One Writer’s Dilemma: Whether to announce a new story publication to mother and family.

Elizabeth FergasonThe following is a guest post by Elizabeth Fergason, whose creative non fiction work “Soup Day” appeared in Issue 19 of Typehouse.

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All my life my father, my birth-father that is, was a secret. Growing up, whenever I’d inquire, my mother would tell me I wasn’t old enough yet to know. Once I was an adult I heightened the asking. Finally, I threatened to never return home. “Okay, okay,” she said as she flipped through her Roledex and dialed his number. Just like that.

I recently wrote a short piece about the one and only time I met my birth-father and now it’s out in print. Normally, I announce my work once it’s published. I want friends and family to read my pieces. But this story is different, this is my mother’s secret I’m releasing. She’s kept the circumstances of my birth from so many — including her last husband to whom she was married for 27 years.

Revealing a family secret can be tricky. Revelation has its consequences. Writers understand this more than most. A writer friend of mine is holding off until after a family member dies to share a story they don’t want told. This is one way to handle it. The Wait.

There can also be a question about who exactly has the right to tell. It’s all about freedom of speech – say some. This is called Anything Goes.

The story my mother chooses to suppress is her own but I’m quite certain it is my story too. Am I under familial obligation to keep it out of circulation? Do I have to buy in to the revisionist family history she puts out to the world? I would say no.

Yet, despite having every right to share the secret, I feel uncertain. I dig into my values. Do no harm is a personal aspiration. Sharing a squashed and buried history is bound to make my mother suffer. I’ll be butting up against my own moral code.

On the other hand, I’m convinced that sharing the story will help me to heal from years of questions and uncertainty about my identity. Do I forfeit my own healing to accommodate my mother? True compassion involves fostering one’s own well-being before moving on to others. I need to take care of myself by speaking freely. If I want to say it, write it, share it, I will.

Or I won’t.

As much as I’d like to put the story out on every front, even more than this I wish to not create hurt. And so, I reconcile myself as the reluctant co-conspirator — a role I despise.

But then I rebel a little, and draw a snaky line in the road: I will share the published piece with my friends but not my mother, nor any of the people she knows. If by chance or karma, she happens upon the piece — well, let the fates take hold.

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Elizabeth Fergason is a native North Carolinian and an emerging writer who graduated from the MA English program at San Francisco State University. Recent literary publications include Flash Fiction Magazine, Typehouse Literary Magazine, Parhelion, Ligea, and Blue Moon. These works may be connected to through elizabethfergason.com.

Breakwater Stones: How Stories Are Shaped by Erratics

Eric ScholzThe following is a guest post by Eric Scholz, whose short story “Three-Day Bleed” appeared in Issue 16 of Typehouse.

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I find a certain poetic beauty in the fact that my first visit to Lake Michigan served as the catalyst for a story set at the New Jersey Shore. The story’s ubiquitous setting amalgamates the various beach towns of my childhood, but the breakwater stones that characters Louise and Pete climb on make their way into the story like glacial erratics (Latin errare, meaning “to wander”)—giant rocks carried hundreds of miles and dropped in new lands by advancing and retreating glaciers. I was on tour with my band, A Film in Color, and feeling very homesick. Jumping between those big stones with my best friends on the shores of Milwaukee’s McKinley Beach, I finally felt like I didn’t totally hate my life, despite the gnawing fear of slipping and falling into the lake. As I lay across the backseat of our 1990 Chevy Beaumont deathtrap en route to the next show, I recorded all my thoughts about those breakwater stones. In this blogpost I’ll analyze some of the other erratics that found their way into “The Three Day Bleed.”

“The Three Day Blow” by Ernest Hemingway”

The story’s title came to me one afternoon while flipping through Hemingway’s Complete Short Stories as I waited on the porch for a bass to arrive in the mail. I noticed a story called “The Three Day Bleed.” Of course, no such story exists. I noted the misread in my phone and it resurfaced in my consciousness months later when I was home from tour and expanding my breakwater free-write into a proper story.

