Green Mountains Review Open for Submissions!

The 2014 Neil Shepard Prizes in Poetry, Fiction, and Creative Nonfiction is now open for submissions. The contest is hosted by Green Mountains Review, edited by Leapfrog author Jacob White.

http://greenmountainsreview.com/?p=3737

Advertisements

Being Dead in South Carolina – Three Guys One Book Review

In Robert Altman’s McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Warren Beatty’s John McCabe—with all his roughness and maundering—grumbles, “I got poetry in me,” an assertion with which nobody around him seems to agree. This dialogue kept running through my head while I read Being Dead in South Carolina, Jacob White’s debut short story collection, which begins with a question: “Look. Have you ever tried to right a car you yourself have tumbled?” Immediately, the reader intuits that this narrator is a fuck-up who spends his life attempting to fix disasters that he himself has caused. But check out the way he describes the overturned car: He calls it a “strange articulation of stupidity and rebirth.” He may be a fuck-up, but he got poetry in him.

The majority of the 17 stories in Being Dead are told in a conversational first-person voice. Many of these narrators are ne’er-do-wells whose unremarkable lives dot the American South; in this way, the book’s cover—a cheap-looking couch perched next to shimmering water—is a perfect evocation of its contents. But if you’re a reader fed up with the MFA-workshop-story conventions usually (if not entirely correctly) blamed on Raymond Carver’s brand of “dirty realism,” don’t be turned off.

Consider, again, that opening story—titled “Being Dead in South Carolina”—in which the narrator, after righting the car, ends up at a bar with some friends. By this point, the reader has learned that the narrator was shot in the head years before and has weakened mental faculties as a result. This feels like a familiar redemption story—he will fix his life, connect with other people, etc. etc.—until the final paragraph, which turns in a sudden, frightening direction. “I’ve been born again a thousand times,” the narrator says in the closing moments, “and each time’s scarier than the last.”

Consider, also, “Bethel,” in which the narrator recalls the time that his brother reappeared at the family’s farmhouse after a mysterious (and maybe murderous) six-year absence. The narrator was 12 at that time, and is now a middle-aged trucker. “Bethel” reaches its climax between the 12-year-old narrator and his brother, and then returns to the present, and then keeps going on and on for too many rambling pages, it seems, until it becomes clear that the story is actually about the narrator’s disturbing present-day psychology. White’s endings always force the reader to reconsider what s/he thought the story was about…

“The Days Down Here,” Being Dead’s centerpiece and best story, [is one] in which Hammond and Jean, an old married couple, have moved to South Carolina with their 19-year-old son, Zach. Their days are idyllic, but punctured with brutal flash forwards—“This was only weeks before her cheeks sallowed and sank, before her eyes turned to pitch”—which remind the reader that Jean has cancer and that these days, though idyllic, will be her last. The story becomes a sun-soaked Amour, and White’s poetic flourishes are in fine form. (At dusk, the lake becomes “a floating city of gridlocked boats.”)

Eventually, those problematic prose poems seem like a rehearsal for the climax of “The Days Down Here,” when Hammond, the narrator, describes his son doing something fantastic in a lake while the sun sets and his movements become “smears of shadow.” Here, White’s leap into sustained poetic language feels organic, attached to Hammond’s experience of the world as it becomes heightened and lyrical. This is the best story—maybe the best moment—in Being Dead in South Carolina, and it establishes Jacob White as a fine new writer.

Read the complete review at http://threeguysonebook.com/being-dead-in-south-carolina-by-jacob-white/

Being Dead in South Carolina Review

A new review from Midwest Book Review!

Being Dead in South Carolina is a 200 page compendium comprised of seventeen skillfully crafted short stories set in the modern South. The deftly written characters combine with strongly developed and original storylines resulting in a series of literary experiences that the reader will remember long after Bring Dead in South Carolina is finished and set back upon the shelf. Very highly recommended.”

Crossborder March 2014 Issue

Heads up! The next issue of Crossborder is coming soon. If there’s a story you really love, please let us know and we will contact the author for an interview. You can subscribe here.

