The Magic of Objects

Simon Renard de Saint-André, via Wikimedia Commons

Simon Renard de Saint-André, via Wikimedia Commons

“I would say that the moment an object appears in a narrative,” Italo Calvino writes, in Six Memos for the New Millennium, “it is charged with a special force and becomes like the pole of a magnetic field, a knot in the network of invisible relationships. The symbolism of an object may be more or less explicit, but it is always there. We might even say that in a narrative any object is always magic.

Specifically, Calvino describes the movement of a ring in a legend about Charlemagne—from beneath the dead tongue of the emperor’s lover to the bottom of Lake Constance—that lends that tale its fascinating deftness. As the causal link between events in the story, Calvino calls the magic ring the true protagonist of that story.Continue Reading

One Year In—Writing the Novel: Dean Bakopoulos

After one year of writing my novel, I took stock of what I’d accomplished—which seemed like very little. Would writing always feel like flailing? How do novelists find their way through? For guidance, I turned to published novelists, whose interviews are presented in One Year In: Writing the Novel.

Today’s novelist is Dean Bakopoulosauthor of Please Don’t Come Back From the Moon, My American Unhappiness, and Summerlong (forthcoming in 2015).

bakopoulos2011.2 In terms of projects, do you work exclusively on one novel at a time?

I write very fast and so I generally have a few books going at a time. Two or three of them usually die after a year, around page 150, and then one of them sticks and gets finished. That’s how I wrote my first two books, Please Don’t Come Back from the Moon and My American Unhappiness: juggling many projects at once until one of the novels seemed undeniably better and in need of my undivided attention. And then I was able to finish those two books in a year, but it took a few years of writing to find those books. You have to commit to a book, but you also have to play the field a bit, find the right one.

So how did your third novel, Summerlong (coming from Ecco in Winter 2015) catch your eye—and keep it?

Summerlong was a bit different. I was working on a bad Young Adult novel and a mystery novel, messing around, forcing things, and a new idea came along. I could see all of it—the story of four characters in one sultry, steamy, suspenseful summer. When it arrived, I knew it was my next book. I wrote a draft incredibly fast, working harder than I’ve ever worked on anything, seven days a week, sometimes 5,000 words in one day. I wrote every morning for six hours, then wrote after dinner for a few more, until I’d drunk too much beer to keep writing. It was the only way to shut down my brain.Continue Reading

Awards to Ploughshares Writers

Our congratulations to the following Ploughshares writers who work has been selected for these anthologies:

the o. henry prize stories 2013Best Stories: Jamie Quatro’s story “Sinkhole,” from the Spring 2012 issue edited by Nick Flynn, will appear in O. Henry Prize Stories 2013, selected by a prize jury of Lauren Groff, Edith Pearlman, and Jim Shepard. The anthology is due out September 2013, with Laura Furman as the series editor.

Best Stories Notables: Steve Almond’s story “Gondwana,” Matthew Neill Null’s story “Telemetry,” Timothy Schaffert’s Ploughshares Solo “Lady of the Burlesque Ballet,” and Megan Mayhew Bergman’s Ploughshares Solo “Phoenix” were named as notables by The Best American Stories 2013. The anthology was released this month, with Elizabeth Strout as the guest editor and Heidi Pitlor as the series editor.

Best Essays: Charles Baxter’s essay, “What Happens in Hell,” from the Fall 2012 issue edited by Patricia Hampl, has been selected for The Best American Essays 2013. The anthology was released this month, with Cheryl Strayed as the guest editor and Robert Atwan as the series editor.

bae2013Best Essays Notables: Mary Gordon’s essay “The Taste of Almonds,” was named as a notable by The Best American Essays 2013.

Best Poetry:  Major Jackson’s poem “Why I Write Poetry,” from the  Spring 2012 issue edited by Nick Flynn, has been selected for The Best American Poetry 2013. The anthology was released in September 2013, with Denise Duhamel as the guest editor and David Lehman as the series editor.

Pushcart: Eric Fair’s essay “Consequence” and Claudia Rankine’s poem “Excerpt from That Once Were Beautiful Children,” which both appeared in the Spring 2012 issue edited by Nick Flynn, and Charles Baxter’s essay, “What Happens in Hell,” from the Fall 2012 issue edited by Patricia Hampl, have been selected for The Pushcart Prize XXXVIII: Best of the Small Presses, which is due out November 2013 from Bill Henderson’s Pushcart Press.

