Artwork by Clinton McKay
From Jennifer Finstrom, Poetry Editor
This issue marked our first use of the Submittable tool. The obvious thing for me about using Submittable as an editor and not just a contributor is that I felt much more organized as I was preparing for the upcoming issue. But what I found really interesting: it's possible (and likely) that there is an easier way to do this, but regardless, I still had to get the poems that were selected for the issue out of Submittable and into a word document where I could play with the order. Cutting and pasting worked just fine, but the formatting of the poems seemed to change every time. This forced me to get right inside the poems and change line breaks, create indents, etc., so that the poems once more looked like the original submissions. And, as a result, I feel that I know all of these poems—and poets—much better than I might have otherwise done. I feel that I had a first hand look at why the poet might have chosen to make a line break here rather than there, for example. And while it was a bit more work, I feel much the better for it.
In the issue itself, we have some great work from several familiar names, Bob Bradshaw among them. In Bradshaw's poem "My Father the Poet," the narrator writes about his father's desire to write a poem for his mother: "You had never asked for help. / You had never written a poem, / just as I had once never hammered /a dock together." Bradshaw has quite a bit of work in our archives, and I think that I can almost say that this one is my favorites of his. In the "Three Suburban Sonnets" of Ray Nayler, who is a new voice to Eclectica, we see how the sonnet's traditional form can house such things as "your mom undressing in the afternoon," "paper plates and camp utensils," and "friendship bracelet tanlines." I am endlessly fascinated with how the genres and forms that had particular conventions in the past are so adaptable to other times, places, and audiences.
In other news, I wanted to give a shout out to former Spotlight Poet, Heather Styka. On her website you can learn more about what the singer/songwriter has been up to since having her poems featured in Vol. 13 No. 4. Listen to her music, read her travel blog, and maybe see where you could catch a show.
From Anne Leigh Parrish, Fiction Editor
Readers and writers might not have changed, but the world in which they find one another has—dramatically. Many writers self-publish and use social media to find their readers. As a result, readers can be confused about who's worth taking a chance on and who isn't. Bookstores used to fill the role of introducing readers to writers, and they still do, but far less now that Amazon has changed the landscape entirely. One thing hasn't changed, and that's the role of editor. We're still here, culling the best from what comes our way, and giving it to you with our heartfelt thanks for trusting us with your time. As spring chases out a drearier season, and the world reveals its elemental beauty, the stories in this issue return us to places we've known but may not have visited for a while. How glad we are to be reminded about the human condition and its many wondrous traits.
Our Spotlight author, Grant Faulkner, lifts the art of flash fiction to the level of genius. The separate pieces that make up "Eight Takes" show us an aging filmmaker, his world, and the lives of people around him in a frank, sometimes unflattering, but never unkind light. Holly Teresa Baker's view of humanity is equally keen and unvarnished as she presents a number of different lives under the same roof in "One Night in The Comfort Inn." With a blunt yet endearing narrator, Nico Vreeland drops us down on a remote Pacific island in the company of three men on a mission to find a creature no one has ever seen in "Hide, or Don't Exist." "Delicate Shards," by Carla Dow, brings heartache and loneliness to the fore in the experience of a 13-year-old-girl who doesn't fit in. Later in the issue, the narrator of her "The Milkmaid" knows little of laughter but a lot about fear, unhappiness, and subjugation. The protagonist in Grant Flint's "In Real Life" is at the other end of time, an 80-year-old man who believes quite firmly that truth is more important than fiction. Emily Burke returns us to the agony of adolescence and young love in her story "Creeping Charlie." "The Church of Laughter" by Jeremy Schliewe is an impromptu and unexpected romp through the power of mirth, comic relief, and the not-always desired outcome of organizing and restraining their expression. We close with a novella by William Reese Hamilton, Ashes to Ashes We All Fall Down, where the vestiges of British colonial life in the south Pacific are swept away by the winds of World War Two, and a group of people interned by the Japanese find welcome relief when a newcomer diverts them with story upon story.
I hope you enjoy these stories as much as I enjoyed discovering them. Happy Spring!