Spring 2014 Cover face - no bleed.indd

A Diner on the Edge of Town Alcy Leyva
There’s a Wait Jordan Smith
Orpheum Kevin Oderman
Isolation (poem) Eileen Berry
River, Clap Your Hands Cynthia Hawkins
A Lawyer in Islamistan Ali Eteraz
An Economic Novel Mark Brazaitis
Forgotten Exiles Cyril Dabydeen
When the Frost Comes Erin Pringle-Toungate
Words in Skin Alcy Leyva
Morning Sarah Gerkensmeyer

Read the opening of each story

A Diner on the Edge of Town
Alcy Leyva

Day 1

A fly walks into a diner…

(I’ll start from the beginning, sorry.)

As I tore open the sugar packet,
a piece of the pink wrapper fell from the bigger chunk,
flipped,
sashayed in the air,
and did a medium-sized backflip
into
my coffee.

There’s a Wait
Jordan Smith

Millard’s will was simple enough. The house and assets would be sold, the investments liquidated, the proceeds placed in trust in three equal shares, thus neatly avoiding estate taxes and any disagreement about who got what. There was only one additional provision. The beneficiaries would each receive one personal bequest, an object to be placed prominently in each of their homes.  For the next twenty years, until the trust dissolved and the capital was distributed, the monthly income would be paid only when the trustees had certified by a personal and unannounced inspection that the object was where it was supposed to be and neither altered nor disguised in any way.

Orpheum
Kevin Oderman

The bulbs on the marquee illuminated the crowd pressed close to the door, but the line ran into the half darkness down the street. Orpheum. A word exotic to the boys. They’d been to the movies before, in Bend, to the Bijoux, which their mother—it seemed a long time ago—had told them meant jewels in French. Fielding had wondered about that, jewels? That was when they had already entered the shadow of their mother’s illness. She had told them a movie house was like a jewelry box, she thought, they kept the pretty things inside. The sparkling movies. Colors almost unbelievable. Simple stories. Happy endings, she’d said, and smiled her wan smile. And the boys had nodded. Already that seemed like a long time ago.

River Clap Your Hands
Cynthia Hawkins

Make shadows for me Jack. That’s what I always called Jack’s drawings when I was a kid.  With his eyes squinting into black slits of concentration and a wafting of his gnarled gray fingers gone straight, his hand would make its graceful pass over tables, walls, great pads of paper I eventually bought him, the surface growing gradually darker than its natural shade, darker until I could see the shapes he made.  Just a wave of his hand.  That’s all it took.  He was good, Jack.  He liked to add a kind of Deco flourish to limbs and fingers and the ends of hair twined with an imaginary breeze.  And Jack was drawing his self-portrait across the cracked concrete alley behind the strip mall where I was looking for boxes, the dark spindled sketch of his question-mark figure hanging like a shadow from my heels, when a woman burst through an emergency exit.  Like birds scattering off a lawn at the first hint of a doorknob twist, Jack was gone.  Just like that.

A Lawyer in Islamistan
Ali Eteraz

Mr. Eblis, a first year defence attorney in the country of Islamistan, sat in his office in the old part of Muhammadiya District and wondered if his solo practice was doomed to fail. Most people avoided criminal law like it was heresy. The trials were complicated and messy, and took an eternity.

He had wanted a high status job. Government. Academia. Morality. Anything that kept him out of court. He had hoped that upon the completion of his twelve year program he would be installed as a lecturer at Jurist’s Inn or invited to become an analyst at the Guardian Council.

An Economic Novel
Mark Brazaitis

Chapter 1

The scene in which the protagonists (soon-to-be lovers) meet: You’ll know from experience or fantasy what they say to each other, how their gestures convey a tangible longing, how, when they kiss, the world brightens, as if in a nuclear flash.

Forgotten Exiles
Cyril Dabydeen

I was meeting him again after a twenty-year lapse, and I figured he would be reluctant or self-conscious, my father. Time, distance, between us; and yes,  it would be his poverty, his house being a ramshackle place with a nondescript living room, and the doors being boards simply tacked together and the roof zinc sheets piled one on top of the other.  He’d been ailing too, arthritis wracking his bones, the relatives had said.

