October 1st, 2014
fwriction
“I flipped the tape to side B of Meddle. In the twenty minutes, it took us to get there, we zoned in and out. Gliding into piano tinks, we tiptoed on puddles. Razed by guitar, shattered in bird screams. Into the grift of momentum and pulled back down again, just so. Gotta hand it to Floyd. In all my life, I never expressed anything so true. Just once, just once, I’d like to stand up and say my piece and have someone respond. You can find so much on B-sides.”
- “Some Girl" by bettysueblue

I flipped the tape to side B of Meddle. In the twenty minutes, it took us to get there, we zoned in and out. Gliding into piano tinks, we tiptoed on puddles. Razed by guitar, shattered in bird screams. Into the grift of momentum and pulled back down again, just so. Gotta hand it to Floyd. In all my life, I never expressed anything so true. Just once, just once, I’d like to stand up and say my piece and have someone respond. You can find so much on B-sides.”

- “Some Girl" by bettysueblue

September 25th, 2014
fwriction

Ugly Undersides and Grace: An Interview with Christian Winn

Interviewed by Sara Lippman


Since its launch last fall, Dock Street Press, a new boutique publishing house out of Seattle, has demonstrated its commitment to taking writerly risks and a knack for discovering fresh literary voices. Its first title, The Lucky Body by Kyle Coma-Thompson is one of the darkest, most exhilarating and challenging collections I’ve had the pleasure of reading. This summer DSP published Christian Winn’s NAKED ME, another beautifully-made and unforgettable collection of short stories, thereby firmly establishing its place on the independent press scene.

Congratulations on the publication of NAKED ME - a remarkable debut of fluid, almost effortless prose that elicits the full range of emotions, brimming as it is, with humor, despondency, heart and heartache. I know you’ve been doing a lot of press events the past couple weeks. How’s it been going?

Thanks for the kind words regarding NAKED ME, and I’m unbelievably pleased to know that the stories conveyed so much meaning to you as a reader. Telling artful and meaningful stories is always what I set out to do when I write, and it’s so hard to know from the writer’s POV just how the narratives affect a reader. Thus, it really makes me smile to know that these stories had this kind of impact on you.

As far as the press events go, it’s been a bit of a whirlwind thus far. Working with Dock Street, and Dane Bahr the publisher, has been wonderfully positive. They have been so supportive and enthusiastic about NAKED ME as well as all their other titles. As an emerging indie press I feel like they really have the right motives and vision. They’ve picked some great and diverse titles to publish, and they’ve made really beautiful, hip and artful books. It was wonderful to have Dane and Madeline come out to Boise for the packed and sweaty NAKED ME book launch at the end of July at Payette Brewing. Last week I was in Seattle where I lived for 15 years, at a very formative time in my late teens and through my 30th year, and have so many great friends who still live up there. But, as life will go, I haven’t seen many of these folks for over a decade, nor have the old friends seen each other much. As I was planning the event at Eliot Bay Book Co. (fantastic people and store!) I reached out to a bunch of these dear friends, and lo and behold the NAKED ME event became an impromptu reunion. About a dozen of the guys came out, supported the reading with some book buying and some beer drinking and some reminiscing. It was such a cool experience to help bring my friends together with this book, and for future events up in Seattle I know I’ll be seeing those dudes again.

What books have been keeping you company on the road?

I’ve been reading REDEPLOYMENT, a great book of short stories telling the varied stories of modern soldiers in the Middle East and back home in the States by Phil Klay, as well as DOWN IN THE RIVER, a wonderfully dark, wet new novel by Ryan Blacketter, a fellow Boisian. And, I can’t help but keep going back to BATTLEBORN by Claire Vaye Watkins — remarkable Nevada stories.

Your stories expose ugly undersides of humanity, reveal bare (dare I say, naked?) truths about your characters, and yet in your skillful and compassionate hand these truths feel less dismal, somehow. Trusted. Hopeful, even. “All Her Famous Dead” is particularly brutal because the main character, Meredith, is having an affair with her own mother’s boyfriend, and yet, it achieves this incredible level of grace. How do you do it? How do you approach your stories?

