In Memoriam: “Lord, we make mistakes.”

In our last foreseen post of the In Memoriam series, Phong Nguyen, author of Pages from the Textbook of Alternate History, shares a smaller regret.

The first story I ever published, “Memory Sickness,” was accepted by Agni in 2005. The circumstances were unusual. I was visiting my grandfather—an English professor with literary ambitions of his own—who was suffering from many of the ailments of the very elderly: angina, dyspnoea, restless leg syndrome, and, within a month, congestive heart failure. He was always on an oxygen tank when we visited, and he rarely left the bed. We visited my grandparents regularly because we lived only an hour away and considered it a privilege to be able to familiarize our young sons with their great-grandparents, who seemed to be not only part of another generation but part of another world. My grandfather was born in 1919, an officer in World War II who trained pilots. He learned to fly a plane before he ever drove a car.

I got a call from a senior editor at Agni giving me the good news, and scheduling a follow-up phone meeting to talk revisions. This was positively the first time in my writing career that I had ever received good news, and I thought I was prepared to make any kind of sacrifice necessary to improve the story.


The next day, before I had the time to withdraw it from other journals, I received another phone call, this time from a literary contest, stating that “Memory Sickness” was their grand prize winner, and could they publish it in an upcoming issue of their journal? I told them I would call them back.

Since he was there beside me, I asked my grandfather’s advice. I told him that there were two journals that wanted to publish my work—one was more prestigious, but the other was more lucrative—and I had no idea what to do. I was a grad student who could have used the money for rent, food, diapers. I thought he would tell me to take the highest bid. But he said simply, “You made a commitment.”

There is no wisdom here. The significance of this moment was not in the answer, but in the asking. I return to this moment now and then: a brash young writer full of the importance of his modest successes, soliciting advice from a dying man. How vain and narcissistic I feel when I return there. The scale of his accomplishments—the war he fought, the children he raised, the legacy of teaching he left behind—dwarfed my own. Yet the pride I felt in my own miniscule achievement must have oozed out of me and stuck to the walls.


When I next spoke to the editor at Agni, he had already sent me detailed edits, and I had accepted most of them. One of the deletions, however, we debated for a long time before I eventually gave in. The line in question was a repetition in the story, at the end of the following passage: “Some sinners confess on their death beds. Some sinners confess on Sundays. The rest of us live with chronic pangs of conscience like migraines. All I know is that no one is guiltless. We make mistakes. Lord, we make mistakes.”

The narrator, Roth Chey, is Catholic, and he is talking about his experience as a child soldier during the Khmer Rouge regime. The “mistake” he is referring to is his choice to kill a fellow boy who would have turned him in for planning an escape. That last line “Lord, we make mistakes” is not rhetorical. It is a direct address to God. And if it was a dramatic usage, then it was earned. But in order to get the story published in Agni, I had to concede this line, and now every version of the story in print and online is without it. For a moment I contemplated giving it to the other journal to be its contest winner, but I did not. Do I regret it? No. I have larger regrets.

Phong Nguyen
Phong Nguyen

Phong Nguyen is editor of Pleiades and author of Memory Sickness and Other Stories. He directs the Unsung Masters Series, for which he edited the volume, Nancy Hale: On the Life and Work of a Lost American Master. Nguyen teaches fiction and American literature at the University of Central Missouri, where he lives with his wife, the artist Sarah Nguyen, and their three children.

Queen’s Ferry Press to Publish Kathleen Hughes’ Second Novel

You Can Walk Home to be published by Queen’s Ferry Press in 2017

Plano, TX—May 12, 2015 Queen’s Ferry Press, an independent publisher providing a venue for fine literary fiction, announced it will publish Kathleen Hughes’ novel You Can Walk Home.

“I’m so pleased that my second novel, You Can Walk Home, will join the Queen’s Ferry list,” Hughes said.  “Queen’s Ferry is a press of serious and imaginative writers with a commitment to honed, evocative, and purposeful language.  I feel lucky now to join them.”

You Can Walk Home is the story of a family in a small coastal Rhode Island town.  During a fight on a snowy drive home from school one evening, the mother orders her 16-year-old daughter out of the car to walk the last mile.  This punishment does not produce the desired effect.  Told from the perspective of the younger sister, who is in the car that night and is her sister’s confidante, and from the mother, You Can Walk Home is a story about girls and women, parents and children, faith, and how much we can and cannot hold on to the ones we love. You Can Walk Home will release in June, 2017.

About the Author:

Kathleen Hughes
Kathleen Hughes

Kathleen Hughes is the author of Dear Mrs. Lindbergh (WW Norton 2003).  She has won awards from MTV, the New England and Rhode Island Press Associations, the Sewanee Writer’s Conference, and the Vermont Studio Center.  A graduate of Yale University, the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, and the MGH Institute of Health Professions, Hughes is a pediatric nurse practitioner in Rhode Island, where she lives with her family.

Founded in 2011 as an independent publisher, Queen’s Ferry Press specializes in literary fiction. The press currently releases 6–12 titles a year, many from debut authors, and is the publisher of Shadows of Men, the 2013 recipient of the TIL Steven Turner Award for Best Work of First Fiction. For book updates please contact Kevin Wehmueller, Marketing & Publicity of Queen’s Ferry Press, or visit


Media Contact: Kevin Wehmueller, Marketing & Publicity

WHEN THINGS WERE GREEN, A Novel by Sion Dayson, to be Published by Queen’s Ferry Press

Sion Dayson novel to be published by Queen’s Ferry Press in 2017

Plano, TX—May 8, 2015 Queen’s Ferry Press, an independent publisher providing a venue for fine literary fiction, announced it will publish Sion Dayson’s novel When Things Were Green.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to be joining Queen’s Ferry Press. Independent publishers are vital and QFP is such an energetic champion of literary fiction. I am grateful to have found a wonderful home for my first novel,” Dayson said.

