The Masters Review Blog

Sep 5

Interview: Alice Hatcher

I didn’t know what to expect when I opened Alice Hatcher’s first novel, The Wonder That Was Ours (Dzanc, September 4). I’d read the press release telling me that the novel won Dzanc’s Prize for Fiction in 2017, that it was narrated by cockroaches, that it was about a crisis on a Caribbean island—but press releases never communicate the texture of a novel, or the experience of reading it, or how you’ll feel when it’s over. When I was finished reading, I had even more questions about Hatcher’s book. It was clear to me that the book was a knockout, that Dzanc knew what it was about in awarding the novel publication and a prize (as did the Center for Fiction, which put The Wonder That Was Ours on its longlist for the First Novel Prize), but I wanted to know so much more about the book’s origin, its author, her attitudes and her inspirations. So I asked. Alice graciously answered. -Katharine Colidiron

What was your inspiration for this novel?

The seed for the novel was a conversation with a friend working on a cruise ship. She had the depressing job of kicking disruptive passengers off the ship at the next port of call, usually belligerent drunks, people who had committed assault, or employees who’d had sex with passengers. She said her most depressing day at work involved escorting a failed suicide off the ship because the woman had violated her booking agreement by harming a passenger—herself.

As she talked about work, I had a vision of two people kicked off at the same port, in humiliating circumstances. It’s easy to assume that shared trauma creates close bonds between people, but shared trauma can push people apart, especially when they see each other as painful reminders of something they would rather forget. My novel started off as an attempt to explore the dynamic between two people with little but misery in common. Noroviruses on cruise ships happened to be in the headlines, and so I introduced a viral outbreak and quarantined the island to prevent my characters from heading to the airport and ending the novel on page ten.

How wonderful. Big ideas arising from small details, gathered together.

As for Wynston and the roaches, Helen and Dave needed to get to a hotel, and when I imagined a taxi, I flashed to a roach-infested car I once rented from a shady outfit in Miami. The roaches in that car would scuttle around behind the vents every time I started the car. They seemed agitated by certain types of music. A few times, they climbed onto the dashboard while I was driving. It was fascinating, not to mention dangerously distracting. I decided to keep the car for the week and observe them in their habitat, or my habitat, or maybe our habitat. Roaches and humans are both opportunistic species, and it’s hard to say who had greater dibs on that ruined car. The difficulty of peaceful coexistence is a prominent theme in the novel. Professor Cleave’s arguments with the roaches in his taxi begin to explore that theme.

The main scene I haven’t been able to get out of my mind is the set piece at the Plantations late in the novel. How did you write it? Did you base it on personal experience?

I wrote that scene after the massive earthquake of 2010 devastated Port-au-Prince. A day after the earthquake, as Haitians were searching for lost loved ones in the rubble, cruise ships were still docking in Haiti and conducting jet ski outings and barbeques at a walled resort guarded by armed soldiers.

I read that some passengers were horrified, but the prevailing attitude seemed to be “we’re spending money in Haiti, and we can’t do much beyond that.” Certain cruise lines donated deck chairs to the refugee camps. Enough said. I drafted the Plantations scene while people in Port-au-Prince were literally piecing their lives back together. I still feel sick thinking about it. But to be honest, the sorts of conversations that take place in the Plantations can be heard in white America’s suburbs. I based that scene on things I’ve heard all over the place.

It’s not hard to find that kind of material, I don’t think.

Sadly, the research for that scene was pretty easy to do. Once, at a cruise ship terminal in the Caribbean, I was sitting on a bench and got talking to an English woman. She remarked that she had just finished a “terribly disappointing” bus tour during which she and her husband had witnessed a local man being beaten mercilessly by six policemen with batons. As I knew, the police had been scouring the island and arresting anyone even vaguely suspected of mugging a white tourist a week before. I started explaining this to the woman, but she cut me off, saying “it completely ruined my husband’s lunch.” I told her the situation had probably ruined the lunch of the guy getting beaten, too. Just like this woman, most of the white tourists ensconced in The Plantations, the all-inclusive resort in my novel, are indifferent to the plight of St. Anne’s residents as the island enters a period of civil breakdown. They just keep drinking.

