Tag Archives: Creative Nonfiction

8 Great Horror Movies for Writers, about Writers

I’m a woman deep in love with the horror genre—the films, the books, the art, the freaky mechanized sculptures crawling across the floor. For this Halloween, here are a few great horror movies (in no particular order) that star some unfortunate, powerful, tragic, bloodied-up writers.

  1. Hush (2016)

This movie is amazing. It takes a very classic, often problematic premise—lone woman in the woods, no cell service, a mysterious masked attacker—and makes it new again.

2. The Dark Half (1993)

A classic Stephen King story, classic movie, Timothy Hutton, yes, yes, yes. This one might not be “scary,” but it’s a horror film through-and-through, and a great watch for anyone looking to be thoroughly creeped out.

3. Secret Window (2004)

Another Stephen King story, this is one of my favorite film adaptations of his work. Writers haunted by their work … and more.

4. TWIXT (2011)

Francis Ford Coppola, Val Kilmer, Bruce Dern, Elle Fanning, Tom Waits, the ghost of Edgar Allan Poe for some reason … What more can I say? This is a (sort of?) comedy, (sort of?) horror movie, (sort of?) tragedy. Whatever it is, it’s awesome. An eerie surreal romp through some dark, dark woods.

5. Deathtrap (1982)

This movie may not be a “horror” movie per say, but it does have a good deal of murder, backstabbing, and writerly wickedness (not to mention some handsome young Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve).

6. A few other of Stephen King’s…Misery, Salem’s Lot, & The Shining (NOT the Kubrick version)

Because Stephen King is, first of all, amazing, and second of all, constantly writing about writers (I’m not complaining), I’ve decided to just throw in a good word for a bunch of his other adaptations. I’ll make a special note though about The Shining—forget Kubrick’s nonsense. Want an actually frightening film? Give the 1997 version a spin. It’s long—like, multiple disks long—but it’s absolutely worth it.

7. Sunset Blvd (1950)

There are few horror movies more classic or more unsettling than Billy Wilder’s Sunset Blvd, a movie about actors, a movie about screenwriters, a movie about artists (aka wild-eyed, lonely, self-absorbed, control freaks).

8. Capote (2005)

An eerily beautiful, deeply unsettling look at Truman Capote’s work in writing and researching his genre-bending creative nonfiction book In Cold Blood.

 

Happy Binge Watching!

6 Great Essays on Craft: Talking Plot, Sex Scenes, & More

1. Claire Rudy Foster’s “Considering the Sex Lives of Your Characters” for The Review Review

Allowing sex to take its proper place in a story adds the third dimension, a dimension of flesh, and sets the reader’s animal self twitching. Even the deliberate omission of sex begs the question: where did it go? Who are these comic characters, gleefully reassuring one another of their button-eyed innocence? It is possible to leave sexuality as an implicit force in the text, but suppressing it entirely does a disservice to both the reader and the story.  …

2. Emily Barton’s “Literary or Genre, It’s the Plot That Counts” for Literary Hub

We writers like to talk about elements of craft. Character, theme, setting, voice, point of view, language. But I seldom hear fellow writers talking about plot. When I first taught a seminar on non-traditional plot construction at NYU’s Graduate Writing Program, some students signed up because they hadn’t previously given the topic any thought. …

3. Alison Mattison’s “How to Write Coincidence the Right Way” for Literary Hub

One way to use coincidence and make it work is to have nothing turn on it. Coincidences feel illegitimate when they solve problems. If the story doesn’t benefit from the coincidence, it’s simply pretty and suggestive. Another way to make a coincidence work is to begin a story with it. Make it the reason there’s a story to tell in the first place. …

4. Bartleby Snopes’s Dialogue Writing Tips

One tendency people have when writing dialogue is to try to write everything exactly how it “sounds.” This often results in dialogue that sounds too slangy or forced. While you may know someone who says “like” after every other word or drops twelve “f-bombs” per sentence, this doesn’t translate well on the page. …

5. Linnie Greene’s In the Mines: A Craft Essay on Creative Nonfiction for Cleaver Magazine

In her MFA vs. NYC essay “The Invisible Vocation,” Elif Batuman argues that the classic maxims “Write what you know” and “find your voice” are sometimes damning, convincing writers that if they don’t know some sort of spectacular, novelistic trauma or oppression, their stories aren’t worth telling. …

6. Steve Almond’s “How to Write a Sex Scene: The 12-Step Program” for Utne

Nipples are tricky. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and shades. They do not, as a rule, look like much of anything, aside from nipples. So resist making dumbshit comparisons. …

Happy Writing!

