Books

Half-Lives

Autumn House Books, March 2024

Amid heightened restrictions about what women can and cannot do with their bodies, Lynn Schmeidler’s debut short story collection, Half-Lives, is a humane, absurd, and timely collection of narratives centering on women’s bodies and psyches.

Playful and experimental, these sixteen stories explore girlhood, sexuality, motherhood, identity, and aging in a world where conventional rules of societal norms, narrative, gender, and sometimes even physics do not apply. The protagonists grapple with the roles they choose and with those that are thrust upon them as they navigate their ever-evolving emotional lives. A woman lists her vagina on Airbnb, a wife is convinced her husband is an invention of her own mind, a museum intern writes a confession of her affair in the form of a hijacked museum audio guide, Sleeping Beauty is a yoga teacher who lies in state on the dais of her mother’s studio…

Collectively, instead of diminishing, these half-lives grow richer, fuller, more complex. As the narrator of the title story says, “Half-lives are never over.”

Praise for Half-Lives

“InventEd” was the winner of the 2023 BOMB Fiction Prize.

Among a great number of extraordinary submissions to this contest, Lynn Schmeidler’s “InventEd” was the one I found myself circling back to again and again to reexperience its unusual effects until I felt I couldn’t deny the purchase the story had found on my attention, which was almost embarrassing. The story balances an insouciant warmth and humor against a vertiginous glimpse into the mysteries of solipsism, longing, and the risk of dissolving the self in intersubjective desire. Plus, it’s goofy.

—Jonathan Lethem, 2023 BOMB Fiction Contest Judge

Lynn Schmeidler’s Half-Lives is an extraordinary debut, an endlessly smart, endlessly cool, endlessly moving collection full of evocative desire and wonder. Schmeidler has a gift for hooky, high-concept openings, plus the chops to deliver on those promises in ways you might not see coming. I’ve rarely been so consistently surprised by a short story writer; I can’t wait to reread these stories and be amazed all over again.

—Matt Bell, author of Appleseed

Half-Lives is not a half depiction of anything, but rather a full and delightfully teeming portrait of women’s lives as they grow up and grow older. Schmeidler’s got a wonderful sense of rhythm—here time races by, here it slows down to a glorious drip—and her stories contain gymnastic feats—back handsprings of language and structural contortions. I admired and enjoyed this playful and profound collection.

—Emily Nemens, author of The Cactus League

Reading HALF-LIVES is as thrilling and strange as finding Franz Kafka in a patch picking blueberries for Donald Barthelme and Shirley Jackson. I laughed out loud one thousand times. I don’t know how she did it, but Schmeidler has taken the world off its hinges and hung it back on brilliantly askew.  These slanted stories swing wildly, and the breeze their swinging makes is a relief we now desperately need.

—Sabrina Orah Mark, author of Happily

—BOMB Magazine recommends Half-Lives “For the: ‘That Girl’ who got tired of feeling gross on Saturday mornings” on its “2023 Small Press Gift Guide.

“Schmeidler’s entertaining and farcical debut collection features darkly humorous stories about women’s bodies and sexuality… and the author skillfully skirts the line … between fabulism and realism. Schmeidler’s offbeat tales are wonderfully bizarre.”

—Publisher’s Weekly

“Half-Lives, a collection of stories by Lynn Schmeidler, is a stunning debut by an author who is unafraid to write evocatively, experimentally, and with a raw vulnerability that will inevitably stir contemplation and conversation. Challenging stigmas and the silence which surround issues of women’s autonomy, as well as their mental and physical health, Schmeidler has crafted sixteen stories that speak to the deepest (and at times uncomfortable) truths about what it means to walk through this world as a woman….What Schmeidler has done in Half-Lives is craft stories that are so quirky and strange, so mesmerizing and compelling, that the people reading them may not even realize the ways in which they are being moved by what she has written. Still, they will finish this collection transformed.

… a book that can be read over and over again, perpetually prompting laughter, thought and inspiration. To make the human experience personal, accessible and memorable through storytelling is the mark of longevity, and Schmeidler’s Half-Lives will be a staple on many bookshelves for a long time to come.”

