Congratulations to Chauna Craig for her new short story collection Wings & Other Things, published by Press 53. While her characters differ in terms of circumstance, each story centers around women trying to fly: a widow searching for her past self, a stranded artist accepting a ride from a stranger, lovers sequestered in a cornfield. Her collection is both a migration and a transformation, filled with unusual, eye-catching phrases. Railroad tracks morph into an “infinite number line,” and a lightning bolt becomes a “tentacle of the unseen.” Craig captures longing, loss, and freedom as she tells the women’s stories.
The women in these stories are certainly willing to pay to get where they need to go—whether it’s out of bad relationships or into new formed lives. These stories are full of hard-won wisdom, sharp insights, and generous compassion. Her characters suffer from and bear up under ordinary though devastating failures and disappointments, but through force of will, wit, and wonder they persevere and often prevail.Kerry Neville, author of remember to forget me
Chauna Craig grew up in Montana. Her work has appeared in Jellyfish Review, Blue Fifth Review, and elsewhere. To learn more about her, visit her website.
In small-town, rural, or city life, these women, in perfectly drawn revelatory moments, show us what we settle for and how we are haunted by what could’ve been. These stories and the characters in them disquiet and rivet, demanding our attention and inviting our reflection on how one reconciles the desire for escape with the need to stay put. Subtle and artful in its choreography of miscommunications and conflicting desires, this is an intelligent and absorbing collection.donna miscolta, author of Living Color: Angie Rubio Stories
Visit Press 53 to purchase Wings & Other Things.
Join ASU’s TomorrowTalks with Jocelyn Nicole Johnson, October 13th at 7pm AZ time. TomorrowTalks is a student-engagement initiative meant to put students in conversation with authors who explain how they use their writing to address society’s most pressing issues. It’s led by the Division of Humanities at ASU and hosted by ASU’s Department of English in partnership with Macmillan Publishers.
This event takes place over Zoom and is free, although registration is required. Johnson will be discussing her book My Monticello, published by Henry Holt and Company and winner of the Weatherford Award, the Balcones Fiction Prize, and the Lillian Smith Award. Set in the near future, her stories feature Da’Naisha—a Black descendent of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings—a university professor studying his son in secret, and a single mother grasping to purchase her first home. Johnson reckons with America’s past and present in this thrilling debut.
A badass debut by any measure—nimble, knowing, and electrifying.Colson Whitehead, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Nickel Boys and Harlem Shuffle
Jocelyn Nicole Johnson’s work has appeared in Guernica, The Guardian, Kweli Journal, and elsewhere. To learn more about her, visit her website.
…’My Monticello’ is, quite simply, an extraordinary debut from a gifted writer with an unflinching view of history and what may come of it.The Washington Post
To learn more about TomorrowTalks and register for the event, go here.
Winner of an American Book Award for his poetry collection Currents, Bojan Louis is making his fiction debut with Sinking Bell: Stories. Published by Graywolf Press, Sinking Bell: Stories is a collection that centers on collisions of love, cultures, and racism. All of Louis’s stories take place in or near Flagstaff, Arizona, and they include stunning portrayals of all kinds of people—from metalheads to construction works—struggling to live their complicated lives.
Louis’s prose carries his poetic sensibility with a decided rhythm and resonant detail, and the narrators achingly convey their outsider status. The result is immersive and powerful.publishers weekly
Bojan Louis is Diné of the Naakai dine’é, born for the Áshííhí. His debut novel Currents received an American Book Award in 2018. His work has been published in Alaska Quarterly Review, Ecotone, Yellow Medicine Review, and elsewhere. He currently teaches creative writing at the University of Arizona. To learn more about him, visit his website.
Sinking Bell doesn’t shy away from the dim corners of life. . . . You’re going to want to take your time with this one, and then you’re going to want to press it into the hands of all your best people.Kelli Jo Ford, author of crooked hallelujah
To purchase Sinking Bell: Stories, go here.
An interview with Bojan Louis—”Auditory Hallucinations”—appeared in Issue 20 of Superstition Review.