On that topic, tell me about how you squared your whiteness with the black characters and communities in the novel.

I did a great deal of hard thinking about this issue. In the end, I realized I had two choices, one of them risky and difficult, the other, grotesque and unacceptable. We’ve all read novels that present a place or culture as so much wallpaper, an exotic backdrop for the adventures or misadventures of white characters. The thought of writing a novel like that sickened me. The roach narrators might be unusual, but this is ultimately a pretty straightforward novel about the world we live in, with all its diversity. It would have been dishonest and strange to write about a Caribbean island, or any tourist destination, without writing about people who live there.

I’m sure I got certain things wrong, but a greater wrong, I feel, would have been to ignore race and other critical aspects of most people’s experiences. Ultimately, I tried to write a multi-cultural novel that registered the importance of race and class without reducing characters to sociological categories, or worse, stereotypes.

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Aug 29

Indie Press Corner: Coffee House Press

Today, our Indie Press Corner series continues with an interview with publishing powerhouse Coffee House Press. Thank you to publisher Chris Fischbach for taking the time to correspond with us.

We put a lot of emphasis on strong relationships with indie booksellers. We get to know them, their tastes, and be sure that they get very early copies of the books, since they are literature’s greatest advocates.

We are longtime fans of Coffee House Press here at The Masters Review and we have been fortunate to review many Coffee House titles. You publish debuts by authors like Gabe Habash and Lincoln Michel alongside books by established authors such as Brian Evenson and Kate Bernheimer. I would love to know a little about your selection process. What makes a manuscript stand out to you? How do you, ultimately, select which manuscripts to publish?

The final decision is up to me, as publisher and artistic director. Erika Stevens, our poetry editor, is someone we rely on to bring new poets forward for the list. And Lizzie Davis, our other main editor, part of her job is to go through all the manuscripts we have and bring suggestions forward as well (Lizzie also is fluent in Spanish, so reads all the Latin American submissions). She works closely with our publishing assistant Annemarie Eayrs, who works closely with interns and readers to go through the hundreds and hundreds of manuscripts we receive each year.

This isn’t always the case, but it often is: that when we’re reading something that we’re going to accept, there is a point where we can’t imagine anyone else publishing it. Then we know it’s a Coffee House Press book.

What is your editorial process like?

I can’t imagine it’s very different than any other press our size. At least I know we don’t do anything out of the ordinary. Well, I guess one thing that your readers might find interesting is that when I’m working on either a collection of poems or a collection of short stories, I place each poem / story out on our conference table so I can visualize the collection spatially. That’s the best way I know how to find a good order for the collection.

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Aug 24

Essay – YA Literature: Unchildlike Behavior by Megan Cummins

Today, we are proud to present an essay from Megan Cummins on writing complex young adult characters, and getting her audience to accept them.

“More than being misunderstood, I’m interested in how teenagers (and their fictional counterparts) might feel their experiences are discounted as lacking the insight of adulthood, when in truth they’re looking ahead at their futures more closely than they ever have before. It’s this tension—maturing while being called immature—that I find so rich and interesting about the teenage experience, and it’s why even though I’ve labeled one project as for teenagers and the other for adults, I write my teenage characters the same way in each.”

“I don’t believe a teenager would think this.”

This is a critique I’ve heard often while writing my YA novel, a story about a teenage girl who goes to live with her father in Sioux Falls one summer; when she arrives, she finds he’s left town. Rather than calling her mother, or the police, she gets a fake ID, gets a job at Hy-Vee, waits for his return, and writes her own YA novel about a girl transported to another world. “Why would she want to fend for herself?” readers have asked. “She wouldn’t write a sentence like this,” they’ve said about the novel-within-the-novel.

