Contributor Update: Douglas Light

Cover for Where Night Stops by Douglas LightToday we are excited to announce that past contributor Douglas Light will be releasing his latest novel Where Night Stops. The book will be released January 16th, 2018 from Rare Bird Books but is available for pre-order from Amazon now.

Our interview with Douglas Light can be read in Issue 9 of Superstition Review.

Congratulations, Douglas!


Guest Post, Douglas Light: Shadows

The man ran late. He hailed a cab. The cab was packed with milk jugs of laundry detergent pre-mixed with water. There was a lot of talk between the man and cab driver. Nothing happened.

Understand, this was a short story.

Understand, this was the first short story I ever wrote, some 25 years ago. I spent a hundred-plus hours in a dim loft on Occidental Street in Seattle crafting the six page story that was—at least in my mind—pure, brilliant literature.

What it really was was awful. Pointless. Embarrassing.

If my present-self had been around then, I would have destroyed my then-self’s typewriter. “Stop,” I would have said. “Trust me, please. Just stop.”



Summit in ColoradoJuly 2016. Colorado.

Two miles in, my girlfriend Micah and I saw the summit. The guidebook claimed the Mount Belford hike, a 14,150 feet trundle to the summit, was 3.1 miles long. We were close, twenty more minutes of hiking, at most. “We can make it,” I said.

Two hours later we discovered the summit we’d struggled toward was a false summit, the real one a solid half mile farther.

But we’d committed. We were here. Now. We were going to make it.

And we did. After nearly four hours of hiking and climbing, we reached the peak.

At the base, in the dirt parking lot with toxic Port-A-Potties, the day had been brilliant. 76 degrees. A pleasant breeze.

Up top, the temperature bottomed to 43 degrees and the winds whipped so brutally that we had to crouch then crawl the final hundred yards.

Five pictures on the phone. Proof.

Rain clouds wedged their way onto the once blue skies.

We made the descent, believing we’d conquered the mountain.

The first fall left me bloody and laughing.

The third found me on my back like a broken turtle, my plastic water bottle cracked and draining and the mountain air crowded with my curses.

Rain hit, lashing and full.

I hobbled the remaining way, miserable.

In the parking lot, the rain stopped. The sky brightened.

I took my boots off. My socks were red with blood. My right knee had taken on the hue of a eggplant. “I can drive,” Micah said.

I refused, for no good reason.

Driving the once-dirt-now-mud road toward the highway, we saw three men sunning themselves on rocks, shirts off and smoking with a bottle of Dickel whiskey on the ground.

Pointing to the three, Micah said, “There’s a lesson there.”



The writing group met in Brooklyn. I was the only male. “This is a meet-and-greet, a trial to see if you’d be a good fit,” the woman hosting the session said.

I brought a bottle of wine—rather, I bought a bottle of wine. I dropped it in the subway station, staining the pages we were to review that night.

Snacks, soda, and cupcakes. The critiquing was a combative free-for-all, with arguments erupting and people being cut off mid-sentence. I managed two comments over the course of the hour, both which were dismissed.

“I’m not sure you’re a good fit,” the host said, seeing me out. “You don’t seem to understand how to make thoughtful comments.”



Micah and I sat at a small table at Sunny’s bar in Redhook, Brooklyn, drinking scotch and debating the cultural significance of the new World Trade Center with Steve Buscemi while Norah Jones played. The place was packed, though there were no more than forty.

Pausing mid-song, Norah said, “Look everyone, it’s Mick Foley,” and then invited the former pro-wrestler on stage, where he played a woodblock in time to the tune.

“Where else but New York City,” Micah said of our evening as we rode home to Harlem.

The next day, Micah got pulled over by the police and ticketed. $425 for turning right on a red.

On her bicycle.

Where else but New York City.



When my first novel came out, I organized a reading for myself and three others at Bluestockings Bookstore on the Lower East Side. I sent out invites, contacted the media. Time Out New York featured the event both in print and online, calling the three authors reading with me “literature’s new, important voices.”

My name was missing from the announcement.