Fresh Summer Reads

You guessed it! The latest issue of Cleaver Magazine is out in style. Issue 14 is one of my personal favorites so far with some very odd, off-the-wall pieces that leave me pumped full of energy.

Here are just a few highlights to get you warmed-up:

First, Judith Schaechter’s glass art (see featured image above for an example from this issue) is basically some of the coolest, creepiest, most painfully lovely work I’ve seen in a long, long time. Check out more of her art in “The Stigma of Beauty, The Stain of Glass.” LOVE! –Also, her essay discussing her work is just freaking awesome:

I am fairly certain that many people experience my pieces kind of like this: Judith Schaechter is an artist who makes images in stained glass of anguished women set against highly decorative backgrounds. People often see my works all at once as a group — presented in a show or reproduced in an article — but to me, each piece is vastly different and each one arose over long periods of time. But yeah, I get it: anguished women and lush, decorative backgrounds. …


BIRCH WATERS
by Meg Pendoley

(short story; emerging artist; the characters here just rock)

The three older women are buckled into the bench seat under a fleece blanket printed with howling wolves. Jess is in the driver’s seat, smoking out the window. Davi walks up next to Beth. Jess’s black hair is buzzed short and she’s got one heavy boot braced against the dashboard behind the steering wheel, her knee cocked halfway out the window. The truck is already covered in dirt, so it doesn’t really matter that she’s stamping mud all over the broken vent. Jess is wearing tan cut-off overalls and one nipple keeps nudging out. …


IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE END
by Evan Anderson

(flash fiction; love, love, love this author’s work–so glad we landed this piece!)

No one really expected the world to end like this. For one thing, it took too damn long. People want bad things to happen like a pulled-off Band-Aid rather than the slow pushing of a knife. Instead, this is how it happened …


THE WHOLE DAMN LOVELY THING
by Melissa Goode

(short story)

Hannah made a cherry pie, and it relaxed her. Only when she was carrying the pie from her house to the neighbor’s, still warm in its tin, did she think it might be inappropriate for a barbecue. She should have brought a six-pack of beer, or some cheese and crackers, because a barbecue probably did not even make it to dessert. In any case, it was too late. Amy had come to her front door to let in a couple of people and spotted Hannah walking up the drive. …


HOMMAGE À MACK SENNETT
by Kathleen Rooney

(flash fiction)

The nightgown in the painting crosses genres: detective and farce. It has a partial body—breasts—but not a face. You could say it’s peekaboo. You could say it’s diaphanous. Either way, it reminds Georgette of how her husband uses recurring motifs to create a story, or at least a semi-story, for a story full of holes is a story full of mystery, a mystery like lace. …


ANGELS HAVE CORDONED OFF SECTIONS OF MOUNT SINAI
by John Harvey

(poem; LOVE this piece!)

Say nothing of this to the doctors of Geneva,
to the folks who rock back and forth
on front porches down in Key West,
or the old woman dreaming of Palestine …

Happy Reading! Happy Writing!

Lucky Reads for Your Spring

Let’s welcome in springtime and St. Patrick’s Day with a big Cleaver Magazine THWACK! Lucky Issue No. 13 is out—so let’s see what’s on the cutting board.

Lucky 13

***Full disclosure, I’m an Editor-at-Large with Cleaver, and am incredibly proud to be so given its talented staff, dedication to including emerging writers/artists in each issue, and its combination of traditional and nontraditional forms of storytelling. So, yeah, I’m a bit biased.***

I recommend giving the entire issue a read, but here are just a few of my personal favorites:

LAST WORDS
by Willie Davis

(short fiction)

For a long time, I kept myself awake by writing personalized suicide notes for each of my friends. I’d found a website that compiled every recorded suicide note of the last ten years, and, not to sound conceited, I could do better. …


COCKCROW
by Tyler Kline

(poetry)

 Moment: a mother inks the scythe
above her daughter’s breast …


A PRESENCE IN WOOD
Wood Sculpture
by Miriam Carpenter

(visual art)


BLUE: SMOKE: COTTON: TEETH: CAT: JELLY: BLOW
by Anne Panning

(flash fiction)

I rarely wear blue, but today there’s a striped dress the color of rain in my closet. …


EMU ON THE LOOSE
by Thaddeus Rutkowski

(flash fiction)

Not much was happening at the artists’ retreat (people were hiding in their studios; maybe they were working; maybe they were drinking) until the emu arrived. We didn’t know where it came from; no one came with it. Wherever it had been, it hadn’t been missed.. …


 

NIGHT OWL
by Carmella de los Angeles Guiol

(creative nonfiction)

I once loved a man who was a creature of the night. Like me, but more so. He slept through most of the daylight hours, his wily hair a halo on his satin pillowcase. Sometimes I stopped by his room between classes to curl up next to him and feel his dreaming body register mine. …


Great Reads from Great Magazines

Check out these great stories and essays! Then–why not?–go ahead and check out more from these truly wonderful publications.

