Category Archives: Fresh Writers Series

Fresh Writers Series, Part V

Fresh and exciting writers are just popping up all over the place right now! For the first time since I began this series, I’d like to dedicate a segment to spotlighting two different writers.

The first writer is a woman I know personally and whose work only impresses me more and more every day: Donna Hall. Her debut essay, “One Lover. Two Lovers. Three Lovers. Four.” with Muses & Visionaries Magazine is a bold and impressive work focused on the joys and challenges of polyamory.

Polyamory, Hall explains, is much more than being a “swinger,” it’s being involved in “‘romantic non-monogamy with the consent of everyone involved. There are almost as many different types of polyamorous relationships as there are people who engage in a poly lifestyle.'”

But Hall’s writing is striking not only because of its subject matter, but because of the naked honesty she offers her readers throughout the essay:

… I confess to feeling slightly jealous, wondering what we old, solidly monogamous, married people were missing. I thought that the fluidity of moving from polyamory to monogamy was enviable.

The entire essay runs a tight 1,663 words in length, but Hall doesn’t let the brevity of the piece fence her in. She tells an intense story of deep love, heartbreak, and resilience, and all while raising up classic, troubling questions for her readers:

How well can we ever actually know our loved ones?

How do we know what we want as opposed to what society tells us we should want?

Could I ever decide to break my spouse’s heart?

Could they ever decide to break mine?

No doubt about it, this is a strong publishing debut and I cannot, cannot wait until her next piece inevitably comes out.

***

The second writer for this segment is Evan Anderson, author of the flash fiction piece, “The Boy Who Carried Fire,” published with Gone Lawn (a consistently strong literary magazine if you haven’t checked it out before; definitely worth exploring!).

When I first came across Anderson’s work, I was blown away. I read “The Boy Who Carried Fire,” and then I read it again, and then I immediately went hunting for more of Anderson’s work. Unfortunately, his author bio doesn’t provide any information about further publications, so the hunt was frustrating and long. I even went searching for him on Facebook and met a number of patient, good-natured Evan Andersons, but none ended up being the author in question.

So, here’s to eventually finding more of Anderson’s work out there! For now, here’s just a taste of “The Boy Who Carried Fire”:

Clocking in at only 519 words, “The Boy Who Carried Fire” is definitely a masterful work of flash fiction. Flash fiction can be a particularly difficult and unwieldy genre given its difficult and unwieldy list of demands: Be meaningful! Be poetic! Be entertaining! Oh, and keep it brief–super brief! But Anderson meets these demands gracefully in this piece (which very well might be his debut publication!).

Here’s the bio Gone Lawn provides:

Evan is a writer living in a bowl of a city surrounded by swamps and brimming with stories and music.

***

Congratulations to both Donna Hall and Evan Anderson on your publications!

I definitely expect to be reading more work from the both of you very, very soon. Keep writing!


 

What is the Fresh Writers Series?

It’s a way for me to spotlight different emerging writers whose work I’ve stumbled across and–for one reason or another–fallen in love with. Check out the previous spotlighted writers here.

Fresh Writers Series, Part IV

Last year I started a “Fresh Writers Series” here on Writing Reconsidered in order to spotlight different emerging writers whose work I’ve stumbled across and–for one reason or another–fallen in love with. Last April, I focused on writer and academic (soon to be Dr.) Haylie Swenson. Now, I’d like to throw some attention to Mr. Casey Quinn.

I first encountered Casey Quinn’s work through Post Road Magazine (Issue 28)with his short story, “Grandpap’s Burials.” Here’s a little teaser:

“At noon, Grandpap takes aim and shoots the crow in our garden.

‘Get it, boy, sniff it,’ he says, shooing me with one hand. I burst out the back door into the heat, sprinting towards the trellis on which the grapevines grow.

The crow is four feet, four inches and boy-shaped.”

Quinn’s “Grandpap’s Burials” arrested my attention immediately with its dark, snappy intro. But Quinn kept my attention with consistently sharp prose, smart imagery, and fascinating characters. Throughout the entire story, Quinn exhibits tremendous control and restraint, giving us readers only exactly what we need and not a syllable more.

