FUND WHAT YOU FEAR by Marnie Goodfriend I lie in bed, my eyes fixated on the fruit trees outside my bare windows. I do not have insomnia. I am bone tired. Recently, my pain is nocturnal. My body waits until my head makes contact with the pillow before fireworks burst in my pelvic cavity. I bend my knees like an upside-down V and press my feet into the mattress. V is for vulture. violence. victim. vampire. vagina. The other day, my friend Melissa told me about the fund-what-you-fear philosophy. Her words bloat several text bubbles. They remind me of our distended stomachs: agitated, acting out, hardened. There’s something like less than one dollar a day that goes toward endometriosis research and when the medical world is predominantly men … it’s easy to see why they never push money towards diseases that only affect people with a uterus. Is this a … chop! chop! read more!
AT A CAFÉ IN VICTORIA, BC TWO GREY-HAIRED MEN TALK ABOUT LOVE by Kate Peterson She’s in the garden all the time and I’ve got my bridge, and the next thing you know you’re living different lives. One asks the other, If she finds another guy do you think you’d still be friends? I wonder if this is generational or national, men talking this way out in public, over a cup of coffee. My ex was absorbed in his book and didn’t notice, which may also be generational or national. After a while he eyed me taking notes and guessed I was writing about him. He looked up to say he just realized he is more American than he wants to be. Wind lifted in my chest, waves of loneliness and love I’ll never understand. The way it rises and falls. The men started up a game of Mahjong and … chop! chop! read more!
LAST GESTURE by James Miller We eat on the porch when evening heat recedes. Lamps hang from the oak. The Conrad novel rests between us—eighty-nine pages left to speak aloud. As you reach out for a drink, we see a tiny frog, its soft green curves still as summer, perched on the lip of your glass. He leaps, alights on the secret agent, then the near-blankness of our table, dry and smeared with tree sap. Motionless, aware. You offer a thumbnail of water and he rests there, half-submerged. We fall silent, but miss the last gesture. He is gone. James Miller won the Connecticut Poetry Award in 2020. Recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Typehouse, Rabid Oak, North Dakota Quarterly, Yemassee, Phoebe, Mantis, Scoundrel Time, Permafrost, Grey Sparrow Review, Blue River, 8 Poems, After Happy Hour, Two Hawks Quarterly, Concho River Review, Sweet Tree Review, SOFTBLOW, and elsewhere. … chop! chop! read more!
SENSITIVE SKIN Ceramics by Constance McBride “Everyone wants to have an illusion of themselves, that they’re a bit attractive, but the older I get it seems more important to be absolutely honest and direct.” — Chantal Joffe When I was a kid I discovered Seventeen Magazine and it really messed me up. I recently googled it and was shocked to see that it debuted in 1944. I always had the impression that it began in the ‘60s or ‘70s when I was a subscriber. From Wikipedia: “It began as a publication geared toward inspiring teen girls to become model workers and citizens. Soon after its debut, Seventeen took a more fashion and romance oriented approach in presenting its material while promoting self-confidence in young women.” I have to disagree with this idea of promoting self-confidence in young women. What I think it really did was cause many young women to angst about their faces … chop! chop! read more!
LITTLE GRIEF SONG, JULY 2020 by Laura Tanenbaum “But the great dark birds of history screamed and plunged into our personal weather They were headed somewhere else but their beaks and pinions drove along the shore, through the rages of fog where we stood, saying I” —Adrienne Rich, “In those Years” Today we took the kids to the cemetery, for escape. No, it’s fine we explain to bewildered out-of-towners. A place to go. Historical. You ask, am I grieving: OK, then, yes, I’m grieving. The last day on the playground. Someone sent me a picture and a joke. Said we were all doomed; we touch our faces so much. Remember that? I thought then that I had never touched that person’s face, not even by accident, and now I never would. The kids find graves of two brothers from Maryland who fought on opposite sides of the last battle of … chop! chop! read more!
