Thursday, December 29, 2011

Michael Schulze "Cover Letter for The Cabin" ~ Xenith

Michael Schulze's story "Cover Letter for The Cabin" appears in Xenith and presents the worst possible cover letter an author could ever append to his novel submission.

The cover letter tells a strange--in a good way--absurd tale in which the narrative tone of voice feels real and honest enough to allow readers to slip into the fictive dream. Quirky, funny paragraphs abound, such as one that concerns rewriting in which the author tells the editors that there are exactly one hundred words.

At times, it's possible to get lost in passages concerning the current action, only to be reminded that, in fact, this is a cover letter for an obviously awful novel.

I've never read anything like it; check it out.


Ash Dogs, a novel

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Jonathan Ames ~ forthcoming interview here at Our Stories!

Hello, fellow members of the Our Stories writing community.

We're extremely happy and excited to announce our upcoming interview with Jonathan Ames, whom Publisher's Weekly has called "a winning storyteller and a consummate, albeit exceedingly eccentric, entertainer."

Ames's novels include I Pass Like Night (for which Philip Roth praised Ames's "authentic voice of youthful suffering"), The Extra Man (now a major motion picture), and Wake Up, Sir!.

In addition to a number of other publications, including essay collections and comic memoirs, Ames was the creator and writer of the HBO-aired comedy series Bored to Death.

We'll have more on Jonathan Ames to come; until then, we highly recommend checking out the work of this very talented artist.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Peter D. Kramer "Permutations" ~ The Summerset Review

Peter D. Kramer's story "Permutations" appears in The Summerset Review and gives of the story of a mentally ill guy who's trying to get better. He visits Vassar to dwell on a life he might've had before dropping out, and to find a date.

Both the narrator (who introduces himself as Alex) and his girlfriend, Libby, have mental issues--chiefly depression, it seems, and OCD. Alex goes with Amanda, a woman he met at Vassar, for brunch, where he applies his shrink's advice for successful social interaction. Here, he articulates insight about his illness: "My trouble started there, in my insistence that the best fiction comes from stolen vignettes.Also obsession-laden descriptions of he and Amanda having sex masterfully convey character.

The story reads as vivid character analysis as well as meaningful social commentary.

Check it out. 


Ash Dogs, a novel

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Q&A with J. Caleb Winters, a new Fiction Reader here at Our Stories

J. Caleb Winters has work published or forthcoming in Camera Obscura, the HumanistGulf Stream, and Fiction Writers Review, and an interview with him can be found at Dark Sky Magazine. He earned his MFA in Fiction Writing from Boise State University and was Assistant Editor of the Idaho Review. He teaches Humanities at West Virginia University.

Besides teaching, J. Caleb Winters has worked as an apprentice electrician, a landscaper, a framing carpenter, and a house-painter, and he officiated three marriages during his time as a minister. He occasionally travels to Greece and frequently travels to Idaho. Along with Literary Fiction, he is deeply interested in Hellenistic Philosophy. 
Here's a Q & A we had with J. Caleb Winters. Enjoy!

OS: Could you tell everyone a little about your writing process? When, if ever, is a draft "done"?

J. Caleb Winters:  I tend to write in bursts--an hour here or there, and I find that if I'm diciplined enough to take advantage of my "free" time, I can get quite a bit of writing done.  I revise the same story over and over until I feel like it's done.  Then, I put that draft aside for a few months, so I can look at it again, with fresh eyes.  Issues with the story, that I couldn't see before, tend to become apparent to me if I give myself that distance from my work.  I repeat the process of revision and storing the draft away, and when I can return to a story, after months of not reading it, and the story doesn't reveal any flaws, then I start to get excited, because the story is getting close to "done."


: Could you share some thoughts about what you tend to look for in a work of fiction?

J. Caleb Winters:  I love stories that take risks--that fight against expectations and knock readers out of their comfort zones.  In a story, this can be accomplished in many ways.  Beautiful language, stylized dialogue, or an imaginative plot structure are all examples of ways a story can push boundaries.


OS: What's next for you and your writing?

J. Caleb Winters:  I'm begining to experiment with shorter peices.  I've been really influenced by Airships by Barry Hannah, and I love many of the shorter peices in that collection and how "big" they feel.  At the same time, I'm also expanding and pushing myself by working through the first draft of my novel.  It's a story about an absentee dad who falls in love with a married woman, whose husband is dying of liver disease.

