Tag Archives: short stories

“It is astounding, how many selves we have.”

So last week, I attended the Philadelphia Stories dinner celebrating our 2012 winner of the Marguerite McGlinn Prize for Fiction! Winning author Adam Schwartz gave an amazing speech that brought quite a few of us to tears. He was so humble, so overwhelmed with gratitude and emotion. Now that is the ultimate rewarding experience for a writer. He talked of how we work our behinds off in solitude, maybe showing our work to a family member or a friend. But for a group of strangers to recognize your work, celebrate it, and throw a dinner in your honor where we hand you a fat check and talk about how great you are for 3 hours?

Yeah, I can only hope I’m in his shoes some day. The choked up part came when he tried to do something as simple as thank his wife for all of those hours he was allowed to “go off and tinker with his story”. He paused for quite a while, gathering himself, and when he started again he wondered out loud why he couldn’t get out a few simple words. The best part was during his moment of silence, when his wife – who was seated somewhere in front of Joe and I – leaned over to a friend and whispered, “this happened at the wedding too”. About 30 seconds later, when Adam started again, he said “this happened at the wedding too”. That’s when I got all teary eyed. The next morning at Push to Publish (where I had the pleasure of spending most of the day talking with Adam about our writing, our jobs, etc.), we agreed it must have been the idea of sharing such a personal emotion with a crowd of people. That was it.

Now seriously, click here to read Adam’s kick-ass short story, “The Rest of the World”.  What a wonderful guy, and (obviously) an extremely talented writer.

Push To Publish 

As I said I’d be doing in my previous post, I whipped out my little pink notebook and spent a lot of time scrawling things down all Saturday afternoon. After bagels and coffee, we gathered into the auditorium on the always beautiful Rosemont College campus (I really suggest looking at pictures of this place, it’s like a mini Hogwarts), to hear keynote speaker (and this year’s final judge to choose Adam’s story) Kevin McIlvoy get us all revved up for the day with an opening speech. I scribbled furiously while this man talked about things I never even imagined. For 30 years he has studied language, recording the voices of men and women 70+ and obsessing over each recording, considering how “several streams pour into each other to make the voice that has developed over the course of a long life”. Kevin said “an old voice has more moments of emptiness that are full”. He made my brain hurt in the best way ever. While I always thought I paid close attention to the way each of my characters speak, McIlvoy pulled me up to a whole other level of thought as a writer of dialogue.

Kevin continued into something I understood immediately: “It’s astounding, how many selves we have. Writing exposes our most secret selves.” As writers, we’re all a little Bipolar, a little Schizophrenic, aren’t we? Morbid, romantic, hilarious, thoughtful. There’s things we can write down or type out that we would never allow out into the world in any other way. It’s a therapeutic release of sorts.

Things got weird again (but in a crazy genius sort of way) when McIlvoy started with the bird calls, and even invited us to join in. But, it served its purpose. He compared the call and song of the Common Yellowthroat to the way a person does something called “think-sounding” (following the sound of one’s thought to the next thought). He spoke of “rhythmic syn-crony” and all sorts of other things that sounded lovely, even if I had to give them a little extra thought. This man certainly has an iron grip on language and voice.

Kevin ended his speech with something every one of us understood as we nodded our heads in agreement: “We are engaged in writing as an act of faith….It takes stamina and courage…We are here because we are believers…[The] artist life is questionable as a career…Be attentive to all [writing] offers you. It will bring more of you to the world.” 

I bought this. Go buy this.

Then came the speed dates. That agent I met with last year that I was hoping to meet with again this year? Yeah, writers tore through her signup sheet like wildfire. So I sadly signed my name under the open times of a few others I was hoping to meet with, and decided I’d have to awkwardly corner her somewhere on campus before the day’s end. But on a positive note, I think my speed dates were all a roaring success! I shoved my Honorable Mention-winning short story, “Sirens Underwater” into the faces of three published writers. Alison Hicks gave me a few very nice compliments, and told me if Glimmer Train gave it a thumbs up, then it has a home somewhere. She then rattled off about ten literary journals I could try, and I struggled to write them all down before my hand cramped up. I thanked her, and moved on to a very nice chick from Apiary, and finally the bad-ass and wonderful Aimee LaBrie, who ran the 8-week writing course I took last winter. We talked, mostly about my story and a little about life in general. She scrawled several helpful notes and comments and question marks on the edges of every paper and I had to be kicked out so the next writer could meet with her.