SAN ANDREAS HEAVEN by Nick Olson I remember back in the day Nick used to try to get to Heaven. Heaven was a glitched-out place in San Andreas where nothing made sense or seemed quite real, and Nick would come home most days, boot up the PS2, and try again to get into it. There was a specific building in San Andreas where, if you went inside and used a cheat code to spawn a jetpack, you could fly through a certain part of the ceiling that didn’t have proper clipping. There was just one spot where you could fly through, a place that the developers had overlooked. Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem. This wasn’t something you were ever supposed to be able to come across just walking and jumping around. But if you knew what to look for and you did everything in just the right way, you … chop! chop! read more!
SENSITIVE SKIN: Ceramics by Constance McBride “Everyone wants to have an illusion of themselves, that they’re a bit attractive, but the older I get it seems more important to be absolutely honest and direct.” – Chantal Joffe When I was a kid I discovered Seventeen Magazine and it really messed me up. I recently googled it and was shocked to see that it debuted in 1944. I always had the impression that it began in the ‘60s or ‘70s when I was a subscriber. From Wikipedia: “It began as a publication geared toward inspiring teen girls to become model workers and citizens. Soon after its debut, Seventeen took a more fashion and romance oriented approach in presenting its material while promoting self-confidence in young women.” I have to disagree with this idea of promoting self-confidence in young women. What I think it really did was cause many young women to angst about their faces … chop! chop! read more!
FALL OF MAN a visual narrative by Jennifer Hayden Scroll down for an interview with Jennifer Hayden by Cleaver Visual Narrative Editor Emily Steinberg Jennifer Hayden is the author of The Story of My Tits, the Eisner-nominated graphic memoir about her experience with breast cancer. She wrote the webstrips Rushes: A Comix Diary, and S’Crapbook. Her first book, Underwire, was featured in The Best American Comics 2013, and she has appeared in anthologies. She is working on a graphic anti-cookbook called Where There’s Smoke There’s Dinner, and a travel novella called Le Chat Noir, about her dicey relationship with France. She has lectured at Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, and NYU, and is currently quarantining in New Jerseychop! chop! read more!
I AM THAT GROUP OF PICTURES OF SPIDERWEBS MADE BY SPIDERS ON DIFFERENT DRUGS by Valerie Loveland Scientists call everything an experiment, …………………….even when ……iit is actually a meme even when …………………………..it is actually a spiderweb beauty contest Scientists don’t realize even when they talk about drugs, ………………………….…………………they are still nerds. ……Who hasn’t been…….. an accident, an experiment, a copy of an experiment, ……………..another copy of an experiment? Everyone always tells me I am…………………… so ………………….…..……right: I am proof there is a part of us all that can be normal. But I forgot to tell you spider moms die before the babies are born so …………nobody teaches spiders how to make their webs. I forgot to tell you a spider doesn’t bother to go back and fix their mistakes. ……………………………………A fact becomes a fun fact when everyone attempts to tell it to everyone else ……………………………………but everyone already knows it. …………One … chop! chop! read more!
AMMONITES by Ann de Forest mountains once were ocean evidence coils beneath our feet prehistoric curlicues not yet nautilus not yet snail not yet calcified turban washed up on the beach ………………………void of any tender ……………………………….creature barely old enough to remember tasmanian devil’s cyclone wake cartoon cat’s stiff armed stumbles vertiginous eyes hypnotize pulsing black & white watch dangles ………………………sways eyelids ………………………………fall …………………………………………………………………..where does time begin? crack the case find the spring sister crouched beneath a crib a finger flick sends silver spiral shimmying up spinning down mesmerized by tiny revolutions mesmerized by bounce and drop ………………………by boing …………………………..and hum ………………………………………………………………………danger up ahead rattler on the trail vortex in the toilet bowl fingers furled to pack a punch lobster thrashing in a pot fallen leaf and flame-licked letter go in green come out red tail ………………………rolled up between ………………………………your legs tentacles sweep across the map … chop! chop! read more!