Once again, thanks so much for your kind words about the prose! The grace you refer to is really important to me as a writer of literary fiction. And not a forced grace. I feel like as I construct my characters, and send them through strange and unique and sometimes brutal turns in their lives, I want them to not seem artificial or too knowing or self-involved in a manner that seems artifice. I want to get them in trouble in small and large ways, and let them come to understand themselves and the world at large better through these events, even if that understanding is that they understand very little (if that makes sense). I try to use language in a manner that conveys longing and confusion and anger and joy, but at a real, grounded level. I know in early drafts with many of these stories, including “All Her Famous Dead,” I overwrote, made a lot of big moves that drew too much attention to the writing, and I feel like that in order to achieve the grace I was wanting for Meredith I needed to pare down the poetics (though there is still some in there) and let the direct action and landscape convey the goods. As far as accessing that particular narrative, the genesis of “All Her Famous Dead” began the summer of 1997 when I left Seattle and vagabonded around for some months, finally landing in Boise. I was keeping a journal, as I always do, and as all these “famous dead” kept dying, and I kept reading about them in the paper, I jotted down their names and the dates of their deaths on a couple of pages in the journal. I figured I would use these deaths in a story, or a poem some time in the future, but had kind of forgotten about that list until at least ten years later when two younger men, friends of mine from back in the day growing up in Palo Alto, died rather suddenly from addiction issues. These deaths jarred loose the “famous dead” list, and I mashed those together with fictional versions of my old friends’ deaths, then decided to give these experiences to a youngish woman who is at odds with herself and the place she’s come to in her life. From there, the story was birthed, and The Chicago Tribune folks were kind enough to publish the beast, AND she got a fine home in NAKED ME.

Read More

September 18th, 2014
fwriction

Beth Gilstrap’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Luna Luna Magazine, Sundog Lit, Quiddity, Superstition Review, and The Minnesota Review, among others. She is looking for a home for her story collection tentatively titled I Am Barbarella. When she’s not working on her novel about self-taught artists, she can be found reading, working on an essay collection, cooking, or playing with her house full of rescue pets.

Read her new short story in fwriction : review - “Some Girl”

September 10th, 2014
fwriction

Unzipping Stories: Meg Tuite & James Claffey in Conversation

Meg Tuite: Are you an early riser, and how does your day begin? 

James Claffey: Always. Awake between 5:30 and 6:00 every day, and I usually make coffee, get the toddler her morning milk, let the dog out for her constitutional and then feed her, and after that I check email and read the news on the BBC website. If it’s a weekday I’m heading in to school and the pre-teaching prep ritual there, which involves copy room business and making sure I’ve got the warm-up and lesson for the students ready to go.

MT: What is an exquisite moment living on an Avocado Ranch?

JC: Night, when the owls are aloft and the raccoons and other creatures are foraging in the trees, and every movement can be heard through the open bedroom window. In those moments I’m able to look back on all the places I’ve lived and know there’s not been one more magical.

MT: How is it to live with another exceptional writer? Who has to wrack the real world out there for cash or do you take turns soliciting the streets?

JC: Oh, boy. It’s a complicated dance when there are two writers in the house competing for space in the world. When we first met I was not writing and was much in Maureen’s thrall, impressed by her wonderful writing and the manner in which she always managed to find time to write and paint. After a few years of me writing, and then publishing a fair amount, things got difficult in terms of how there didn’t seem to be enough room in the house for two writers. We’ve worked hard to find a middle ground, a place where both our writers are honored and given space and time to thrive. 

As for the second part of the question; lately, we both work really hard; me teaching high school English, and Maureen runs Red Hen Cannery, making jams and marmalades for local retailers and selling at the farmer’s market a couple of days a week. We also take care of our toddler, but with me on a regular working schedule, Maureen ends up doing a lot more during the week than I do. On weekends I mind our little girl while Maureen sells at the market. 

MT: How did you and Maureen meet?

JC: We met at a Halloween party in a friend’s house near Santa Barbara. I was dressed as the ghost of James Joyce and she was dressed as a 1920s trapeze dancer, so it was ordained…

MT: Why did you leave Ireland?

JC: I left home in 1993 and probably because it was one of those big “birthday years” and the transitional nature of the universe was at work and a big shift was called for in my life. At the time I was working, managing a retail store, and sort of stuck in a cycle going nowhere. I’d gotten a Green Card in a lottery and had three years to avail myself of it, so I came to the States for a couple of vacations and then on a cold winter’s day finally decided to flee. 