“Franny” by J.D. Salinger

A lot of the protagonist’s naivete is the result of me not knowing what things are called, but Louise’s real spiritual ancestor is Franny Glass. I was reading Franny and Zooey and thinking a lot about my mother, who, over the course of the 2010s underwent a number of surgeries to remove skin cancer caused by sunburn, leaving scars across her nose and cheeks. I was in my late twenties and beginning to understand the horrible ways in which decisions made by our younger selves come back to disfigure us. This is why Louise and Pete tease one another about sunscreen in much the same fashion as Franny is teased by her beefheaded boyfriend, Lane.

“‘Am I dying?’: The miscarriage that leveled me, and brought us closer” by West Moss

West Moss was my first real writing mentor, and her collection, The Subway Stops at Bryant Park, is one of my all-time favorites. This essay predates the aforementioned collection by at least three years, but it is every bit as moving. I remember sitting in Moss’s fiction workshop and listening to her read the essay aloud and thinking I could never write something so emotionally stirring. In the essay, a younger Moss learns she is pregnant and excitedly tells her partner. The two laugh and then panic, and her partner blithely asks: “When are the adults coming home?” Weeks later, Moss learns she will miscarry. She calls her parents, but her father answers the phone. She tells him the news, and he responds: “Wait… I don’t have my hearing aids in,” before handing the phone off to Moss’s mother. If I learned one thing from Moss (the lessons I learned from her are countless) it’s that well-placed levity enhances the emotional impact of a scene.

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Eric Joseph Scholz is a writer and musician from New Jersey. He holds an MFA in Creative and Professional Writing from William Paterson University and plays bass in A Film In Color and Heavy Sigh. His work has been featured most recently in Typehouse Magazine, Construction Literary, Watchung Review, and the New Jersey Bards Anthology. In 2019, his fiction was awarded the NJCEA Graduate Student Writing Award. He teaches composition, literature, and creative writing.

Poetry Groups: A How-To for Participating & Managing

Cathryn SheaThe following is a guest post by Cathryn Shea, whose poetry appeared in Issue 16 of Typehouse.

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While there are several types of poetry groups and workshops, this article talks about one of the more common formats. Participants of my workshop/poetry group meet in person and are on equal footing. The format has a few house rules to ensure everyone is heard and the meeting ends on time.

Where to Find a Group of Poets

Poetry readings, book launches, and communities of writers are a good place to meet poets who already meet up or who want to form a group. A poet named Yvonne who I met at a library reading had a small group and invited me to submit my work to see if the other poets might like me to join. That was fifteen years ago. I’ve been with this group ever since.

Informal Chair

Yvonne, over the years, has become the informal chairperson of our group, which means that she maintains our address list, sends out email meeting reminders, and handles the email correspondence with prospective new members.

Schedule, “Venue,” and Snacks

We meet every two weeks on Monday night. Our meeting starts at 7:00 PM and we aim to end by 9:00 PM due to work schedules and commutes.

There are currently nine members, but on typical meeting nights five or six show up. If fewer than four can make it, we usually call off the meeting. We maintain the same schedule, however, which means if the meeting is cancelled, we will meet in two weeks from that date, not one. This is what works for us so we can plan around Monday nights and not have as many calendar conflicts.

We now meet only at Yvonne’s home. We used to rotate but as circumstances changed, we are happy to meet at the same place. Most of us bring cookies, nuts, or fruit to share. Our host provides tea and hot water. At all my poetry groups we do not drink alcoholic beverages. Alcohol would make us too giddy and silly. In my groups we are chatty and laugh a lot. For some reason, tea is the default beverage of choice instead of coffee.

Logistics

We begin by handing out copies of our poems around the table. Then someone (typically Yvonne) says, “Who wants to go first?”

We take a few minutes in silence to read the poem to ourselves.

