Happy News! Best Small Fictions 2016, Etc.

BSF 2016 front copyMy story, “A Room With Many Small Beds” (originally published in Threadcount Magazine and the first story in Rift) was chosen by Stuart Dybek for inclusion in the Queen’s Ferry Press Best Small Fictions 2016! I’m just so thrilled. Another story, “A Proper Party,” originally published in Revolution John and also included in Rift, made the finalist list. And hurray for Rift, as another story from the book, Robert Vaughan’s excellent “A Box” ALSO made the winner list and will be included in the anthology of 45 small fictions for 2016. Congratulations to Robert! Many thanks to series editor superwoman Tara Masih and all of the consulting editors, as well as guest editor Stuart Dybek.

The full list of winners, semi-finalists, and finalists may be found HERE. Congratulations to all the great writers and the journals that published and nominated their work! Special congratulations to beloved Smokelong Quarterly, which has THREE stories among the 45 winners!

In other good news, I’m so pleased that my story of a three-horned woman, “There Is No Albuquerque” is published in the new “Wild” themed issue of Newfound Journal. That story is also featured in Rift. You may find the story HERE. Oh and read the whole, glorious issue, which also features “Daughters of The Animal Kingdom” by the great Bonnie Jo Campbell.

“Mouth Crimes: Featuring Sally Reno & Gay Degani” Jan. 19th at The Mercury Cafe in Denver!

Please join us at Denver’s Mercury Cafe for the 1st F-Bomb reading of 2016! I’ll be hosting two PHENOMENAL writers and friends, Sally Reno and Gay Degani! The event starts at 7:30 and will feature an open mic, so bring your own amazing flash fiction to read as well! images-4

sallylSally Reno’s fiction has appeared in more than a hundred print and online journals and anthologies, has been among the winners of National Public Radio’s 3-Minute Fiction Contest, the Moon Milk Review Prosetry Contest, and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She lives in a fumeous, vaporish, ivy-festered grotto where she serves as Pythoness to Blink Ink Print and Haruspex for Shining Mountains Press.

DSC_0683_2603Gay Degani has had three of her flash pieces nominated for Pushcart consideration and won the 11th Glass Woman Prize. Pure Slush Books released her collection of stories, Rattle of Want, November 2015. Her suspense novel, WhatCame Before, was published in 2014 and a short collection, Pomegranate, features eight stories around the theme of mothers and daughters. Founder and editor emeritus of Flash Fiction Chronicles, she is an editor at Smokelong Quarterly and blogs at Words in Place where a complete list of her published work can be found. RATTLE OF WANT 2

F-Bomb, founded and curated by the amazingly talented and charismatic flash fiction writer, teacher, performer, Nancy Stohlman, is a long-running flash fiction reading series you should check out if you haven’t already! See you Tuesday night!MERCURY CAFE

Beautiful Smokelong Quarterly: Part Two

And now for the remaining story excerpts from Issue 47 of Smokelong Quarterly, the launch of its beautifully redesigned site. I just continue to find the stories so original and breathtakingly written:

from “Mutable Pleasures” by Meg Tuite: “Attentive lust tasted as salty and unbridled as the wall. I holed myself up with the sock in my room. I sucked on it like a kid with a blanket for a few hours. It edged out the dark skid marks in my mind. Humiliation and anxiety were replaced with distance from school, homework or the need to be social. At some point, the alarm clock ticked out half past two, and I’d been seduced by sections of this cotton gnarled up and balled inside my intestines. I was a snake with a mouse stuck in the middle of me. There was no exit. It wouldn’t come out the other end.”

from “Rabbit” by Natalie Lund: “She emerges from the bushes and pauses, aware of us. It’s the first time she’s watched me and that eye reflects everything: the fear and the shame.”

from “Write Nothing Down” by Molly Faerber: “In the north they curve pocked and pitted, tumble down to pine trees and unplowed snow. We walk all day, stand by the milky waters, count the splay-toed prints in the underbrush. Our breath blurs and thickens in the air, and all around us shards of frozen water ring with cold, glistening.”

