Before “A Fireball for Edgar”

The following is a guest post by Brandon Jenkins, whose short story “A Fireball for Edgar” appeared in Issue 11 of Typehouse.

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While reflecting on this past year, the first year I actually started submitting my stories to publications, I began pondering why I’m a writer and why I chose to write about the things I write about. I found myself reminiscing about the first story I ever wrote a long time ago. Although the details of that first short story I ever wrote are foggy at best, I can recall the circumstances surrounding that story as if it were yesterday.

The assignment from our third grade teacher, Mrs. West, was to write about the moon then read it aloud to the class. I can vaguely remember a few of my classmates reading their stories to the class: My best friend Justin talking about eating ice cream on the moon; my friend and little league teammate Lance talking about a neon green moon that would drip radioactive ooze; and my friend and teacher’s pet C.B. who ingeniously created a world on the moon and used the earth to light up its sky at night.

I can remember taking my turn immediately after C.B. because I had a clever plan to one-up him. I had decided to use everybody in the class in my story. Since it was a big class (there were about thirty of us), I had to group a lot of people together to make it read faster but at the very least every student would get a mention. Those who were close friends of mine, however, got prominent roles in my story.

As I mentioned, I don’t remember too much of the story itself but one thing I am certain of is that it was titled The Remote Control Moon and the premise was simple: our class had the remote that controlled the moon. I was a few sentences in when I remember all hell breaking loose both figuratively and literally.

As I read about Lance accidentally smashing the side of the Empire State Building with the moon, or Justin nearly killing himself while trying to control the moon, the actual Lance and Justin were convulsing with laughter on the floor at hearing their names mentioned. I remember at one point my friend Matthew actually injuring his elbow when he fell out his chair from laughing so hard when he smashed another classmate into the ground with the moon.

All of the girls in the story were broken down into several “gangs” which I based on their real life cliques. I couldn’t help but notice Mrs. West getting a special kick out of this. Their job in the story was to find the “special” remote that controlled the room.

When I was finished, and nearly out of breath from both reading and laughing, there was maybe one or two boys still seated properly. The rest were scattered around the room hyperventilating as if they just ran a marathon. I handed my story to Mrs. West and got a polite applause from those able to do so.

Maybe that’s what made me want to be a writer: The fact that I was able to entertain thirty of my classmates while just being myself. Maybe I would’ve become a writer regardless of how the story was received. All I know for sure is my friend Matthew was still in considerable pain when we went to recess later that day.

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You can find Brandon on Twitter.

Issue 13 is at the printers!

And we are so excited. Here is a sneak peek at the new cover.

We should have the issues in our hot little hands by the 25th, and the online issue will go live then as well.

We had a couple of weeks off from Friday essays over the holidays, but check back on Friday for a new essay from Brandon Jenkins, an issue 11 contributor.

And finally, say hello to our new poetry editor, David Gilmore, and a big thank you to retiring editors Lily Blackburn and David Midkiff!

Writing is Gross

The following is a guest post by Ruy Arango, whose short story “Waking” appeared in Issue 11 of Typehouse.
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A lot of people think writing is great, that it’s cool and sexy, that there’s something really special about it, something artistic.Those people are wrong. Writing is gross.

Writing is gross because it’s personal. Not the warm conversation kind of personal, the middle-school-sans-antiperspirant kind of personal. In fact, it’s so personal writers often shy away from showing it to anyone, the way you’d shy away from lending out your underwear. Writing is hope and desire and fear all rolled up into a ball of letters. Sometimes there are even semicolons. Gross.

Writing is gross because it’s work. It’s not spontaneous and it doesn’t feel good. It’s unpleasant enough that many writers struggle to do it at all. They think of the drafting and re-drafting and pages of line edits and decide to do something else entirely, like clip their nails or masturbate. It’s the sort of thing people put off. Gross.

Writing is gross because most of it is bad. That’s right, bad. And a lot isn’t even bad, it’s really bad. It has typos and too many commas. Sometimes it doesn’t go anywhere, just limps on page after page. Sometimes it doesn’t even do that, just sits there, dense and off-putting, like a stool sample. It’s the kind of stuff that attracts flies, that leaves a trail of slime. Really bad. Gross.

So, writing is gross, but what about stories? We like those, love them even. They’re great, fantastic, the best. We couldn’t do without them. Is there something to be said about this? About the fact that stories are made from writing (ew), that they’re forged over days and weeks and years, and that if the writer had a soul (doubtful), some part of it would surely be in that story, that thing we read and take into ourselves like nothing less than the communion of God almighty?

Probably.

But writing is still gross.

How I Accomplish “Pride, Excellence & Beauty”

The following is a guest post by Carolyn McMurry, whose artwork appeared in Issue 11 of Typehouse.

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Scrolling on Instagram can make you feel obsolete about your skills. I know I did, but I also knew I wasn’t so much obsolete as I was on a different level artistically. I mean, I have a lot to do, I have a family to take care of, school, work; so drawing wasn’t exactly my first priority. Not to mention, I just don’t have the time to devote to a heavily detailed work. However, I saw what abilities I wanted to accomplish in those Instagram artists. I mean, I really, really wanted to get there. So I decided to make time and learn from them instead.