I sold four books at the reading, left ten more with the bookstore on consignment. “Stop back by in a few weeks and we’ll cut you a check for tonight’s sales and whatever else we sell,” the manager said.

When I returned three weeks later, all my books were gone.

I was thrilled, positive I’d sold them all.

“What’s your name again?” the manager asked. I wasn’t in their system. My book wasn’t in the system. “I can’t pay you for what we didn’t sell,” the manager said, adding, “Are you sure you left them here?”



September leaked into October. The weather grew cold. I was squatting on a boat in the Puget Sound, Seattle, Washington, sneaking aboard at night. I’d rifled the cabinets for crackers and canned oysters, polished off the bottle of cheap port.

This was 1994. My situation was temporary, I was sure. I was going to be famous. Soon. I’d published my own chapbook of poetry, had handed it out to the people who mattered, the Seattle artists and writers who were on the path to make it big.

Through them, I’d make it.

Twenty-two years later, Wikipedia has no mention of the Seattle artists and writers I once knew. Barnes & Nobles doesn’t carry their books.



In graduate school, the Brazilian boy who wore prescription sunglasses to the nighttime writing workshop said of my story, “You cannot start a sentence with the word ‘And.’”

“But what about the piece?” the teacher said.  “Overall, what do you think?”

The boy lifted a shoulder, a half shrug. “It’s a draft,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense.”

The next day, I mailed the story off to a magazine. It got published. It received an O. Henry Prize.



After three months of sleeping on the streets, I called my folks. Collect.

“What do you want to do?” my father said. “You need to decide on something to do and then we can help.”

I needed money, needed a place.

The pay phone was sticky and a fight between a man on the street and a woman in an apartment above had erupted. Beer bottles flew down from her window.

“I can do anything,” I said, watching the explosion of glass in the street.

“But you’re doing nothing,” my father said. “So how am I supposed to help?”

The next day, I moved into the homeless shelter.



The man ran late. He hailed a cab. The cab was packed with milk jugs of laundry detergent pre-mixed with water. There was a lot of talk between the man and cab driver. Nothing happened.

But no.

Thinking about it, I wouldn’t tell my younger-self, “Stop. Trust me, please. Just stop.”

And I wouldn’t destroy the typewriter.

I’d destroy the story.

And I’d say, “If you want to do this, then do it right.”

I’d say, “Move into the shadows. Get lost. Be scared. Find that place where the light stops being light for you. And then sit down. Just sit and wait. Trust me. It’ll happen. As long as you just wait.”

Guest Post, Douglas Light: The Why

It was my year.

I had an edgy novel, an award-winning story collection, and movie with Hollywood stars coming out within a six month span.

Then things crumbled.

Three months before the novel’s release, the publisher went bankrupt; the book never saw publication. The story collection’s publisher failed to get the book onto stores; it instantly sank into oblivion. And despite a great cast, the film was met with derision; every major newspaper and magazine panned it.

All right, I told myself. Take the hit and move on. Start fresh. Sit down and write more. Create more. Keep going.

Then my laptop got destroyed, and with it twelve years of writing.

Back up everything is my mantra. In a single place should have been part of it.

Scraps of stories, pages of ideas, novels that had stalled out, and screenplays I’d lost interest in were in emails, on flash drives, or buried in a mess of print outs.

A death of a family member, divorce, and moving to a new place rank as the top three most stressful and depressing events in a person’s life.

Rereading ones own work has to rank number four.

maggienesciur-e1352918010523There’s good reason the major of writing never sees the light of day. Most of it’s painfully bad—or at least that’s true of mine. Culling through a decade-plus of writing was crushing. Like a brutal episode of This is Your Life, each page drove me back to the time I’d written it. The hopes and dreams I’d fostered then were eclipsed by the stark reality of now. So much time spent on failure work.

Why did I write in the first place? I’d lost the reason, the “why” of why I wrote.

So I stopped. For two years, I didn’t produce a single story.

The world continued.

Books were be published.  Movies got made. Hearts were broken then mended then broke again.

Life started.

Life ended.

I worked and lived and did all I’d always done—save writing.

Then my father was in a near-fatal car wreck.

