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Work Samples

Root That Mountain_Balkan Baker Awards.pdf

Root That Mountain, to be published by Brother Mockingbird in 2021, will be my third published novel. Attached are the novel's first five chapters.

Root That Mountain's synopsis:
Root That Mountain takes place in West Africa, set during the period just after the end of the civil war in Sierra Leone. Felix Laszlo’s father, a doctor working with Doctors Without Borders in Freetown, has been murdered by Revolutionary United Front rebels. Felix goes to Sierra Leone to retrieve his father’s body. In doing so, he comes to realize he knows less about his father than he thought. Compelled to try and truly understand the man, Felix returns to West Africa to learn about Sierra Leone, the civil war, and the trade in illicit “blood diamonds.” But with Issa Manzo, a renegade soldier from Niger, as his guide, Felix soon discovers that this investigation carries with it dark secrets and is far more than he bargained for.

"Evan Balkan's writing is transportive. At its heart, Root That Mountain is a story about an everyman, or, rather, an every-son, Felix, who takes on a leading role, traveling to West Africa to retrieve the body of his slain father. Against the backdrop of a war torn Sierra Leone, Balkan's remarkable book stretches across continents and reads as if it was lifted directly from John le Carré. I couldn't put it down." -- Cathy Alter, journalist and author.

PDF icon Root That Mountain_Balkan Baker Awards.pdf

Balkan statement.pdf

To the Awards Committee:

In constructing this portfolio, I will allow myself to be immodestly proud of the breadth of my creative work since my first published story in March, 2000, in Byline Literary Magazine, out of Oklahoma. In the two decades since, I have published sixty-nine short stories and essays in a wide variety of magazines, journals, and newspapers, from obscure lit mags to mass-circulation periodicals such as U.S. News & World Report, Real Simple Magazine, and the Baltimore Sun. Several of these short stories have been anthologized into larger works. Many of the essays are travel writing, a content area in which I have won several awards and routinely lecture. During this time, I have also published ten books with seven different publishers. These include two novels (with another forthcoming in 2021)—one of which was a middle grade novel inspired by my daughters and the girls soccer teams I have coached over the years—a biography of a 16th century conquistador (University of New Mexico Press), four guidebooks to Baltimore and Maryland, a collection of essays on shipwrecks, and another collection on vanished explorers. Additionally, I not only teach screenwriting, but write screenplays as well. I have won multiple competitions, fellowships, and scholarships for my scripts. I tend to be resistant to singing my own praises; talk of my publication record and awards makes me uncomfortable. But here, in applying for a Baker Award, I realize I need to sell myself and, yes, I am okay admitting on a computer screen that I am proud of the above.

Thank you for looking at my portfolio and projects.

PDF icon Balkan statement.pdf

RTM_Cover.jpg

Root That Mountain, Novel, forthcoming from Brother Mockingbird Press, 2021

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About Evan

Baltimore County

Evan Balkan's picture
Evan L. Balkan is the author of three novels, including the PEN/Faulkner nominated Independence, and seven books of nonfiction, including The Wrath of God: Lope de Aguirre, Revolutionary of the Americas, as well as many essays and short stories in an array of publications. His screenplay Spitfire, adapted from his novel of the same name, won the 2016 Baltimore Screenwriters Competition, a Saul Zaentz Innovation Fund Fellowship, a Rocaberti scholarship, and was a semifinalist in the Screencraft Family... more

Independence

Independence, a novel published in 2020 by the University of Wisconsin Press. Nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the Binghamton University John Gardner Fiction Book Award, and an American Book Award (award announcements forthcoming).

Synopsis:
Paris, South Dakota, summer 1976. Fifteen-year-old Lilly is crushed by the news that her mother's boyfriend will become her father, making her feel lonelier and more invisible than ever. That same morning, she runs into Lee, a handsome and mysterious stranger. It isn't long before she takes off with him, deeming it a grand adventure across the Great Plains.

