Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happiest of Holidays from the Staff at Vagabondage Press

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Author Insides - Ross Barkan

uthorWeeble couldn’t ever tell me the date of Bastille Day. What I mean is the original date, the 14th of July, 1789, the date they stormed the Bastille, those hungry French. There was so much that brilliant doofus could remember but never that date, no matter how many times I told him. You’d think graduating law school at 19 would endow you with the capacity to remember such things. But hey, Weeble was always the sort for involuntary memory, Proustian till the end.

Ross Barkan appears in the current Winter 2010 issue of The Battered Suitcase, with his story "And We Tilled the Light."


Ross is a writer from Brooklyn, New York who has just completed his first novel, Aflame We Laugh. When not belting out his endless thesis about the representation of reality in the works of Henry Miller and Virginia Woolf, he enjoys losing his temper during softball, baseball, handball, and tennis games, writing inflammatory articles for his college newspaper, the Stony Brook Press, and editing Stony Brook’s newest publication, a literary magazine called Spoke the Thunder.

Ross, when did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I think I realized around freshman year of college when I read Jack London’s Martin Eden. The book is fabulously written; the story of a sailor turned struggling writer. It’s one of his forgotten works and the only London I’ve read. Ultimately, the ending is tragic, but it spurred me to write the first significant short story of my life when I read it back in the winter of ’07 and ’08.

Why do you write?
Why do anything? Because I love it, because I have an innate, almost atavistic urge to create, and it’s one of the few things I am capable of doing well, honestly. Even in this age of hyper-consumerism and technological hegemony (I like the internet, don’t get me wrong), I believe the written word still provides the most freedom because it directly channels the infinite capacities of human imagination. If you’re watching a movie, you’re still at the mercy of a director or producer, steeped in that vision which like a train chugs relentlessly onward. With a book, you can move backwards and forwards, imagining the characters or scenarios the way you exactly want. Hell, the author can label a character dumb and you can find a way to make him seem intelligent and endearing.

Is being a writer anything like you imagined it would be?
I figure I’ll have a very different answer when I actually publish a book. For now, I’ll say yes. I enjoy writing immensely. I remember reading an interview with William Styron in which he described writing as some great Sisyphean labor. Writing for me is serious play. I suppose I should thank the muses that I’ve yet to encounter writer’s block. But maybe that’s because I’m an immature twenty-one year-old.

What do you think makes a good story?
Conflict of some degree, but the great “story” is not tied to plot in my mind. If I interpret this question to mean “what makes a great book,” I would say that it needs a core of almost profound significance or needs to communicate some essence what it actually means to be alive as a human being. I don’t think any of us can ever fathom how extraordinary human consciousness actually is. When I read a story, I need a fundamental truth, a reason to keep reading. Henry Miller knew that better than anyone.

What's your favorite genre to read?
I read what can loosely be called “literary fiction.” Rather than give a genre, I would say some of the most sublime works ever written are Ken Kesey’s Sometimes A Great Notion, Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer, Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, and Don DeLillo’s Underworld. As a Jew, I guess I should mention that the Roth guy who wrote that dirty book about masturbating into apple cores is pretty good too. Tinkers, Paul Harding’s 2009 masterpiece and David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas are my favorite 21st century novels at the moment.

Who is your favorite author or poet?
Ah, a tough question. My favorite dead author is definitely Henry Miller. No individual, alive or dead, can match Miller when he’s on a roll. I’m not sure if anyone has ever commanded a language in such an overwhelming and transcendent way. As for my favorite living author, that would be some tie between Don DeLillo, David Mitchell, Paul Harding, Jonathan Safran Foer, Kazuo Ishiguro, John Wray, Jonathan Lethem, and Gary Shteyngart. And Thomas Pynchon for writing Gravity’s Rainbow. I’m currently in search of the one great living author I can say, without hesitation, is the literary king of the hill, but right now I can’t. There’s nothing wrong with a crowded field, though. People should read more living authors. I’m convinced that the 21st century will produce literature of a higher caliber than anything else we’ve seen before.

What books or stories have most influenced you the most as a writer?
Any concoction of Kesey, DeLillo, and Miller. At times I’ve written in pathetic imitations of each but I’ve tried to channel the pure vigor of Sometimes A Great Notion’s language. That might be our Great American Novel. (I liked One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in high school but the novel feels too distant to me now.) DeLillo’s opening words, even in a subpar novel like Falling Man, lift the English language to a higher plane that I wish more people would try to appreciate. The first chapter of Miller’s Black Spring, in which he reflects upon a Brooklyn childhood very different than my own Brooklyn childhood, is everything great writing should be, the ideal balance of the metaphysical, romantic, and blood-drenched reality. Absolutely soaring language.

What books or stories have most influenced you as a person?
Henry David Thoreau’s essay “Life Without Principle.” I don’t think Thoreau would appreciate the irony of this American “democracy” celebrating his name while ignoring virtually every important idea he tried to communicate to us. I say this as we near Christmastime and it sure as hell doesn’t look like anyone is “simplifying” their lives in anyway. God bless capitalism and the military-industrial complex!

Where/how do you find the most inspiration?
Reading and my daily existence. I read to find out about all those extraordinary things I can’t possibly ever experience. And I keep my eyes and ears open as much as I can. Good writers are outstanding observers. They walk through the world virtually empty, dangling their antennae out there and receiving the tragic currents of mankind.

What does your family think of your writing?
They support me, definitely. Deep down maybe they wish I dreamed of something a little more lucrative (Lawyer! Doctor!) but they certainly aren’t scornful. I love my parents and I owe everything to them. Without the thousand or so books crammed into our small apartment, I’d probably be studying to be one of the more mediocre accountants in New York City.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
Since I still attend college, I try to write between assignments or other school work. I do attempt to write every day, regardless of my work load, but I’m never as diligent as I want to be. During a summer or winter break, I will write daily and constantly. My time-waster and enabler is the internet; thankfully, I’ve cut television out of my life so I have more time to write. There’s no set word count I aim for. I simply try to get something down on the page. Like anything else, the more you write, the better you will become.

Do you have any writing quirks or rituals?
No, sadly I do not. If you asked this question about my now finished baseball career, I could tell you that I never washed my jockstrap during a hitting streak, drank the same flavor of Gatorade before a game if I was hitting well, and would never, ever step on the foul line or be the last person to take the ball to the dugout after warm-ups. There were probably a dozen more superstitions I can’t think of right now. But when it comes to writing, I am fortunately not so neurotic.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I’m not a straight-forward writer. I’m not into pared down language like Mr. Hemingway and his iceberg theory (after reading For Whom the Bell Tolls, I wished he stuck to journalism). At times my writing can be opaque or slightly elusive. I won’t lay everything out there for you; I believe in a challenge. That’s how readers and writers grow.

What are your current projects?
I am writing a novel I have tentatively called Good Night, Retrograde. Recently, I had finished what I now consider an apprentice novel called Aflame We Laugh. I think this current work will be the first completed long work that I do actually like after a period of three days or so and I will earnestly seek publication for Good Night, Retrograde when I’ve finished it sometime next year. It has potential. I’m excited.

What are you planning for future projects?
Good Night, Retrograde is the current and future project. I want to finish it next year, touch it up, and try to find an agent. I’ve set this semi-absurd goal of publishing a novel before I turn twenty-six. I don’t know why, it’s fairly silly, but I want to get myself out there soon. I’m too excited.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
You must always read and you must always write. Fairly simple, not profound, but that’s about the only real route toward becoming a writer or improving your writing. Read the newspaper, read great novels, read great non-fiction, and read everything in between. And realize writing is a serious commitment. You can say I’m a terrible writer but you can’t say I’m a frivolous or lazy writer. College is filled with the dime-a-dozen pseudo-romantics who will sit down to pen two poems about their feelings and go on Facebook for an hour. Writing is wonderful but writing is work. You must keep doing it to succeed in anyway.

