Thursday, September 06, 2018

Second Edition Paperback of Down in the River

The new paperback edition of Down in the River is available at reliable online distributors including Amazon, Ingram, and Broadway Books. The latter is one of Portland's most celebrated booksellers. If convenient, it's always a good idea to spend your money at a great independent bookstore. 

Other terrific bookstores that carry this title are Powell's Books, Elliott Bay Book Company, Smith Family Bookstore in Eugene, Rediscovered Bookshop in Boise, Auntie's Books in Spokane, Prairie Lights in Iowa City, Nat's Uptown Books in Minneapolis, and bookstores throughout the Northwest and beyond.

Praise for Down in the River:

“A heartbreaking, macabre pilgrimage.” –Paste Magazine

“Even as Lyle runs toward trouble and danger, his youthful optimism, however delusory it might be, flickers in these pages, compelling the reader to journey deeper into night, in search of hope and redemption.” --The Rumpus

“Dark and grisly, it’s a novel that holds both popular appeal and deeper intellectual pleasures, one you can recommend to friends who read only an occasional Stephen King novel or those who read the most lauded literary fiction.” --Fiction Writers Review

“Ryan Blacketter's Down in the River is an impressive debut novel that effectively tackles themes of mental illness and grief.” --Largehearted Boy

"A remarkable, darkly startling and endearing debut novel." --The Quivering Pen

"[Ryan] has a marvelous eye for the emotional textures of the most commonplace experience, the kind that familiarity makes almost subliminal."  --Marilynne Robinson

"A strange, haunting journey across the shadowy landscape of grief and longing. To our good fortune, Ryan Blacketter is a heroic guide into this exploration of the mysterious workings of the human heart . . . This is a brave first novel from a writer to be watched." --Mitch Wieland, author of God's Dogs

"I can't remember when I've liked a character as much as I like young Lyle Rettew, or when I've cheered one on so hard, despite the fact that he's clearly crazy and his quest is doomed." --Pinckney Benedict, author of Miracle Boy and Other Stories

"Blacketter's prose is paired with the torque of a plot that lives and moves like an indomitable engine. This difficult and necessary story is inbreathed with a ferocity that leaves the reader shaken." --Shann Ray, author of American Masculine 

"I was completely enthralled by this haunting, page-turning novel. The disturbing events, the evocative landscape, and the chaos of mental disorder self-medicated by drugs and rebellion are all rendered in humanizing, beautifully-rendered realism."
--Wayne Harrison, The Spark and the Drive

    Hardback Edition

Publisher's description: "After the death of his sixteen-year-old twin sister, Lyle Rettew moves from the mountains of Idaho to Eugene, Oregon. His religious, well-intentioned older brother has forbidden any mention of her name. But Lyle, fighting to keep his memory of her alive, has quit taking the lithium that numbs his mind, and openly rebels against his mother and brother for the first time. Taking his mourning out of the house, he embarks upon a fraught pilgrimage that is at once heartbreaking and macabre. Dark though it may be, Lyle's fevered journey along the margins of youth culture is ultimately driven by fierce love and a deep, instinctive need to find a liturgy for loss and grief."


            from anonymous                    


Saturday, August 18, 2018


A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Ryan Blacketter is the author of Down in the River. He works as a mentor for PEN America's Prison Writing Program. 

His short stories appear in Antioch Review, Crab Orchard Review, Eclectica Magazine, Alaska Quarterly Review, Image, Quick Fiction, and elsewhere. A Tennessee Williams Scholar at Sewanee, and a former Tin House slush reader, he has published essays in the Observer, the Rumpus, and Quillette. His story collection The Ice Festival was a semi-finalist for the 2018 Hudson Prize.


Thursday, August 16, 2018

Recent Teaching, Mentoring, and Advising. PEN Letter of Recommendation.

I am proud to have volunteered for PEN America's Prison Writing Program since 2015. For a hundred years, PEN has defended writers from harassment, censorship, even the penalty of death, all over the world. 

I also worked as editor for PEN to temporarily "sculpt" PEN-award-winning prison essays to manageable size for the authors to read excerpts to audiences, in 2018.

Along with other Iowa grads, I worked part-time as a One Morgan Writers' Workshop Thesis Adviser to 8th graders at Morgan County Middle School in Georgia, in 2017-2018, conducted online.

At Penn State York's Osher program, in fall 2018, I taught Hemingway stories that demonstrate the author's enormous compassion and creative innovation. I've taught several Osher programs throughout the country, a community education program for retirees. 