Writing isn’t successful unless the reader is convinced, but when applying this critique to YA literature, I’m beginning to believe in a self-fulfilling prophecy. We critique YA characters who appear too mature; on the flip side, we are quick to malign YA literature as non-literary. We scoff at adults for reading it. We sometimes scoff at children for reading it (“[Harry Potter] is written for people whose imaginative lives are confined to TV cartoons,” wrote A. S. Byatt in the New York Times). We criticize teens for not advancing to adult literature faster. Even as YA literature now takes a lead in publishing diverse writers doing the difficult work of introducing challenging topics to their young readers, somehow there’s something “less literary” about it, say some. But it’s teenagers who are the ones coming of age in this fraught world, everyday facing fears that adults can hardly fathom.

For some, literary may be the quality of the sentences; for others the complexity of the plot; for still others the nuance of character. For many, it’s all of these, and more, working differently in every book. We offer adult literature the benefit of many ways of being, but when a book is about teenagers, its YA. The end.

“I don’t believe a teenager would think this” has been said about nearly all of my teenage characters, whether I intended the piece for teens, adults, or both. These characters are all girls. The lifeguard at the pool, struggling with her best friend’s relationship with an older man. The sixteen-year-old who avoids the hospital after being injured by an exploding aerosol can. And the girl with the failing grades and the big ideas of escape whose dad is in prison for vehicular manslaughter (drunk, he hit and killed the father of her popular classmate).

But no one questioned the voice of the teen, male dropout who uses the word “moribund,” a word choice I was sure would raise at least one eyebrow.

By creating a character, a writer is growing that character up, placing her at a point in time that’s a result of school, and family dynamics, and relationships, and everything else that goes into a life. Who knows better what a character would think than her author? The character has to feel the story as much as the author, and the author must do the work of making a character’s life real, complex, and believable. Readers, if they love a book, will remember forever the people they met while reading it. But if we limit what a character can think because of her age, we limit who they can be—and in that way we limit our readers, too. When I read strong girl characters who aren’t allowed to feel—following instead the trope that to be a strong girl one must also be hardened or cynical—I’m sad for the young readers absorbing the idea that love and strength aren’t compatible.

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Aug 21

September Deadlines: 13 Lit Mags & Contests with Deadlines This Month

You’ve somehow made it through the dog days of summer, so we know that you can make it through the application process for at least one of these contests! We believe in you, and we believe in your heat-resistant perseverance!

FEATURED! Flash Fiction Contest

Never before has each word in a submission been worth so much…You might be limited to 1000 words, but the winner will be rewarded with 3000 dollars! Our summer edition of this contest won’t last forever, so it’s time to buckle down! Second and third place receive $300 and $200, respectively, and all stories are considered for publication. We’re only looking for previously unpublished stories, but you’re allowed both simultaneous and multiple submissions. Don’t miss it!
Entry Fee: $20 Deadline: September 30

FEATURED! Frontier Award for New Poets

Open to new and emerging poets, Frontier Poetry is hosting a contest to find the best single poem – they describe it as one full of color and fire, that strikes hot… The winning poet will receive $3000 and publication for their poem, and second and third place receive $300 and $200 respectively. All fifteen finalists will be recognized. Get started!
Entry Fee: $20 Deadline: September 15

FEATURED! CRAFT Elements Contest

CRAFT Literary is awarding a total of $3000 to stories that focus on one of three particular craft elements: setting, dialogue, or character. Deets.
Entry Fee: $20 Deadline: September 30

Black Warrior Review

We want you to play to your strengths, and Black Warrior Review has an opportunity for everyone in this contest! The 2018 Fiction Contest is judged by Laura van den Berg, the 2018 Nonfiction Contest is judged by Kate Zambreno, and the 2018 Poetry Contest is judged by Vanessa Angélica Villarreal. The first-place prize is $1000 and publication in each genre. There’s also a Flash Contest, judged by Jennifer S. Chang, that awards $500. Let’s get started!
Entry Fee: $20 Deadline: September 1

Dogwood Literary Prizes

These are actually three contests offered by Dogwood: A Journal of Poetry and Prose, looking for exceptional writing and outstanding poetry! Lia Purpura is the judge for poetry and nonfiction, and the fiction judge will only be revealed later! Submissions may be up to 22 pages, or a set of 1-3 poems, and the winner of each contest receives $1000 and publication. Make sure to select the correct contest for your submission! Submit here.
Entry Fee: $10 Deadline: September 5

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Aug 17

August Book Review: This Mournable Body by Tsitsi Dangarembga

Today, Katharine Coldiron reviews This Mournable Body by Tsitsi Dangarembga, which came out this month from Graywolf Press. Coldiron writes: This Mournable Body is a challenge, but it’s also awe-inspiring, a depiction of trauma, deterioration, and redemption accomplished with rare potency and grit.”

