#ArtLitPhx: Piper Writers Studio Fall 2016 Courses

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The Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing at ASU is proud to offer four creative writing classes through the Piper Writers Studio. Classes are taught by acclaimed and award-winning writers from the community, and cover topics such as first-draft novel writing, novel revisions, persona poetry, and creative non-fiction.

The faculty for the Fall 2016 session of the Piper Writers Studio are:

  • Michael A Stackpole, a New York Times best-selling author known for his extensive fantasy and science fiction work in the Stars Wars, Conan, and World of Warcraft universes. Stackpole will be teaching Winning NaNoWriMo Tuesdays, October 4 – 25, 2016 from 6 – 8 p.m.
  • Carol Test, an award-winning short-story writer and former editor in chief of the Sonora Review who has taught workshops for the University of Arizona, Arizona State University, Phoenix College, and Mesa Community College. Test will be teaching Remodel Your Novel: Five Key Scenes for Fiction Writers Wednesdays, October 5 – 26, 2016 from 6 – 8 p.m.
  • Marshall Terrill, veteran film, sports, music, history and popular culture writer with over 20 books to his credit, including bestselling biographies of Steve McQueen, Elvis Presley, and Pete Maravich. Terrill will be teaching Beyond the Facts: Writing Compelling Non-fiction Wednesdays, October 5 – 26, 2016 from 6 – 8 p.m.
  • Lois Roma-Deeley, an author with three collections of poetry and numerous publications in anthologies in journals who founded the creative writing program at Paradise Valley Community College and received an Artist Research and Development Grant from the Arizona State Commission on the Arts in 2016. Roma-Deeley will be teaching Another Voice: Creating Memorable Poetic Personas Saturday, October 22, 2016 from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Classes are open to individuals of all backgrounds, skill levels, and experiences, and are designed to fit around the schedules of working adults (taking place weekday evenings or weekend afternoons). Most classes are held at the Piper Writers House, the historic President’s Cottage on the ASU Tempe Campus. 
Class sizes range between 8 and 12 students in order to ensure an intimate, individualized educational experience, and start at $75 (with discounts for individuals who are members of the Piper Circle of Friends). Classes can also qualify for professional development credit with the Arizona Department of Education. Individuals can register for classes through the Piper Center’s website until Monday, October 3rd, 2016.

For more information, please visit the Piper Center’s website at http://piper.asu.edu/programs/piper-writers-studio/current-courses.

#ArtLitPhx: Changing Hands and the Piper Center Present Garth Risk Hallberg

Gary-Changing Hands

Garth Risk Hallberg will be visiting Changing Hands Phoenix with his debut novel, City on Fire. The event is co-presented by the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing at ASU. The New York Times, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, NPR, Vogue, Newsday, The Atlantic, and others named City on Fire the Best Book of the Year.

The event takes place on Wednesday, September 21st at 7 PM – 9 PM. For more information about the event, please visit the Facebook page or the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing page.

The author was born in Louisiana and grew up in North Carolina. His writing has appeared in Prairie SchoonerThe New York TimesBest New American Voices 2008, and The Millions; a novellaA Field Guide to the North American Family, was published in 2007. He lives in New York with his wife and children.

