We’re thrilled to kick off our third volume of Ploughshares Solos with “Pie,” a story by Suzanne Matson. Over the past two years, our Ploughshares Solos series has given us the opportunity to publish excellent long-form stories and essays: first in an easily affordable digital format, and then in our annual Ploughshares Solos Omnibus collection. We have some great work lined up for this third year of Solos, and we’re really excited to share it with you. Stay tuned for a new Solo nearly every month from August through May. If you are in search of even more reading material, you can see all our Solos on www.pshares.org.
Leaving behind her strict Mennonite upbringing, Kathryn has moved west by herself. America has just won victory in Japan, and a charming older man begins visiting the diner where Kathryn works, taking her out dancing and around town. With her old soldier boyfriends now scattered, and the country flush with postwar happiness, Kathryn takes a chance on her mysterious admirer and moves to Los Angeles with him. But how much does she really know about her new boyfriend? In this Solo, acclaimed novelist and poet Suzanne Matson looks at the thrill and danger inherent in the American dream of unrestricted liberty.
This Solo is available on Kindle for $1.99.
Earlier this month I got to spend a week leading creative writing workshops with children in the foster system, some of them as young as six-years-old. And while many of you work with six-year-olds all the time, I usually teach college students or teenagers in jail. This was challenging, hilarious, and loud.
My friends knew I was in unusual Tasha territory, so several of them wrote to ask if it was really different working with young children: because weren’t they so much more creative, so open to their own imaginations, so unpressured by life’s demands, so . . . kids? And the answer was, emphatically, no.
But my friends’ questions weren’t surprising, given the persistent advice in the creative and self-help industries to cultivate your childlike wonder! or to create like a child! or to do what you love with no regard for failure, like children! Such advice means well, but it’s weirdly ignorant . . . about children. Continue reading
Posted in Writing, Writing Advice
Tagged advice, art, art by children, censorship, childhood, childlike, childlike wonder, creativity, failure, foster system, grown up, humanity, play, self-help, survival, wonder
Up until that short story workshop I took my junior year of college, my TBR pile was made up of a bizarre mix of Stephen King, Barbara Kingsolver, and Bill Bryson. Then my professor passed around photocopied packets containing stories by Lorrie Moore, Grace Paley, and Tim O’Brien, and I realized there was more to life than homicidal clowns and humor writing.
“The Things They Carried,” a staple in college classrooms across the country, started me in on a love affair with O’Brien’s work. It wasn’t necessarily the subject matter that appealed to me. I had never before been interested in historical fiction in any form. Rather, it was the beauty and artistry with which he strung his words together. That coupled with his quiet, quirky sense of humor.
Heck, I enjoyed July, July (a novel set at a high school reunion, having absolutely nothing to do with war) almost as much as I enjoyed Going After Cacciato.
But then his books became a gateway to other war literature. Catch-22. All Quiet on the Western Front. The Thin Red Line.
I ate them all up.
But what was it about these books? Continue reading
Posted in Classics, Contemporary, Reading
Tagged All Quiet on the Western Front, army, Barbara Kingsolver, Ben Fountain, Bill Bryson, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, Catch-22, David Abrams, Fire and Forget, Fobbit, Going After Cacciato, Grace Payley, Jon Krakauer, July July, Kevin Powers, literature, Lorrie Moore, Matt Gallagher, military, Pat Tillman, Phil Klay, reading, Redeployment, Stephen King, The Thin Red Line, The Things They Carried, The Yellow Birds, Tim O'Brien, war, war literature, Where Men Win Glory
Michael Earl Craig
Wave Books, April 2014
If you were among those persuaded by Thin Kimono (2010) that Michael Earl Craig was a poet to watch, you may consider your intuitions confirmed. Talkativeness dwells a little more deeply in the voice of that earlier volume, becoming more at home in it, but still capable of surprise.
Craig’s territory is contiguous to the domains of Ashbery, Tate, and Dean Young, but a little further off the interstate, a little lonelier. The natives are kindly but unlikely to offer help unless asked. For that matter, you might get further by simply paying closer attention.
The book’s epigraph, from Yamamoto Tsunetomo, states, “No matter how good what you are saying might be, it will dampen the conversation if it is irrelevant.” But—the following volume seems to ask—how confident can we be that any remark is irrelevant, when it may connect intimately to the topic at hand by unguessable, labyrinthine subterranean channels? How do we know that the apparently tangential is not, in fact, the royal highway to the real? Continue reading
I’ve spent the past few weeks preparing for the publication of my first book this fall, and a key ingredient of this process is the “public” part. I’ve been updating my website, beefing up my social media presence, and reaching out to people to spread the word about the book I believe in so passionately.
On good days, I see that I might be evolving into a more potent version of myself—a writer who is able to talk about her own work articulately, one who can move seamlessly between her public and private worlds. On tougher days, the whole thing can feel fake, like I’ve been hired to portray myself in some sitcom or drama loosely based on my life. Despite the best intentions, opportunities for fraudulence arise at every turn. Can I make myself look stronger, wiser, funnier if I try hard enough?