from “Map” by Susannah Felts: “Our homes, of sturdy floors and walls./ Slipping daughters’ freed teeth from beneath pillows, acting our parts./ Separated—by the lifted tips of our fingers./ We hammer out other lines.”

from “Rockaway” by Luke Wiget (and my favorite accompanying art by Lauren Crosser): “And he kissed her but couldn’t find anything. He only found her inside of her mouth. There wasn’t a fleck in the world that would convince him anything existed there besides her. The sea waved. Everything waited.”

from “Two Truths and One Lie About Marian ‘Lady Tyger’ Trimiar, Former Women’s Lightweight Champion of the World” by Annie Bilancini: “This Lady Tyger with the future in her strut and their children dancing around her, parrying against the encroaching night: the street lamps are little moons pulled in her wake. This woman is our sister, our daughter, they think. She will fight the battles that need to be fought, and she will win.”

from “Cords” by Gay Degani: “When my mother died, there was no hospital, just the morgue downtown, her little Honda T-boned, the medical examiner explaining she died instantly, no suffering. Can anyone die instantly? Wasn’t there terror in that split-second before? Did time slow down enough for her to deny or accept her fate? Did her life pass by like a hyper-speed movie? Did she miss saying good-bye to me? I asked myself these questions, I asked God, I asked Aaron. There was no harnessing the darkness. I clung to it. God kept silent, my father retreated, Aaron left.”

from “A Deer’s a Deer” by Taryn Tilton: “At dinner, I don’t say much, just tell my mother that everything tastes good. Everything’s actually cold, and we forget to say the blessing. My friend mentions the goats I raised for show, and my father cuts in. “Tell you what,” he says to me, “you and your animals, smost disappointing part.”

from “Nancy” by Coco Mellors: “Nancy is sensitive because she belonged to my grandmother, who is dead now, and who let her have her own electric blanket because the house was often drafty and cold. “Nancy is my reason for being,” she would say and pat her under the blanket.”

from “Antarctica” by Michelle Elvy: “The sky is heavy metallic: the hour before snowfall. He pulls his collar tight and heads home and when he gets there his wife’s standing naked in the kitchen. It has started to snow and the only colour in the room is the orange of her fingernails. The snow falls and they can’t get warm, no matter how hard they make love.”

Whoosh. So that’s that. Go read, if you haven’t already…

Beautiful Smokelong Quarterly: Part One

Have you seen the new look for Smokelong Quarterly? It’s stunning. I’m so proud to be a part of this issue. I’m back from AWP and just getting all the stories and interviews read. Man, it’s impressive. As always. I wanted to talk about the stories, but time and exhaustion do not permit proper reviews, so I thought I’d pick out some bits from each to tempt you to go read the stories if you haven’t yet had a chance. Nine today and the rest in my next post…You won’t be sorry! The stories are phenomenal.

from “The Pool Guy” by Jessica Alexander: “Do you like it? He said like what. I said my body, Thomas. Touch it. He did not budge. It’s not a body. I said it’s a crack in a house where the TV plays all day.”

from “The Dentist’s Parrot” by Ann Hillesland: “While shooting x-rays, the doctor puts a lead blanket over the parrot’s cage. The parrot likes the muffled dreaminess—it reminds him of his rainforest home’s heavy air, so different from this air-conditioned chill. He closes his eyes and imagines the thick brown river, the shaggy heads of trees, green imprinting the sky.”

from “Alphabet War, Alphabet Letters” by Shannon Sweetnam: “Her dreams are simple, but unpleasant—bang she is shot, the bomb explodes crash goes her home caving in upon her, yet she does not wake crying because there at the foot of her bed is her favorite Siamese cat, there in the distance, the sound of Father talking quietly to Brother in the kitchen, the smell of coffee, the knowledge they have returned.”

from “Moon Wishes” by Mark Jabaut: “A bloated, pale orange moon bent the horizon like an overweight tightrope walker.”