MT: I know you went back for a visit recently. How often do you visit and do you have many relatives in the green lands that you enjoy catching up with?

JC: I try to visit yearly as my mother is there, and two of my brothers and their families. As far as friends go there are only a few close ones I keep in touch with any more. Time and life and distance have winnowed my friends to only a handful now. We want to try and spend more time there, maybe rent a cottage on the coast for a month or two each summer and do some writing, have some good family get-togethers, and so on. Since my mother’s failing memory has accelerated I feel the need to get back more often, so we’re trying to find time to get back again before the year’s end.

MT: What are you working on now?

JC: I recently completed my twelve stories for the Pure Slush Year in Stories project, and I completed edits for my novel that’s coming out with Thrice Publishing and I’m collaborating with Tara Masih on a novella, expanding the collaboration we did for Jamez Chang’s Counterexample Poetics project. I’ve also got a longer-term project involving a moment in Irish history that might turn into a novella/linked-stories collection. Now I’m teaching high school again there’s a premium on time and I have to be extremely careful not to commit to too many projects that take me away from what matters to me most.

MT: What music influences you? Can you add a link? 

JC: Oh, so much music, so much. I suppose for writing I spend a lot of time listening to bands like Sigur Rós, The Gloaming, Volcano Choir, The Civil Wars, and of course U2, The Dubliners, The Chieftains… I’m a little enamored with this original song by the true-blue Dubliner, Imelda May—Kentish Town Love Song (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mY02Tz5cHlo&feature=kp). I’m a bit of a hopeless romantic under it all, and having lived in London and spent some time in Kentish Town, this really speaks to me.

MT: How about film? Does that play into your work at all? 

JC: Certainly. When I was in my early-twenties in Dublin, not writing, but building the foundations through music and books and movies, I spent long hours at the cinema, smuggling in bottles of red wine and watching magnificent, strange films from all over the world. I never went in for the traditional blockbusters, instead gravitating to the “art house” movies of Truffaut’s Jules et Jim, Ettore Scola’s Le Bal, Jeunet & Caro’s Delicatessen and City of Lost Children, and Patrice Leconte’s The Hairdresser’s Husband. I also found David Lynch’s Blue Velvet to be a movie that resonated with me; it’s strange brew of sensuality and violence really opening my eyes to what can be done with a story. I’m a visual writer, interested in the images that come together to make a story, rather than the straightforward plot structure. As a kid we’d traipse along to the local cinema on a Saturday morning and watch the Tarzan movies, and the Flash Gordon episodes, and the tangible smell and taste of those mornings is still with me.

MT: Is there something wild we don’t know about James Claffey that we’d enjoy? And if so, what?

JC: That I worked as a professional racket stringer at Wimbledon and other big tournaments back in the day might be considered wild. I enjoyed the time dealing with the likes of John McEnroe, Maria Sharapova, and Mary Pierce, who became a friend over the years I worked on her rackets. I’ve got some stories of the pro tour that’d make quite some book, but I’d probably end up in deep $&%* if I told them!

MT: What’s a quote that speaks to you?

JC: Lately, with my mother’s health in decline and my father dead these fourteen years, I’ve been giving a good deal of thought to aging, so Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s words, "A man knows when he is growing old because he begins to look like his father, resonate with me.

 * * *

JC: Can you speak to your trajectory as a writer? How did you start out in the writing game, and what sort of journey has it been for you?

MT: It’s been pushing against my ribs since I can remember having ribs. Mom was a librarian and Dad was a professor. Every room was walled in by beauteous bookshelves and our family read everything we could get our hands on. How glorious is that? Any page that was blank was there to be filled. My siblings and I wrote on anything: paper, cardboard, magazines, telephone books. It was an exquisite journey.

JC: Bound by Blue deals with a particularly dark set of characters and events. Where did the seeds for this collection come from?

MT: People. Unzipped stories. Nothing more exotic than the psyche of the unsaid. 

JC: I love New Mexico, it’s magical air and the beauty of the mountains. How long have you lived there, and what drew you to the place?

MT: I’ve been in NM for over 20 years. My sister moved here first. She sent me a video of this ancient, wild mining town and I was living in NY at the time. She opened a furniture store and I said ‘hell, yes,’ and moved out here. I used to come and go and now I go and stay. The big sky rocked me when I first saw it! We live in a house that gives us three views of different mountain ranges and we can ride our dirt bikes out here. I am in LOVE!