This Mournable Body by Tsitsi Dangarembga

 

This is a hard book. Maybe I shouldn’t start that way, but it’s the first thing I can think to say about This Mournable Body. This book is a stunning, intricately crafted work of art by a writer who possesses insight into the human condition that rivals Hemingway’s, but it is also a dense, difficult piece of literature, and it would be dishonest of me to pretend otherwise.

A Zimbabwean author who writes in English, Tsitsi Dangarembga is a highly versatile and well-lauded artist. She has directed and written multiple films, and she is the founder of both the Women’s Film Festival of Harare and the International Images Film Festival. Her first novel, Nervous Conditions, won international acclaim, including a spot on the BBC’s list of 100 stories that shaped the world. Nervous Conditions was the first of a trilogy of novels telling the story of Zimbabwe’s independence through a village woman named Tambudzai. That trilogy continues with The Book of Not and concludes with This Mournable Body.

Read more.

Aug 15

Summer Flash Fiction Contest: Submissions Are OPEN!

We are proud to announce that submissions are OPEN to our Summer Flash Fiction Contest! This is the first time we have offered a flash contest to cap off the summer. Our love of flash fiction runs deep and this contest gives fiction writers the opportunity to earn $3000 for under 1000 words. Celebrate the end of the summer with a strong, pithy piece of fiction. Check out all the details here, and below.

// small. POWERFUL. //

GUIDELINES:
  • Winner receives $3000 and publication
  • Second and third place prizes are $300 and $200 respectively
  • Stories under 1000 words
  • Previously unpublished stories only
  • Simultaneous and multiple submissions allowed
  • Emerging writers only (We are interested in offering a larger platform to new writers. Self-published writers and writers with story collections and novels with a small circulation are welcome to submit.)
  • International submissions allowed
  • $20 entry fee allows up to two stories – if submitting two stories, please put them both in a SINGLE document.
  • Deadline: September 30, 2018
  • Please no identifying information on your story
  • All stories are considered for publication
  • To view a list of our most commonly asked questions regarding submitting to The Masters Review, please see our FAQ page.
  • Dazzle us
Aug 9

New Voices: “Trash” by Lindsay Reid Fitzgerald

Today, we are pleased to welcome “Trash” by Lindsay Reid Fitzgerald to our New Voices library. This is a wholly unique and surprising piece. The narrator’s tough, and often crass, exterior peels away as the tale progresses. Read on.

“She looked at me one day on the bus and did something to me with those eyes. Made me feel like I got jackknifed in the gut. She looked me in my face till she had her fill, and I couldn’t do anything but sit there and take it.”

Scotty’s got a hard-on for Fatass. It’s fucked and we know it, but we don’t ride him about it too hard. He hasn’t been himself since his mom found a lump in her tit and her hair fell out. He don’t know what end is up or down these days, and we get it. We’ve all had our shit.

Fatass lives in the trailer park out near DuBrey’s store and tonight we’re going to see if we can break in with a key Dean swiped. As for the trailer park, you’d have to pay me to go there. All day long, there’s howling kids running around, like no mother ever told them to stitch their lips and sit down or else. Fatass lives in the middle of that mess with her dad and her brother and all them dogs she collects. The brother has a face like a junkyard, with acne pits from ear to ear.

The dad is on the road most of the time. He was locked up for a while but now he drives truck. Word was, he shot a guy in the face but had good reason. A lot of people wagged their heads when it happened, but as far as I’m concerned you got a right to protect yourself if someone tries to hurt what’s yours. Anyway, if you saw him on the street you’d have a hard time picturing him pulling a pistol or some of the other things I’ve heard. He’s small like a woman, shoulders no wider than a ruler. He’s real polite and don’t talk hardly at all. They say he can shoot the nuts off a squirrel, but I haven’t seen it myself.

