From Tom Dooley, Managing and Fiction Editor
Hello readers and contributors, and hello 2013! I'm looking forward to what the new year will bring, and more so than in recent years, I've decided to commit to some new year's resolutions of my own. Usually, I see resolutions as somewhat futile things. The only ones I've consistently kept were ones I made in reverse, like the time in my 20s when I made up my mind, mid-April, not to drink another drop of alcohol until New Years Eve, or the time in my 30s when I made a similar promise with regards to french fries. Those kinds of resolutions work better, I think, because there is a "sunset" date, kind of like the Bush tax cuts that are one of the subjects of the so-called "Fiscal Cliff" debate raging in Washington as I write this. Like Congress's dilemma, I too am considering questions of revenues and outlays, infrastructure and investments for the future, but unlike the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban (also a topical issue right now), or my alcohol and french fry sabbaticals, my current resolutions—if successful—won't have an expiration date.
I have personal goals, like finally re-tiling our kitchen's breakfast counter, or figuring out how to use Excel pivot tables at work, or somehow managing to buy that rental property down the street. With regards to Eclectica, I've decided to implement a submission service (Submittable, AWP's Submission Manager, etc.) this year, preferably in time for the April/May issue. I'm also finally setting up a Facebook page for the magazine to go with our Facebook "group" page. And while I haven't fully determined if nonprofit incorporation is right for us, I've taken some steps to move forward on that front as well.
For years, I've talked about my desire to turn Eclectica into a paying publication. There aren't a lot of viable ways to do this, but one that I'm considering is charging an entry fee. We'll need to charge something anyway to cover the cost of the submission service/software, and for a few dollars more, I think we could treat each issue like a miniature contest. Presumably, fewer people will submit if we're charging them $5 or $10 to do so, but perhaps the opportunity to "win" $50 or $100 for appearing in the next issue will motivate others. In the next couple weeks, I'll be talking this out with the other editors on staff, as well as longtime contributors and readers and anyone who is interested in adding to the discussion. The discussion will start on our Facebook page, but anyone is welcome to contact me directly if they have any advice or strongly held opinions.
By the way, we're still looking for a number of new editors (review, interview, copy, design) to join the Eclectica staff. If you're interested, or know someone who is, please contact us.
Former contributors Henry F. Tonn and Tim Hawkins relayed some good news. Henry's Remembrances of Wars Past: A War Veterans Anthology came out in October. It's a collection of 22 pieces of prose (fiction and nonfiction) and 23 poems from award-winning writers all over the United States and several foreign countries that provide a kaleidoscope of images from the American Civil War to the present conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Tim's book, Wanderings at Deadline, is available on Amazon, from Kelsay Books, and on Tim's personal website. I urge you to search them out if you're interested.
Happy New Year, and happy reading!
From Jennifer Finstrom, Poetry Editor
First of all, I would like to wish everyone a wonderful 2013! I'm looking forward to reading a lot of great poetry this year, and putting together the poetry section of this issue provided a good start. The Word Poem section—poems written to include four pre-chosen words—is thriving, and I hope that there will be even more submissions in the reading period for spring. In addition, we have several voices that are new to Eclectica in this issue, and there are two in particular that I wanted to mention because they both focus on different types of listening to the world around us. One of these poems, "Elephants" by Mihir Vatsa, is in the Word Poem section, and the other, "Paracusia" by Shannon Connor Winward, is in the regular poetry section. I will admit that I didn't know what "paracusia" meant when I first saw this poem. I read the poem first, and then I looked up the word, but even without knowing the word, Winward's poem spoke to me. In it, she writes that "Sometimes voices wake me from my dreams / and follow me throughout the day" and despite not knowing that paracusia is auditory hallucination, the poem drew me in with the old woman in the second stanza: "For Godssake, / she shouted. / Stop breathing." While this poem is about hearing things that we might not be able to help or stop, Vatsa's poem, on the other hand, is about hearing what is a part of one's history and what is not. He writes that, "In Hazaribagh, people don't hear the sound of a blizzard." What the people do hear is "stories of such elephants" that people might turn into "if someone did navigate up the stream" and that they "sing to the gods, who, / even after the failed consent of 1947, / did occasionally listen." In these poems—and in others in this issue as well—we are conscious of what we speak and what we hear—and of the unexpected that might be speaking or listening to us. I find myself keeping this idea in mind as I read through the poems in this issue again. In other news as a new year begins, there are glad tidings to share from one of our regular contributors. Antonia Clark has both a chapbook and a full-length collection coming out in the new year. Her chapbook, Smoke and Mirrors, will be published by Finishing Line Press in 2013, and the collection, Chameleon Moon, will be published by David Robert Books. I'm also very pleased to report that the title poem of Clark's collection was a Word Poem from the fall issue of 2009. I'm always happy to share the good news of contributors to Eclectica, so please let me know of your successes—of which I'm sure there will be many! And again, I am wishing you all the best of everything during the new year.
