"Diatomaceous Earth" by Sara Schaff on Garo

Garo‘s apropos slogan, “Work that connects people to the land and each other”, did just that with their feature of “Diatomaceous Earth” by Augury’s forthcoming author Sara Schaff last Friday.

“Diatomaceous Earth” is from Schaff’s short story collection, Say Something Nice About Me, our prose selection for 2016 which we will publish this fall.

Like much of Schaff’s prose, “Diatomaceous Earth” is a haunting, naturalistic tale, heavy on dialogue, showcasing the many forms intimacy between two people can take.

After combing through online chat rooms devoted to households plagued by indoor ants, Ella, Stephen, and I finally settled on a remedy that sounded feasible and only mildly dangerous: diatomaceous earth, a powdery, porous substance that occurs naturally, is safe near food preparation, but illegal to sell in Ann Arbor. I purchased a bottle online.

When it arrived, days after my afternoon with Ella and Stephen, Gerry was downstairs with me. He thought we should celebrate me being done with all my papers. Also, he felt hopeful about getting the job in Dearborn. “The interview went great. They responded well to my enthusiasm.”

Gerry’s enthusiasm. My secret, gloomy future. I guess that’s why he and I had ended up in bed again, which is where we were when I heard the mail delivered. I put on a robe to go outside, and when I returned to the bedroom, I held out the package to Gerry. “I’m being proactive about my ant problem, see?”

Together, we laid the trail of diatomaceous earth: behind the toaster, leading from and to the hole Ella had spotted. “That’s where they’re coming from,” I told Gerry. “They’ll come out, gather the powder on their little bodies, and without realizing it, take it back with them to their nest.”

“And then?”

I shuddered, in spite of my new conviction. “Eventually, they all dry out, become little husks of their former selves.”

Sara Schaff’s fiction has appeared in FiveChapters, Southern Indiana Review, Carve Magazine, and elsewhere. A graduate of Brown University and the MFA program at the University of Michigan, she has taught in China, Colombia, and Northern Ireland, where she also studied storytelling. Sara is a visiting assistant professor of creative writing at Oberlin College. Find links to her work at saraschaff.com.

More of Sara Schaff:

Sara Schaff’s website

Author Page

"Wee Hours and Other Stories" by prose finalist Ellen Winter, and a tech apology

**Below is an excerpt from prose finalist Ellen Winter, which, due to a glitch in technology and spam folders on our end, we’re getting to you a few weeks late. We hope you’ll take a second to read and enjoy Ellen’s prose as you did our other finalists.**


“The Little Mission” from Wee Hours and Other Stories

Swede was slowing for the cattle guard that marked the final fence line when something shifted in the clearing below him, catching his eye. He braked hard, cranking down a window sluggish with mud. At first glance it all looked normal enough. The pasture was a small one, backed by woodlands and divided by Little Mission Creek. There were a couple of outbuildings he’d never found a use for, an old loading pen that held cattle in its day. The creek ran right through the middle, all but a glint of it hidden by the trees.

In the shadow of one of those willows, a large animal was trying to be still. It was a horse, a well-groomed bay, head lowered to the ground as if grazing. The gelding was saddled—that was the first thing that struck Swede as odd. And it wasn’t grass he was nibbling at, but the collar of a woman’s shirt. The woman lay on her side, hands tucked beneath a cheek. She looked peaceful, so much so that Swede nearly opted to drive on by. But most folks wouldn’t nap so close to a roadway. He would have to investigate. Pulling onto the grassy shoulder, he parked.

The truck’s heavy door opened with a screech and the horse spooked. Swede approached the woman with stealth, worried he might catch her in an act of a private nature. When he was close enough he crouched, hands on knees, peering cautiously into her face. It was Elsie Tarnower; Swede should have known that by the oversized clothing. Elsie was fond of menswear. Long-legged Wranglers were cinched at the waist by a wide leather belt. Her shirt was a well-worn flannel. Pointed flaps held the pockets closed with pearly snaps. If there were breasts under there, Elsie did her best to conceal them.

It was the look on her face that undid him. Only babies should be capable of such repose. That peacefulness was odd to see on the likes of Elsie Tarnower. She was a big gal and a busy one, proud of the fact that she could outwork most of the neighborhood men. She’d been called antsy by some and hyperactive by others. One rancher had gone so far as to say she was spastic—annoyed, no doubt, that she’d been hired by someone else.

Swede tried whistling. Then he tried shuffling his feet. Spurts of dust settled on her head and shoulders, but Elsie Tarnower was unperturbed. He called her name, softly at first and then louder. Bending close, he whispered a string of obscenities in her ear. If she was faking, he’d know it by now.

Ellen Winter’s short stories have appeared in a number of magazines including Fiction, New Letters, The Antioch Review, and Brain, Child. Her first collection, The Price You Pay: Stories, was a finalist for the Flannery O’Connor Award, and went on to be published by Southern Methodist University Press. A second collection is being circulated, and there are a couple of novels in the works. Awards include fellowships from the Arizona Commission on the Arts and Bread Loaf. She lives with her husband and three children in Livingston, MT, where she makes a living as a housekeeper.