Tangerine” by Amy Roher, Room Magazine

(short story)

I once kept a tangerine in my purse. I watched it turn leathery, sweet and puckered. Eventually, there was nothing to it at all, just a dried-up husk.

“Life is hard,” says my ex-roommate Jeena, who spells her name that way because that’s the way you say it. She likes to tell it like it is. That’s the drinker’s philosophy. …

Cheese Baby” by Anna North, Talking Writing***

(I love this flash fiction story — I wish I’d written it!)

When my period came again, a day ahead of schedule, I carved myself a baby out of cheese. …

Wild Flowers” by Chelsea Ruxer, Hermeneutic Chaos

(flash fiction)

It was four years ago she slipped on the flat stone steps by the strawberries. She always wanted to get the weeding done after a rain, while the ground was still soft enough to pull the roots from the soil. But she was ninety-two then …

Deep Intellect” by Sy Montgomery, Orion Magazine

(I’ve probably promoted/suggested this CNF essay before but…who cares? It’s good enough to warrant all the good press it gets — Montgomery is amazing!)

On an unseasonably warm day in the middle of March, I traveled from New Hampshire to the moist, dim sanctuary of the New England Aquarium, hoping to touch an alternate reality. I came to meet Athena, the aquarium’s forty-pound, five-foot-long, two-and-a-half-year-old giant Pacific octopus. …

The Final Problem” by Scott Onak, SmokeLong Quarterly

(flash fiction)

The seven detectives lived together in a rented house. Two shared a bedroom, four had their own rooms, and one slept on the screened-in back porch, where it was darkest. …

One Lover. Two Lovers. Three Lovers. Four.
by Donna Hall, Muses & Visionaries 

(CNF essay)

I am a 60-something-year-old working, professional woman who has traveled the world, had some wild adventures, and then hunkered down to work and family, first as a mother, now as a (youthful!) grandmother, and always as a career woman. I thought there was little left to shock and upset me, but I was wrong. …

The Moon is a Wasteland” by Daniel DiFranco, SmokeLong Quarterly

(flash fiction)

At night, Thomas climbed up onto the roof of his house carrying a lasso. He threw it out, and it fell, limp and coiled. He tried again, and again, and on the seventh try, Goddamnit, he really did put that bastard right around the moon. …

***Also, for some truly breathtaking poetry, check out Acorn Journal.***

 

Happy Reading & Writing!

Cool Places to Submit Your Summer Writing

As many of you know, there’s a brick of time each year that stretches from the middle of May to the start of September. Non-writers call this time “summer.” Writers (and especially short fiction writers) often call this time Where the hell am I supposed to submit my writing now? 

So many journals and magazines (especially the Old & Big Timers) stop accepting submissions during these summer months, leaving writers with hot work fewer options and a lot of dreams for autumn. Well, I’m excited to tell you that there are more opportunities out there than you may realize. Here are just a few to consider…

P.S. Please, in your excitement to submit new work, don’t forget to also give these magazines/journals a good long read as well—and, hell, maybe even a few dollars for a full subscription 😀

Speculative Fiction Opportunities

shimmer logo

Shimmer is a terrific publication for a variety of reasons. Not only do they put out consistently interesting, good writing for the reader in all of us, but they also treat their writers with real respect, striving to respond to all submissions within two weeks. Definitely give them a read! (and then maybe another!)

What Shimmer is looking for:
Unusual and beautifully-written speculative fiction stories with full plots and strong characters. The best way to understand what we are looking for is to read an issue of the magazine. We’re most drawn to contemporary fantasy, and seek out stories with a strong emotional core. We like unusual stories with a fluid and distinctive voice, with specific and original images. Send us your odd, unclassifiable stories.


Betwixt is a similarly great speculative lit magazine, working to get back to their authors Betwixt_Issue-7also within a two week time span while providing readers with terrific out-there material.