I’M NOT SORRY by Ali Kojak They say I should write you a letter. As a goodbye, they smile sadly, for closure. They say closure like it’s a literal thing I can touch, can put in my Amazon cart and click, it’s here. Aha! Now you’re closed. But how do you close a life? Maybe it’s like sending guests home after a party. Thank you for living, I say quietly, as you stand in the doorway not looking ready to leave. I gently push the door in your direction, biting my lip to stop from changing my mind. It’s late, and my kids are tired, I plead, so you step back but keep staring—sadly, silently, into the warm house. Now I push hard and fast, heart-pounding, sweaty fingers turning the bolt frantically. As if you might push back. As if it really matters. As if you’re not a ghost. I … chop! chop! read more!
LEPIDOPTERA by Lorette C. Luzajic Pheasant Falls, end of the line. There is only a diner and smoke shop at either end of a triplet of small houses. On the other side, city-potted geraniums and a path to the waterfalls. An arrow points past the narrow choir of pines to the museum. You have come together from the city to see the birds and the bears, and the butterfly room. You will see mineral specimens, too, a treasure chest of agate and amethyst, geodes and fossils transporting you back in time and deep into the earth. Sticks and Stones, a little known gem of taxonomy. You come to a dilapidated house, with antlers and boulders strewn through a scraggly garden. There are no signs to confirm you are at the right place, but a cold-faced ibex glares through the window at your approach. The proprietor is a sleazy little man … chop! chop! read more!
TRADE CRAFT by Jason Jobin On the walk home from the bakery, spelt loaf in hand, I look back—because this is the part of town where you look back—and see a guy. He’s late thirties, soft looking, salt and pepper hair, very familiar. Familiar from where? He doesn’t make eye contact, but if he was a serial killer, would he? A real serial killer would feign disinterest and appear much like a normal stranger, maybe even exactly like a normal stranger. I run the rest of the way home. Safe in my room with all the doors locked, I roll a joint and blow the smoke out the window, stinking up the whole place, too worried to go outside. It’s rude to smoke inside. If it wasn’t an extreme circumstance, I would never. And then I roll and smoke another joint, and another, and another, and try to sleep. Who … chop! chop! read more!
FISH FEEL NO PAIN by Michelle Renee Hoppe My little brother held a trout, a rainbow burning bright enough to eclipse reflections. The fish did not reflect, but the stream did, and he took a mighty brown watery rock to spill the brains of the flesh, white and red onto the grey wooden dock, a spilling of color all over the dock, and when I screamed he said, Fish feel no pain. I told him he could not know fish’s mind, not at ten or twenty or a thousand years could he know the inner worlds of slippery things, but that day I learned eating took no feeling. He picked up the dead limp thing that once swam bravely, meant to be swallowed by dolphins or sharks, whales singing underwater, pelicans that fly without invention, alligators who were also dinosaurs, flamingos that were too, and asked if I’d like some. … chop! chop! read more!
WEBSITE INSECURITY QUESTIONS by David Galef What was your first pet’s favorite color? How many pets have you neglected since then? This is about your father, isn’t it? How often do you think about sex? What did you drink on your first date with Janet? Who was she there with? Did you really think he was her cousin? When you drive from I-78 to your house, what exit do you take? What little winding road do you always miss right after that? How old were you before you learned to drive with a stick shift? This is about your mother, isn’t it? What do you always quarrel with Janet about? Why? How many times has she said in the past year that she’ll leave you? What’s your favorite Netflix show? What was your favorite show five years ago? Which show does Janet prefer? Who’s told you repeatedly, “Will you ever … chop! chop! read more!
PANDEMIC MOTHER’S DAY, STOKOE FARMS, UPSTATE NEW YORK by Anne Panning Cost of admission: purchase of two dozen apple cider donuts, delivered to cars by a masked grandmother. As part of the donut deal, you earned drive-through privileges to view exotic animals. The albino wallaby scootched behind a rain barrel; two camels, fully reclined, glanced off to the side: a fuck you to photo ops. We were four of us again: our son, Hudson, had been kicked back to us from freshman year at Pitt. He’d roosted with us again, whipped up gooey onion omelets at midnight, jacked the Volvo seat so far back I couldn’t reach the pedals. Our daughter Lily’s high school would slam shut momentarily: you could almost hear the silence of the greatest pause on earth. We grew hungry. Rain muddied the road. Where was the baby kangaroo they’d promised? Didn’t they know there were limits … chop! chop! read more!