Thanks for the interview. We're happy to have another dedicated writer here at Our Stories.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


I was just made aware of this award -- go ahead, nominate your favorite workshop teacher! Or anyone--you must have a writer in your heart who helped you over a hump or who you think deserves some recognition. It's super-easy to nominate, just send an email.

here's the whole scoop:

Beyond The Margins
1st Annual
"I saw her rarely over the years, but each time our paths crossed she
threw her arms around me as if I were exactly the person she was
hoping would round the corner. I'm sure there are hundreds of people
who felt that way because her attention to each of us was so special,
so individual, so generous!"
Elizabeth Winthrop on Grace Paley
By Kathy Crowley
Tayari Jones calls Judy Blume her fairy godmother.
Stephen King chucked his manuscript for Carrie in the trash; his
writer-wife Tabitha King plucked it out.
Harper Lee traveled to Kansas with Truman Capote, playing a crucial
role in his research for In Cold Blood.
When Raymond Carver was young, poor and unknown, John Gardner gave him
the keys to his office so that Carver could write (and sleep) there on

We have all benefited immeasurably from the generosity of other
writers, people who have given their time, labor, money and care to
further the work of fellow writers. As we approach the second
anniversary of Beyond the Margins' first post, we'd like to
acknowledge this important part of our writing lives.

So, we're inviting your nominations for Beyond The Margins' 1st Annual ABOVE AND BEYOND AWARD!

Sponsored by:


Who can be nominated?

Any writer who has gone above and beyond the call of duty to help
fellow writers. Extra editing, mentoring, putting writers in touch
with each other, putting writers in touch with agents and editors,
running classes for young people and seniors, organizing readings: If
there¹s someone you know who has done one or more or all of these
things, we want to hear about it. Workshop leaders or class
instructors are eligible, but no formal teaching position is required.
(BTM authors and family members are ineligible, though their family
members certainly deserve an award.)

Who can nominate?

You! And any other writer out there who feels inspired to do so. The
only people who cannot send in nominations are BTM members. (And their

How to nominate?

Send an email to: Please include
your name and contact information, the name and contact information of
the nominee (email address is fine), any formal affiliations or
publications of that person, plus a brief (250 words) description of
how you know this person and what makes him/her such an exceptional
contributor to other writers. (Please do not send books, articles or
other publications belonging to you or the nominee.)


Any time between December 1st and December 31st, 2011. Winners will be
announced in mid-January 2012.


Though kindness is its own reward, we'll garnish it with a glowing
Beyond The Margins write-up on the winner, plus a beautiful
paperweight-type Above & Beyond award of some yet-to-be-determined
size, weight and design.

So: who made the difference for you?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Novel Idea

This summer, inspired by a nonfiction essay I read, an idea for a novel-length story came to me. I'm really excited about the idea and it's been percolating for months, waiting for me to DO something about it and start getting it down on the page. But it's a big project that will involve a lot of research involving topics of which I currently know very little.

The whole thing scares the hell out of me because:

1. I've never written anything that required library time to do well/correctly.
2. I've never written a novel.

There's not much I can do about the first point but dive in and start reading the relevant books I've found and take notes.

To give me some confidence about the second point, I've been engaged in National Novel Writing Month.

Because you're all literary folks, you've probably heard of NaNoWriMo. If not, it's a month-long effort to whip out a 50,000 word manuscript. No going back, no editing, no fixing. Just write approx. 1666 words a day, full speed ahead. I am loving it. Not since I wrote my MFA thesis have I *made* the time to write every single day, and this time, there's no pressure to produce anything great. The editing and rehashing comes later. (And shouldn't it always?)

I'm having fun with my silly novel and learning that there's less to be afraid of with something of this length than I thought. My concerns about how to plot and structure a book and where all of the characters come from are working themselves out. Don't get me wrong: some days it's a truly awful process and I have to force myself to sit down at the keyboard. But on the days when I have more ideas than time to get them down, it's like flying.

When I'm done, I'll know that I have the stuff to attempt the novel I *really* want to write.

Are any of you attempting NaNoWriMo this year, or have you in past years? If so, what did you learn about your writing?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Q&A with Katey Schultz, a new Fiction Reader here at Our Stories!

Katey Schultz graduated from Pacific University with an MFA in Creative Writing. Her fiction has received numerous awards, including the Press 53 Award for Short Story and the Linda Flowers Literary Prize. She is author of the nonfiction chapbook Lost Crossings; editor of TRACHODON Magazine; Advisory Board Member for Memoir (and) Journal; and editor of two fiction anthologies, Dots on a Map and Coming Home (Main Street Rag). Currently, Katey is touring the United States from 2010-2012 as Writer-in-Residence and Fellow for organizations such at Interlochen Center for the Arts, Jentel Foundation, Fishtrap, and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Since the tour's kickoff, Katey has snowshoed across a frozen lake, inadvertently charged a bull moose while looking for the Northern Lights, taken Iditarod sled dogs on a training run, lived in a haunted Southern mansion, coached hundreds of teen writers in flash fiction, watched bald eagles soar above Wyoming's high desert, been caught in an Eastern Oregon cattle drive, and seen the first signs of spring in the deepest canyon on the North American continent. Katey journeys from place to place in her epic, undying 1989 Volvo station wagon affectionately called THE CLAW, more of which can be seen at

Here's a Q & A we had with Katey. Enjoy!

OS: So, what made you sure you wanted to become a writer? (Or, did writing choose you?)

