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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.
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.
You can find Toiti on her website.
The following is a guest post by Vincent Salvati whose story “The Fire” appeared in Issue 11 of Typehouse.
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.
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 following is a guest post by Andrew DiPrinzio, whose story “The Salt Pans” appeared in Issue 11 of Typehouse.
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?
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!
Hello All! We are currently looking for a couple of editors/readers for our next issue, #13. Responsibilities could include reading submissions, providing feedback on submissions marked as such, editing accepted submissions and possibly social media work. Time period would be now through January ’18, and you can continue through as many reading periods as you like. If you are interested or would like more info, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know what experience you have with providing feedback, workshopping stories, reading submissions, writing, teaching, etc. Thanks!
Serena Johe, Eric Gier, Douglas Cole, Andriana Minou, Andrew Hamilton, Jim Naremore, Molly DiRago, Rose Wunrow, Philip Dean Brown, Katy Mullins, Ashley N. Melucci, Julia Blake, Hannah Suchor, Jay Vera Summer and Lucas Flatt.
Poetry by :
Ian Kappos, James Croal Jackson, Mahdi Ahmadian, Olga Dugan, David Gilmore, Bridget McDonald and Elspeth Jensen.
Visual Art by:
Zola, Andrea Adams, J. Ray Paradiso, Filo Canseco, Alicia Buster and Daniel Ableev.
Check it out on our Contest Page!
The following is a guest post by Jarred Thompson, whose poetry appeared in Issue 11 of Typehouse.
Creative writing is an act of love, and like any act of love it comes with a sense of anxiety and intimacy. You wonder whether the words will obey your creative ambition or whether they will betray you on the page, ending up stillborn and stale. Yet, despite the fear that comes with performing such an act, there is a momentary sense of fulfilment after a creative work has been completed. This moment of fulfilment reveals itself in the images and sketches of human life that the writer has created on the page. Creative fulfilment is so enticing, so indulgent, that I find myself feeling satiated for a brief moment in time.
But, like any sense of fulfillment, this moment of Elysian happiness fades as the creative mind seeks new stories, images, and experiences to relate into fiction. A writer’s life is one that can never be totally fulfilled and this is the burden that all writers and artists must bear. For it is that sense of lack (that sense that the story could be told better, richer, fuller) that we return to the page to press our hearts and minds to it in the hope that the right words may capture the elusive dog that barks in our dreams. As Robert Frost once put it:
We dance around the ring and suppose,
But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.
My poems featured in the latest issue of Typehouse Magazine have a lot to do with secrets. When I wrote Condition I was meditating on the secret lives that gay men live. The poem takes place in a gay bathhouse, a place designed exclusively for unattached, anonymous sex. Throughout the poem there’s a questioning to the exact conditions that bring gay men to these places where their secret sex lives may be performed. I wondered what was it about being gay and being trapped in a closet of patriarchy that forced gay men to “plant secrets in each other”, to open themselves up to strangers in a desperate effort to attain pleasure and a sense of escape. What were we trying to escape so desperately? When I wrote the serenity of a toilet cubicle I was contemplating the division between the private self and the public self and how incessantly the one demands to be the other.
It seems then that a writer’s vocation is to give breath and voice to secrets; to unearth them and allow metaphor or imagery to transcend them. Creative writing creates a sense that we may never capture the kernel of truth in the middle of our lives, but the pursuit of it is a never-ending dance that empties our lives but fills our dreams.