This particular series, “Pride, Excellence & Beauty,” was inspired by many of those works on social media and the techniques that were used to create them. I have also currently been very aware and inspired by my culture and natural hair movement. This embraces our skin, our hair, our bodies, and our pride. I wanted to show that in my work. For the longest, I didn’t have any real meaning behind most of my art. Portraits have always been my thing but they were just random photos from the internet of my favorite celebrities. I took a new direction. Still portraits, but they were more culturally aware with opportunities to improve on texture, shading, and detail.

In a way, I wanted to give myself some form of a foundation. I asked myself, What about my art do I want to change, improve? I didn’t want my outlines to be too heavily defined, so I picked up different textured pencils and experimented. I didn’t realize there were so many shades that resulted in different outcomes. Graphite, soft and dark charcoal, layering…I can’t believe it took me this long to figure out why a No.2 pencil is a No.2 pencil. I studied the shading, blending, posture, and detail of many other artists (@ts_abe is my favorite). I worked on curls and the texture of hair, because curls are a significant part of the culture; and our hair is much of our pride in itself. Not to mention, curls are a challenge all their own. Shaping the face and its features properly was a major goal. To think, all this time and I still hadn’t gotten it right. In my defense, using a reference was simple. I was great at that. But that wasn’t the case for my freehand style. Freestyle was the struggle.

I challenged myself to draw differently on purpose to get away from what I had always done, while still expressing the beauty of what I had always known. Thus, the pride was born. Pride in my culture, pride in my work, and pride in my choice to learn rather than envy. This series was a part of my coming out, artistically and as a new woman who refuses to let others dictate how I express myself. If I took a risk with nudity, I told myself not to care what someone else might say. In fact, I was going to freehand the same type of photos until I was satisfied with my improvement. So really, “Pride, Excellence, and Beauty” was reflective of my own personal journey and where I’m trying to go. Hopefully, people can be inspired by this change of life artistically and personally.

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You can find Carolyn on Facebook 1 or 2, Instagram and Twitter.

About “On the Bridge, In the Rain”

The following is a guest post by Toti O’Brien whose creative non-fiction piece “On the Bridge, In the Rain” appeared in Issue 11 of Typehouse.
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I have written about anorexia a few times, in different forms. A couple of takes were remote—they approached the subject through myth, fairy tale, archetype. One was very serious—it examined the subject from a Marxist, then a feminist point of view, also touching at legal, medical, sociological, economical aspects. Such break down had required time, study, labor, research, and of course it meant lots to me. I hoped an anthology about mental illness would accept it—probably the ideal publishing venue. I found one that was interested, but my essay exceeded the word limit. The editors suggested I choose a section and make it into a whole. Well, cut-and-paste rarely works. Or it does but the result is quite scarred, Frankenstein style.

I decided this was my occasion for starting afresh, utilizing the same raw material in a different way. Having limited time, I followed the advice Grandma patiently administered when I was a child—sometimes still hesitating in front of a task that seemed new, complicated, or just task-like (an unpleasant feeling itself). “I don’t know where to start,” I would say. The banal excuse! Grandma laughed out loud. “Then start in the middle,” she replied, so amused I suspect she was repeating a trick the nuns had played on her—in the orphanage—when she felt abandoned, or helpless, or lost. Well, she needed to grow strong and brave, apt to do whatever had to be done. So did I.

I learned to approach things—especially delicate, controversial ones—jumping in with no intro, no bows and no curtsies. Simply dive. “In media res,” said the Latin. All right. On the bridge, then. Why would writing about anorexia be delicate? Only the universally accepted cliché finds an audience. A snapshot, a codified scene, possibly involving throwing up in the toilets, a fucked-up body image, a quasi-corpse narrator tormented by guilt, possessed by strange demons. Sometimes sorely repentant, sometimes redeemed, horrified by her past sickness. I am using female pronouns for a reason.

What could have been nerve-wracking, what could have caused hesitation (and not knowing where to start), was my need of not providing the expected snapshot, but tell another story. Or just tell a story. Tracing the arc (the very shape of a bridge), designing the curve, constituting the fabric of a life—mine. But if anorexia draws the contour, makes the core of my existence, then it is rather a form of identity than a freaking twist of insanity. And who wants to hear that?

“On the bridge, in the rain” sees anorexia as a process, a path, with its own set of meanings. I have wanted to say this out loud for a long time. No wonder. It takes centuries for the oppressed to find their voice, and this is a story of oppression. But she (the oppressed) finds it, for sure. And it sings.

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You can find Toiti on her website.

Origin of “The Fire”

The following is a guest post by Vincent Salvati whose story “The Fire” appeared in Issue 11 of Typehouse.