When the Frost Comes
Erin Pringle-Toungate

The girl and her mother sit at the small kitchen table, eating their cereal.  On TV, the weatherman stands in front of his colorful map.  He has gray hair and a red bow tie and is the same weatherman who visited the girl’s class and explained about Ls and Hs.  How Ls meant lousy weather and Hs meant happy weather—For the most part, he said.  She and the rest of the class were impressed since he was from the larger city where the shopping mall and movie theatre and hospitals were, and they saw him every night on TV, but there he was shaking hands with Mrs. Lindsey and standing in front of their chalkboard.  It was almost as good as the shopping mall Santa making a special visit, but since none of them believed in Santa anymore, the weatherman would do.

Words in Skin
Alcy Leyva

I sit back and enjoy the crunchy skin of the pig my father and uncles have roasted using smoking coals. We’re sitting in a driveway in the Bronx, but the smell of a fire pit and the rattle of dominoes screams of an island lost in their memories. My son sits at my feet with his New York Yankees hat and British character inspired toy trains which were made in China. I don’t give my son a piece because he distrusts anything new.

Morning
Sarah Gerkensmeyer

Every morning, my husband and I grab our briefcases and our stainless steel coffee thermoses.  We kiss each other on the cheek and then we kiss the dog on the cheek and then we pull the front door closed behind us and let the screen door give a happy slap.  Every morning, I set my stainless steel coffee thermos on the roof of my car and my husband sets his stainless steel coffee thermos on the roof of his car and then we open driver-side doors.  And right before ducking into the airtight spaces of our separate, efficient automobiles, every morning, we both see Harold waving at us from across the street, his other hand holding a slack hose above the brown-pocked grass.  Like usual, there’s no water coming out of the hose, and, like usual, my husband and I both wave back.

AWP Conference 2014

Each year, the Association of Writers & Writing Program hosts its annual Bookfair, where writers and readers come together to celebrate publishers, teachers, and students of literature and writing. Over 12,000 participated in the 2013 conference, dubbing it the largest gathering of writers and readers in North America. The AWP will host its conference from February 28 to March 1 at the Washington State Convention Center & Sheraton Seattle Hotel. A lot of excellent literary journals will be on exhibition, including Witness Magazine, edited by David Armstrong (author of the upcoming book Going Anywhere), along with Green Mountains Review and its editor Jacob White (author of Being Dead in South Carolina). For those interested in contests, AWP has many opportunities for writers to submit work, including the AWP Award Series, the George Garrett Award, the Small Press Publisher Award, the Intro Journals Project, the WC&C Scholarship Competition, and the National Program Directors’ Prize. Though the preregistration deadline for the conference has passed, onsite registration will begin February 26.

Interview with Lenore Myka, short story contest winner

Lenore Myka, winner of the 2013 Cream City Review Fiction Contest and the 2013 Booth Story Prize, was considerate enough to sit down with one of our interns at Leapfrog Press to discuss the ins and outs of submitting to short story contests. Here she shares her process of reviewing work, sending it off, and advice to writers old and new.

Why did you enter a writing contest?

I enter writing contests for a variety of reasons. Besides the financial incentive (which lots of standard submissions aren’t able to provide), my sense is that writing contests provide an alternative in terms of how works are assessed. Oftentimes, journals have thematic focuses or a specific esthetic they are seeking which might automatically exclude my work from publication. My impression (rightly or wrongly) is that contests are less concerned with theme and esthetic, thus giving works a more objective review. Of course, in the end it still feels as arbitrary as anything else because it is the tastes of sometimes a single judge that determine the results. But I’ve had good luck so far…

Where did you hear about the contest you entered?

It is likewise my perspective that contests draw attention to you as a writer, especially if the journals do a good job of promoting the contest. With the case of the Booth Journal prize, this was certainly true for me. In addition to publishing the story in print, Booth posted it to their website and made announcements on New Pages, FB, etc. As a result, I received a message from an agent interested in seeing more of my work and received a couple of lovely emails from readers, which is always encouraging.

Have you ever submitted the same work to more than one contest at the same time?

I submit to contests the same way I submit standard submissions: a lot and with abandon. This may raise the hackles of some editors, but I do simultaneously submit. Writing is too long, slow, and arduous a process to add waiting for upwards of a year (or forever!) for a response (rejection) from an editor. There have been contests I’ve submitted to and never received a notification announcing the winners; instead I had to do my own sleuthing. I’ve gotten comfortable being aggressive about it, but am also aware this approach isn’t for everyone.

