2018 Fiction Contest – Longlist Announcement

We are excited to present the longlist of awardees for the 2018 Leapfrog Fiction Contest.

Check back in a few days for our announcement of the finalist manuscripts, which will be critiqued by this year’s finalist judge, Marie‐Helene Bertino.

Marie-Helene Bertino is the author of the novel 2 A.M. AT THE CAT’S PAJAMAS and the story collection SAFE AS HOUSES. Her work has received The O. Henry Prize, The Pushcart Prize, and The Iowa Award for Short Fiction. She is the current Frank O’Connor International Short Story Fellow in Cork, Ireland, and teaches at NYU and in the MFA program at Institute for American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, NM. For more information, please visit: www.mariehelenebertino.com.

Entries to this year’s contest came from 12 countries, and included adult and young adult novels, novellas, and story collections.

We would like to thank every author who submitted to our 10th annual fiction contest. As always, it was our privilege and pleasure reading so many excellent manuscripts.

The 2019 Leapfrog Fiction Contest will open on January 15th, 2019.

Past Winners: 201720162015, 201420132012201120102009
Click on the links above to read about our past winners.

Read some interviews with Marie-Helene Bertino:
American Short Fiction
Read reviews and more interviews here

Read an interview with Leapfrog’s Lisa Graziano in Ploughshares’ Indie Spotlight. Click here.

The 2018 Leapfrog Fiction Contest Longlist

Why No Bhine (Why No Goodbye), a novel by Pamela Laskin

What happens to the child left behind? Jubair’s family is stuck in Myanmar, until his mother escapes—with three out of four children. On the cusp of adolescence, the young boy—interned to a farmer—is filled with rage. Jubair is left to sleep in the woods and fend for himself. He does not know how to read and write, so why does his mother even bother smuggling in these letters? Jubair begins to express this anger in his own letters, as he develops a level of literacy, eventually becoming a reader and writer.
But where is HIS escape? How does he feel about his parents, his siblings, knowing they have managed to escape? And what happens when he meets “the girl”—someone who has also run away from her despairing challenges—an arranged marriage to a man much older than herself?
WHY NO BHINE, an epistolary novel, explores loss, grief and transcendence: how does a young person manage to climb out of the pit of despair and discover some glimmer of hope in all of this?

The author: Pamela L. Laskin is a lecturer in the English Department at The City College, where she directs The Poetry Outreach Center, and teaches Children’s Writing in the MFA Division. She is the author of five books of poetry, most recently LOST AND FOUND, Harlequin Creatures, whose focus is on found political and social action poetry (2018). Several of her picture books have been published, most recently HOMER THE LITTLE STRAY CAT, Little Balloon Press, 2017. Harper Collins published RONIT AND JAMIL, a Palestinian/Israeli ROMEO AND JULIET in verse for teens in 2017. The reviews were excellent. She is a member of PSA, American Academy of Poets & SCBWI.

Furnace Creek, a novel by Joseph Boone

Furnace Creek retells Dickens’ Great Expectations as a coming-of-age story set in the American South of the 1960s and 1970s. Its “Pip” character, Newt, is a proto-gay adolescent growing up in rural Virginia. In the opening pages his world is turned upside down when a black maid-turned-convict makes him an accomplice in her escape. Two years later, taken under the wing of an eccentric old bachelor (a queer version of Dickens’ demented Miss Havisham), Newt finds himself equally attracted to and tormented by the old man’s visiting nephew and niece, twins whose combined seductive allure and worldliness feed Newt’s ambitious desires. The climax of their erotic entanglements dovetails with the revelation of Newt’s “expectations,” launching him on an odyssey that takes him to prep school in New England, to bohemian digs in Rome after he experiences heartbreak and drops out of Harvard, to a life-changing encounter with a person from his past in Paris, and finally back to Virginia as he embraces adulthood and comes to peace with the various actors marking his life of expectations and disappointments.

As in Dickens’s novel, Newt’s progress encompasses a capacious range of humanity, including a wide swath of social types and class strata, and it occurs against the backdrop of a period of rapid social change marked by the war in Vietnam, racial conflict, and the feminist and sexual revolutions. In terms of genre, Furnace Creek draws on the bildungsroman format (Dickens with shades of Southern gothic), the novel of erotic discovery and coming-out, and, in its latter third, a mystery-detection subplot whose seeds have been planted in the opening scene (and in which an entrepreneur’s line of African American beauty products dovetails with a missing Caravaggio and Bauhaus-inspired furniture designs).

Like Zadie’s Smith’s homage to Forster’s Howards End in On Beauty or Michael Cunningham’s revision of Mrs. Dalloway in The HoursFurnace Creek doesn’t simply transpose a preexisting plot to a modern setting but rather uses the Dickensian template as a launching point, as a means of freely improvising upon its themes and style in ways that create an original story that stands on its own legs. If the reader knows Great Expectations, he or she may experience moments of déjà vu that enrich the fictional encounter; but that knowledge isn’t necessary to appreciate Furnace Creek on its own.

The author: Joseph Allen Boone is the author of three books of non-fiction and the libretto to a musical version of Herman Melville’s novel The Confidence-ManFurnace Creek is his first novel, and he is completing a collection of short stories tentatively called “Endangered Youth and Other Victims.” In the past year he has placed four stories in literary journals, one of which received Third Prize in the Hackney national fiction competition. Another story was named a top-ten finalist in the New South story contest. He has received Guggenheim, ACLS, NEH, and Huntington,, as well as residencies at Bellagio, Bogliasco, and Valparaiso for his writing.

A Common Person, stories by R. M. Kinder

The thematically linked stories in A Common Person highlight the individual’s need for self-value and community. In spite of hardships and loss, the characters strive for understanding and communion but fight when they must.  An elderly woman who worked to own a modest home has no say on what mailbox is placed before her property or whose name is on the box.  A young man hides his distress in order to honor his father and comfort his mother. A man steals his neighbor’s dog to spare it misery.  A woman posts a statement on social media and learns her freedom is at peril. These characters—children, men and women—hew out a personal code that sustains them, identifies them, and helps define the community into which they’re born or the one they wish to join. Overall, it’s an inclusive world, where everyone’s rights matter and the small battles of everyday are actually grand, at least worthy of attention.

The author: M. Kinder’s second novel,The Universe Playing Strings, was published fall of 2016 by University of New Mexico Press; the novel was a finalist for the 2017 Binghamton University John Gardner Fiction Book Award. Previous work includes An Absolute Gentleman, a novel published by Counterpoint Press in 2007; and two collections of short fiction: A Near-Perfect Gift, winner of the 2005 University of Michigan Press literary fiction award, and Sweet Angel Band, winner of Helicon Nine Editions 1991 Willa Cather Award. Kinder is co-author, with Kristine Lowe-Martin, of Old Time Fiddling: Hal Sappington, Missouri Fiddler, a short biography published by Johnson County Missouri Historical Society in 2012. Her short fiction has appeared in Appalachian HeritageConfrontationJabberwock, Descant, Other Voices, Notre Dame Review, North Dakota ReviewNorth American Review and other publications.  Most recently, her short story “A Common Person” won the 2018 Arts and Letters Fiction Prize, judged by Melissa Pritchard.  Recent non-fiction is an article in Missouri Life on Missouri artist Gary Cadwallader, and a review in the latest New Letters of Jacob M. Appel’s The Liars’ Asylum. She is editor emerita of Pleiades, still reads and judges for that journal, and serves as an advisory editor withNew Letters and BkMk Press. She is from Southeast Missouri originally, spent long years in Tucson, and now lives in Warrensburg, Missouri.