Where can we find your work?
I’ve had a story published by Xenith , a story published by Grey Sparrow Press and I have a story that will be published in the spring 2011 issue of Words, the literary magazine of the School of Visual Arts in New York City. You can find my various journalism, humor pieces, essays, and absurdist musings at the Stony Brook Press website.

Please check out the website of Spoke the Thunder, the literary magazine I founded at Stony Brook University this fall. I’ll have something up there eventually but for now check out the great work by our writers.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

UK's National Short Story Day

On Tue 21st December revel in National Short Story Day – a UK-wide celebration of prose’s short-yet-perfectly-crafted form!! A multi-organisational collaboration, National Short Story Day will consist of a series of linked live and online events up and down the country, offering a variety of stories, old and new, to be read, listened to and enjoyed.


For more info: http://www.nationalshortstoryday.co.uk/

In celebration of National Short Story, The Battered Suitcase (which is a UK-US collaboration) would like to offer you three free issues (your choice) of our journal. You will receive a zipped file with this issue in pdf, mobi, epub, lrf, and pdb formats.

Use the coupon: SHORTSTORYDAY for three free downloads at Vagabondage Bookstore

Make sure you sign up for our newsletter for further release dates and discounts.
Coming Soon:

EXPERIENCED: Rock Music Tales of Fact and Fiction - edited by Roland Goity and John Ottey

OUTSPOKEN - a social-comedy from James Vachowski

IN THE STORM - speculative fiction by Karen Metcalf

TRADESMEN'S ENTRANCE - a romantic comedy by Cameron Vale

And much, much more . . .


Monday, December 20, 2010

Suitcase Alumn - Lyn Lifshin

Poet Lyn Lifshin appeared in the Summer 2010 issue of The Battered Suitcase

Lyn has published over 120 books and edited 4 anthologies. Also out recently: "Nutley Pond", "Persephone" "Katrina" and "Lost Horses". Her web site is http://www.lynlifshin.com/.

Just released to glowing reviews, poet Lyn Lifshin's new collection, "Ballroom."
 
With Ballroom, my 30-year addiction to Lyn Lifshin is reaffirmed and continues, unabated. Each new Lifshin work unravels, ravels and reravels me, shocks me that I’m once again surprised at the author’s depth and range. Ballroom is an invitation to the dance of Mad Girls, lovers, obsession, self-doubt, growth, regressions, transgressions…so potent, sexual, and thought-provoking in ways only Lyn Lifshin can plumb. This book tantalizes, lets us find new sides of the author’s voice that have been living in the margins.
Ballroom inspires the same freshness and glistening in me as did the very first book of Lyn's I read those 3 decades ago. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Lyn. I love this book. 
-- Ted Roberts

In Lyn Lifshin's latest collection of discrete-yet-linked poems, dance becomes an exquisite metaphor for obsessive yearning and desire. Form and content complement each other perfectly: Lifshin's language is as graceful, physical, and organic as dance itself.

-- Janice Eidus, author of The Last Jewish Virgin & The War of the Rosens

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Writer Promotion - Blogging

With the expansion of publishing into so many different avenues beyond the traditional model, many authors get left holding the promotion bag. It's not a chore for the meek and unassuming, but there's still several ways you can cultivate a readership that don't require painting yourself blue and setting your hair on fire. If you're the quiet and thoughtful type, blogging might be one of your stronger promo techniques.

Blogging is almost always a solitary affair and blog posts can be written at any point of inspiration.

It’s a good idea to have a list of subjects to blog about. Brainstorm a list of blog subjects that will will be of interest to both your target audience and other writers who work in the same genre. You need to blog at least once a week to keep your content fresh. Since you also need to keep your author website fresh, you may want to update your website with the first couple paragraphs of your blog post and then link it to the entire post in your blog.

You have built an author website, right? For tips on author sites, check out our posts HERE.

It’s very difficult to feel fresh and ready to blog on the day you’re supposed to, so it's just good planning to write up several different subjects to about blog and then sit down and write them out as you feel inspiration or find time. It never hurts to have several in the can ready ahead of time to post. Of course, if you’re prolific, you can post every day, but try to blog at least once a week.

This is also where you can let others help you out; you can network with other writers to provide “guest posts.” This builds relationships with other writers who may ask the same of you and help you promote yourself and your books to new readers.

Once you feel reasonably comfortable blogging, and have a good idea of your blog's focus, it's time to find readers.

The first thing to do is to invite your contacts on other social networks to read your blog. Post a link on your Facebook page or tweet it to Twitter followers. Put the URL to your blog on your social network profiles and in your signature blocks for email and forums.

DO comment on other people's blogs, because it gets your name out there, builds important relationships with other writers and bloggers and can give you link backs to your blog or author site. These links back to your site increase the chances your site will come up in search engine results. There's a couple of important things to remember, though:

1) Follow blogs that are relevant to your genre and industry.
2) Use "Google Alerts" to find new relevant blogs.
3) Add something to the conversation. Don't just “me too.” Make a thoughtful comment and if you disagree, then do so politely and intelligently. Never flame.
4) Don't push your books, unless it actually has something to do with the subject of the post. Even then, be restrained with the sales message. The link backs alone are worth the comment, so there’s no need to get greedy.
5) Submit your blog to relevant blog directories. Some of them require that your blog show an established history of regular updated content, but do being placing it as soon as possible. Remember that link-backs are the main driving force that generates search engine results and that means a wider audience.

Blogging can be fun or it can be a chore, and like most things in life, the difference is in how you approach it. Think of blogging as a way to make friends with your readership and fellow authors. Plan far enough ahead so that it isn't a scramble. And keep an open mind.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Author Insides - Angelica Kiedrowski

Angelica Kiedrowski's short story "Michael Woods" appeared in the Autumn 2010 issue of The Suitcase. She's an expatriate New Yorker living in New Orleans for the past 20 years, where she has written for the Times Picayune as a contributing editorial columnist. While an undergraduate at Queens College, CUNY, she won both the Claire Bibuld Jacobs and John Gassner awards for fiction; her first submission of short fiction was selected for The Georgia Review's special Women and the Arts issue Spring/'Summer 1990. After a nine year hiatus, she began writing fiction again in 2009; "Michael Woods" was chosen as a finalist for the Tennessee Williams short fiction contest for 2009. She is currently at work on a novel.
Angelica, when did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I was 12 when I realized that I needed to write and that I might one day actually publish.


Why do you write?
I write because, honestly, it is a compulsion. There is always a kind of running narrative in the back of my mind that nags me; I am constantly parsing the world as I experience it, personalizing it, redefining it through the particular way I hear language.



Is being a writer anything like you imagined it would be?
I've never really thought too deeply about what it would be like to be a writer. I still don't. I write because I need to. Whether or not I actually publish doesn't change that.


What do you think makes a good story?
For me, a good story has the following: beautiful, expressive language; dimensional characters compelling enough to involve the reader; a narrative which is, at once, both emotional and restrained, and at its best, transformational.


What's your favorite genre to read?
I enjoy all genres of writing although literary fiction is my favorite.


Who is your favorite author or poet?
There are so many writers and poets I love and love equally, there isn't the space here to name them.


What books or stories have most influenced you the most as a writer?
Influence is a strange matter in writing. The way I write is intuitive, pre-wired if you will. I am drawn to writers who have a similar relationship with language as I do.


What books or stories have most influenced you as a person?
The Sound and the Fury had a profound influence on me as a person, although I am still not sure why. I think Faulkner caught the full range of human expression in that book--from the tragic to the comic, from the emphatic to the superficial, from the symbolic to the literal. I read that book every Easter. More recently, I've come to love Cormac McCarthy. Although it is not my favorite of his novels, The Road made me want to kiss the ground in supplication. Everyone should read that book and then think twice about the way our habits are hurtling us toward environmental disaster.