Guest Post, Bill Gaythwaite: Any Particular Day

swimmerIt occurred to me recently, not for the first time, that my swimming reminds me of my writing process. I’m a lap swimmer in a community pool.  I swim very long distances. My pool is not part of a fancy gym. The locker room is way too small. Sometimes it’s as crowded in there as a subway at rush hour.  There’s a grungy gang shower too, with cracks in the tile and some broken fixtures.  Hot water is more a hope than a reality.  You have to bring your own towel to this place and last week someone pried open my combination lock and stole the money from my wallet while I was doing my laps. I was grateful they left the wallet though, and figured maybe they needed the $22 more than I did. Actually, I love this gym and I love the pool, which, unlike the locker room, is clean and well-maintained. The lifeguards are friendly. Now, writing has its challenges too.  Sometimes the water isn’t hot and the fixtures are broken. And the most obvious comparison between the two is that lap swimming is this solitary effort, where you literally throw yourself into the deep end and just take off. Most writers understand that part. Personally, I’m not the flashiest swimmer or the fastest. My technique isn’t the prettiest either, but I do keep at it. That’s like my writing. And like writing, the benefits of swimming work best when you stick to a regular schedule or routine. You increase your stamina over time. Writing a short story is like a long swim for me. It’s tough to get started sometimes. You can struggle at first. You flail away. And then you eventually find a rhythm and you pace yourself. You don’t stop. You try not to lose steam before the finish. (If writing a short story is like a long swim for me, then working on my unpublished novel was more like running a marathon at a high altitude – but that’s another topic entirely.) I don’t think of lap swimming as only a metaphor. It has become part of my writing process too. Sometimes a swim will clear my head and get me back into a space where I can work. But I’ve also tackled plot problems, created back stories for characters and tried out dialogue as I thrash around in the pool, sometimes losing count of my laps as a result. I’m grateful for my time in the water and for my time at the computer too, when things come together and I have enough momentum to carry me through. I think my writing and lap swimming have become somewhat linked in my mind, the endurance part anyway, the personal challenge, the dogged persistence. As with anything, it comes down to commitment — that happy dedication to something that will eventually become part of who you really are, at any moment, on any particular day.

Guest Post, Charles Rafferty: Maxims and Observations on the Writing Life

Espresso
“Espresso” by Jordan Merrick is licensed under CC by 2.0

Compression is achieved by leaving things out — useless details, obvious emotions. This is why I prefer espresso. Its blackness tells me there is just enough water. Consider the following maxims and observations on writing to be fifty cups of espresso:

