Tag Archives: Emerging Writers

Publishing Advice for the Unpublished Writer

Check out my essay on writing with The Review Review!

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Step One:

Only submit something you actually enjoyed writing, something you’re passionate about, something you’ve edited and reedited and performed aloud and hated and loved and obsessed over, whether it’s funny, frightening, serious, or melodramatic. I’ve read enough passionless gimmicky pieces to last me a lifetime.

Step Two …

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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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. 

Autumn Reads!

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Let’s bring in autumn with a big Cleaver Magazine THWACK! —Except quietly. People are trying to read, guys! Issue No. 11 is out—so let’s see what’s on the thwackin’ table.

***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.

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

THE DEATH OF A BABY
by Kirsten Aguilar

(creative nonfiction; emerging writer)

The day we went to see the baby, it rained. One of those rains that dumps and then is done, leaves you soaked but not shivering. The family lived on the same road as Celia and worked a plot of land that now, in the spring, burst up in stocks of corn. The father of the baby sat on the porch and waved us in despite our dripping clothes and mud-caked shoes. I cannot remember now where we were coming from or whether we’d planned the visit, but I do know that it was evening and Celia had her camera and inside the little house, two boys sat on stools eating rice and fish with their fingers. …


HEDERA HELIX
by Claire Rudy Foster

(short story)

That morning there was an email from Paul. Gemma clicked on it without thinking. Her coffee mug steamed at her elbow, too hot to drink. She forced her eyes to focus on the tiny electronic letters.Legal issues, he wrote. Looks like it’s back to jail, do not pass go. I’ll try to be out by summer break so we can meet again in the usual place. She had to read it twice, slowly. Then she slammed the laptop shut, as though extinguishing a flame. …


THE DOGS OF SAN JUAN AND THE FISH OF PHILADELPHIA
Works on Paper and Beyond

by Paula Rivera

(visual art)


THE AIRPORT AND THE MUSEUM
by Laura Tanenbaum

(short story)

I decided to ask for the manual scan, so I was listening to this woman telling me to spread my legs, where she was going to put her hands, and I laughed because it seemed like porn. Not really like porn, of course, just like the way I imagined porn would be when I was a prim pre-internet teenager who’d never seen porn, right down to the crap lighting I somehow knew was something you were supposed to know about porn. The word banal came to mind. …


BOYS WITH FACES LIKE MIRRORS
by Joe Baumann

(short story)

The bus crash devastated everyone.

That morning, Jane Philban looked out the kitchen window and tsked at the thunderheads perched above the trees. Her son bounced on the balls of his feet behind her, telling her it didn’t matter because the field trip was to the bowling alley and the bowling alley had a roof. …


WANING
by Caitlin McGill

(flash fiction; emerging writer)

Saria rocked in her chair on the porch, wondering how the trees kept still on such fierce nights. The house had grown so quiet since her mother’s boyfriend left—since she told her mother what he’d done—that it seemed like…


Thomas Lee on Writing a Winning Story

“‘Anyone can write one good story. A good writer can write many bad stories. The best we can do is become good writers who more often than not write good stories.'”

—a writing instructor’s advice, from 

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I want to share this article with you not only because I greatly appreciate Lee’s thoughtfulness and honesty, but because I think Lee does a tremendous job here of demonstrating how to rethink one’s own work, publishing histories, and ability to consider critiques. It’s both a professional and personal strength to be able to sincerely and respectfully consider critiques of your work, but it can often be tricky trying to wade through reader critiques in order to find those comments that ought to be heeded and those that ought to be ignored.

I love the way Lee outlines his thought process here when it comes to what advice he accepted or rejected for his award-winning short story, “The Gospel of Blackbird.” I believe Lee’s process of teasing out why he’s accepting or rejecting different critiques (as well as why the reader might’ve given them in the first place) could be of great use to anyone who’s ever had to struggle with negative reader comments or even plain mean ones.

Of course, in the end, Lee reminds us that the reasons why one great story gets awarded over a dozen others is impossible to tease out.

“All I know is that I wrote ‘The Gospel of Blackbird’ from the heart, and I wrote the story that I wanted to write.”

And this is really all we can do as writers: make sure that we always write from the heart and only write those stories that we most want to write. Those will be the stories that people will love reading and that will lead us to become good writers who, more often than not, write good stories.

(P.S. Jeff VanderMeer also does a terrific job of discussing the handling of critiques and the selection of First Readers in his The Wonder Bookwhich I can’t recommend highly enough — tons of fun and very helpful.)

Summer Reads!

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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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Spring Reads!

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Be sure to check out Cleaver Magazine‘s freshly published ninth issue — it’s true that, as an editor with Cleaver, I may be biased, but I truly do think it’s a great place for anyone on the hunt for some interesting new reads in poetry, short fiction, short nonfiction, and multimedia works.

And, though it’s all worth checking out, a few of my personal favorites of the issue are…

THE HURRICANE
by Gemini Wahhaj

(short story)

At the time of the hurricane, they were both still working. A few days before the hurricane hit, Lila was getting on a plane to New York for an oil and gas conference. They called it Hurricane Ike on the radio, and people laughed when they heard the warning, since it followed warnings about so many other hurricanes that season that had failed to materialize. But this time it was real…


HOLIDAY
by Kim Steele 

(short story)

I do not feel the Jet Ski as it crashes into my head. Or I do—it is a Jet Ski and it is crashing into my head after all—but it does not register as pain. I feel it only in the way I feel a fly that lands on my thigh or a strand of wet hair on my cheek…


TONY
by Elizabeth Alexander

(flash story)

We were running through the Shepherd’s Woods down by Yalloway Creek and across from the schoolyard. We were running because…


HUSH, PUPPIES
by Catherine Nichols

(flash story)

The vet returned my call as I was rolling the last wineglass in bubble wrap. In counterpoint to my curt hello, he sounded upbeat, even jovial. He explained that when Mags had been spayed last month…


CERTIFICATE 

by Suzanne Cope

(creative nonfiction)

The name was the easy part, as was age and date and place of birth. The address provided, it was decided, would be his mother’s, despite the fact that…


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