JC: If you were cast into space on the Mars Voyager and could only take one book and one piece of music, what would they be, and why?

MT: Bruno Schulz’, “Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass,” and Led Zeppelin, “Kashmir.” And maybe some red and orange paint to work some of the terrain out there into a Tibetan landscape if they let me out of the craft. Why? Because they are necessary and my bones are buried inside them.

JC: You are a terrifically busy writer and editor, involved in multiple projects and journals at any one time. How do you keep from spreading yourself too thin, and how important do you see a writer’s involvement in their community as being?

MT: I write every day, because it’s a LIVE, LOVE thing and I haven’t stopped, nor been able or wanted to. Working as an editor for Connotation Press has been three years of another love affair. I am ecstatic when I read a submission that breaks it all apart. Time slows down and I orbit this magic. Ken Robidoux is one exceptional human being that I am blessed to work with! He is no bullshit, pure joy and luminous, and I am peanut butter spread slab-thick. There are no thin walls here. Santa Fe Literary Review is an annual print magazine and once again, I am in the appreciative position to publish some exemplary students, as well as writers around the globe that need to be read. Miriam Sagan, the founder and editor-in-chief, is also pure joy and brilliance! So being an editor has been a damn great experience. It has only opened my world to more writers out there that need to have an audience.   

JC: If you could write an exquisite duet with any writer, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

MT: My duet would be with Janet Frame. And why? A quote:

“It is said that when a prisoner is condemned to die all clocks in the neighborhood of the death cell are stopped; as if the removal of the clock will cut off the flow of time and maroon the prisoner on a coast of timelessness where the moments, like breakers, rise and surge near but never touch the shore.”

JC: A quick poem, using the words: Dowdy. Petrified. Duty. Misogyny. Jellied. Worthiness.

MT: Jellied breath of intruders pillowed themselves inside her every night. She stood dazed, let the moon mouth her into what most call duty or nothing less than a uniform with darts where breasts petrify. She worked graveyard shift at Dunkin’ Donuts dowdy with the drip of dozing eyelids and misogyny. Yes, splintered casts, drunk on their tethered worthiness of yellow lust or decay, ordered a pink dollhouse of Munchkins and coffee in a four-pack. Flat faces waned and waxed a slack wind trussed up on candy-colored martinis and meth into her lungs, empty as withered glasses on sticky tabletops.

JC: Can you speak to the process involved in putting together a collection of stories? You’ve written several, and how do you go about ordering, and choosing which to include and exclude? 

MT: I usually work with the publisher. I have my idea of what seems to gel and move through a collection and then I like to get feedback. So far, each book, has been a smooth collaborative between the publisher and myself.

JC: Is there a story you’ve failed to have published that you love and can’t understand why it’s not in the world?

MT: I have to say no. I am not sending out as many stories as I used to, but they now have their own lives wherever they landed and I’m thankful for that.

JC: As an artist as well as a writer, can you explain the importance of the visual image in your writing? 

MT: Yes. As a reader we move through a story or novel by the images that are presented to us and if they are not too detailed we create something from our own past history to fill in those blanks. That is a beautiful dance between writer and reader, when it is successful.

JC: I know you create these amazing t-shirts with famous writer’s faces on them, and I’m curious to know how and why you started making these wearable art pieces? And do you have any thoughts about including writer’s words with their images?

MT: I made the collages for myself at first. I surrounded my room with all of the brilliant beings that I read. Then when I showed them to friends, they wanted collages for their walls. I was living in Montreal at the time, and someone said make a batch and let’s take them to Vermont, (over the border). So we did and the first shop we went to bought all of them. That freaked me out. It was a love thing for me and then found a broader audience. Each of my t-shirts has a quote with it, so the words have always been included with the image.

JC: What are your three favorite places in New Mexico?

MT: My house. Ghost Ranch. Chama.

JC: What’s on your reading table these nights?

MT: Always Janet Frame and Kate Braverman. Haywire by Thaddeus Rutkowski, Selected stories by Robert Walser, No One Belongs Here More Than Me, Miranda July, Moral Disorder, Margaret Atwood, The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingslover, Tenth of December, George Saunders, Elegantly Naked in My Sexy Mental Illness, Heather Fowler….

