Today we are pleased to feature author Claire Polders as our Authors Talk series contributor. In her podcast, Claire discusses her short story “Fistfuls” and the various ways she starts a story. Sometimes she starts with a philosophical question, other times the story is based around a true event that she experienced, and sometimes (in the case of “Fistfuls”) she writes from curiosity and allows the story to guide her.
You can read Claire’s story “Fistfuls” in Issue 17 of Superstition Review here.
As far as I can remember, it started about ten years ago, right around the time we finally broke down and got Wi-Fi in the house, after years of saying we would never get Wi-Fi in the house—who needs Wi-Fi in their house?—this strange new phenomenon so subtle and so barely noticeable that, at first, it didn’t even feel like a change at all; it felt like what we had always known: the wish to be interrupted.
It occurred incrementally, the wish, starting out as little more than an occasional habit. My first recollection of it was sitting at home one night and trying to read a book without being able to follow what I was reading. I kept re-reading the same passage over and over again, or turning to the back cover to read the blurbs I’d already read a dozen times, or checking the author’s photo for no real reason. I got up and fetched a glass of water. I made myself a snack. I read the book’s jacket copy again, trying to remind myself what I was reading. I opened the book again and realized I had no idea what I’d been reading for several pages.
And then I did something I’d only just begun to do: I grabbed my laptop computer from my bag, placed it beside me, and started it up. Maybe, I thought, I should check my email. Yes, good idea. Maybe someone had emailed me while I was reading my book, and I hadn’t even known it, and that person was now sitting somewhere, eagerly awaiting my response. Think of how thoughtless I would be if I continued to read my book without even knowing that someone had emailed me. What if it was something urgent? Surely the person who had emailed me something urgent would appreciate how quickly I responded to their email. Impressed, even, by my availability and interest in their urgent problem, even—and this part they wouldn’t know; how could they?—as I sat in my home trying to read a book I was having a hard time following. Thanks, they would say, for responding so quickly.
So, I sat my computer beside me and checked my email, a position that allowed me to keep the book open across my lap, should I want to keep reading it. Three new emails arrived, all junk. I deleted them, and then returned to my book, with the sudden sense that someone was watching me, perhaps approving of what I had done. I had paid attention to the world around me all while secluding myself from the world, too. No more lazy, introverted, solo reading for me, like I had done for so many years; no, I would read my book and be attentive to my email at the same time, in case anyone emailed me something significant. That’s what a thoughtful, caring person would do. Who would try to read a book while neglecting the world around them? A wish to be interrupted crept into my consciousness, without me quite realizing it somehow. I’d acquired a new taste for something, even if I didn’t know what it was exactly. Someone, somewhere, interrupt me. Please.
Nowadays, I seek interruption whenever I can. I keep my laptop open to email, weather, news, and baseball scores. I open my web browser before I pour coffee into my coffeemaker, before I make myself a slice of toast with peanut butter, before I would even think of reading a book. When was the last time I read a book first thing in the morning? Did I used to do that? I can barely remember now. These days, so much of my reading is done online, that the line between “reading” and nearly all other activity has been thoroughly blurred. Eradicated, even. To the degree that I’m nostalgic now, writing this essay, for a time when I read without my laptop nearby, without Wi-Fi up and running, without a new email demanding my attention: a special, low rate on a hotel I stayed at once, years ago. A coupon for savings on pharmacy products I do not need. Another petition to sign.
I look back to that time when I could read innocently, without the need for interruption, and wonder if I’ll ever return to that kind of simplicity. And I would wonder about it even more, and question, perhaps, what it all means, but I’d rather not think about it now, with the day just starting up, my coffee still warm. Plus, I need to go check my email.
Today we are pleased to feature author Molly Giles as our Authors Talk series contributor. She reads her story from Issue 17, “Cleaning Deposit.” After the reading, she talks about where she got the idea for the story and the real story it’s based on.
On Saturday, August 12th Rachel Egboro will be conducting a two-hour introductory storytelling workshop. Rachel is the co-founder of thestoryline.org, a Phoenix storytelling collective. During the workshop, Rachel will give some simple steps to begin and develop a story for an audience. The workshop costs $25 and will be at the Changing Hands Phoenix location. You can find more information and buy tickets here.
This Friday July 21st, New York Times best selling author Terry Tempest Williams will be at Changing Hands in Tempe. Williams will be presenting her new book The Hour of the Land, a literary exploration of the US national parks. The book is a mixture of memoir, natural history, and social critique. The event will be from 7 to 9 p.m. and is a ticketed event. Find out more on the facebook event page here.
Today we are pleased to feature author Mark Ali as our Authors Talk series contributor. Mark talks about his influences and mentors and how powerful the opening paragraph of a story has to be. He speaks of trying to find a voice that is not always recognized in modern America.
You can read Mark’s story “Flying By” in issue 17 of Superstition Reviewhere.
Today we have some exciting news from past contributor Deborah Bogen. Deborah’s manuscript, In Case of Sudden Free Fall, has won the 2017 Jacar Press Full-length Competition. The book will be out next year. Six poems from the manuscript were chosen by Jericho Brown for the 2017 New Letters Poetry Prize and one of those, “The Year God Developed Cataracts,” was featured on Poetry Daily on May 15, 2017. You can read that poem here.