Smile for Me, stories by Wendell Mayo

Smile for Me is composed of three cycles of stories: “Smile,” “Choke,” and “Burn.” Sensibilities across all three cycles are at once contemporary—and historical. For example, the title story in the first cycle is told by a first-person plural persona pitching a product, “Smiles,” drawn from art history to assuage the puzzling ennui of a bullying dullard—a decidedly unreflective sort. The “Choke” cycle, begins with an elegiac persona struggling to understand a teen’s death in 1967 due to autoerotic asphyxiation. Characters in the “Burn” section are the most self-aware, taking on the devaluing of education, joblessness, the legacy of Viet Nam, and like conflicts in our time. With each of the three cycles, characters grow in awareness of the absurd and often scary circumstances that span the last fifty to sixty years, one foot in the 20th Century, and trembling toes of another in the frightening waters of the 21st. They act in surprising, yet very human ways, for instance, in the final story when Cole, hopelessly student-loaned, tosses everything related to his education and upbringing and sets it on fire, a grotesque promise of a new beginning.

The author: Wendell Mayo has authored five full-length story collections, two reviewed in The New York Times Book Review, and another in The LA Times. His debut collection, Centaur of the North, was winner of the Premio Aztlán and the sole finalist in the AWP Award Series in Short Fiction, selected by Lorrie Moore. His other story collections are Survival House; The Cucumber King of KedainiaiB. Horror and Other Stories; and a novel-in-stories, In Lithuanian Wood, which appeared in Lithuanian translation as Vilko Valanda [Engl: Hour of the Wolf] with Mintis Press in Vilnius. Over one-hundred of his short stories have appeared widely in magazines and anthologies, including Yale Review, Harvard Review, Manoa, Missouri Review, Boulevard, New Letters, Threepenny Review, Indiana ReviewChicago Review, and others. He completed his Ph.D. in English at Ohio University and has taught over twenty years in the MFA / BFA Creative Writing Programs at Bowling Green State University. See alsohttps://wmayo2.wixsite.com/wendellmayo.

Vanishing, stories by Cai Emmons

The five stories in Vanishing are about women in different walks of life who are disconcerted to discover the world is not as they thought it was; now they must recalibrate their positions.

The author: Cai Emmons is the author of the novels His Mother’s Son and The Stylist. Her newest novel Weather Woman, forthcoming from Red Hen Press in October 2018, is about a meteorologist who discovers she has the power to change the weather. Formerly a playwright and screenwriter, her short work has appeared in such publications as TriQuarterly, Narrative, and Arts and Culture, among others. She teaches in the University of Oregon’s Creative Writing Program.

Bizarre Rituals, stories by Gregory Wolos

The title of this collection, Bizarre Rituals: Stories, comes from Franz Kafka: “. . . I saw my family as strange aliens whose foreign customs, rites, and very language defied comprehension, and though I did not want it, they forced me to participate in their bizarre rituals.” The characters in these stories find themselves on what might be seen as the wrong side of Alice’s Wonderland looking glass. How will each contend with his own set of “bizarre rituals”?

The author: Over the past decade, my short stories have appeared in more than seventy journals and anthologies. My work can be found in publications like Glimmer Train, Georgia Review, Florida Review, descant, Baltimore ReviewThe PinchPost RoadThe Los Angeles ReviewPANK, and Tahoma Literary Review. My stories have won awards sponsored by SolsticeGulf StreamNew South, and the Rubery Book Awards, and have earned six Pushcart Prize nominations. Regal House Publishing will release my collection Women of Consequence in early 2019. For full lists of publications and commendations, visit www.gregorywolos.com.

A Building of Worry on My Chest, stories by Edward Hardy

The dozen stories in A Building of Worry on My Chest all circle around love and relationships that have somehow spun sideways. In “Hole In The Sand,” there’s a near beach disaster that’s about to rupture a marriage. Later on in the collection there’s a father brought to the edge by invading raccoons, a couple brought back from the brink by dancing bears, a lie between airplane seatmates that seeps out of control and a wayward inflatable Gumby.

The author: Edward Hardy is the author of two novels, Keeper and Kid (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s) and Geyser Life (Bridgeworks). His short fiction has appeared in many literary magazines, including PloughsharesGQEpochGlimmer Train and the New England Review, and been listed in the Best American Short Stories. He has won three fiction fellowships from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts. He is a former newspaper reporter and editor, has an M.F.A. from Cornell and has taught fiction writing at Cornell and Boston College. He currently teaches in the Nonfiction Writing Program at Brown and lives just south of Providence and with his wife and two teenage sons. www.edwardhardy.com

Children Will Drown in Water Like This, stories by Rachel Luria

My collection of thematically linked stories depicts the lives of women and girls whose days are filled with darkness and humor, violence and compassion. A mix of realism and magic realism, humor and horror, the collection explores the dreams and nightmares of childhood and the hopes and heartbreaks of adulthood. All set in the same town in Florida—a swampy sprawl of suburban-gothic neighborhoods and dirty canals—the collection includes ghost stories, love stories, stories of revenge, and coming of age.

The author: Rachel Luria is an Associate Professor at Florida Atlantic University’s Wilkes Honors College. The June 2018 Artist in Residence in Everglades, her work has appeared in The Normal School, Harpur Palate, Sport Literate, Saw Palm, Phoebe, Dash Literary Journal, Yemassee, and others. Her nonfiction was named a Notable Essay of 2015 by the editors of Best American Essays and she was a winner of a 2017 Teacher Scholarship from the Key West Literary Seminar. To read more from Rachel Luria, visit rachelluria.wordpress.com.

What Comes After, a young adult novel by Mary Ann McGuigan

What Comes After explores the power of friendship and trust to heal the pain of loss and abuse. Terry and Jo are best friends, each keeping a terrible secret and about to face a life-changing decision, one that could harm people they love. Each believes she must control her world so that her worst fears won’t come true. But the world won’t cooperate.

Since sixth grade, the year her parents separated and her mother moved to New York, Terry has lived with her grandmother (Hilda). Now Terry is sixteen and Hilda’s health is deteriorating from Alzheimer’s. Terry can’t bear the thought of Hilda being placed in a nursing home. Just as dreadful is the prospect of living with her mother in NY, leaving behind her friends at Atlantic Regional, who’ve become her surrogate family. Terry believes she can manage Hilda’s care on her own by hiring extra help and keeping Hilda’s worst mishaps secret. But as the woman’s condition deteriorates, Terry’s options become limited and her choices more desperate. When Terry finally lets her guard down—at first only with Jo—she discovers that the people who love her are on her side, ready to help.

Jo’s dilemma is even more desperate. Something is happening to her eleven-year-old sister, Irene. It happens when the girl is left alone with their dad. Only Jo suspects the worst, because she hasn’t forgotten what her father did to her. Silence will keep her shameful secret safe, but it will not protect Irene. Only sharing her suspicions will do that. But who would believe her? Jo puts it off, lets her family’s denial—and her own—lull her fears. She plots to keep Irene from being alone with her father, but he foils her plan. Jo finally confronts him, which triggers her decision. Her family is sick, and she must get help. When she finally shares her secret with Terry, she receives acceptance and support. The teacher she thought would shun her finds a way to help. The friends she believed she’d lose draw closer. And the family she feared she’d destroy begins to heal.