Where/how do you find the most inspiration?
Inspiration is everywhere. Life is inspiration enough. The problem, however, is sometimes the writer is inspired but the writing doesn't come.



What does your family think of your writing?
Unfortunately, my family are not readers. They have little confidence in my writing and have always associated it with indolence and irresponsibility. If they see anything of my life mimicked in my fiction, they become suspicious of me and very angry.


What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
The days I write, I try to get in at least four hours. When the writing comes fluently, I try to write until that fluency stops.


Do you have any writing quirks or rituals?
Outside of drinking a lot of coffee, I have no rituals when I write. I read a little; I walk around a bit; I stare out the window--then it's back to the keyboard.


Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
The most challenging thing about writing for me is having the confidence in my voice. Second to that is forcing myself to do the work. I have the compulsion to write, but actually doing it can be painful, especially on the days it will not come the way it should.


What are your current projects?
I am currently working on a novel, but when a short story intrudes, I stop and attend to it first.


What are you planning for future projects?
I can't think far enough to envision future projects. For me, it's a day at a time.


Do you have any advice for other writers?
My advice to other writers is, if you know within yourself that you have the gift [or curse], then believe in yourself and carry on with the work, in the face of rejection and discouragement. Don't give up. Plan your life around your talent. I would also say that it is never too late to begin a writing life.

Monday, December 13, 2010

News from Suitcase Alumn - Kieran Leonard

Kieran Leonard, featured in our Battered Suitcase Autumn 2009 issue with his powerful lyrics and a brilliant interview with our editor, Alice Bigelow, is making his debut single release, ‘Jerusalem,’ today. 

Released on the Wi45 lable, 'Jerusalem' will be available in Rough Trade and all good Independent Record stores on vinyl and downloadable at Amazon on the link to the right.

Lucky Londoners are invited to the launch party at The Boogaloo (Highgate) on December 15th, featuring a live performance, special guests and DJs. You can RSVP at the Facebook Event Page.
Check out the video:

Friday, December 10, 2010

Writing Craft - Know your audience

You’ve heard it a million times: Write what you love.
The reason you hear it so often is that it is sound advice. Not only will your passion come through, but it will also, hopefully, keep you interested in your story during the sometimes grueling editing process.
Another not-so-obvious benefit to writing what you love is that you have an insight to the reader you are writing for: someone just like you.
Once you begin pitching your work, you will probably be asked: Who is the audience?
Let me give you a tip: The absolutely wrong answer is “Everyone.” There is no one book for which the perfect audience is “Everyone.”
Audiences vary by age, gender, education, background, ethnicity, interests, location, etc.
It is important to know who your reader/audience is for two reasons:
1— Marketing (this will be discussed in detail in a later post).
2 —Better writing
Who you are writing for should influence your writing style. A story geared toward teens will have a style different than one aimed at the chicklit crowd. A manuscript with women as the main target readers will probably carry a different tone than one aimed at men. You wouldn’t expect the writing in a popular mystery novel to reflect that of a high-brow lit fic or a historical romance, and you wouldn’t write the same for middle schoolers as you would for middle-aged readers.
Knowing your audience can help you determine the voice, pace, and tone of your story. It can help you make the right language choices, characteristics, quarks, and habits of your characters.
Readers like to read about characters they can relate to in some way. That’s why it is important to think about your readers and their characteristics so they can be properly reflected, even if it is loosely, in your work.
A good portion of the fiction I write is aimed at my girlfriends — thirty-something urban, educated, career women who are worldly, outgoing and current. Like them, my characters tend to have some edge, definitely some snark, and a bit of vulnerability beneath their tough, independent exteriors. The dialogue is quick and direct, as they are. The books I prefer to read also reflect that audience. I like urban lit featuring strong female characters with witty dialogue and fast-paced action. I don’t want female characters to be saved; I want them to do the saving, and maybe a little ass kicking for good measure.
So, if you were writing a story of the “Dude, Where’s My Car?” ilk or a Howard Stern-esque piece, I would not be your target audience. The dialogue and action in such works would be much different than in books I prefer.
That’s why it’s important to keep your target readers in mind and write to their sensibilities.
It can also be beneficial if you get stuck, especially when editing. Want to know what to keep and what to delete or how to word something? Think about your target reader. What would they want to know? What parts of the story would they want in juicy detail and which parts can you mention in passing? What words would they use?
For example, I had a friend who was having problems with the old adage, show don’t tell. We talked about his target audience for this particular piece. Part of the problem was that he didn’t have a defined audience, so he was trying to please everyone, to the detriment of his story. I suggested he think about telling this tale to his buddies. Which parts would he really embellish and which would be glossed over? For instance, how much would he go into detail about the physical fight between friends versus getting ready for a date? And what words would he use to describe the way the woman looked or the sex scene?
Thinking about the reader helps the writer determine what is important, as well as which wording is most appropriate.
Now this doesn’t mean pander to the reader, or that you are limited to reader stereotypes (i.e. – not all female romance readers want to see the phrase “heaving bosoms”). But it is a good tool to keep you on track in terms of voice and style.
So next time you are working on a story, take a few minutes to jot down some words that describe your target audience. It is an exercise that will prove to be worth the effort.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Author Insides - Eva Gordon

My boyfriend Jimmy is writing his dissertation on the cultural phenomenon of Graceland. He wants to compare the fan worship associated with Elvis to Joseph Smith and the invention of the Mormon Church; two ideas he claims are rooted in the same distinctly American pathology of raising up and tearing down idols. Jimmy has always wanted something to pray to, and although it’s unconventional, I guess Americana is as useful a framework as any if you can believe in it.

So begins Eva Gordon's short story, "Graceland University," in the current issue of The Battered Suitcase.

Eva grew up beside the ocean in Rhode Island. She is currently at work on her MFA in fiction writing from Spalding University. Her poetry has appeared in Prism Review and is forthcoming from Dew on The Kudzu. Her new book is from Adams Media will be available in January 2011.


 
Eva, at what point in your life did you realize you wanted to be a writer?


I think I always assumed I would be a writer, but I didn’t realize how much time it would take. As a child I thought, “Well, of course I’ll write books, but I’ll also have a fabulous career in x.” X changed often. I started my first novel at age nine, and published my first poem at ten.

Why do you write?

Because if I don’t, I become angry and depressed, and when I do, I feel like I am plugging into something true and old and in an invisible way, saving.

Is being a writer anything like you imagined it would be?

My father is a writer and growing up, I observed him planning, working, revising, and dealing with the world of publishing, which he never seemed to take too seriously. I feel lucky to have had his example so that when it came time for me to start sending out work, I knew, to some degree, what to expect.

What do you think makes a good story?

For me, it’s all about rhythm, language, and emotion.

What's your favorite genre to read?

I regularly read and write fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, but the genre I will always love best is playwriting. I am still working up the nerve to write a play.

Who is your favorite author or poet?

I love writers by seeing the differences between them, by hearing a voice and knowing what distinguishes it from the others. A couple of writers I look to for inspiration over and over are Truman Capote (for language), Anton Chekov (for character psychology), Ellen Gilchrist (for humor and rhythm), and J.D. Salinger (for dialogue). But writing this list is painful, because I must leave off loads of writers who have meant as much to me as any person.

Ah! I must name a few more: Dorothy Parker, John Updike, Leo Tolstoy, Mary Karr, Anne Sexton, Natalie Babbitt, Lucy Maud Montgomery, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Earnest Hemingway, Susan Orlean, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Pam Houston, E.B. White, Joan Didion, Arthur Miller, Edwidge Danticat, and Mary Yukari Waters.

What books or stories have most influenced you the most as a writer?

Here is a short, inadequate list: Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger, The White Album by Joan Didion, Collected Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Portraits and Observations by Truman Capote, and Cowboys are my Weakness by Pam Houston. I could answer this better if I could see my bookshelf, but I am in an apartment in a small Spanish village, and my shipment of books is being held by immigration in Madrid.

