Literary Jazz: The Smooth Beats of Mick Carlon

CarlonFrom his inspirational TEDx talk on Louis Armstrong’s “ripple effect” to his semi-historical children’s literature titles, Mick Carlon is making his own waves for jazz’s literary voice today.

Riding on Duke’s Train (2011) told the story of Danny after sneaking onto Duke Ellington’s train in 1939, and through the nine-year-old’s eyes, we see the world of Jazz music at the time unfold and we meet a slew of personalities playing the scene along the way. Jack Bradley said of Riding: “When this marvelously evocative novel finds a home in the school curriculum, kids across America will be downloading Duke.”

Shortly after, Carlon turned his attention to the latter career of Jazz legend Louis Armstrong, when his main character, twelve-year-old Fred, accompanies Louis to Nashville in Travels with Louis (2012). Brian Morton said of Travels that “Carlon is driven by a love divided evenly between the subject (jazz) and the act of writing itself.”

In late 2015, Carlon took his wealth of Jazz knowledge and Girl Singerhis love of sharing it one step farther, challenging himself to write to an adult audience with Girl Singer. Singer is the story of Avery, an eighteen-year-old aspiring to be a singer and to be discovered. She’s recommended to Count Basie and thrown into the jazz life, landing in Greenwich Village after a handful of hit records and dealing with a new guest in her life. Reviews sang of Carlon’s unique ability to embody place, his seemingly endless knowledge of Jazz history, and his inescapably sympathetic blending of the multicultural narratives that bled through both the music and cities he explored.

Mick Carlon’s novels are now in the curriculum of over 50 schools across the country and he continues to share his love of Jazz as a teacher in the public school system himself. You can catch him at the 17th Annual Satchmo Summerfest in New Orleans from August 4-6 speaking on “A Glorious Collaboration: Louis Armstrong and the Mills Brothers” or his articles in the archive of the Jazz Times. Pick up one of his books to swing to this summer. 

May Fiction Contest & Judge

Just under three weeks left in our fiction contest as we are open for entries through May 1st. Have a novel, novella, or short story collection you’d like us to consider? Submit now! We’re accepting all entries through our Submittable page and the entry fee is $33. For guidelines, FAQs and awards visit our contest page.

Our 2017 finalist judge is Jeffrey Renard Allen, author of the novels Rails Under My Back and the recent Song of the Shank among other award-winning works. Rails won the Chicago Tribune‘s Heartland Prize for Fiction in 2000. His work has appeared in Tin House, Poets & Writers, The New York Times Book Review, The Chicago Tribune, Other Voices, Ploughshares, Triquarterly, and elsewhere.

Allen was born and raised in Chicago, received his Ph.D. in English & Creative Writing from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and has taught at both Columbia University and recently the New School. He’s traveled and taught abroad at many conferences, festivals and workshops, including Summer Literary Seminars in St. Petersburg, the Kwani? LitFest in Kenya, the American Writers Festival in Singapore, and served as the Program Director for Literature for the Jahazi Literature and Jazz Festival in Zanzibar, East Africa.

Furthermore, Allen is currently working on a travelogue detailing his time throughout Africa that will explore race, identity, family, religion, music and culture.

Photo credit: Mark Hillringhouse

N. West Moss is “Uniquely Illuminating”

SubwayStopsBryantParkOn her blog, N. West Moss writes that she’s “new-ish to the world of publishing and professional writing,” but her work feels far from amateur. She says “she’s always seeking out authors to hear about their processes, what they’re facing, what they read, and how they get their work done,” and I think we’re all participants in that, having fallen in love with the literary scene. Moss’ work has appeared in The New York Times, The Saturday Evening Post, The Blotter and elsewhere.

Her fiction collection The Subway Stops at Bryant Park will be released on May 16 and has been reviewed by Kirkus, praising “Moss’ ability to probe the rich, complicated depths of those the city views as ordinary – its doormen, library workers, waitresses, and bench-sitters – and capture the profound currents of emotion found in the everyday animates this collection and makes it uniquely illuminating. Definitely worth reading.”

For a sample of what the collection has to offer, read
“Dad Died” over n west mossat Lunch Ticket or “The Absence of Sound” at Neworld Review.

Follow N. West Moss on Facebook and Twitter for updates. Catch her upcoming literary events on Thursday, May 11th at 7:00 pm at the Desmond-Fish Library in Garrison, NY or on Tuesday, May 16th at 7:00 pm at Book Culture in New York, NY.

Coming soon from Leapfrog Press


With the 2017 Leapfrog Fiction Contest only five days away, it’s time to check in on last year’s winner, first-time novelist Katayoun Medhat. Medhat’s existentialist detective novel, The Quality of Mercy, is slated for publication this September.

