I have a new story out at Hawaii Pacific Review. Here’s the opening:

A Sky Green and Fields Blue

At the doorway to the barracks, Shoshana saw snow fall into the darkness. Now and then the searchlights scanning the camp illuminated the flurry of white, reminding her of the soap flakes her mother used to wash her clothes. She lifted the gauze from her wrist and picked at the scabby flesh that had grown over the blue numbers. She was tired of the factory, of the endless repetition, of the soreness and the bruises, the grease under her fingernails, the bread and lard rations that made her vomit, and the latrines smeared with dark, liquid shit. Dafna, a Czech woman from Karlsbad, called her away from the door. Shoshana did not want to hear her words. She was tired of listening to the older women.

One of my stories–a playful reworking of the contributor note form found in literary journals–has been published in the new issue of Whiskey Island. The issue (No. 62) is available to purchase here. The journal also features the fantastic work of work of Alissa Nutting, Nate Pritts, Russ Woods, and many others. Here’s a sample:

Contributors’ Notes

Carol Clemente teaches writing in the Chicago area where she lives with her two Bichon Frises, Dolores and Fu-Fu. She has published poems in The Paris Review, Crazyhorse, and Feminist Studies. She also has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

This is Tom Fritz’s first published story. He divides his time between drinking espresso at Blue Bottle in Williamsburg and hatching Internet start-ups at his mom’s ranch house in Queens. She has a cat, Pringle, which he’s not allowed to pet. Though he sometimes secretly feeds her handfuls of gluten-free granola and occasionally tosses her a catnip mouse. He’s not sure what else he’s supposed to say here or which achievements he should note down. Sorry, I’m dropping the third-person shtick. I don’t know why you guys require it. But it’s creeping me out. It’s like this note is an obituary or something. I’m here, you know? Alive. Well, just about. I already admitted I live with my mom. It’s kind of a downer, especially on my love life. It’s been a while since I got laid. I’m twenty-three now, but back in college I was an A-grade bullshitter. On the steps of Alexander Library, I held court, often rapping lyrical speeches on the future of the Internet and handing out flyers that detailed my own social networking ideas, and directed people to visit my website. And, sure, I dated plenty of girls, usually hipster types who wrote poems on napkins and then used the corners to wipe the crust from their eyes. Man, that turned me on. I majored in Communication while my friends specialized in Fine Art or Architecture. Their classes were titled “Seventeenth-Century Nudes” and “Onanistic Spaces: A History of the Architectural Phallus.” Sounds cool now. Back then, I never wrote much—just essays on Marshall McLuhan and the lesbian scenes in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Even made the Dean’s List one semester. Recently, I’ve been looking for a way out. Maybe an M.F.A. Perhaps from Iowa, or somewhere corn grows like that. When I sent my story to the Tenure Quarterly Review, I thought a literary agent would read it, sign me up, get me a six-figure book deal. I mean that Chad Harbach landed sweet bank. So far, for me, this hasn’t been the case. Here’s the skinny: so my story is a glorified to-do list—a to-fuck really—and six months ago, the editors (Hi Gary! Hi Twyla!) emailed to say “Errands” had been accepted. Champagne-in-a-can followed. I tell you, it’s funny. I remember my ninth-grade English teacher, Mr. Hausman, berate me: “Tom, I’m not convinced you read Hamlet. In fact, I’m not sure you know who Shakespeare is and why he’s so important.” Well, old Hausman was right. I didn’t read Hamlet, but I did study Business Week and Forbes and think about how I could accumulate a Google-level fortune before I graduated college. Even though I went to Rutgers (my safety school), I knew I’d be headhunted by Silicon Valley. Post-college, when that didn’t happen, I fell into a gnarly funk. I hit the streets, zonked on Xanax, and looked for inspiration—something to let me know I should carry on living. Well, one cold morning outside the 42nd Street Library, I thought maybe I should have listened to Hausman and I checked out a North Face backpack’s worth of classic novels: Madame Bovary, The Stranger, Catcher in the Rye, etc. That’s how I ended up writing, and dreaming of literary conquest.

Michael Butler nominates Pringle for a Pushcart.

 

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Today sees publication of one my recent stories, “Take It From Me, Kid, I’m a Clown.” Published by Lunch Ticket (Antioch’s MFA literary magazine), the story is available to read for free on the interwebs.