From David Ewald, Nonfiction Editor
This issue's nonfiction section offers both the familiar and the new. On one hand we have the work of Jascha Kessler, who has been contributing to Eclectica far longer than I have been editing it, and Bobbi Lurie, who continues the saga of her teenage son in "Kids Like Him." But we also have the first-ever appearance of Pushcart Prize-nominees Shiv Dutta and Laura Story Johnson, who have given us "A Magical Evening" and "Sins of Our Fathers" respectively. The latter is just as wrenching as Lurie's piece, though in a different way, and Dutta's work provides a nice counterpoint to Kessler's reminiscence in "A Memorable Fancy."
I'd write more, but I must admit I am suffering from Baby Brain, and it won't be long now before a diaper or a feeding beckons. That'll have to be it for now, readers. Enjoy.
From Tom Dooley, Managing and Fiction Editor
As Jennifer Finstrom mentions above, this issue is a bit of a departure for us, or it's an arrival, depending on one's perspective. We've made the jump to Submittable, and so far it looks like we're going to be a better publication for it. On the plus side for our authors, they can now have some assurance that their work isn't going to disappear down some email glitch wormhole, as has unfortunately been the case in the past. It's also nice that we can put to rest the often contentious issue of simultaneous submissions. We're accepting them now, with the idea that if authors are willing to pay the nominal submission fee, then they're probably going to treat their "sim subs" with a little more care than some unscrupulous authors have before. So far, this has proven to be the case. A few authors have complained about the fee, and I'm sympathetic to their arguments, but in the end, the fee is necessary if we're going to have the tool, and the tool is necessary if we're going to move forward as a publication. We're charging enough to break even, and if there are any extra funds accumulated over time, they will go towards a cash prize in a future issue.
Other positive changes: Elise Pfau has joined our staff as our design/art editor. Her first contribution was to bring us the abstract artwork of Clinton McKay, and his striking images have jazzed up this issue considerably. I look forward to seeing what impacts Elise has, not just when it comes to finding great art and artists, but perhaps also in helping us to evolve the look of the magazine itself, and to extend our reach into other regions of the web.
Along those lines, since the January issue was released, we've been expanding our social media presence on Facebook and Tumblr. I'm particularly excited about the "conversations" with our contributors that we've featured on our Tumblr blog in the last couple months. Our fiction editor, Anne Leigh Parrish, has carried the bulk of the load, publishing informal interviews with Benjamin Henry DeVries, Lou Gaglia, Thomas Kearnes, g.c. cunningham, Alex Shishin, Jonathan Sapers, and Nahid Rachlin, but I did get into the act myself with conversations with former interview editor Elizabeth P. Glixman and long-time Salon, fiction, and nonfiction contributor Stanley Jenkins. Notice of new conversations (they go up roughly every week or so) will be posted to our Facebook page.
Turning to this issue, our spotlight author, Grant Faulkner, headlines what I feel is one of our strongest fiction sections in a long time. Not to detract from any single piece of fiction in previous issues, but taken as a whole, there seems to be some extra, intangible spark flowing through this current (no pun intended!) batch of stories. Whether it's Submittable, or Tumblr, or just the fact that another winter is giving way to warm spring afternoons, it's gratifying to feel like, after 17 years, we're still breaking new ground.
A quick mention of what some of our past contributors have been up to: David Massengill has a short story collection, Fragments of a Journal Salvaged from a Charred House in Germany, 1816, available for Kindle on Amazon. Dolan Morgan recently helped to start a new lit journal, The Atlas Review, which launched its first issue at Housing Works in NY in February. He also had a pretty cool illustrated story published in Australia's killer journal, The Lifted Brow. Finally, some celebrated work of long-time contributor Julia Braun Kessler, whose loss we have mourned for nearly a year now, can be found on a website devoted to her four Jane Austen sequels. I urge our readers to check them out.
Before I sign off, I'd be remiss if I didn't extend yet another invitation for anyone interested in joining our staff to drop me a line. We're still looking for a review and/or interview editor, a travel editor, a humor editor, a webmaster/technical editor, and anyone else who'd like to help in some capacity as yet undetermined.
Well, there you have it. Vol. 17, No. 2. Here's wishing everyone a great summer!