Books by Samantha

Failing Paris

“Dazzling, honest, and filled with characters you won’t forget, Failing Paris is an inspiring read–– a book you’ll return to and be changed by. Samantha Dunn is an astonishing writer.”
— Christina Haag, New York Times bestselling author of Come to the Edge

Failing Paris is the story of a week in the life of Sabine Wilcox, the 19-year-old student who has left the stifling rural existence of the Southwest in exchange for a year in Paris. But the City of Lights offers her no refuge. With only one week to address a dire problem, Sabine’s past and present painfully collide. Her life intertwines with two men who prove to be more, and less, than what they first appeared. Nominated for the PEN/West Fiction prize, this is a first novel by a young master whose work must not be overlooked.

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Not by Accident (Reconstructing a Careless Life)

Thrown and trampled by her horse, Dunn survived with a badly fractured leg requiring extensive reconstructive surgery and the threat of future infection and amputation. As she convalesces, she candidly reviews her life and reflects on what it means to be accident-prone. Is this calamity not the first, but the most serious just a coincidence, or does it indicate something deeper that needs to be examined? Barely able to walk again, she takes up yoga, explores complementary therapies, and embarks on a path of emotional and physical healing. Dunn concludes that her accidents were an unconscious message telling her that she did not care enough about herself and her future. She returns to writing, divorces her husband, gets back on her horse (literally), and survives a second fall.

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Faith in Carlos Gomez: A Memoir of Salsa, Sex, and Salvation

Samantha Dunn is a horsewoman who’s not exactly graceful-more comfortable in a barn than in a ballroom. Her introduction to salsa dancing happens by chance in a kitchen during a dinner with a blacksmith from South America. To impress this handsome man on their next date, she decides to take a dance lesson. But then the unpredictable happens: from the first steps, something about the movement and the exotic, sliding music takes hold of her.

From that point on, Dunn throws herself into the salsa culture. She soaks up the Spanish language-an easy feat in her home city of Los Angeles-and begins a peculiar relationship with her dance instructor, a local salsa celebrity. What started off as a lark becomes a quest that reframes her life, changing the way she thinks about her body, her relationships with men and women, her personal history, and even her country. She is hearing tropical rhythms in her head, taking lessons, buying Lycra, and cruising unexplored sections of the vast Southern California metropolis on weeknights in search of the sweaty, packed salsa clubs. And as Latino culture becomes ever more influential in California, she is recognizing the changes in her own life mirrored in the city she thought she knew.

Faith in Carlos Gomez is a story of a woman discovering love-for salsa dancing, for music, for a culture, and for Carlos Gomez-and determined to learn whatever steps she’ll need to keep up.

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Live Your Best Life

Edited by The Oprah Magazine Editors

For anyone eager to answer Oprah’s call to “live your best life,” here is the ultimate, all-around self-discovery book. This first annual edition of Live Your Best Life: A Treasury of Wisdom, Wit, Advice, Interviews, and Inspiration from O, The Oprah Magazine pulls together over 100 of the most empowering, energizing, and entertaining articles from the magazine’s last two years. Filled with brilliant advice from experts like Dr. Phil, Suze Orman, Martha Beck, and Oprah herself, the book is divided into three sections. “Your Personal Best” focuses on emotional and physical well-being—from Oprah’s own weight-loss secrets to ways to gain confidence, serenity, and balance. “Relationships” has the tools and insights everyone needs to form warmer, more satisfying connections with those near, dear, and even not-so-dear to us. And, in true Oprah style, “Living in the World” helps the reader think about how to make her life more meaningful and useful. This rich, collectible volume is a resource that readers will keep returning to for answers and inspiration.

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Women on the Edge: Writing from Los Angeles

Edited with Julianne Ortale

For Los Angeles writers, the boundariness is taken to the furthest extent—for what could be more peripheral than serious short stories written in a town know predominantly for its big screens and action figures ad silicone-enhanced placticine femmes?” So writes Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander in her introduction to this collection.

Some of the contributors are well-known figures in the literary landscape—Aimee Bender, Carole Muske Dukes, Lisa Teasely, Rachel Resnick—while others have little publishing experience. All, however, offer compelling stories that are fresh in their approach, immaculate in their execution.

This challenging, unexpected anthology is not a “best of” but rather a gathering of escitoras, a handful of voices singing in Los Angeles at a particular moment in time, their characters walking wide, weird world with an ear to the shifty ground.

