The Best Short Story I Read in a Lit Mag This Week: “Constant Worth” by Jon Willer


Over the last few years, Vice President Joe Biden has popularized the refrain, “Show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.” As the title suggests, the dark, epistolary comedy “Constant Worth” by Jon Willer (Paper Darts) explores the values shown through personal economics, both in the present and historically.

The story begins with a simple request made upon the school-age narrator and her friend, Becky:

“When the Worths got picked to go on Family Double Dare, they asked me and Becky if we’d do their dogs’ insulin shots. Mrs. Worth had asked around and heard we were responsible kids.”

We’re in a world of diabetic dogs and families taking time away to participate in Nickelodeon game shows. This is 90s American suburbia, and Willer further reveals both the privileged and comic nature of the narrator and her time as she decides whether or not to agree to the request.

“I didn’t really know the Worths, but I didn’t like them. They were stuck up. Evander and Rhea went to the magnet school, and Becky and I went to Jeane Kirkpatrick…I fenced one bout against Rhea at Regionals. There was this new referee who mixed up the hand signal for Halt, and I got a totally BS yellow card for taking off my mask on the piste…Rhea won from the penalty hit. When I saw that trophy on their entertainment center I almost left.”

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The Best Story I Read in a Lit Mag This Week: “Letters Between Tortoise and Hare” by Brandi Wells

I’ve been in a bit of a slump lately, chaffing against my nine to five office job, weary of the routine and cadence of every week and weekend. It’s spring in New York, which doesn’t help, since all anyone wants to do is go sit in the sun somewhere with the company of a few friends, something cold to drink, and a snack from a nearby food truck. It’s a normal fatigue that will pass soon enough, but in the meantime I’ve been trying to shake myself out of it in the small ways that I can.

300And I seemed to have a stroke of good luck: the other day on my morning commute, I found Brandi Wells’s story “Letters Between Tortoise and Hare” in Paper Darts. The experience of reading it felt a little like being told to take the day off and go hang out in the park. The story surprised me—it’s energetic and fresh, with language that is simple and a premise I wasn’t expecting.

As you may have guessed from the title, the story is a retelling of the fable “The Tortoise and the Hare” and is made up of a series of ten short letters. Wells reimagines these characters in a possibly abusive romantic relationship, one where Hare seems to be trying to make a new life and Tortoise follows, at first innocently enough, but eventually Tortoise’s pursuit of Hare becomes sinister and controlling.

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The AWP13 Post You’ve Been Waiting For

CIMG1268No need to be coy. Step right up and behold: the pre-AWP13 post you’ve all been waiting for!

Now, some of you may already know that Ploughshares is based in Boston, the very city that will be teeming with hordes of AWP attendees in a matter of days. Much like zombies (who also come in hordes), AWP attendees want your brains…or at least what’s in them. To prevent a bloodbath, I’ve taken the liberty of picking the brains of AWP veterans to help you get the most out of AWP13.

But before we get to that, here are some other posts on the web you might want to check out to amp you up for the conference.

Onward to the advice!

From Matt Bell, author of In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woodsand Editor of The Collagist:

A lot of first-time AWP participants see it as an opportunity for networking, so let me offer this advice: Good networking probably isn’t what you’ve been told it is. It’s not business cards or sample chapters of your memoir, it’s not about platforms or Twitter followers or Klout scores. It’s certainly not hunting editors and publishers and MFA application readers like book fair big game. Good networking is genuine enthusiasm for others and for what those others care about or make.

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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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Innovators in Lit #5: Paper Darts

Paper Darts founders Jamie Millard, Regan Smith, and Meghan Suszynski are “taking back the lit scene, one lame pen and quill metaphor at a time.” Since 2009 Paper Darts has produced a reliably gorgeous magazine, and the organization recently expanded to include a press, which will soon publish its first title, John Jodzio’s Get In If You Want To Live, a collection of 19 stories accompanied by illustrations from 19 artists. Jamie, Regan, and Meghan were kind enough to chat about widening readerships for literary magazines, succeeding in a crappy economy, Minneapolis, and bringing the fun back into literature.

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