The author reads their poem to the group. (No explanations or apologies if you can help it.) We do not strictly time each poem, but some of us remind the group about time. It helps to have a dictionary and thesaurus handy, and optionally, a book of poetry forms. Each turn typically takes fifteen to twenty minutes, depending on how many people are in attendance

This is important: the author remains quiet while the group discusses the poem. No butting in.

We are not strict about the order of who speaks as we go around the table and say what we think works well and what we think does not work, and suggest changes to punctuation, wording, order. We argue good naturedly over commas, line breaks, word choice, stanza order, titles, etc. Places in the poem that threw us out and obscure or archaic words. To outsiders it can sound like we are fighting, but we are amicable and friendly. We never attack anyone personally. We all want honest feedback no matter how bad the news may be for our poem.

After everyone has given their feedback, the author can speak and ask any questions or explain anything they wish. Sometimes we continue debating a few points or we might look up a word or bring out the thesaurus.

We write helpful notes and feedback on the poem, typically during the discussion and quickly before we hand the poem back to the author. (Make sure to sign the poem.)

After we hand our copies of the poem back to the author, we move onto the next person. The next person might just be counterclockwise or might be a volunteer who says, “I’ll go next.”

How and When to Bring in New Members

If after someone has dropped out or attendance becomes low, we might start to feel that the group has too few members. Then we start to think hard about recruiting. This typically happens every few years as people’s lives change. We used to post on Craig’s List if we were stuck for ideas of who to invite; we don’t love this method though. Word of mouth is best. The past few years we’ve been lucky to have members recommend poets to the group.

Our chairperson sends an invitation email to the new person and asks them to send three or four poems. Then the members of the group respond only within our group with their high-level feedback on the poems. We do not copy the new person.

We vote via email to invite the person and schedule a meeting when the new person can attend to try us out and for us to try them out. We hold a final vote via email. Keeping the count at eight or nine ensures that enough people will be available to meet, but is not too unwieldy to manage.

We all feel fortunate to have this community of poets with whom to bond and share our stories of submission and rejection and our new publications and books. These are perks in addition to developing our craft with the group.

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Cathryn Shea is the author of four chapbooks, including Backpack Full of Leaves (Cyberwit, 2019) and Secrets Hidden in a Pear Tree (dancing girl press, 2019). Her first full-length poetry book, Genealogy Lesson for the Laity, is forthcoming from Unsolicited Press in September 2020. Cathryn’s poetry was nominated for Best of the Net and appears in Typehouse, Gargoyle, Permafrost, Rust + Moth, and elsewhere. Cathryn served as editor for Marin Poetry Center Anthology. See www.cathrynshea.com and @cathy_shea on Twitter.

Thoughts on Writing about Time Travel

Mike NeesThe following is a guest post by Mike Nees, whose story “The Shifts” appeared in Issue 16 of Typehouse.

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How many times have I wished that I could revise the past? More than I can count. And yet, it’s not until the late 19th Century that anyone seems to have fantasized about a mechanism through which one might do this. No shortage of ancient tales explore other aspects of time’s relativity; Hindu, Buddhist, and Jewish stories all send figures into distant futures, for example, where time has passed without them. So why did it take so long for anyone to explore the idea in reverse?

Did God know in advance that Adam and Eve would eat from the tree? I think it’s a very different kind of story if so, and I can see how one would get caught up in the question. Omnipotence is the kind of conceit that I’m happy to indulge in a good story, provided I’m allowed to scrutinize it, and the author is willing to think it through. Like time travel, it requires the author to make bold predictions about how reality works. I love to see what authors do when out on these limbs.

So let’s say we create a protagonist and send her back in time to stop a disaster. No matter how modest our literary intent, we have to make some bold decisions. Does our hero find that fate is unbendable, and that everything—including her own time travel—is the predetermined course of a clockwork universe? Or does she discover the opposite scenario, in which her every actions triggers a butterfly effect of staggering consequence? I think these are the two extremes that we see most often. Both fascinate me, personally, but both have some significant trappings.