JC: What’s the one book that influenced you as a young person and turned you on to the world of writing?

MT: I was reading from the time I could record memory. My mother was extremely prolific and a librarian and so reading was as necessary as eating and more necessary than talking. I remember when my brother gave me a collection of Flannery O’Connor’s when I was 13. I read it over and over and over. I did that with all books. We went to the library each week and were able to take out six books. I had each read in the first day, so swapped with my siblings so our six book limit became limitless. It was a deep LOVE of the words, the smell, the life within each binder I opened.

JC: What’s next for Meg Tuite?

MT: Hopefully, more writing and reading.



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Meg Tuite’s writing has appeared in over 300 journals, including Berkeley Fiction Review, Epiphany, Superstition Review, JMWW, Monkeybicycle, and Boston Literary Magazine. She has been nominated nine times for the Pushcart Prize and has been a finalist in the Glimmer Train short story writer’s contest twice. She is fiction editor of The Santa Fe Literary Review and Connotation Press, author of Domestic Apparition (2011) San Francisco Bay Press, Disparate Pathos (2012) Monkey Puzzle Press,Reverberations (2012) Deadly Chaps Press, Bound By Blue (2013) Sententia Books, Her Skin is a Costume (2013) Red Bird Chapbooks. She won the Twin Antlers Collaborative Poetry Award from Artistically Declined Press for her poetry collection, Bare Bulbs Swinging, (2014), written with Heather Fowler and Michelle Reale. She teaches at the Santa Fe Community College, lives in Santa Fe with her husband and menagerie of animals. She blogs at: http://megtuite.com.


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James Claffey hails from County Westmeath, Ireland, and lives on an avocado ranch in Carpinteria, CA. His work has appeared in the New Orleans Review, Word Riot, Metazen, Necessary Fiction, Spork and many other places. His short fiction collection, Blood a Cold Blue, is published by Press 53. He writes at www.jamesclaffey.com.

September 9th, 2014
fwriction
Gliding into piano tinks, we tiptoed on puddles. Razed by guitar, shattered in bird screams. Into the grift of momentum and pulled back down again, just so.
September 3rd, 2014
fwriction

I wonder now much further the sun can melt, how much deeper this new season. I wonder what percentage of water I am, and if it will be enough, and if it carries meaning, as my father once thought. I wonder if in the absence of a terminus the ghosts find new homes, if my mother and father will reunite somewhere in a cold dark, and if that is the only heaven one can ask for any more.

—Joel Hans, “Ghosts in the Termini

September 2nd, 2014
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She starts to leave and even though I don’t, I want to stop her, to know her, to trust her word, to ask if she worries about the weight of water, to ask if she’s ever drank a ghost, to ask if she’ll someday seek out the Pacific’s last palmful, to ask why she saved my life, to ask if she has ever carried the desiccated barely-living structure of someone she once loved, to ask if she weighed the options of giving water or giving a terminus for haunting, to ask if she heard that loved one’s bones creak like the gears of a bicycle left out in the rain.
Joel Hans, “Ghosts in the Termini
August 14th, 2014
fwriction
Now you’re at the next level, and the flaws in your work will be glaringly apparent to you, which means it’s time to start over.
Reblogged from Danny Goodman
August 13th, 2014
fwriction

Dancer held out his hand. There was a nickel-sized open sore on the pitching side of his index finger. Doc frowned. “You pitched a great game, Dancer.  You’re going to remember that game for the rest of your life. Hell. We all are.”

“What about the Cardinals?”

Doc shook his head. “You can’t pitch with your hand like that.” 

“I can still throw my fastball.”

“Son, it’s the big leagues. You got a good fastball, but you ain’t no goddamn Bob Feller. Without a curve they’ll kill you. I can’t do that to you.”

Dancer hung his head and stared at his wounded finger. Doc patted him on the shoulder. “I’m telling the Cardinals you can’t pitch on Labor Day. They’ll probably bring up that kid from Columbus.” 

“Then what?”

“You’ll get your shot. Next year. Take care of that hand.”

It was a perfect game. No one could take that from him. Or from Clayton. No matter what else happened they would always have that game. That moment. And Doc was right. He was young. He’d get another chance.

—from Len Joy’s American Past Time

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