What Betwixt is looking for:

Betwixt publishes speculative fiction of all sorts—fantasy, science fiction, speculative horror, slipstream, weird fiction, steam/diesel/cyber/etc.punk, you name it. We particularly like stories that smash genre boundaries to smithereens, but we also love fresh takes on established genres and in-depth explorations of ultraspecific niches. Experiments in form and style are welcomed enthusiastically—but a straightforward narrative with tight, crisp language is just as beautiful. When it comes down to it, we want stories that will amaze us, astound us, provoke our thoughts, and boggle our minds.


strange horizons logo

Alright, full disclosure, I serve as a reader for Strange Horizons, but—I’ve gotta say—they really are simply terrific, and the writing they publish is consistently fantastic (in every sense of the word).

What Strange Horizons is looking for:

Speculative fiction, broadly defined.

(Bam! Dig it!)

Also, check out their page on stories they see too often.


“Literary” Fiction Opportunities

ASF logoA classic that doesn’t let you down as a reader or writer! They’re open for submissions year-round, baby!

What American Short Fiction is looking for:

Issued triannually, American Short Fiction publishes work by emerging and established voices: stories that dive into the wreck, that stretch the reader between recognition and surprise, that conjure a particular world with delicate expertise—stories that take a different way home.


Oxford A logoAnother classic, Oxford American also keeps its doors open to writers (and of course readers!) year-round.

What Oxford American is looking for:

The Oxford American is a non-profit, quarterly literary magazine dedicated to featuring the best in Southern writing while documenting the complexity and vitality of the American South.


chatt__02

The Chattahoochee Review is another that reads year-round, but the deadline (September 15th) for their current call for submissions around the theme of Migration is coming up fast. Don’t miss out!

What The Chattahoochee Review is looking for:

TCR seeks submissions for its Fall/Winter 2015 double issue with a special focus on Migration. Literal and figurative translations of the theme welcome. Not only flight, but also movement; not only movement, but also kinetics; not only kinetics, but also conflict; not only conflict, but also arrival; not only arrival, but also immersion. Dare to be topical, but also sincere. Microbiology, Animalia, suburbia, electronica, strata—relocate, dislocate, elocute.


Creative NonFiction Opportunities

cutbank logo

CutBank is quite simply cool. Definitely give them a read.

What CutBank is looking for:

In addition to submissions for the biannual print edition of CutBank, we’re also accepting a  variety of submissions for CutBankOnline.  We also hold several contests each year, where winners earn cash prizes and publication in CutBank or stand-alone chapbooks.


word riot logo

Word Riot is great for all kinds of writing, creative nonfiction included!

What Word Riot is looking for:

We like edgy. We like experimental. We like publishing the best up-and-coming writers and poets so we can say we knew ’em when.

Happy Reading & Writing!

Summer Reads!

cropped-Issue-10-coming-header

It’s that glorious time of year again when Cleaver Magazine comes out with its latest issue! My last post on Cleaver focused on Issue No. 9, but I’m pleased to say that Issue No. 10 is every bit as interesting, beautiful, challenging, and entertaining.

For those of you who don’t know — full disclosure — I am an Editor-at-Large with Cleaver, and am incredibly proud to be so given its talented staff, dedication to including emerging writers/artists in each issue, and its combination of traditional and nontraditional forms of storytelling.

And while I’d recommend giving all the new pieces a read, here are just a few of my personal favorites:

BLACK WINGS FLAPPING
by Shmu’el Bashevis Ben’yamin

(short story; an emerging writer)

I had the ingredients of becoming a perfect milksop, but it didn’t happen. Every day I carried to school an orange ball bigger than my head, and at lunch watched long-legged teenagers with patchy facial hair and funny white boots borrow the ball to put it through a bent rim. The ball was named after my uncle Wilson. I had found it buried under the yellow flowers of a California pepper tree….


BUT INSTEAD HAS GONE INTO WOODS
by Lyn Lifshin

(poem)

A girl goes into the woods…


CREAM FLAVORED & CHERRY SCENTED
by Chelsea M. Harris

(flash story; an emerging writer)

She told you she was driving to the bridal store to shop for dresses with the girls she used to babysit before you were born since she knew she’d never see you all wrapped up in a marshmallow mess surrounded by floor-length mirrors…


THUNDERBIRD
by Nick Greer

(creative nonfiction)

The Ojibwa call it Animikii. The Tlingit call it Shangukeidí. The Kwakwaka’wakw call it Kwankwanxwalige’, for the way it makes thunder (kʷənxʷa) lightweight (kʷəs) by pounding (ləka). No matter the tribe, its description is the same: a bird so large it creates thunder when it beats its wings….


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