GIRL IN THE ENCHANTED KINGDOM by Sandra Florence We are playing Concentration. First, she finds the Jacks and then the Queens. Her head was lopsided when she was born, and she stared up at me with rolling grey eyes. I unwrapped her and thought, this is the pure one. Lightens up my life. Released. Escaped from personal injury. Potatoes. Ducks in a green sky. A turquoise moon. All these things in her. My daughter in red rubber boots crossing the street in rain. ◊ She has not seen her father for some time now. They used to watch prize fights and play dominoes. “He’s going to love another kid,” she says. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.” Now the big mouth scream. The other kid wriggling in her crib. “It’s it,” she says. “The name I can’t remember.” Diapers flap in winter air. He drives to the bank and … chop! chop! read more!
LOOKING UP by Sarah Berger One thing I did when I was twenty was fall in love with a Roman Catholic boy and get all confused. I was a half-Jew-half-gentile quasi-Lutheran atheist, led as in a trance to the burly God of Ceiling Paintings like a little girl in a gossamer nightgown. The boy was a convert himself, and his zeal was real. He tried to baptize me (baptise; he was British) using the water pitcher in his college dorm room. He cited doctrine. I said no; I hadn’t gone completely off the deep end of the holy water pool. But I did cherish plans for baptism, someday, in my already-flayed heart. Another thing I did when I was twenty was rise early, brush my teeth in the cavernous bathroom of the 1964 Rome-Olympic-village-turned-youth hostel, dress and pack and leave with a hunk of unsalted bread in my hand, and … chop! chop! read more!
CHERRY BOMBby Todd Clay Stuart The object of the game is to see how long we can hold a lit Cherry Bomb in our hand before tossing it away. Ray-Ray Campbell claims he’s champion of the fucking world. Took the title from his dirtbag dad before a judge sent him up the river on weapons charges. It’s like playing rock, paper, scissors or hot potato, except for the ferocious explosions. Our moms are at work, so Ray-Ray and I are down at the creek on a hot summer day, raiding crab apple trees and smoking Marlboro Reds bought at the bowling alley from the cigarette vending machine with change swiped from his mom’s purse. Unlike his dad, Ray-Ray was pretty good about sharing things he’d stolen. We patrol the creek in our bare feet, looking for something to kill, something other than time. It hasn’t rained in days, and the … chop! chop! read more!
ADDING APPETIZERS by Claire Oleson She was sitting on a stool in the basement of the restaurant watching the octopus spin. It was on a cold/cold cycle in the washing machine. This was how they tenderized it, Ellis had told her, overjoyed he had something genuinely interesting to offer. It was this nauseous moving smudge, the octopus, not his telling. She was coming to adore it, the borderless slosh. No, more than that, she could believe she loved it, adjusting her over-the-knee pin-stripe skirt in the cold-damp of the concrete room, it was good. A man she also loved was upstairs, drunk, frying things, cutting real close to his fingers, and working someone else’s shift, and Ellis was on his way down to her, in his unadorned state, in an apron, having been washing dishes, walking down the concrete stairs to finish talking to her about the new crudo option … chop! chop! read more!
THE LOBSTER by Gabby Capone It was winter, mid-December, much too cold to leave him there—the lobster, on my porch. I don’t know how he got there, whether he’d walked or hailed a cab. But it was snowing, and he looked so sad, bright red with embarrassment to ask for my help. And so I decided, I would open my door instead of my arms. I’ve heard that lobsters don’t like to be hugged. He scuttled over the threshold, leaving a damp trail in his wake. For a few moments we sat at the dining table, staring at each other from either end. I offered to cut the rubber bands from his claws, “You’ll be so much more comfortable that way,” I told him as I reached for my kitchen shears. He didn’t answer, but I could’ve sworn he let out a small sigh of relief when the scissors sliced … chop! chop! read more!