How did you decide which contests to submit work to?

I have a standard list of “target” contests just as I do “target” journals, but I’m always adding new names to both lists. Booth had been on my radar for a short while but Cream City Review came to me through my MFA alumni list; I was happy to be introduced to it not only because of my success but because I think it’s a compelling journal putting some good work out there.

About how long after you submitted work did you hear back from the contest?

In the cases of both Cream City and Booth, I heard within a couple of months that I was a winner. Booth had the added bonus of notifying me that I was a finalist first and providing information detailing when the winner would be awarded. I’m big on communication–the more the better–so I loved this aspect of Booth’s process. In both instances they provided the judge’s feedback and Booth made a personal telephone call to me to give me the good news–a nice added touch in this age electronic communication.

What should one do after they send a submission? Keep writing, take a break, revise their work, etc.?

As with all of my writing, I write first, submit later. My writing isn’t driven by the desire to submit to a specific journal or contest; it’s after I’ve written something that I make decisions about where I might want to submit it. Likewise, writing and submitting (and revising, etc. etc.) happen simultaneously. When my agent began to submit my collection to publishers, a mentor of mine warned me against putting the rest of my writing life on hold lest I get mired in the inevitable rejection of the process and lose sight of why I started writing in the first place. It was sage advice. It’s important for me to keep writing regardless of external validation. While it’s always rejuvenating to get that vote of confidence, and can certainly be a strong motivator (momentum always is), it wasn’t the reason why I put pencil to paper thirty years ago when I first started writing stories. I think it’s dangerous for artists of any kind to hang their hats solely on external validation; ultimately you need to believe in your own work, even when it seems no one else does.

Did you prepare your work months ahead of time with this specific contest in mind, or did you submit closer to the deadline? Do you think it makes a difference?

I don’t think it matters when you submit to contests. I think I just got in under the wire with Cream City’s contest while Booth I submitted well in advance. What matters is what you submit. Is it your strongest work? Have you gone over it again and again, revised and rewritten, edited and rewritten, proofread and rewritten? What people say is true: Submit your best work. Period.

Should one respond to a rejection letter or e-mail?

If you get a personal letter or email of rejection, if there is a name attached, a smidge of encouragement in its contents: Jump on it! The first story I ever had published was the result of such an exchange–an editor rejecting my work but asking me to send more. My guess is editors wouldn’t bother if they didn’t mean it; I know I wouldn’t.

What advice would you give to writers who have never submitted work to a contest before?

Advice I’d give to writers who have never submitted to contests: I think this is true for contests and standard submissions alike: choose places you admire and would be proud to be a part of. Also: Aim high. You just never know.

 

Lenore Myka’s fiction was selected as a notable short story by The Best American Non-Required Reading of 2013 and a distinguished story by The Best American Short Stories of 2008. She was the winner of the 2013 Cream City Review and Booth Journal Fiction Contests, a finalist for the 2013 Glimmer Train Open Short Story Contest, and a semi-finalist for the 2012 Iowa Short Fiction Contest. Her stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Iowa Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Cream City Review, Booth Journal, West Branch, Massachusetts Review, H.O.W. Journal, Upstreet Magazine, Talking River Review, and the anthology Further Fenway Fiction.

Interview with David Armstrong, committing to contests

We’re happy to share an interview with David Armstrong, author of “Hear It” in our newest issue of Crossborder, conducted by Nate Worrell, writer and creator of the blog The Competitive Writer.Armstrong shares some insight on submitting and winning the annual Leapfrog Fiction Contest in 2012.

What does winning the Leapfrog contest mean for you?
It means a great deal. It’s my first book, which is of course a kind of milestone. I’m just glad the editors at Leapfrog and the contest judge, Lev Raphael, saw something there worth publishing as a whole. I’d received some good responses (publications and contest wins) to individual stories, but I’m always plagued by a nagging feeling I might be returning to the same waters too often. I tend to obsess over a few certain philosophical and psychological questions, as writers are wont to do, so I often worry that all my stories are iterations of a few narrow concerns. Having the book selected tells me that I managed to push each story into new territory—enough that the folks at Leapfrog saw it as a complete collection, with thematic elements holding it together, as opposed to a dozen versions of the same story. In general, I guess the win tells me I’m working with a sufficient degree of breadth, an expansiveness for which I consistently strive.