Katey: My love for writing actually began before I knew that's what I was falling for. Junior year of high school, a wonderful English teacher introduced me to Thoreau and, by extension, to the worlds of philosophy and nature. Ever since that moment, I understood that I could use writing to explore and make sense of the world around me--just as Thoreau wrote his way to new insight in Walden. In college, I read Joan Didion's The White Album and Slouching Towards Bethlehem. Didion showed me how this same kind of exploratory writing could be applied to contemporary society, utilizing the landscape of people rather than the natural world, to yield insight. Of course, this "exploratory writing" has a name, and that is the tried and true essay--still my go-to form of writing whenever I have something I really need to figure out.

It wasn't until after graduate school that fiction really took hold of my heart. Out there in "the real world," I encountered so many unanswered questions. I couldn't travel all over the globe investigating answers for myself, and I couldn't literally be inside the mind of another person...not in real life, at least. But I could in fiction, and once I realized that, I also realized that fiction yields just as much insight as nonfiction. The same kind of explorations I'd been enamored with through writing essays, suddenly became possible through fiction. Using research to make my stories realistic (my current collection involves military and civilian characters in and around the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, two countries I've never visited and two subcultures of a war zone I've never personally experienced), I tend to write my way into a story with enough facts to make something believable, but I always let my imagination take over in the end.

In fiction, I can still get that "ah-hah" moment that any good essay affords, only it's a lot more fun! Now, I write actively in both genres depending on whatever I'm exploring at the time. I've been delighted to find that there are deep insights to be discovered no matter which genre I'm writing in. Realizing how many "tools" I had at my disposal as a writer in both genres, it was easy to imagine myself dedicating my life to this art. Who wouldn't want to spend time exploring and understanding their surroundings--literally and figuratively--through art? It's a tough career to make a living at, though, so I'm grateful that I find it so rewarding.

OS: Could you share some thoughts about what you tend to look for in a work of fiction?

Katey: It's hard to beat a story that has a unique voice or perspective. But of course, voice doesn't always mean five syllable words and perspective doesn't always mean point of view. What I'm talking about here is a narrator or character's particular way of seeing the world. Do they notice the fingerprints on the window, or the majestic view on the other side? Do they hear the clock's incessant second hand, or laughter coming from across the street? I look for stories with that kind of attention to detail, because details after all, lead to insight.

I also look for stories of smart surprise. Smart surprise works best when a writer can create a world or character so thoroughly, that readers go along for the ride without question. The surprise comes into play when that thoroughness is disrupted or confirmed in a crafted manner that enhances story. I think this is done most successfully by tying up loose ends, presenting a convincing shift in mood, or (my personal favorite) a particularly fitting metaphor.

OS: What's next for you and your writing?

Katey: Over the next year, I'd like to finish my collection of war stories, tentatively titled Flashes of War. After that, I envision a collection of personal essays based on my current travels across the United States. That said, I'm obsessed with flash fiction--writing it, teaching it, reading it--and wouldn't mind a side project of an anthology or textbook of some sort. Did I just say that? Yeesh. I'd better stay focused. Back to the desk...

Friday, November 4, 2011

To type or not to type

I am old enough that when I took typing in junior high school, I learned on a typewriter. (Generation X fistbump!)

And so when I saw this yesterday, I got a little excited:
A Remington USB Typewriter!

Of course, now that I've been writing on computers rather than manual typewriters for a good twenty-five years (Another high five for Generation X? Anyone?) the clip showing how slow typing on one of these babies really goes sinks my boat a bit.

Are you a pen-and-paper writer? Or do you do most of your work on a computer? I wonder if I would write more carefully if my brain-to-hand-computer-mind-meld thing wasn't at play. If I had to deliberately push every key on a typewriter again, would I choose my words deliberately?

I suppose only $800 or so stands in the way of finding out...

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Joe Bonomo "Live Nude Essay!" ~ Gulf Coast

Joe Bonomo's work of nonfiction "Live Nude Essay!" appears in Gulf Coast and contemplates aspects of nudity, and the author's discovery of sex and nakedness, as as way to urge us to value the wonders of the "clothed essay."

"I'm thinking of the clothed essay versus the nude essay. The clothed essay prizes craft and subtlety, evocation and song."

This essay captivates with its form: section breaks juxtapose the clothed beside the nude, with one section hinting at how "nude" an essay the writer could very well write if he were to so choose, and the reader winces, agreeing.

A thought-provoking, socially relevant read.


Ash Dogs, a novel

Monday, October 17, 2011

Q&A with Jenny Halper, 2011 Emerging Writer Award Winner

Jenny Halper's fiction has appeared in journals including Smokelong Quarterly, PANK, Frigg, Wigleaf Top 50 Very Short Stories 2009, and is forthcoming in an anthology from Persea books. Jenny has written for the Boston Phoenix and Nylon Magazine, among others, and recently co-wrote a script with Susan Seidelman and adapted a novel for Pretty Pictures. She currently serves as Development Executive at Maven Pictures, and was previously Development Executive on films The Kids Are All Right and The Whistleblower. She lives in Brooklyn with her turtle, Herbert, plus lots of stray books picked up on Park Slope stoops, a ten-year-old VCR, and lots of Jolly Time Healthy Pop Kettle Corn.

