CNF: When a Jack Fails

by Shirley Harshenin

[Editor’s Note: Click on the story below to view it at full size.]



Shirley Harshenin writes from her home in the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia. She believes in angels, caffeine, and the human spirit’s extraordinary resilience. Her work has been published in Canadian Writer’s Journal, Room Magazine, Contrary Magazine, was longlisted in Room Magazine’s 2018 Short Forms Contest.


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

While taking Nicole Breit’s “Spark Your Visual Story” course last fall, I was immediately drawn to the quilt essay for its striking visual appeal as well as the endless variety of sizes and shapes and arrangements of “squares”. Each block offering a tidy container for a story fragmented by trauma and time. I scribbled my notes on a piece of paper and scrolled through dozens of patterns until one popped out. It was perfect, allowing me to divide the content into three sections—core event, impact of core event, central theme. I scrunched content to bare bones, then printed and cut the text into fragments equal to the number of blocks I had to work with. Like a puzzle, I tried each piece in different positions until everything fit. A thrilling and satisfying endeavor.


Congrats to Christopher Allen for having a work from HOUSEHOLD TOXINS being chosen to appear in BSF 2019 from Sonder Press.

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

New titles available from Robert McBrearty and Tori Bond.


Poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction/prose poetry submissions are now CLOSED. Check out our new category triptychs! The submission period next opens March 15, 2020; submit here.


02/17 • Madison Frazier
02/19 • Gail Geopfert
02/20 • Maureen Alsop (8 of 12)
02/24 • Kenneth Pobo
02/26 • Miranda Campbell
02/27 • Maureen Alsop (9 of 12)
03/04 • John Meyers
03/05 • Maureen Alsop (10 of 12)
03/09 • Grant Faulkner
03/11 • Maureen Alsop
03/12 • Maureen Alsop (11 of 12)
03/16 • Tara Laskowski
03/05 • Maureen Alsop (12 of 12)
03/23 • Kim Chinquee
03/25 • Lucinda Kempe