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.
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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.
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.
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!
decomP magazinE, which published my story, Punchline Number Nine, published back in February, has nominated it for a Pushcart Prize. I’ve heard writers “joke” that everyone has a Pushcart, implying that they’re meaningless, which would make a nomination eve more meaningless—a tiny pocket void filled with lint sort of off to the side in the armpit of the regular void, I guess.
A) Say that to the Pushcart people.
B) This was my first publication.
C) I’m twenty-three lightyears away from thinking of myself as a successful writer.
D) I’m ecstatic as all heck.
However, I have no idea how to behave about these things. I’m bad at accepting regular, everyday compliments. How to properly demur, show the appropriate level of both humility and excitement—that fence-balance between of-course and I-can’t-believe.
I know the chances of actually winning are pretty low, but I am proud of my little nomination. And come to think of it, the writers that joked everyone has a Pushcart didn’t have Pushcarts. Interesting.