from “At Night, By the Creek” by Ashley Hutson: “We have been pretending we are brave so long we believe we are brave. Bravery is like a sport we practiced until everyone said we were aces. We are young, I notice. We are always young.”

from “Six Ways to Break Her” by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam: “Her father sculpted her from melted vodka bottles in his workshop where he slept and ate and molded this daughter from his mistakes.”

from “Wayne Kumai, Novelist, Centaur” by Matt Bell: “Our Wayne Kumai’s bio is getting dangerously close to being too personal. He tries to adjust his course. This is a professional statement, he thinks, not a tell-all biography. Stick to the basics. Magazine publications: Cryptozoology Lit Review, Centaur v. Fawn, Casa del Caballo. He writes a quick sentence about not having an MFA, for increased credibility with his intended audience, then deletes an additional sentence about the institutional insularity of today’s writers.”

from “The Replacements” by Kirsten Clodfelter: “Lemon is drawn to their mother shape and smell, climbing without any prodding into soft laps warmed by cashmere sweaters in bright colors she longs to taste.”

from “Discipline” by Michael Don: “Though Harold made it through an entire war, and only had one bad ear, the good one too good for his own good, the one I must have shouted into. I tried hard but couldn’t imagine anyone or anything able to harm Harold, so I imagined him even angrier, my head a basketball as he dribbled it off our dining room table. A flash of light and then I remembered the Shabbat candles, and my mother who lit them coughed.”

Aren’t those gorgeous? Part Two to follow!

A Thousand Perfect Strangers

It’s here and it’s beautiful. Smokelong Quarterly’s brand new website. I really love it. It’s suitably minimalist without being stark. The artwork accompanying the stories, which has always been great, is amazing. Kudos to Tara Laskowski and all the Smokelong staff. Issue 47 is dedicated to Roxane Gay, for making it possible for Smokelong to pay the contributors of this issue. Anyway, go and check it out! There’s great flash fiction along with author interviews and Tara has written lovely editor’s comments.

As part of the Smokelong campaign to raise funds, one of the perks offered was that a donor would get to be in a story written by me. That lucky donor was longtime friend and master flash writer, Randall Brown. I really struggled with this “assignment!” I wanted Randall to like whatever I wrote for him. He assures me he likes it very much. This is my first science fiction story ever. It was fun to write. You can read it here: A Thousand Perfect Strangers. Randall also interviewed me and you can find that on the site as well. Hope you enjoy!

FullSizeRender (4)In other news, I was asked to take part in the beautiful series my friend Myfanwy Collins curated at the Pank blog, called “Pieces of Me.” The idea was that each writer would post an old photograph and write something based on it and Myf left that wide open. The stories are so strong and gorgeous. My piece is dedicated to my brother, Tom, who recently passed away and you can find it here “For Tom”. That’s him, in the photo, holding me on his lap. Tom was my hero and protector growing up in that houseful of boys. There was no one like him and I will miss him very much.

Also, I have two new flashes and a postcard upcoming in one of my all-time favorite flash fiction zines, Wigleaf, edited by Scott Garson. I’ll let you know when that’s available to read!

My Favorite Reads of 2014

As usual, my favorite reads were published predominantly by small presses, written by writers unafraid of taking chances with their work:

I bookended the year with collections by the innovative Robert Vaughan: Diptychs + Triptychs + Lipsticks + Dipshits (blurbed, reviewed on Goodreads) and Addicts & Basements, also reviewed on Goodreads.

Every Kiss a War by Leesa Cross-Smith, just a beautiful collection, I blurbed and reviewed on Goodreads and interviewed Leesa here on this blog!

I also read and blurbed Nancy Stohlman’s book Vixen Scream and Other Bible Stories. Nancy is another original who performs her stories live as well as she writes them.

I read Avital Gad-Cykman’s chapbook recently released from Matter Press: Life In, Life Out, and reviewed it on Goodreads and interviewed Avital right here on this blog.

If I Would Leave Myself Behind: Stories by Lauren Becker, which I also talked about here.