Our Prose Selection for 2016

London coffeehouse c. 1705 via Public Domain Review

After announcing our poetry selections last month, Augury is happy to reveal its selections for prose today. The editors’ reading period for prose submissions was equally intense, but also equally gratifying. To be sure, selecting one manuscript out of dozens of strong submissions never gets easier. It is with pleasure that we announce Sara Schaff’s short story collection Say Something Nice About Me as our prose selection for 2016. Below are the finalists whose work we will feature in the coming weeks:

Alley Stories—Nona Caspers

Everything Beautiful—Sarah Pape

Girl with a Goat’s Voice—Nate Liederbach

Grieving for Guava—Cecilia Fernandez

Home for Wayward Girls—Melanie Bishop

In Josaphat’s Valley—Joshua Bernstein

Mick Jagger’s Green Eyed Daughter…—Elizabeth Denton

Stick-Light—Joshua Bernstein

Swarm—Harmony Button

The Heart is a Slow Learner—Mary Larkin Phd

The World is All that Does Befall Us—Thomas Walton—Too Smart for her Own Good—Evelyn Somers

True Love and Other Dreams of…—Micah Perks

Wee Hours—Ellen Winter

Woman, Running Late, in a Dress—Dallas Woodburn

Stay tuned for excerpts from each of our fourteen finalists, as well as from Sara Schaff!

We’re Now Distributed by Small Press Distribution!

From a selection of Yokohama-e courtesy of the Public Domain Review

We are pleased to announce that we are working with SPD to distribute our recent back catalogue and forthcoming titles! Founded in 1969, Small Press Distribution remains the only distributor in the country focusing solely on independently published literature. A non-profit aiming to help under-represented literary communities participate in the marketplace, SPD offers book distribution, information services, and public advocacy programs to hundreds of small publishers. Learn more about SPD here.

Reading Period Closed—Thank you for sending us your work!

From ‘France in the year 2000,’ courtesy of the Public Domain Review

Thank you very much to everyone who sent your work to us for consideration for 2016 publication, and those of you who helped spread the word and share with your friends and writing contacts.

We will be posting updates later this year after we consider everyone’s work. Follow our blog, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter for updates on finalists and publication selections.

Three Days Left to Send Us Your Work!

From Richard Dadd, The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke courtesy of the Public Domain Review

Just three more days left in our reading period! We are still accepting full-length manuscripts in the categories of poetry and prose—prose being short fiction collections or creative nonfiction essay collections. Find our detailed submission guidelines and easily submit your work—all by clicking on this Submittable link.

Thanks to all of you who have already shared your work with us, and thanks in advance to those who will be polishing up those manuscripts in these next three days to send to us. We can’t wait to read your manuscripts!

For automatic updates on this and other events, just follow this blog by clicking on the “Follow” prompt when you roll over the lower right corner. We’ll keep you posted on our selections for 2016 publication and share excerpts from our finalist manuscripts.

Have friends who might want to submit? Let them know!


Book Cover Debut: Randall Horton’s ‘Hook’

Hook cover

Original Cover Art by Michael Miller

Augury Books is excited to join Randall Horton and designer Michael Miller in unveiling the cover art for the upcoming Hook (2015).

Hook: A Memoir is a gripping story of transformation. Without excuse or indulgence, author and educator Randall Horton explores his downward spiral from unassuming Howard University undergraduate to homeless drug addict, international cocaine smuggler, and incarcerated felon—before showing us the redemptive role that writing and literature played in helping him reclaim his life. The multilayered narrative bridges past and present through both the vivid portrayal of Horton’s singular experiences and his correspondence in letters with the anonymous Lxxxx, a Latina woman awaiting trial. Hook explores race and social construction in America, the forgotten lives within the prison industrial complex, and the resilience of the human spirit.

Read author bio and praise for Hook.

Augury’s Reading Period Is Open for Prose and Poetry May 1 – July 31, 2015:

Submit now via Submittable, and thank you for your interest in Augury Books!

Half a Month Remaining in our Reading Period!

A detail from Journey from Venice to Palestine, Mount Sinai and Egypt (ca. 1467), courtesy of the Public Domain Review

We have just half a month left to our reading period, which is still open through July 31, 2015. We are currently accepting full-length manuscripts in the categories of poetry and prose. You can view our submission guidelines and send your work for consideration on Submittable.

Thanks to all of you in advance for sharing your work with us, and thanks to those who have already submitted their work this summer!

For automatic updates on this and other important Augury announcements, follow our Blog. Just click the “Follow” prompt when you roll over the lower right corner.

We’re Halfway Through Our Reading Period!

The Covent Garden Night Mare, by Thomas Rowlandson, courtesy of the Public Domain Review

We are just halfway through our reading period, which is still open through July 31, 2015. We are currently accepting full-length manuscripts in the categories of poetry and prose.

You can view our submission guidelines and send your work for consideration on Submittable.

Thanks to all of you in advance for sharing your work with us, and thanks to those who have already submitted their work this summer!

Continue reading