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Barrelhouse presents Julia Dixon Evans and Tara Campbell

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About How to Set Yourself on Fire:

Sheila’s life is built of little thievings.  Adrift in her mid-thirties, she sleeps in fragments, ditches her temp jobs, eavesdrops on her neighbor’s Skype calls, and keeps a stolen letter in her nightstand, penned by a UPS driver she barely knows.  Her mother is stifling and her father is a bad memory.  Her only friends are her mysterious, slovenly neighbor Vinnie and his daughter Torrey, a quirky twelve-year-old coping with a recent tragedy.

When her grandmother Rosamond dies, Sheila inherits a box of secret love letters from Harold C. Carr—a man who is not her grandfather. In spite of herself, Sheila gets caught up in the legacy of the affair, piecing together her grandmother’s past and forging bonds with Torrey and Vinnie as intense and fragile as the crumbling pages in Rosamond’s shoebox.

As they get closer to unraveling the truth, Sheila grows almost as obsessed with the letters as the man who wrote them.  Somewhere, there’s an answering stack of letters—written in Rosamond’s hand—and Sheila can’t stop until she uncovers the rest of the story.  Threaded with wry humor and the ache of love lost or left behind, How to Set Yourself on Fire establishes Julia Dixon Evans as a rising talent in the vein of Shirley Jackson and Lindsay Hunter.

How to Set Yourself on Fire is a family mystery that slowly reveals itself, illuminating a poignant emptiness in its lovable but complicated main character. Sheila is funny, depressed, searching, and unpredictable. Her story will move you long after its lovely final scene.”
Lindsay Hunter, author of Eat Only When You’re Hungry

“This book had me glued. I came for the intrigue buried in the treasure hunt of letters, but I stayed for the unlikely friendship of thirty-five-year-old Sheila and twelve-year-old Torrey. I would read a whole series of these two having adventures together, but I’ll have to relish this singularly heartbreaking and hilarious story of lost and found love, in all its guises.”
—Jac Jemc, author of The Grip of It

“This book features my favorite type of protagonist: the creepy, socially awkward woman who you can’t help but fall in love with. It’s also the best kind of reading experience: a book that is funny and difficult to put down, and builds to something that is disarmingly touching.”
Juliet Escoria, author of Witch Hunt

TARA CAMPBELL is the recipient of the following awards from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities: the Larry Neal Writers’ Award in fiction, the Mayor’s Arts Award for Outstanding New Artist, and a 2018 Arts and Humanities Fellowship. She’s a fiction editor at Barrelhouse, an MFA candidate at American University, and a 2017 Kimbilio Fellow. Prior publication credits include SmokeLong Quarterly, Masters Review, b(OINK), Booth, Spelk, Litbreak, and Queen Mob’s Teahouse. Her debut novel, TreeVolution, was published in 2016. Her latest collection is Circe's Bicycle.

JULIA DIXON EVANS lives in San Diego. How to Set Yourself on Fire is her first novel. Her work can be found or is forthcoming in McSweeney’s, Paper Darts, Pithead Chapel, Fanzine, Flapperhouse, Hobart and elsewhere. She is program director for the literary nonprofit and small press So Say We All in San Diego, nonfiction editor for Noble Gas Qtrly, and hosts the San Diego literary reading series The Foundry.

Barrelhouse is an independent non-profit literary organization based in Washington, DC that bridges the gap between serious art and pop culture. Publishing a biannual print journal and regular online issues featuring fiction, poetry, interviews, and essays about music, art, and the detritus of popular culture, Barrelhouse is produced by writers for readers who are looking for quality writing with an edge and a sense of humor. Stories originally published in Barrelhouse have been featured in the Best American Nonrequired Reading, Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, and the Million Writer’s Award. Learn more at

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