What books or stories have most influenced you as a person?

The Autobiography of B.B. King—other biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs have influenced me as a person over the years. I love to read the stories of people’s lives, especially people whose accomplishments I admire. Also, my study of central and eastern European and post-colonial literature have had a developmental effect on my thinking about the world—in particular Karel Capek, Czeslaw Milosz, Bruno Shulz, Jean Rhys, Edward Said, Jamaica Kincaid have influenced my thinking as a person.

How do you find the most inspiration?

By reading, and by taking walks by myself. These walks are most beneficial if they are done in the countryside or in a large city. The idea is to turn down the white noise in my mind and turn up the awareness—that old “Be here now” concept.

What does your family think of your writing?

My parents are very supportive. I try not to force my writing on other members of the family.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?

I am ashamed to say that my schedule changes a lot. I think it would be much better to write at a specified daily time, preferably in the morning during those precious three or four hours of clarity.

Do you have any writing quirks or rituals?

I like to have a few good books on the desk with me as I work.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Yes! The number one challenge is listening to and obeying that little voice in my head that says, “Cut that line.”

What are your current projects?

I like to have several projects on the burners at once. At the moment I’m actively writing three short stories and a middle-grade novel, and several essays are stewing in my brain.

What are you planning for future projects?

I have many plans, but if I set them out into the air they may die.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Don’t settle until you’ve worked and waited, worked and waited, and until you know you have nothing more inside, that it’s all on the page.

Where can we find your work?

I have an essay in the 2010 annual prize issue of New Southerner, out this month, and a poem in the most recent issue of Prism Review. I also have a short story in the current issue of Pulse Literary Journal.

Eva currently lives in western Spain, teaching English to high school students, but you can visit her online at http://www.suite101.com/profile.cfm/evagordon

Monday, December 6, 2010

News from Suitcase Alumn - Adam Ficek

Adam Ficek, indie pop guru and dj extraordinaire, appeared in our premiere issue The Battered Suitcase back in June of 2008.

Late of reknowned UK indie band Babyshambles, now of Roses Kings Castles,
Adam's freshly released Suburban Time Bombs has been receiving rave reviews. We're hoping
to bring him back to the Suitcase for more of his clever lyrical wit and an interview.

Until we can catch up with him on his whirl-wind tour of venues unreachable (and mostly unexplained), you can keep track of Adam and his new band at http://www.roseskingscastles.com/

And you can download Suburban Time Bombs from Amazon.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Winter Issue is Now Live

available in print, digital and online viewing

We are delighted to announce the Winter 2010 issue of The Battered Suitcase! This issue brings a range seasonal art, prose and poetry. We’re delighted to present musings on art, music and life from artist and Sky Cries Mary and Hana frontwoman, Anisa Romero, whose haunting paintings with their vivid splashes of colour are featured in this issue.

IN THIS ISSUE
Non-fiction in this issue explores life choices. Julie Strasser's "Tugging on the Rope" and Diane Hoover Bechtler's "Grounded" take a look at pivotal moments in relationships.
Winter fiction faces birth and death, including the eerily touching "Waterproof" by Kristi Petersen Schoonover. Bill West’s "Superwoman" takes a poignant look at a family facing death, while Marjorie Maddox explores a more positive hospital trip in "What She Hears." Jessi Lee Gaylord's "Conversations About The Weather" looks at pregnancy and childbirth from another angle, with a teenager out of her depth.
In Diane Kimbrell "Last Chance" and Danyael Halprin's "Babushka’s Potatoes," we meet a few loveable family eccentrics.
Abbie Bergdale's "Spun" tells a grim tale of sex and drugs and no rock and roll. On a lighter note, Robin Merrill paints an amusing portrait of the trauma of a thirtieth birthday involving a skunk, strange rescues and a marriage proposal in "Happy Twenty-Ten."
Flash fiction includes another appearance by Megen Toole in "The Pea Coat" in which relationships are mirrored through the migration of cold weather gear.
In poetry, Bryan Borland explores a forced coming of age, in ‘Dark Horse’. Amy Shreibman Walter takes a glimpse at the less-than-festive side of the holidays in "December 25th, Chinatown." Janice Krasselt Medin admits "I Never Wanted To Be A Princess," and John Tustin takes a wry look at love in "Better to Wonder." Rigby Bendele explores dark aspects of childhood and Sami Schalk takes a humorous look at big feelings through the observation of everyday things.
Winter visual art includes extraordinary images from artist Blue Bliss and her stunning urban images, Jane Linders’ surreal still life photography, Simon Currell’s striking photo art exploring workspaces and Sparky Campanella’s multi-faceted, patchwork murals.
Not to forget the forthcoming Yuletide, we’re happy to wish you all a merry Christmas with Lindsay McBirnie’s fluid, movement-filled seasonal illustrations.

Contents

Interview with Anisa Romero

Flash Fiction by Bill West, Wendy Thornton, Marjorie Maddox, Magen Toole, Jake David, and George Sparling.

Short Stories by Bryan Smith, Danyael Halprin, Eva Gordon, Jaime A. Heidel, Jessi Lee Gaylord, Megan Starks, Melissa Chadburn, Nick Hinton, Paul Medus, Robin Merrill, S.J. Webb, Tim Millas, SR Mishler, Abbie Bergdale, Ross Barkan, Diane Kimbrell, Natalie Jacobs, and Cameron Mount.

Novelette by Kristi Peterson Schoonover.

Narrative Non-Fiction by Dave Migman, Julie Strasser, Diane Hoover Bechtler, Phibby Venable, Timothy L. Marsh and Susan White.

Poetry by Adam Church, Corey Cooper, J Brasseur, Laura Dennis, Alexis Donitz, Katie Manning, Sami Schalk, Tango Barraza, Lindsay Miller, Rigby Bendele, John Tustin, Eric Johnson, Bryan Borland, Sally Smith, Luiggi Carlin, Scott Owens, Christopher Leibow, Pavel Rubin, Scott Weiss, Janice Medin, Amy Nawrocki, Meg Johnson, Amy Schreibman Walter and Aunia Kahn.

Artwork by Blue Bliss, Jane Linders, Lindsay McBirnie, Ruth Weinberg, Simon Currell, Sparky Campanella and Anisa Romero.

http://www.vagabondagepress.com/

Friday, November 12, 2010

Author Insides - Interview with Julie Riso

Writer JD Riso's non-fiction piece "Empty Spaces" appears in the current issue of The Battered Suitcase.

Her short fiction and travel writing have appeared in many exotic locations, including Slush Pile, Avatar Review, and Superstition Review. Her novel, Blue (Murphy's Law Press), was published in 2006. She leads a nomadic life and currently resides in Budapest, Hungary with a Frenchman and a big brown rabbit. You can find her online at http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/790945.J_D_Riso

 
So Julie, When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?


In high school, when my English comp teacher gave me a “D” because, in his own words, “Even though your work is technically correct, I don't like your style.” It was interesting that something I wrote upset an adult that much.

Why do you write?

Because I've got some stories to tell. I'm trying to I finish them so I can stop writing.

Is being a writer/poet anything like you imagined it would be?

Given my rather unconventional start as a writer (see first question), it's exactly like I thought it would be.

What do you think makes a good story?

Originality in both subject and style, but without being pretentious.

What books or stories have most influenced you the most as a writer?

I'll Let You Go by Bruce Wagner and Skin by Kathe Koja are two books that really inspire me. I read them both once a year.

What books or stories have most influenced you as a person?

Journey to Ixtlan by Carlos Castaneda. I don't care if he was a charlatan.

Where/how do you find the most inspiration?

Dreams.

What does your family think of your writing?

My mother is my biggest fan.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?

Writing work schedule. Haha.

Do you have any writing quirks or rituals?

Does obsessively checking to see if my latest draft has saved count?

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Motivation.

What are your current projects?