Here's a short interview we conducted with Jenny recently about "Cyclone," her award-winning story, as well as her writing in general. 

Congratulations to Jenny, and to all our blog readers, enjoy! ...

Q:  Can you give everyone a few words about "Cyclone," your contest-winning submission? How did this story come about?

Well, the characters are from a terrible novella I was trying to write

a while ago. I tend to start a lot more than I can finish and when I

get stuck with one thing am unstuck about another. I wrote a draft of

this, I think, when I was trying to finish a story I was halfway

through and couldn't, so I went back to these characters and started

with the hot dog eating contest. Also, one of my best friends growing

up lived next to the train tracks and I was always kind of jealous and

wanted to imagine what it felt like to live there.

Q: What made you decide to become a writer?

I'm not sure -- probably the authors I loved in 7th, 8th, 9th grade -

Alice Hoffman, Anne Tyler, Pat Conroy, also Rosellen Brown, who I was

lucky enough to have as a professor and is amazing and I think one of

the things that keeps me working is getting to learn from authors I

really admire -- and of course the (very infrequent) feeling of

finally getting something intangible right. The first thing I remember

writing is an adaptation of Peter Pan when I was seven, but that was

only because I wanted something short enough that my friends could

perform at my birthday party, and that was only because I wanted to

play Wendy and wasn't a good enough actress to get cast in an actual

production. But that's not really a moment of decision - I don't

remember making a conscious decision. Sometimes I find it incredibly

difficult and sometimes I love it. Lately I've been thinking of

writing as putting together a puzzle and you have to create the

pieces, then make them fit. I have a very long way to go.

Q: What's next for you and your work?

I'm a little more than halfway through a collection of short stories

-- mostly I have a lot of revising to do on those. And I'm two thirds

of the way through what I'll call a longer work that will hopefully be

the first draft of a novel by 2012. I'm about to go back into a script

I sat on for a while, that I thought was done but I realized isn't.

That and there are a lot, a lot of books that are piled up around my

bed that I want to read.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Andrew D. Cohen "Boys School" ~ Colorado Review

A work of nonfiction, Andrew D. Cohen's "Boys School" is published in Colorado Review and explores the writer's being moved by his parents into a private school in New York, "one of the oldest, most competitive schools in the country, dating back some three hundred years to a time when its founders had to petition the London-based Society for the Propagation of the Gospel for funding."

At the school, the writer is made aware of his "Jewishness," and a number of thoughtful examples bring the place alive as well as help communicate dimensions of life and of the writer himself.


Ash Dogs, a novel

Caroline Arden "Yolo County" ~ Colorado Review

"She thought of calling the guests to explain but couldn't bear doing it, and so she turned off the lights, drew the shades, and lay on the couch while guests rang the doorbell, understanding that she was outside society now and might as well grow hard."

Caroline Arden's story "Yolo County" appears in Colorado Review and begins with a horrific event. The tone of voice contributes to the tension and conveyance of Miriam's character--a girl who shows up early to a baby shower and accidentally allows a child to choke.

Afterward, Miriam goes with her boyfriend Orin to Yolo County to watch an artist couple's farmhouse.


Ash Dogs, a novel

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Nico Alvarado "A Hunger Artist" ~ Witness

"Then he came over and opened the jar of bees in my face."

A work of nonfiction, "A Hunger Artist" by Nico Alvarado appears in Witness and starts off with evocative descriptions of a boy. The narrative continues by explaining more about the boy, Rico, and anecdotes further (vividly and thoughtfully) clarify his character. The narrative concludes with a tense confrontation with Rico, who has to bathe, and final images of the bees he has stunned.

This is a very worthwhile, thought-provoking read about the trials of social workers and one afflicted young man.


Ash Dogs, a novel

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Noam Chomsky "The Responsibility of Intellectuals, Redux" ~ The Boston Review

"If the responsibility of intellectuals refers to their moral responsibility as decent human beings in a position to use their privilege and status to advance the cause of freedom, justice, mercy, and peace—and to speak out not simply about the abuses of our enemies, but, far more significantly, about the crimes in which we are implicated and can ameliorate or terminate if we choose—how should we think of 9/11?"

Noam Chomsky, revisiting some themes from his earlier works, explores collective memory and perceived enemies in this intriguing, in-depth essay.

Check it out at Boston Review.


Ash Dogs, a novel

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Seth Abramson "Six Myths about the MFA Program in Creative Writing" ~ Huffington Post

Seth Abramson's article "Six myths about the MFA program in creative writing" is a very valuable, brief article anyone thinking about an MFA should take a look at.

It's also a fine article to help debunk some misconceptions. The attitude out there, sometimes from writers without MFAs, is that people with one are somehow "elite."