I made my way to Memphis from New York City.

After the operation, after three days of grief and worry, after he finally came to and was semi-coherent, he took my hand and said, “So what have you been up to?”

I laughed. He’d endured the worst and was still caring enough to want to know about about me.

I told him of work, my girlfriend, of how things were in Harlem.

He said, “And your stories? Got any new ones?”

“Yeah,” I lied, “I do. A novel.” And then for over an hour, I told him story of a non-existent novel of mine.

Each time I paused in the telling of the tale I was making up on the spot, he’d say, “And then?”

And then.

And then.

I realized—or re-realized—my “why” for writing.

It was to understand both myself and the world and acknowledge failure and hope and loss and love.

It was to share.

It was connect.

It was to be human.

Guest Post, Douglas Light: Connect

The scene:

Doors ClosingIndianapolis, late September, Saturday night.

The hotel brimmed with wedding parties and attendees of the National Black MBA Association Conference.

I was attending neither.

I’d been nominated for an award for my story collection Girls in Trouble—an award I didn’t win—and had just returned from the dinner celebration and award ceremony. Was I disappointed that I came back empty handed? I’ll lie: the honor and a thrill of being nominated was award enough.

Having fulfilled my obligation of smiling and shaking hands and chatting and posing for photos, all while waiting in agony until the winner was announced, my wife and I decided to check out the town.

We hit the hotel, changed, then made our way down the hall.

Waiting at the elevator was a group dressed in gowns and suits.

Nodding hello, I stated the obvious. “Just come from a wedding?”  It was 10 p.m. The reception would have been in full swing. Drinks, dancing, and fun. The group should have been elated. Instead, they were dour. They looked like they’d just been brutalized in bankruptcy court and were now pondering a eight-floor window exit to the parking lot below.

No one responded to my question. So I asked again. “Come from a wedding?”

A grunt. “Yeah,” one woman said.

The elevator arrived. We all clambered in silently.

Guess they’re not in the mood to talk, I thought. But I was cagey. (Was it due to the fact that I hadn’t won the award, the effects of the three strong cocktails, or nasty dessert kicking about in my stomach? I can’t say.) There was no way I letting this group off easy.

When the doors slipped closed, I turned to the young woman nearest me. “What did you do wrong this week?” I asked.

She looked up at me, startled. “Nothing.”

I turned to her friend. “What did you do wrong this week?”

Her face lit with fear. “I didn’t do anything wrong.”

One last query. A man in his early 20s. “And you, sir. What did you do wrong?”

He shook his head, refusing to meet my eyes.

The leader of the pack poked me in the back. “You can’t ask that kind of question in a public elevator!”

“Is there any other type of elevator?” I said, realizing that—of course—there was.

But my question silenced him.

“Well,” I announced, “would you like to know what I did wrong this week?”

Everyone turned to me, rapt.

“I lied to my students,” I said.

“About what?” the poker asked.

“Yeah, tell us,” the grunter said.

“Well, I lied about—”

The elevator chimed. The doors glided open. The lobby. “Looks like we’re here,” I said, striding out with my wife.

“What’d you lie about?” they all called after me.

But I didn’t answer.

Yes, I’d been a bit of an ass. And what did that accomplish? Nothing.

But after a day or so, I realized I had been striving for something more.

I was trying to connect. Trying to find commonality in a crowded elevator. But we’d all done something wrong that week—how could we have not? We’re human. I was, heavy-handedly, trying to tap into that fact. Trying to acknowledge that we are all in a fight to be better individuals, and that we all, daily, experience the failure of accomplishing perfection. And it’s the acknowledging and sharing of failures that make us able to relate to one another. It is what enables us to bond, to understand, and to feel we are not alone. It’s how we endure.

Good fiction does the same thing. It connects. As readers, we may never experience an Oklahoma dustbowl, a vengeful ghost, or espionage in a foreign country. But as readers, we have experienced similar joys, heartbreaks, terror, love, and disappoint as the characters in our favorite stories.  And that’s the connection. The bond. The unique universality that affirms our humanity.

And for the record, I didn’t lie to my students—at least not that week.