Alice Kaltman’s short story collection Almost Deadly, Almost Good will be released this November, published by the Word West Press. Kaltman’s book features fourteen interlinked short stories: the first embody the seven deadly sins, the last the seven heavenly virtues. With rich, reoccurring characters and compelling plots, Kaltman creates a collection that’s impossible to put down.
Kaltman’s opening story “Sunset Lounge (Lust)” follows a woman pining after her daughter’s attractive older boyfriend. In an unexpected but riveting twist, we discover tantalizing details about the boyfriend in “A Fancy Job (Gluttony),” and the ultimate conclusion comes in “Knickers in a Twist (Charity).” Just as the stories are linked, Almost Deadly, Almost Good links good and bad, with a special attention to gender and class.
Story after brilliantly written story, we’re shown our own fears, our own foibles, our own forbidden desires, and tenderest heartaches. These are stories of human beings under pressure, at their most “changeable” moments, and we readers can’t look away. Nor do we want to. With candor, wisdom, and humor, almost deadly, almost good reminds us to be good to ourselves and to each other for we are all at once, beautiful and aching and ridiculous.Kathy Fish, Author of Wildlife: Collected Works from 2003-2018
Alice Kaltman is the author of Staggerwing, Dawg Towne, Wavehouse, and The Tantalizing Tale of Grace Minnaugh. To learn more about Kaltman, visit her website.
To preorder Almost Deadly, Almost Good, go here.
We’re also very excited to share an interview that dives deeper into Kaltman’s collection. This interview was conducted via email by our Blog Editor, Brennie Shoup.
Brennie Shoup: Could you discuss your inspirations for Almost Deadly, Almost Good?
Alice Kaltman: The original idea for a linked collection occurred to me after I wrote the first story in the book, Sunset Lounge. It was so clearly a story about LUST that it got me thinking how fun it would be to create a chapbook based on the Seven Deadly Sins. I already had a few stories and characters that fit the bill for other Sins: Greedy Senator Levinson from Into the Woods, poor languorous Cecil from Cecil’s New Friends, envious Greta from Come On Over to My Place. Once I’d finished the other sinful stories, I fiddled with content to link them. Characters appear deeply in the plots of other stories, or sometimes they just pass by. So much fun!
BS: This collection is full of humor. Could you discuss this humor and how you balanced it with more serious themes?
AK: I’ve always felt that pathos is more tolerable if it can be softened with humor. That’s not always the case, and there are writers out there who do gut-punching stuff that I love, that make me weep. Sometimes tragedy needs to stand on its own broken, bloody legs. But in my own writing, I veer towards the humorous. It makes it feel more human and authentic to my vision of people and the crazy misguided things they do. I’ve been a psychotherapist for over 30 years. If you can’t laugh, you’ll sink. Need I say more?
BS: Despite its title and theme, most of the stories in this collection don’t appear to be explicitly religious. What made you choose the motif of the seven deadly sins and seven heavenly virtues?
AK: I can’t recall who it was, but I mentioned this project to someone along the way and they said, “Hey, why don’t you do the Heavenly Virtues also?” I had no idea what the Seven Heavenly Virtues were. I’m an agnostic Jew, who veers towards the areligious. And Jews don’t really ‘do’ sins and virtues. But I looked the Virtues up and …goldmine. I fiddled with new content and old content, pulled some sections from my novel Dawg Towne, added some new stories and revisited old ones. It was super fun to change POVs, add links that weren’t there before, change timelines, etc. Plagiarizing one’s own work is one of a writer’s deepest pleasures. Or at least one of mine.
Congratulations to Jen Michalski for her new short story collection The Company of Strangers, coming in January 2023. Published by Braddock Avenue Books, The Company of Strangers follows members of Generation X, who are often queer and always searching for meaning and happiness in their lives. Michalski examines the themes of eroding community and family in a variety of ways: from a gay man suddenly confronted with parenthood to a lesbian having an affair with her brother’s wife.
The Company of Strangers is perfect for those searching for messy characters who are confused about what kind of lives they’ve lived and looking for ways to make meaning in them.