The mother lives downstate somewhere with a new husband and new kids. Nobody sees them drive into town. Aunt Faye says it’s a shame there’s no mother to tend to them two while the dad is gone, no one to teach that girl how to be a proper woman. I say if I was that mother, I’d want to leave them, too. Aunt Faye says I’ve got darkness in me, and if I don’t get it cleared out, there’ll be consequences I can’t imagine. She asks what kind of man do I want to be, anyway? Do I even want to be a good man? When she says that, I just shrug but I know what she means. She worries I’m going to end up like my older brothers, fried in the brain from drugs, or too poor to get their teeth fixed, or drowned at the bottom of a lake.

But she don’t know me, not really. No one does. If there’s one thing sure it’s that I won’t end up like them, and I won’t end up like my dad. Pissed at the whole world. Crying in his truck by himself. I see Aunt Faye look from him to me and back again, and someday before I move out I’m just going to tell her, Look, you did okay with me. I won’t be the kind of man anyone has to hide from or pray for.

Dean says you’re a man when you play life by your own rules. He says people will try to cut your balls off every chance they get. He reminds us of that when we get our backs up about some of his schemes. He says look. Whose rules we playing by, theirs or ours?

Lately I wonder if he knows what he’s talking about, but the way he says things takes the air out of your lungs. He tells us guys which way to go, and like fools, we do.

To read the rest of “Trash” click here.

Aug 7

Debut and Emerging Writers’ Cats

Behind many successful authors is a furry companion who offers creative inspiration (and also probably falls asleep on the keyboard from time to time). Face it, we have all seen plenty of pictures of the likes of Joyce Carol Oates and Ernest Hemingway with their cats. So, we decided to ask some of our favorite recent debut authors and our readers for pictures of their cats so that we could share them with other aspiring novelists and avid animal lovers. Because life is hard enough and cats are adorable. Check out these cute kitties (and a few dogs, too).

“My rescue tabby, Beezus (named, of course, after Beatrice Quimby of Beverly Cleary’s Ramona books), invariably spends her mornings with me in my second-floor home office (also known as “her” room, though the dog will usually join us too). Both pets are moderately well trained to not expect much from me while at work, and Beezus is most helpful to my writing when distracted by the view onto our Southwest Detroit street (as pictured) or when passed out on her nearby favorite chair. While the pets’ proximity alone lends a certain moral support, their patience has its limits, and the sudden, willful presence of Beezus in my lap (or the urgent demand to throw a ball) has been known to clear the mind when stuck on some needless hurdle.” -Katie Chase, author of MAN AND WIFE

“Daisy (who’s technically my parents’ dog, but who’s counting?) occasionally rests her head on my keyboard, forcing me to sit back and consider what I’ve written. For this crucial bit of guidance in the revision process, I am forever indebted to her. And when she’s not helping me edit, she’s asleep on my feet, keeping them warm—and keeping me happy.” -Rachel Z. Arndt, author of BEYOND MEASURE

 

 

 

“I knew Mizu was the one when he hissed at me as I reached in to pet him at the shelter. He’s mostly a morning and late night cat, affectionate and talkative, needling away at my lap when I try to relax. But come time to write, he’s reclusive, a lump under the covers, which is exactly what I need.” -Glori Simmons, author of CARRY YOU and SUFFERING FOOLS

 

“I am pleased to present Mittens and Nermal, a.k.a. my Cat Council. Their main roles: sitting on whatever I am reading, looking forlorn, judging, and knocking over plants.” Frankie Concepcion is a writer from the Philippines and has been living in the U.S. for almost a decade. Her fiction, essays, and poetry have been published internationally in editorials such as Waxwing, Vagabond City, Rappler, and The Toast. In 2018, Frankie will begin the process of applying for Permanent Residence in the United States. Her latest project, Leaving, is her humble attempt at documenting what it is like to try, and still want to be, an immigrant in America.