Understories by Tim Horvath, which is terrific and I gave five stars to on Goodreads.

I read two Gay Degani books in 2014, her collection, Pomegranate Stories and her novel What Came Before, which I blurbed and reviewed on Goodreads. I also interviewed Gay right here and she has lots of smart things to say about writing in general.

Bald New World by Peter Tieryas, reviewed on Goodreads. This book was recently nominated for the Folio Prize in the UK.

Bones of an Inland Sea by Mary Akers, reviewed on Goodreads.

The Last Days of California by Mary Miller, reviewed on Goodreads.

An Untamed State by Roxane Gay, reviewed on Goodreads.

My Mother Was An Upright Piano by the talented and versatile writer of flash as well as longer works, Tania Hershman, reviewed on Goodreads.

Girl with Ears & Demon with Limp by Edward J. Rathke, reviewed on Goodreads.

Doll Palace by Sara Lippmann, this book was one of my favorite short story collections of 2014 and one of my favorites, ever…reviewed at The Lit Pub.

Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life by Dani Shapiro, a great inspiration in 2014 and mentioned in various posts on this blog.

I reread The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (who incidentally drafted the novel in four weeks according to this article in The Guardian).

Understudies by Ravi Mangla, reviewed on Goodreads.

House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

Don’t Tease the Elephants by Jen Knox. blurbed and reviewed on Goodreads.

Quarry Light by Claudia Smith Chen, reviewed at The Lit Pub.

The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the American Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan. A fascinating, harrowing read.

The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It For Life by Twyla Tharp, another inspiring read, also mentioned a time or two on this very blog.

Smokelong Quarterly: The Best of the First Ten Years 2003-2013, a book I contributed to and reviewed on Goodreads.

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill, reviewed on Goodreads. I loved this book so much I read it twice.

A GREAT Cause: Help Smokelong Quarterly Redesign Its Site!

They are nearly halfway to their goal! Please help out if you can! Smokelong Quarterly’s Kickstarter Campaign!

From Senior Editor, Tara Laskowski: In the last 11 years, we have published hundreds of authors and artists, both well-established and emerging, and have hosted the Kathy Fish Fellowship, which has supported five writers-in-residence since 2007. And we have NEVER charged our writers for submitting, NEVER charged contest fees for our contests, and ALWAYS kept our submissions open 24/7, 365 days a year.

The minimum raised for this campaign will help support the initial redesign costs for the web site. If that goal is met and funds exceed our minimum, we will be able to do much more. Below are our goal levels for all the fun stuff we’d like to achieve!

Goal Levels:

$3000 [LOCKED–Minimum]–We will be able to redesign the SLQ web site.

$4000 [LOCKED]–We can even pay something to the wonderful wonderful web developer who is currently working pro bono because he loves us..

$5000 [LOCKED]– We will offer the Kathy Fish Fellowship and writer-in-residence (a $500 reward) to one writer in 2015-16.

$6000 [LOCKED] — We will pay all of the writers we publish in 2015 $25 per story.

Please help us continue to publish the best flash fiction on the planet!

We are a labor of love. All of the funds raised will go directly back to SmokeLong production and promotion, contest prizes, and other initiatives.

And remember: Funds pledged to a Kickstarter project are not deducted until the project is complete. No funds go to the project unless the entire amount is raised, so if you pledge $$ and we don’t hit our goal, you don’t ever pay it out. Kickstarter crowdfunding projects must make 100% of the money needed for a project.

Smokelong Quarterly's Best of the First Ten Years Anthology available now

SLQI have always felt very proud and honored for my time as fiction editor of Smokelong Quarterly. This journal gets better every year and remains one of the most respected venues for flash fiction around. Edited by the brilliant Tara Laskowski, “The Best of the First Ten Years: 2003-2013” anthology is now available from Matter Press. Here is the description:

SmokeLong Quarterly, one of the oldest and prominent online publishers of flash fiction, has collected the “best of the first ten years” in this anthology of 56 pieces, each one a smoke-long. Also, after each piece, the editor/guest editor who chose that particular story for the anthology explains why s/he chose it, including past editors Kelly Spitzer & Kathy Fish, Founding Editor and Publisher Dave Clapper, Senior Editors Tara Laskowski & Nancy Stebbins, and staff editors Gay Degani, Josh Denslow, Ashley Inguanta, Beth Thomas, and Brandon Wicks.