 

Finding the Essential in the Literary Midwest

flyoverAbout a year ago I was invited to participate on a panel of writers to talk about how being a Midwesterner fits into my life as a writer. It was a tough question. I was raised in Illinois, but had just finished a five-year stint in Texas and was at that moment, upon my return, in the throes of appreciation for the heartland. While my colleagues down south were still battling heat and humidity and mosquitoes, we up north were enjoying the first weeks of Autumn, the air crisp but not yet frigid. I arrived in Terre Haute, Indiana the night before the conference and walked through the sleepy city, encountering small packs of twenty-somethings heading out to this café or that bar, many of them taking a moment to smile kindly and say “hi” to me as I aimlessly strolled by. I was home.Continue Reading

A Q&A Between Former Ploughshares Contributors Ethan Rutherford and Paul Yoon

SNOWHUNTERSCOVERThis guest post was contributed by Ethan Rutherford. —Andrew Ladd, blog editor.

I recently moved, and while unpacking my books I stumbled upon an old issue of Ploughshares—Fall 2007, guest edited by Andrea Barrett. I don’t always keep my old literary journals, but I’ve kept this one because it included a story by a good friend of mine: “And We Will Be Here” by Paul Yoon. I remember that this, when it happened, was a Big Deal. It’s still a big deal. But to the two of us—we were young then, and so used to rejection that when a story wasn’t rejected you thought someone was pulling a prank—this was it. Paul had made it. I was jealous, I was proud. I remember when he called to tell me Andrea Barrett was taking the story. I hung up and thought: I can’t believe I know someone who is going to be in Ploughshares.

Well. Since then he’s published a story collection (Once The Shore) that made all sorts of Best- of-the-Year lists, earned him the John C. Zacharias First Book Award from Ploughshares, and he has been recognized with a “5 Under 35” distinction from National Book Foundation. His debut novel, Snow Hunters, has just been published and is garnering the kind of praise you might make up for yourself if you thought no one would find out. I gave up being jealous long ago.

PeripateticCoffin(CoverJPEG)On Thursday, September 26, both Paul and I will read from our recently released books (Snow Hunters and The Peripatetic Coffin and Other Stories, respectively) at Newtonville Books. In preparation, I sent Paul some questions over email about his new novel, stillness in fiction, and the ways in which his writing is inspired by other forms of art.

RUTHERFORD: Rumor has it the original manuscript for Snow Hunters was over 500 pages. The book is now just shy of 200 pages. Can you talk a little about cutting the manuscript down? How did you decide what to keep and what to cut? It’s an astonishing feat of compression, a small book that actually feels enormous. 

YOON: Thanks, I’m glad it feels and reads that way: I wanted to write the biggest story I could in the smallest way possible. But that meant, for me, writing a very long story first. So yeah, the first few drafts were ridiculous; it had many more characters, much more detail, a few more points of view. But it was always Yohan that shone, and so drafting was about whittling down the unwieldy block of prose to find him. 

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More Pushcart Prize Nominees

Pushcart Prize 2013In December we announced our nominees for the Pushcart Prize, as seen in the 2012 issues of Ploughshares. Last week, we received a list of further nominations of poetry and prose published in 2012 in Ploughshares.

Good luck to all the nominees!

Fiction

“Gondwana” by Steve Almond, from Ploughshares Spring 2012, guest-edited by Nick Flynn

“Dog” by Mark Slouka, from Ploughshares Spring 2012, guest-edited by Nick Flynn

“Grace” by Joshua Howes, from Ploughshares Winter 2012-13, guest-edited by Ladette Randolph and John Skoyles

“Come the Revolution” by Emily Torzs, from Ploughshares Winter 2012-13, guest-edited by Ladette Randolph and John Skoyles

Nonfiction

“Consequence” by Eric Fair, from Ploughshares Spring 2012, guest-edited by Nick Flynn

“What Happens in Hell” by Charles Baxter, from Ploughshares Fall 2012, guest-edited by Patricia Hampl

“The Taste of Almonds” by Mary Gordon, from Ploughshares Fall 2012, guest-edited by Patricia Hampl

“Myself on High” by Ralph James Savarese, from Ploughshares Fall 2012, guest-edited by Patricia Hampl

Poetry

“Lines on the Pathetic Fallacy” by Joel Brouwer, from Ploughshares Spring 2012, guest-edited by Nick Flynn

“‘The boss wears a white vest…’” by Victoria Chang, from Ploughshares Spring 2012, guest-edited by Nick Flynn