On the deterministic end, we risk revealing our own crass sense of omnipotence. We risk writing the Architect scene from the Matrix sequel, in which the audience is expected to have their minds blown by a pompously delivered diatribe about how our decisions have no meaning. I have no business saying that to a reader whose struggles I don’t know. And yet, I would argue that a skilled author can pull it off to great effect. Ted Chiang invokes this premise in “Story of Your Life” to contemplate the nature of grief. Kurt Vonnegut does it in Slaughterhouse Five to criticize America’s self-assuredness.

Whenever an author speculates on something unknowable, they expose—above all—themselves. We see their fingerprints riddling the worlds they’ve created. In fiction, that can be a problem. But sometimes we crave a glimpse of God’s fingerprints—even if they are those of a lesser God. A mere, mortal author.

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Mike Nees is a case manager for people living with HIV in Atlantic City, where he also hosts the city’s Story Slam series. His stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Typehouse Literary Magazine, matchbook, and Heavy Feather.

Adding a Bit of Quirk and a Bit of Me

The following is a guest post by K.B. Carle, whose story “Paper Darts” appeared in Issue 16 of Typehouse.

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With every new story I write, I try to include a bit of quirk and a bit of me. “Paper Darts” is no exception to this rule.

My bit of quirk appears within the first line, paragraph, or the form the story takes such as a receipt or recipe. The most important role of the quirk is to entice the reader. I consider setting when experimenting with quirks: how a story’s unusual location—inside a cabinet, an eyeball, on an imploding star—might transform a common occurrence such as a marriage, dinner, or a job interview, and encourage readers to read one more sentence. One more paragraph. One more page to see what happens next.

Then, I consider the emotional resonance. Something in my stories that will make readers cringe, cry, or laugh. Something that readers will carry with them even after they’ve finished my story. My “bit of me” is oftentimes the source of the emotional resonance in my stories and in “Paper Darts,” it is my fear of forgetting.

I’m terrified of memory loss triggered by dementia: my earliest introduction to memory loss was witnessing the slow deterioration of my grandmother which prompted me to explore this experience and why dementia frightens me in my writing. Her love of food transformed into forgetting she had just eaten, as evidenced by the crumbs on the plate balancing on her lap. She remembered the names of her children but could no longer remember the faces those names belonged to. She knew, once relocated to a nursing home, that she wanted to return to her bed and chair by the doorway so she could wave to all the cars that honked when they drove down the gravel path.

But she couldn’t remember where she lived.

I observed this deterioration of the mind with my mother during extended stays at the hospital to ensure my grandmother always had someone to talk to. I witnessed her moments of clarity as they were tinged with pitfalls of forgetting. I was fascinated by the life she had lived but frightened by all the moments her mind could no longer grasp.

I try to include these moments when writing about the mind’s decline. My goal is to provide readers with the emotional resonances I carry within me in hopes that they will reflect upon a moment in their life and consider a new angle. Awaken, in their memories, the slightest of details they might have missed.

Combining a bit of quirk and a bit of me is my way of searching for something I might have missed. I encourage all writers to experiment, inserting quirks into their stories. A plant that offers unsolicited advice regarding parenting or a break up between a laptop and USB, making everyday situations more enticing to read. I encourage all readers to take a moment to reflect upon these quirks and emotional resonances within the stories they love, and to remember the reasons why these stories or moments remain with them.

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K.B. Carle lives outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and earned her MFA from Spalding University’s Low-Residency program in Kentucky. Her stories have appeared in CHEAP POP, genre2, Jellyfish Review, Milk Candy Review, and elsewhere. She can be found online at http://kbcarle.wordpress.com/ or on Twitter @kbcarl.

News on Issue 20

As you may know, Typehouse is based in Oregon, and Gorham Printing, who we use for our physical issues, is in Washington. The West Coast has pretty much been on stay-at-home orders of one sort or another for quite a bit, which is definitely having a very positive effect. However, there is uncertainly about when that will be lifted. As of right now they are saying May 4th in Washington, but I do not see that very likely, as opening up too soon will cause another spike.

