“Exoneration” — at last!

  “Great story!” Bill Patrick, a published author and scriptwriter, sought me out to to admire a short story I’d written for a seminar he would teach in my Fairfield MFA program. We each wrote and circulated, before gathering, a piece to be critiqued in such seminars; it was unusual for a professor to comment before classes met and students had first crack, but he thought it an unusual story.
  With help from him and my classmates (who also liked it), I improved it during that fortnight. We each did a reading to the student body and faculty. I read “Exoneration”, to applause.
   I began sending it out — and sending, and sending, with growing discouragement. How could editors turn down a story everyone in the MFA program liked?
  Three years later (!!) it was accepted by Aestas, an annual anthology. Then, to cap off my frustration, publication was delayed and delayed again!
   It’s finally out, a year late, “Aestas 2017”. The whole book, a good collection of short stories, is currently bargain priced at Amazon — or you can read it ==>>here
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“The Leopard” published at last

   In 1981 — 37 years ago! — Brad and I hiked (with a safari group of 4-H kids half our age) about an hour above the 10,000-foot ranger station on 18,000-foot Mount Kenya — and were told of an American who’d gotten lost recently, in a stunted landscape prowled by buffalo, elephants, monkeys . . . and leopards.
   I skipped the next morning’s lion-chasing trip to sit in front of our pup tent and bat out a first draft of a short story based on that fragmentary account. I remember looking up to realize I was the object of fascination by a half-dozen Masai women who’d never seen anything like the flyweight typewriter I always traveled with.
   Fast-forward 32 years, when I made re-writing that story a significant part of my Fairfield University studies, and ultimately part of my MFA thesis.  One of my most prized gurus urged that I develop the character of the would-be rescuer, which I did. Also, I’d originally told part of the story from the leopard’s point of view. He said no, can’t do that (even though, as I noted, Ernest Hemingway used an African lion’s point of view in “The Short Happy Life of Francis McComber”). Out came the leopard.
    I’d made a few pre-MFA efforts to polish and place the story. Now I went at it with new energy — but with no better result. Last year, a hint from an almost-took-it editor persuaded me to make the leopard visible again, although I accepted the wisdom of my MFA classmates in our postgraduate writing group to make it an insentient animal — describing its actions, but not (as Hemingway had) imagining its thoughts.
   It took several more rounds of rejections before D.S. Davidson, editor of the online Tigershark Literary Magazine, invited stories placed in the Southern Hemisphere. My story was a bit longer than he wanted, but he had me send it, and liked it. It’s out this week, the centerpiece of his Issue 18 (on pages 9-19). Read it ==>here
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A dwindling supply of matches

I wrote “Matches” to address a literary magazine’s challenge: a short-short story featuring repeated use of a sound.  I tried pffytt! to catch the resonance of a struck match fizzling out. That first magazine’s editor didn’t choose it. The next I tried liked it, but couldn’t fit it in — and noted, correctly, my debt to Jack London.
  Calliope, a publication of American Mensa (to which I’ve never belonged or applied) had published the first story I got into print after completing my Fairfield University MFA, “Consultants.” I tried them again; they liked it. It’s just out in Summer 2018 Issue #160.  I got a paper copy in the mail today. For whatever reason, their online version isn’t posted yet, but you can read “Matches” ==>here:
  (And my 2013 Calliope offering, “Consultants,” ==>here:)
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Limerence

It was titled “Second Chances” when I wrote it, a germ of Two Sisters (square)an idea spun into a short story that I knew would have limited or no appeal to the young adults, MFA students, who edit many of the country’s literary magazines. I sent it out to several anyway. No takers.
   Then I stumbled across the word limerence. I had to look it up to be sure I knew the meaning. Sure enough, it exactly described the mindset of my protagonist. So I renamed the story — and inserted a definition before the story began, since I assumed most readers wouldn’t recognize the word any more than I had.
    Now I had a story unlikely to interest younger editors or readers, titled with a word few would know, with a dull dictionary definition preceding the story. Where to send it?
    Aha! I remembered two sisters based in Michigan who run a monthly online contest, and had liked but ultimately not picked an earlier story of mine. While not nearly as ancient as I, they might be open to this unusual story.
    They were: It’s one of two ($75) prizewinners this month. You can read it by clicking ==>>here 
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Closure for Black Sheep

Pilcrow & Dagger, a Georgia literary magazine, was compiling an anthology of short stories on the theme “black sheep”. I had a story about an unwelcome mourner at a burial service, which I thought might fit. It did.  Volume 4 Number 4 is available at Amazon and other booksellers, but you can read it now ==> here

What’s a pilcrow? It’s the typographical icon for a paragraph. And what prompted my writing this story last November? I haven’t the faintest recollection!

