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Get Ready for Italian Blood

coming October 2023

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In October of this year, my memoir, Italian Blood will be published. The book is a series of stories about my family. They begin with these three people: my mother, father, and sister. They were the holy trinity of my life. When I look at this photograph, I wonder if anyone could have predicted the blood and tears left behind in the wreckage of our lives. And if they could have, would anything have changed?



My name is Denise Tolan.


I am a writer who believes what Virginia Woolf says is true: "On the outskirts of every agony sits some observant fellow who points."

I am a pointer. 

I love love love the novel Moby-Dick.

I love teaching English.

I also write both fiction and non-fiction. Check out some of my publications.

News and Stuff

News and Stuff

Big News

I have a memoir coming out in 2023.

It's called Italian Blood.

You can preorder here:

I have a new piece out at Pacifica Literary Review. Read it here:

New piece out at Parhelion. Fifty-Four and Fat - fun and fiction!

 "My Mother Tells Me" is up at The Penn Review. Please give it a read!

This piece was a finalist for for Best of the Net 2022! Read it in Atlas and Alice. It's called Sell You, Sell Me.

Work in Crack the Spine called 

Mercury Rising.  

Letter By Letter was just published in Sonora Review. It's a tough one to read, but please do.  

Check out my piece in Blue Mountain Review.

Check out my new nonfiction work in Flock called Visiting Rena.

Denise's non fiction piece at Bodega , "Things That go Boom," was a finalist for the 2019 Penelope Niven International Literary Award

Click the Bodega link to read!!

Denise's piece in Lunch Ticket's Amuse-Bouche Spotlight, Because You are Dead, was selected for inclusion in 2018's Best Small Fictions.

Order 2018's Best Small Fictions.

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My piece, "A Very Short History of Abuse," published in this anthology, was recently nominated for Best Short Fictions 2020!

Order a copy here!

Great Weather for Media

Denise was a finalist for the Diane Woods Memorial nonfiction prize.


Read "Betrayed by Blood" in Lunch Ticket

Read Medication Guide Ambien (ām’bē–ən) at Digging Through the Fat.



Publications and Awards



Click on publication link to see if piece is available online


Available on Amazon

Also available at Amazon in Best Small Fictions 2018


  • "Snake Light" The Tishman Review

  • "Never Two Without the Three" Gravel

  • "A Very Short History of Abuse" Great Weather for Media 

Available on Amazon 

  • "The Underside of Normal" Fugue 

  • "Visiting Rena"  Flock

  • "My Mother Tells Me" The Penn Review


  • Finalist Best of the Net 2022

  • 2020 Nominated for Best Small Fictions by Great Weather For Media

  • 2019 Finalist Arts for the People Chapbook Contest

  • 2019 Finalist Palooka Press

  • 2019 Longlist Ink Tears Short Story Contest

  • 2019 International Literary Awards, Penelope Niven Prize in Nonfiction: finalist

  • 2019 Gambling the Aisle Chapbook Prize: finalist 

  • 2018 Diane Woods Memorial Award: finalist, non fiction

  • 2018 The Best Small Fictions, Lunch Ticket: winner

  • 2018 International Literary Awards, Penelope Niven Prize in Nonfiction: finalist

  • 2018 Forge Fellowship: finalist

  • 2017 Wigleaf’s Top 50, Apple Valley Review, long-listed

  • 2017 River Styx Schlafly Beer Micro-Brew Micro-Fiction contest: semi Finalist

  • 2017 Saturday Evening Post Fiction Contest: finalist

  • 2016 Texas Observer Short Story contest: honorable mention

  • 2016 SunStruck Magazine Creative nonfiction writing contest: winner

  • 2015 Best of the Net, The Great American Lit Mag: nominee

  • 2013 Glimmer Train’s Award for New Writers: honorable mention

  • 2012 Glimmer Train's Very Short Fiction Award: finalist

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