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The Time of My Life: Writers on the Heartbreak, Hormones, and Debauchery of The Prom

Edited by Rob Spillman

Remember the ill-fitting tuxes, regrettable dresses, wilting corsages, cheap beer, and rented limos that marked the biggest, most-anticipated celebration of the school year? Remember when the whole world hung in the balance of just one night? Well, lots of your favorite writers do too, and they share the good, the bad, and the embarrassingly ugly in this wonderful compendium of personal reminiscences about prom night.

Rob Spillman has collected the prom memories of Cintra Wilson, Walter Kirn, Steve Almond, Samantha Dunn, Susie Bright, Mike Albo, and many others, capturing the magic, the misery, and the atrocious attire in a hilarious look at the simultaneously sublime and ridiculous event that has become the American right of passage.
Whether prom night is something you fondly remember or long to forget, The Time of My Life will bring it all back, capturing with wit and poignancy precisely what it was like to be young, hormonal, and dressed like a butler or bridesmaid.

Edited by Rob Spillman

Now Write! Nonfiction

Edited by Sherry Ellis

Beginners and seasoned writers alike will relish the opportunity to use the top-notch writing exercises collected in Now Write! Nonfictionculled from the personal stashes of Samantha Dunn and other critically-acclaimed nonfiction authors like legendary essayist Gay Talese (Thy Neighbor’s Wife), New York Times-bestselling authors Ishmael Beah (A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier) Reza Aslan (No God but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam), and Tilar Mazzeo (The Widow Clicquot), 2008 Pulitzer Prize-winner John Matteson (Eden’s Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father), creative nonfiction icon Lee Gutkind (Creative Nonfiction magazine), and many other top memoirists, journalists, and teachers of creative nonfiction, these exercises offer fresh ideas for every facet of creative nonfiction writing, from pushing through writers block to organizing a story, capturing character to fine-tuning dialogue, injecting new life into a finished piece to starting a new work from scratch.

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Damage Control: Women on the Therapists, Beauticians, and Trainers Who Navigate Their Bodies

Edited by Emma Forrest

In Damage Control, Samantha Dunn joins Minnie Driver, Marian Keyes, Francesca Lia Block, Rose McGowan, and other women as they wax poetic about the experts and gurus who help them love themselves, sharing stories of everything from friendships born in the make-up chair to the utter dismay of a truly horrible haircut.

Traditionally, women share their secrets with their hairdressers. But what about their manicurists, masseurs, chi gong teachers, and tattoo artists? Witty and wise, Damage Control is an intimate, sometimes dark, look at our experiences with the professionals who pluck, prod, and pamper every inch of our bodies—and a reminder why we surrender ourselves to their (hopefully) very capable hands.

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Another City: Writing from Los Angeles

Edited by David L. Ulin

In Another City, Samantha Dunn joins over 37 poets, essayists, and short-story writers have lent their considerable talents to a collection as diverse as Los Angeles itself. L.A.’s film lots, barrios, boulevards, and beaches merge into a landscape and culture rich, unique, and often true to itself despite its alleged artificiality. For example, Erik Himmelsbach hilariously discusses the fine art of dodging a geeky fellow Jew in the halls of Sepulveda Junior High. In another piece, Lynell George illustrates how the real L.A. is not readily distilled to one or two handy stereotypes about surfer culture but rather is a “loud cacophony” of lifestyles, cultures, and “competing melodies.”

Ulin, a regular contributor to LA Weekly, the Los Angeles Times, and Newsday and the former books editor for the Los Angeles Reader. Ulin nicely adds a number of poets and fiction writers who give voice to the newcomer experience and the dynamics of staying a step ahead of relocation panic and loneliness.

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Best American Sex Writing 2004

Edited by Daniel O’Connor

This annual compendium of the most entertaining and provocative writing on this intermittently interesting (every twenty seconds) subject freewheelingly incorporates essay, journalism, fiction, advice column, lecture, speech, book excerpt, transcript, letter, blog-all the ways we write about sex now.

Samantha Dunn’s essay is included along with selections from Dan Savage, Susie Bright, Chuck Palahniuk, Denis Cooper, Amy Sohn, Tracy Quan, Bert Archer, Tristan Taormino, Cara Bruce, Jonathan Ames, Carol Queen, Jennifer Finney Boylan, Matt Ridley, Lily Burana, Melinda Anderson, Kathleen Murray, and others.