The author: Mary Ann McGuigan’s young-adult novels are about teens trying to make sense of the chaos grown-ups leave in their wake. The New York Public Library, the Junior Library Guild, and the Paterson Prize have ranked Mary Ann’s young-adult novels among the best books for teens. Where You Belong, her second novel, was a finalist for the National Book Award, and she has served on the panel of judges for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Mary Ann’s short stories—nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Sundress Publications’ Best of the Net—appear in North American Review, The Sun, Prime Number, Grist, Perigee, Into the Void, and many other literary journals. Pieces, her collection of related short stories, was published by Bottom Dog Press in November 2017. For more about Mary Ann’s fiction, visit http://www.maryannmcguigan.com.

Exchange Student, a young adult novel by Kirby Olson

Exchange Student is a YA novel about a freshman who wants a beautiful girlfriend in a Finnish exchange student.  He runs for class president, as well as tries out for the high school soccer team, in order to draw her attention.  Their year together is up and down, and features the trials of two young people who want to know what it is to be true when everything around them is a lie.  They struggle and doubt themselves, and one another.  There are virtually no good models around them. Nevertheless, her Finnish father is a pastor, and his mother believes in God.  Will this couple endure against the odds?

The author: Kirby Olson is a tenured English professor at SUNY-Delhi in the western Catskills. His books include a novel (Temping), about an English professor who starts a circus in Finland; a book of poems entitled Christmas at Rockefeller Center; and several books of literary criticism about ludic surrealists. He is currently working on a memoir of his time spent at Naropa Institute studying with Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs. He is a Lutheran and a member of AARP.

Long Division, stories by Lisa Cupolo

Long Division includes stories from Calgary and Toronto, Catalina Island, California, two from East Africa, and another in the South from the fictional voice of Zora Neale Hurston.

The author: Lisa Cupolo’s stories have appeared in Ploughshares, The Idaho Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, and Narrative Magazine. She is a Canadian writer who was a publicist at HarperCollins Toronto, and now teaches creative writing at Chapman University in Orange, California.

Two Desperados, stories by Susan Lowell

Although they’re mostly set in the American Southwest, the stories in “Two Desperados” do range: they run in time from the nineteenth to the twenty-first century, in length from fifty words to fifty pages. Characters include the newborn and the moribund, the literary and the illiterate, a lion hunter, a basket maker, two poets, a so-called witch, several dogs, a vampire coyote, and even possibly a ghost.  I’ve been writing now for many years (these compositions actually date from the 1990s to the spring of 2018) but as I reach my green old age I feel wonderfully liberated: free to experiment and eager to spill some of the secrets I’ve been collecting all my life.

The author: My fiction has appeared in journals, anthologies, and a collection called “Ganado Red,” which won the Milkweed Editions National Fiction Prize. I am also the author of 15 other books for adults and children, several of which have won prizes. A fourth-generation Arizonan born in Chihuahua, I divide my time between Tucson and a ranch with a long, beautiful view into Mexico.

A Visit from a Relative, stories by Ashley Cowger

A Visit from a Relative comprises stories ranging from flash fiction to longer works, which all explore the theme of familial relationships. These stories explore a variety of family dynamics, ultimately posing the unanswerable question, what is the value of family? In what ways does family bolster us? In what ways does family drag us down? From the disillusionment of motherhood to a child’s inability to fully know his own parents to the difficulty of loving one child after you have lost another, these stories seek to investigate a grittier side of family than the perhaps too readily accepted Hallmark image of the family bond.

The author: Ashley Cowger is the author of the short story collection Peter Never Came, which was awarded the Autumn House Press Fiction Prize and was a semi-finalist for the Leapfrog Fiction Contest. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous literary journals. She holds an MFA from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and she is an Assistant Teaching Professor at Penn State Harrisburg. Learn more at www.ashleycowger.com.

Jewel Box Stories, stories by Alison Withey

Although the tales in Jewel Box Stories are united by a focus on gemstones and precious metals, beneath the surface one discovers strange tales of the human condition. The result is an unconventional, somewhat twisted journey in which the reader, drawn to brilliant and curious things, gains new perspectives on all that glitters.

  • “A Brilliant Bit of Work”
    A diamond-cutter with OCD exacts the perfect revenge.
  • “Tower of Ivory”
    A mountain of scrimshaw and a madwoman marooned in the Galapagos.
  • “Fair and Square”
    A hoard of gold, two men, and four burros in Arizona’s Superstition Mountains.
  • “Jade Disease”
    Corruption, disease, and addiction in the jade mines of Burma.
  • “Okaeshi”
    Tit for tat and the return of an amethyst ring.

The author: As an undergraduate, Alison Withey studied art history and anthropology at Brown University. After a decade of travel she returned to Duke University where she earned a PhD in botany. She has gemology credentials from the Gemological Institute of America and the Gemmological Society of Great Britain. During her varied career, Alison authored many types of scientific and gemological works including congressional testimony, educational materials, and grant proposals. Alison’s fiction consists of dark, slightly twisted stories about gemstones and precious metals. Her work has been short-listed for the Serena McDonald Kennedy Prize, the Santa Fe Writers Project Literary Award, the Clay Reynolds Novella Prize, the Fish Short Story Prize, and the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Award. It has been long-listed for the Fish Short Story Prize, the Eludia Award, the American Short Fiction Prize, the Hourglass Literary Magazine Writing Prize, and the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition. Alison is currently working on a novel and another story collection. Her website and blog can be found at jewelpedia.net.

The Goode Sisters, a novel by Charlene Finn

Dolores Santos has returned to the orchards of her childhood in eastern Washington carrying a secret.  Her boss, el jefe Jacobsen, fathered the teenage boy she calls her cousin. Now Mr. Jacobsen is dead and his daughter, Kate, together with her husband, runs the fruit ranch.  Kate has been newly diagnosed with early stage multiple sclerosis and she is struggling to do the harvest work that anchors her marriage and self-worth, a love of farm work she inherited from her father. But her stubbornness to accept her illness is driving her away from the people she loves—particularly her sister Olivia, who has reluctantly returned home to help Kate. In the wake of a near-fatal fire at the height of the Bing cherry harvest, the secrets of these three women’s pasts—the daughter beloved of the father who inherits the family ranch but flees it, the rejected daughter who returns with secrets all her own, and the young Mexican woman who shoulders the burdens of the father’s sins—explode into the present.

The author: Charlene Finn grew up in eastern Washington and spent some of her childhood in the fruit orchards of her grandparents where The Goode Sisters is based.  Prior to being a writer, she worked as an ICU RN. She received her MFA in Fiction from Warren Wilson. In 2004, she received the Washington State Artist Trust literature fellowship for an excerpt from this novel, then called Uneven Ground. She was awarded a residency at Hedgebrook in 2002 and returned as alumni in April 2008, 2015. An excerpt of this novel was published as a story, Uneven Ground, in Potomac Review, spring 2004. Ellipsis magazine in 2003 also published a story of hers, The Harvest, which again focuses on women, family, work and a harvest. The novel form continues to be her passion.  A few of her short pieces from her second novel have been awarded finalist status in several contests including Glimmer Train Family Matters and Reynolds Price contest. She is immersed into her second novel, entitled Shadow Sister, a contemporary story with a historical thread that weaves a tale from Berdichev, Ukraine, during WWII to Seattle, Washington, 2001.  She lives in Seattle with her family.