New Orleans, Louisiana, autumn 1992. Fifteen-year-old Lindsey has just learned that her father is not, in fact, dead—but will be shortly if the state of South Dakota has its way. As she and her mother embark on a long bus ride north, Lilly slowly opens up, revealing to her daughter the true story of her past: why she and Lee went on the run, how Lindsey came to be, and the reason Lee is about to be executed for a crime of passion. Independence is an evocative story of true love, youthful mistakes, desperation, and breath-taking betrayal.

“Balkan never flinches from exploring the moral complexity of the choices his characters make. This deeply touching story moves seamlessly between the past and the present, the truth and the need to hide it, and all the while Balkan captivates us with the beauty of his prose.”
—Ed Perlman, Johns Hopkins University

  • Independence_Cover_FINAL-2.jpg

    Novel, published in 2020 by the University of Wisconsin Press. Nominated for the Pen/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the Binghamton University John Gardner Fiction Book Award, and an American Book Award. “Balkan never flinches from exploring the moral complexity of the choices his characters make. This deeply touching story moves seamlessly between the past and the present, the truth and the need to hide it, and all the while Balkan captivates us with the beauty of his prose.” —Ed Perlman, Johns Hopkins University
  • Independence_1st three chapters.pdf

    1st three chapters of Independence, published in 2020 by the University of Wisconsin Press and nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the Binghamton University John Gardner Fiction Book Award, and an American Book Award.

    PDF icon Independence_1st three chapters.pdf

Spitfire

Novel (middle grade), published 2018 by Amphorae Publishing.

Caroline Panski harbors one dream: to play ice hockey. But, as the neighborhood boys—and her mother—tell her: Boys play hockey; girls ice skate. But Caroline is not one to give up on anything easily. She navigates her little world with will and determination. But her little world is soon made much bigger by the fact that her father is fighting, and will eventually die, in Korea. Additionally, Caroline’s school is integrated and she develops a deep friendship with an African-American classmate, Joseph Wilson. It’s an unlikely alliance, and one that promises lessons in life for both of them. While trying out for a boys hockey team and, more importantly, through her burgeoning friendship with Joseph, Caroline learns firsthand about the limitations of race and gender in 1950s Baltimore. In the end, Caroline’s is a difficult and imperfect world, but one that allows for triumphs and moments of transcendence as well.

​"Caroline Panski defies the norms--and the odds--to be the fiercest girl on ice! Moving, relevant, and utterly engaging, Spitfire inspires us all to fight for what matters: friendship and love." -- Elissa Brent Weissman, author of numerous bestselling MG/YA books.

  • Spitfire-Balkan.jpeg

    Middle Grade novel, published 2018 by Amphorae Publishing. "Caroline Panski defies the norms--and the odds--to be the fiercest girl on ice! Moving, relevant, and utterly engaging, Spitfire inspires us all to fight for what matters: friendship and love." -- Elissa Brent Weissman, author of numerous bestselling MG and YA books.
  • Spitfire_Balkan_1st 2 chapters.pdf

    First two chapters of Spitfire, middle grade novel, published in 2018 by Amphorae Publishing.

    PDF icon Spitfire_Balkan_1st 2 chapters.pdf

The Wrath of God: Lope de Aguirre, Revolutionary of the Americas

Historiobiography, Published by the University of New Mexico Press in 2010

In 1560, General Pedro de Ursúa led an expedition through the Amazon in search of El Dorado. Three months later, Ursúa was murdered. His replacement, Fernando de Guzmán, was also murdered. Emerging from the chaos was the Biscayan Lope de Aguirre, who turned away from El Dorado and led his men to Peru to overthrow the royal forces and declare independence from the Spanish Crown. When Aguirre was finally killed, the aftermath was astonishing: hundreds dead, entire towns depopulated, and a nascent revolution quashed.