—Justine Payton, The Masters Review

History of Gone

Veliz Books, 2018

Shortlisted for the 2016 Sexton Poetry Prize; Finalist for the Anhinga-Robert Dana Prize for Poetry.

History of Goneis a collection of poems inspired by the life and unsolved disappearance of Barbara Newhall Follett, a once-famous child prodigy writer who disappeared at the age of 25 in 1939.

The poems in the book address issues of genius and erasure; childhood and feminism; art and love and history. Absence beats with presence in this imagined memoir of a forgotten life.  Questions of autonomy, creativity and significance lurk inside its mouth music. What is it to be extraordinary, the book asks? What does it take to be oneself?

Praise for History of Gone

“A daring conceptual feat of reanimated biography, History of Gone arrives … drenched in lyric imagination…. Schmeidler’s rich lexicons frame intimate interior geographies… all the while replaying the stolen reel of a forgotten life. … these poems invite charged questions about autonomy, creativity, and self-effacement… A cautionary tale of the erasures of domesticity, a vocational fable, an inside-out bildungsroman, this book… is nothing short of levitation.”

—BK Fischer, author of Radioapocrypha

“In these smart and haunting poems, rich with human vulnerability and wit, Lynn Schmeidler playfully explores the nature of genius, love and celebrity against the backdrop of a mysterious disappearance. Desire and risk are given fresh heat and intimacy as the pursuit becomes personal. He was dress and watch / they were travel. You are wait like a ceiling / full of cracks. These poems weave, reverse and reveal longings for reinvention we didn’t even know we had.”

—Kim Garcia, author of DRONE and The Brighter House

“Schmeidler understands the slippery masks of the intellect and imagination. This book, made up of distinctive and perceptive lyrics, surreal list poems, evasively truthful Q&As, and found poems, ends in memoriam with an erasure.  Open the book, and you will always find her.”

—Amy Holman, author of Wrens Fly Through This Opened Window and Wait For Me, I’m Gone

Wrack Lines

Grayson Books, 2017

Finalist for the Comstock Review Jessie Bryce Niles Chapbook Contest; Finalist for the Two Sylvias Chapbook Prize.

Wrack Lines is a chapbook of poems on the related subjects of infatuation, unrequited love, idealization, longing, projection and lust.

Praise for Wrack Lines

“In these poems—heartbreaking, wildly inventive, wise and innocent by turns—[Schmeidler] conjures the world of unrequited love.… Wrack Lines is full of force and untamable—let it lift you. When it sets you back down, the world will seem just barely recognizable and haunting in its beauty.”

— Gillian Cummings, author of My Dim Aviary

Lynn Schmeidler is a rare poet who deftly straddles two camps of contemporary lyric poetry. Well-versed at lexical play and the leap as well as clear metaphor and imagery, … Schmeidler offers us a feminist handbook of one-sided yearning.”

— Jennifer Franklin, author of No Small Gift

Curiouser & Curiouser

Grayson Books, 2013

Winner of the Grayson Books Chapbook Prize.

Curiouser & Curiouser is a chapbook of poems exploring selfhood and identity through the lens of rare neurological disorders.

Praise for Curiouser & Curiouser

“Composed of equal parts curiosity, compassion, and verve, … these poems evoke the alternately offbeat, poignant, droll, and terrifying circumstances of people whose perceptions are irrevocably askew—a patient whose hands take on a life of their own, another who believes her husband was replaced by a double, another who can perceive objects but not motion… In the heady ride through these lines, we are led to witness the estrangements and refractions that afflict, and enrapture, us all.”

— BK Fischer, author of Mutiny Gallery, winner of the 2011 T.S. Eliot Prize

“…follows up on the promise of neurology’s intrigue with a deft handle on the mysteries and miracles of selfhood and identity…ranges widely yet fires just the right neurons in all the right regions of the brain.”

— Brian Clements

“…delightfully absurd, even as it explores tragic brain conditions.”

— Laura Madeline Wiseman, author of An Apparently Impossible Adventure (BlazeVOX)