This year’s writing contest, put on by Museo de la Palabra, had over 35,000 entrants from 149 countries. I am honored to have made the long list, and, consequently, the book–yours free to download here.
I’m home on summer holiday in The States—in Florida, in Texas, in Wisconsin, in towns all not-so-foreign to me. And then, one day before my thirty-first birthday marked by takeout Chinese food, a favorite piece of fiction gets reprinted online at flashfiction.net. Originally published in 2013 by Structo Magazine (at which I am now—humbly—an editor), In a Foreign Town sets a tone, a rhythm, and a spirit I aim to achieve in all my writing. Read it again herehttp://www.flashfiction.net.
A few lines I found scratched in a notebook from college:
Vows to my Mother
I promise that by the time you get sick of waking up at 5am to put the twenty-five-pound turkey in the oven, I will find it endearing.
I promise to help my brother and sister in your absence, to be there in case of failed marriages or credit card debt.
I promise to retain a minimum of 27% of what you’ve taught me.
I promise to eat well and be kind to strangers, especially old ones.
For the interesting history of Mother’s Day, read this article by National Geographic.
I have been a writer since sixth grade. A quick response to the common question, What do you want to be? (For the record, my teacher, whose name I fortunately cannot remember, then also quickly said, No, no I mean, what do you really want to be, like for a career? Her response will be addressed in a much later much angstier post.)
Later that same year, I wallpapered my bedroom with my own (mostly terrible) poetry. (Below is a brooch I’d like to buy on Etsy.com.)
So this writing career is approximately twenty years old. And yet, I have never belonged to a book club. Sure, sure, I’ve debated plenty of books. In living rooms, literature classes, at bus stops. Once I even debated Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead in a public restroom. The arguing went on for so long that three of my friends eventually came in to see if everything was all right. Freshman year of college at Brandeis University, we all were required to read Anne Fadiman’s The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, but that’s the closest I’ve come to the official tradition.
Truth be told, I’m not much for traditions or clubs, or even large gatherings. I prefer intimacy. I prefer not having things in common. A lot of times, I simply prefer to be left alone.
On Friday, however, all this will (at least temporarily) change. A mix of intelligent women will gather, some of literary backgrounds, some not, and we will eat and drink and discuss Richard Morais’s The Hundred-Foot Journey. I’m skeptical. I’m excited. I’m unsure what to expect. I will be there to listen.
First, you buy flowers. You love them so much you can’t seem to part. They sit in your living room, on your dining room table, on that hard-to-reach-but-totally-worth-it shelf in your upstairs bathroom where no one sees them but you and only when you’re in the tub. They sit so long that now a soft cough in the same room strips them of their petals. A politely closed door anywhere in the house. Now is time to carry them outside. And they fall apart, each pink petal adding to the story.
In a Foreign Town also inside! Read it online.
An early Christmas present: the online version of Structo issue 10!
Click on the preview above, or head on over to Issuu, to read the issue for free and in its entirety. It features 10 short stories, 10 poems, two interviews (author Evie Wyld and poet/translator/author/editor David Constantine) and an essay about hereditary book addiction. It’s a great issue, even if we say it ourselves.
There are also a few print copies around if you would like to read it on paper.
Happy Christmas on behalf of the entire Structo team.
A huge thanks to Structo Magazine for their Pushcart Prize nomination of my short story, “In a Foreign Town.”
Photo (BY-NC-ND): Ana Kelston
Two exciting awards-related things to report today.
Back in April we posted a brief interview with Siobhan Harvey, who had just had her issue eight poem ‘Considering the Autistic Boy as a Cloud’ selected for the Best New Zealand Poems anthology.
Today we’re delighted to announce that Siobhan has gone one further, as she has been awarded this year’s Kathleen Grattan Award, New Zealand’s largest prize for poetry. The prize is for her collection Nephology for Beginners, about a boy with autistic spectrum, which includes ‘Considering the Autistic Boy as a Cloud’. You can listen to the excellent announcement interview here and read her contribution to issue eight here. Many congratulations Siobhan!
While on the subject of awards, we made our first ever Pushcart Prize nomination this time last year. After lots of re-reading, this year we’ve decided to nominate three poems, one…
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I’m working today on finishing fiction that’s not mine. It’s a contest to complete a Shirley Jackson short story–if you think you’re up to task, try your own hand here. What strikes me is that it’s a story about stealing, and though Shirley died in 1965 and her family is sponsoring the contest, something sits strangely. Sitting and reading and knowing someone thought that every word, every comma, every space on this page spoke just right. And she had a plan or she didn’t. And the reader in you might like it or she might not, but the writer in you yields, for a moment, to another.
You know what’s scary? That after all the goblins and ghosts and Justin Biebers floating around town–okay, not as many Justin Biebers in The Netherlands, though plenty dressed as Pussy Riot– (Anyone who thinks I’m being lewd and lascivious, please reference this Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pussy_Riot.) What’s scary is that there are only 13 poems left! Yep, that’s it. Thirteen, and this gig’s over. Well, sold, anyway. The writing goes on. So, for thirteen lucky viewers–or fewer if someone purchases more than one–you get one custom poem for pocket change, twenty-five cents. Topic of your choosing. Poem requests so far include a fluffy dog named Ralphie, a beautiful new baby, the WI Badgers v. Iowa Haweyes rivalry, the importance of math, travel, eternity, bass fishing, and many more. You name it, I’ll write it.
So be one of the next thirteen to click this link and get your poem: https://www.etsy.com/listing/165156186/custom-poem-for-25-cents-free-shipping?ref=shop_home_feat. I promise poems less candy-corny than this post.
I’d never been to the opera before. This weekend, I saw Armide in downtown Amsterdam. The singing was French and the subtitles, displayed on an overhead digital board, Dutch. In two-and-a-half hours, I managed bonjour and vrouw, the Dutch word for woman.
When three knights in plastic armor swung in circles fighting flower petals falling from the sky, I was mesmerized. When goblins with melting faces appeared writhing next to women in blond wigs and pink skirt suits, less so. There was a lake and a desert and a horse and a witch. Did I understand what was going on? Rarely. Was I enjoying trying to figure it out? Absolutely.
So that’s my challenge to everyone: give it a try. Buy a poem. They’re twenty-five cents. If you can’t afford one, or can’t seem to get the online shop working, email me: email@example.com. I’ll try not to be intimidating. I’ll try not to be overly-complicated, but if the poem is, if I am, worst case scenario, recycle it. Otherwise, for the twenty seconds it’ll take you to read it, have fun. Take whatever you want from it, and leave everything else behind. Like the first line and hate the rest. I’ll never hold it against you.
For those of you who’ve already purchased poems, it’s understatement to say that you’ve made me feel better about life and literature. Your passion for the topics you’ve chosen has made me want to write and write and write. And for an author, there’s no better feeling.
Read my short story, Continuing Education, published in Verse Wisconsin 112, right here: http://www.versewisconsin.org/Issue112/poems/stroikStocke.html.