This summer, “Spectrum”, the shortest story I’ve ever written (around 350 words!), which had previously been a semifinalist in Mid-American Review‘s Fineline Competition, will be published by my favorite microfiction venue, CHEAP POP. If you’re not already reading them, get on it!
My story “Must Believe in Ghost” which appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of The Normal School has arrived on their website. Find out how exactly “human consciousness is a long, sadly ignored, fundamental force in the calculations of quantum mechanics” or see how “even the cobwebs were old, as if the spiders in the house had long run out of insects to eat and had absconded to a more plentiful promised land” and find out what happens when an out-of-work journalist tries not to monetize someone else’s grief.
I’ve been on the staff of several literary journals now and I am shocked at the prevalence/frequency of one particular species of story:
The guy-sees-girl-and-is-transformed trope.
Almost always, it’s a very unhealthy obsession. It’s often not even the infamous Manic Pixie Dream Girl either, but just any woman. More than not, she’s the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen, but frequently there’s no real identifying character there at all. And she never gets her own arc in the story.
Hell, sometimes, they never even meet the woman. They see her from across a bar or coffee shop and are apparently haunted by the idea of her.
When they do meet, these stories tend to start post-breakup then spend the majority of its wordcount relating their relationship. There’s no stakes in this type of story at all.
And often, the change the male “protagonist” goes through is not good. Maybe he gets bumped out of his boring life by their interaction, maybe. In many cases, it seems like they can’t wait to get back to living their pre-stalking sadsack life.
There’s also a variation in this trope that shows up with a surprising frequency: in the end, the guy kills the girl. These stories make me want to googlestalk you and report your whereabouts to the authorities.
I’m not saying you can’t or shouldn’t write these kinds of stories. However, I am saying that it’s a pretty worn trope, we’ve all seen it a million times, it’s pretty sexist, there’s little stakes involved, and it smells almost exactly like a too-specific dating profile where we know you’re basically subtweeting about your most recent ex.
P.S. Also, in worn-out trope news: maybe chill with stories that open with a dead woman.
Good news: My short story collection, And When the Ghost Has Vanished, was a semifinalist for Black Lawrence Press’ The Hudson Prize. So that’s kind of a big deal.
The collection, which is comprised mostly of my MFA thesis stories, also includes “Must Believe in Ghost” which is being published by The Normal School in their fall issue. (You still have time to subscribe before it’s out!)
After a long slog of rejections (though, some very positive) it felt very nice to know I’m up to something good.
In the meantime, I’m going back to teaching composition (and joining the “long line” toward teaching creative writing courses) and expanding my book design work into independent and literary presses.
A reminder! My story, “Must Believe in Ghost” will be appearing in the spring issue of The Normal School. If you want to read it (YOU DO YOU DO YOU MAY NOT KNOW IT BUT YOU DO) you should order a subscription now! It’s only like $12 a year. CHUMP CHANGE! Flaunt your affluence! Make it rain! Then, when April or May rolls around and I’m all getting in your grill to go buy my issue, you can be all, hey man, I’ve already been grooving on these sweet, sweet narratives!
Also, the cover of the first issue of Outlook Springs (for which I am the fiction editor!) has been leaked and the issue will be out on April 15th. You can get your hands on a copy (or a subscription!) here. It’s chock full of amazing writing and interdimensional weirdness and existential heartbreak and esoteric malapropisms.
Oh, and we’ve opened submissions for the next issue, so transmit us your wordwork!
I’ve been fond of saying recently that until someone agrees to publish the inside of my book, I’ll have to settle for designing the outsides of other peoples’ books. I’ve been getting some great recognition for that lately.
Yesterday, I found out I won (was one of three winners, but yeah, I won) the Harvard Book Store contest to design the cover for their latest short-short story anthology, Microchondria III.
Then, today I found out that my design for Christina Stoddard‘s Brittingham Poetry Prize-winning collection HIVE is a finalist for The da Vinci Eye Award for superior book jacket design. It’s also been entered in the AAUP Book Jacket & Journal Show, so my fingers are crossed for both of those awards.
Can I get a huzzah? Want to hire me to design your book cover? I’m this close to being an award-winning book designer. THIS CLOSE, Y’ALL.
Our first reading period has officially closed and we’re nearing our final line-up for our first issue, which we’ll be announcing soon. In preparation for this momentous event, we’re fundraising to supplement our costs—printing, website, Submittable, paying writers!
Our mission is simple: we want to publish the best fiction, poetry, and non-fiction from all nooks and crannies of Space/Time. Readers and writers alike will shape the mythology and history of the town by voting in town elections, writing news stories, submitting patents for various inter-dimensional inventions, et cetera.