Clocking in at 963 words, “Grandpap’s Burials” could rightly be considered a work of flash fiction rather than a full short story, but this doesn’t mean it skimps on depth. In my opinion, the best short stories are those that know how to steer a reader onto the proper street, into the proper building, up to the proper floor, into the proper hall, and then leaves them there, standing before a row of doors, some locked, some simply closed, some cracked open, and some flung wide as a scream. Quinn manages just this feat here with “Grandpap’s Burials.”

But perhaps what’s most impressive is that this is Quinn’s first published story. What’s more, Post Road Magazine announced only this past December their nominees for the Pushcart Prize, and Quinn’s debut story made the cut. Congratulations, Quinn!

Here’s the bio Post Road provides:

Casey Quinn is originally from Upstate New York. He has received scholarships from Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, The Community of Writers at Squaw Valley, and Hamilton College. This is his first published story.

Congratulations again, Casey Quinn, both for having such a strong debut publication and for being nominated for the Pushcart Prize!

I definitely expect to be reading more of your work very soon, Quinn. Keep writing!

Author Interview: Sean Pravica on ‘Stumbling Out the Stable’

sean_pravica-stumbling_out_the_stable-front_cover

I recently had the pleasure of reviewing Sean Pravica’s debut novel Stumbling Out the Stable for Cleaver Magazine. You may already be familiar with Pravica’s writing from his short fiction or from my first Fresh Writers Series post. Familiar or not, however, you won’t want to miss out on this often humorous, often heartfelt, often strange work of literary fiction, set for release on November 27th.

(Though you can  always pre-order now, of course.)

Stumbling Out the Stable is an irreverent trip down the turbulent backroads of early adulthood. Seamus, a college student with aspirations to hitch hike aimlessly after graduation, grows increasingly unsettled with the vagueness of the future. His friend Jamie, on the other hand, revels in its unpredictability. Together, they party with colorful characters, raise hell at their anarchistic workplace, and wax philosophic about life’s hidden glitches. After a series of accidents intersect their lives, the boys stumble to find their footing as it becomes clear that not everything in life can be avoided.

—Pelekinesis

You can check out my full book review for free through Cleaver. Here, we’ll focus on a recent interview with Pravica over his writing process.

Happy Reading!

What first inspired you to write Stumbling Out the Stable?

I’ve got a chip on my shoulder about liberal arts colleges. My own experience ended up okay. I was an English major but also graduated with an emphasis in Creative Writing, denoting a skill. I interned at a newspaper as a reporter shortly after graduating so I had a body of work. And finding a career-oriented job still hasn’t been easy, so I’m grateful that I have.  

But not everyone who attends a liberal arts college, or even college in general, ends up okay and that pisses me off. My generation, called “The Me Generation,” by cynics older than us, like to call us lazy, entitled, and selfish, as though we’re the sole root of our work-life dilemma. 

Now, while these same cynics were likely quick to tell us throughout our lives growing up that a degree was our “ticket to anywhere” or some other such platitude, blaming them or even ourselves isn’t going to solve anything. It’s just important that we understand on the whole that whether we go to college or not, a direction is everything. Planning for something concrete, learning to do something concrete, is vital.

So the intersection between the aimlessness of attending college because it’s the thing to do coupled with the economic atmosphere of the recent recession inspired this novel. It’s not a book about good versus evil but about passiveness versus action. And because passive life planning is a very visible target, I got to have a lot of fun mocking it all along the way!

Who is your favorite character in the book and why?

Seamus as the lead is the lens through which the novel’s themes are refracted. Jamie as the main supporting character is a catalyst through which the themes are set into motion. He gets the edge as my favorite character.

Jamie is totally single-minded even though his mind isn’t particularly made up about anything. He acts without second-guessing himself. He pulls stunts at his menial job constantly and flirts with trouble just as often, but never ends up in it. He’s full of shit but not full of himself. And despite being full of shit, it’s a very genuine variety. He believes wholeheartedly that taking already-paid-for champagne that doesn’t get used at wedding receptions is an act of moral integrity. When Jamie’s in a scene, things happen, and I love watching him bounce through life pushing the envelope because nothing is trivial to him. For Jamie, every small rebellion is a victory. 

