Toho Journal, a fledgling literary magazine in Philadelphia, was looking for short-short stories with a strong sense of place. Toho is an ancient Japanese word for sword, and the editors wanted “pieces that are sincere and honest and that send shivers down our spine.” In less than 500 words.
I’d recently written about two of the most sincere and honest neighbors Brad and I had in our 65 years together, and I thought I’d successfully conveyed a sense of Connecticut farming country where we built our first house. I wasn’t sure about shivers down the spine, but I sent the story, and they liked it.
Falling Star Magazine invited short stories somehow involving an intersection. The one that popped into my mind was on a floor of Death Valley, where a college pal and I explored an unusual sand dune and got caught in a blinding sandstorm on New Year’s Eve almost 70 years ago. It was also, symbolically, a nice intersection of a dark desert and a hostelry ablaze with holiday lights.
But the magazine didn’t invite narrative non-fiction. Never mind, I’d turn myself into “Andy” and relate that night in the third person.
The editors liked it. You can buy a copy of the winter issue at an online bookstore name Lulu (sorry, they haven’t so far made this issue available online) — or just read it ==>>here
I suggested to the editor who chose my short story “Ransom” that the author bio mention my debt to William Sydney Porter and Red Chief. Alas, he must not be an O. Henry fan, so there’s no such acknowledgement.
The story did, though, meet the criterion established by the online magazine, Defenestrationism — that, as the name implies, it involves an incident of (figuratively, at least) throwing people out of windows.
It’s a contest. You can read my story, and participate in a reader poll, ==>>here
(But don’t feel compelled to take time to vote. In their 2016 contest, there were 2,494 votes cast, so it would take a LOT of my friends to make much difference. I took second place in 2016 —with a short-short titled “Surveillance” — read it ==>>here — but that year there was no runner-up prize. There is, this year: two will get $30 each. Not exactly a king’s ransom!
I was at Hartford’s downtown bus station one evening two years ago, watching people while waiting to greet an arriving friend. I began exploring phrases to capture the chalky light and anomie of people coming and going but isolated from one another. By the time I got home, the idea of placing a runaway in that setting had formed.
The resulting story has been offered here and there, and gotten a few favorable comments but no takers. One editor suggested that the ending felt rushed, and might be improved by reworking at more length.
Ironic, because a month ago I learned of two literary magazines looking for short-shorts (under 1,000 words) and for themes that might fit this story. I found it easier than expected to trim it from 1,220 words to 995 – and whammo, in two weeks it was accepted by an online magazine named “Who Writes Short Shorts?”
I was at her side when my beloved wife of 65 years died at 2:30 this morning. It is a huge loss, but a blessing for her: the final months with complications of Alzheimer’s were an increasing burden on her despite the best efforts of the caregiving staff of Seabury and the McLean hospice service.
Her obituary can only hint at the wonderful life we had together; read it ==> here.
Part of downsizing, on my way to selling the house and moving to Seabury, was selling or giving away clothes. An ad for what seemed a high-fashion consignment shop on the Berlin Turnpike caught my eye. Emily and I took a bunch of Brad’s things one morning—which proved the inspiration for a short story that’s now out in Every Pigeon magazine, readable online ==>>here
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.
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!