On the Divide, stories by Iver Arnegard

On the Divide is a collection of inter-connected stories about the women and men who inhabit hard-to-survive Western towns from New Mexico to Alaska and much of the rugged wilderness in between. There are hard times and desperation in these tales. But there’s also a lot of hope.

The author: Iver Arnegard’s fiction, nonfiction, and poetry has been published in the North American ReviewGulf Coast, the Missouri Review, and elsewhere. His first book, Whip & Spur, won the 2013 Gold Line Press Fiction Award. He is the head of the Creative Writing Program at Colorado State University-Pueblo, but is currently on sabbatical in Alaska.

The Incident on Live Oak Road, a novel by Jon Sealy

The coastal town of Overlook is a sleepy tourist and retirement community known for its golf courses and laid-back lifestyle. But when 19-year-old Samantha James is killed in a hit and run one night while riding her bicycle home from work, the town sets out to crucify the alleged culprit, Daniel Hayward. The headlines tell a compelling story, but the truth is much less clear. As novel delves into the differing accounts of what happened, The Incident on Live Oak Road offers both a gripping courtroom drama and a probing look at questions of justice and mercy in our era of social media, fake news, and online outrage.

The author: Jon Sealy is the author of The Whiskey Baron. A South Carolina native, he is currently a writer in Richmond, Virginia.

Ephemeral Summer, a novel by Sheila Myers

When Emalee’s parents die tragically she is sent to live with her Aunt who spends her summers on an idyllic lake in Upstate New York. To cope with her loss, Emalee becomes emotionally detached from everyone around her.  As she enters adulthood, Emalee struggles to maintain this façade, especially while trying to navigate relationships with the men in her life:  Peter, an artist and close friend who lacks the ambition to make his art known to anyone but himself; and Stuart – a quiet, intelligent philosopher with whom she falls in love one summer, only to get caught up in a bizarre love triangle with his cousin, Danielle.

Rising passions, shameful secrets and desperate acts drive Emalee away from her summer home and the mysterious Stuart. Years later, as a graduate student tracking moose in the Canadian wilderness, Emalee finds herself embroiled with yet another forbidden affair and must decide: is love worth it?

Set among the pristine lakes of Upstate New York and the Canadian wilderness, the characters in Ephemeral Summer come to life in vivid landscapes impossible to forget.

The author: Sheila Myers is an Associate Professor at Cayuga Community College where she teaches and coordinates the Honors Study Program. Sheila has spent most of her career working to educate the public about the natural world. Her first novel Ephemeral Summer (2014) is a contemporary coming-of-age story set in the Finger Lakes and intertwines many ecological themes throughout the story. Myers began writing a historical fiction trilogy on the family of the robber baron, Dr. Thomas C. Durant, after spending time at one of his Great Camps in the Adirondacks. Myers won the Best Book of Fiction of 2017 Literary Award from the Adirondack Center for Writing for her last novel in the trilogy: The Night is Done. Her essays and short stories are published in the Adirondack Life Magazine, Coffelicious online literary magazine, and Crossing Genres online literary magazine. She has been a contributor to numerous online blogs sites including the Adirondack Almanack, Women Writers Women’s Books, and Bang2Write. You can connect with Sheila Myers via her website @ https://www.sheilamyers.com/ or twitter @sheilammyers or her Facebook page @SheilaMyersAuthor.

Genuine Natural Color, stories by Adam Golub

California is both setting and supporting character in Genuine Natural Color, his collection of short literary fiction that explores the workings of memory, the staging of desire, and the yearning for connection in a region permeated by its own mythology. Whether telling the tale of a thief who steals an art lesson at a wine and paint studio in L.A., or a monster who preys on the lonely and parched during the California draught, or a retired teacher who reconnects with an old friend to find a daughter who has run away to the Sierra Nevada, these eleven stories examine how space, place, community—and its absence—can shape our everyday lives.

The author: Adam Golub is a writer and American Studies professor who lives in Southern California. His creative work has appeared in Linden Avenue Literary JournalThe Bookends ReviewIndicia101 Fiction, Pulp Literature, and elsewhere. He is co-editor, with Heather Richardson Hayton, of Monsters in the Classroom: Essays on Teaching What Scares Us (McFarland, 2017). Born in Philadelphia and raised in New Jersey, he earned his B.A. in English from Vassar College, his M.A.T. in English from Boston College, and his Ph.D. in American Studies from The University of Texas at Austin. He currently teaches courses on literature, popular culture, music, and monsters at Cal State Fullerton. Author website: https://www.everydayfictions.com

Strong Like Water, 20th Century Stories by Robert Hodgson Van Wagoner

Each of the eight stories in Van Wagoner’s Strong Like Water, 20th Century Stories explores the religious tensions and failures endured by late 20th century Mormons facing circumstances too complex for the provisions of their faith—a middle-age woman whose husband is having an affair with a man must decide whether to help her dying mother end her life.  A lapsed Mormon fears God’s surly intervention when he suffers multiple complications after receiving a vasectomy.  A teenage boy, in the wake of his mother’s death by lightening, must survive his father’s conviction that his wife’s demise is God’s punishment for his (the father’s) pornography addiction.  The single mother of a sperm-bank baby struggles to manage her patriarchal father in the aftermath of her child’s injury.  A Mormon bishop, in a crisis of faith, goes to a bar seeking a one-night stand and gets a good deal more than he’d hoped for.  The non-Mormon father of two young sons fights to save his family after his wife turns to Mormonism in the wake a bizarre accident.  A young mother of two toddlers faces the prospect of raising a third, adult child when her husband is impaired by a massive brain injury.  A protestant minister and his severe Mormon neighbor carry on a decades-long feud after their children must marry each other.  Universal in the struggles it illuminates, Strong Like Water is a meditation on the limits of faith in a complex world.

The author: Robert Hodgson Van Wagoner’s novel Dancing Naked was awarded the Utah Book Award by the Utah Center for the Book, and the Utah Original Writing Competition’s Publication Prize, the top literary award given by the Utah Humanities Council and the State of Utah.  His short stories and author interviews have appeared in periodicals, ezines and anthologies, and have been selected for various awards, including Carolina Quarterly’s Charles B. Wood Award for Distinguished Writing, Shenandoah’sJeanne Charpiot Goodheart Award for Fiction, Sunstone’s Brookie and D.K. Brown Memorial Fiction Award, and Weber: The Contemporary West’s Dr. O. Marvin Lewis Award for Best Fiction.

Tadpole Pond, a young adult novel by Esther Ra and Kay Sin

It’s a new semester at the Lux Mentis Academy, the prestigious private high school where only the most intellectually rigorous students are accepted. Three first-years launch into their new lives: Haejin Lee, an idealistic, poetry-addicted dreamer; Sungjoon Choi, a lazy, happy-go-lucky player of games and girls; and Min Koh, a brilliant student who suffers from his parent’s constant comparison of him with his late genius brother. When the truths about their charismatic fellow student Jungseok Joo surface, the three can no longer be blind to the long-buried problems that threaten to dismantle their lives – from both within and without.

