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Month: November 2019

Advice to the Newlyweds

by Kelsey Englert

 

The gift of marriage is a long wait
to see what’s inside the Trojan Horse.

 

Kelsey Englert’s writing has appeared in Passages North, Into the Void, The Citron Review, and The Broken Plate, among other literary magazines. She is a Pennsylvania native and earned her M.A. in English from Ball State University and M.F.A. in creative writing from West Virginia University. She teaches at the University of Arkansas at Monticello. For more information, visit www.kelseyenglert.com.

 

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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Advice for the Newlyweds”?

I married in the summer of 2019. As a newlywed, I received a lot (A LOT) of advice on how to “survive” marriage. Like any feedback, it required sorting. Beautiful. Cliché. Amusing. Foreshadowed doom. I titled this last category “The Trojan Horse” and it boiled down to this poem.

Xanadu: a triptych

by Nancy Stohlman

 

Xanadu
Once all hope had truly been lost—after the planets lined up and nothing happened, after churches were roped off with police tape, historical landmarks proven fraudulent, and even sex became irrelevant, the few people still able to feel pain took what was left and traveled to the edge. And once there, they sacrificed the rest of their ruby slipper childhoods and abandoned imaginations and some people even ripped off their own tattoos and threw the inked bologna skins over the edge and together we watched our dreams quietly float away, like deflated balloons and sad water bugs.

Xanadu
And then, just when we thought it was too late, someone jumped in and started swimming after the dreams. They swam out to the big one bobbing, almost lost, and dragged it back. We stood, stunned, at the edge. And then we all started rescuing dreams. They were water logged and distorted; they were bloated and torn and trampled. But they were alive. Even the children were scooping up a floating dream, a dream trapped under a rock. So many dreams! We pulled them out, wet but alive, and piled them on the beach.

Xanadu
And then someone decided we should give the dreams back. So every night as the people were sleeping we tiptoed to their houses and returned their dreams in little golden envelopes, and when the sun rose, ripping pink stretchmarks into the morning sky, ripping like it never wanted anything more, the people woke to find their dreams returned, in the door jams or in the mailboxes or under rocks, returned like love notes, like a lost pet found, and they wondered how they could have ever let them go so easily.

 

Nancy Stohlman is the author of Madam Velvet’s Cabaret of Oddities (a finalist for a 2019 Colorado Book Award), The Vixen Scream and Other Bible Stories (2014), the flash novels The Monster Opera (2013) and Searching for Suzi (2009), and three anthologies of flash fiction including Fast Forward: The Mix Tape (2010). She is the creator and curator of The Fbomb Flash Fiction Reading Series, the creator of FlashNano in November, and her fiction has been chosen for the W.W. Norton anthology New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fiction and the Best Small Fictions 2019. She lives in Denver and teaches at the University of Colorado Boulder. She dreams of one day becoming a pirate.

 

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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Xanadu”?

This piece emerged when I was on a 3-week writing sabbatical on a super remote island in the Adriatic Sea.

It’s a magical story: I was on the beach. And there was more trash than usual and then way out there I saw something bobbing and floating and it did not look liked it belonged (keep in mind this is like a cove beach so no big waves). So I say ok, I’m a good swimmer, so I decide to swim out there and get it. It’s a styrofoam tray thingy, a big one like maybe the bottom of a cooler or something. I swim it back to the shore with one arm. As I get to the shore people are watching and smiling and by the time I drag this thing out other people are standing up and starting to pick up trash. Pretty soon every single person on the beach is picking up trash, wading in and grabbing floating trash, young and old, and no one is even saying a word (we probably speak 10 different languages anyway) then someone goes and gets a big trash barrel, and everyone is focused, on a mission. Together we cleaned that whole beach up in 20 minutes without a word but lots of smiles.

Sunday Focus: Deliver Some Punishment

Photo by Meg Boscov

[Editor’s Note: This ongoing Sunday feature pairs photographs from Meg Boscov with a thought (or two) from the managing editor about focusing on tiny things to find something significant. Click on the picture itself to view at full size.]

 

 

I saw this photograph of a White Swan Coneflower looking down upon another White Swan Coneflower, I immediately thought of this sentimental quote: I’m sure wherever my dad is he’s looking down on us… he’s not dead… just very condescending.

The one-liner might be the “joke” equivalent of the micro fiction or the macro photo. Pith and power pack its punch. It redirects your attention quickly and sharply. It makes the very small very signficant.

When I was a boy, I would lay in my twin sized bed and wonder where my brother was. — Mitch Hedberg

Sarah Silverman (book titles): The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee.

So I’m at the wailing wall, standing there like a moron, with my harpoon. — Emo Philips

I’d kill for a Nobel Peace Prize. — Steven Wright

During my teens, while my friends were being punished for underage drinking or staying out past curfew, I was kicked out of the house for my father for punning. No joke.

I told him, on my way out, that I’d go to the pharmacy for some pun-icillion.

