Monday, July 01, 2019


A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Ryan Blacketter is the author of Down in the River: a novel, and the story collection Horses All Over Hell. He 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, and Image. He has been a Tennessee Williams Scholar, a former Tin House slush reader, and a teacher at Portland WITS. His latest book received an endorsement from a book critic at the Wall Street Journal.

Barnes & Noble, Ingram, Amazon, and Powell's Books are four distributors that carry Ryan's books.

Saturday, June 01, 2019

Ryan Blacketter's Fiction Titles

Early praise for Horses All Over Hell

“With a forceful grasp of character and pitch-perfect dialogue, Ryan Blacketter brings us a deftly woven collection of stories about love and survival in a troubled, yet enduring, American family, reminding us that those who bring the greatest hardship may be the only ones left to offer shelter. Horses All Over Hell is a heartbreaking new book from a master of modern American fiction.”
—Ernest Hilbert, author of Last One Out, book critic for Wall Street Journal and Washington Post

“The eleven intricately woven short stories of Horses All Over Hell portray a family caught in an ever-deepening spiral of damage and despair while bound together by ties of love in a Western landscape that comes to life on the page. The deep flaws, the beauty, and the bravery of these richly imagined characters will linger with the reader long after the last page.”
—Mary Clearman Blew, author of Jackalope Dreams and Ruby Dreams of Janis Joplin, Professor emerita, University of Idaho

“Reading Horses All Over Hell I experienced a stark, poetic American realism in a manner I haven't in a long time. Blacketter's prose calls to mind Joan Didion, Raymond Carver, Richard Ford, Flannery O'Connor, and Larry Brown, as he bluntly and beautifully lays out the saga of a family dealing with addiction and dogma.”
—Christian Winn, author of Naked Me

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

"Horses All Over Hell is an enthralling collection of interrelated stories."
--David Gutowski, Largehearted Boy

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

“I liked your book. The characters are interesting and real.”
—Bob Pollard, of Guided by Voices, on Down in the River

"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

"Down in the River is a startling, disturbing, and ultimately entrancing novel, a fever dream that astounds and never sits still for a moment, breathlessly played out in the sad twilight between the innocence of childhood and the despair of age, life lived on the last edges of love and loyalty strained to their limits."
--Ernest Hilbert, author of Caligulan 

"Blacketter has created an outsider story of adolescence that left me wanting to travel more with his characters; I felt connected to them as they opened my eyes to new forms of chaos."
--Max Wolf Valerio, author of The Criminal: the invisibility of parallel forces

    Hardback Edition

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Selected Reviews, etc., of Ryan Blacketter's fiction titles Horses All Over Hell and Down in the River

Early notice for Ryan's story collection Horses All Over Hell:

"Antioch Review contributor Ryan Blacketter's new book Horses All Over Hell: stories, was recently released and endorsed/blurbed by a Wall Street Journal book critic." Antioch Review

Notice for Ryan'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

The Rumpus: "[Down in the River] casts us deep into a haunting, crystalline forest of ice-lit trees, broken streetlamps . . . a place where a kind of inner wilderness has crept back through the city, where the lights of passing trains, the reflections of windows and the 'cry of night birds' appear intermittently like forms of meaningless chaos or secret signs." The Rumpus

Largehearted Boy is one of America's finest sites for contemporary music and literature. Presented here is the narrated playlist Ryan made to go along with Down in the River. Ryan's LHB Book Notes Playlist 

Pittsburgh's City Paper "Arts Feature" Interview: 

Quivering Pen Review: 

Boise Weekly Interview, (Idaho Press Club, 1st Place in Arts &...): 

Idaho Statesman Review

Monday, October 15, 2018

Guided by Voices Article

From "Albums of Our Lives: Alien Lanes": I discovered Guided by Voices fifteen years ago, while miserably married and fully employed, teaching ESL in Atlanta. In those days, I was earning money for curtains, towels, and bedspreads. Instead of working full-time as a writer slash part-time anything, I woke at 3:30 a.m. to write before work. After my job I went to my counseling appointment—for my attitude and my drinking.

Monday, October 01, 2018

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. 

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"

Friday, June 01, 2018

Ryan's Fiction Workshop Course Descriptions

The Writing Life: A Fiction Workshop
In this class we’ll examine the writing life from the perspectives of six writers—Ernest Hemingway, Annie Dillard, Francine Prose, John Gardner, ZZ Packer, and Anne Lammott. They all seem to agree: Although the writing life is risky and impossibly difficult, it is nevertheless exciting and always worth the effort. 

Apart from discussing these authors’ books—A Moveable Feast, The Writing Life, Reading Like A Writer, On Becoming a Novelist, Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, and Bird by Bird—we’ll commit to a daily habit of reading and writing.

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. 

Chekhov’s Characters: A Writing Workshop
We will study ten of Chekhov’s short stories. Each story offers multiple lessons toward mastery of craft. We’ll devote most of our time to studying his character portraits. Chekhov presents an astonishing variety of people in his fiction, surprising us again and again with complex, often contradictory human truths.

"The Teacher of Literature" treats a man who constantly tells his friends and family of his own happiness, and discovers that beneath his surface he is quite a different person. In "The Petchenyeg," however, we meet a truly miserable man with a distorted vision who believes any happy person must be pretending. 

No question is settled for Chekhov. He is more interested in the myriad ways we deceive ourselves than in any fixed truth. Perhaps for Chekhov truth is simply the careful observation of human beings.

Hemingway: A Writing Workshop 
We will read the short stories of Ernest Hemingway as writers, applying his mastery of craft to our own fiction. Hemingway is still the most influential writer of our time. His literary principles are universal. He was no minimalist, nor a mere innovator of style. Writers around the world claim him as their greatest teacher, including such talents as Albert Camus, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Frederick Barthelme, and John Updike. 

To read Hemingway well is an experience of profound enrichment. He rendered human experience with such intensity and truth, creative writers will always search his prose for secrets.

While discouraging Hemingway imitations, this class will examine concepts that writers of all tastes can use to improve their work. We’ll discuss sensory detail, compression, density of meaning, musical language, coiled dialogue, and the iceberg principle. We’ll devote the second half of class to workshopping our own stories.

As time permits, we will correct an assortment of distortions about Hemingway. Where it matters most—in his work—Hemingway demonstrates enormous compassion and deeply humanistic values. 

Raymond Carver: A Writing Workshop
In this class we'll study the short stories of Raymond Carver. Called "the American Chekhov" by the New York Times, Carver wrote about the common people of the West—waitresses, salesmen, loggers, and, especially, the out of work. 

His characters are often haunted by their own failings. But they would sooner drink or change the subject than own up. They blame others, tell lies, inflict subtle cruelties, and fail to love. Although tempted to judge them and find less honest reading, we keep turning pages for, of course, we are reading about ourselves.

Carver achieved the highest level of emotional power, spiritual force, and artistic excellence in his short fiction, each line rewarding the careful reader with its precision and depth. Thus he became the most influential author of the late twentieth century, inspiring a generation of writers, including Richard Ford, Ann Beattie, Amy Hempel, and Tobias Wolff.