  1. On the need to write every day: No one can shoot a nickel off the back of a galloping ox with just one bullet. The most one bullet will get you is a dead ox.
  2. On mistakes: There is a kind of progress we make when we trip and fall forward.
  3. The eye can see only by continuing to blink. This is an argument for stopping work when a poem gets stubborn and ceases to improve. Time in a dark drawer is always time well-spent.
  4. The critic has the blueprints, but the poet builds the palace.
  5. On my former aversion to prose poems: I used to think of them as mules — sterile hybrids. Now, I see the prose poem as a euglena — that cutthroat survivor with a foot in two kingdoms.
  6. There are works that I’m ashamed to have not read, and there are those that merely embarrass me. This is the difference between the greatness of the past and the enthusiasm of the present.
  7. Certain scenes are awkward because the characters don’t play well together — they are like dolls of different scales pushed into the same tea party.
  8. The painter with chopped-off hands will learn to sing better than the writer with inherited pitch.
  9. A good book should stay with you at least as long as your average tick bite. Reading it should make you itch.
  10. In a forest, the best poets think of axe handles and violins.
  11. On revisions: Don’t treat first drafts too preciously. Nobody carves a log before pushing it into the fireplace.
  12. Distancing yourself emotionally from the subject matter of your stories is important. But there’s a point at which the faces grow indistinct and we cease to have any stake in who dies or falls in love.
  13. On the popularity of confessional poems: The mirror always answers.
  14. The painter would make different choices if he began instead with a black canvas.
  15. On poems that refuse to get finished: It can be like carving your initials into the sea or digging up the shadow of your favorite spruce.
  16. I’m the kind of person who takes more pleasure in the novel he burned than he does in the novel he’s trying to finish. The former, at least, provides a good anecdote at a cocktail party.
  17. On the critic who tries to advance the careers of his friends by writing favorable reviews they don’t deserve: The dog is the planet to his fleas.
  18. On the charge of strangeness: The world is my materials. I won’t apologize for my materials.
  19. On ambition: Climbing the mountain doesn’t bring the stars any closer.
  20. Extra syllables at the end of a poem are like a squeaky piano stool as the final notes of a symphony try to evaporate.
  21. The dictionary is an anthology of one-word poems, footnotes included.
  22. A sonnet is a jail that lets us in.
  23. On the influence of dead poets: The wake of a swan continues long after it has taken flight.
  24. Trusting a poem is our first mistake. Living as if we had not read it is our second.
  25. That a poem means is more important than what a poem means.
  26. On obscurity: Poets in America are fourth magnitude stars, and everyone’s night vision has been ruined by sitcoms and football.
  27. On the growing number of people claiming to be poets: The tiniest flowers have no fragrance; America is full of tiny flowers.
  28. When I was young, if a poem wasn’t about being with a woman, it was about being apart from a woman — and all the great merits of either circumstance.
  29. On writer’s block: We need not fret about our occasional lack of inspiration. The guitar player needs to take a day off to let his calluses thicken and heal. A man needs a nap before screwing his woman a second time.
  30. On reading the lines I wrote when I was high: After the sunset, the pollution goes back to looking ordinary.
  31. Stories either start stable and become strange, or start strange and become stable. The ice is always melting or hardening.
  32. In defense of sonnets: The piano is an old instrument, but we can play new songs on it.
  33. On the charge of prettiness: Yes, the bell of the tulip is pretty, but it cannot rise without some dirt beneath it.
  34. The critic concerns himself with the parts of a poem the way a disreputable mechanic wants every piece to shine and be new. The poet simply wants the goddamned car to move.
  35. Nature poetry should be more than verbal postcards. In any glorious arrangement of mountains, we must find at least the shadow of a man.
  36. The poet transmutes the world into sound the way a bluejay turns trash into a nest.
  37. Don’t let your admiration of traditional forms override the notion of suitability. If the form doesn’t correspond to the subject, the poet will be accused of trying to fit a puppy inside a ringbox, of delivering a diamond inside an aircraft carrier.
  38. The will to criticism: It’s just the urge to have answers at a particularly severe cocktail party.
  39. We like listening to known liars. It’s the pleasure of hoping they’ll trip themselves up. A poem must proceed with the liar’s bravado. In this sense, a poem should leave the reader frustrated.
  40. On failed poems we can’t stop revising: There’s nothing so steady as a half-sunk canoe.
  41. On finding no one to publish a poem: It feels like a five-dollar bill with too much taped and missing.
  42. The worst poets treat their poems like puzzles — something merely to be figured out. In the most dire cases, they withhold several pieces, hiding them in their breast pockets, forcing us to come to them with questions we would rather not ask.
  43. Poems can fail in two ways: boredom or confusion. Boredom stems from too small a grasp — the ordinary sand grain in the palm of a hand. Confusion stems from extravagance — the attempt to palm a city. Given the choice, I prefer my poems to fail always by confusion.
  44. On self-promotion: A car can rev its engine just as loud whether the trunk is full of gold or horse shit.
  45. We are awestruck by actual sunsets, but embarrassed by their photographs. This is a proof that some beauty defies translation.
  46. On the need to take a break from the daily routine of writing: If a garden goes untended long enough, even the weeds come into flower.
  47. During the initial draft of a poem, when we are knocking on every door we come across, there is that moment when a peephole goes dark, and we know that the door must be kicked in.
  48. On inspiration: Sometimes, the girl is brought out of the marble by a single hammer tap.
  49. On our steadily fragmenting culture: At the rate things are going, someday even Jesus will require a footnote in the Norton Anthology.
  50. On ambition: I won’t be content to be called the American Shakespeare. I won’t be satisfied until Shakespeare is known as the English Rafferty.

Interview with Jocelyn Cullity

Jocelyn Cullity has published short fiction, creative nonfiction, documentary film and scholarship; she’s currently completing her first novel, set in 1857 India. Cullity teaches creative writing at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and also in the low-residency BFA program at Goddard College in Vermont.