"Deliberately provocative, Evan Balkan's The Wrath of God examines Aguirre, a symbol of Basque fury and rampage, arguing that Aguirre's historical representation as a one-dimensional madman deserves revisiting. Indeed, Aguirre may be the Americas' first true revolutionary, a view shared by Simón Bolívar, among others. 2011 marked the 450th anniversary of one of the most extraordinary and least known events in the history of the Americas, and Balkan's work offers a timely investigation into the revolutionary's life and controversial methods." --Publisher blurb

Travel Writing

I have published multiple travel essays over the years and often lecture on the subject at various writing conferences both in the United States and abroad. Here are some recent travel essays of mine, attached.

  • "A Beautiful and Haunted Tune," is about the Mississippi Blues Trail and the tension inherent in maintaining a tourist attraction (and the economic activity it generates) that relies on "authenticity," which in this case means keeping this part of the country shockingly poor and depressed. The essay was published in Cargo Literary Magazine, as well as the dual-language Chinese/English travel magazine Lost, and was the first place winner in the 2017 Storyhouse.org Travel Essay contest.
  • "On the Trail of the Tyrant," is about researching the Basque conquistadore Lope de Aguirre in a crumbling Venezuela, and it also won a Storyhouse travel writing contest.
  • You Can’t Go Home Again, Again(covering Bowie, Maryland; Costa Rica; Ecuador; and Iceland) was published in 2020 in Eunoia Review.
  • “Q” (about Quito, Ecuador) was published in 2018 in Ragazine.
  • “What I Didn’t Do in Costa Rica” (about Costa Rica) was published in 2019 Storyhouse.org.

Screenplays

I have written multiple feature length and short screenplays and teach screenwriting at CCBC and Johns Hopkins as well as lecture on screenwriting at various conferences (recently at the Northern Colorado Writers Conference and the Cuenca International Writers Conference in Ecuador). Awards and accolades garnered in recent years, as well as a few examples (loglines and synopses) are below, and attached are opening scenes from three scripts.

  • Top Ten, Sports Genre, 2020 Creative Screenwriting Emerging Screenwriters Competition: Rock and Roll Soccer
  • Fellowship Winner, Screenplay Lab, Saul Zaentz Innovation Fund, Johns Hopkins University, 2020: King of the Freaks
  • 2nd place, Features Category, Baltimore Screenwriting Competition, 2020: King of the Freaks
  • Semifinalist, Screencraft Family Friendly Screenwriting Competition, 2018, Spitfire
  • Finalist, International Screenwriting Association—Stowe Story Labs Fellowship, 2018, Spitfire
  • 1st place winner, Features Category, Baltimore Screenwriting Competition, 2017: Children of Disobedience
  • 1st place winner, Features Category, Baltimore Screenwriting Competition, 2016: Spitfire
  • Fellowship Winner, Screenplay Lab, Saul Zaentz Innovation Fund, Johns Hopkins University, 2016: Spitfire

King of the Freaks


Category: Feature
Genre: Biography

Logline: Johnny Eckhardt, born in Baltimore in 1911 missing the lower half of his body, goes on to become Johnny Eck, “The Most Remarkable Man Alive,” inspiring generations.
Synopsis: John and Robert Eckhardt, twin brothers, are born in Baltimore in 1911. Robert is a perfectly healthy baby boy. But John, arriving second, emerges into the world missing the lower half of his body. In an era in which such afflicted were often cast aside and discarded, John enjoys the embrace of a loving family. This, in combination with an outsize personality, ultimately leads to greater acceptance. But the avenues for such a person are, of course, limited and John still faces the cruelties of a world horrified at his deformity. Nevertheless, he perseveres, first as a circus sideshow attraction and eventually as a movie actor, taking roles in such seminal films as Tod Browning's Freaks as well as in several Tarzan movies. Ultimately, John - aka "Johnny Eck" - retires to the Baltimore home in which he grew up, living out his final years painting screens, hoping to entertain the occasional visitor, and watching his dwindling fortunes disappear.