Then there was lunch. Then workshops about selling genre fiction, the pros and cons of e-publishing, and a Q&A with agents and editors. And somewhere in there, I was able to corner agent lady without too much awkwardness, and she handed me a fresh business card and told me to query her. Score! 

Watch this and you can totally see my head at 0:30 as Aimee pours over my story (with agent lady in the background!).

Happy Friday, everyone! It’s rainy here in Jersey and I tripped up the stairs this morning.

P.S.

Remember that cute little house Joe and I looked at?

Guess who isn’t a property virgin anymore?! Soon, I will write to you via my own bad-ass writing hideaway.

Oh, and this one’s for Le Clown:

Guess who wore her shiny boots?

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Severance

The delightfully morbid Severance – by Pulitzer Prize winning author Robert Olen Butler –  has quickly become one of my favorite short-story reads. One of my writing professors mentioned it somewhere down the line of my college career, and the idea of recently beheaded characters sharing their final thoughts before the lights go out…well, obviously it sparked my interest. So I scribbled the book’s title in a corner of my notebook and searched for a copy on Amazon that day.

It’s a very quick and very interesting read, some characters real, some fictional, each story appearing almost as a poem. I’ve always been a huge fan of the stream-of-consciousness style, and at times even try to work it into my own writing.

Butler’s book was inspired by two concepts:

1.) “After decapitation, the human head is believed to remain in a state of consciousness for one and one-half minutes.” 

2.) “In a heightened state of emotion, people speak at the rate of 160 words per minute.”

So, of course, once each character is presented and their cause of beheaded-ness is explained, their final, headless thoughts are given to us in the form of 160 words. My personal favorites (with brief excerpts) are:

“Valeria Messalina: wife of Emperor Claudius I of Rome, beheaded by order of her husband, 48”

we are panting now we are the Circus Maximus we are the rush of wheels the wild breath of horses on the throne room floor the bright expanse of marble I shift my eyes and I see us both in the mirror of stone” 

“Dragon: beast, beheaded by Saint George, 301”

“my wings are still, I close my eyes and open them and all around are the quivery greentops and the great ball of breath above, I will fly up that high sometime but now I am in a peaceful dawdle that I don’t understand, full in the center and sweet heavy in my legs and fluttery of the wingtips”

Yes, there is a dragon. There’s a chicken, too. Butler even ends with himself! And so, laden with inspiration after reading these very interesting pieces, I’ve decided to try recording my own final thoughts.

Nicole Marie, decapitated by a crazed fan of her award-winning debut novel, 2014 (wishful thinking.)

but everything is so bright, turn out the lights and come to bed, I whispered, why can’t you hear me? it’s that dream again, the one where I’m running but not getting anywhere the one where I see you then I don’t it’s dark, it’s so dark and I can’t back out of this tunnel before the cold comes again the whiteness of the highway always bothered me, the clips that were supposed to keep us awake and now it’s Christmas and the fan is buzzing and my head is in your lap while you pull that blanket to my chin you kiss my forehead, it’s a bad hangover or something worse I’m nauseous that pit is in my stomach again why do I have to leave you’re transparent I feel the sweat on your face your jacket smells like fire they never were proud of me were they? i’m so proud of you, you said, get some sleep now 

 

It would be pretty awesome to see what you guys could come up with. Any takers? Post and link back? Anyone? Is this thing on?

Happy Friday!

 

 

 

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2012 Marguerite McGlinn Prize for Fiction

ATTENTION ALL OF MY TALENTED WRITER FRIENDS! (And the ones I haven’t made yet!) For the last two years, I have been working for Philadelphia Stories, a non-profit magazine that publishes fiction/poetry/essays/art of the Delaware Valley.

As the magazine’s Fiction Coordinator, I organize and send out stories to a team of readers during our annual Marguerite McGlinn Prize for Fiction contest.

The contest is open to all writers living in – or originally from – the United States. First prize includes $2,000, the winning story in the winter print and online publications of the magazine, and an invitation to an awards dinner in October. The reading fee for each submission is $10; all entrants will receive a one-year subscription to Philadelphia Stories!

The deadline is June 15th, so hurry and get those stories in! We accept previously unpublished works of fiction up to 8,000 words.

I am surrounded by lots of talent here on WordPress, so I would love to see names like Re or Edward Hotspur or Tony Powers (just to name a few) pop up on the submissions list. I could keep going, but there are just too many of you to name! (Fo’real!)

So if you write short stories, please check out the magazine and consider submitting.

Happy Tuesday!

And click here for all of the information you’ll need!

 

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