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Blogging on culture, politics, and the environment since 2008.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Publication date set for 'A Great Fullness'!

It's official! A Great Fullness will be released by Fomite Press on January 15, 2016. Presales coming soon.  For reviewers and booksellers, click here for the spec sheet from Fomite Press.

A Great Fullness
is the story of an orphan who lives with a secret even she doesn’t know she possesses – the truth about her mother’s death. Growing up amid the endless turnover of guests at her aunt and uncle’s bed and breakfast inn, Kim Pugh tries to find her place in a world where everyone is a stranger and many have secrets of their own. Set in small-town Kansas as the new millennium ushers in a decade of tragedy and war, A Great Fullness traces the fate of one family whose struggle for survival and redemption echoes the turbulence of a troubled world.

Praise for A Great Fullness

“As in a Greek tragedy, a horrific death occurs off-stage in Bob Sommer’s second novel, A Great Fullness, and colors every moment of this suspenseful story about a surviving child."  
  —Denise Low, Kansas Poet Laureate, 2007-2009, author of Ghost Stories of the New West

“Bob Sommer writes eloquently about ordinary Midwestern Americans confronted with the extraordinarily disruptive pressures of the twenty-first century.…”
  —William Merrill Decker, author of Kodak Elegy: A Cold War Childhood

“With cinematic clarity and pace, A Great Fullness takes us inside a family caught in turmoil, as the drama of their lives reflects our troubled society and its broken capacity for joy.”
   —David Ray, award-winning poet, author of Sam’s Book

“While rooted in the landscape of eastern Kansas in the late twentieth century, the story opens itself to all of us, tracing with care and insight the struggle to overcome loss and to forge new bonds of love and trust in the face of all the challenges that life presents.”
  —Kimball Smith, author of Missing Persons and Nothing Disappears

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

'Bread Crumbs and Hatchet Marks': a new essay included in O-Dark-Thirty

My new essay, entitled "Bread Crumbs and Hatchet Marks," appears in the current issue of O-Dark-Thirty, the literary journal of the Veterans Writing Project--released just as Veterans Day is upon us. This essay explores the subtle ways my late son Francis found to express his pain and guilt following his deployments to Iraq and Afganistan. Click the image to read "Bread Crumbs and Hatchet Marks," as well as the many other fine contributions to this issue.

To learn more about Francis, please visit

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

A Great Fullness -- proof copy in hand!

The proof copy for A Great Fullness arrived today! I have another round of minor corrections to do, and the book will soon be ready for release from Fomite Press.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Sunday, April 19, 2015

'Leavenworth' reissued in Rathalla Review Anthology

Rathalla Review's 2014 anthology includes a revised version of  "Leavenworth," first published in Fall 2013. The magazine has been issued in print and on-line. 

2015 Kansas Voices Writing Contest Winners Announced


Honorable Mention:
"On Visiting the Viet Nam Memorial,
March 2006," by 
Robert F. Sommer

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Judy Ray's 'Sense of Place'

Click on the image to
order a copy from
Whirlybird Press.
Judy Ray’s ‘Sense of Place’
By Bob Sommer

From Place to Place: Personal Essays, by Judy Ray
Whirlybird Press, 2015

Somewhere along the way we got our words muddled up and transmogrified essay into creative nonfiction, which sounds like the name on a door sign outside a cavernous university laboratory in which white-coated MFA candidates do things to words that can’t be discussed when others are eating.

Essay is such a marvelous word—suggestive of rich thinking, of experience, of exploration in language. Imagine Montaigne being told he should have his Essais “workshopped”!

Judy Ray’s new book, From Place to Place: Personal Essays, restores the idea of the essay to its etymological roots. “An essay,” she writes in her preface, “can be defined as a prose composition that is ‘analytic, speculative, or interpretive.’ By claiming ‘personal essay,’ I can drop the analytic and speculative, so what am I interpreting? Small episodes of my life… the kind of flashes that inspire poems, the foundation of choosing to write.”

In prose that is admirably fluid—and appears deceptively simple for the often complex nature of her themes—Ray wanders the literal and figurative geography of her rich and varied life in a series of essays connected by the themes of cultural diversity and the meaning of place. A native of southern England, she has lived in Africa, Australia, India, all over continental Europe, and in the United States. Long ago naturalized as a U.S. citizen, she describes the serpentine, Kafkaesque workings of the immigration bureaucracy and finds beneath its layers occasion to explore the nature of identity.

She brings a Wordsworthian sensibility to these essays, tapping ordinary, close-at-hand objects and activities in everyday life for the meditations they inspire: a kitchen stove, newspaper clippings, a moving sale, jury duty. In each reside memories and experience, and they become the ledges from which she leaps and then floats, as if on the thermal drafts of experience, through the meanings they suggest. Here, for example, is how the image of a highway evokes her “sense of place”:

Within this one land, ‘civilization’ or ‘progress’ has brought the highway strip to all our towns, hiding what might have been their unique character behind skins of gaudy, flashing franchise, familiar from coast to coast, border to border—housed in cheap rectangular constructions. What does that proliferation of repetitive images do to a sense of place?

Her life has been marked by drama and tragedy, so there is rich storytelling in this book. She played a role in a murder case. Few of us, fortunately, can make such a claim. She also describes at once sensitively and yet with enough distance to avoid the bathos that might flow from the immediacy of powerful emotions the tragic loss of her stepson, Sam, at just nineteen years old.

Judy Ray suggests that her own history offers “no more dramatic events than in most lives.” But the diversity of her life, the combination of events, the many places she has lived, the interesting people she has known coalesce in her unique and nuanced sensibility to offer a wide-ranging and continually engaging journey through these essays.