The authors: Esther Ra is the author of the book of untranslatable things (Grayson Books, 2018), which won first prize in the Grayson Books Chapbook Contest. Her work has been published in Poached HareThe Scriblerus, and Consequence Magazine, where her poetry has received the 2017 Women Writing War Poetry Award. She is deeply interested in grappling with the quiet beauty in the ordinary, the price of courage, and the space of ambiguity between different cultures. Kay Sin is a math-enthusiast by day and a writer by night. She has aided research on children’s health and spends most of her time wrestling with data-driven projects. She loves teaching, technology, and traveling wherever new books exist.

Unnatural, a story collection by Aimee Pogson

Ratboy and Other Stories, a story collection by Rich Ives

As the palate must be cleared between tastings of wine, these widely ranging concoctions need a breath between them and are separated by contrasting flash fictions that alter the directions of the reader’s understandings of what the stories should be doing. Often the stories extend or turn in a new direction the expectations established in more traditional fictions. From a young boy with a vestigial “tail” to stories told in the briefest of episodes, Ratboy and Other Stories explores not only the implied and suggestive lives of its characters but the ways in which themes can be self-reflective, thinking about what they’re doing even as they are still forming their personalities.

The author: Rich Ives has received grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Artist Trust, Seattle Arts Commission and the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines for his work in poetry, fiction, editing, publishing, translation and photography. His writing has appeared in Verse, North American Review, Massachusetts Review, Northwest Review, Quarterly West, Iowa Review, Poetry Northwest, Virginia Quarterly Review, Fiction Daily and many more. He is the 2009 winner of the Francis Locke Memorial Poetry Award from Bitter Oleander. He has been nominated seven times for the Pushcart Prize. He is the 2012 winner of the Thin Air Creative Nonfiction Award. His books include Light from a Small Brown Bird (Bitter Oleander Press–poetry), Sharpen (The Newer York—fiction chapbook), The Balloon Containing the Water Containing the Narrative Begins Leaking—What Books) and Tunneling to the Moon (Silenced Press–hybrid).

Moving In, a story collection by Valeria Miner

Moving In, Miner’s fifteenth book, is a story collection exploring different kinds of salvage: the reclamation of the natural environment, human relationships, material objects. The stories are about forgiveness, reunion, rescue, repair, return and restoration. Some of the stories have appeared inPloughshares, Five Points, Southwest Review, Consequence, Michigan Quarterly Review and other literary journals as well as in several books.

Valerie Miner is the award-winning author of fourteen books. Her latest novel is Traveling with Spirits.Other novels include After Eden, Range of Light, A Walking Fire, Winter’s Edge, Blood Sisters, All Good Women, Movement: A Novel in Stories, and Murder in the English Department. Her short fiction books include Abundant Light, The Night Singers, and Trespassing. Her collection of essays is Rumors from the Cauldron: Selected Essays, Reviews and Reportage. In 2002, The Low Road: A Scottish Family Memoir was a Finalist for the PEN USA Creative Non-Fiction Award. Her short fiction collections,Trespassing and Abundant Light, were each Finalists for the Lambda Literary Awards (1990 and 2005). Valerie Miner’s work has appeared in The Georgia Review, Triquarterly, Salmagundi, New Letters, The Village Voice, Prairie Schooner, The Gettysburg Review, The T.L.S., The Women’s Review of Books, The Nation and other journals. Her stories and essays are published in more than sixty anthologies. A number of her pieces have been dramatized on BBC Radio 4. Her work has been translated into German, Turkish, Danish, Italian, Spanish, French, Swedish and Dutch. In addition to single-authored projects, she has collaborated on books, museum exhibits as well as theatre. She has won fellowships and awards from The Rockefeller Foundation, Fondazione Bogliasco, Fundación Valparaiso, The McKnight Foundation, The NEA, The Jerome Foundation, The Heinz Foundation, The Australia Council Literary Arts Board and numerous other sources. She has received Fulbright Fellowships to Tunisia, India and Indonesia. Winner of a Distinguished Teaching Award, she is now a professor and artist in residence at Stanford University.

Nineteen Steps, a story collection by Priscilla Mainardi

Nineteen Steps is comprised of eleven linked stories in the first person voice of registered nurse and single mother Devon Heath.  Part hospital narrative and part exploration of the complexity of family relationships, Nineteen Steps tells Devon’s story through intimate portrayals of her patients and their families as they struggle to navigate the intricacies of illness and health care. The stories also explore the emotional impact Devon’s patients have on her life, which is told in brief glimpses in each story.

The author: Priscilla Mainardi attended the University of Pennsylvania and Rutgers University-Newark, where she earned an MFA in creative writing. Her work appears in numerous journals, including Prick of the Spindle, the Examined Life Journal, Pulse — Voices from the Heart of Medicine, and bioStories.  She teaches English Composition at Rutgers-Newark and serves on the editorial board of the online narrative medicine journal The Intima.

Part of the Landscape, stories by H. E. Francis

Go Away, a story collection by Noelle Katherine Allen

Dancers, finance ministers, artists, neurologists, and software engineers make their way through these offbeat, funny, sometimes unsettling stories that blur the lines between magical realism, realism, and science fiction.  The characters of “Go Away” argue about the sexual orientation of their magical pets, spill out their heartbreak via Airbnb listings, and grapple with illnesses as strange as fever dreams.  One theme runs through this eclectic collection:  the need for love despite the tenuousness of human connection.

The author: Noelle Catharine Allen has worked as a newspaper reporter in Buenos Aires and Mexico City, and now lives in Seattle. Her fiction has been nominated for a 2016 Pushcart Prize by Hunger Mountain, and has appeared in Hunger Mountain, Phoebe, JMWW, and other publications. She was a finalist in the Bosque and Bellingham Review fiction prizes in 2014, and won the Editor’s Choice award in Best New Writing 2012. She is working on a novel, and is represented by Donald Maass Literary Agency.

On Earth as It Is in Heaven, a story collection by Vishwas Gaitonde

To turn earth into heaven is impossible, but the people in this collection of stories hope that at least a small chunk of heaven can brighten their patch on earth. The celestial slice that each one desires is different.  A doctor and his relatives are at loggerheads as to whether England will be more of a paradise with a touch of Pakistan. Professionals who flee their homelands because of conflict struggle to adjust in their foreign locales. Fathers are desperate to understand their sons, while a mother struggles to live without hers. Destiny becomes a bone of contention to some. A garage sale turns into a boomerang. A Sri Lankan aboriginal finds (and then loses) her paradise when two British researchers land in her village. In the fourteen stories in On Earth As It Is In Heaven we see that our idea of heaven on earth is oftentimes very different from those of the ones we love.

The author: Vishwas R. Gaitonde spent his formative years in India, has lived in Britain and now resides in the United States. He been published in all those countries, and elsewhere. His writings have appeared in literary journals such as The Iowa Review, Bellevue Literary Review, Mid-American Review, Fifth Wednesday Journal, and Santa Monica Review; in internet magazines such as The Millions, The Mantle, Serenade, and Scroll.in; and in newspapers and magazines such as The San Diego Union Tribune, The Hartford Courant, The Hindu (India), and Business Line (India). His Twitter handle is @weareji. URL: https://twitter.com/weareji

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Mick Carlon, 2018 Celebrate Literacy Award Recipient

Carlon

Mick Carlon, author of Girl Singer, has been awarded the 2018 Celebrate Literacy Award from the Cape Cod Council of the International Literary Association. Carlon is a Barnstable Intermediate English School Teacher, Jazz Expert, and Speaker.

