From Tom Dooley, Managing and Fiction Editor
Thanks to those readers who are joining us for another issue—this one to close out year number sixteen. Sometimes it's a challenge (and an accomplishment!) just being able to hang in there and tread water. Sometimes, as in athletics, it's necessary to rebuild or reload. This issue represents a little of both of those scenarios, although in many ways it also exceeds both. We're still looking for a number of new editors (review, interview, copy, design) to join the team. I'll be honest—the money isn't too good (there isn't any), and you're not going to get too much fame out of the gig, either, but there's a weird kind of satisfaction, bordering on masochism, that comes from putting many unpaid hours into building something that doesn't actually exist outside of the virtual world of the Internet. Believe me, after 16 years, I'm feeling abundantly satisfied myself. Surely there are some of you out there that would like to share in these riches? If so, please drop me a line.
The editors we have on board are doing fine work. Hats off to David Ewald, who has put together a nifty set of nonfiction pieces this go round. Jennifer Finstrom continues to bring us a nice mix of returning contributors and new voices—who we hope will also become regulars. Anne Leigh Parrish was instrumental in building the fiction section with me, one headlined by our Spotlight Author, PD Mallamo, whose story "Heralds of a Fallen World" is reminiscent of another great road story originating in Idaho, A. Ray Norsworthy's "All the Way to Grangeville."
Two of the stories in this issue came out of a flash fiction contest collaboration between Eclectica and Circalit. The deal was that Anne and I would select the top three entries and publish the first place finisher. In the end, Anne's favorite was "Bus Stop Blues" by Steve Monger, and my favorite was "Summer" by Hunter Liguore. Rather than fight it out, we declared a tie for first place and are publishing both. Third place honorable mention goes to Judith Burzell for her story "Home Safe." Many thanks to Rob Tucker and the other folks at Circalit for giving us the opportunity to read these entries.
Some quick news about former contributors... Ethel Rohan's collection of 40 short-short stories, Goodnight Nobody, will be published by Queen's Ferry Press in September, 2013. John Givens has just published a paperback edition and an e-book version of his short story collection, The Plum Rains, with The Liffey Press in Ireland. Two stories included in the book appeared originally in Eclectica: "The Emptiness Monk" (Jan/Feb 2010) and "The Narrow Road to Dewa" under the title "The Black Feathers Road" (July/August 2010).
I'd also like to give a little shout out to Ofi Press, whose latest issue is now online with work from the UK, Ireland, Mexico, Nigeria and Botswana. The founder, Jack Little, was kind enough to interview me this past summer.
From Jennifer Finstrom, Poetry Editor
Creating the poetry section for this final issue of the year was, in some respects, no different from my past experiences. And by that I mean all of the wonderful things that the reading period consists of: reading great work, yes, but also reading the cover letters that the poets write to accompany their submissions, many of which are as interesting and well written as the poems themselves.
Additionally, and as I've mentioned before, it seems that in every issue I find thematic correspondences or recurring images between poems, and of course, this issue provided that for me as well. In this issue, I found myself noting the presence of birds and flight. In Jesse Minkert's "Another Dusk," he gives his murder of crows the ability to speak, and the poem ends with one crow calling out to the others, "The night is on the air. / ...Our fledglings soon will fly." A "mother eagle" swoops through Mary Marie Dixon's "If you Are Western" along with "loud scrub jays and cold nights." In Deborah Schwartz's "For My Sister," the poem's speaker confides in us: "My wings unfold / bringing me deeper and deeper into myself." And this should tell us that while wings—like poems—are meant to carry us far, they also carry us to places within ourselves and within our own memories.
One final thing: as I made these selections, I recognized past contributors—including former Spotlight Authors Jashca Kessler, Kathleen Kirk, and Ray Templeton—and welcomed several new voices. I wanted to repeat what Tom said in his own note: I hope these new voices will soon become regulars.
From Anne Leigh Parrish, Fiction Editor
The season changes, and our eye is drawn to autumnal color, lower skies, or the flight of migratory birds. In the stories we chose for this issue, our eye is also drawn in a number of directions—into the past, an imaginary future, and in some cases straight down into the human soul. The tales here are told by an observer who stands at a distance and makes sense of what is seen. Others are the voices of those in the thick of it, trying to unravel the ways of evil versus good. PD Mallamo's "Heralds of A Fallen World" grabs us right off with its bluntness and scenes of madness so striking, so painful, that we want to look away and can't. "The Handyman," by Greg Forshaw, gives us a widower who finds the corpse of a young woman on the job and tends to her so lovingly and tenderly that she returns to life, thereby mending his broken heart and deeply stirring ours. We admire how the insightful narrator of I.O. Echeruo's "Aishatu's Dinner" draws us down her line of sight to the world of power and ambition, full of smiles and handshakes, but also quite unexpectedly small, barely visible signs of love. We choose "Summer" as one of two first-place stories in Circalit's Flash Fiction Contest for the way author Hunter Liguore brings into view a past life imagined by an archeologist in a lovely, peaceful frame of mind, only to be thrown suddenly into a desperate moment of catastrophe. Steve Monger's "Bus Stop Blues," our other first-place winner, lets us glimpse normal life through the eyes of a troubled young man and makes us yearn for his salvation. "The General" by Penelope Gristlefink depicts a future where people seek revenge and justice just as they might today, yet under circumstances so harsh that the ability of the 14-year-old narrator to preserve her own humanity moves us profoundly. We conclude with "Grave Robbers" by Jerry McGahan, a story we love for its exploration of compassion in a world run on power and greed, and underscored by the danger of expressing any opinion that goes against established doctrine. These stories are strong, daring, and brave. Their authors don't shy away from passion, pain, or ugly truths. Rather, they meet them with open eyes and open hearts. We hope you will, too.
From David Ewald, Nonfiction Editor
While finalizing the nonfiction section for this issue, it occurred to me just how much an editor's life can be reflected in his or her choices. I saw myself in Sarah Suzuki's "Meditations on Wanda"; I too had a volatile caregiver (in my case, an elementary school teacher) whose emotions would switch from warm to cold and back to warm again in rapid and unpredictable succession. Reading Alisa Sniderman's "Remembrance of Things Past: A Visit to Orhan Pamuk's Museum of Innocence," I was reminded of my own time wandering the streets of Istanbul, shortly before the eponymous museum opened for the first time.
I hadn't intended a mini-museum theme, but that's what we have with Sniderman's piece and Bobbi Lurie's "My Son Works in the Museum of Intolerance," the latter bringing to mind thoughts of my impending fatherhood, and of how we do everything in our power to protect our children, regardless of the challenges. Finally, the debate over the death penalty is handled deftly and unusually in Diane Mierzwik's "Checking Out," a piece in which I found many of my own feelings toward mortality.
I hope you enjoy reading the pieces in this issue's nonfiction section as much as I enjoyed selecting them.