WE’VE WAITED FOR VACCINES by Rebecca Entel Of when my father had polio, I’ve heard disjointed details but no narrative. Scalding baths, quarantine, how many adults held him down for the spinal tap, the iron lung, paralysis that one day disappeared. In the world outside, my grandmother lengthened his Hebrew name with Chaim, Life, and my grandfather delivered bread through the night. Under the covers, his sister plucked the braces from her teeth with scissors. Each time visiting hours ended, my grandparents stood outside the hospital staring up at a window. Polio came to him in 1954. The vaccine came to him in 1955. We’ve spoken of 2020 itself as a golem. We’ve started posting pictures of injections or envious responses to others’ pictures of injections. No social media archive exists indicating whether my grandparents dreamt of a vaccine/knew it was coming/raged it had come belatedly for their kid/had never … chop! chop! read more!
MAKING THE READER FEEL SOMETHING. PLEASE. SHOW AND TELL. A Craft Essay by Shuly Xóchitl Cawood “Show, don’t tell.” An old piece of writing advice, generally good advice, but sometimes hard to know how to do it well. Also, confusing, because telling is often part of the showing, especially when writing personal essay and memoir. The advice stems from how writers can best help readers understand what they are trying to convey—everything from emotions and mental state to the tone of a situation, the nature of a person or relationship, the look and feel of a setting. And much more. What if I wrote, “I’m so mad!” Do those words and the exclamation point make you feel my anger? They just aren’t enough. I must work harder to convey my anger. Writing how an emotion makes us feel in our body or how it looks sometimes works. But it, too, might … chop! chop! read more!
A GHOST IN THE THROAT by Doireann Ní Ghríofa Biblioasis [North American edition forthcoming in June] reviewed by Beth Kephart “This is a female text,” Doireann Ní Ghríofa asserts as her story begins. A rouse. A prayer. A persuasion. A female text because Ní Ghríofa suffuses her days with the domestic arts of hoovering, dusting, folding, mothering, and bends her prose toward those ticking rhythms when she carves out a moment and writes. A female text because Ní Ghríofa carries the lament of Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill, an Irish noblewoman of the late eighteenth century, in her bones as she works—a poem called Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire, a poem of howling grief erupted from the murder of the poet’s husband. A female text because the words have risen up in Ní Ghríofa and stayed: This is a female text and it is a tiny miracle that it even exists, as … chop! chop! read more!
For writers of all levels and genres | Synchronouschop! chop! read more!
For nonfiction writers of all levels | Synchronouschop! chop! read more!
Michelle Ross Interviews Dan Crawley, Author of STRAIGHT DOWN THE ROAD, a novella in flash Dan Crawley’s novella-in-flash, Straight Down the Road, was highly commended by judge Michael Loveday in the 2019 Bath Novella in Flash Award and published by Ad Hoc Fiction. His debut short story collection, The Wind, It Swirls, is forthcoming from Cowboy Jamboree Press this year. Michelle Ross: Straight Down the Road is set during a family road trip. There’s a kind of out-of-time feeling to the trip. Are they on the road for a couple of months? Is it years? For the reader, it feels like the road is home for this family. Is the road home for them or do you know this family in other times and places that don’t appear on the page? Dan Crawley: I love this question, Michelle. Yes, the “out-of-time” feeling is very intentional. When I first started writing … chop! chop! read more!
For nonfiction writers of all levels | Synchronouschop! chop! read more!
THESE VIOLENT DELIGHTS by Chloe Gong Simon Pulse, Simon & Schuster, 464 pages reviewed by Kristie Gadson Chloe Gong’s These Violent Delights is a vibrant reimagining of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, taking place during the Roaring Twenties in Shanghai of 1926. Gong’s tale of two star-crossed yet ill-fated lovers begins in the middle of a fierce blood feud between two warring gangs: the Scarlet Gang and the White Flowers. Described as “an age-old hatred whose cause had been forgotten to time,” their bitter vendetta runs deeper than the Huangpu River that cuts through the city. The weight of each gang’s future rests heavily on the shoulders of both Juliette Cai, heir to the Scarlets, and Roma Montagov, heir to the White Flowers. The pain of betrayal burns at each heir’s core, engulfing their previous love in flames. However, when a sinister presence lurking within the depths of the Huangpu … chop! chop! read more!