Here’s the opening:

“Listen kid, I know it’s your birthday and all, that you only turn ten once, and that this is your special day, but, come on, you’re crying over your balloon animal because you wanted a giraffe and you got an Irish Wolfhound, which you say looks retarded, and that I’m retarded; please, give me some respect here—even though I go by Bozo the Clown, I’m no bozo, just part of the franchise—this is my career, my profession…”

Last fall in my fiction class we looked over the rules of several famous and successful writers in this Guardian article and came up with our own list of rules. Mine is below:

  1. Write for one hour a day. Minimum.
  2. Try not to make the story predictable. Surprise yourself.
  3. Create an ending where people say WTF!
  4. Write about something you know nothing.
  5. Read the books friends suggest. Don’t just say you will.
  6. Embody the dialogue. Make it authentic. Make it zip.
  7. Write things that are beyond your reach.
  8. Fail as a writer.
  9. Accept this and rewrite the goddamn thing.
  10. Value your classmates and your teacher.

 

Overall, I stuck to these rules quite rigorously and was able to write some strange and powerful fiction–different from my usual fare. During the semester we were not able to tell anybody our rules or mention that we had a covenant with the rest of the class. This, in hindsight, added a layers of secrecy and mystery to the proceedings, and, in some way, drew the class closer together.

So, now, I’m asking: what are your ten rules?

A while ago I started fooling around with the blurb form and constructing them in terms of bad blurbs, that is the accosted established writer frolicking in his penned superiority (!). Praise be to the publishing gods that a couple have recently been released on the web:

“Rejected Blurb #23” in Atticus Review and “Rejected Blurb #6” in Metazen.

Another one of my thesis stories has just been published. This time in the latest issue of The MacGuffin. Here’s an excerpt:

Flyer

In the months leading up to my ninth birthday I bugged Father for a red wagon. He bought me one, of course—a Radio Flyer with a green bow tied around the handle. That morning I didn’t wait to open my other presents. I just took the wagon on to the street and used it to move rocks from the neighbor’s pond to a narrow culvert that separated the neighborhood from the beach. We lived in a large Catholic section of Coney Island, a ten-minute walk from Steeplechase Park. From my bedroom window, I could see the metal tower of the Parachute Jump ride and the people screaming as long steel ropes hoisted them up and down.

A few days after my birthday, I asked Father at breakfast if I could go to work with him. “Sure, Samuel,” he said. “Just don’t cause trouble, like last time.” He ruffled my hair and smiled so widely I saw the toast still inside his mouth. He carried on reading the newspaper and I toyed with the scrambled eggs on my plate and thought about the candy bar in my room. Father drank the rest of his coffee and said, “If you’re finished, do the dishes.” He left the table and soon after I heard him talking to my cousin, Pam, in their bedroom. I left my plate where it was and went to the front door. I peered through the glass panel at the neat piles of orange and brown leaves in the neighbor’s garden and I felt an urge to kick the leaves, then bury them next to the pin oak that overlooked our house.

Pam called my name. But I ignored her. “Samuel,” she said again, this time louder. I turned to see Pam, hands on hips, her body inflated by a bubblegum-pink cardigan. She shook her head. Her brown hair framed her angular face, making her look older than she was. She hustled me to the hallway closet and made sure I put on my pencil-gray pea coat and thick woolen gloves.

Father kissed Pam on the cheek and said goodbye. He had on mud-brown khakis and one of his old Navy shirts, the epaulets unbuttoned and loose. He slung a cigarette in his mouth and grabbed my hand. At the door, he looked toward the bright sky and said something about the salt air. He was always talking about its benefits, as though breathing it in would cure any ailment. We took a short cut past the bathhouses so we could see the vast expanse of the ocean and Father could point out the smallness of the gulls. In the park, he ran a concession stand that sold ice-cream in the summer and popcorn and hot dogs in the fall. As we stepped onto the boardwalk, he explained that once a week a man came to check the stock levels. “He’s important,” he said. “Mr. Kendrick.”

Copyright © 2012 Christopher Linforth.

Monkeybicycle 9 is released this week and includes the work of A. Anupama, Jeremy Aufrance, A.A. Balaskovits, Nathan Blake, Lisa J. Cihlar, J.P. Dancing Bear, Rory Douglas, James Freed, Jack Garrett, James Tate Hill, Derek Henderson, Dustin Hoffman, Jared Hohl, J.Z. Houlihan, Jane Keyler, Sandra Kolankiewicz, Marshall Lee, Jessica Levine, Christopher Linforth, Naomi Ruth Lowinsky, Colleen Maynard, Todd McKinney, Colleen Morrissey, Analisa Raya-Flores, Laurie Sewell, Kelsi Sexton, Jon Steinhagen, Richard Wolkomir, and Michael Wood.

“Door-to-Door”–one of the first stories written for my MFA–is included with many fine stories and poems. Here’s an excerpt:

In the car, the man packed his valise. He put his rubber gloves inside, next to the talcum powder and a tube of medicinal salve. He checked the salve’s instructions and rubbed a little on his palm. While he waited, he looked at the house in the late afternoon light. The front lawn was dried out and colored a muddy brown. Broken trellis lay on the garden path. The curtains were closed.