Superstition Review: Your piece “Mutiny” takes place in India, and you’ve also co-written an analytical essay on female representation in Indian popular culture, specifically as perpetuated in media such as MTV India. What about India would you say inspires your writing?

Jocelyn Cullity: My British family on my mother’s side lived in India for five generations. The stories told to me by my mother and my great-aunts were more about India than anywhere else.

One of the most violent events in Indian history began in 1857 when Indian citizens revolted against the variety of injustices occurring during British rule. My ancestor, Ellen Huxham, was one of the women held hostage during a five-month siege in Lucknow during the “mutiny,” and she kept a diary during that time. When I was about 12, I transcribed her diary, and this event in particular stayed with me.

SR: Have you travelled to India and if so, were you inspired to write about it afterwards, or did you travel there because it inspired you?

JC: I have had the opportunity to visit India several times. I love India and I have gone when I can. I’ve gone to write, for research, but also just to visit family and friends. It was sometime after my last trip that I wrote the short story “Mutiny” as a part of my dissertation collection at Florida State University, and after that I began working on the novel.

SR: “Mutiny” begins, “India. May 24th, 1857.” What do you think it does for a story to have a concrete setting?

JC: Janet Burroway (the writer, teacher, and one of my mentors) has written that setting means more to writers than anything else. I do think that setting is everything, and that to establish an immediate concrete image of location in the reader’s mind is useful and most often necessary. When one is writing about a different country and a different century it’s crucial to establish time and place in the reader’s mind as soon as one can.

SR: There is an element of the supernatural in “Mutiny” that contrasts with the almost sparse narration. How did you envision your narrator when you began writing “Mutiny” and was this contrast your intention from the beginning, or did it develop after the fact?

JC: I don’t think I thought about this sort of contrast. The dead husband suddenly appeared in the doorway, and I wrote him down. To his wife, he is as real as the siege around her. However, I’m fascinated by the existence of supernatural elements in the short story, over the form’s history, so, as I think about it now, it doesn’t surprise me that the ghost character showed up.

SR: “Mutiny” is an excerpt from your forthcoming novel of the same name. How does it feel to see your work and your efforts coming together into a tangible form?

JC: I started the story “Mutiny” very tentatively. I had the feeling I should explore the character of Eva before embarking on a larger project; she is one of several important characters I’d been thinking of for the novel. Now it feels utterly inevitable to be writing the book. I’m almost finished and it is gratifying to see what I hope is coming together.

I should say that the title that I used for the short story — “Mutiny” – is used with a good dose of irony. The “mutiny of 1857” is still a phrase used by some; some others call it “India’s First War of Independence.” I have used the word “Mutiny” as a working title for the novel but I’m not completely sure yet if that’s what it will be called. I hope to decide that in the next months.

 

Interview with Michelle Brafman

Michelle Brafman has received numerous awards for her fiction, including a Special Mention in the 2010 Pushcart Prize Anthology, the F. Scott Fitzgerald Short Story prize, and first place in the Lilith Magazine Fiction contest. Her stories have appeared in The Minnesota Review, Blackbird, and Fifth Wednesday Journal, among other places. She teaches fiction writing at George Washington University and the Johns Hopkins University MA in Writing Program. Michelle is also an award-winning filmmaker and lives in Glen Echo, Maryland with her husband and two children. For more information: www.michellebrafman.com

Superstition Review: Early on in your story “In Flight,” the protagonist says, “…I’m his crazy big sister. I lost too much oxygen at birth. People always want to label me ‘tard’ or PDD or high-functioning this or that, but I’m just Rosie.” The reader later gets a sense of Rosie’s disability through some of the observations she makes, and we, as the reader, understand that she doesn’t understand her surroundings the way her mother and brother do. What was the effect you were aiming for in including the Rosie’s awareness of how people saw her?