Read four poems by Deborah in issue 12 of Superstition Review here.
Today we are pleased to feature author Afaa Weaver as our Authors Talk series contributor. Afaa reads three of his poems from his new book, Spirit Boxing. He says of the book, “Spirit boxing continues my direct conscious application of principals of Chinese culture.” Much of his influence comes from the ideals of Tai Chi.
You can read four of Afaa’s poems in issue 3 of Superstition Review here.
Past contributor Rori Meyer was recently featured on Eunoia Review. Her poem, “Catalogue of Ways We Hurt Each Other” can be read on their website here. The poem uses vivid language to grow the tension of the piece up until the very end.
Rori was featured in issue 13 of Superstition Review. You can read her poem “Lake Effect” here.
Three weeks ago I stood in a grassy field in Bunn, NC, and wondered – not for the first time since September – how it could be that I was so impossibly far away from my sixteen-year old son. Oh, I could see him: a dark cross moving slowly across a backdrop of fluffy white, but he was some 3,000 feet above me, gliding soundlessly, on his first solo flight.
Solo. Alone. Just a boy and an airplane, the way he must have dreamed it a thousand times over from the day he could first hold a toy plane in his hands and zoom it through the air. He’s worked so hard since he started soaring lessons this past fall. I’ve had ten months to get used to the sight of him in the sky. The first time he flew with an instructor I felt my stomach drop away in a sliding lurch as they took off in tandem with the prop plane. At 3,000 feet the tether was released, and there they were: gliding in graceful loops above me and there was simply nothing I could do.
Standing in that field on that important, incredible, milestone afternoon, I could have burst open with a mixture of pride, terror, and, once he was safely on the ground again (textbook-perfect landing!), an outpouring of relief, but I didn’t. Most amazing of all to me at that moment was not that he had survived this incredible achievement because of course he had done so remarkably well, but that I had. This whole journey, from that first flight to the day I watched my son fly solo, has been one long and obvious metaphor for the process of letting go. It shouldn’t have been much of a revelation to me that day in the field, but it was.
Parents, of course, are very familiar with the bittersweet piling up of milestone after milestone after milestone – familiar with the lump-in-throat choking back of emotions that follows the first steps, the first lost tooth, the first day at school, the first broken heart, the first job, the first driver’s license, the first metaphorical, or literal, spreading of the wings. Writers are also very familiar with the process of letting go – we have to be, or we won’t survive very long. As a teacher, I have to help my creative writing students understand that if they want to succeed, whatever success as a writer inside or outside of the classroom looks like to them, a big part of the journey is about letting go. They may have to steel their hearts and cut loose a beloved character, or passage, or shiny sentence (my students always love it when I pull out the “kill your darlings” quote). They might have to delete pages and chapters, and save certain ideas for some uncertain future time. When they are more confident writers they may send their work out into the big, wide, world but then they will have to let it go, for obsessing about it will drive them mad.
I tell them that sometimes moving forward as a writer can mean letting go of the dream you have for one story, or book, or poem in order to allow another to take root and grow. But I wrestle with this advice even as I give it, because letting go of a dream – even if to allow for room for another – seems fundamentally wrong. If we let go, don’t we risk losing what we need and want the most for our hard work? Yet, it makes sense that we have to let go in order to move forward – if we spend too much time mired stubbornly in any one particular version of our dream, anchored to one spot on the ground, turning around and around in circles, we risk going nowhere.
There was a time this fall when I was ready to chuck it all in – this writing business, that is. I am only now beginning to emerge from a sort of delayed onset mourning over the shelving of my latest book. After acquiring an agent, after two rounds on submission, an almost-offer, a handful of near-misses, I had to let it go, as so many other writers have had to do with their own work. I thought I had handled it all quite well– deluded self-preservation, maybe? The loss suddenly became raw this past year, in ways it hadn’t been initially. Up until very recently I was wallowing in that self-pitying phase of the process that I suspect many writers know well – the one where we hunker down miserably, and declare that we are done with pouring our hearts into stories that no one will read. The one where we want throw away the bits and pieces of writing begun and abandoned, and select and delete the files on our computers (I may or may not know anything about this, mind you) that make up the digital roadmap of a journey to nowhere. I didn’t want to set aside that book. Shelving it felt like beginning again, except several steps back from the place where it had all begun. Somehow, I had become too focused on the outcome and not on what I had learned along the way. I thought about this after asking my son what the best part of flying solo had been for him. He shrugged. Being able to do it, he told me. Using all the stuff I know. Being capable, qualified, and confident, and putting the work and courage and persistence into doing what he loved to do the best. For me, being able to write means I must move past the what could have beens and should have beens and focus on using the stuff I know in order to do what I love the best.
As it turns out, you can let go of things – and people, too – and have them return to you again. You can let go of one dream to make room for a bigger one. You can let go of years of hard work on a favorite book, but know that its spirit is housed in another one just emerging. You can even send your heart some 3,000 feet up into the air and watch it glide effortlessly into view, closer and closer – first a small, impossible shape, until there it is, come back to you again.