We are very excited to announce that our Fall 2014 issue has officially released today! Acclaimed novelist and short-story writer Percival Everett (Erasure, I Am Not Sidney Poitier) guest-edits this all-fiction issue.
As Everett writes in his introduction, the stories “range from so-called mimetic to so-called meta. I do not like such labels and I hope to undermine their use by putting these fine works together.” Authors experiment with everything from extensive footnotes to shifting points of view, and narratives run from a husband who can’t stop crying (Nick Arvin’s “The Crying Man”) to a super-sophisticated domestic robot learning the ways of a Japanese family (“I, Kitty,” by Karen Tei Yamashita). Featuring stories by Aimee Bender, Richard Bausch, and Edith Pearlman, this issue is an illustration of the adventurousness and variety of the short story in English today. The issue also features Jay Baron Nicorvo’s Plan B essay about surfing, and an appreciation of the early work of the poet Robert Duncan.
If you would like to read our Fall issue, and you aren’t already a subscriber, subscribe to Ploughshares today! You’ll get great reads, ideas for your own work, and the ability to submit your work for free!
You can purchase single copies of our issues or subscribe by visiting our website: www.pshares.org.
Posted in Events and News
Tagged Aimee Bender, Edith Pearlman, Fall 2014, fiction, issues, Karen Tei Yamashita, Nick Arvin, Percival Everett, Ploughshares, Release, Richard Bausch
I’ve interviewed a lot of entry level job candidates. I’ve had plenty of recent college graduates sent to a conference room to meet me with a strong thumbs-up from Human Resources. Bright, well-dressed, great resumes, and eager. This impresses the HR types. However, when I’d ask questions, especially follow-up and off-script questions, I would get one word answers. “How did you like working in the Philosophy Department as a student aide?” Big smile. “Great,” they’d say. “Fun.”
I’d wrap up that interview quickly, because I’d realize that I had already decided who I wanted. My next editorial assistant would be the dowdy, shy book nerd I’d met earlier that morning that HR hated, but who answered my question about what she’s currently reading with a long story about how she decides what to read and when. All the answers to all my questions entertained, revealed, and informed.
With the right kinds of stories, you can sell anything, including yourself.
That’s why the most interesting thing I’ve read in the past two weeks was this short piece by Neil Gaiman about The Moth. He describes the high-wire act of telling a story out loud in front of an audience and what works and what doesn’t. As I read it, I realized that this skill–public storytelling–is one that give writers the upper hand in a lot of situations where everyone else is struggling. Being a writer is never awesome at tax time, but there are plenty of other times when it’s the perfect thing to be.
The Montagues and the Capulets don’t like each other very much.
Romeo and his cousin crash a Capulet party anyway, looking for girls.
Romeo’s on the rebound when he meets Juliet.
The party was supposed to give 14-year-old Juliet the chance to check out her potential husband-to-be, Paris. Continue reading
Dear Lil Wayne
Magic Helicopter Press, April 2014
Joe Wenderoth’s Letters to Wendy’s celebrated its tenth anniversary this year. Sad to say, the book has not aged as gracefully as I had hoped. Every time I bring out a few selections from Letters to Wendy’s, my Intro. to Lit. students alternately roll their eyes or stare blankly at the overhead projector. In all likelihood they are overwhelmed by poetry in general—especially absurdist prose poetry about fast food—and Wenderoth’s epistolary book is hyper-graphic, too. However, I’m also sure that many have never even seen a comment card before and thus fail to understand the overarching conceit of the project.
Perhaps Lauren Ireland’s epistolary poetry collection Dear Lil Wayne is the Letters to Wendy’s of this decade. Continue reading
Some scholars say that Queer Latina/o writing is fast becoming a major core of the Latina/o literary canon. I say it’s the future of the canon altogether, with some of the most exciting, intelligent, and provocative American writing coming from the disciples of such luminaries as Cherríe Moraga, Rigoberto González, and Gloria Anzaldúa, among others who were cultivators of early contemporary Queer Latina/o writing.
While so much of Gen X Latina/o writing (predominately straight writing) is concerned with the outer edges of the Kinsey scale—as it related to the violence surrounding Latino masculinity, machismo, or misogyny—Millenial writers are increasingly interested in the entirety of that scale and its nuances: What does misogyny look like when it comes from a feminine place? What is Queer masculinity? What is straight Latino masculinity once it’s deconstructed? What does Queer Latina/o love look like in the twenty-first century? Continue reading
Posted in Reading, The Writing Life
Tagged Cherrie Moraga, Eduardo C. Corral, Gloria Anzaldua, Latina/o Poetry, latino writing, LGBTQ, Millenial Writing, New Writing, poetry, queer writing, Rigoberto Gonzalez, writing