I’d like to think that halfway through Nicole Kidman’s last name there’s a tiny bar mitzvah. — Megan Amran

How to make a million dollars: First, get a million dollars. — Steve Martin

The worst time to have a heart attack is during a game of charades. – Demetri Martin

“Humor is an excellent part of life,” writes William Berry in Psychology Today. “Laughing leads to increased pleasure, more enjoyment, and a happier life. At times, humor is certainly used to mask underlying ‘truths’ of the individual. In other instances, it is simply an outrageous thought leading to humor. Often, it is simply a reflection of our human desire to connect and experience joy. You do not have to give credence to every thought you have. One would benefit from evaluating his or her thinking and determining personal truth. Hopefully, that truth leads to joy, for both you and others.”

“I’m here today,” says stand-up Wanda Sykes, “because I hated everything else.” At the other end of the joke, we find the comedian, spilling out line after line, hoping one connects.

A punch line.

When I said I was going to become a comedian, they all laughed. Well, they’re not laughing now, are they? — Bob Monkhouse

This week’s image implores you to deliver a knockout punch by throwing a one-liner at the appropriate time. Such a process, of course, means that you memorize a few, or write them down with your puncil.

Also look for an opening to create your own. Do this enough times, and you’ll become punstoppable.

Two cannibals are eating a clown, and one looks at the other and says, Does this taste funny to you?

Meg Boscov is a photographer who lives and works outside of Philadelphia where she continues to pursue her careers in animal-assisted education and dog training. She can be reached on instagram at megboscov.

Ponds

by Pamela Painter

 

This summer we’re renting a cottage not in Maine, but in a new place on the outer Cape. And just like past summers, you’ll pack your own suitcase, not the one with pajamas and shorts and swimsuits, but the pink suitcase with Ishbel, your fuzzy goat, and games, and books from your shelf. You will have a room all to yourself, mysteriously, and we’ll make sure it is close to our room for when you call out in the night, which you have almost stopped doing. Yes, you can stay up as late as Danny used to—how do you remember that—and you won’t have to think about the ocean. Tides and riptides are words we will not use. The kettle ponds are round and calm, home to tadpoles we will watch turn into frogs, and you will marvel about how things grow and change—like tadpoles and caterpillers—and be sad that some things don’t.

 

Painter is the author of four story collections, the most recent is Ways to Spend the Night. She is also the co-author of What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers. Her stories have appeared in The Atlantic, Harper’s, Ploughshares, Smokelong Quarterly, Threepenny Review and Epoch, among others, and in numerous anthologies. Painter teaches in the MFA Program at Emerson College in Boston.

 

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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Ponds”?

I’ve always been fascinated by what is missing, felt to be missing. And with water. The two came together in this story.

Sunday Focus: the moon considers the earth

Photo by Meg Boscov

[Editor’s Note: This ongoing Sunday feature pairs photographs from Meg Boscov with a thought (or two) from the managing editor about focusing on tiny things to find something significant. This Sunday brings you a glimpse of an upcoming collaboration between Matter Press for Compressed Creative Arts and Meg Boscov that matches Meg’s photographs with prose poems that imagine the world after the humans are all gone. Click on the picture itself to view at full size.]

 

 

The moon shows Earth her same face, their spins synchronized, like the dials of the now lifeless timekeepers. Only the moon moderates the wobbly world, apogee, perigee, low tides high. The Earth keeps its distance, no lunar landings to examine the arid rubble. Billions of years ago, the molten moon floated into space; there will be no homecoming, except upon reflection in Earth’s shiny surface, satellite, sunlight, switch, switch, switch. No hours, weeks, months accumulate in the charcoal-gray of the present day. No mechanism crystallizes the tick tock: the moon pedals its cycles: new, waxing, quarter, gibbous, full, waning, last, crescent. This watered-down Earth only moonlights as a big body to its powdery partner. Long ago invisible particles collided to form change; now the results consider each other, widowed sisters, corona, dynamo, two alone.

Meg Boscov is a photographer who lives and works outside of Philadelphia where she continues to pursue her careers in animal-assisted education and dog training. She can be reached on instagram at megboscov.

Kinder Surprise’s Holy Trinity

by Olfa Alouini

 

 

Olfa Alouini is a French economist and diplomat currently on a sabbatical year in the Middle-East. She holds a double Ph.D. in Macroeconomics from Humboldt University Berlin and Sciences Po Paris. She is also fluent in German, Italian, Arabic and Russian. More impressive is the fact that she cannot tell right from left, ever. That’s why she’s usually all over the place; so are her writings.

 

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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Kinder Surprise’s Holy Trinity”?