Michelle Brafman: I suppose my initial intention was to provide the reader with a sense of Rosie’s disability, but as she emerged as a character, I grew interested in exploring the tension between her uncanny perceptiveness and her inability to interpret social cues. I’d initially written the story from the point of view of Marcus, the more reliable narrator, but it lacked verity. It is Rosie who implores Marcus to jump, to confront his mother’s mortality and the impending reality of his sister’s care, and it is Rosie who intuits that Marcus will need the trampoline, as Esther did, as a release from the weight of his new responsibilities.

SR: In “January” and “Would you Rather?” both of the protagonists suspect that their spouses might be cheating on them. Please discuss the notion of fidelity as a theme in contemporary writing. What makes it popular and interesting?

MB: I don’t know that I’m equipped to speak for an entire genre, but what makes infidelity interesting to me is the way in which it exacerbates a character’s trouble. Writing about “the how” of an affair grows tedious quickly. I’m more interested in why a character seeks such an all-consuming escape and the ripples that form after hurling such an enormous boulder into his or her psychic pond.

SR: I noticed that the character Annabel from “Ripe” reappears in “January,” although as an absent character. If these two stories were to appear together in a collection, which one would come first, and to what effect?

MB: Actually, “Ripe” and “January” belong to a triptych that starts with “The 42,” the first story I published. I wrote “The 42” in response to a variation of an exercise featured in John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction. I’ve further modified this prompt for my students, but it goes something like this: A man gets off a bus, trips, looks around in embarrassment, and sees a woman smiling. Describe this event using three different points of view.

The story cycle begins when a pregnant Annabel takes “The 42” to her old neighborhood for an acupuncturist appointment. Eager to take a break from her husband Leon’s hovering, she declines his ride offer and spends the bus trip reflecting on a less fettered period in her life. “Ripe” picks up after her ex-boyfriend Phil watches her stumble off the bus, and the final story “January” begins after Leon has tracked down Annabel to deliver her misplaced wallet and spots her and Phil walking down the street, sharing an intimate moment of laughter.

SR: I enjoy how your stories are structured and especially how they end. There is no apparent resolution of conflict at the closing of your stories. What is your opinion on what the end of a story should do for a reader?

MB: I appreciate your observation. When I first began writing fiction, I tied up my stories in pretty little bows, often tagging on what I now call the “nudge, nudge, wink, wink: did you get it?” closing line. Bob Bausch, one of my first writing instructors, once said to me that a good ending should resolve the story but not the conflict. His words resonated with me. I like the idea of leaving a story somewhat open for the reader to impose his or her own ideas on what might happen to the characters.

SR: What are you writing now? What are you reading?

MB: I’m working on a new novel. It took me months to find a pathway into this project, but my characters are starting to develop minds of their own and are surprising me in all sorts of fun ways.

I’ve enrolled in a course on the unreliable narrator, and I’ve been engrossed in the assigned texts: True Confections by Katharine Weber, the class instructor, Nabokov’s Lolita and What Was She Thinking? (Notes On A Scandal) by Zoe Heller. My daughter and I have also been reading some wonderful YA fiction for a mother-daughter book club. My favorite pick so far has been Claire Vanderpool’s beautifully crafted Moon over Manifest.

Issue 8 Highlights

Issue 8 of Superstition Review is packed with talented artists and writers. Here are a few highlights:

Art
New England artist Paul Chojnowski creates vivid images not with pencil or paint, but with fire. His “fire drawings” are detailed images made by burning, scorching and sanding the surface of paper or wood. Take a look at “After the Deluge” to see how Chojnowski burned and scorched a piece of maple veneer into a beautiful image.

Ready to let your imagination go to work? Check out the work of Rafael Francisco Salas. Salas’ bio states that he uses “landscape along with narrative and symbolic elements [to] create artworks that investigate the nature of nostalgia, memory and dreams.” In Untitled (Funeral), we see a funeral scene, but the casket is obscured by . . . something. This is where your imagination comes in. What does your brain interpret the something to be—a ghost, a dream, a memory?