Fueled by love, longing, and regret, these captivating stories drop us into the lives of people we come to care deeply about. These are rich, wild, surprising romps of stories with endings that wow. What an immense pleasure to be in the company of these strangers, thanks to Jen Michalski’s brilliant storytelling.Kathy Anderson, author of Bull and Other Stories
Jen Michalski’s work includes The Tide King, The Summer She Was Underwater, Close Encounters, and others. To learn more about her, visit her website.
A kaleidoscopic and candid exploration of the gritty corners of our desires and all that is left unsaid. By turns irreverent and deeply heartbreaking, Michalski masterfully constructs a collage of sexuality, belonging, and a search for what is possible atop strip malls, parking lots, and bowling alleys. Reminiscent, in some ways, of the genre-pushing work of Zach Doss, Etgar Keret, and Kim Chinquee, Michalski unequivocally carves out a space that is all her own—daring, deeply human, and often gut-wrenching.Sequoia nagamatsu, author of how high we go in the dark
To preorder The Company of Strangers, go here.
Jen Michalski’s short story “Are You Ready to be Heartbroken?” appeared in Issue 27 of Superstition Review.
Congratulations to Lynn Mundell for her new chapbook Let Our Bodies Be Returned to Us. Winner of Yemassee Journal’s 2021 Fiction Chapbook Contest, Mundell’s chapbook is a vivid, visceral look at womanhood. Comprised entirely of flash fiction pieces, Mundell proves she is a master at reaching profound depths with only a few words.
Although Let Our Bodies Be Returned to Us focuses on women, there is no one type of woman Mundell writes about. Young and old, idealized and flawed—she writes with empathy about sisters, mothers, and women who simply are. No two stories are the same: Mundell writes as an unborn, reincarnated baby in her first story “Again,” and later she writes from Mona Lisa’s point of view in “Smile, Lisa.” Her final piece, “Let Our Bodies Be Returned to Us,” is a mesmerizing capstone to a brilliant chapbook. Let Our Bodies Be Returned to Us is perfect for those looking for a collection that’s short but poignant.
The wit, warmth, and skill of this writer struck me immediately. These stories are smart but not smart-alecky, quirky yet polished, broad in their emotional appeal and sharp in their resonance. Again and again, I was taken by surprise—by the originality of the prose, the ingenuity of each scenario, the impact delivered by such a small number of words. I felt for these characters—the sisters in “Cloise,” about to be split apart, the lonely boy in “Mother and Child,” the broken family in “Big Baby,” the pregnant women who refuse to dim their hopes in “Our Bright Lights On.” Though many of these stories are heart-rending, I also found myself smiling, uplifted. This collection and this writer are ready for prime time.Mira T. Lee, author of the novel Everything Here is Beautiful
Lynn Mundell is a short story writer, publisher, and editor. She and Grant Faulkner founded 100 Word Story in 2010, and her story “Again” appeared in Issue 17 of Superstition Review. To learn more about Lynn Mundell, go to her website.
To purchase Let Our Bodies Be Returned to Us, go here.
We’re also very excited to share an interview that dives deeper into Mundell’s chapbook. This interview was conducted via email by our Blog Editor, Brennie Shoup.
Brennie Shoup: Much of your work is flash fiction. Could you talk about what draws you to this form, and how flash fiction appears in Let Our Bodies Be Returned to Us?
Lynn Mundell: Flash fiction enables us to tell our stories in intimate ways—a secret whispered into an ear; a tale told over a quick warm drink. We boil down the story to its essence, leaving the tea leaves or coffee grounds for later scrutiny. For me it’s been the marriage of my original writing as a poet with my lifelong love of a good story. All of the stories in my chapbook are flash. They include 100-word stories in triptychs, some using numbering and headings for short sections, traditionally plotted longer flash, and some hybrid pieces where poetry and fiction congregate. The first story in the collection is called “Again,” about a baby born over and over and over again that was inspired by a black and white photo of a happy young family. It was published in Superstition Review and remains one of my favorite stories to have told and to read to others, so thank you, Superstition Review!