Rock and Roll Soccer


Category: Feature
Genre: Sports

Logline: The Englishman Georgie Marsh and the North American Soccer League both ride the meteoric and hedonistic wave of late 70s America until the inevitable: what rises must fall—but does it have to fall so far, so fast?
Synopsis: Georgie Marsh is recruited from England to star in the fledgling North American Soccer League, pulled by riches and glamour. Sick of trudging through English winters and salty fans, he jets to Florida to play for the Tampa Rowdies. The Rowdies win the NASL championship in their first year and BANG! Georgie is the toast of the town, becoming a celebrity and enjoying the hedonism of 1970s America: disco, women, and eventually cocaine. His marriage to Elaine St. Johnsbury slows him down a bit - but only for a time. But soon enough, marriage, drugs, age, and injury catch up to him and he is ultimately upstaged by megastars such as Pele. His career winding down, Georgie is at a crossroads, a sad portrait of a once great athlete in decline, and absolution appears an impossibility. This is a movie as much about America in the 70s, such as the women's movement, as about an obscure and largely forgotten soccer league. Think Bend it Like Beckham meets Boogie Nights.

Spitfire


Category: Feature
Genre: Historical/Drama/Family

Logline: Caroline Panski is twelve years old and harbors one dream: to play ice hockey. But in 1950s Baltimore, “Only boys play hockey; girls ice skate.” With help from an unlikely ally, an African-American boy integrating her school, Caroline pursues her dreams.
Synopsis: Caroline Panski harbors one dream: to play ice hockey. But, as the neighborhood boys—and her mother—tell her: Boys play hockey; girls ice skate. But Caroline is not one to give up on anything easily. She navigates her little world with will and determination. But her little world is soon made much bigger by the fact that her father is fighting, and will eventually die, in Korea. Additionally, Caroline’s school is integrated and she develops a deep friendship with an African-American classmate, Joseph Wilson. It’s an unlikely alliance, and one that promises lessons in life for both of them. While trying out for a boys hockey team and, more importantly, through her burgeoning friendship with Joseph, Caroline learns firsthand about the limitations of race and gender in 1950s Baltimore. In the end, Caroline’s is a difficult and imperfect world, but one that allows for triumphs and moments of transcendence as well.

Short Stories

I have published many short stories over the years. This attached collection, titled Every Way You Look at This You Lose and under consideration at Dzanc Books, consists of nine original short stories—seven previously published and two new to this collection. This collection's stories are interconnected with recurring characters and takes as its theme the flailing of human beings as they navigate relationships and all the inherent comedy and tragedy therein. In the end, my protagonists are searching for answers in a universe that offers little more than contradiction and ambivalence. Included here:

  1. “Winners and Losers” (published in DaCunha Literary Magazine, 2017)
  2. “Blank Slate” (published in Good Works Review, Fall 2020)
  3. “Shivers” (published in Sweet Tree Review, 2019)
  4. “The School Bus No Longer Stops in Front of the House” (published in Darkhouse Books’ What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, Vol.2, fall 2020)
  5. “Locked In” (published in Backchannels Literary Magazine, January 2020)
  6. “Fortress”
  7. “Another Country” (published in Darkhouse Books’ What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, Vol.1, spring 2020)
  8. “Every Way You Look at This You Lose” (published in Temptation Press’ Intimate Moments: An Erotic Collection of Short Tales, 2018)
  9. “Coda”

Penelope Pine

Children's book, co-authored with my daughter, Amelia (16), forthcoming 2021 from HK Books

From the publisher: "Penelope Pine is a delightful story that teaches young readers to be happy with who they are! Penelope is a pine tree. She lives in the forest with oaks, poplars, and maples, and enjoys playing with her tree friends. But when autumn rolls around and her friends turn beautiful colors, Penelope the evergreen believes that she doesn’t measure up. But when winter comes and her friends are suddenly very cold without their leaves, Penelope learns that she is perfect just the way she is."

