Captain William Bligh popped into my head the night Donald Trump was elected: an earlier embodiment of an established order overthrown. Bligh was set adrift in the Pacific by discontented sailors seduced by the glib confidence of a master’s mate who, it would turn out, couldn’t steer the ship well enough to get them home.
It took a while. I got and re-read (or skimmed) the whole Mutiny on the Bounty trilogy, and let the idea gestate. It came together; I sent it out to a few literary magazines. Leslee Goodman, editor of The Moon magazine, liked it. It’s out now; you can read it online.
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
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.
, 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:
It was titled “Second Chances” when I wrote it, a germ of
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
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!
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.
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
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.
My first few days in Phnom Penh in 1966 were stunningly memorable, not least for my middle-of-the-night initial encounter with Norodom Sihanouk, the monarch/president. It was also my first trip with the cyclopousse (pedicab) driver who would somehow always be available when I wanted to go somewhere — and who would ultimately confess that he reported on my travels to the police once a week.
I departed from my usual fiction routine to write a memoir slice that’s published today in the online literary magazine Lowestoft Chronicle. Read it in the online magazine by clicking ==>here — or (easier) click ==>right here at my blog
“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.