Fact is, you don't need an MFA to write and write well, but for people with the time and desire, it's the ideal program to attend.

Anyway, take a look.


Ash Dogs, a novel

Friday, September 2, 2011

Back from a Fiction Desert

Over the past year, I have heard more than one NPR report on “food deserts”: low-income neighborhoods where decently nutritious food choices are not available within a reasonable distance and/or for manageable prices. So out of convenience, residents eat processed garbage from, well, convenience stores.

What about fiction deserts—has anyone else experienced this?

Two years ago, after finishing a fiction MFA in the midst of a great community of writers, I exiled myself southward from Spokane for the sake of gainful, meaningful, student-loan-repaying employment. I landed in a place that turned out to be a fiction desert.

It was also an actual desert. Or at least a steppe climate. In place of crisp pine needles descending in their soft twirl, I found menacing tumbleweeds—possibly radioactive—darting in front of my car and congregating downwind against a chain-link prison fence, where they bobbed like lottery balls in the recurring gusts.

More forlorn tumbleweeds would crawl through a dinner party in the silence that ensued after a miscalculated Louise Erdrich reference. To be fair, nobody likes a namedropper. But to be fair to literary fiction namedroppers, there should be an appropriate time and place. I didn’t find either.

The place I lived has a lot going for it. I met great and interesting friends, and the Columbia Valley is second only to Napa when it comes to wine. But culturally, the Tri Cities, Washington has that built-in problem: there are three of them. Three not-much-happening downtowns to go along with the suburban sprawl, rather than one vibrant urban center for live music, arts, and literary events. As I write this, I can hear the diehard voices saying, “If you don’t like it, leave.”

Two weeks before we did leave, my wife elbowed me at our neighbor’s end-of-summer barbecue. She pointed with her chin at two women in lawn chairs and whispered, “You should talk to them. I just heard one of them say ‘Iowa Writer’s Workshop’.” Autumn knows and loves me to the extent that she instinctively listens for fiction oases.

Later, in the kitchen, I had a chance to begin a conversation with one of them. A tall, elegant woman a decade or so older than me, she hesitated for a moment when I mentioned I'd overheard her talking about creative writing.

"Are you a writer?" I asked.

"No, I'm just a reader," she said. This almost intrigued me more. I wish I could approach stories more purely, without a thief's agenda.

Several minutes later, after we had traded meta-stories of our respective relationships with short fiction (and practically recited the end of Tobias Wolff's "Bullet in the Brain" together) I returned to my lawn chair feeling refreshed. And while I'm glad we moved away, the chance occurrence confirmed a suspicion I'd been havingthat I'd probably missed out on literary community simply because it wasn't convenient to me, and my perceived fiction desert was at least partially a product of my own laziness/busyness.

In addition to the tumbleweeds, the big Columbia crawls silently through those cities, and it is good if you take some time and go down to the water.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Jo Scott-Coe "Domestic Order Suite" ~ turnrow

"Domestic Order Suite" appears in turnrow and is a work of art.

Part 1 of the story features the story's wonderfully appropriate second person point of view, in which the narrator accosts herself for failing to "come forward" after witnessing a girl being assaulted in a school parking lot.

The story goes on in Part 2 to detail, with moving metaphors, the life of a teacher in a run down school. The tone is again spot on.

Part 3 employs a brilliant method to convey the narrator's ennui and anxious melancholy while also stimulating a number of questions about standardized teaching.

My kind of story; definitely worth the read, and the re-read.

Check this fabulous work out at turnrow.


Ash Dogs, a novel

Sunday, August 7, 2011


Until a teacher told me I ought to hire someone to title my stories, I didn’t think I was particularly good or bad at it, but after that comment, my titles got significantly worse. Perhaps even more than the story itself, a great title requires an extraordinary amount of confidence and even bravado, especially if you’re going to go the straightforward route (Death in Venice) rather than the ironic (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius). If anyone were to ridicule the latter, Dave Eggers could simply laugh it off, but a critic could drive a sword straight through the soft spot that is the fact that Thomas Mann’s title would also work beautifully for a paperback crime novel. If some cynical or silly or simply cruel little snit chose to ridicule the title of Eggers’ magnificent and soulful What is the What, with a snide reference to Dr. Seuss or even to that high school cheer I like so much, Eggers would not be able to simply snigger back at his not-so-hip detractor, but would have to somberly explain himself.

What am I going to call the late revision of a novel I just finished? The title is so important, and yet I can’t think of anything. I have a working title, but it’s nothing I’m willing to say out loud, much less post on the Internet. My best titles I’ve simply lifted from songs by Robert Johnson and Billie Holiday, and the title I like best of all, which it took me six years to come up with, the name of a frost-blooming camellia, now titles a novel manuscript I’m beginning to admit I’m no longer interested in.

I tried for a while to figure out a way to justify using this title for the newest novel manuscript, but of course I couldn’t make it work. Because the best titles are so intrinsically tied to the book they represent, in myriad complex as well as surface ways, that a fake title, stuck on just because it sounds good, will only detract from the book and won’t satisfy even the most forgiving reader. But you can’t call something “Untitled,” either. That move only shows that you have no idea what you’ve got.

