Authors Talk: John Clayton

 Today we are pleased to feature author John Clayton as our Authors Talk series contributor. In the podcast, John discusses the subjectivity of memory and the dynamic nature of family as seen in his short story, “Memory Loss.” “Memory Loss” describes the journey of a son to understand the truth of his own experience in the midst of family members attempting to “rewrite the narrative” of their own history. Thus the question is, as John states: “Who is truly distorting the past? Whose memory has gotten ‘lost?'”

John notes that we “don’t remember our lives by means of a clear, objective lens,” and that everything in our lives is seen through the prism of our own subjectivity. He states that “observation is filtered by memory, and memory is always distorted.” However, he concludes by saying that, when authors make the choice to share these distorted and sometimes-painful memories, the memories are “given shape, sweetened, and made tender. The author stands apart from them, and the pain is temporarily assuaged.”

You can read John’s story, “Memory Loss,” in Issue 21 of Superstition Review.

Authors Talk: Jen Knox

Jen KnoxToday we are pleased to feature Jen Knox as our Authors Talk series contributor. Jen talks about her contributions to Superstition Review and what she, as a reader, looks for in a strong short story. Jen also says that the why and how she writes ultimately boils down to character and her desire to understand the human condition from different purviews. She ends her talk by offering advice to burgeoning fiction writers.

Disengaged” by Jen Knox can be read in Issue 4 of Superstition Review, as well as “West on N Road” in Issue 14.

#ArtLitPhx: Community Creative Writing Workshop for Fiction or Nonfiction with Jennifer Spiegel

 

Join local author Jennifer Spiegel (Bell) for a free community creative writing workshop every Monday at Phoenix College! The class will take place in room B-126.

The focus will be on getting down the basics and hitting the hot topics. Jennifer will lead prospective writers of every skill level through a different topic each week.

List of topics:

3/26 Taking the community pulse: Fiction or nonfiction, writing goals, and basic principles.

4/2 Character and Point of View

4/9 Show don’t tell

4/16 Descriptive language

4/23 Dialogue

4/30 Beginnings and ends

5/7 Hot topics, publishing, writing in the age of #metoo, and the writing life.

Contact jenniferbell@phoenixcollege.com to RSVP or to ask any questions!

Jennifer Spiegel is mostly a fiction writer with two books and a miscellany of short publications, though she also teaches English and creative writing. She is part of Snotty Literati, a book-reviewing gig, with Lara Smith. She lives with her family in Arizona.

 

Authors Talk: C.A. Schaefer

C.A. SchaeferToday we are pleased to feature C.A. Schaefer as our Authors Talk series contributor.

C.A. Schaefer discusses the origin of her short story “Raw Materials.” She parallels performed magic and fiction, and how she serves as both the magician and assistant of her own work. She then talks about research being at the heart of her writing and the importance of science, philosophy, history, and art in the fantastic. She ends her talk by discussing the next step for her writing; one of endless possibility.

C.A. Schaefer’s short story, “Raw Materials,” can be read in Issue 20 of Superstition Review.

Contributor Update: Natalie Sypolt’s The Sound of Holding Your Breath: Stories

Natalie Sypolt Cover The Sound of Holding Your Breath: StoriesToday we are pleased to announce that Natalie Sypolt has a forthcoming short story collection. The Sound of Holding Your Breath: Stories is being released by West Virginia University Press. Pre-orders are available online for the November 2018 release.

Natalie was featured in Issue 10 of Superstition Review. Her story is titled “Fractured” and is currently available to read.

Natalie has also contributed to the Superstition Review Blog. Her first guest post, “When Writers Gather, Or How to Make a Workshop Work for You” covers the topics of conferences and workshops. She offers some great advice in a do and don’t format. For her second guest post, “A Retreat from Distraction”, she discusses distraction, productivity, and a bit more of finding what works for you as writer.

Congratulations, Natalie!