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How We Live Our Yoga: Teachers and Practitioners on How Yoga Enriches, Surprises, and Heals Us

Edited by Valerie Jeremijenko

This captivating, fresh collection of personal stories provocatively explores the question of “what happens to a practice based on stillness and acceptance, in a world based on striving, distraction and insatiable appetites.” More than a dozen yoga practitioners shine light on their own lives to reveal a great breadth of possibilities about the reach of yoga for Americans. Editor Jeremijenko has done fine work pulling together startlingly different lives that are revealed through superior, thoughtful writing. Not all the stories are glowing tributes by any means, which gives this compilation all the more credibility. Fulbright scholar Elizabeth Kadetsky’s “Coming Apart in Pune” commences the collection with a less-than-flattering account of a stint in yoga guru B.K.S. Iyengar’s studio in India. Indian-American poet Reetika Vazirani’s poignant, ironic and hopeful “The Art of Breathing” crystallizes America’s variant of yoga, detailing its strengths and weaknesses. For the estimated 15 million Americans who practice yoga, this book is a real boon. It isn’t at all about how to do yoga, but it is about how to comprehend yoga in a very rich way. Lacking a glossary to explain some terms, this work is not for those with no familiarity with the world of asanas (poses). But for those with even a cursory knowledge of yoga practice, it proffers a highly interesting, refreshing and deeper gaze at an ancient gift.

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True Tales of Lust and Love

Edited by Anna David

Anna David’s True Tales of Lust and Love began as a one-time-only reading and storytelling show in January of 2012, a venue for writers and comedians to share and laugh at their dating disaster stories. But after selling out the venue and attracting immediate press and buzz—with articles in The LA Weekly, LA Times, Time Out, Flavorpill, and LAist, among others—David agreed to produce the show every month. It has continued not only to sell out but also to attract a growing list of authors, comedians, and Hollywood writers. As Time Out declared, “This is the place to go to see strong female performers.”

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Dancing at the Shame Prom: Sharing the Stories That Kept Us Small

Edited by Amy Ferris

Amy Ferris, Hollye Dexter, and the writers they brought together are all ready to let go of shame. In Dancing at the Shame Prom, twenty-six extraordinary women—Lyena Strelkoff, Teresa Stack, Monica Holloway, Nina Burleigh, Amy Friedman, Meredith Resnick, Victoria Zackheim, and more—take the plunge and say “yes” to sharing their stories. These brave writers, journalists, musicians, artists, directors, and activists have offered up their most funny, sad, poignant, miraculous, life-changing, and jaw-dropping secrets for you to gawk at, empathize with, and learn from—in the hopes that they will inspire others to do the same. Letting go feels good!

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My First Novel

Edited by Alan Watt

Have you ever wondered how your favorite authors got their start? How did they make the leap from closet scribe to published author? In My First Novel: Tales of Woe and Glory, twenty-five authors recount the variety of hurdles, both internal and external that they had to overcome on their journey. Alan Watt, editor of My First Novel and founder of L.A. Writers’ Lab’s 90-Day Novel Workshops, states, “The goal of this book was to demystify the creative experience, to level the playing field, to say to the writer who was struggling with his novel late at the night in the garage of his parent’s house in Walla Walla, that you are no different than any of these other writers, and to keep going, and yes, at times it really is that difficult and scary, but that you are not alone, and you are up to the challenge, and here are twenty-five separate road maps to the same destination.”

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Drinking Diaries: Women Serve Their Stories Straight Up

Edited by Caren Osten Gerszberg

In Drinking Diaries, editors Leah Odze Epstein and Caren Osten Gerszberg take women’s drinking stories out of the closet and into the light. Whether it’s shame, sober sex, and relapsing, or college drinking, bonding, and comparing the benefits of pot vs. booze, no topic related to alcohol is off limits in this illuminating anthology. With contributions from celebrated writers including Jacquelyn Mitchard, Daphne Merkin, Kathryn Harrison, Ann Hood, Ann Leary, Pam Houston, Jane Friedman, Elissa Schappell, Asra Nomani, Priscilla Warner, Rita Williams, and Joyce Maynard, Drinking Diaries is a candid look at the pleasures and pains of drinking, and the many ways in which it touches women’s lives.

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