There’s a ton of other stuff: stickers, t-shirts, movie posters from Outlook Springs-only films, like Moon Tuba. There’s a special Mystery Box from our Mayor, Judy Hernandez, who is in no way a cat. You can also buy a crooked politician or a local business.
Right now, we’re running a raffle to win a FREE Fashion Fish T-shirt or a Buried in Books T-shirt: find us on Facebook and share this post for a chance to win. (No purchase necessary! Valid in all contiguous dimensions!)
Help us get this amazing wordwork out into the multiverse. Support an emerging literary magazine. Never mix bleach with ammonia. Vote early, vote often. Eat kale. Let literature plug the leak in your sad, corrupt, mortal heart.
I recently interviewed Andrew Mitchell, Editor-in-Chief of Outlook Springs about their current submission call that caught my eye with an opportunity specifically for women poets and writers to send their work direct to the editors—they’re calling it “Ladies Night.” The interview and submission information is below.
Andrew, tell me a little bit about Outlook Springs.
We’re a biannual print-and-online journal published in the quiet little town of Outlook Springs, New Hampshire, which also happens to be located in an alternate universe. The magazine itself, Outlook Springs, features exciting new and established voices in fiction, poetry, and non-fiction. However, because this is published in a small, otherworldly dimension, we also include in each issue: coupons to the hot spots around town, movies that are only featured at the Film-O-Plex (OS’s one and only movie theater!), movies like “Moon Tuba” and “Cupboard Shark,” obituaries, police logs, letters to the editors, etc. The…
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About a decade ago, I worked third-shift as a communication assistant at a relay center for the deaf, which meant that I mostly got paid to read books and watch television on my girlfriend-now-wife’s laptop because with the exception of awkward live phone sex internet radio shows and pranksters singing Grease songs, the deaf don’t make a lot of late night calls. Thus, I read something like 60 books that year and was very proud.
So when I saw that I’d only read 27 books this year, I was disappointed. But I made excuses! I was finishing my last year of grad school! I had so much other reading to do! Oh yes, other reading.
Of those twenty-seven books, six I read twice for a form & technique class. One of those I read four times (Claire Vaye Watkins’ Battleborn—probably best book I read this year.) That brings us up to 36 books.
I listened to The Martian on road trips twice, so that makes 37.
I’m a reader for New England Review and read about 20 short stories a month. That’s 240 stories at about 15 pages each which is 36000 and at an average book length (thank you, Goodreads) of 300 pages, that comes to another 12 books. 49.
Another 175 stories for Outlook Springs, (whose line-up for our first issue is looking amazing) so that’s another 8 books. 57.
An average of two stories per week for 30 weeks in workshop, each read twice. That’s another 6 books. 63.
And I can’t even begin to quantify the random stories I read this year, here and there, in journals and magazines I subscribe to. And hell, I took a class about The New Yorker with Nicholson Baker and read large swaths of that magazine’s history.
And my own thesis, nine stories I read at least a dozen times a piece. Should I tack on another twelve books for that?
I think, what I’m getting at, is that the feeling I had that year when I read sixty books is a feeling that I’ve strived to replicate in my life—to be surrounded and infused by literature—and that I think I’ve done, with this incalculable sea of words in which I now swim. Only now, my interruptions aren’t deaf people calling technical support in Indonesia.
As I wrap up my MFA (which means a new subtitle to this blog is in order!) there have been a lot of lasts lately, like my last workshop which is this Thursday, my last day of teaching, my last Read Free or Die, the last time I’ll see people from my cohort who are going off to wherever their careers are taking them. (I have it on good authority that the place everyone goes to during the first several post-MFA months is Deep Depression, and from there, on to their careers.)
But there’s also some firsts which is ending my MFA years on a rather high note. As you may have seen, I was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and I just found out on Tuesday that my story “Must Believe in Ghost” has been accepted for publication in The Normal School, which is a magical magazine and if you’re not reading it, you should. I met them at AWP last spring and was immediately impressed, got a subscription, and began avidly reading their fantastic work (which is beautifully designed, by the way.)
I MUST BE IN THIS!, I said, and sent them the one story I had that I thought would really fit their aesthetic. DING! DING! DING! (See, kids, it pays to read a journal to understand its editorial inclinations and target your submissions, rather than carpet-bombing your story to everyone.)
I’ll update later when it’s out and available, or you can order a subscription now! It’s only like $12 a year. CHUMP CHANGE! Flaunt your affluence! Make it rain! Then, when April or May rolls around and I’m all getting in your grill to go buy my issue, you can be all, hey man, I’ve already been grooving on these sweet, sweet narratives!