Fiction
How’s this for a first sentence – “My son was born under the carob tree, and all three fathers were there to greet him.” Three fathers? You’re interested, aren’t you? Read Eric Maroney’s “Grow, Grow” and you will not only learn how this first sentence is possible, you’ll realize this is a beautiful story of hope.

If all the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players, then we’re all stars of our own reality show or prime time TV drama. Eugenio Volpe explores this theme in his short story “Low Lives.”

Interviews
A peek into a writer’s brain can be just as entertaining and enlightening as reading their work. SR interviewed many fascinating writers this fall, including Darrin Doyle and Madison Smartt Bell.

In his interview, Doyle discusses how he creates the vivid images in his stories and talks about the difference between writing a short story and a novel (teaser – it has something to do with pregnancy).

Bell shares where he gets his inspiration (daemons: just read the interview) and what he is currently working on; a biography of Jean-Jacques Dessalines, first Emperor of Haiti, a romance, and a story about zombies. Real ones, though, not the movie kind.

Nonfiction
“Walking Sophie” is about kinderwagons, pollution, and Winston Churchill. How do these all fit together? Follow James Valvis on his daily trek with his infant daughter to the mailbox and the park and even further through the many emotions of rejection, endurance and what it means to be a father.

“I’ve never seen the top of my head.” How would you respond to the statement? Patrick Madden muses over this pronouncement from his daughter and other subjects in his set of essays “Contradiction: Poetry,” “Contradiction: Insanity,” and “Contradiction: Memory.”

Poetry
Ever lose part of a savannah? Misplaced a volcano? Read Karen Skolfield’s “Lost Mountain” to see if maybe you have.

“I Sit in on a Special Education Lesson” by Yu Shibuya shows how poetry can take an everyday occurrence and find the complexity of emotions that exist under the surface. Read this poem. You will not be disappointed.

Nor will you be disappointed with any of our other talented contributors to Superstition Review Issue 8. Now, go—look, read, repeat.

Interview with Matthew Healy

Matthew Scott Healy lives in Scottsdale, Arizona with his wife and daughter. He teaches English and Creative Writing at Scottsdale Community College. His work has appeared in Blackbird and Cutbank. His is the recipient of the Finnely Award for Humorous Short Fiction, and his story “Always the Obvious Places” was nominated for storySouth as the most notable story of 2010.

Superstition Review: I’m drawn to the character Emmett in “Always the Obvious Places.” Can you please describe how you came up with a character that would “throw a cactus” just to get away from the police?

Matthew Healy: I like the idea of characters without shame, who hold nothing back. Here is Emmett, a guy with the thumb of law enforcement upon him, yet he maintains this defiant posture of bluster. So many characters are governed by the consequences of their actions, and I wanted to have a character who is the exact opposite. He’s a guy without any permanence in his life, so his refusal to change is his anchor point. He’s also the character the other characters want most to change, but Emmett is so obdurate that by necessity others must do the changing around him.

SR: How did you imagine the life situation for Emmett and family? Where did it come from?

MH: Emmett’s life is about resiliency in a place where nothing is permanent. His job, his living situation, his girlfriend, what kids are around—all of it fluctuates wildly. I’ve known people like Emmett, and what amazes me is their ability to survive in such flux. In the story, Emmett has a somewhat stable living situation, but I imagine him living somewhere else a month before the story begins and somewhere else a month after the story ends. I worked briefly as a probation officer, and so many defendants exist this way, living as nomads. One of my defendants moved from jail to a halfway house. Within a week, he was living with a new girlfriend and her kids (who were already calling him “Dad”). A week later, he moved in with his parents, and then into some apartment with a different girlfriend and her kids. This wasn’t uncommon. I watched people join a family for only a week or two before joining another. The men and women became temporary fathers and mothers—an entire migrating community of interchangeable family members. I think that’s why Emmett can be so lighthearted about Officer Jay and Sgt. Falco’s visit, because their presence is temporary. Eventually, they will go home to other, better parts of the city, away from this vortex of instability, and Emmett will keep moving inside of it.