I'm working on a memoir entitled Wish I Were Here, which is about growing up with a schizophrenic father and about how I've tried to run away from my depression by traveling the planet. Dromomania (travel mania) is a real affliction and not as romantic as one might think.

What are you planning for future projects?

I've also started writing a historical novel, The Divine, which is about the Countess de Castiglione.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

I don't feel qualified to give advice to other writers.

Where can we find your work?

My first novel, Blue, can be found at Amazon.com and through the publisher, Murphy's Law Press. An internet search will direct you to my stories and travel pieces that have been appeared in online journals over the past few years.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Author Insides - Helen R. Peterson

Helen R. Peterson's poem, "When Even The Neighbor's Cat Feels Sorry For Me", appears in the Autumn 2010 issue of The Battered Suitcase.


Helen R. Peterson is the managing editor of Chopper Poetry Journal out of New London, CT. Currently she has work in Girls With Insurance, Moronic Ox, Maintenant Quatre, and will have work in the upcoming issues of Southword Journal, Bull Spec, Foundling Review, Literary Tonic, The View From Here, and poeticdiversity. Her work was also featured in The Work Book, an anthology put out by Poet Plant Press in 2007.


Helen, when did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to write. In high school I would write silly little poems in birthday cards, giving hints to what I’d given my friends.


Why do you write?
Because I have to. There comes a point, if I haven’t written anything in awhile, that things start boiling over, and I can’t concentrate on anything else. At that point, it’s either write it out, or go to work without my pants on.

Is being a writer/poet anything like you imagined it would be?
It’s a lot less glamorous. I always imagined at this point I’d be lunching at the Algonquin, taking calls from my publisher in between puffing on an extra long cigarette holder.

What do you think makes a good story?
An old story, told with a new slant, always works best for me, as a writer and a reader.

What's your favorite genre to read?
I read pretty much everything. Working in libraries will do that to you.

Who is your favorite author or poet?
I have a soft spot for Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett and C.S. Lewis as writers. For poets, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Sylvia Plath; dead women I couldn’t live without.

What books or stories have most influenced you the most as a writer?
I get a lot of inspiration from the Bible, which I read daily. I’m always finding words or phrases that are particularly lovely or odd, and I’ll write them down and spin something around it. I do the same with folk tales and fairy tales, I love messing with archetypes.

What books or stories have most influenced you as a person?
I find the same goes for me as a writer and a person. Bible and folk tales, not so much the fairy tales though.

Where/how do you find the most inspiration?
I am constantly surrounded by the most amazing people, especially my children. I happen to be blessed with a very full and interesting life. In this past year alone, my job was eliminated and my husband left. That was two huge blows, two things I loved and identified myself with gone in a matter of months. A lot of the zombie stuff I wrote this year came from this feeling of losing control of my life. But there’s a lot of joy in my life as well. My kids are amazing. I have a huge and quirky family. Life is one big writing prompt, and I’m never without a notebook and pen.

What does your family think of your writing?
They enjoy it, especially now that I’m publishing a lot. I think they’ll love it more when I finally have a book out, or the New Yorker starts calling.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
Between a full time job and three kids, I write whenever I can snatch a moment, usually five to ten minutes a night if I’m lucky and the dog doesn't run away.

Do you have any writing quirks or rituals?
Not really. I tend to write down notes, freewrite, whenever I feel or see something, and then when I get home organize those notes into a poem or story. There’s usually music playing. When I can’t find anything to write about, I put music on, and write about that.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Finding the time to write, edit, send things out. The waiting is the hardest part. I have two manuscripts out there, a chapbook and a full length book of poetry, and I think about them all the time. Hoping someone offers to publish them. Hoping all that time I put into them pays off.

What are your current projects?
Like I said, there are two completed manuscripts I’m trying to find a home for. The chapbook is poetry and flash fiction inspired by music and the anonymous people I write about on the street, making up little lives for them. The full length book is poetry and flash inspired by my life growing up as a navy brat during the end of the Cold War, and then raising kids of my own Post 9/11. I’m also working on a book of poetry inspired by David Foster Wallace’s dictionary. After Wallace died, Salon.com wrote an article about a dictionary he owned, and the words he underlined. I’ve been using some of those words, and then researching some unusual and arcane words of my own to wrap poems around.

What are you planning for future projects?
I have a novella started, about the Biblical Cain, wandering Midwest America during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. I haven’t worked on it for awhile, a project like that needs more focus than I can give it at the moment. I’d also like to put together a book of flash fiction based on female fairy tale characters. I’ve written one on Little Red Riding Hood, which Moronic Ox published at the beginning of the year, and one on Snow White, which was published by Tales from the Velvet Rope. I have an idea for Goldilocks next, and then, who knows?

Do you have any advice for other writers?
Grow a thick skin. Know your markets. Submit a lot, especially in the beginning when no one knows you. Don’t expect the big high paying journals and presses to accept your work without a decent publishing history behind you. Small presses and non paying journals are your friends.

Where can we find your work?
My blog, http://mspetersonexplains.wordpress.com/ , has an updated list of my publishing history, as well as some other cool stuff about me.

 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Author Insides - David Landrum

David Landrum's poem, "Passion," is featured in the current issue of The Battered Suitcase.

David teaches Literature at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan. His poetry has appeared widely and he edits the online poetry journal, Lucid Rhythms, at http://www.lucidrhythms.com/.


David, when did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I began writing when I about nine or ten. I wrote a satiric “Letter to my Barber,” in fifth grade, which my teacher thought was funny and read to the whole class. I always wrote after that.

Why do you write?

I write because I love to live in the world of my imagination and to express my ideas not through essays but through fiction and poetry.

Is being a writer/poet anything like you imagined it would be?

It’s a lot of work—I guess I didn’t think it would require so much work and such big segments of time, writing and proofing and rewriting. But the joy of creating works of fiction and poetry rewards me as much as I imagined it would.

What do you think makes a good story?

A good story creates a world that can relate to the world in which we live. It touches on issues people find themselves in without being preachy or prescriptive about ethical or moral choices.

What's your favorite genre to read?

Poetry—I love reading poetry. Second would be good fiction.

Who is your favorite author or poet?

James Joyce. He set the style for how modern fiction is written. I never get tired of Dubliners. It is my all-time favorite book and a model for good fiction.

What books or stories have most influenced you the most as a writer?

Besides Dubliners, Hemingway’s short stories and novels. “Cat in the Rain” had a big influence on how I write. “Fat” by Raymond Carver is my favorite all-time story, followed by W. Somerset Maugham’s “Mr. Know-All,” and Ann Beatie’s “Janus.” I have these stories in my mind as models for good writing and for how I hope to write.

What books or stories have most influenced you as a person?

Among the Believers by V. S. Naipaul helped me think my way out of toxic religion. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn showed me the unbreakable nature of human dignity. The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles demonstrated how fiction could convey intellectual and philosophical constructs, which are very important to me.


Where/how do you find the most inspiration?

Always in reading. My ideas and my inspiration for stories come from reading the works of other writers.

What does your family think of your writing?

They don’t pay much attention to it, to be honest. I am the only one in my family interested in literature. If I ask a relative to read one of my stories, they will, but otherwise they don’t show any interest in my writing at all.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?

I like to write in the mornings (I’m a morning person) and edit at night. That kind of rhythm is good for me creatively.


Do you have any writing quirks or rituals?

Not really. Writing is business to a certain extent, just like killing is business for a hit man. I look at it as a job—a creative job, yes, and an adventure, but still a day’s work.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

It is hard for me not to sound preachy or corny. My stories usually deal with some sort of personal issue, ethical question, or question of right and wrong. It’s hard to not come across as a preacher, even though my stories do not follow the lines of religious or traditional morality. So it’s challenging to try to convey an idea of right and wrong without overdoing it a bit. Also, my stories are traditional and have, as Aristotle prescribed, a beginning, middle, and an end. So much of fiction now is what I call “verbal constructs,” not stories. They are not traditional in how they are constructed, and editors seem to like this sort of story, so I have trouble sometimes marketing my stuff for this reason.