Get it!

Segmented Structure in Flash Fiction: Jeff Landon's "Thirty-Nine Years of Carrie Wallace"

Segmented (or I like the term “mosaic”) structure is something I use quite a lot in my flash fiction. The form lends itself well to this structure, giving the feel of story in bursts, or flash within flash. Each burst must carry weight, the way each word must, in flash fiction. The reader must live a little in the white space and collaborate with the writer in advancing the story. It is my favorite type of flash to read and to write.

Here’s a beautiful and effective example of the use of segmented structure in flash fiction in Jeff Landon’s “Thirty-Nine Years of Carrie Wallace” from Smokelong Quarterly:

Thirty-Nine Years of Carrie Wallace by Jeff Landon

At recess, in Roanoke, Virginia, we play freeze tag, only the rule is you don’t tag the person, you kiss the person, and once you’re kissed you’re frozen forever until somebody tags you. I’m a fast runner, but I always let Carrie Wallace catch me. She has bangs and white plastic boots. She kisses me and goes, “You’re frozen,” and I go, “So what?”

***

Carrie’s basement and we’re fifteen years old. Her parents have gone to Aruba for a rebirthing workshop, and her big sister is upstairs, shaping her eyebrows. We are high on green pot and the jug of Mogen David wine I lifted from Garland’s Drugstore. It’s summer and I can taste the heat in Carrie’s skin. Huddled together we smell like fruity wine, spearmint gum, Lark cigarettes, pot, and Herbal Essence shampoo. It’s not as awful as it sounds.

“Make it last,” Carrie whispers in the dark. But I don’t.

***

Downtown Boston, in my dorm room, and we’re listening to a Poco record. Carrie’s down for the weekend; she goes to school in Vermont. Tonight, she’s wearing a yellow T-shirt and my flannel pajama pants. A pot of coffee is brewing on my hot plate, but right now we’re eating cookies and drinking beer. We pretend that we’ll be grown-up and stop drinking beer any minute now, but it won’t happen that way.

It’s snowing outside. It snows all the time up here. My dorm room is on the tenth floor of a converted hotel. In the hallway, this insane guy from Texas dribbles a basketball and sings a song about cheese. In my room, Carrie and I sit on the edge of my bed and look out the window. She loops her arm around my shoulder. People are skating on the Charles River, under artificial light, and the snow swirls everywhere.

Carrie is in love, she tells me, with someone she met in school.

I look at the window. I want to jump, but I don’t want to die.

I just want to float.

***

When I see Carrie again, it’s by accident. She’s in town for the weekend; she’s helping her mother move into a new place on the river. We meet in a bar, back in Roanoke. I moved back here, after my divorce. I live in an apartment complex popular with young singles. They smile at me. The women ask about my daughter, and the men go, “Hey, big guy, how’s it hangin’?”

When the bar closes down, I offer to drive Carrie home, but she wants to go for a walk. It’s April, but it feels like summer tonight, so we walk. She talks about her kids, her mother’s ancient Cadillac, and her adult ballet class. She doesn’t talk much about her husband.

“He’s OK,” she says. “He’s a wonderful father.”

I nod. It’s getting late and Carrie needs to get back to her mother’s house.

***

It’s hard to explain the luster of certain ordinary nights when everything works together. When you’re walking in your old hometown with Carrie Wallace and her new, complicated haircut; when the moon ducks under the mountains, when the song you hear on someone’s passing radio is one of your favorites, when Carrie walks beside you in her blue sneakers and a yellow dress, and neon crosses flare over empty churches and it’s the exact middle of the night and for a little pocket of time your life seems perfect and without memories, and so quiet.