Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Workshop: Matt Green

Kristine made rubbings on gravestones she was strangers with. She took their pictures and laughed and had picnics with them. Then she would go home and post all the pictures and rubbings on her wall. Then she disappeared, and the police went and dug up all the graves.

In each grave was a coffin. And each coffin just had a picture of a person in it, and a rubbing of their face.

creation note: The original idea for this came from the fact that in 19th century America, going out and picnicking in graveyards was a cool thing that everyday people would just do. Also, having frequented graveyards and taken pictures, I sometimes wonder what the hell I should do with them other than keep them because they’re pretty. Take that, reverse it, and look, it’s creepy. Lots of things look horrible in the mirror.

Bio: Matt Green writes about how his (and other people’s) mad little babies are born on his blog. He has previously had poetry published in Calliope, but hasn’t done anything for you lately

Monday, January 18, 2010

from Molly Gaudry

I'm with Barry on this one, actually: "Fuck flash fiction. Get it out of your head." Everything he says in that paragraph is gold. However, I'm intrigued by Matt's novella in shorts. Or collection of poems. Or, simply, book.

I believe in the short form, the very short form, if for no other reason than that it forces fiction writers to be as precise as poets; forces their stories to get right to the matter, to the point; to Dawn's bunnies. I also believe, however, that readers like longer narratives that allow them to follow characters, or story lines, for pages, not page.

The beauty of VSF is that the writer can show off her mastery of the language-driven form (for, as with poetry, VSF must be exact; each word must be the only word that will do); and the beauty of collecting them in some thematic or stylistic or narrative-arc-ish way is that the writer can show off her mastery of the plot- or character-driven forms, those that are usually in the domain of short stories or novels. In these domains, however, story writers and novelists tend to get awfully lazy; their sentences drag, bunch, sag, sog, droop and die. Don't be those guys. Don't be lazy.

To close, I prefer, sure, to read fewer words when possible but still want the satisfaction of a long story line. So it is to hybrids or genre benders or pastiches or whatever we want to call or not call them that I turn. I hope we see many more of these non-genre-specific works in the years to come. Poets and fiction writers unite. Books, we write. Books. And may the payoffs for reading such absolute-pitch or technical perfection be some aching, thudding, heart-startling profoundness, yes?

Bio: Molly Gaudry is the author of We Take Me Apart, a novella in verse. As a daily warmup, she rewrites others' words. If she were a musician, she would call this "practicing scales." She has no intention of publishing these VSFs, so she blogs them instead: "Velveteen," which was inspired by and written for Claudia Smith, "Morning," by/for Lily Hoang, and "Greet Me," by/for Cami Park.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Workshop: Tara Dwyer

Pass or Fail

Outside the window of my empty classroom, dry leaves skitter into the lunch trash left behind in the muddy courtyard: accordianed soda cans, checkerboard french fry trays smeared with ketchup, chocolate chip muffin wrappers and vending machine mess. A janitor drags an institutional trash bin behind her to sweep the garbage from the picnic tables.

It’s almost 5 pm and the sun wanes above the weather vane perched atop the crackling painted cupola. 5 pm is high school witching hour, creepy like an off season fun park. In the halls, another janitor passes my door, on the industrial floor waxer zamboni. He nods at me. I sit with a stack of essays about what teenagers can understand of realism in The Red Badge of Courage.

My desk is coffee rings, pencil shavings, chalk dust and greasy student work. I notice the I Can’t Believe It’s Not margarine tub. It’s out of place and placed out of the way, almost enough to miss beside the dying spider plant. I note the lightness of the tub in my hands. It feels empty. I open it. Tucked inside, the tarantula’s molted form rests belly side up on an autumn leaf patterned folded paper towel. A rose body cavity with eight holes like a rotary telephone dial show where the new slid free from the old, leaving behind hollow legs covered with fine hairs.

Later, an email from him: “I left my thing about courage on your desk.”

creation note: When I was in 10th grade, a kid I hardly knew came up to me in the hallway at school with a margarine tub. He opened the lid to reveal a molted tarantula's skin. I asked him what it was for and he said, "English Class". I haven't forgotten that encounter and how bizarre a thing it was bring into English class-- what could the connection be? What were they doing in class? I wrote this short piece after encountering a current student much like the tarantula tub kid from my memories. After several years in the public school system, it's been quite a sociological eye opener to see all of the different archetypes of people out there when they're 14 years old, and also to see how history repeats itself with different clothes and music.

Bio: Tara Dwyer has an MFA in Fiction from George Mason University and currently works as a high school English teacher.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Workshop: Samel X. Brase

An Element of Discovery

The two of us, we’re standing, staring at the slippery object on the bathroom floor.

“It’s not mine,” I avow. It takes all of my effort not to fly off the handle. “Is it yours?”

My roommate looks up at me. “No. But if it’s... not either of ours, where did it come from?”

I bite my lip. What a terrible question.

creation note: Tension is one of those things that is essential to the story. Without tension, the work is pointless, like the movie Wimbledon. I’m not superb at tension; dialogue comes naturally, tension does not. I often have to make sure there is an appropriate amount of tension in a story, going so far as to think about it like a movie (action beat, drama beat, sex scene, twist!). A passing thought in my head, this scene represents one of many attempts on my part to foster a friendship with tension.

Bio: Samuel X. Brase writes about writing on his blog, ktvo.wordpress.com, and has been published in The Foundling Review and Prima Storia. In his free time, he sits and hopes that one day, Steven Spielberg will option the movie rights for his unpublished novel.