What was your favorite part of writing this story?

I love people and characters in general. This novel has many different characters, and many of them come and go. They appear, make some noise, and move on. I think that’s more authentically reflective of how our real social lives operate. There’s a chaos that can’t be stamped out no matter how wired we become. People continue to populate and depopulate our own personal worlds, and writing a novel that allowed for this authenticity of interaction was really fun.

The archetype of the Trickster seems to grin all throughout the pages of Stumbling Out the Stable. What was it like spending so much time thinking and writing about a pair of tricksters like Jamie and Seamus? 

I love how you phrased this question! The great thing about a novel is that characters quickly take on a life of their own once their motives are defined. Jamie and Seamus are motivated by standing up against authority. It does not matter how petty their stand is, it has all the weight of the world in their eyes.
 

With these two, the trickery emerged naturally. I don’t want to sound like a douche, but the stuff they pulled made me laugh as I read over it! What I liked about writing it is that they believe so much in their trickery. It had such purpose for them. They don’t just joyride in golf carts getting stoned when they should be working, they take ownership over their freedom to act as individuals. Seamus doesn’t just skip class because he doesn’t like school. He silently protests pretentious professors so he can go do something truly productive like take acid and shoot pictures of trees while simultaneously unlocking the secrets of existence as he meditates on misunderstood Zen philosophy. This kind of fuzz-head logic isn’t uncommon at a certain age, and the trickery is as much a mockery of my own characters as it is lighthearted funny episodes.

The style and voice of your novel differ quite a lot from those used in many of your short stories. What inspired this style shift?

Most of my work contains some element of magic, exaggeration, or just plain weirdness while this novel is completely realistic. This was an adjustment at first.

I felt that for the themes of this book, there was still plenty of room for those elements but they had to come from the characters’ way of thinking instead of through the content of the plot.

The fact that the world is completely realistic gives contrast to Jamie and Seamus’ thoughts about it, their exaggerated self-worth after rebelling, and their magical concepts about what they are certain reality actually is. This also gave me lots of room to bend the tone of the third person narration as it addresses the characters. Sometimes it’s tongue-in-cheek, sometimes it’s sober. Sometimes it’s overly sympathetic to characters while other times it’s overly harsh. Not being married to a constant emotional tone allowed me to play with the narration and make it yet another character in the book. 

How did you enjoy novel writing in comparison to short story writing? Do you think you’ll tackle another novel soon?

I like the process and the endurance of writing a novel. I like building relationships with the characters and giving them space to develop. Novels allow for layers that reveal why and how things happen. Short stories are so immediate that characters inevitably become one with the conflicts. In a novel, characters encounter conflict. They find friction, but get to enjoy autonomy outside of it also.
 

And yes, a new novel is developing.

What other writing projects are you working on right now? Do you have any other upcoming publications we can keep an eye out for?

There are no new publications pending currently. I’ve taken a little break from short story writing. I’m putting together, almost entirely mentally, what the next novel is going to become.

So far, I have a working title. I have the first sentence and the last sentence. I have two true lead characters. I know who she is. I know who they are together. But I don’t totally know who he is yet. This novel will necessarily take place in the city, as Stumbling Out the Stable necessarily took place in the suburbs. This next novel is likely to have some surreal and weird elements, unlike Stumbling Out the Stable. Thematically, it’s about delusion and the desperation that fuels it. I’m thinking I’ll sit down and write the sentences in between the first and last early next year and go from there. I feel like this one could happen quickly. 

Fresh Writers Series, Part III

UPDATE 10/14/15

You can now also hook into Swenson’s work via her brand new podcast!