Letter from author and prison writing program manager, Caits Meissner, at PEN America, August 31, 2018:

"My experience of Ryan Blacketter is one of great thoughtfulness and contribution. Working with three incarcerated aspiring writers as a mentor in PEN America’s Prison Writing Program, Ryan has leveraged his own life experiences to forge a bridge of connection, building trust in order to model and support each writer in their creative endeavors. Our mentees come to the process at stages of varying skill level and commitment to craft, and Ryan’s openness, excitement and adaptability all prove to be tremendous assets in meeting our participants where they arrive to our work. Attuned to the particular care and inquiry this relationship demands, Ryan has moved towards the difficult conversations prison shakes to the surface. Our work in this space requires a nuanced and open questioning of boundaries, personal limits and challenged philosophies. I’ve found Ryan to be an intelligent, open, actively engaged and thoughtful participant in raising and exploring the most important questions that drive our shared work.

"Ryan has also volunteered his skills and talents beyond mentorship, stepping up to edit two long award-winning pieces in our Prison Writing Contest. Through this project, Ryan shapes significant works of significant length into shorter excerpts that could stand alone on stage. Ryan worked with commitment, integrity and was open to feedback— which there was no need for, the excerpts were intelligent, moving and creatively rendered. The editing job was a rush turn around, and Ryan not only asked relevant questions that helped inform the process of our other editors, but submitted the work in fine-tuned form well before deadline.

"Ryan strikes me as a person that will maximize the opportunity to stretch his boundaries, commit fully, and enjoy the creativity required to approach the challenge of new experiences and material. I stand strongly in my recommendation of Ryan, and am excited to be in continued collaborative journey.


Caits Meissner
Prison and Justice Writing Program Manager
PEN America"

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Salman Rushdie, former PEN president and author of Satanic Verses

“Free societies are societies in motion, and with motion comes tension, dissent, friction. Free people strike sparks, and those sparks are the best evidence of freedom's existence.”

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Reviews for Down in the River: Fiction Writers Review, Paste, The Rumpus, Largehearted Boy, and City Paper

Selected Reviews, etc., of Ryan Blacketter's novel Down in the River:

Paste Magazine's interview with Ryan Blacketter: "The human story is a fairly dark one with painful and dangerous impulses that we all have. And that's coupled with a fortress-like psychology that most people have, protecting them from the awareness of the fact that they are part of this human experience." Paste Magazine

Fiction Writers Review: "What makes this novel so warm and heartbreaking despite its gruesome material is that all the characters are driven by their love and concern for each other." Click here to read the entire review: Fiction Writers Review

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Ryan's Selected Observer Articles

From "The Catcher in the Rye Has Been Neglected for 17 Years--It's Time for a Rebellion": But the greatest significance of Rebel in the Rye might be that it has broken a long near-silence regarding the novel—in terms of positive comment, that is.

From "The Rebel Left Has Vanished": Norman Mailer, for example, was very much a leftist, but that wasn’t the whole story. He excoriated the architects of the Vietnam war, and pilloried right-wing journalists who branded everyone on the left a communist, as many good leftists did. But his intelligence roamed across political boundaries.

In a 2017 Media interview, the ghastly Milo Yiannopoulos feigned sympathy with the deaths of gassed Muslim children in Syria, but said, “Those kids are only growing up to be oppressors of women and murderers of homosexuals anyway.” At this moment, Milo dove to the very bottom of his malevolent swamp. 

Milo is a disturbingly hateful creature, reviled by people of goodwill everywhere. My continued support for his, or anyone else's, right to speak and publish doesn't amount to endorsing his many disgusting remarks. I support anyone's right to speak, right or left, religious or atheist, especially those who have been the target of censorship, or "no platforming," as censorship is often called now. As the ACLU recently asserted, everyone has that right, even Milo.

Here are a few of the highly critical statements I make about Milo in my Observer article.

Without a doubt, Milo was rude and nasty. He said fat people were 'fucking disgusting.' He said 'shame on you' to women in the audience who wore a hijab . . .

My own feeling is that Milo was often thin stuff—he was one-dimensional, neglecting to locate any other personality trait that might mitigate his constant judgments about people on the left. He forever quoted silly statistics and 'facts.' 'The federal government spent three million dollars last year working out why (lesbians) are all so fat.' His rhetoric was absent goodwill that might truly persuade, and therefore he lacked complexity and depth on the stage. In short, too much stupidity issued from his pretty mouth. 'Ugly people have always been the leaders of the progressive movement.' Such comments, one after another, embolden the mean, alienate the good, and tire the ones in between . . .

Milo revealed little depth or human warmth. He was no Ayaan Hersi Alli, whose own genital mutilation gives force to her quiet, inclusive arguments against truly misogynistic practices. He was no Camille Paglia either. Though Camille also voices brash complaint against third-wave feminism, her formidable education—and her paradoxical right/left, lesbian-feminist articulations about art and culture—continue to seduce the stray ones wandering between the claustrophobic ideologies of the left and right . . .

Friday, June 15, 2018

Ryan's Rumpus Essay on Guided By Voices

"Albums of Our Lives: Alien Lanes"