When Things Were Green will release in April, 2017.

About the Author:

Sion Dayson
Sion Dayson

Sion Dayson is an American writer living in Paris, France. Her work has appeared in The Writer, The Rumpus, Hunger Mountain, Utne Reader, The Wall Street Journal, Courrier International, Numero Cinq and several anthologies, including Strangers in Paris, among other venues. She’s been a writer-in-residence at the Kerouac House and awarded a grant from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund. Sion holds an MFA in Fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts and is at work on her second book.

Founded in 2011 as an independent publisher, Queen’s Ferry Press specializes in literary fiction. The press currently releases 6–12 titles a year, many from debut authors, and is the publisher of Shadows of Men, the 2013 recipient of the TIL Steven Turner Award for Best Work of First Fiction. For book updates please contact Kevin Wehmueller, Marketing & Publicity of Queen’s Ferry Press, or visit



Media Contact: Kevin Wehmueller, Marketing & Publicity

THE LET GO: Available Now! Jerry Gabriel AMA on Reddit /r/books 5/5 @ 5:00 PM EST

Jerry Gabriel’s second collection of short fiction, The Let Go, is now available where our books are sold! To celebrate, Jerry Gabriel will be answering  your questions tonight on /r/books, starting at 5:00 PM EST, under the handle /u/gg676767.  He is a brave man, and we’ll miss him when he departs this Earth for the internet.

The Let Go, by Jerry Gabriel
The Let Go

About The Let Go:

The people who inhabit Jerry Gabriel’s second collection of stories, The Let Go, strain against their historical moments. A poacher’s daughter, a disgraced vet, an out–of–work temp, a professor, a middle–school basketball ace: these are the Great Let Go in whose embattled existence we feel the impact of war, financial crises, and the many lesser perils that attend life. With equal measures of tenderness, ruthlessness, and humor, Gabriel illuminates an Ohio landscape—its cities, suburbs, and countryside—fraught with economic disparity, its characters facing their dilemmas with grief, with anger, but always exhibiting a surprising fortitude. In these seven taut stories, Gabriel writes hardship as a site of hope.

“The characters in Jerry Gabriel’s The Let Go are the most memorable I’ve read in a very long time. They’re war vets and immigrants, ex–cons and small town middle–schoolers, whose lives intertwine in ways both inevitable and unlikely. As they trap mink, repair roofs, harbor fugitives, and try to figure how the hell to run a factory in the basement, they stand in that place—familiar to all of us—where life shifts imperceptibly and something has to give. They cling hard to integrity and do what they have to do.”
—Ana Maria Spagna, author of Test Ride on the Sunnyland Bus

“Like Alice Munro’s stories, these wonderful stories by Jerry Gabriel often have the scope of novels. They take a particular interest in characters who are just barely hanging on and who fear ’the let go’: the day when they will be laid off. The stories have great urgency and momentum and carry you headlong through to the end. The Let Go is one of the best books of short fiction that I’ve read in the last few years.”
—Charles Baxter, author of There’s Something I Want You to Do

“The Let Go is a knife–twister, sharp, sad, sneakily funny. Jerry Gabriel writes with bracing authenticity and insight, but what’s most impressive is how he’s able to chart and deepen the pathos of these unmoored lives without ever marinating in it or succumbing to easy revelations. A terrific collection.”
—Kevin Moffett, author of The Silent History

“An enormous heart pulses through every page, every line of The Let Go, a collection of stories somehow diverse enough to include poachers, roofers, scientists, dropouts, basketball stars, war vets, office workers, and accidental factory owners, all of them full of longing for something they can’t quite name. With his careful attention to their rich interior lives, it’s obvious Jerry Gabriel loves every one of his characters for exactly who they are, and you will too. The Let Go is a work of great literature.”
—Matt Burgess, author of Uncle Janice

“Jerry Gabriel’s wry, fierce stories are about Ohio in the same way Breece Pancake’s stories are about West Virginia, which is to say they tenderly, vividly evoke a singular merciless landscape while also being deeply engaged with the larger world and the politics and history of the United States. In The Let Go, Gabriel elegantly distills the disorders of our perilous times into marvelously strange fiction that is sometimes surreal, often wickedly funny, and profoundly moving. These stories bring us the news that stays news.”
—Maud Casey, author of The Man Who Walked Away

Jerry Gabriel’s first book of fiction, Drowned Boy, was chosen by Andrea Barrett to win the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction and was published in 2010 by Sarabande Books. It was a Barnes and Noble “Discover Great New Writers” selection and awarded the 2011 Towson Prize for Literature. His stories have recently appeared in Five Chapters, EPOCH, Big Fiction, Alaska Quarterly Review, and The Missouri Review. He lives in Maryland, where he teaches at St. Mary’s College of Maryland and directs the Chesapeake Writers’ Conference.

Find the collection on our catalog , on Amazon, or be one of five lucky winners to get the collection on Goodreads, and enjoy Jerry Gabriel’s profoundly moving collection of (longish) short fiction!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Let Go by Jerry Gabriel

The Let Go

by Jerry Gabriel

Giveaway ends May 31, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to Win