Ok JCCA, here you come, pressing me for more. So I hope this three-step trip makes you tick:

1-BRAINTEASE. I’ve come to remember my childhood state of mystification and obsession with the Kinder Surprise commercial when writing ‘Don’t Follow Gravity, it’s a Trap!’, an autobiographico-philosophico-pop essay (yet to be published!). I was looking for a compelling illustration for my claim that while reality is elusive, truth can be found…in contradictions. It also saved me from going into Leibniz’s ‘Monadology’, which was a sweet relief. #toying_with_ideas

2-EYECANDY. Another childhood obsession compelled me to enter the JCCA Triptych call for submission in the middle of a sleepless night: The Garden of Earthly Delights Triptych by Hieronymus Bosch. Discovering this painting, I also discovered the word triptych. For hours on end, I would trip soberly (ok, I admit I was high on sugar all the time back then, courtesy of my dealer Ferrero) on the tiny whimsical, decadent or sadistic creatures, trying to figure out my favorite one. Writing this, I’m wondering what it would be like looking at the painting on LSD. #eye_chocolate

3-BODYFUEL. Some of my favorite electronic music is made by a trio of Italian mind-fucking geniuses called Triptease (do check them out and thank me for the eargasms later : https://www.residentadvisor.net/dj/triptease/biography). Last summer, at a festival, as I got unbearably exhausted, drenched in sweat and famished from hours of non-stop compulsive dancing, one of them surprised me with some Kinder chocolate. His neon spandex leggings kept me from falling in love on the spot. #surprises #sore_eyes

Moonlighting

by Douglas W. Milliken

 

The easiest and by far most satisfying way of infuriating the Pigeon Queen was simply to call her Mom. It didn’t even need to be intentional, it could just slip out—Mom—and she’d completely come unglued.

 

Douglas W. Milliken is the author of two novels, To Sleep as Animals and Our Shadows’ Voice (forthcoming 2019), the collection *Blue of the World*, and several chapbooks, including The Opposite of Prayer. He lives with his family above a post-industrial dam on the Saco River. www.douglaswmilliken.com

 

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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Moonlighting”?

I’ve always loved the whispered aside. Everyone’s attention is focused on one thing, then the person beside you leans in to deliver into your ear alone a hidden truth about the unfolding scene. Which makes the scene, then, superfluous. It’s the whisper that’s the secret center now.

Sunday Focus: Earth, Released

Photo by Meg Boscov

[Editor’s Note: This ongoing Sunday feature pairs photographs from Meg Boscov with a thought (or two) from the managing editor about focusing on tiny things to find something significant. Click on the picture itself to view at full size.]

 

 

O, Earth, bereft of your brood of shepherds, you now revive. Your first-parents’ depopulated temples revolt against their origins, now bob as hulls on this unmeasured map. Trees grow adventurous in the fatal air, unfouled. The disease removed, their anger breaks, like the steep waves caressing limbs and weathered trunks. O, Earth! You no longer mourn at dawn, no longer pray to get even at dusk, no longer blow breaths in vain. Triple-colored bows adorn the present. For the albatross and other islanders, the preserved sylvan grove shines as the fairest flame.

Meg Boscov is a photographer who lives and works outside of Philadelphia where she continues to pursue her careers in animal-assisted education and dog training. She can be reached on instagram at megboscov.

News

Check out the write-up of the journal in The Writer.

Matter Press recently released titles from Meg Boscov, Abby Frucht, Robert McBrearty, Tori Bond, Kathy Fish, and Christopher Allen. Click here.

Matter Press is now offering private flash fiction workshops and critiques of flash fiction collections here.

Submissions

Poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction/prose poetry submissions are now OPEN. The submission period closes June 15, 2020; submit here.

Upcoming

04/02 • Sarah Sousa (1 of 10)
04/06 • Curtis Smith
04/08 • Kim Magowan
04/09 • Sarah Sousa (2 of 10)
04/13 • Agnieszka Filipek
04/15 • Robert McBrearty
04/16 • Sarah Sousa (3 of 10)
04/20 • Christen Kauffman
04/22 • Sara Backer
04/23 • Sarah Sousa (4 of 10)
04/27 • Christopher James
04/29 • JC Reilly
04/30 • Sarah Sousa (5 of 10)
05/04 • Alisa Golden
05/06 • Frances Badgett
05/07 • Sarah Sousa (6 of 10)
05/11 • Townsend Walker
05/13 • Jeanie Greensfelder
05/14 • Sarah Sousa (7 of 10)
05/18 • Adrian Potter
05/20 • Mary Lou Buschi
05/21 • Sarah Sousa (8 of 10)
05/25 • Foster Trecost
05/27 • Michael Credico
05/28 • Sarah Sousa (9 of 10)
06/01 • Carol Guess
06/03 • TBD
06/04 • Sarah Sousa (10 of 10)
06/08 • TBD
06/10 • TBD
06/11 • Fergus MacRoich (1 of 8)
06/15 • TBD
06/17 • TBD
06/18 • Fergus MacRoich (2 of 8)
06/22 • TBD
06/24 • TBD
06/25 • Fergus MacRoich (3 of 8)
06/29 • TBD
07/01 • TBD
07/02 • Fergus MacRoich (4 of 8)
07/06 • TBD
07/08 • TBD
07/09 • Fergus MacRoich (5 of 8)
07/13 • TBD
07/15 • TBD
07/16 • Fergus MacRoich (6 of 8)
07/20 • TBD
07/22 • TBD
07/23 • Fergus MacRoich (7 of 8)
07/27 • TBD
07/29 • TBD
07/30 • Fergus MacRoich (8 of 8)
08/03 • TBD
08/10 • TBD
08/17 • TBD
08/24 • TBD
08/31 • TBD
09/07 • TBD
09/14 • TBD
09/21 • TBD