Deb Olin Unferth

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Author Deb Olin Unferth is our guest this week. We’ll be talking with her about her new collection of short stories, WAIT TILL YOU SEE ME DANCE, published March 21st by Graywolf Press.

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Deb Olin Unferth is the author of the memoir Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the War, finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; the story collection Minor Robberies; and the novel Vacation, winner of the Cabell First Novel Award. Her work appears in Harper’s, The Paris Review, McSweeney’s, Tin House, Granta, and elsewhere. She has received three Pushcart Prizes, and a grant from Creative Capital for Innovative Literature.

Deb holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Syracuse University and a B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Colorado. She lives in Austin, and is an associate professor in creative writing at The University of Texas where she teaches for the Michener Center and the New Writers Project. She has just received the Governor’s 2017 Criminal Justice Volunteer Award for her creative writing class at the Connally Penitentiary.

Her latest book is WAIT TILL YOU SEE ME DANCE (Graywolf Press, March 21, 2017).

“A stunning debut collection. . . . 39 poignant, sharp-edged stories that cut right to the bone of the human psyche with precision and grace. . . . Chock-full of emotional insight and comic verve, Unferth’s beguiling stories are not to be missed.”Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Deb Olin Unferth’s stories are so smart, fast, full of heart, and distinctive in voice—each an intense little thought-system going out earnestly in search of strange new truths. What an important and exciting talent.”—George Saunders

 Deb Olin Unferth is one of the most daring and entertaining writers in America today.”—Sam Lipsyte

“Unferth’s tales expose life’s underlying darkness, while offering hard-won moments of clarity that cut straight to the heart.”Booklist

“This book is an astonishment―strange, brainy, and loaded with feeling. Deb Olin Unferth shows, with brilliant force, the startling vitality of the short story. She is a master.”―Ben Marcus

“Deb Olin Unferth’s stories are wild, funny, and wonderful.”―Geoff Dyer

Wait Till You See Me Dance delivers on the promise of surprise in its title: Thirty-nine tap-dance sharp, hilarious stories take up people with hearts askew and right them. Disgruntled mothers, daughters, adjunct professors, speak in a voice ‘with a tarp of sad earnestness’ so as to win over the reader every time.”―Chirstine Schutt, author of Prosperous Friends


For more than ten years, Deb Olin Unferth has been publishing startlingly askew, wickedly comic, cutting-edge fiction in magazines such as Granta, Harper’s MagazineMcSweeney’sNOON, and The Paris Review. Her stories are revered by some of the best American writers of our day, but until now there has been no stand-alone collection of her short fiction.

Wait Till You See Me Dance consists of several extraordinary longer stories as well as a selection of intoxicating very short stories. In the chilling “The First Full Thought of Her Life,” a shooter gets in position while a young girl climbs a sand dune. In “Voltaire Night,” students compete to tell a story about the worst thing that ever happened to them. In “Stay Where You Are,” two oblivious travelers in Central America are kidnapped by a gunman they assume to be an insurgent—but the gunman has his own problems.

An Unferth story lures you in with a voice that seems amiable and lighthearted, but it swerves in sudden and surprising ways that reveal, in terrifying clarity, the rage, despair, and profound mournfulness that have taken up residence at the heart of the American dream. These stories often take place in an exaggerated or heightened reality, a quality that is reminiscent of the work of Donald Barthelme, Lorrie Moore, and George Saunders, but in Unferth’s unforgettable collection she carves out territory that is entirely her own. –Graywolf Press