Exclusive: Todd Zuniga’s Favorite Writers We Haven’t Heard of Yet


When we kept running into Todd Zuniga, founding editor of Opium Magazine, around town at literary events, we decided that we had to introduce ourselves and ask for a reading list. Opium i

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s not just a biannual venue for fiction and poetry, but a “platform for curious and clever types” to exhibit their art of choice. With Opium 7, the mag opened itself up to your ideas with its “Special Projects,” currently featuring the Jesse Nathan-curated section of illustrations, making it one of the most diverse and unique reads around.

Zuniga is also the founder of Literary Death Match, an event that assembles four up and coming writers for a duel of words; it transforms the standard, oftentimes awkward and boring literary reading into a performance-oriented exercise in wordsmithery (that is nothing short of awesome). No surprise then that he’s an expert on emerging writers you should be seeing in a bookstore near you. After the jump, check out Zuniga’s favorite writers to come out of Opium since Issue 1.

Shya Scanlon The namesake of Opium’s Shya Scanlon 7-Line Story Contest, his innovative prose smarts of David Foster Wallace — crumbs of impenetrable pyrotechnics stirred in with heartaching flourishes that never cease to surprise. [His collection, In This Alone Impulse, comes out in November 2009 from Noemi Press.]

Amanda Filipacchi Amanda ranks in my Top 5 influences in terms of oddity — alongside the likes of George Saunders and Etgar Keret. Hilarious, delicate and charming, I struggle to say which of her three novels — spaced six years apart — should be read first. Her debut Nude Men is my favorite, but I say start with Vapor, which Neil Labute almost turned into a film.

Giancarlo DiTrapano Gian’s 500-Word Memoir Contest entry, Benediction, wasn’t selected champ by judge Daniel Handler, but by my count it’s the top story in Opium‘s best cover-to-cover issue [Opium 5]. His work exemplifies why anyone should read: to see an author tear themselves wide open and pour their best-penned guts on the page.

Amy Shearn Amy’s writing isn’t just vivid and swimming with surprises, it’s the literary funny I love most: the kind that sets up the sad so it really stings. [Check out Shearn’s novel How Far Is the Ocean From Here.]

Richard Lange Richard is a craftsman whose short story collection Dead Boys (we were lucky to showcase the title story in Opium 5) made me feel like I was reading Raymond Carver reborn with tidbits of Tobias Wolff sprinkled on top. It’s rare when I can’t put a book down, but this one kept my hands and eyes glued.