In addition, Carlon’s young adult novels are taught in over 50 schools across the country. To read more about Carlon’s work, jump to our spotlight on his most recent novel, Girl Singer.

Congratulations, Mick!

Leapfrog Fiction Contest Judge for 2018 Announced

We are excited to announce that the judge for our 2018 Leapfrog Fiction Contest will be Marie-Helene Bertino!

BertinoPhoto1

Marie-Helene is the author of the novel 2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas (Crown, 2014) and the short story collection Safe As Houses (University of Iowa Press, 2012). Pajamas was an NPR Best Books of 2014 selection as well as one of Buzzfeed’s 22 most exciting literary debuts. Bertino has received The O. Henry Prize, The Pushcart Prize, and The Iowa Award for Short Fiction.

Her work has appeared in Gulf Coast, Catapult, Tin House, Harper’s Bazaar UK, Salon, Granta, Guernica, North American Review, and The Mississippi Review, among others. She is the current Frank O’Connor International Short Story Fellow in Cork, Ireland, and teaches at NYU and in the MFA program at Institute for American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, NM. For more information, please visit: www.mariehelenebertino.com

For more information on our 2018 Fiction contest and more stay tuned right here to the Leapfrog Blog.

Links to Leap to!

This week we’re beginning a new series called Links to Leap to!

The basic idea is to provide recent coverage of our authors and their works while also tossing in other happenings in the literary world. Visit these links, share them with friends, and as always, support the books and authors that make up the ever-growing literary community.

Above all else, thank you for reading and keep reading!

Leapfrog

“The real illusion, Moss reveals, is any sense of invulnerability and its accompanying belief that we can avoid the daily, terrifying task of facing our own decline.” – Martha Witt reviews N. West Moss’ The Subway Stops at Bryant Park over at theliteraryreview.org

“Medhat uses pathos and humor, tragedy and comedy, to spin an entertaining and original mystery… a refreshing take on Navajo country’s crime, culture, and history.” – Publisher’s Weekly reviews Katayoun Medhat’s novel The Quality of Mercy

N. West Moss discusses the loss of her father and the inspiration for her collection with Watertown Daily Times.

Craig Thornton interviews N. West Moss for WWNYTV.

Leaping Around the Literary World

The Millions release their second-half of 2017 book preview.

NPR names their readers’ 100 favorite comics and graphic novels.

Investor urges Barnes and Noble to find buyer.

The Absence of Sound

“The Absence of Sound” by N. West Moss appearing in The Saturday Evening Post. Read the full story here or at the link. This story is featured in The Subway Stops at Bryant Park, available now.

Timothy stood at the fountain, his hand inside his coat pocket rubbing two quarters against one another. He’d walked past this fountain on his way to work at the library hundreds and hundreds of times and had never thrown his money in, but today he did think about it. Although, what would he wish for? There wasn’t anything to wish for exactly.

He had gotten up in the middle of the night, as usual, getting a bleary-eyed drink of water in the dark and visiting the bathroom, and realized only in the morning that he had not heard the sound of his cat Bipsy’s paws trotting behind him. She was old, but still she followed him everywhere. How had he not noticed the absence of that particular sound? It was as though he had failed to notice the stopping of his own heartbeat.

He’d felt all strangled inside when he figured things out. Now what? he’d kept thinking as he made the coffee and packed his lunch for work in silence. Now what?

Timothy looked up at the branches of the London plane­trees overhead in the park and could see birds everywhere, busy busy busy. April was the right time for them to be swooping between treetops and lampposts, hopping on the ground for muffin crumbs. He mourned never learning their names. His mother and brother had known the names of birds, but he’d never latched on. They could tell one song from another, could look up at the under-wing of a bird lofting up like a kite against the blue sky and say “peregrine falcon” or “turkey buzzard” in hushed and intimate tones to one another. He was never part of their circle but had watched from the side, a tiny little circle of his own, intersecting nothing.

Timothy could tell a seagull (white) from a crow (black) from a cardinal (red). He’d studied an illustration of a stork in a Hans Christian Andersen story, but his knowledge wasn’t advanced enough for him to be certain whether or not there was a difference, say, between a crow and a raven, or between a stork and an ibis, a heron or an egret. Heron and egret and ibis and stork might all be different names for the same thing, as far as he knew.

It was too late now to wish for the intimacy of family. His mother was decades gone, and his brother had gone off to Kuwait a long time past, and had come home essentially gone years before he’d died. Something had shaken his brain loose is how Timothy had pictured it, and everything that had been his big brother had effervesced like the escaped air from inside a popped bubble.

The loss of Timothy’s cat made the loss of his brother fresh again, made the absence of the whispers between his brother and mother echo, reverberate as though Timothy were standing in an enormous, empty room. They had been easy friends with one another, his mother and his brother, but Timothy hadn’t decoded the language of their intimacy. Their closeness had been like a promise of eventual closeness for Timothy that he could not bring to flower.

The birds around him now were babbling. April was cruel, he thought, just as Chaucer and Eliot had promised back in college. The flowerpots in the park were full of hyacinth and daffodil bulbs, their buds bursting up through the dirt like aneurysms. The bunched buds swelled up and unfolded their redolent petals until they sagged open, calling to bees. He could almost hear the birds above puffing out their chests, their songs like screams, hopping onto one another’s backs to fight or mate. The park was positively indecent with procreation.

He sank, contented in his own invisibility, and watched.

Just do it, he told himself, and took both quarters out. Plash and then plash. He didn’t wish for anything, just thought Bipsy and then Bipsy as each coin sank beneath the water and rested on the cool stone bottom.

Timothy hid his face down inside his coat’s collar as he walked around the fountain and onto the gravel path. He knew that beneath his feet were the two floors of library stacks, what had been called the Bryant Park Stack Extension, that the employees of the library called BIPSE. It’s how he’d come to name his cat. It was spectacular down there, well lit and every inch waterproofed, a self-sufficient world of temperature and humidity controls, filing cabinets, microfiche, and moveable shelves. And 26 feet below that (he had been told) there was a stream, carving its way through the cold dark rocks that held the city up.

If you turned it all upside down, there was as much unseen beneath New York City as what lay on top of it. And as much inside each person Timothy passed as all of it ­combined.

He sank inside his own indistinctness and walked past the new sod, rolled out each April after the skating rink was heaved up, packed on trucks, and put into storage for another year. At the 40th Street loading dock entrance to the library, he held up his ID card. Manny said, “Morning,” and Timothy raised his hand in a wave, curling up the corners of his mouth to approximate a smile.