“Mr. Biscuits (the pup) has been with me since 2009. He may look old and grumpy, but he’s a fantastic listener. I’m constantly bouncing ideas off of him as he sits in my lap eating my Triscuits and cheese. He does leave enough scraps for me, though, usually. I always know when I have a good idea because he will lick my face. (Yawns are no good, though.) As for Ms. Muffins, she’s a newer addition to the household. She doesn’t appear to take much interest in my writing. She seems to think my freshly printed manuscripts are a scratching post purely for her pleasure, and forget about when I’m trying to highlight—she will rip the highlighter right out of my hand” Christine Jenkins

 

“I spend my time writing personal essays about the experiences I have with elderly folks that I have the privilege of taking care of and being friends with. Many of my day to day experiences with these wonderful people lead to funny as well as inspiring moments. Jasmine can usually be found laying by my side but her favorite place is actually with her face right up in my computer screen as if she is proof reading my notes! She’s a rescue cat that has been part of our family for 11 years now.”Linda Fereira

 

 

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Aug 3

The Masters Review Summer Workshop Is Open!

It is that time of year again, friends. Our remote summer workshop gives you the chance to receive edits from experts at Tin House, The Paris Review, and American Short Fiction—all from the comforts of home. Get those stories and essays ready for when lit mags open back up for submissions in the fall. This year, we are offering a workshop for short stories and essays and a special workshop dedicated solely to flash fiction. Our standard workshop is already half full and our flash workshop has a smaller number of slots! So…reserve your spot today! Our workshops always fill up fast.

COST: $299

Participants Receive:

  • an editorial letter from your instructor with specific suggestions and developmental edits that will help elevate your story to the next level
  • PDF of materials including craft essays from The Masters Review, editorial notes on what we see from the slush pile, information on submission strategies, and additional advice on submitting
  • automatic inclusion in a forthcoming Masters Review contest
  • suggestions on literary magazines and contests that would be a good fit for your work, along with reading recommendations from your instructor
  • an archived copy of The Masters Review anthology
  • Writers will receive feedback no later than September 30. Early submissions may yield earlier feedback

Flash Fiction Workshop With David Galef

We love small stories. This workshop is open specifically to submissions below 1000 words and allows up to two stories per submission.

COST: $299

Participants receive:

  • an editorial letter from your instructor with specific suggestions and developmental edits that will help elevate your story to the next level
  • PDF of materials including craft essays from The Masters Review, editorial notes on what we see from the slush pile, information on submission strategies, and additional advice on submitting
  • automatic inclusion in a forthcoming Masters Review contest
  • suggestions on literary magazines and contests that would be a good fit for your work, along with reading recommendations from your instructor
  • an archived copy of The Masters Review anthology
  • Writers will receive feedback no later than September 30. Early submissions may yield earlier feedback.

David Galef has published over a dozen books, including the novels Flesh, Turning Japanese, and How to Cope with Suburban Stress (a Book Sense choice, listed by Kirkus as one of the Best 30 Books of 2006); the short-story collections Laugh Track and My Date with Neanderthal Woman (winner of Dzanc Books’ Short Story Collection Award); and the co-edited anthology of fiction 20 over 40. His latest volume is Brevity: A Flash Fiction Handbook, from Columbia University Press, now in its sixth printing.

Jul 31

Debut Author Spotlight: Ingrid Rojas Contreras

Ingrid Rojas Contreras’s debut Fruit of the Drunken Tree comes out today. It is a beautiful, polished, and vital novel about two girls who grow up in Colombia during the time of Pablo Escobar. We are honored to be able to share this essay from Ingrid Rojas Contreras about how she edited her first novel by literally using scissors and tape. Check out the essay, and then go grab the debut from this talented author.

“For me, it took printing out the work, and using actual scissors and tape in order to be able to restructure the material. . . . when I first printed my novel out, I felt the weight in my hands. I felt the light strain on my bicep, the girth of the manuscript clenched between my fingers. I felt that if it was tangible then I could understand it.”