What are your current projects?

I am finishing up (proofreading, actually) a fantasy novella called ShadowCity and starting to market it. I have a novel I am marketing, but in this economy it is tough, tough going. I always write poetry and fiction so I always have a couple of short fiction pieces and poetry projects on the burner.

What are you planning for future projects?

I have several ideas and rough drafts for an on-going character series of novels. I will probably explore that as time goes on.

Do you have any advice for other writers?


Read. Stephen King said, “If you do not have the time to read, you do not have the time, or the

tools to write. It’s as simple as that.” Reading teaches you how to write, what good writing sounds like, and teaches you words and structure. I would say, like Mr. King, reading is vital for any writer. It also “primes the pump,” if you will—it causes creative ideas to start to flow, as water poured down a dry pump will, through osmosis, start the water in the bottom of well rising upwards.

Where can we find your work?

My novelette, The Gallery, is available from Amazon. My short stories and poetry are all over the internet.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Author Insides - Rebekah Matthews

Rebekah's short story "Be Careful" was featured in this Autumn's issue of The Battered Suitcase. She's a graduate of Indiana University, where she studied English and Communication. She currently lives in Boston, where she works as an assistant editor in college textbook publishing. She likes talking about her hardships with public transportation, and varies between being proud of and being ashamed of her recent obsession with Star Trek: Voyager. She is presently working on a collection of short stories about lesbian relationships.



When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

When I was in first grade I wrote a story for class and maybe accidentally copied the plot from Pete’s Dragon. My teacher really liked it and kept telling me I was going to be a writer. Maybe she had never seen Pete’s Dragon, but I believed her.

Why do you write?

A lot of it comes from inappropriate self-absorption, and I’m also pretty dramatic, and writing is the one channel where those mostly negative personality traits can sometimes be liked or respected by other people. So it works out, kind of.

Is being a writer/poet anything like you imagined it would be?

I’m not sure I imagined anything much in particular. When I was in high school I was obsessed with Virgina Woolf’s diaries and had these ridiculous fantasies of other people caring about my diaries. But that was before blogging!

What do you think makes a good story?

Shame! Shame is the best. The things that scare you, the things that you want, the things that both scare you and you want. Anything about sex.

What's your favorite genre to read?

Short fiction, especially anything minimalist and/or lesbian.

Who is your favorite author or poet?

Rebecca Brown.

What books or stories have most influenced you the most as a writer?

Besides Pete’s Dragon, Virgina Woolf’s diaries, and Rebecca Brown? Actually TV has influenced a lot of what I write about, especially science-fiction heroines. I write a lot about limiting idealism and obsession and TV is a great, dysfunctional inspiration for that.

What books or stories have most influenced you as a person?

The Bible! Haha. It’s true though. Also any lesbian fiction, no matter how “bad,” from Rubyfruit Jungle to Curious Wine; when I was a teenager that stuff was pretty much my salvation.

Where/how do you find the most inspiration?

Besides TV, I’m a big fan of drama on the Internet. There’s so much good creative material in social network fighting and blog confessions and drunken Tweets.

What does your family think of your writing?

When I make a Facebook status update with a link to a story I got published online, my sister usually “likes” it.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?

I work a 9-5 office job; even when I’m writing the most intensely, it’s usually just an hour or two an evening. I’ve been trying to take solo trips to “get away from it all” and focus on my writing for a few days, but even then I write for an hour and then want to go eat ice cream and take a nap.

Do you have any writing quirks or rituals?

I write in my bed.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

I worry a lot that I write the same story about the same idea over and over and over.

What are your current projects?

For several (too many) years I’ve been working on a collection of short stories about lesbian relationships. I hope to finish by the end of the year and try to publish a book. I’m also always trying to write as much flash fiction as possible.

What are you planning for future projects?

I have no idea. I really want to make a YouTube video that’s a montage of people in Boston showing off their damaged umbrellas.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

For people who want to write but don’t know what to write about, I’d say something like: what’s the last thing that happened to you that made you feel really freaked out? Write a paragraph about the experience, especially your feelings about it, and then write a story about that. You don’t even have to make up that much. Just stick to what happened to you and exaggerate a few things. For people who are already writing, I don’t know if I could tell them anything they don’t already know. Maybe that online publishing is wonderful, and a lot easier and less intimidating than you’d think and really rewarding. Oh, and also, you don’t have to get an MFA. Writing is a good, meaningful hobby, and you can still be serious about it—and be an “artist”—without going to school for it and/or devoting your entire livelihood to it.

Where can we find your work?

I have a website, http://rebekahmatthews.com/, which has links to all of my stuff that has been published online.


C'mon if you think you're hard enough....

“I love criticism just so long as it's unqualified praise.” ~ Noel Coward


When I put my first novel out for review, I learned more about myself than I could have possibly expected, and less about the direction of my writing career than I had hoped...

The problem with putting your work out for critique is this: You're going to receive some criticism.

And even if you 'meant to do that' - you absolutely cannot please everyone, and that's just a fact. Nor should you try. If you find you're getting feedback from betas and reviewers that solidly shows that you're hitting some universal buttons, then that's a good thing. Take the lesson and move on.

I think everyone has their own internal coping mechanism for dealing with criticism. If not, you'd better find one quick. And if you can't find one that works for you, you probably shouldn't be writing. In fact, you're best off sitting quietly in a dark room while attempting nothing more complicated than normal metabolic processes.

We must read the notes from our betas and editors, but how do you handle reviews from readers and literary reviewers? Do you read them? Do you seethe silently wishing you could respond, even though you know it's a bad idea. Or do you pretend they don't exist?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Author Insides - Kent Leatham

Kent Leatham's poetry was featured in the Summer 2010 issue of The Battered Suitcase. Two weeks ago, we managed to talk him out of the tree long enough to answer a few questions.


Kent, when did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?


In second or third grade, essentially as soon as I learned to spell. Putting words together was like building doorways: if you joined them well, and hung a solid idea or image on the hinges, you could pass through to infinite worlds. I think my first short story was about a dragon and my first poem was about a cricket. I grew up as an only child in the countryside of central California, with no television or neighborhood friends. Our house was built in the basin of a prehistoric sea, however, and the rocks along the roadside were filled with fossils—crabs, clams, fish, even once the skeleton of a whale. It would have been hard not to let my imagination run away with itself.

Why do you write?

Because otherwise the words get all cramped up in my fingertips, then my hands, then my wrists…. I get terrible tendonitis whenever I stop writing.

To be honest, I don’t actually know why I write. I have no agenda, no currently articulable ars poetica. The poems arrive, by force or fancy. They make me laugh. They make me wonder. What more can one ask?

Is being a writer/poet anything like you imagined it would be?

The only published writer I knew growing up was the poet, novelist, translator, and jazz journalist William Minor (www.bminor.org). Bill speaks five languages, creates visual art in multiple mediums, plays the piano, drums, and guitar, composes music, sings, is happily married and retired, and recently wrote an erotic poem about Q-Tips. In contrast, I speak English, play the clarinet, and find Q-Tips untrustworthy. I’d say my writing life has a long way to go.

What do you think makes a good story?

“Reminds me of that fellow back home that fell off a ten-story building. As he was falling, people on each floor kept hearing him say, ‘So far, so good.’” (Steve McQueen, The Magnificent Seven)

What's your favorite genre to read?

Poetry, which, coupled with the internet, has ruined my attention span for the Russian classics. But I’m an omnivore—novels, short stories, biographies, belles lettres, lit crit, random trivia, whatever I can find the time to consume. Highway signs, horoscopes, emergency warnings in languages I don’t speak. Poorly translated instruction labels for chopsticks.

Who is your favorite author or poet?

Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin & Hobbes. He captured the entirety of the human condition in four small boxes (or a full page on Sundays) every day for ten years, and then retired. Would that I could be half as prolific, brilliant, and wise.

What books or authors have influenced you the most as a writer?

John Steinbeck and Ray Bradbury top the list of writers I most admired and desired to imitate at an early age, though I don’t know how much influence they’ve had on my poetry. More noticeable formative impressions? The Bible for substance. The Fireside Book of Folk Songs for style. Reading-wise, I started out with Rilke, Rumi, and Mary Oliver: ponderance and ecstasy. Graduated to Hass, Levis, Kinnell: meditation and elegy. Lately it’s been Koch and O’Hara: innovation and celebration.

What books or stories have most influenced you as a person?

The Phantom Tollbooth. The Hobbit. Stories of outrageous possibilities waiting just beyond one’s sense of expectation.

Where/how do you find the most inspiration?

From reading. Foraging, hunting/gathering. An author may repeat the same word twice in a sentence, quite unintentionally, and suddenly I’m thinking about that word, turning it upside-down, pulling it inside-out, holding it up to my own mind to see if it catches any reflections or sheds any light. I’m like a raccoon that’s been let loose in a jewelry store. When someone says we “share” a language, I take it literally. The same with ideas. Writers talk about swiping and stealing, but that implies original ownership. As long as a word or image takes you somewhere new, it’s public domain. (And god, I’ll probably regret saying that ten minutes from now.)

What does your family think of your writing?

“It’s a shame he didn’t become a musician.”

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?

I don’t have any regularized routines or procedures for writing—it just happens when it happens—so my work schedule is largely irrelevant. And, at the moment, largely nonexistent. I write more when unemployed; I eat more when employed. I prefer love and fame, but usually end up with light and air.

Do you have any writing quirks or rituals?

Recently the letter “P” popped off the keyboard on my geriatric laptop, so it’s been interesting trying to write poems that don’t require it. Otherwise, no, no deliberate quirks or rituals. I write a lot, but never on command. If the well dries up someday, then so be it. I am “only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all.”

Do you have any advice for other writers?

“If it ain’t broke, break it.” (Meat Loaf)
“There is a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.” (Leonard Cohen)

Where can we find your work?

Floating in the ether of the World Wide Web, hoping someday to settle between the real pages of a real book.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Author Insides

Next up, Justin Carmickle from the Autumn 2010 issue of The Battered Suitcase:

Justin, when did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I first began writing film scripts as a teen. Then, once I began studying English and Creative Writing at Indiana University-Bloomington, I realized my true passion to be fiction (I also enjoy poetry).

Why do you write?
Writing, for me, has become habit. Even with essays, homework, and exams, I still find myself drawn to the computer where I'll work on a piece. I find it liberating not only to write, but also to edit my own work, as well as others.

Is being a writer/poet anything like you imagined it would be?
At 21, it may be too soon to answer this question. Ask me again in 5 years?

What do you think makes a good story?
Though many will disagree, for me the main element that leads to a good story is sentence level writing. A good sentence keeps the reader in the story no matter the plot.

What's your favorite genre to read?
For the most part I tend to read realism. I go from reading novels to short stories.

Who is your favorite author or poet?
My favorite fiction writers are Andre Dubus (the father) and Flannery O'Connor. I enjoy the poems of Elizabeth Bishop.

What books or stories have most influenced you the most as a writer?
Definitely Flannery O'Connor's complete stories. Also, the collections of Andre Dubus, such as Separate Flights, Adultery & Other Choices, and The Times Are Never So Bad.

What books or stories have most influenced you as a person?
Again, I have to go with the Dubus collections. Their pages hold not only some wonderfully complicated characters, but some of the most powerful sentences any writer/reader can hope to encounter. He really is a marvelous writer.

Where/how do you find the most inspiration?
I find my most inspiration through single images. A piece I recently published was inspired by a family member who was telling me a story about how one harvests honey.

What does your family think of your writing?
My family supports my writing. However, only my grandmother is a reader, and she is always excited when I've finished a new piece.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
Mostly I write for 2-3 hour blocks. I tend to think of my fiction while walking to and from class. My process is very slow.

Do you have any writing quirks or rituals?
I listen to music when writing. Conor Oberst, The Kinks, Miles Davis.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Mainly, I tend to involve too much conflict in my pieces. I need to stop trying to jam multiple stories into one.

What are your current projects?
At the moment I am working on a short story and revising two others to submit for publication.

What are you planning for future projects?
I plan to continue writing fiction and dabbling in poetry for...life?

Do you have any advice for other writers?
Read and revise. Through revision comes real writing.

Where can we find your work?
I have a short story forthcoming in Louisiana Literature. I'm very excited about this publication. This is a wonderful journal that has published Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Olen Butler, so I'm blessed to be included in the journal's pages.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Future of Publishing

At the last minute, I decided to drop everything and drop into the "Brainstorming The Future of Publishing" conference in St. Pete this last Thursday. The main reason I decided to do so was because I'd read that J.A. Konrath was attending and I was very interested in hearing what he had to say.

The conference is held by Novelists Inc, which is a group for traditionally and multi-published authors. Membership to which, I'm not currently qualified, being only published digitally. However, they were holding an open conference day to which anyone with $75 could attend and I was right interested in what was to be said.

It was extremely interesting and quite frankly, I'm only beginning to come to my final conclusions regarding the information presented.

The panels were mainly made of agents and traditional publishers. There were a few ePub people there, but not very many and to my thinking, not suitably passionate about defending their venue. This could be because the attendees by definition had to be published in print. I cannot say. Everyone was interested in hearing about ePublishing, but most of them seemed skeptical. Particularly the authors and particular the big pub reps that don't make that much of an investment in digital.

But my main conclusion is this; even at this moment in time, despite what we have learned from Apple and Google and Amazon, and the very important lessons of their successes is this: the traditional publishers are selling books. They are not selling content. They are not selling experiences. They are not selling stories. They are not selling information. They are STILL selling physical books, objects, things of paper and glue.

And I'm normally pretty quiet about my Cassandra moments, but I dare say that this is going to bite them in the ass and bite them in the ass big time. In fact, I believe one of the agents stated that when he considered what publishing would look like in five years, he imagined that at least one of the big 6 would be owned by Amazon or Google.

My guess is that it will happen because they're still selling things - rather than content. Even though Google and Amazon and Apple have become exceedingly rich and powerful by selling content. And even though most of us have discovered fantastic new stories; movies, books, songs, bands, friends, lovers, husbands and wives, jobs, vacations, tv shows, homes, cars and collectible beanie babies through the collective consciousness of the internet - they are still selling books. Despite the fact that during an economic downturn people want to pay a low price for an escapist or pleasant experience, as temporary as it may be, rather than invest in objects and things that can't be easily carried from a foreclosed home. As a digital publisher, I find this very... comforting.

Digital-firsts apparently aren't a threat to them at all. Despite the fact that most of us digitals realize that what our artists have to offer is what people want - an experience: content. A physical copy can be obtained, if desired, but what people really want - and the whole reason they have ever read or purchased books - is an experience, information, stories, worlds, ideas, concepts. Owning a book is nice, but without a compelling story, a world to immerse yourself into, fresh ideas, new perspectives, ideas, concepts and characters to become emotionally attached to, a book is nothing but a piece of dead tree.

I enjoyed this "Future of Publishing" conference day. I enjoyed it quite a bit, thank you.

More about what JA Konrath had to say later...

Friday, October 8, 2010

Author Insides - Laura Eppinger

Next in our series of "Author Insides" interviews with our wonderful contributors, Laura Eppinger.


Laura's touching "Forgotten Language" appears in the Autumn 2010 issue of The Battered Suitcase

Laura Eppinger graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI in 2008 with a degree in Journalism, and has been seriously writing fiction ever since. She recently finished serving her second AmeriCorps*VISTA term in Madison, WI, remains in that city to take full advantage of the book stores, libraries, universities, and writers' circles. Her poem, "Brain Drain," appears in the 2010 edition of Bacopa Literary Review. "Forgotten Language" is her first published work of fiction.