His little desk seemed far away as he slipped down the side stairs where he wouldn’t likely see anyone, through a door where he had to swipe his ID card, down the long white hallway (more like a brightly lit tunnel) and past the vault where special books were held. He wasn’t allowed in the vault, with its John James Audubon original double-elephant folio from the 1800s, and William Blake’s engravings from Songs of Innocence and Experience from the 1700s, touched by the artist’s very own hands. Blake had written “A robin red-breast in a cage/puts all Heaven in a rage.” Timothy knew what robin redbreasts looked like. They were self-explanatory. There were documents in that vault that were so important that Timothy wasn’t even allowed to mention them. And the people allowed in the vault had to wear white cotton gloves if they meant to touch anything.

Down and down he went, where the smell of reinforced spines of old books on thick paper reached him like violets. He could breathe here. And think. The only noise, the hum of the purring temperature and humidity controls. As the space grew narrower, Timothy felt better. Down he went to the second floor (the lower of the two), edging his way between the wall lined with microfiche cabinets and the stacks to where he had arranged his desk to be maximally hidden. Finally he was alone.

He had a coat rack that the guys in the carpentry shop had given him where he hung his coat, umbrella, and briefcase. When he’d first gotten the job, almost 40 years earlier, his mother had made him one of those little stamped labels with his name on it, and so Timothy’s full name was glued near the handle of the briefcase. Every time he saw it he felt a soup of nostalgia and pity for his mother, so long gone, and for himself too. He knew it was sad for a man in his 60s to carry a briefcase with a label from his long-gone mother that was peeling up at the edges. But what was he supposed to do? Pry the label off and throw it out? For what? For whom?

He sat down, turned on the computer, and straightened out the NYPL pins he had arranged at the base of his desk lamp, representing his 10, 20, and 30 years of service. He was due another pin soon. Then he downloaded the book requests he’d received. It was only 9 a.m., and there was an enormous list of books to pull and send upstairs. It would be a blessedly busy day.

Later, as he was eating his cheese sandwich and checking for new requests, he heard a shout approaching from far away. “Timmy!” It was Lloyd Calaban, he of the glossy black hair and easy laughter. Everything seemed so easy for Lloyd, who was able to glide through life without worrying, it seemed. It was hard to imagine Lloyd, for instance, waking up at three in the morning, suffocating from loneliness. Timothy was aware that his own pallid face and high-arching eyebrows could discomfit people. He tried to soften his face, to make himself look less surprised by squinting his eyes before Lloyd came around the corner. The squinting sometimes helped, but the way his hair had thinned and receded made him look like a sinister clown. Timothy stood up to meet Lloyd, and then thought better of it and sat back down. Too eager.

“I know you’re here somewhere,” Lloyd called.

“Yes,” Timothy croaked, standing up and then sitting down again, clearing his throat. “I’m here!” He tried to sound as though he’d been speaking to people all morning. Lloyd started around the corner, all smiles, and Timothy met him with a sudden wanting-to-be-known-by-him. He wanted to tell Lloyd, for instance, that he had a collection of 73 antique bookmarks at home, and that he knew how to play the recorder, and that he had eaten caramels at his aunt’s farm in upstate New York one summer as a boy, but he said nothing.

He felt especially isolated around Lloyd’s expansiveness, which trumpeted out ahead of him like a red carpet that Lloyd himself rolled out wherever his feet went. Timothy wanted Lloyd, or someone, to know how much he loved his job, and that he’d had a cat named Bipsy for 17 entire years, and that he was encouraging to her about how pretty she was, and how safe he’d keep her. He wished Lloyd could have seen them together watching Jeopardy! every weeknight, Bipsy on the back of the couch, reaching out one paw and resting it on Timothy’s shoulder.

Lloyd came toward him like a sun shower. “Tim-MAY! How’s it going, man?”

“Oh, just fine. Busy morning.” He couldn’t think of anything else to say, felt a blush coming up his face.

“Listen,” said Lloyd, “could you help me out? I’m being pulled in a million directions, and Melanie needs this, in her hand, ASAP.”

Timothy reached his hand out for the request slip. “I’d be happy to,” he said.

“She’s mad at me,” said Lloyd, grinning, leaning against the metal microfiche cabinet. “Fixed me up with her sister and, well, you know, those things never work out, but I want to give her time to cool off, and she wants this, like, yesterday, you know?”

“Yes, yes, I can do it for you.”

“But, like, you have to do it now, buddy. I’m sorry to ask you to do this. I’m sure you’re in the middle of other stuff.”

“It’s no problem at all,” said Timothy, heat rising up through his cheeks and past his pale, high eyebrows.

“I owe you one, buddy,” said Lloyd, pointing his finger like a gun at Timothy and winking. “I owe you one.”

“No, no,” said Timothy, beaming. He loved the idea of Lloyd owing him one. When Lloyd had gone, Timothy tried out the gun hands, and then went to find the book that Melanie needed. She was efficient, Melanie was — neither friendly nor unfriendly, but busy and no-nonsense. She was important, had to deal with board members and donors. If she needed this book right away, he’d get it for her. He felt like Superman.

“I’m on my way,” he said under his breath, giddy, rushing to the stacks. There he pushed the button that separated the shelves from one another. He could hear the mechanism whir as the shelves slid apart, creating an aisle for him. Timothy’s focus was laser sharp as he ran his finger along the numbers on the shelves until he came to the right place, pulled the cardboard sleeve out, and found Melanie’s book. He put the request slip inside the front cover, hugged the book to his chest, and rushed out of the stacks and up toward the public part of the library, his pulse racing.

Timothy walked quickly through the tunnel, up one set of stairs and the next, and then over to the main part of the library, just below the first floor. He slowed as he reached the busy lobby toward the Fifth Avenue entrance near the famous lions, Patience and Fortitude, and stopped near the top and peered up into the crowd of people; the guards at the revolving door checking bags, the sunlight pushing weakly in, the homeless man who came in every lunchtime and slept in the reading room for an hour, and dozens and dozens of people looking up and zigzagging unpredictably in and out toward the main exhibit, or up the stairs or toward the gift shop, just like the birds in the park.

He blinked and tried to soften his face, knowing that he would look spectral to anyone who turned and saw his pale, startled head floating there. He imagined how scary that might look and forced himself to keep moving up. And as he thrust himself forward up the final stairs, his shoe-tip caught the lip of the top step.

And he flew.

For just a moment.

Up through the air.

In slow motion.

Melanie’s book flew, too, up above him, the pages fluttering, and he thought how the book looked like the bone in 2001: A Space Odyssey tumbling end over end. Timothy reached his hands out as though he were an athlete of some kind, a quarterback maybe, and caught the book as he slid under it along the stone floor and came to a halt, his eyes shut, his heart pounding, time returning to normal speed. He could hear people gathering around him cooing, and wished he could melt away under the eyes that he felt staring down at him.

“You all right?” It was a woman’s voice nearby. He opened his eyes. A pale 50-ish woman leaned over him, her eyebrows knit in worry, her lips a bright matte-orange slash in the middle of her face. Her hands were fluttering like moths around him. She knelt down next to him, and for the second time that day, he felt a blush rising up in him as he lay there clasping Melanie’s book. “You okay?” she said, patting his hand.

She’d touched him. He became very, very still. “You okay?” She was smiling and he felt a surge of love well up in him for the pumpkin orange of her lipstick and the way she had no real chin, and for her hands, trembling like birds’ wings do when they are in a birdbath.

He blinked once, twice. “My cat died last night,” he told her. There, he’d said it, and could feel the ribs in his rib-cage loosen.