Contributor Update: Brock Clarke The Price of the Haircut

Brock Clarke The Price of the HaircutToday we are happy to announce The Price of the Haircut by Brock Clarke has been released. The Price of the Haircut, published by Algonquin Books, is a collection of short stories whose excerpt can be found on the authors website.

You can read Brock’s interview with Superstition Review in Issue 3.

Congratulations, Brock!

Guest Post, Sarah Beth Childers: Writing about Grief without Mentioning It

 Joshua and his three sisters on his 7th birthday. Sarah Beth is in the Myrtle Beach shirt.

Years ago, when I was taking an undergraduate fiction writing class, the professor talked about the short fiction he wrote in the year after his mother’s death. He showed his work to a friend, and the friend told him, “I see your mother on every page.” My professor protested angrily, but he went home and realized it was true. He was writing fiction, not autobiographical, not about dead mothers, but deep down, he was writing about his personal loss.

I found something similar happening to me when I was writing “Beagle in the Road,” five years after my brother’s suicide. I was writing about a moment when I was thirteen years old, seventeen years before I lost my brother. At that point, Joshua was five and happy, likely playing with Hot Wheels cars or shooting outlaws in a computer game that came free in a box of cereal. My little brother had nothing to do with my decision to follow my beagle into a busy road, so he didn’t belong in the essay. Still, I found myself embedding my grief into every line, and unlike my professor, I was intensely aware that this was happening, surely because I was (and still am) in the midst of writing a memoir about Joshua. I knew I wouldn’t have written the piece at all if he hadn’t died. After a few years of witnessing my parents’ grief, the beagle memory came back to me, and I suddenly felt horror mixed with my old pride and gratefulness about the risk I’d taken that day.

When I came to the end of the essay, I struggled with how to close without my brother. Throughout the piece, I’d felt his five-year-old shadow running alongside my thirteen-year-old self, both of us buoyant in our innocence of everything that would come later. And in the end, I pictured my brother’s twenty-two-year-old body when I imagined myself dead on the road. So, I tried to shoehorn his suicide into the turn, explaining to readers why I saw this moment so differently years later, after I’d witnessed the broken health and malaise that can follow the loss of a child. But the suicide revelation kept feeling melodramatic, a disrespect to my lost brother and to my parents’ grief. Since Joshua wasn’t present on the essay’s surface, I hadn’t developed him as a character, and readers couldn’t mourn a brother they didn’t know. I finally realized I had to stay in the moment, focusing on the relationships between characters who were actually present: my beagle and me, my dad and my beagle, my dad and me. The audience would understand that my life and perspective had changed in the time since I rescued my beagle. The reason I had changed was beside the point.

Of course, I have my own personal readers like my professor’s friend, people who saw my brother on every page. My most important reader, my writer sister, got it immediately. A poet friend read the essay, expecting a piece about my childhood beagle, and she said, “Wow, this fits right into your memoir!” And it does fit. Eventually, when readers see the piece in context, they’ll know it’s about Joshua. When I describe my dad’s potential grief, they’ll think of that horrible day seventeen years later. They may even cringe as I do over that imagined image of my broken body, thinking of my brother’s body hanging in his closet. But I also know that context also isn’t necessary. Readers who didn’t know my professor couldn’t get the mother connection in his stories, but I’m sure they felt moved by the undercurrents of grief—likely something that’s often happening to me when I find myself moved by a story, essay, or poem in an unexpected way.

In the end, I couldn’t help myself. I was burning to mention Joshua, so I put him in my bio. In creative nonfiction, the biographical note inevitably changes readers’ perception of the essay, so I decided to take advantage of that. But let’s face it: not everyone reads bios. If everyone did, my own undergraduate students would never call female writers “he.” And I know that one-sentence mention of my brother isn’t nearly enough to allow the most careful readers to understand all of the Joshua resonances that exist for people who know me. So, for readers who don’t see this blog post, or connect the piece to my other work, I’ll be content to let that grief stay concealed within my body—my real body, my live body in the essay, my imagined smashed body in the essay—the place where grief always hides.