Katayoun Medhat grew up in Iran in a multicultural household and experienced her first significant cultural shock in a convent boarding school in rural Germany. She studied Anthropology in Berlin and London and sampled various occupations in variable organisations. Working in an adolescent psychiatric unit she learnt much about individual resilience and the human capacity to temper adverse experiences with humor. She went on to train and practice as psychoanalytic intercultural psychotherapist, before going to the Navajo Nation for a PhD in Medical Anthropology.
In The Quality of Mercy, quixotic cop Franz Kafka’s small-town routine is disrupted by a mysterious death at Chimney Rock. Navajo cop Robbie Begay joins the murder investigation, which leads the mismatched duo across the reservation into the victim’s fraught past, to associates living under the shadow of heinous crimes, cunningly camouflaged meth-merchants and sweet-natured squash-growers. The killer, however, is much closer to home.
Good luck to all those planning to enter this year’s contest, and be sure to order a copy of The Quality of Mercy  when it becomes available!

The Annual Leapfrog Fiction Contest begins January 15!

Every year, Leapfrog Press hosts a contest for unpublished novels and short-story collections. Finalists win $150, and the first-place winner additionally gets to see his or her manuscript published. We’ll read manuscripts in any genre or (our favorites) the ones that fall between genres, middle-grade to adult. For details and FAQs, please see our website.

Last year’s winner, Katayoun Medhat’s twisted mystery The Quality of Mercy, featuredjeffrey-renard-allen a small-town Nevada cop named Franz Kafka as he struggles through bureaucracy and bigotry on the Navajo reservation.

This year, we are excited to have Jeffrey Renard Allen, author of Rails Under My Back and Song of the Shank, to judge our finalists. Junot Diaz called Allen “without question one of our most important writers,” and Kirkus said of him, “If there’s any justice, Allen’s visionary work . . . should propel him to the front rank of American novelists.” Finalists will receive short critiques of their manuscripts from the judges.

Interested writers should submit using the link on our website. The contest is powered by Submittable, and has a $33 entry fee.

New Anthology Features Vickie Weaver

Back in 2010, Vickie Weaver delighted us with Billie Girl, a darkly comic coming-of-age story set in Georgia at the turn of the twentieth century. Author Sena Jeter Naslund called it “a stellar achievement–gritty, funny, fresh, and bold,” and the Library Journal said of it, “Featuring dark humor, quirky characters, and ambitious themes, this novel has all the ingredients for cooking up a Southern gothic novel.”

Now Vickie’s short story, “Feeding the Dog,” is going to be included in Walking the Edge, an extraordinary anthology of new American gothic tales released at the beginning of this month. Dorothy Allison of Bastard out of Carolina fame, who wrote the introduction, says: “These stories will take you places you may never have imagined before, but in every case the wonder of the narratives will allow you to see over the walls of ignorance and indifference to the heart’s core. Here you will find the exceptional, a bit of the absurd, and a lot of the unique, but all in all people who are bluntly making their way in a difficult world as stubbornly as anyone you might meet in a truck stop on the highway headed south.”

For fans of the dark and funny, or just fans of a good story, Walking the Edge is a must-read – and if you haven’t already, check out Billie Girl!

Changing of the Guard

We are pleased to announce that Luke Daly is joining Leapfrog as our new acquisitions editor! Rebecca Schwab-Cuthbert, our former submissions guru, will remain at Leapfrog as an editor, but she is passing the rubber stamp on to Luke.

And now, a word from our newest member:

“Hello, authors.  I am pleased to accept the position of acquisitions editor from the talented and visionary Rebecca Schwab-Cuthbert.  Outside Leapfrog Press, I teach writing at SUNY Fredonia and Daemen College, and I’ve taught literature and other courses at several local schools.  Before teaching, I earned an MFA in creative writing from Minnesota State University at Mankato.  Currently, I am in love with a short story collection titled Nominal Cases, the debut and Black Lawrence Press prize winner by author Thomas Cotsonas.  As I teach creative writing, I am afforded the rare chance (and slightly dubious position) of requiring that large numbers of students buy books that I think they should buy, and Mr. Cotsonas’s book is one such book.  I admit it is fun, to like a book and immediately tell fifty people that they must buy it.  My favorite thing about teaching writing is seeing a beginning writer’s excitement when they write something that is better than they know how to write.  It happened to me as a younger man, and when I see it happening for others, it is a gift.
“This summer, Leapfrog Press asked me to consult for the Fiction Contest as a way to get to know the press and the type of authors it draws.  If it seemed like I was on line with the masthead, then I would take the position from the departing editor.  I reviewed several hundred manuscripts and knew right away–because of the glut of lively, original prose that I found there–that I wanted the job.  I am most excited to move from the contest into open submissions, to try to find the next Samuel Ligon or N. West Moss in our incoming submissions. “


More changes are in store in Leapfrog’s acquisitions department: we are now accepting submissions through Submittable! See our page here:

Using Submittable couldn’t be easier: simply create an account, visit our page, and click “Submit” to upload your manuscript. It’s more user-friendly and more secure than email submissions. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us at