Train Shots | Vanessa Blakeslee


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A single mother rents a fundamentalist preacher’s carriage house. A pop star contemplates suicide in the hotel where Janis Joplin died. A philandering ex-pat doctor gets hooked on morphine while reeling from his wife’s death. And in the title story, a train engineer, after running over a young girl on his tracks, grapples with the pervasive question—what propels a life toward such a disastrous end?


Read an excerpt


Train Shots is more than a promising first collection by a formidably talented writer; it is a haunting story collection of the first order. I was flat knocked out. Blakeslee’s range and confidence are astonishing.”
–John Dufresne, author of No Regrets, Coyote


“Train Shots announces an outstanding new voice. Vanessa Blakeslee’s stories traverse a trilling range of landscapes and voices, but no matter where her characters find themselves, their struggles with lost love and loneliness are authentic and engrossing and will not soon be forgotten.”

~Laura van den Berg, author of The Isle of Youth and What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us


“In each of the eleven stories in Train Shots, Vanessa Blakeslee immerses her readers in nuanced and impressively imagined worlds in which characters must choose between loyalty or justice, between sticking with it or giving up. This is a book populated with unforgettable, complex characters, each seeking, in one way or another, a cure for heartbreak.”~Christine Sneed, author of Little Known Facts


Vanessa Blakeslee’s story collection Train Shots is the literary version of a debutante’s ball, a lovely introduction to a young writer just coming into her own.”

~ Douglas Glover, author Elle


“The title is a reference to that grand local tradition of liquor consumption anytime a train passes by, most famously at the trackside PR’s Taco Palace in Winter Park… Blakeslee is a talented writer whose book you should pick up even if you’re sober.”

~Tod Caviness, for Orlando Sentinel


“In each of the eleven stories contained in Vanessa Blakeslee’s Train Shots there comes a moment when you can hear in your head a camera lens zooming in and out, setting up for the perfect shot, one that will capture a protagonist’s defining moment. The moment is rarely cinematic: it gets its power from the careful plotting and the psychological portraits that have preceded it.”

~ Scott Carpenter, for JMWW


“Blakeslee’s stories are like dramatic snapshots, each one a colorful glimpse of our sordid and vibrant humanity. Compelling, and honest, Train Shots deserves a prominent spot on the contemporary reader’s bookshelf.”

~ Lauren O’Regan, Women’s Book Review


“[Blakeslee’s] stories read as ballads of brokenness, chronicling the strife, anger, guilt, disappointment, and disillusionment that all of us face. Blakeslee’s range, both stylistically and in her talent to craft a unique narrative voice, is impressive.”

~Lindsey Grudnicki, for Minerva Rising


“Each story bristles with energy and the potential for beauty or destruction, and only turning the pages will reveal which one. Blakeslee writes with a confidence and panache that will carry readers through this collection in a few gulps.”

~Read Her Like an Open Book


Train Shots is a collection of eleven short stories that are an insightful look into the lives of ordinary people. Each story is like a photograph, a moment frozen in time.”

~Jim Liston, for San Francisco Book Review


“Refreshingly, Blakeslee avoids the common fault of placing all her stories in a blue-collar milieu, as though this will lend them some sort of down-home cred; her characters span the American class system and are (or feel) no less downtrodden for it.”

~Orlando Weekly


“Blakeslee’s … ambition pokes through again and again in beautiful sentences and her unique insight.”

~Denton Loving, for PANK


“Perhaps that is the most remarkable thing, in the end, about Train Shots; that Blakeslee plumbs the deep waters of love, disconnection, and the purpose of life without succumbing to the weight of pretension.”

~Mark Pursell, forBuzzed Books


A shot, a train, a widower, a pop princess (Atticus Review)

10 Women Writers You Should Know

An Interview with Green Mountains Review

Most Anticipated Fiction of 2014 (Memorious magazine blog)

Q&A with Debrah Kalb

An Interview with theORLANDOAN

An Interview with Australian lit mag Going Down Swinging

The Most Important Thing is Perseverance: Q&A with Vanessa Blakeslee

Blakeslee talks w/ Split Lip Magazine

Favorite Reads (The Quarterly Conversation)


Vanessa Blakeslee was raised in northeastern Pennsylvania and earned her MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her writing has appeared in The Southern Review, The Paris Review Daily, The Globe and Mail, PANK, and Kenyon Review Online, among many others. Winner of the inaugural Bosque Fiction Prize, she has also been awarded grants and residencies from Yaddo, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, The Banff Centre, Ledig House, and the Ragdale Foundation. In 2013 she received the Individual Artist Fellowship in Literature from the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs.

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