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More than a decade wandering

I wrote a first draft of “Wandered” in 2007 — long before even a hint of the Alzheimer’s that would overtake Brad, and several years before undertaking my Fairfield MFA. I can’t even remember what triggered the idea of a son’s efforts to retrace the steps of a dementia-stricken father who disappeared without a trace. Maybe I read something about Eskimos, whose supposed customs crept into the text.         

In any case, I set it aside — until Zimbell House early this year solicited manuscripts for their their proposed anthology of stories about people who disappear without a trace. I resurrected my draft, improved it considerably, and sent it off, with more than usual confidence.  Sure enough, it was accepted in mid-April, and is now in bookstores.

Easiest place to read it is ==>right here.

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Charity is sweeter when unexpected

 The package in the mail was unexpected: The May 2018 issue of the California-based Penumbra Art and Literary Journal, which includes my  “Sweet Charity”. I’d completely forgotten the short story had been accepted.

   More than a year ago a friend asked if there shouldn’t be a law against panhandling in a nearby town. I said no right away, but continued to think about the question. “Sweet Charity” was the result — and I owe the ending to my Fairfield MFA pals, who didn’t like my original and sent me back to the keyboard.

   Counting three stories that will be printed in the next month, by the way, this brings me one shy of an even four dozen stories published.  You can read this one at page 86 of the online version of the magazine, but it’s easier found ==>right here  

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Empty Nest

Sometimes I marvel at the way elaborate inventions suggest themselves when I jot down and develop a fragment of memory or description of place. Empty Nest, just published in the Bowling Green online magazine, draws from a very real memory of taking our daughter to college. The rest, I assure you, is pure fiction.

The magazine — a PDF the size of a thick book, with the work of a dozen other short story writers and a flock of poets — is available free here.  But you can access my short story much more easily by clicking ==>HERE.

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“Iniquities” published by Montana Mouthful

“Montana Mouthful,” the press release said, “is an independent, digital literary magazine devoted to publishing short fiction and nonfiction, poetry, artwork, and photography. The debut issue, themed “Firsts” is now available.”

As it happened, I’d been working on a short story that fit the “firsts” bill. One of those efforts that began with simply trying to paint a physical scene, a mid-summer hayfield, and waiting to see what my protagonist wanted to happen. The title and theme came not from any schoolteacher, but from one of my first newspaper editors. It all came together, and the editors of Montana Mouthful liked it. You’ll have to flip through to page 13, but you can read it –>here.

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Transgenders in the military still an issue

I wrote my flash-fiction story “Tiresias” back in August, soon after President Trump tweeted that transgendered people would be barred from serving in the military. I sent it to a few literary magazines that thrive on political controversy — and that turned it down.

A small magazine, Ponder Review, accepted it, but has taken three months to get it into print. I thought by now it would no longer seem timely. But Trump (having been told by the courts he can’t do that) is back tweeting about the issue.  You can read the again-relevant “Tiresias” at the magazine’s website (where you’ll have to scroll down to page 37) or — probably easier — read it right –> here.

A funny PS: An editor wrote me asking me to add a footnote on who Tiresias was and what his/her relevance is to T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland”.  I sent back this:

In Greek mythology, Tiresias was a blind prophet, famous for clairvoyance and for being transformed into a woman for seven years. Sometimes, like the oracles, he would receive visions; other times he would listen for the songs of birds. . . . Tiresias was a useful figure to a wide variety of authors, including T.S. Eliot, who identified him as playing a key role in The Waste Land. In having been both man and woman, he served as a kind of bridge between the classical world and modernity.

The footnote doesn’t appear.  I suspect that the editors, at least some of whom must have studied English literature, were embarrassed at needing their memories refreshed.

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