QUEER (PRIVATE) EYE: Crafting a New Hardboiled Sleuth by Margot Douaihy “It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window.” —Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep There’s arguably no writer more emblematic of the hardboiled experience than Raymond Chandler. On the mean streets of Chandler’s fictional Los Angeles, his private eye character, Philip Marlowe, expresses infuriating bravado and self-annihilation in equal measure. It was PI Marlowe who ignited my interest in, and enduring love for hardboiled crime fiction. His lyrical musings about fine whiskey, his tireless dog-with-a-bone persistence, his suit, hat, and gun—it all entranced me. As a closeted queer growing up in Scranton, Pennsylvania, during the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” era, searching for headstrong characters in books felt safer than getting to know myself. I was in awe of Private Investigator Marlowe’s freedom, his devil-may-care brio, unaware that his swagger was probably … chop! chop! read more!
COME ON UP by Jordi Nopca translated by Mara Faye Lethem Bellevue Literary Press, 224 pages reviewed by Michael McCarthy At first, it’s a promise. Come on up! It’s a pledge made to every up-and-comer in Barcelona. The city provides a backdrop for Jordi Nopca’s short story collection Come On Up, translated from Catalan to English by Mara Faye Lethem. His stories skillfully traverse decadence and depravity, splendor and squalor, the tragic and the comic, the boring and the absurd. They will resonate with anyone who has a decent job, a decent home, and decent career prospects but is still somehow broke. Take it from Nopca. The city and its denizens are in rough shape: Barcelona is a tourist favorite, but it’s going through a delicate moment. Some of the most expensive boutiques in the world have opened up shop on the Passeig de Gràcia. The Old Quarter gleams with … chop! chop! read more!
A MEMOIR CONVERSATION
with David Marchino and Beth Kephart
A former student (now a writer and a teacher) finds himself in his once-teacher’s memoir. A conversation ensues about mirrors, facsimiles, and blankness.chop! chop! read more!
AVOIDING / EMBRACING: Strategies for Writers with Anxiety Disorders A Craft Essay by Bailey Bridgewater Ah, writing and mental health conditions—a power couple in the collective imagination of what influences how artists create. Biographies, movies, TV shows, and even books have reinforced the idea that psychological ailments produce the very best writers. It’s hard not to over-emphasize Edgar Allen Poe’s alcoholism, Sylvia Plath’s suicidal ideation, Emily Dickinson’s agoraphobia, or David Foster Wallace’s depression because we have been lured to focus more on these writers’ diagnoses than their process or even personality. I’ll admit, I fell for it. I have suffered anxiety my whole life. As a child, it manifested itself in nervous ticks like picking my lips and severe panic around people I didn’t know well. Despite being the most advanced reader in my class, I would count paragraphs and figure out which passage I would be asked to read … chop! chop! read more!
For experienced nonfiction writers | Hybridchop! chop! read more!
For novelists | Mostly asynchronouschop! chop! read more!
Open to flash writers of all levels | Mostly asynchronouschop! chop! read more!
Flash Fiction and Nonfiction| Mostly Asynchronouschop! chop! read more!
For nonfiction writers
Synchronous on Zoom
What I Learned from Jennifer Egan’s Use of Sensory Detail A Craft Essay by Sandy Smith On a friend’s repeated urging to read Jennifer Egan’s 2010 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Visit from the Goon Squad, I went to my small local bookstore. They had no copies of Goon Squad in stock, but there was a single copy of Egan’s 2006 title, The Keep. Since Egan is a well-respected author and the flap copy looked promising (“…relentlessly gripping page-turner…rich forms…transfixing themes”), I took it home and dove in. I didn’t expect to be as engaged as the hyperbolic blurbs promised, but I found myself fully immersed almost immediately. When I came up for air nearly an hour later, I asked myself how The Keep had managed to pull me in so quickly and so thoroughly that I’d missed the ding of the microwave and the beguiling aroma of leftover lasagna. Over a dish … chop! chop! read more!