Dear Readers, it’s time for Part III of our Fresh Writers Series, and I’m very excited to highlight the gifted and thoughtful academic Haylie Swenson as our latest Fresh Writer to read. I don’t normally highlight academic writers (or even nonfiction writers generally (so far, anyway)—sorry, NF folks! I’ve got love for you too!), but when you come across an actually good academic writer (and trust me, I’ve read enough terrible ones to know how rare they are), they deserve as much recognition as we can give them.

journal_coverSwenson’s debut publication, “Lions and Latour litanies in The Sketchbook of Villard de Honnecourt,” is an award-winning one, earning her the (among medievalists) coveted (2012) Michael Camille Essay Prize (“awarded for the best short essay…on a variable theme that brings the medieval and the modern into productive critical relation”) as well as publication in the prestigious postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies. Whether you’re a student of medieval studies or not, this article is absolutely worth the read. While absent the humor of Mary Roach and the storyteller-style of James Gleick (largely by virtue of its genre as academic rather than creative nonfiction), Swenson’s article possesses all the impressive clarity, thoughtfulness, and good-natured appreciation for audience as the works of these acclaimed authors. For many academic authors, their writing tends to read like a violent attempt to defy the reader’s understanding in order to showcase just how smart the author is comparatively. (In other words, like an asshole). Not so with Swenson!

While accessing the article itself requires a sign-in with the journal, here’s the abstract of Swenson’s debut work:

“This essay draws on Ian Bogost’s invention of ‘Latour litanies’ to argue that Villard’s sketchbook gives us a compendium of vibrant and unpredictable objects, which is particularly true concerning his drawings of lions. Responding to debates over whether these sketches were actually drawn from life—‘contrefais al vif ’—as Villard claims, I chart an alternate path by arguing that Villard’s lions represent a moment of encounter with a dangerous object, a strange, ultimately unknowable, predatory other.”

postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies (2013) 4, 257–269.

doi:10.1057/pmed.2013.21

And here’s a taste of the article itself:

“Regularly appearing in the New York Times Op-Ed section as an ‘Op-Art’ series, ‘Things I Saw’ is a column featuring things seen and drawn in various cities by Jason Polan (2012). Portrayed through simple black and white line drawings, Polan’s objects – a plant, a taxidermied coyote, a boy peering at a Jim Henson exhibit – mingle freely on the page, with no apparent regard for scale or thematic ordering. Through this mingling, Polan’s column creates what Ian Bogost (2012) calls a ‘Latour litany.’ Referring to the work of actor-network theorist Bruno Latour, the term describes a list of apparently unrelated things, as in this example from Latour’s Pasteurization of France: ‘A storm, a rat, a rock, a lion, a child, a worker, a gene, a slave, the unconscious, a virus’ (Bogost, 2012, 38). Functioning ‘primarily as provocations, as litanies of surprisingly contrasted curiosities,’ these lists appear with regularity in the work of Latour and other object-oriented theorists, where they are embraced for their ability to alter our perception of ordinary things (Bogost, 2012, 38).”

However, while her article in postmedieval deeply impressed me, it was actually through a non-academic nonfiction article she posted in her blog last September that first arrested my attention to her writing talent. The post is called, “This Mo(u)rning,” and it’s an incredibly tender and thoughtful piece about Swenson’s discovery (and saving) of a little mouse from a library-haunting cat. Here’s a taste:

“Last night I held a mouse while it died. I had just shooed away a menacing cat outside our local library, and not for the first time, either. A few months ago I rescued a sparrow from this same cat, carrying it home in a box supplied by a nearby friend. I hoped an evening’s worth of quiet at my house would help him recover from his shock, and it worked, I think; the next morning he hopped away into the bushes. The mouse wasn’t so lucky.”

For now, her blog and her postmedieval article are Swenson’s only publications. However, with a talent like hers, I know this won’t be the case for long. I’ll be keeping an eye out for her future works, and be sure to update this post accordingly. Thanks for writing, Haylie Swenson!

Sweson’s given bio:

Haylie Swenson is a PhD student in English at The George Washington University. She studies animals, ecologies, and posthuman theory, along with medieval literature, and she also has a particular interest in creatures that literally or metaphorically bite.

A few words from Swenson on her current dissertation project:

Reading a variety of premodern and contemporary texts in conversation with each other, my dissertation argues that writers and artists come to understand death, grief, and memory through the bodies of animals living and dying alongside humans. 

 

Fresh Writers Series, Part II

Dear Readers, as you know (or are about to know), this past November I started a “Fresh Writers Series” here wherein I spotlight different writers whose work I’ve stumbled across and–for one reason or another–fallen for. Last November, I spotlighted writer Sean Pravica. Now, I’d like to send some sun Jennifer Porter’s way.