Vanished! Explorers Forever Lost

Nonfiction, published by Menasha Ridge Press, 2007

From the back cover: "Some adventures end in glory, others in obituaries. Instead of receiving laurels and a parade, the adventurers in Vanished! met infamy on a road with no return. Immerse yourself in these gripping accounts of explorers who ventured forth―then simply disappeared. Their fates? We’ll never know. Vanished! draws you into seven page-turning accounts, including one that contains new details of Amelia Earhart’s unsolved disappearance over the vast Pacific. Head to Mexico with Ambrose Bierce, forever lost but not forgotten. Ride the wild Colorado with honeymooners Glen and Bessie Hyde, presumably drowned but whose bodies have never been found. Author Evan Balkan brings these stories to life, and death, in spine-tingling descriptions. Whether murder, sabotage, or just plain bad luck, these are true tales of adventure gone bad, of explorers vanished, forever lost."

Shipwrecked! Deadly Adventures and Disasters at Sea

Nonfiction collection, published 2008 by Menasha Ridge Press

From the publisher: "For readers who relish the image of clinging to a sinking makeshift raft while fighting off sword-wielding and delirious mutineers wrenching the last cask of water from a sailor's sun-scorched hands (while sharks circle in famished anticipation), Shipwrecked! Adventures and Disasters at Sea is an irresistible read. A heady voyage through human suffering at the hands of unforgiving oceans, cruel captains, and implacable fate, this latest collection of Evan Balkan's impeccably researched true adventures details 14 major maritime disasters. Included are such legendary stories as the 1629 maiden voyage of the Batavia that ended in mutiny and murder, and the dramatic destruction of the majestic three-masted barquentine Endurance in ice-clogged Antarctic waters in 1912. A vast spectrum of human emotion and activity is featured in these exciting profiles, from deadly incompetence and brutish cannibalism to surprising self-sacrifice and quiet heroism."

Attached here are two pieces, outgrowths from this book. One is an academic essay on the Rubens Vase, which is a centerpiece at the Walters Art Museum and has a connection to shipwreck of the Batavia, off Australia, in 1629. The second is an excerpt from a proposed book that I hope to work on further in the coming years about the enslaved Robert Drury, a victim of the shipwreck of the Degrave off the coast of Madagascar in 1701. Drury was long thought to be a fiction of the English novelist Daniel Defoe, best known for his work, Robinson Crusoe. I have begun the process of trying to secure travel grants to visit Madagascar to aid on the research.

Walking Baltimore: An Insider's Guide to 33 Historic Neighborhoods, Waterfront Districts, and Hidden Treasures in Charm City (and other guidebooks)

Baltimore guidebook, published 2013 by the Wilderness Press

From the publisher: "Walking Baltimore includes Charm City's well-known neighborhoods -- Downtown, the Inner Harbor, Mount Vernon, and Fells Point. But in the voice of its insider author, the book also covers lesser-known and far-flung corners, revealing what makes Baltimore such a wonderful and fascinating destination and hometown. Full of little-known facts and trivia, this book shows how and why Baltimore was an essential player in the country's early history and continues to be influential today. Here is a city almost unparalleled in American history and it lives up to its modern reputation as a quirky, come-as-you-are and be-what-you'll-be place. The zany Baltimore-based film director John Waters (of Hairspray fame) summed it up best when he said, 'It's as if every freak in the South was headed to New York City, ran out of gas in Baltimore, and decided to stay'."

Two other Baltimore guidebooks I have published are Secret Baltimore: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure (Reedy Press, 2020) and 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Baltimore (1st ed., 2006; 2nd ed., 2009). Sample chapters from Walking Baltimore and Secret Baltimore are attached.

Connect with Evan

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Evan's Curated Collection

This artist has not yet created a curated collection.