Open to all levels and genres | Asynchronous versionchop! chop! read more!
intermediate & advanced nonfiction | Synchronouschop! chop! read more!
Open to all levels | Synchronous on Zoomchop! chop! read more!
For nonfiction writers of all levels | Mostly asynchronouschop! chop! read more!
SISTERHOOD How the Books we Both Read Helped Me Write My Sister’s Life into Fiction A Craft Essay by Jane Rosenberg LaForge When my sister, Susan, was still in elementary school, a family friend gave her a book for her birthday, The Wizard of Wallaby Wallow, by Jack Kent. Dyslexic as a child, Susan wasn’t much of a reader, so the gift was unusual. In time though, she overcame her disability, it seemed, because she wanted to read the instructions for building things. Even after she managed to build her crystal radio set, or her darkroom, or teach herself how to play guitar, words and language were never Susan’s forte. Her conversations with friends and family often ended in arguments, and she could be cruel—prompting friends not to speak to her for years at a time—without meaning to be. During one of her lowest periods, when she was anorexic, my mother … chop! chop! read more!
WHITE MAGIC by Elissa Washuta Tin House, 432 pages reviewed by Eric Buechel In Elissa Washuta’s book of linked essays, White Magic, she writes about her substance abuse candidly, describing getting high with cough syrup as a teenager in her school’s bathroom between classes. In a later scene, a doctor pleads with her to stop drinking—there’s something wrong with her insides, and she’s been urinating blood. As these essays progress, Washuta retraces the reasons for her self-destructiveness in a culture that treats her, a Native woman, as an expendable object. To understand her experience, she uses ideas from witchcraft, tarot, astrology, and even Twitter discourse as resources. With this, she creates a beautifully-rendered piece of art that isn’t easily labeled. Washuta is a member of the Cowlitz tribe of southern Washington. I grew up not far from their reservation. I also lived in Seattle during the time that she did, … chop! chop! read more!
A BOOK BY ANY OTHER NAME: ON TITLES AND DATING A Craft Essay by Melinda Scully Imagine a reader is on a blind date with your book or short story. Maybe a friend set them up, or they ventured out for a local singles speed-dating extravaganza. The specifics don’t really matter. The point is, the reader is on the hunt for a new story to love, and it could be yours. How exciting! Your story walks up to the table, and in mere moments, the reader subconsciously asks and answers about seventeen questions in their head, maybe starting with… What is your story wearing? Did it walk up confidently? Is it smiling? Does it smell weird? Did your story pass the test? Did you even know you were being tested? Let’s hope so, because by this time your reader already knows whether they want to proceed with the date. Readers … chop! chop! read more!
LA BALEINE by Claire Rudy Foster I did not know anything about whales until I became one. In the first trimester of my pregnancy, I transitioned, changing into a creature that was part meat and part ocean. My pregnant body was flush with proteins, ions, and nutrients for the first time since my childhood. Like a whale’s, my body produced massive amounts of progesterone, a hormone that blasted through me like tropical waves. My twenty-three-year-old heart refilled my capillaries, deadened from heavy drinking and drug use. When I looked in the mirror, I saw that I was actually glowing, the way pregnancy is said to imbue a halo around you while you’re gestating. My cheeks were pink all the time, as though I was permanently post-coital. I sweated more. My body felt like it was filling out, as though my cells were plumping up like pillows of sweet ricotta-filled ravioli … chop! chop! read more!
THE MOMENT I KNEW I LOVED _________ by Sydney Steward My Grandmother I look up from my phone, scouting the street signs for a match—Madison Avenue. I turn left, quickly glance across the road for oncoming traffic, and press on. The air is cold; it’s late January. My feet ache against the concrete, but nothing can stop me. A happy panic propels me forward. This is the day we have been waiting for. The hospital sign begins to peek into sight. Once I arrive at the lobby, I pause to unzip my coat. I ask the receptionist for directions to her room. The hallways feel familiar: high ceilings, bright lights, a chemical shine along the tiles. After navigating a maze of elevators and corridors, I spot my mother through the glass window, and she motions me over. Surrounded by my entire family, there she sits. Tubes and drains and … chop! chop! read more!
