Shut Down Strangers & Hot Rod Angels
an anthology inspired by the music of Bruce Springsteen
When I put out the call for submissions for this anthology in April 2019, I hoped for a good response, but I had no idea just how good the response would be. It turns out there are a lot of writers from many backgrounds inspired by the music of Bruce Springsteen. Folks wrote their hearts out, and I received many more fantastic submissions than I had room for. Ultimately I chose the stories, poems, and essays that excited me the most—that tugged at my heart, that gave me visceral reactions, that wowed me with their style or with the way they took Springsteen songs and turned them into something truly unique.
The best thing about this anthology is that you can’t pin it down as one thing. Much like Bruce’s music, the 38 poems, 14 CNF pieces, and 25 stories in Shut Down Strangers & Hot Rod Angels cover a wide range of modes and moods. There are pieces on identity and family, grief and spirituality, and all kinds of love—lost love, doomed love, almost-love, beautiful healing love, love you clutch onto like a lifeline when everything else slips away. There are pieces on the distance between the American dream and the American reality, and geographies that span the country and the globe. There are hard luck antiheroes, girls who cruise, and plenty of shut down angels and hot rod strangers. There is weirdness and whimsy and things that go bump in the night: ghosts and vampires, cryptids, chickens running games of chance. There is sadness and darkness in here, yes (I guess there’s just a meanness in this world), but there is also hope and light. And running through each and every piece there is an undercurrent of music, and of Springsteen’s spirit—a fire, a spark, a sound we can make our own.
Preorders will begin shipping in November
The cover image is by Korye Champion of Art Is Dead Productions.
This anthology is being funded in conjunction with Mythic Picnic (follow @mythicpicnic on Twitter).
Watch this page and the blog for excerpts from the anthology and interviews with featured authors!
Praise for Shut Down Strangers & Hot Rod Angels
In Kelly Shire's essay, collected here, she writes, "I'm performing loneliness." That word — performing — is such an apt way to access the work of Springsteen and what his work allows these writers to do in this anthology. Perform loneliness. Perform sorrow. Perform joy. Perform being themselves. While reading these pages, you are taken through Springsteen's wide-angled gaze into the many worlds he allows us to inhabit, worlds where writers can bring back the dead, redefine masculinity, worship what they used to hate about themselves. Most of all, you are given the privilege to witness so many writers being exactly who they are. This is more than just tribute. It is inspiration, exhilaration, the beauty of holding on to one small piece of the world.
-Devin Kelly, author of Blood on Blood (Unknown Press, 2016) and In This Quiet Church of Night, I Say Amen (Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2017)
The work in this anthology speaks deeply to the gift that is Springsteen’s music and is a testament to the way his lyrics play in our heads, resonate in our souls, and help us make sense of the world and feel so much less alone. This book is evidence that almost anyone can find their way into his songs, as if Springsteen purposely left space for them. His characters capture the imagination of these writers and live on, becoming as real as anything, infusing the reader with the sense of belonging, connection, and community found in listening to Springsteen’s songs.
-Shawna Lemay is the author of Rumi and the Red Handbag and other books. She once drove a ’69 Mercury Cougar with a 351 Cleveland in cerulean blue.
When you write about Springsteen you’re not just writing about Springsteen. You’re writing about class. You’re writing about a moment in history, about your old neighborhood, about that thread of youth that follows us down open roads and through adulthood all the way into our own backyards. Every one of the poems and stories, love letters and self portraits in this anthology pays homage to that spirit, the strength and despair, hope and sweat, the everyday jeans-and-T-shirt possibilities that we can all break free, make it out and find our own place to call home somewhere on that open road.
-Joaquin Fernadez, Writer and Recovering Filmmaker, Editor for Boneyard, Hand To Mouth and AFTERMATH: Explorations of Loss and Grief.