From Anne Leigh Parrish, Fiction Editor
A new year brings hope for a better life, a brighter future, a happier heart. Yet hope can be as elusive as it is eternal. The fictional characters in this issue know that perfectly well. They're not for the most part happy or at peace. They're restless, searching, and dissatisfied. Frustration and failure seem to reign. After meeting them, and learning about their lives, do we count our blessings or feel a greater depth of compassion? Maybe we must do both, which feels rather like standing right on the edge and looking up, then down, forward then back, and being grateful, as always, for the view.
Spoiler Alert! Skip the next paragraph if you haven't yet read this issue's fiction selections.
Our Spotlight author, Steven Schutzman, gives us a marvelous novella, Pablo, Pablito. Here we follow a few hours in the life of an ordinary young man and his uninvited female companion in a world informed by dreams so exquisitely rendered that it becomes a dream itself. "Search," by Nahid Rachlin, offers a different sort of dream, one shaped by hope and disappointment when two sisters travel abroad to look for the mother who abandoned them years before. Alex Shishin imbues "Death, Disorder, Demura" with a touch of wry humor, in which a teacher is asked to retire early as a gesture of apology for a colleague's suicide. Pride, fueled by the need to please a demanding mother, leads the protagonist of Victor Alao's "All Good Things Happen in Yankee" to take extreme measures to obtain much needed wealth, only to discover that the harm he endures will never be compensated. A man takes his dying father for a final drive in "The Last Highway" by Jonathon Sapers and discovers an important truth about the fate that awaits us all at the end of the road. The protagonist of "Fast, Cheap and Out of Control" by Thomas Kearnes knows little of hope or confidence, but much of loneliness and lust in a life fueled by drugs and jealousy so strong that there's only one inevitable outcome. "Exciting Times, Jim" by g c cunningham is like a letter to a now absent childhood friend, an invisible presence that occupies the mind of the narrator just as much, if not more, than the ordinary events he describes for him. The narrator of "Bridges" by Lou Gaglia is stuck in a life many of his peers have left behind. Unable to move forward the way he wants, with the woman he wants, he climbs bridges, a dangerous habit his girlfriend would demand he abandon if she knew the truth. Benjamin Henry DeVries' young narrator in "A Period Said As a Question Mark" is also limited—by the myopia of youth and his parents' failing marriage, which threaten not only his happiness, but success at the one activity he loves most. We close our fiction section with "Mock Epic," a witty, off-beat piece by Christine Hoffman that is also touching, sad, and heartfelt, and that reminds us again that we can need many things from many different people, and that sometimes acknowledging what we need from whom takes courage.
From David Ewald, Nonfiction Editor
For the past three issues now, since taking over as Eclectica's nonfiction editor, I have received submissions I refer to as academically-minded essays. Academically-minded essays, essays with both a literary and academic bent, essays that synthesize the work of, say, Czeslaw Milosz and Tomas Transtromer, have their place, and they may even have their place in Eclectica. However, I will confess that a piece of this nature that runs 3,000 words will be looked at more favorably than a similar piece of 6,000 words. Also, the most successful academically-minded essays would be those that involve the writer in some personal way. We see this carried out quite elegantly in "The Influence of Edna O'Brien." Its author, Paula McGrath, is herself a character in this piece. The pronoun "I" is used. When I think of engaging nonfiction written about literature, I think of Nicholson Baker's 1991 book U and I, in which the author's relationship to the literary giant John Updike is revealed in a warm and witty way.
As it's the New Year, there's been a lot of talk lately of running. In "How to Run 100 Miles," Gavin Austin teaches us a thing or two about going the distance, and he does so with a signature style.
I hope you enjoy these two pieces, as different as they are from one another.