She leaned closer and her lips made an O. “She was curled up in a ball this morning, her tail over her nose.” And then, as though she had asked him a question, he said, “Bipsy. I called her Bipsy.”

The woman smiled.

“She was 17 years old. I got her after 9/11 from the pound.” His mouth felt very dry, and he stopped talking and blinked up at her. He should probably try to get up. He wondered if he should tell her that, not knowing what else to do, he had finally put the cat in a plastic Food Emporium bag and thrown her down the garbage chute, but he decided to keep that to himself.

“Hey,” she said, still smiling down at him, but starting to unkneel. “Hey! I know you!” Her eyebrows came together as she tried to figure out where she knew him from. “Yes, yes, I know you.” His heart quickened, and he felt tears in his eyes. She knew him? She knew him. “You threw money in the fountain this morning. I saw you.” She had seen him, and she saw him now. She could see him.

She laughed and held out her hand to help him up, and the crowd that had gathered backed up a step.

“I saw you is all,” she said. “What are the chances of that, that I’d run into you twice in one day in this city?” She turned to no one in particular and said, “What are the chances of that? I see this guy throwing money in the fountain this morning, and the next thing I know, he falls right at my feet in the library?”

The group was dispersing, but a few responded by shaking their heads or murmuring to one another before turning away. He felt all their circles intersect, or felt the pull of their now-separating circles.

The woman with the orange lips said, “Maybe I’ll see you around.” She smiled a real smile that made her eyes crinkle up, and she touched his shoulder. “Crazy city, right?” He nodded and blinked against the wetness in his eyes.

Timothy slipped behind one of the massive columns to peek back around at where he had just been lying, at the way the sun poured in over the moving people, how every second was like a snapshot, a new one each moment.

He should have told her about how he could play the recorder, and about the caramels he’d eaten at his aunt’s that summer in Upstate New York. But memory was a kind of accomplishment in itself. And if he’d run into her twice in one day, perhaps they’d be thrown together again. He rested his cheek against the cool marble pillar. He remembered, then, why he was upstairs, and he hurried to deliver Melanie’s book to her.

As he passed the fountain on his way home that evening, he stopped again. Way back on 9/11, he had almost thrown money in. That had been the only other time he’d even considered it. The subway stops at Bryant Park. That’s what people always said, but on 9/11, when they let everyone out early from the library, he had crossed through the park on the way to his Hell’s Kitchen walk-up. It was at the fountain that he’d become aware of the lack of sound and vibration under his feet. The subways weren’t running for the first time in his whole life, and there was a stillness he couldn’t fathom, like a penny dropped down a well that never splashed.

There had been no way into or out of the city that day, and he had stood in the silent park with a handful of pennies ready to throw into the fountain as a gesture against hopelessness, but he’d been waved away by the National Guard with their guns, everything deranged and toppled together in his mind. The fires and the fallen towers smelled like burning rubber, and like concrete smashed into bits light enough to float, and like the scent of unsettled souls. Were there particles of people in the air? Of course there must have been.

His awareness of the silence of the stopped subways beneath the park had never dissipated, and now it got layered beneath the missing sound of Bipsy’s paws thumping down off the couch behind him. The space of her absence would make a palpable presence of its own, like the repercussive silence of the subways, and the music of his mother and brother whispering the names of birds back and forth, call and response, while he stood apart and listened.

2017 Fiction Contest Winners

We are pleased to announce the winners of our 2017 Fiction Contest. Thank you to all who have submitted. The finalist manuscripts are being critiqued by this year’s finalist judge, Jeffery Renard Allen.

Information that may be of interest:

  • 31 manuscripts have been chosen for awards out of 410 entries.
  • Entries came from 43 U.S. states and 18 other countries (10% of total entries): UK, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Singapore, South Africa, Bermuda, Monaco, Turkey, Australia, Greece, New Zealand, Czech Republic, Republic of Korea, Israel, Sweden, Thailand, and India.
  • 80% of entries were novels or novellas, 20% story collections; 20% of entries were young adult or middle grade.


READ MORE ABOUT THE AUTHORS AND THEIR WORK HERE
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Finalist

Trip Wires, stories by Sandra Hunter (California)
Report from a Place of Burning, a novel by George Looney (Pennsylvania)
Burn with Me, stories by Jordan Farmer (West Virginia)
Hallet House, a young adult novel by Natalie Harnett (New York)

Semifinalist

Demonstration of Love, stories by Mahmoud Saeed (Illinois)
Specimens, a novel by Rosanne Daryl Thomas (Massachusetts)
The Visibility of Things Long Submerged, stories by George Looney (Pennsylvania)
Stone Skimmers, stories by Jennifer Kelly (Massachusetts)
Adababa and the Third Wife, a novel by Phyllis Barber (Utah)

Honorable Mention

The World Does Not Know, a novel by Mark Fabiano (Virginia)
Highlandtown, a novel by Miah Jeffra (California)
Guardians & Saints, stories by Diane Josefowicz (Rhode Island)
Magdalena, a novel by Candi Sary (California)
The Excavations, a novel by James Whyle (Johannesburg, South Africa)
Drafts of a Suicide Note, a novel by Mandy-Suzanne Wong (Bermuda)
Come Closer, stories by Patricia Powell (California)
Wolfish, a novella by Marion Woolley (Gloucester, UK/Rwanda, Africa)
No King in Israel, a novel by Anthony Otten (Kentucky)
The Indigo, a young adult novel by Heather Siegel (New York)
Your Own Secret Fallout Shelter, stories by Rachael Swearingen (Illinois)
Wrong Kind of Paper, a novel by Cindy Simmons (Pennsylvania)
Not All Dead Together, stories by Lynn Stansbury (Washington State)
In the Amber Chamber, stories by Carrie Messenger (West Virginia)
Surrendering Appomattox, a novel by Jacob Appel (New York)
Maids and Soldiers, stories by Kathleen Ford (Virginia)
Billy Penn’s Hat, stories by Brian Patrick Heston (Pennsylvania)
Sin Easters and Other Stories by Edward Francisco (Tennessee)
Stripped, stories by Leah Griesmann (North Carolina)
What We Leave Behind Follows, stories by Christopher Shade (New York)
On a Close Reach, a novel by Donald McCullough (California)
Drunk with Fire, a novella by Daniel Turtel (New York)

Farewell & Welcome

Today we say a tearful goodbye to our long-time intern, Corinne.

Corinne started working with us two years ago during the 2015 fiction contest and stayed on as editorial assistant to the then-acquisition editor Rebecca Schwab. Together, she and Rebecca sloshed through many a submission, and after Rebecca moved on to greener pastures, Corinne took over publicity and marketing duties. Now she is enrolled at the University of Denver for their 2017 summer publishing course, where she will hopefully succeed and carry forward on to greater things. We wish her the best of luck and thank her for all of the hard work she put into Leapfrog.

In place of Corinne, we welcome Nathan Carter as a submission reviewer and blogger. Nathan has been the associate editor & typesetter for Civil Coping Mechanisms press for nearly two years. He is also the layout editor for the literary journal, Lake Effect. He has been working with us since April in helping with reviewing submissions for our fiction contest and writing some recent blogs.

We look forward to the rest of summer and moving forward here at Leapfrog in this transition. Thank you again to all who have submitted to our fiction contest. We will be posting the results soon.