Monday, October 29, 2018


A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Ryan Blacketter is the author of Down in the River: a novel. Born in 1969, he missed high school almost entirely, went before a judge twice, and had his record expunged at eighteen. He got a GED and attended community college. Ryan has received a literary grant from the Oregon Arts and Culture Council and a prison teaching grant at the Idaho Humanities Council. 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, Other Voices, and elsewhere. A Tennessee Williams Scholar, a former Tin House slush reader, and a teacher at Portland WITS, 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.

Please check out Ryan's story "Convent Boys," in Crab Orchard Review

Monday, October 01, 2018

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

Ryan is proud to have worked 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. 

He also worked for PEN as editor 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, he 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, he taught Hemingway stories that demonstrate the author's enormous compassion and creative innovation

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. 

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, Barnes and Noble, 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

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Selected Reviews for Ryan's Novel 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. 

Friday, June 15, 2018

Ryan's Rumpus Essay on Guided By Voices

"Albums of Our Lives: Alien Lanes"

Friday, June 01, 2018

Ryan's Fiction Workshop Course Descriptions

High-Risk Fiction: A Writing Workshop
This class encourages fiction that, like all good writing, takes emotional risks. This riskiness sets literature apart from the dishonesty of bad books, TV, and movies. Workshop is not confession, but in the privacy of their writing rooms students might begin to tell personal stories that perhaps they have only told about other people. 

"Tell everything on yourself," Raymond Carver urged. Virginia Woolf would have agreed: "If you do not tell the truth about yourself, you cannot tell it about other people." Yet we will never assume anything in a story actually happened to the writer. Rigorous storytelling, of course, evolves into fiction, blurring and even obliterating its source material.

We will read published stories as models. Amy Hempel writes of a woman who abandons a close friend dying of cancer, and confronts the aftermath of her choice. Thom Jones explores one soldier’s psychological territory of war, aggression, and epileptic torment, in which “illness” provokes dark illuminations of self and humanity. The good news is, the truth redeems, no matter the damage…