He turned the radio on and listened to a man talking. On his hand, bright-red hives appeared. With a pocket-handkerchief he wiped away the remaining salve. He took out his cigarettes and lit one, blowing the smoke through the open car window. He saw a light go on in the front room and the curtains twitch.

Copyright © 2012 Christopher Linforth.

This piece is cross-posted over at The Minnesota Review blog.

Near the conference hotel, a lakefront Hilton, in a line for coffee at the Dunkin’ Donuts, a young woman stares at my nametag. For what seems like a minute, her eyes are fixated on my name. She thinks: Is he a writer? Somebody I should know? Or want to know? Can he get my story/poem/manifesto published? Can he get me a six-figure book deal? Or point me to someone who is able? I blush and tuck my nametag under my shirt. Sure, I’ve had a few things published in my time, but I’m still a bottom feeder, lowest on the rung: the plaid-wearing M.F.A. student.

The hotel bar is where AWP veterans, publishing bigwigs, established poets and writers congregate on the padded leather couches. These people have made it. You can tell by the absence of a nametag. They’ve been put away. Buried in their tote bag underneath a free pile of swag. Together—in a swirling mass of ten-dollar Budweiser, warm Chardonnay, and half-hidden hip flasks—the “made-its” laugh and hug, tell stories and gossip: Is that Tao Lin in the corner? What hair product does Michael Martone use? What do you mean Poet X won the Ruth Lily?! Don’t you owe me a beer from D.C.?

I vandalize my nametag. At the McSweeney’s booth, using a No. 2 pencil, I write “Tony Morrison” above my name. I tell people: I’m the other Toni Morrison. The one with a Y; the one who didn’t attend Cornell; the one who didn’t write Beloved; the one who didn’t win the Nobel Prize; the one who didn’t teach at Princeton; the one who didn’t get paid less than Snooki; the one who didn’t avoid this conference like the plague. I’m him. Tony. You know, the one stared at by a woman in Dunkin’ Donuts; the one picking up free literary journals; the one talking to hungover editors; the one attending panels; the one hoping for insights into the machinations of the publishing world; the one flailing in the hotel bar; the one trying to marry Sandra Beasley; the one plagued by a Y. A question he’s desperately attempting to answer.

“Cooler than cool, the pinnacle of what is ‘it’.” — Urban Dictionary

The realm of literary journals that may be termed “hip” was recently brought to my attention by George Bowering. George, who I presume is the one noted here, wrote about my list of best journals (see post here) were “square.” I agree that many of the journals I noted are not known for experimental, challenging, ground-breaking, or avante-garde literature, but, in fact, focus on traditional forms of storytelling.

Here, then, are a few hip journals (the last two, perhaps, for the Beat crowd). Feel free to add others in the comments section.

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The Believer

McSweeney’s

Noon

Electric Literature

NY Tyrant

Chiron Review

Evergreen Review

In my previous post I covered online journals, in this one I want to turn to print-based literary journals.

The following discussion will disregard magazines like The New Yorker, Esquire, Playboy, Harper’s, and The Atlantic, as these are transnational and commercial magazines with high circulations. Instead, I will examine journals that often have a circulation of a couple of thousand and are non or low profit. My personal criteria, which of course is subjective, included prestige, time-in-operation, inclusion in the Best American series, Pushcarts, and the calibre and accomplishments of the writers included within their pages.

The Top Ten

1. The Paris Review

2. Ploughshares

3. AGNI

4. Virginia Quarterly Review

5. Georgia Review

6. Sewanee Review

7. One Story

8. Prairie Schooner

9. Fiction

10. Crazyhorse

Other fine journals that just missed out on the top ten include Glimmer TrainTin House, Five Points, American Short Fiction, The Gettysburg Review, Colorado Review, A Public Space, North American Review, and The Kenyon Review.

Small Journals

These five journals I rate highly in terms of the writing and the breath of content and style on display.

1. Mid-American Review

2. Cimarron Review

3. Florida Review

4. Beloit Fiction Journal

5. Ninth Letter

Student-Only Journals

Lastly, to even out the playing field, I have a few journals that accept students’ work only.

1. Susquehanna Review (UG)

2. Touchstone (UG/G)

3. Red Clay Review (G)

4. Zaum (UG/G)

5. Prairie Margins (UG)

6. Outrageous Fortune (UG)

7. Aubade (students and the community)

Note: ex-student journals now open to everyone include: Penguin Review, Emerson Review, and Eclipse. Also, the Southampton Review seems to accept “mostly” student work.