So as an editorial team we have made the tough decision to publish both the May and September issues as a group super (20th!) issue. We considered a lot of options, but ultimately thought it was better to have a date that is probably safe to settle on rather than having to risk keep moving things around, and maybe having to cancel it anyway. We will remain open to submissions as we work virtually anyway, and will probably close to submissions the beginning of August to put the issue together and have it out on time. 


I know this might be frustrating, and it is for us to, but I’d rather things happen in a way that keeps the most people safe, so we will adapt.  (And hey! Super 20th jumbo issue? Might have to do something super special!)

We super appreciate all of our readers and submitters and supporters. I hope you all are well and safe, and that you are dealing with the stress as well as possible. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions or concerns. Thank you for your participation in our magazine!


Val & Co. 

Issue 19 now available for preorder!

Typehouse Issue 19 Cover

Our new issue is in the processes of being shipped to us, and we are excited! Featuring work by Martina Litty, Denise Coville, Jenna Heller, Addison Rizer, Stephen O’Donnell, AnnElise Hatjakes, Joshua Storrs, Soramimi Hanarejima, Elizabeth Fergason, Chaya Nautiyal Murali, Jim Ross, Kym Cunningham, Rita Rouvalis Chapman, Pat Daneman, M.C. Childs, Lisa Trudeau, Michael Hardin, Gene Twaronite, Jordan Charlton, Roddy Williams, Shutta Crum, Fabrice Poussin, Keith Moul, Shayna Bruce, Jim Ross and Candice Rankin.

The web issue will be available online soon, but for now, come preorder here, and help support Typehouse while enjoying some wonderful work!

Thank you all for reading and submitting!

Clerk of the Dead – Alan Perry

We are honored to announce our Senior Poetry Editor Alan Perry’s new chapbook Clerk of the Dead will be published in early 2020! Congratulations Alan!
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Alan PerryHappy New Year! I hope 2020 begins a decade of joy and prosperity for you and those you love.

I am thrilled to announce that my first poetry chapbook will be published in early 2020! Clerk of the Dead is a compilation of poems that are elegies for people living and passed, and poems that cherish family, relationships and hope.

The book is available for advance orders now from the publisher’s website. Main Street Rag Publishing is the only place to order the book until it is actually printed in early 2020.

Clerk of the Dead

The cover price will be $12, but a prepublication discount brings the price down to $7.00 for a limited time.The publisher’s website page for the book also includes some complimentary blurbs written by several well-respected poets, as well as a few sample poems.

It can be ordered by visiting The Main Street Rag.

I am also very pleased to announce the launch of my new website: https://alanperrypoetry.com. As you will see, the website includes several of my poems, details about my forthcoming book Clerk of the Dead, several early reviews of it, and much more. It even has a sound recording of me reading my poem “A Quiet Occurrence”, which was recently published in Tahoma Literary Review. Please visit and send me your feedback, and any comments and suggestions are welcomed.

Best wishes to you all for goodness and blessings throughout the new year!

Alan

P.S. Clerk of the Dead is due to be released in April, but could be out as early as February. Watch the Events/Readings page on the website for more info on when and where the book launch and readings will occur.

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Alan Perry is the author of Clerk of the Dead, a finalist and honorable mention in the Cathy Smith Bowers Chapbook competition, to be published by Main Street Rag Publishing in 2020. His poems have appeared in Tahoma Literary Review, Heron Tree, Sleet Magazine, Gyroscope Review, Right Hand Pointing and elsewhere, and in the anthology, Celestial Musings: Poems Inspired by the Night Sky. He is a Senior Poetry Editor for Typehouse Literary Magazine, and has been nominated for Best of the Net. Alan holds a BA in English from the University of Minnesota, and he and his wife divide their time between a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota and Tucson, Arizona.