SR: The location of “Always the Obvious Places” is very vivid. How does place inform your writing?

MH: I grew up next to families who were not far away from Emmett’s circumstances. Actually, they may have been worse. My two best friends living on either side have spent their lives in and out of prison. I still remember the sights and sounds and smells of their houses: dark hallways, navigating through heaps of clothes and trash, looking for a space to play. Blackish-brown carpet that was harder than tile from all the abandoned spills. As a little kid, I was too young to understand or be bothered by such conditions. It just seemed strange and different. Later, when I became a probation officer, my reaction was much different. One of pity and disgust and anger (especially when I found babies and toddlers living in conditions that were squalid, but not enough to warrant intervention by CPS). I felt very much like a tourist lost in a bad part of a foreign city, standing in the living rooms of people and making recommendations on how they should improve their lives.

In “Obvious Places,” the setting influences how the characters behave and what they value. I wanted Emmett’s home to seem tangible and constrictive, yet ephemeral—a place that could be razed to the ground without anyone paying it much mind.

SR: In almost each line of “Always the Obvious Places,” there is a trace of humor. What are some of the difficulties of writing humor? What are the joys? Who are some of your favorite authors who use humor?

MH: I think one of the dangers of humor is becoming seduced by it and sacrificing the story for a few laughs. I didn’t necessary begin “Obvious Places” intending for it to be funny. Instead, the humor was a necessary counterbalance to the very bleak reality of Emmett’s life, which in so many ways is simply tragic. I just realized that one of the worst things anyone can do is analyze humor, so I’ll resist the temptation to dissect it.

Instead, I’ll answer the last part of your question, and mention a few funny writers I admire. I favor wry and subdued humor that’s attached to something much larger and darker, something that’s lurking after the punch-line to shake things up. Along those lines, Sherman Alexie has a wonderfully deadpan humor, and so does Denis Johnson. One of my favorites, though, is Richard Russo. When writing “Obvious Places,” I was actually thinking about Russo’s very funny novel Straight Man. In a strange twist, Russo’s agent contacted me out of the blue after reading “Obvious Places” to tell me he had enjoyed it. I’m still trying to figure out if that means I unintentionally channeled Russo’s voice too much in the story. As I tell my intro creative writing students, after reading someone you love, wait at least an hour before starting to write. What works for eating and swimming might work for reading and writing.

SR: What are you writing now? What are you reading?

MH: I just finished revising two short stories as part of a collection, but I’m also about halfway through writing a novel, which has turned out to be the most difficult undertaking of my life. I’m used to writing short stories, which is primarily what I like to read. Right now I’m reading the sizeable collection edited by Joyce Carol Oates, and most of the stories so far are pretty engaging.

I’m not reading any novels right now, though not for lack of trying. Unless they’re really good, my attention in most novels tends to sputter out after a hundred pages or so—an awful admission for someone who is trying to write one, but it’s true. When I was in Ohio State’s MFA program, we got to meet Michael Chabon, and we discussed the differences in short and long forms. He believes most writers fall into one category or the other, so perhaps I’m just a short form type of guy. (By the way, he admitted to being a long form guy.) This is fine with me, even though there’s no money in writing short stories, but it’s a shame since short fiction is so pristine and every word is so deliberate. I love the necessary ambiguity of short stories—there simply isn’t time to render every detail, so much of the story that orbits the literal prose must happen in the reader’s imagination. Who knows, maybe the dwindling attention spans means a lucrative future for short story writers.

 


An Evening with Mary Sojourner

Superstition Review will host its 2011 Fall Reading with special guest author Mary Sojourner.