“Why I Write Poetry” by Major Jackson, from Ploughshares Spring 2012, guest-edited by Nick Flynn

Excerpt from “That Once Were Beautiful Children” by Claudia Rankine, from Ploughshares Spring 2012, guest-edited by Nick Flynn

“We Dance on a Spinning Log” by John Rybicki, from Ploughshares Spring 2012, guest-edited by Nick Flynn

“The Big Sleep” by James Tolan, from Ploughshares Spring 2012, guest-edited by Nick Flynn

From “Small Porcelain Head” by Allison Benis White, from Ploughshares Spring 2012, guest-edited by Nick Flynn

“Please Alice Notely Tell Me How to Be Old” by Rachel Zucker, from Ploughshares Spring 2012, guest-edited by Nick Flynn

“Two Weeks” by Valerie Bandura, from Ploughshares Winter 2012-13, guest-edited by Ladette Randolph and John Skoyles

“A Story Can Change Your Life” by Peter Everwine, from Ploughshares Winter 2012-13, guest-edited by Ladette Randolph and John Skoyles

“Volunteer” by Nance Van Winckel, from Ploughshares Winter 2012-13, guest-edited by Ladette Randolph and John Skoyles

 

Pushcart Prize Nominees for 2013

We’re excited to announce our nominees for the Pushcart Prize, as seen in the 2012 issues of Ploughshares.  If selected, their work will be published in volume XXXVII of The Pushcart Prize: The Best of the Small Presses.

Good luck to all our poetry and prose nominees!

Fiction

 “Days of Being Mild” by Xuan Juliana Wang, from Ploughshares Winter 2012-13, guest-edited by Ladette Randolph and John Skoyles

“Grace” by Joshua Howes, from Ploughshares Winter 2012-13, guest-edited by Ladette Randolph and John Skoyles

Nonfiction

“Evil Tongue” by Dani Shapiro, from Ploughshares Fall 2012, guest-edited by Patricia Hampl

“What Happens in Hell” by Charles Baxter, from Ploughshares Fall 2012, guest-edited by Patricia Hampl

Poetry

“Visit #1″ by Afaa Michael Weaver, from Ploughshares Winter 2012-13, guest-edited by Ladette Randolph and John Skoyles

“Waiting at the River” by Marie Howe, from Ploughshares Spring 2012, guest-edited by Nick Flynn

Literary Boroughs #27: Ann Arbor, Michigan

The Literary Boroughs series will explore little-known and well-known literary communities across the country and world and show that while literary culture can exist online without regard to geographic location, it also continues to thrive locally. Posts are by no means exhaustive and we encourage our readers to contribute in the comment section. The series will run on our blog from May 2012 until AWP13 in Boston. Please enjoy the twenty-seventh post on Ann Arbor, Michigan, by Megan Levad. —Andrea Martucci, Ploughshares Managing Editor

Image credit: Andrew Horne/Wikipedia

What the City is known for/what makes it unique:

The poetry collection or literary journal that you’re carrying around in your bag right now was probably printed here. But Ann Arbor is better known for football, Zingerman’s Deli (where Michael Dickman worked when he lived here), breweries, Iggy Pop, and lefty politics—Students for a Democratic Society was founded here in 1960.

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Literary Boroughs #6: Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN

The Literary Boroughs series will explore little-known and well-known literary communities across the country and world and show that while literary culture can exist online without regard to geographic location, it also continues to thrive locally. The series will run on our blog from May 2012 until AWP13 in Boston. Please enjoy the sixth post on Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota by Patrick Nathan. -Andrea Martucci, Ploughshares Managing Editor

Yes, it’s cold, but everything below 10ºF all feels the same, so we don’t worry about it. In all fairness, the brutal, January cold only lasts from mid December to late February. Once you get into March you might as well dig out the shorts and the sandals, as the low-70s of late May aren’t far off.

Of course this all sounds much worse than it is. As you can expect, a city that sees anywhere from four to eight feet of snow each year is prepared for it. In any case, those who visit the Twin Cities in the spring, summer, or autumn months know why we put up with it. Similarly, anyone who attends a launch party, reading series, poetry slam, or all-night arts festival—no matter what time of year—knows why we’d never live anywhere else. With its plentiful art schools, active music and recording scene, strong presence of advertising and design, one of the country’s top five modern art museums, and long history of philanthropy, MSP is the perfect place for any creative professional, but it’s for writers that the city seems almost tailored. We love books, and we love being in love with books.

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