How I wish I had some advice to give on the subject! Any wisdom would be much appreciated!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Congratulations to A.N. Hegde, author of "Haunting Wish" @ The Southampton Review

A. N. Hegde is a neuroscientist. He is a new writer just beginning to publish his writing. His short stories have appeared in Black Lantern publishing and Gemini Magazine. He grew up in India and lives in North Carolina. He is currently at work on a short story collection and a novel.

We're very happy to announce the publication of "Haunting Wish," a story by A. N. Hegde that is now available in The Southampton Review (Summer 2011 issue, Volume 5, issue 2). We had a chance recently to interview Hegde, who came through Our Stories.

OS: At Our Stories, we consider anyone we've ever workshopped a member of Our writing community, and when a writer later succeeds with that piece, well, we'd like to think of that as an indicator that we're doing something right. What did working with OS do for you and your work?

A.N.H.: Working with OS helped me work on structural aspects of the story. How to keep the POV straight, how to move the story forward and so on.

OS: What's next for you and your writing?

A.N.H.: I am working on a collection of short stories and I am at work on a novel.

Thanks for being part of our writing community, and we can't wait to get our hands on new stuff as it comes out!

"Haunting Wish" is a story about a young woman in India living in an orthodox society that imposes severe constraints on women. She is haunted by her husband's last wish that she did not fulfil. She tries to find a solution to this problem. What happens when she sets out to find a solution? Does she succeed?

Pick up the issue with A.N.'s story here!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Recommended Reading: Heather Fowler "Making Love to the Fruit Shooter" ~ The Summerset Review

"We went through a bushel of apples some days. Before he nocked the first arrow in his bow, I pulled my hair back and fastened it low on my neck, my part centered clean-split down the middle like the apple would be."

Heather Fowler's sexy, poetic story "Making Love to the Fruit Shooter" appears in The Summerset Review and gives the point of view of a girl whose boyfriend, Claus, shoots fruit off women's heads for a living.

The story moves forward with conflicts concerning Claus's accident (on his TV show, he impales a huge-breasted girl's head with an arrow) and the law firm the narrator works for, as well as the narrator taking up the hobby of watching Claus's show, where she sees his interaction with other fruit-bearing girls.

An excellent read.


Ash Dogs, a novel

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Even Their Insults Read Well

Writers, you know, don’t just sit in dark basements and, between long sighs, maybe type a word or two. No, sometimes we come out of our hiding to deliver an impeccabley rendered insult. Especially if we feel another writer has wasted our time.

I was recently forwarded a compilation of the harshest Writer v. Writer insults, featuring the likes of Gertrude Stein (no stranger to criticism), William Faulkner (and yes, even his insults are a tough read), and Ernest The Bull Hemingway basically just talking trash to/about one other. And its extremly well written trash.

It seems even the classic novels written by some of today’s most revered authors were at one point hated to death by another. And if there’s some kind of encouragement there, well it’s lost on me.

Anyway, here are the Top 30 Harshest Writer-on-Writer Insults.

Most of them are old school, but that’s not to say J.K. Rowling doesn’t get hers. Enjoy. Or don’t. Either way, just don’t get on a writer’s bad side!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Sailing to Heck by Jennifer Gooch Hummer

Sailing to Heck by Jennifer Gooch Hummer

I am working on a novel based around the principles of Feng Shui and what it can do to you if you're not careful. Take over your life, for one thing. Hopefully it will turn out to be a funny, entertaining piece of Chick Lit. But whatever it comes out to be, one thing is certain: the remedies in it are real. Of course that doesn't mean anything to you now. Or for the vast majority of you, will it ever. But for those of you who might be curious and I am no longer able to blog because my Chinese Feng Shui master has cut my fingers off for giving away these secrets, I'm telling you because these rules are bizarre.


I know. I've used them.


Feng Shui is confusing. There are numbers, directions and colors to consider. Frogs need to be angled a certain way and coins have to clink on the appropriate door. Sometimes, a lot of the time, a remedy seems like nothing more than one big rumor: keep a red vase half-full of water in the South West corner of your bedroom to attract romance (no flowers in it). Don't place your bed directly in line with the door (the death pose).


But there are times when Feng Shui can be just a case of good old common sense.


Consider Sailing to Heck.


A few years ago, my family and I lived in Spain. My husband was sent there for a few months, so we packed up the three small daughters, pre-paid our Verizon bill, and left.