At some point when editing a novel, a very particular problem emerges from reading the same words for months, and then years—you arrive to a point where you can no longer parse out what was ever good about what you’ve written, let alone identify passages that need to be improved. It’s like living in a building with a noisy heater, which at some point your brain edits out. You lose the ability to really hear what you’ve written.

There were many times throughout the writing of my first novel that while I was trying to edit the work as a whole and see it critically, instead I’d become lulled by the familiar and predictable order of the strings of words, and then I’d get lost in the most minute insecurities.

In my case, I questioned my commas. I spent all my time exchanging them for periods, restructuring words so they could expand around shiny EM dashes, trying on the flair of parentheses, breaking up sentences, inserting semi-colons. Then, defeated and exhausted after a meaningless hour spent pecking at my work, I’d go back to the original comma.

On good days, I was able to work on what I was supposed to be doing: editing for the sake of the order of information. I constantly asked myself—how do I ground the reader, keep the tension up, develop the characters, set up the scene, and run an underground of themes? On my computer, at first, I was thankful for the endless combinations. The bulk of my writing day was reduced to the office work of pressing Control X for cutting and Control V pasting. This, as you can guess, was not working either. There were too many options, and all of them seemed arbitrary and meaningless.

For me, it took printing out the work, and using actual scissors and tape in order to be able to restructure the material. I knew that on my the computer my novel was 2.3 mb—a nebulous number! and as airy as the world of the internet itself. But when I first printed my novel out, I felt the weight in my hands. I felt the light strain on my bicep, the girth of the manuscript clenched between my fingers. I felt that if it was tangible then I could understand it.

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Jul 27

New Voices: “The Dumpling Makers” by Kristina Ten

We are proud to welcome “The Dumpling Makers” by Kristina Ten to our New Voices library. This story made our anthology shortlist and, when it was not selected as a finalist, we jumped at the chance to publish it on our site. This lovely tale is at once clear-eyed and mystical. It traces the invisible, invincible ties that bind us to our families, even as we assert our individuality. Read on.

“Making dumplings was a methodical, time-consuming task, and in most households, exclusively a social one. Doing it alone, you would go insane. Some parties were assigned to mixing, rolling, and cutting the dough; others to grinding the beef and placing the filling delicately in the center of each flat circle. Then everyone would come together to form the dumplings. The repeated series of steps—folding, pinching, joining the ends—was as distinctive to each family as a surname or crest.”

If you let you a leaky ceiling break you now, Nadia, then you deserve whatever dull, unexceptional plans this world has for you. That’s what Nadia told herself as she pulled the last glass from the cupboard and set it under the leak that had sprung overnight. Over the course of a week, her apartment had become a garden of cylindrical things: glasses, coffee mugs, buckets, a vase. And she tended it routinely, emptying each container as it filled, replacing it wherever seemed most urgent.

The landlords lived in the main house just across the yard from Nadia’s, though they were currently out of the country on something called a luxury treehouse tour. They had been gone two weeks. It hadn’t rained in four.

At first, the leak was kind of a thrill, something Nadia could tell the other research interns about when they exchanged renters’ grievances in the break room at work. It was the first time any of them had been on their own, and as they told their stories—one intern’s noisy neighbors, another’s knocking pipes—through their eyerolls and grumbling, their voices betrayed a certain pride.

By this point, for Nadia, the novelty was starting to wear off. Her white tomcat, Eggy, was a different story. He walked slowly through the new obstacles as if considering their fate, deliberating whether to lap up the water from this cup or paw at that one until it overturned. Nadia was cleaning one of his spills, Eggy grooming himself maddeningly across the room, when she got the call from her mother: The great chef Galina was dying five thousand six hundred miles away.

To read the rest of “The Dumpling Makers” click here.

Jul 26

Short Story Award for New Writers – Last Few Days To Submit!

We are heading into the home stretch of summer and our Short Story Award for New Writers is closing for submissions on July 31. So, send us those thrilling summer stories of 7000 words or less! The winner receives $3000 and publication online. Second and third place stories will receive publication and $300 and $200 respectively. All winners and honorable mentions will receive review by five agencies. This is a wonderful opportunity for emerging writers. Check out all the details.

<<Submit Here>>