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My story, The Fire, was inspired by an event that took place in August of 1891 to my great, great-grandfather. James Murphy and his seventeen-year-old son of the same name spotted a fire in the distance and set out to investigate. Living close to the railroad tracks, they walked down them in the direction of the smoke. As they were crossing High Bridge, the son noticed an approaching train and alerted his father. It is unknown why the elder Murphy did not follow his son to another track. But regardless of the reason, he remained where he was, and the son witnessed his father’s horrible death. My great, great grandfather was forty-three years old.

While my story is just that–a work of fiction, I have always been intrigued by this event that ended my ancestor’s life and surely traumatized his son and the rest of the family. His seventeen-year-old son was the oldest of eight children, the youngest still in her mother’s belly. That unborn baby would become my great-grandmother. She was born in March of 1892–a full seven months after her father’s death. There are so many facets of this story that I do not know. Did he kill himself? Was he drunk? Did he even know his wife was pregnant? I have tried to research, with no luck, the fire to which they were heading. That mysterious blaze has always intrigued me.

Like much of my writing, I used a particular incident as a stepping off point and let my imagination take over from there. The fire became my central focus, and I allowed it to lead me through the creative process of investigating what the fire would mean to an individual or the family, as well as how it would affect them. Additionally, I wanted the deadly train event to play a role. The era was also important to me and one I often consider. The period prior to and just after the turn of the twentieth century is rich with oral histories I recall being told as a child. By mixing these elements together, I was able to satisfy my storytelling appetite while paying respect to the past.

Announcing our Pushcart Prize Nominees!

We are happy to announce our Pushcart Prize nominees, listed in alphabetical order!

  • 12 Crocodiles by Ryan Drawdy from Issue 11
  • Buried Bones by Eric Gier from Issue 12
  • In Flawed Essence by Serena Johe from Issue 12
  • Lily Outlives Jon by Bridget McDonald from Issue 12
  • “Metropolis’s Missing Reel” by Ian Kappos from Issue 12
  • Volary by Delynn Willis from Issue 10

Congratulations to all of our nominees, and good luck!

The Arcane Poet

The following is a guest post by Andrew DiPrinzio, whose story “The Salt Pans” appeared in Issue 11 of Typehouse.
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Henry David Thoreau didn’t believe in accidents. The arcane poet wanders in his own magic circle. A magician of sorts, Thoreau believed the poet held the power to round up all the forces of the natural world and, at the right time, conjure something important. Thoreau believed in magic. According to his biographer, Kevin Dann, Thoreau’s walking buddies (including Melville, Hawthorne, and Fuller) reported that whether in search of a rare bud or a sleek arrowhead, Thoreau possessed an uncanny ability to find what he was looking for. Buddhists would say that is the way of the universe; everything rises. The galaxy gathers at the precise moment to assemble what one needs. Often when writing, I feel like that wanderer. A blue-cloaked wizard lost in the desert, except unlike Thoreau, I don’t have the entire cosmos behind me.

With The Salt Pans (Issue 11), I decided to draw my own circle. First, two characters who were, like me, searching. Second, a mystical landscape. The Gozo salt pans of Qbajjar Bay are breathtaking and empty. At dusk, the red sunset pools into the pans multiplying itself a hundred times over. It is a place one can easily believe some ancient horoscopy exists, like my protagonist, Jenna believes. Then, I added imbued objects collected: a leather Nefertiti bag my wife bought secondhand in Malta, a specific biography of Robert Kennedy I bought because I liked the cover photo, my dream car, a red Corvette Stingray, a postcard from Corfu, a package of sardines, and more. Each, I hoped, if I placed into my circle in a particular pattern would conjure some brilliance. When that failed, I rearranged, then again until those objects, when touched by my characters, seemed to shine like rubies. They became imperative. I felt if I moved one, the magic would evaporate.

In that circle, I wandered, searching for a solution to the moment the central tension (Jenna hiding her past from her fiancée, Reed) needed to come to a head. Reed enters the kitchen to confront Jenna while she is preparing dinner. I tried it dozens of ways. Jenna cries. Jenna leaves. Reed yells. Reed cries. Reed leaves. They all felt common, until I moved one of my objects. “Reed placed the postcard onto the counter.” A simple gesture. The postcard fell into place, magically shifting the section’s tone to subtlety. From Reed’s restraint, came Jenna’s quietness. The story felt complete.

There must be more efficient writers out there. Ones who sit down, and consistently write with focus. Could I have achieved this using another technique? The internet isn’t want for downloadable formulas for a “successful” story. Each containing the plot points designed to keep the writer on track. Did I wander for too many mornings in revision? I suppose. I also suppose Thoreau could have found his precious flora with a field guide, but where’s the magic in that?

We have our new editors!

Our current roster of editors are:

Val Gryphin – Editor-in-Chief
Lilly Blackburn – Prose Editor
T. E. Wilderson – Prose Editor
Abigail Rabishaw – Prose Editor
Kristine Oakhurst – Prose Editor
Yukyan Lam – Prose Editor
David Midkiff – Poetry Editor
Gabe Seals – Poetry Editor
John Koch – Visual Arts Editor
Christopher Creech – Social Media Editor

Come take a look at our updated masthead and read about the lovely team who reads your work!

Typehouse Masthead