I first encountered Jennifer Porter’s work through Apeiron Reviewwith her short story, “The New Wife.” Here’s a taste:

“She decided the new wife should ease into the role gradually despite their shared eagerness. They began with sleepover’s. She and the husband had not shared the same bedroom in many years due to his farting, snoring, thrashing, and bed and blanket hogging, and he liked it that way. She knew that if the new wife came late and left early and he caught a glimpse of her, he would not know the difference.”

Porter’s “The New Wife” grabbed me from the first line. Clocking in at 973 words, it’s definitely a work of flash fiction, but still manages to provide a fairly full story–not to mention a chilling vision of a broken marriage. As a child, my parents underwent a divorce that was difficult in its own ways, and that definitely had its share of coldness–its share of the eerie, empty-room chills that inevitably accompany the remapping of identities and roles as apart from each other’s. Many divorce or broken marriage stories fail to capture the true nuances of what such divisions can mean for a person’s identity, routine, and understanding of themselves and their role in the world. And that’s just what Porter does so well here: She captures that shadowy pain of realizing (and rejecting) what one’s role/identity/routine can become (can be reduced to) when shoehorned into a poisonous relationship.

This story first came out in Apeiron Review in April of 2014 and is, I discovered, Porter’s first-ever publication in a literary magazine. (Wow!) Here’s the bio they provide for her:

Jennifer Porter will be graduating in January 2014 from the MFA program at the Bennington Writing Seminars. She was a recipient of a Liam Rector Scholarship. This is her first publication in a literary magazine.

Wherever you are now, Porter, congratulations on the MFA and double-congratulations on coming out with such a strong and impressive debut publication! I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes open for any future work from you.

Fresh Writers Series

Dear Readers, as you know (or are about to know), I’m a working writer and editor with a BIG love for magazines and journals of all kinds, both print and online. Recently, I was combing through Used Gravitrons’ latest issue (they’re a terrific indie weird fiction magazine, if you’ve never checked them out before), and found myself both tickled and intrigued by an email they included in this issue’s introductory EditorialIt’s an email from writer Sean Pravica wherein he makes a case as to why he’d like his short story to still be considered by Used Gravitrons even though it exceeds their stated word limit. As I read through the email, I found myself wishing and hoping that they’d made an exception for him — the story sounded too good to pass up, and his writing style even only in email-form was compelling, tight, and entertaining (everything a great cover letter ought to be). And while Used Gravitrons did not bend their word limit for Pravica, they made certain to assure me and all their other readers that:

“When the story Sean submitted to UG is published elsewhere, curious readers will be promptly notified and we will provide updated links via our electronic content.”

And while I am extremely grateful for this and excited to see where Pravica’s story lands, I knew I needed to go digging for other of Pravica’s stories right away. Thankfully, I wasn’t disappointed, and I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve found yet another fresh writer’s work to read, enjoy, and learn from.

But Pravica’s work and email exchange with Used Gravitrons inspired me to take things a small step further, and so I’m pleased to say that this post is now the first in a series of posts I plan to write, each of which will spotlight a new “Fresh Writer” — judged by me and discovered by my own meandering-readerly means.

So, dear readers, it’s now time to go check out Sean Pravica for yourselves! Here are just a few pieces of his work (I hope it’s all by the same Sean Pravica :-p) that I’ve found and have particularly enjoyed thus far:

“Rung” by Sean PravicaFirst Stop Fiction

“Love at 27A” by Sean PravicaBartleby Snopes

“To Have the Ass” by Sean PravicaRed Fez

My favorite line so far? From “To Have the Ass”, a cowboy speaks:

“‘Big deal. These chaps were hand made by a Montana rancher. Lives underground. Had to travel by match light and intuition to find him.'”

Love it!

P.S. A big Thank You to Used Gravitrons for sharing that email!

 

UPDATE:

As of 3/25/15, Pravica has also been published with Remarkable Doorways: The Jazz Man had a Long Weekend,” and has also landed two new forthcoming publications, one with Menacing Hedge and another with Defenestration. So keep an eye out!