Position Openings

It is that time again, where we start a new reading period and people move on, and we need a couple new faces! Right now we are looking for 1-2 poetry feedback editors and 1-3 prose feedback editors. Description of the position:

Editor Responsibilities:

Read/provide feedback depending on position (see below)
Edit selected submissions for print in the magazine
Proof finished magazine before going to print

All positions will run though the end of January 2020, and can then be continued for further reading periods to be decided each time. Sadly, this is a for the love of it project, as we are still working to bring up our pay to contributors. However, letters of recommendation, summaries of work performed, and paperwork for using for college requirements are gladly provided.

Time commitment will vary, but is very part time. The first six weeks are a probationary period to ensure that it will be a good fit for everyone, and that keeping up with the responsibilities will work.

Guidelines for Submission Reading.
We use Submittable for our submission process. http://submittable.com/. It’s very easy to use, and we will help you to learn to it.

Feedback Editors:
Read feedback submissions, starting with the oldest, and provide feedback. Read “Maybe” submissions and weigh in with your opinion. Readers will be expected to provide feedback on at three submissions a week, as well as weigh in on “Maybe” submissions. (We do ask that you have experience with writing feedback for prose pieces, and we will ask for sample feedback on a test piece.)

Submission responses will be tallied, and EIC will stay in contact. Weeks off for travel or work can be arranged. All editors will be expected to help proof submissions as the end of the period in order to prepare the magazine for going to print.

If you are interested in this position send an email to typehouse(at) typehousemagazine(dot)com. Include information on your experience with creative writing, publications, writer’s groups, schooling, etc., and whether the time and reading period commitment required will work for you.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Writing After Abuse

Meggie RoyerThe following is a guest post by Meggie Royer, whose poetry appeared in Issue 16 of Typehouse.

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A month into our relationship, or perhaps less than that (trauma plays a kind of devastating cat’s cradle with memory), my abuser bought my book. He may have bought my second book, too, but I also do not remember this. What I do remember is sitting on a couch in his small dorm room, lamplight echoing across his face, our legs pressed together with the kind of timid intimacy that only falling in love for the first time can produce.

He was talking about my book, my writing. The impact it had, my talent, how he was left breathless by my way with words. He shared that he wanted to “support my work.”

I wasn’t aware he knew I had “work” at all, much less a book, or that he knew I had a writing blog, and where to find it. I wasn’t even aware his roommate knew I was a writer, until I was told they read my blog too.

The pure and unbridled irony of our relationship is that at the end, I wrote the one book he could not read.

I wrote a book about how he raped me, about how intimate partner sexual violence leaves untold wreckage in its wake, how in Turkmenistan there is a crater of natural gas that never stops burning, how in my worst moments I imagined lifting its edges like a blanket and stepping inside.

He has not read that book. What he continues to read, however, is my blog, the place that launched my writing career into a hundred thousand devoted followers, the place where I posted, in June of 2014, how I could never trust him again. That five year old post remains in my archive, suspended like an insect in amber, something I can’t bear to save but can’t stand to delete.

I know his watch continues, because he tells me so, or sometimes an ex or friend of his tells me too. Every few months the messages come in, the snarling anonymous accusations that I lied, that I was the abuser, that I was and always will be worth nothing. They arrive in the inbox of my writing blog, the place I always held sacred until it became both a bane and a blessing.

It’s haunting, in a way, like having a ghost perched on my shoulder like a parrot. I still write poems about him and his wreckage, hoping while also fearing that he might read them. I no longer post personal details of my loved ones or my job, knowing that anything can, and might, be used against me.

It would be easier to delete my blog, disappear the archives, Eternal Sunshine it from the Internet. But this is what the guilty do. They erase their evidence, cloak their mistakes. Neither of us may give up, and for what it’s worth, I will not be the one to give up first.

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Meggie Royer is a Midwestern writer, domestic violence advocate, and the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Persephone’s Daughters, a literary and arts journal for abuse survivors. She has won numerous awards for her work and has been nominated several times for the Pushcart Prize. She thinks there is nothing better in this world than a finished poem.