Guest Post, Barrett Warner: My Memoir for a Plot

I’m not the first poet to write memoir, but I’m probably the worst. I loved it anyway. There’s no hiking involved, and no drinking in the whole world with a sip. And it saves a lot of time by living each page rather than doing any research.

In poetry, my cat-like imagination tends to run into other rooms for no reason so it was nice not to worry about invention. And while a novel might require heart to write, all I needed for memoir was a walnut desk, and a small bronze sculpture of a nude man to hold the paper down on breezy days.

It took surprisingly long to write and re-write a ten month snap of my Tuberculosis. Like: 45 minute conversation about a 25 minute version of a 5 minute Phish song.

I went to the mirror to look at myself. I’d aged since beginning it. In writing almost exclusively about my body in 2013, I had neglected small details about my current portrait. I no longer resembled the bronzed man sitting so pensively on my desk. Was it true that you could sand blast wrinkles away? My soccer ball didn’t reply.

My publisher had asked for a book of poems. “Beautiful memoir,” he wrote, “But it’s so inscrutable. The problem is that there’s no plot. The narrative of your life is not the same thing as plot. What about a few scenes outside of the hospital? Maybe a train or two?”

I joined a vibration society. The salon had sixteen tables and each one vibrated a different part of your body. It was a caper to crank the timer and start the vibration before settling in, but I eventually grew fond of the slight nausea. Early afternoons were excellent for vertigo, before the after-work crowd came to jiggle. Still, it was nothing like an actual train. Last month, one had derailed about two hours away, in Columbia.

My memoir was full of seductive ache and longing, and horrible mortality, and impossible love, but without any plot—without any hiking into some dark wood—it was just a bar story. The set-up was the climax, which might be OK if I were Li Po drinking the moon.

The nearest passenger train depot was 25 miles outside town. The train passed at one in the morning. In spite of my florid disguise, I was spotted by a fiction writer as I boarded the regional train bound for Norfolk. “Barrett,” Mr. Yoon said. “This train is only for short story writers.”

“How short is short?” I asked, offering him a taste of my subject-verb-direct object sandwich with its plain spoken tomato.

The easy part about poetry is that you don’t have to show character motivation, a definite downer as far as writing prose. You just put a man on a train. He has two packages and he’s wearing eye glasses which he doesn’t really need. You don’t even have to say whether he’s stopping in Norfolk or changing trains to Richmond.

I blushed up each step to the garret studio off Broad Street. “I was sure you had died,” the artist said. I offered him the packages and accepted a drink. I walked around the studio blinking at the works in progress and taking my clothes off as if I were going to change into something else, but I didn’t change into anything. He reached for a stick of charcoal and rattled out a few coughs. I turned. I shifted my arms. I looked past him into wilderness.

Contributor Update: Lee Martin

Cover for Telling Stories by Lee MartinToday we are pleased to share that past contributor Lee Martin has recently released a book titled Telling Stories. The book is intended for anyone interested in thinking more about the elements of storytelling in short stories, novels, and memoirs. Telling Stories is now available for purchase from University of Nebraska Press.

Lee Martin’s essay, “The Last Words of Boneheads and Fraidy Cats” can be read in Issue 8 of Superstition Review.

Congratulations, Lee!

Authors Talk: Lynn Mundell

Lynn Mundell bio photoToday we are featuring Lynn Mundell for our Authors Talk. Lynn speaks about how she came up with the idea for her short story, “Again.”

Lynn got the idea for the story from a photograph. The picture was black and white and had a young man with a golf club in one hand and a baby in the other hand. Lynn saw the baby and wanted to run with the idea of an old soul. Lynn talks much further about her creative process, and the literary magazine she helped to found, 100 Word Stories. 

“Again” can be read here in Issue 17 of Superstition Review. 

 

Contributor Update: Lynn Mundell

Congratulations to past contributor Lynn Mundell, who’s story “Again” has earned its way onto the Wigleaf “Top 50 Very Short Fiction” longlist for 2017. “Again” was published in Issue 17 of Superstition Review. Click here to read Lynn’s story. Click here to check out the Wigleaf’s prestigious list of great short fiction. 

 

 

Authors Talk: Abby Horowitz

Abby HorowitzToday we are pleased to feature author Abby Horowitz as our Authors Talk series contributor. In her podcast, Abby discusses the development of her piece, “I Want Her to Burn Me Forever,” published in Issue 18. She explains how it began as a very different (and much longer) story before she decided to shift the focus from the bride to her partner. With this shift in focus, she began to explore the question, “What does it mean to enter into this long-term relationship with someone who is complicated?”

Abby also discusses the value of writing shorter short stories, as well as the importance of detaching yourself from your piece in order to “get messy and play around and throw things away and cut…and just have fun.”

You can access Abby’s piece in Issue 18 of Superstition Review.

#ArtLitPhx: Meet 2016 Pulitzer Prize Winner Viet Thanh Nguyen

Co-presented by the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing, Changing Hands Bookstore brings author of The Sympathizer 2016 Pulitzer Prize winner Viet Thanh Nguyen to Phoenix. Nguyen will talk about his new short story collection The Refugees at Changing Hands Bookstore’s Phoenix location (300 W. Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85013)  on Thursday, April 20th, 2017 at 7 p.m.

The Refugees is a captivating testament to the dreams and hardships of immigration. It is a collection of  stories written over a period of twenty years, exploring questions of immigration, identity, love, and family.

There will be a book signing following the talk. This is a free event. Please RSVP on the Facebook Event page.

For more details please visit Changing Hands Bookstore’s webpage.

Authors Talk: Sherril Jaffe

Sherril Jaffe Today we are pleased to feature author Sherril Jaffe as our Authors Talk series contributor. Sherril discusses her opinions on art and its relationship to character. In particular, she explains the multifaceted purpose of art and how it is interested in the truth, which is currently under assault.

She also discusses the nature of the short story as an art form, referring to her piece in Issue 18, “During the Republican Convention.” She reveals that short stories are powerful because they can break all the rules, and she emphasizes that “a short story should crack something open in us.”

You can access Sherril’s pieces in Issue 18 of Superstition Review and Issue 4 of Superstition Review.