CHRIST (OR MAYBE JOHN LENNON) IN A PRISON WAITING ROOM
by Maya Savin Miller
In small town Georgia, the prison plays Christmas music over the waiting room speakers on the Fourth of July. My mother hands my brother and me two dollar bills for the vending machine. We buy Snickers bars and then lay down on the floor to watch the moths clicking in the light fixture slowly grow still. I will tell my father about the ramen we cooked in the motel coffee pot the night before. He will say something like: sounds like a feast to me or I wish I could have been there. We will talk about small things for the next three hours—my father’s voice muffled and tinny, wrung through the broken speaker at the bottom of the plastic phone. I will tell him about the crabs I am going to catch with a chicken leg and some twine—how the man who owns the dock said he would boil them for me. My father will say he remembers the Fourth of July last year: You kids frying in the sun like eggs on the pavement. The dogs making messes of their water bowls—the way their fur smelled like Fritos and coconut shampoo. Later that night, the air still so thick I could swallow it whole, I will listen to John Lennon sing Happy Xmas (War Is Over) as fireworks light up the bluff.
My savta, rendered mute long before I was born, could not speak in words other than “time to change the batteries,” but she could sing. I remember my mother’s voice in my ear the first time we went to speak with Judge Kelley: Don’t tell them we’re Jewish. Dad can come home sooner if they think we celebrate Christmas. At a time in my life when everything felt confusing and unpredictable, when the lines that had previously defined my existence became increasingly blurred, this rule made survival seem easy. And so I started listening to Christmas music when I was angry, when I was afraid, when I felt powerless, when nothing else made sense. My savta, trapped in a sentence, found her way out through song—and I intended to do the same. During the time of my father’s incarceration, I used up all of the remaining space on my hand-me-down iPod downloading Christmas music.
I do not remember the day my father returned home from jail, but I remember the day before. I sat across from my childhood best friend, thighs sticking to the linoleum-covered booth, as she told me that she was planning to become a famous singer when she grew up, and so we couldn’t be friends anymore once my dad got home. She had heard that associating with criminals could hurt her career, and she wasn’t willing to take any chances. When the waitress came to take our order, I asked if the peppermint pancakes were any good. She responded, “I don’t know. I don’t eat at this shithole.” Once the waitress was gone, I asked if we could still be friends for the rest of the day. And then, for no reason, we both started to laugh—we fell apart like that, cracking up in the back booth of the Waffle House. I asked my mother to pick me up from the restaurant. I remember her humming from the front seat of the car on the ride home, her voice punctuating the song playing softly over the stereo. Like my savta, she listens to Yiddish music when she’s afraid. Like my savta, she never admits when she’s afraid. That night, I found I Want to Come Home for Christmas by Marvin Gaye and emailed my best friend the link.
A year later, I found my iPod resting in the top drawer of my dresser next to a photo of my dad, my brother, and me. It was wrapped up in a sock, the way someone might wrap up a knife. The battery had begun to ooze, leaving the iPod frosted over with sulfuric acid residue. The specific model had been discontinued in 2007, and it took about a month for the replacement batteries to arrive in the mail. But when I finally changed the batteries and when the small screen flickered on, I could not bring myself to press play. Just like the music, my reliance on this iPod, loaded with Christmas music, with proof that we were not Jewish, with reasons why my father should be allowed to return home, had been seasonal.
Maya Savin Miller is a highschooler from Los Angeles, currently living in the mountains of Colorado. Her prose and poetry have appeared or are forthcoming in Cargoes, Up North Lit, Hadassah, Battering Ram Journal, Bluefire, Skipping Stones, Polyphony Lit, and the Sierra Nevada Review. Her writing has been recognized by Princeton University, Hollins University, Columbia College, Rider College, Library of Congress, and Blank Theatre, among others. She was a 2020 finalist for Los Angeles Youth Poet Laureate, and her short story, “Trudie’s Goose,” has been adapted into a film by Israeli filmmaker Liran Kapel.
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