BS: The original “Let Our Bodies Be Returned to Us” was published in 2018 in Booth. Could you talk about what inspired the piece and how it ended up as the title for your chapbook?
LM: “Let Our Bodies Be Returned to Us” was actually inspired by a very small airplane seat on a flight from Phoenix to Santa Fe! Where the rest of that piece came from is a mystery to me, but there must have been a lot of feelings about how women’s bodies are used and used up that fed into it. I definitely tapped into everything from being hit on when I was younger to breastfeeding my kids. I wrote it at a writing retreat hosted by Meg Tuite and Robert Vaughn that encouraged crossing the border between poetry and fiction writing. I recommend working with these writers or just any sort of a change of scenery for a way to feel freed and inspired to produce new things. I sometimes camp out in a new location for four or five days to unplug and have found my best stories come from these times where I am seeing new things while also working in total isolation. When it was time to organize my stories, “Let Our Bodies” really encapsulated the theme for the whole book, plus it made for an intriguing book title that could also provide a lot of fodder for the cover illustration.
BS: Could you discuss the main themes of your chapbook? How have these themes developed over your career? Do you find yourself writing about the same ideas over and over again?
LM: The theme of the book is women’s bodies—what they are capable of, how they are viewed and objectified, as sources of comfort and conflict, and how ultimately women own them. The book is organized from birth to end of life, and each piece is from a female point of view. The theme surprised me as I sorted through my work looking for the common thread. I have other stories I like that did not fit into the collection thematically at all, and one of the most difficult things about creating the collection was having to give these pieces the heave-ho. I have written everything from ghost stories to creative nonfiction about my early teens living in Iran. Frankly, writing wise I am all over the map.
Typically I write a piece and sort of hope that there will be something cohesive among a few years of my work, but there isn’t always—which is why it took many years for this book to come about with its theme that finally surfaced. I admire writers who can set out to write to a theme and have a collection they are purposefully working toward. I was recently trying to write connected fables about animals, but have thus far only created one I like, about a mother and baby elephant that was published in The Masters Review. I’d like to keep trying on that, but may need to expand the theme to just fables in general or even fables and fairy tales.
BS: Do you have plans for future chapbooks, short story collections, or novels?
LM: I would love to write more books. But right now I am just writing and we will see where that goes. During the pandemic I have sort of gotten off the script of life in general, and in writing toward a publishing objective of any kind, with one thing being very different from the next. This has included a long fairy tale published in Gone Long, a book review for a friend’s new collection in Necessary Fiction, a four-part piece about fishing with my father in Under the Gum Tree, a creative nonfiction about family depression written to a painting in The Ekphrastic Review, a longer mystery in collaboration with artist Merrick Adams in 7x7LA, and others that are pushing what I typically do. At the end of this year I’ll look everything over and see if there is a pattern for a new book or one thing that I like enough as a starting point for a new book. I will say that I have continued to find great joy in writing as well as reading the incredible work that is out there lately.
What I love about writing is the wonderful sense of freedom. In our daily lives we are constrained by the demands of work, family, duty, society, finances, and so forth. But in writing we can leave all of that behind to explore anything with total abandon.
Four Palaces Publishing is currently open to submissions for their fiction anthology contest. They are searching for short stories between 2,000 and 6,000 words long. They will also accept up to three flash fiction pieces. The theme of their anthology is “Desire to Escape.” The author of the winning story will receive $1,000 and a mentorship from guest judge Ivelisse Rodriguez, whose short story collection Love War Stories was a 2019 PEN/Faulkner finalist and a 2018 Foreword Reviews INDIES finalist.
Founded in 2021, Four Palaces’ goal is to promote and publish works by previously unpublished writers from underrepresented communities.
Frederick Tran is the executive director and publisher of Four Palaces. Emily Townsend is the managing editor, and her nonfiction piece “Consider the Honeybee” appeared in Issue 19 of Superstition Review.
Submissions close August 31, 2022! Go here to submit your story.