When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

Both of my mom’s parents are journalists, and in 5th grade I interviewed my grandfather about his career at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. I liked what he had to say, so I decided to become a writer from that day forward.

Is being a writer/poet anything like you imagined it would be?
Well, the poverty aspect of the fantasy certainly came true. It’s just not as romantic.

What do you think makes a good story?
Believable dialogue, interesting characters, compelling tension, and a lack of clich├ęs.

What's your favorite genre to read?
Literary fiction.

Who is your favorite author or poet?
Barbara Kingsolver. I am still moved by my memories of reading “The Poisonwood Bible” for the first time.

What books or stories have most influenced you the most as a writer?
I don’t write anything like David Foster Wallace, and I don’t try to. But “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men” inspired me to use unusual formats for a story, and not get stuck in third-person narration by the omniscient narrator. I couldn’t believe how just a scrap of dialogue, or a monologue about something seemingly mundane, could be so powerful when DFW wrote it.

What books or stories have most influenced you as a person?
Children’s books, my first love. “The Missing Piece” and “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein are my all-time favorites.

Where/how do you find the most inspiration?
By getting out of the house! People-watching at the public library and attending free lectures on college campuses are my favorite ways to do this, and I also need to live in a city with art museums, movie theatres, parks and cafes.

What does your family think of your writing?
I am the oldest of four children, and my younger siblings are my best friends. They’re incredibly supportive. My parents encourage me to write, but when what I write makes them uncomfortable, they just don’t bring it up. Have I mentioned we’re Catholic?

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I will be paying off my journalism degree for the rest of my life—though that doesn’t inspire me to use it. I need to work at least 40 hours every week to stay alive. That could mean cleaning houses or changing diapers, it could mean sitting behind a desk filling in Excel spreadsheets. I write before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m. to remind myself why it’s worth it to stay alive.

Do you have any writing quirks or rituals?
Not really. But when my first, last and only laptop crashed in spring 2010 after a seven-year life, I began composing and editing longhand, then typing up and submitting work on public library computers. I get the impression that what I’m doing is pretty unusual for other writers—and other library patrons.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I often get little snippets of scenes or dialogue, but I don’t know what it is or where it’s supposed to go. So I sit on it and don’t put it down until I have more context. …Unless I forget a snippet, and then it’s lost forever.

What are your current projects?
I’ve been sitting on a young adult novel of historical fiction for the last six months. I’m proud of it, it’s called “Settler’s Myths,” but agents and indie presses aren’t biting. So I’m working on short fiction and poetry, because there seems to be a market I can understand for short pieces.

What are you planning for future projects?
I have an idea I love for another YA novel. But I’m not ready to make an attempt just yet.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
Don’t let anything stop you from writing! Keep pads of paper and pens on you at all times. Know where the public computers are. No idea is stupid, so write it down and work on it. NOW.

Where else can we find your work?
In October 2010 I was published online at Danse Macabre!
http://dansemacabre.art.officelive.com/FinalDraft.aspx

Monday, October 4, 2010

Author Insides

We work with some fascinating authors from across the globe here at The Battered Suitcase, but because we're a periodical, and because there are deadlines, we often don't get as much time to get to know them as we'd like to. They come from all walks of life, from the age of 16 to 76, all bringing us beautifully framed snapshots of their worlds, and we're grateful. But I often wonder, who are these people that bring us these wonderful stories? What factors molded the lens and how does that impact its focus.

Simple enough - I've asked them to share a bit of themselves here on our blog.

First, but never least, is poet Sergio Ortiz.

Sergio Ortiz has a BA in English literature from Inter-American University and a MA in philosophy from World University. His poems have been recently published or are forthcoming in foam:e, Right Hand Pointing and Poui: Cave Hill Journal of Creative Writing. Flutter Press published his chapbook At the Tail End of Dusk (2009).

Sergio's work has been featured in The Battered Suitcase twice, the first time in August of 2008 and again in the current issue Autumn 2010

Sergio, when did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I realized I wanted to be a writer after reading Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis. I started writing at the age of fourteen because my therapist asked me to keep a journal. I decided to keep it in poetry. I guess it was because my ninth grade teacher had read a few poems to me that resounded in my mind. As a child, I was a voracious reader and I guess writing came naturally by my teen years.

Why do you write?

I write because I would be unable to live without writing. It is a force I do not understand that moves my imagination to use words to create art.

Is being a poet anything like you imagined it would be?

Actually, no. It is hard work and a lot of discipline and focusing and, oh why not say it, heartbreak, when I can’t find a way to express the image in my mind. And more, the constant fear of repeating myself. But what can I say? It is my drug of choice.

What do you think makes a good story?

Honesty, simplicity, careful choice of words and a lot of editing. Then there is the element of surprise and the development, almost cinematic development, of characters and events.

What's your favorite genre to read?

I love movie scripts, short stories, and novels from the surrealist writers. But right now, my mind is geared to reading poetry and as much as I try to focus on one or the other of the genres I mentioned, I become frustrated at the time it takes to finish reading a psychological short story, or novel. I buy the complete works of a poet every month and study him/her for however long I want. I have spent 5 months on Sylvia Plath. I am ready to buy Saramago, but I am not ready to put down Sylvia. These are my favorite poets. And I have discovered a group of young writers from Puerto Rico that are quite the sensation right now. I am part of that group.

Who is your favorite author or poet?

I must say it is Neruda but I can’t leave out Sylvia Plath.

What books or stories have most influenced you the most as a writer?

I think that there have been many: Garcia Marques, Julio Cortazar, Hemmingway, WCW, Plath, Wilde, Jose Donoso, Saramago, Carlos Fuentes, James Joyce, Charles Dickens, Hesse. They are just too many to enumerate.

What books or stories have most influenced you as a person?

I think Ulysses by Joyce has had a tremendous influence in me as a person, but Oscar Wilde taught me the importance of being honest.

Where/how do you find the most inspiration?

In living, in other people lives, but most of all in nature.

What does your family think of your writing?

I have my MFA, but my mother insisted I get a teaching certificate. She wanted to make sure I did not starve to death. But the truth is, both my parents hated that I was a writer. The rest of my family is finally accepting the fact and are very proud of the small amount of recognition I have managed to acquire as a writer recently.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?

I wake up at 4:30 am every day and I read for a couple of hours. Then I edit poems I have put down for a couple of years. Then I search for five words and a poetry prompt and write for another two or three hours. Most days I spend close to 11 hours reading and writing. Then I relax at night by doing something very visual, I go take photos, paint or visit a theatre. Poetry readings are every Tuesday’s and the third Thursday of each month.

Do you have any writing quirks or rituals?

Well, other than what I just mentioned no, except coffee. Coffee is a must.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Everything is challenging, English is not my mother tongue, yet that is the language I have chosen to write in.

What are your current projects?

I am trying to find a publisher for my first collection of poems in Spanish and for my fourth chapbook (I might decide to turn this into my first full collection of poems in English, I am still giving it some thought). I am moving back to the mainland USA. I need to live in a dry climate. So I am also looking for a good artist's community. Wish I could live in the UK, but it is much too expensive.

What are you planning for future projects?

I am planning to rewrite a movie script I had already written and if Cuba accepts me at their school of cinematography, I would love to take a couple of summer courses in script writing at San Antonio de los Lagos.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Yes, make sure you are ready for the torture, hahaha, of not being able to put down that pen or that book.

Where else can we find your work?

Well I have a blog, Adobo Criollo, but you can also find a couple of my chapbooks at Flutter Press. The photography on my blog is mostly mine, and there are a few paintings and drawings.

 
Thanks for your time, Sergio, and thanks for joining us for Author Insides.