Like any good love story, a love affair with Springsteen transcends one man to reflect back the faces of many lives and loves. Like the music of Springsteen, this book embodies the power of art to speak to the soft human underbelly we all share and the hard chassis we build around it. Shut Down Strangers and Hot Rod Angels rewards fans if we come to play a “Where’s Bruce” game with song lyric quotes and references, but it rewards everyone with the power of its poetry and prose. As a collection, this volume is an elegy to cars and tunnels of love, to the promise of America and the breaking of that promise, to Mary and Wendy and Rosie and Janey, to Tom Joad and Jack the Rabbit and the Chicken Man. Shut Down Strangers & Hot Rod Angels is a testament to the power of an artist as an engine for the best creative impulses in other artists, and the audience is transformed as a result.
-Betsy Hodges, Speaker, Writer, Advisor, former Mayor of Minneapolis, MN.
This Is Your Hometown . . . Katie Runde
A Lord's Prayer . . . Gary Leising
There's a Joke Here Somewhere and It's On Me . . . Sara Lippmann
Star Jet Standing . . . Erin Keane
[saxophone solo] . . . Sarah Priscus
In The Taco Bell Drive-Thru I Read Bruce Springsteen's Palm . . . Lauren Howton
Like Only A Lonely Angel . . . Kelly Shire
At Sixteen . . . Justin Hamm
Badlands . . . Matt Mitchell
Baby Teeth . . . Elinor Ann Walker
Mary, Wendy, Rosalita . . . Madeline Anthes
Self-Portrait as the Girl from a Springsteen Song . . . Jessie Lynn McMains
Independence . . . Erin Cork
Wreck on the Highway . . . Michael O'Malley
Atlantic City . . . Angelo Colavita
Backyard Grave . . . April Lindner
Winners and Losers . . . Dorian Sinnott
A Debt No Honest Man Can Pay . . . Bill Yarrow
Joy Ride . . . Travis Cravey
dressed in drag for homicide . . . Rico Craig
Switchblade Lovers . . . Michael Leonberger
The Siren of 7th Street . . . Don Raymond
Busted . . . Kevin Oberlin
This Place Where I Live . . . Michael Calderwood
Reason to Believe . . . Matthew Woodman
Outside Atlantic City . . . Erin Keane
Somewhere in the Swamps of Jersey . . . Armand Rosamilia
My Father Said . . . Elinor Ann Walker
All the Boys She Sent Away . . . David Turnbull
Johnny's Girl . . . Angela Caravan
We Take Care of Our Own . . . Michael O'Malley
Burn This . . . Janna Layton
Birth of Office Bad Boy . . . Marina Mularz
Asbury Park . . . Angelo Colavita
Fat Man and Wild Billy . . . Nikki Tranter
Dallas, The Rocker, and The Redhead . . . Chris Haven
Greasy Lake Swim Club . . . Justin Lutz
The Heroes We Thought We Had To Be . . . Adam McCulloch
First Lesson in Vietnam, 1987 . . . Justin Hamm
The Fire, The Spark . . . Mar Catherine Stratford
Driving to the Jersey Shore . . . Margaret DeRitter
Roads . . . Amanda Crum
Born to Run . . . Lisa Mangini
Poem which is just the lyrics of Bruce Springsteen's 'Thunder Road' or is it . . . Rax King
Engrafting . . . Donna Luff
A Supermarket in New Jersey . . . Erin Keane
Carrying a Friend . . . Dave Housley
Rises Bold and Stark . . . Rico Craig
Perfect Circle . . . Jennifer Wortman
Synonyms of Springtime Surrender . . . Juliette Sebock
A.C. . . . Ambrose Tardive
Geography Lessons . . . Matthew Woodman
Nowhere Radio . . . Holly Schofield
My Other Cheek . . . Dalton Huerkamp
My City of Ruins . . . Aisling Keogh
Philadelphia . . . Angelo Colavita
Blinded . . . Ralph Dartford
Fire . . . Jenna Gomes
New Year in Nebraska . . . Atar Hadari
San Francisco Bay Dusk Ode With Bruce Springsteen . . . Lauren Howton
What It Means . . . Patricia Fuentes Burns
My Old Soul . . . Finn Wylie
Bruce Springsteen and Jimmy Vivino Jam at Convention Hall, Asbury Park . . . BJ Ward
Tunnel of Love . . . Nick Desjardins