 Picture a quaint countryside, toothless old ladies selling fruit at every corner, cobblestone streets echoing the click clack of hoofs, miles of rolling green vineyards – picture this, and you won't be envisioning where we were. Because where we were ended up being in an industrial town built around its port. Busy, dirty and thriving - but not quaint. Naturally, we couldn't speak the language, had no childcare, no school, no car, and not even (as it turned out) much time with aforementioned spouse/parent. It was approximately twelve thousand degrees every day and dinner, in Spain, is served at 10pm. Now. Maybe you're a parent and just reading this makes your stomach feel as if a small bowling ball has been dropped in it. Or maybe you're not a parent, never want to be a parent, and feel nothing at all at the thought of being on house arrest in a foreign country with a couple of elementary students and someone who's witnessed less that five orbits of the Sun.


Either way, the point I'm making here is that our home base was ultra important.


Back to Sailing to Heck.


It is a picture. Make that a painting. And the sole piece of art in our garage-sized apartment. Our flat was fine. For Spain. For two months. For free. But it was not highly decorated.


With one exception: Sailing to Heck.


The artwork was, as far as we could tell, a painting of a tiny, dark, defeated sailboat heading straight into an endless, black eternity. Like a big black "Dementer" waiting to suck your breath out, this painting was in fact more than a painting – it was a black hole in the wall. Big enough to fall through. Or jump into. Or stare at, and stare at, and stare at, until really, what was life worth living for? Sailing into the deep dark underworld of Heck seemed to be the only option.


This is not good Feng Shui. Unless you're a Vampire or a Spoken Word Artist, this type of décor – especially if it is your only décor, is not inspiring.


Time for some Feng Shui.


I have never defaced a work of art in my life. I don't even walk on chalk. But when you take into account non-napping Siesta time, a non-working TV, and Spanish Scrabble, things change. Even the endearing name we gave the painting lost its luster. Something had to be done. Taking it down and stowing it behind the burgundy pleather couch was an option - but what if it was damaged, dusted or worse? We had already broken a lamp, one glass and four plates (we had to keep track). No. We needed to remedy, not remove.


It was simple enough - one of my daughters used the brightest crayons we had to create a happy boat, flag and all, which we taped onto the canvas, gently. I explained that one never does this to artwork. Leaving a sticky note on Monet's Haystacks for instance, would get you arrested. But here, in out mental ward white apartment roughly the size of my thumbnail, a little tape was a lifesaver.


The painting was still black and the boat was still sailing into it, but maybe the people on board didn't mind so much now. One could image their cheery, expectant faces as they sailed off into the untold waters. And lo and behold, we became cheerier too. In fact, we were even giggling again - every time we looked at our newly renovated painting. Siesta passed faster, the scrabble words came easier and our casa sweet casa became a bit less, well, black hole-ish.


This is a Feng Shui remedy. A few crayons and some tape. Even a Stick 'Em can work. Feng Shui is supposed to make your space cheerier. And your space is a reflection of you. Sometimes we get so complacent, busy, stressed out, we don't notice that our surroundings no longer (if they ever did) reflect who we are and where we want to go. I bet most of us aren't hoping to dock in Heck anytime soon. But if we are not careful, our surroundings might be navigating us there - slowly, silently, efficiently.


Try this: move 27 little things in your home. Switch photos around on the shelves, remove a few books from your desk, slide your wastebasket to the other side of the room, maybe even place a half-filled red vase in the corner of your bedroom.


Then sit back and note the new air. It could be subtle - just a small breeze barely detectable bringing in a tiny change, or it could be a huge gust delivering a new opportunity, a stroke of good luck or a new friend. Try it. What the heck.


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Recommended reading: "Recalling Samuel Battle" ~ The New York Times

I'm always enthralled by the stories of guys like Samuel Battle, the first African American in the New York Police Department. "Recalling First Black Appointed to New York Police Dept." by Samuel Roberts of The New York Times is an article I'd like to recommend. It starts this way:

"His parents were among the last generation born into Southern slavery, and his own birth in 1883 was notable for another benchmark: At 16 pounds, he was the biggest baby ever recorded in North Carolina.

" 'I guess I've always wanted to be large, and I have been large,' Samuel Jesse Battle recalled decades later."


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Recommended Reading: Leslie Johnson "Other Lives" ~ Colorado Review

Leslie Johnson's "Other Lives" appears in Colorado Review and tells the story of Dean, who gets bored in his adult life and suddenly decides to go the the funeral of his fourth-grade teacher.

As he enters the parlor, Dean thinks back to his boyhood at the elementary school and eventually remembers that, at least, he has had more success than his dead teacher once predicted: "You could tell a shifty boy, she used to say, a lazy boy, too, by that weak and wobbly cursive."

As Dean proceeds closer to Mrs. Zarembinski's body, he runs into a hot-with-age former Mormon girl and, with her prompting, recalls more of the complexity of the teacher's sometimes cruel methods.

Eventually, as Dean reminds himself that he has to be getting back to Family Pizza Night with his wife and son, his thoughts wax metaphysical, and the meaning and purpose of the title becomes evident.

A worthy read.


