paying bills, right? I’ve got a masters in English literature and a masters in teaching English literature and have been teaching at the college and/or high school level for more than ten years. Right now I am the English Department at Cairo High School in Cairo, IL. It’s a small place but with a rich literary history from Huck Finn to True Grit to American Gods…
OP: Tell us about the biggest sacrifice you’ve made to be a writer and/or editor.
AVW: Certitude. I see a lot of folks my age and younger that have gotten on their career paths, tracks, whatever you wanna call it. They got it planned out, ya know, with salary and retirement. I’ve got that a little of that now that I teach at a public school, but I don’t necessarily want to teach forever. In fact, I definitely don’t. So it’s not like I got this concrete picture of me in my job in five years… I know the way I hope it goes, what I’m working for, but it’s anything but certain…
OP: What do you want most out of your literary community?
AVW: I want folks who read and who write. Folks who are vocal and promote writing and authors they truly dig. I don’t want folks interested in putting their commentary on the writing scene. I don’t need folks interested in shitting on others or telling me who sucks.
OP: What made you decide to pursue writing? Can it be whittled down to a moment? A person?
AVW: I read Slaughterhouse-five my freshmen year of college and as soon as I read the first chapter, where Vonnegut talks directly to the reader, I think I realized I wanted to do that too. I wrote him a letter a year later asking all kinda questions. He wrote me a postcard back, and didn’t answer any of them. But he still reached out. And that was cool as hell. I’ve wanted to be that kind of cool ever since probably…
OP: Give us some killer book recommendations.
AVW: Well this is one of those lists that’ll just get plumb outta hand, so I’ll rein it in and list five: Knockemstiff by Donald Ray Pollock, Feast of Snakes by Harry Crews, All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy, and Slaughterhouse-five by Kurt Vonnegut, of course. I think Work by Bud Smith is my new bible.
That said, anything by those guys or Larry Brown, Barry Hannah, Bonnie Jo Campbell, Erika Wurth, Brad Watson or Larry McMurtry usually jazzes me.
OP: Give ten words of advice for aspiring writers.
AVW: You have to put words on the page every day.
OP: What does a revolutionary book look like today?
AVW: Probably what is has always looked like: something that speaks to the current cultural milieu in broader ways while hooking into a good story at the same time. I don’t know, I don’t want to limit what else that might be. I don’t know, maybe that’s too old school but it feels right…
OP: How important of a role do you think books will play in the future?
AVW: Whatever myth exists about the death of the novel or books in a digital age, the long story is still our most popular entertainment form, whether it’s serial TV or film or comics or what have you. I think it’s fair to say as long as that is the case, books will matter.
OP: Aside from being a Book Editor for Orson’s Publishing, what other projects do you have going on currently?
AVW: Gawsh, too much probably: I’m working mostly on a novel called Squatter about a fella that decides to squat on an old abandoned family farm, casting him into unwitting Cliven Bundy type role as he stands off with the distant owner and local sheriff’s department. Otherwise, I’m working off and on on a novella of character vignettes about my home area entitled Count the Dust and shopping a finished novella that looks something like a modern Cain and Able grit lit story called While They Were in the Field. In addition to my writing, I run Cowboy Jamboree Magazine, an online rag inspired by my favorite grit lit writers. Its readership just keeps growing and growing, which pushes me to make each issue better and better.
OP: Any words of advice for writers out there looking to submit?
AVW: Read the presses, big and small. Read the authors.Buy their books. Read the editors. Buy their books. You’ll start to find where your writing fits, who to reach out to. It’s a process, it takes time, but it’s a way to find your footing.
Adam Van Winkle was born and raised in Texoma on both sides of the Oklahoma-Texas border and currently resides with his wife and two dogs on a rural route in Southern Illinois. His writing has appeared in places like The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Red Dirt Forum, Cheap Pop!, Crack the Spine, Vignette Review, Steel Toe Review, Dirty Chai, and Pithead Chapel. He has new fiction forthcoming in Bull Men's Fiction as well.
His debut novel, Abraham Anyhow, was published by Red Dirt Press in March 2017 and selected by The Southern Literary Review as the June 2017 Read of the Month and featured in Monkeybicycle's If My Book series in July 2017. An excerpt of the novel has also received a Pushcart Nomination. Its style has been compared to the likes of John Steinbeck and Billie Letts and Donald Ray Pollock, among others.
In Summer of 2015 he founded Cowboy Jamboree Magazine, a grit lit rag influenced by the likes of Cormac McCarthy, Harry Crews, Larry Brown, Barry Hannah, Bobbie Ann Mason, Dorothy Allison, and Donald Ray Pollock, among others. Cowboy Jamboree issues now receive thousands of readers.
Van Winkle is named for the oldest Cartwright son on Bonanza.