How has winning this contest, or others, boosted your career as an author?
The Leapfrog contest win is quite recent, so, other than a lot of congratulations from all of the wonderful and supportive people in my life, the substantive result has yet to play out. The book itself, which I hope is the true measure by which I’m judged, is still over a year away from publication. Hopefully there’s a good response once readers see my work as a whole.
My other contest wins are also very recent, less than six months old. But it’s been an overwhelming six months. In that time, I’ve managed to have thirteen stories picked up for publication, nine of them winners of contests. I just started seriously writing short stories about two years ago, and only last year started testing the waters of contests. I began to receive good feedback—a few were finalists and Honorable mentions for contests held by publications like The Cincinnati Review and Glimmer Train—so I knew I was at least in a certain realm of consideration for the editorial staffs. But it’s been within the past six months that I started to see more significant results in the form of wins.
Because of the relative newness of all of this, many of my stories aren’t even published yet. Anything I might have to say about contests and their impact on my career is purely speculative. What I hope is that the contest wins serve as a little validation. I see a lot of stellar writers that I respect ending up on the finalist and honorable mention lists. When I’m a finalist for a contest, I tend to take pride in the fact that I’m even being considered alongside some of these folks whose work I admire.

How did the experience with Leapfrog compare to other contests?
The Leapfrog Press staff were wonderful. One way the actual contest stood out to me was the way it was conducted. With most contests you send something in, you keep writing, you try not to dwell on it. Meanwhile, the brave editors tackle an enormous pile of manuscripts and slowly whittle them down. Finally, you hear the results. With Leapfrog, they let the contestants know when the manuscripts were all in, how many there were, when the judging began, and, in my case, the point at which finalists had been chosen and how long it would be before a final decision was made. This may not sound like a huge thing, but that kind of consideration for the contestants shows that the staff at Leapfrog know what a big deal it is to individual writers to be considered for publication. That kind of thoughtfulness, I think, is evidence that Leapfrog has their writers’ best interests at heart. I’ve since heard from other writers who’ve worked with Leapfrog and who have very positive things to say about their experiences, so I think it bodes well for our future working relationship.

Related to that, this work is a collection of shorter pieces. Talk a little bit about how this compilation came together.
In first writing the short stories that ended up in this collection, I didn’t set out to link them. I didn’t have an overarching plan. In fact, one of the most appealing aspects of working in the short form, for me, is the capacity to experiment with varying concepts, characters, styles, and ideas. But the intriguing thing I found, after writing enough stories, was that, inevitably, there were themes that emerged I couldn’t have predicted. I began to form the collection in such a way that each story was linked through these themes. You learn a lot from having to go back over your own work. In some ways it can be distressing to see, as I mentioned, that you’re obsessed with story elements or character attributes or even details that you had no idea were even in your mind to begin with. But because of this new awareness, I also think you can grow as a writer. I think, because of it, I was able to make sure each story offered something all its own to add to the collection.

What role should contests play in a writer’s development?
No idea. Writers develop their craft in all sorts of ways, so I’d never prescribe a certain path. I only know that my experience with contests has been an extremely fortunate one. Personally, contests have played a distinct part in my own development, at least as far as publishing short stories is concerned. As I mentioned above, I had a number of stories that, because they were finalists or honorable mentions, I knew to keep sending out. In terms of talking to anyone thinking about entering contests, I’d point out that those contests can tell you a lot about where you stand in the overall pack of writers submitting to them. Being a finalist, even if it doesn’t result in a win, can at least let you know that your work is being considered at some level beyond the initial reader. You don’t always get that kind of feedback with straight submissions.
A friend once told me that to be a finalist in a contest, you have to be good, but to win, you have to be lucky. I like that. Certainly, there’s a very subjective aspect to winning. It relies on some person at the end saying, “I just like this one the best.” But having a specific story do well (be a finalist, semi-finalist, honorable mention, etc.), that tells me there is something of quality to which people are responding, and maybe I just need to keep sending it out until it gets “lucky.”

David Armstrong’s story collection, Going Anywhere, is expected to be released at the end of 2014. To read the entire interview, visit www.competitivewriter.com.