Ash Dogs, a novel

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sunday, June 19, 2011

What Everyone Seems To Be Reading

There are many ways to find the next book you'll love or the next best way to enjoy your commute. Here are five books I've seen people reading this past week, with enticing summaries provided by publishers and Amazon:


Twenty-four are forced to enter. Only the winner survives. In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Each year, the districts are forced by the Capitol to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the Hunger Games, a brutal and terrifying fight to the death - televised for all of Panem to see. Survival is second nature for sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who struggles to feed her mother and younger sister by secretly hunting and gathering beyond the fences of District 12. When Katniss steps in to take the place of her sister in the Hunger Games, she knows it may be her death sentence. If she is to survive, she must weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

#1 Most Read Book this week at GoodReads
Not currently in the Top 35 of The New York Times Bestseller List

2.The Hunger Games, Book 3: Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she's made it out of the bloody arena alive, she's still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what's worse, President Snow has made it clear that no one else is safe either. Not Katniss's family, not her friends, not the people of District 12.

#3 Most Read Book this week at GoodReads (Catching Fire, the second book in The Hunger Games trilogy is #2)
Not currently in the Top 35 of The New York Times Bestseller List


Before Liz Lemon, before "Weekend Update," before "Sarah Palin," Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher. She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV. She has seen both these dreams come true. At last, Tina Fey's story can be told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon -- from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence. Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we've all suspected: you're no one until someone calls you bossy.

#6 Most Read Book this week at GoodReads
Not currently in the Top 35 of The New York Times Bestseller List


Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen's best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody's business, but she can't mind her tongue, so she's lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

#4 Most Read Book this week at GoodReads
#1 on The New York Times Bestseller List


Rachel White is the consummate good girl. A hard-working attorney at a large Manhattan law firm and a diligent maid of honor to her charmed best friend Darcy, Rachel has always played by all the rules. Since grade school, she has watched Darcy shine, quietly accepting the sidekick role in their lopsided friendship. But that suddenly changes the night of her thirtieth birthday when Rachel finally confesses her feelings to Darcy's fiance, and is both horrified and thrilled to discover that he feels the same way. As the wedding date draws near, events spiral out of control, and Rachel knows she must make a choice between her heart and conscience. In so doing, she discovers that the lines between right and wrong can be blurry, endings aren't always neat, and sometimes you have to risk everything to be true to yourself.

#24 Most Read Book this week at GoodReads
#9 on The New York Times Bestseller List

Truthfully, these are books I have seen people reading on buses and trains for weeks and weeks now. I was surprised to see where they fell on GoodReads and on the NY Times Bestseller List-- and how the two sets of statistics compared.

How do you decide what to read next? Does seeing these book covers and reading the official blurbs pique your interest?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Go Read it Now: "Home" by George Saunders

It’s that time of year again! The double fiction summer issue of The New Yorker is up/on newsstands. Rejoice! Or sob! Because at one time The New Yorker published more than one piece of fiction per issue and people besides Alice Munro stood a chance! (Or we could pretend we stood a chance, anyway.)

Related PSA: I’m probably not the only dolt who has done this, but it you key in you get a different website altogether (vs And it is a website that looks like it was designed in 1986.


I highly recommend “Home” by George Saunders, which is in this 2011 Summer Fiction issue.

Reasons you should read it:

1. From a craft perspective, it's a wonderful model of a story told almost entirely through dialogue, which is so hard to do well. Of course, Saunders does it well.

2. You will find yourself sympathetic with narrator, who is home from “the war” in the Middle East, until his perspective becomes really unsettling. And then you find yourself uncomfortable and confused. I really like when art that does this to me.

3. New fiction about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are so important. There are so many shell-shocked, wounded, young veterans out there with a dizzying array of perspectives about their experience.

George Saunders talked about this story with The New Yorker and why these stories need to be told.

In the interview he says,

I don’t really know enough to argue for or against these particular wars. But I do smell a rat in the way we think and talk about war. We underestimate it. And we do this in part because war, for the vast majority of us, is, or feels, free.
His protagonist in "Home" is certainly not free, nor are the people around him. And I believe Saunders' work puts a spotlight on any one of us who walks around believing that we are free from the war just because we haven't served in it ourselves.

4. Did you know our very own Josh Campbell interviewed George Saunders in the Winter 2007 issue of Our Stories? Check it out here.

If you're interested in other compelling stories about modern stories, read "Tits Up in a Ditch" by Annie Proulx. This one has stuck in my mind ever since The New Yorker published it in 2008.

I leave you with this:

Jesse Golby, who teaches writing at the US Naval Academy, wrote a post for us in April where he touched on the ways literature and soldiering intersect.

One of the things he had to way was this:

Everyday I struggle with the knowledge that my students will be culpable in the destruction of lives or property. He or she might not be the one dropping the bomb, but at a minimum they'll work in the chain that allows that bomb to drop. I also know that our military doesn't pick our wars, but is responsible for carrying them out. There are things worth fighting for. We all know this. But nothing is certain, and causes and morality and pursuits and politics make "defense of our country" tricky. How then, do we foster moral men and women that are willing to bring to bear our instruments of power in an uncertain world? How does literature fit into this?