Mary Sojourner is the author of the essay collection Bonelight: Ruin and Grace in the New Southwest, as well as novels, memoirs and short story collections. She is an NPR commentator and has taught writing throughout the West for 20 years. Please follow this link to read more about Mary Sojourner at: marysojourner.com

Who:     Superstition Review Literary Magazine presents Mary Sojourner

What:    Fall Reading Series

When:   Wednesday, November 9, 2011, 7 p.m.

Where:  ASU Tempe Campus, Pima Auditorium at Memorial Union

Admission:  Free

On Thursday, November 10 Mary will be offering a workshop at Changing Hands Bookstore.

Jump Start with Mary Sojourner: a writing circle to charge your writing.
The Jump Start circle is for those of you who have always wanted to write and somehow haven’t begun; for writers who have blocked; and for writers who want to move to the next level of their work. Mary Sojourner is a national author and NPR commentator. She has taught writing circles for universities, writing conferences (Desert Nights, Rising Stars, Hassyampa) and in private circles nationally. This is not a lecture workshop – you will write for most of the session. November 10, Changing Hands Bookstore, Tempe, Az., 6:30-8:30. fee: $25. Register and pay through Changing Hands.

Mary Sojourner is the author of two novels, Sisters of the Dream (1989) and Going Through Ghosts; the short story collection, Delicate; essay collection, Bonelight: ruin and grace in the New Southwest; memoirs, Solace: rituals of loss and desire and She Bets Her Life. She is an intermittent NPR commentator and the author of countless essays, columns and op eds for High Country News, Writers on the Range and dozens of other publications. She teaches writing, in private circles, one-on-one, at colleges and universities, writing conferences and book festivals. She believes in both the limitations and possibilities of healing. Writing is the most powerful tool she has found for doing what is necessary to mend.

Psychology Today blog, She Bets Her Life:  http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/she-bets-her-life

Announcing: Kat Meads

Kat Meads headshot_300+In 2008, in Issue 2, Superstition Review published Kat Meads’ essay Relativism: The Size of the Tsar in Vegas.We were honored for her contribution, and we are now very happy to share the news of her recently released novel.

Announcing:

when the dust finally settles
by Kat Meads
A novel about land, loyalty and racial politics in the 1968 South
Ravenna Press, September 2011
http://www.katmeads.com

Advance Praise for when the dust finally settles:

When anyone asks if Southern Literature has a future in our internet, iPhone, jet-lagged, speed-of-light world, I point them to Kat Meads. Her fiction is Southern through and through even as it embraces the dilemmas and contradictions of 21st century life. Simply put, you must read Kat Meads.
—Jason Sanford, Founding Editor, storySouth

Kat Meads’ writing is keen and precise; her stories, populous and lively. In when the dust finally settles, she employs a staccato, rhythmic prose in the service of a narrative both beautifully imagined and wildly exotic. when the dust finally settles will keep you up nights reading its propulsive story, but will also reward the reader who loves finely crafted sentences and pitch-perfect dialogue.
—Corey Mesler, author of Following Richard Brautigan

In The Invented Life of Kitty Duncan, Kat Meads created a 1950’s-era Scarlett O’Hara in eastern North Carolina. Now, in when the dust finally settles, she speaks through Faulknerian voices as white and black members of her small eastern North Carolina community desegregate the schools in the 1960’s. Meads’ Clarence Carter, speaking from the dead, provides a surprisingly upbeat (and humorous) perspective on the events unfolding in the community he has not yet quite left. The other voices, young and old, share Clarence’s openness to change—a refreshingly different Southern story.
—Dr. Margaret D. Bauer, Rives Chair of Southern Literature, East Carolina University;
Editor, North Carolina Literary Review

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The Reading Period at Superstition Review has opened. Please send us your submissions of art, poetry, fiction, and nonfiction  between now and October 31st.