Photography by Lydia Selk
From Tom Dooley, Managing and Fiction Editor
It's the summer of 2015. The world will look back at this moment in history and think of the Greek debt crisis, the church shooting in South Carolina and subsequent removal of the Confederate flag from their State House flagpole, Donald Trump's Mexican rapists comments, the Supreme Court legalizing gay marriage and preserving the Affordable Care Act once again, the nuclear arms agreement with Iran, President Obama singing "Amazing Grace"... I'm composing this while sitting in an exit row on a Southwest Airlines flight to Los Angeles. The big family vacation this year is a long weekend in California, which will give us a couple days to connect with friends in LA and a couple more to see family in San Diego.
Somehow, in the midst of a bevy of challenges in my life at the moment (some self-imposed, I'll admit), this issue has taken shape, and I anticipate I'll be able to post it for all to read and enjoy later this evening or early tomorrow, more or less on time by Eclectica standards. For those who have been waiting patiently for this day to see your poems, stories, essays, and reviews (and photographs!) come to life in our "pages," thank you not just for your patience, but for your help in making this publication the vibrant collection of work it is.
Lydia Selk has certainly done her part in that regard, contributing remarkable images like the one above. I encourage everyone to visit her Flikr page and check out the thousands of beautiful photos to be seen there.
As our Poetry Editor Jennifer Finstrom points out below, she has been with us for ten years now as an editor (that ought to be worth a complimentary lapel pin or something—I'll need to talk to HR!), and as she also mentions, as a regular contributor for years before that. In fact, Jennifer was a Spotlight Author herself back in January of 2000.
I think of Eclectica as a community as well as a publication, and it's gratifying to see people coming back again and again over the years, some of them joining the staff as Jennifer did, and indeed, as Gil, David, and Anne have done. Other folks have achieved contributor emeritus status, like Tom Hubschman, Jascha Kessler, Bill Hamilton, Ann Skea, Bob Bradshaw, and Barbara De Franceschi, to name a few, who between them have been in a combined 207 issues.
It's also exciting to think about what the future holds for newcomers like our Spotlight trio: winner Courtney Gustafson in Poetry, Runners-up Ahsan Butt in fiction and John Sheehy in nonfiction. Or Roxie Faulkner Kirk, or Rachel Dakus, or the dozen other authors making their Eclectica debut with this issue.
The plane is making its turn to line up for our approach to LAX. Before I wrap this up, I do want to offer congratulations to Lale Davidson, who made the Wigleaf top 50 (very) short fictions of 2015.
Here's to a great summer and another solid issue!
From Gilbert S. Purdy, Review Editor
I think it is fair to say that this is the best overall review section since I have taken over. Thanks, as always, to Ann Skea for her many fine reviews and especially her review of On The Move by Oliver Sachs in this issue. Welcome to two new reviewers: Cameron Murphy and Dike Okoro. The authors reviewed in this issue range from the U.S. to the Indian subcontinent to South Africa. The review section offers reviews of eBooks again this issue. I intend to do a column of short eBook reviews each issue along with some insight and commentary about aspects of the electronic publishing world.
I would like, as always, to invite anyone who might read this to send along reviews of books, art, music, cultural organizations, companies and event—local, regional, national, and international—and cultural crit pieces on the same. Feel free to do so as a one—off or more or less regularly as works for you. I look forward to continue to expand the Review/Interview Section during the months ahead, to include a wide range of lively, insightful (even quirky) cultural crit. I hope you will stop by to read and/or submit.
From Jennifer Finstrom, Poetry Editor
Welcome to the third issue of the 19th year of Eclectica! Not only are we fast coming up on our 20th year, this is actually my tenth year as Eclectica's poetry editor, and I can honestly say that few things have brought me as much delight as the poems I have read and the poets I have met through those words. Before becoming poetry editor, I was a regular contributor to the Word Poem Special Feature, which was started in 2001 by Julie King, and one of my favorite things about this issue is the fact that the word poem section is nearly as big as the regular poetry section—there is actually only one poem difference between them in size.
What really fascinates me about the word poem section in general is that there is no end to the different uses that poets can find for the same set of words. I try to make sure that at least one or two of the four words can be used in multiple ways—for example, "hollow" was one of this issue's words, and it functions happily as a noun, verb, adjective, and adverb. The one word that definitely didn't seem to be as versatile to me this time was "azalea," but if you do find yourself wanting to know what it might be like to azalea, take a look at Elizabeth Kerper's lovely poem, "Using Azalea as a Verb." One nuance of that meaning that she explores is "Or maybe it would mean playing / our basement games, we sisters and cousins / becoming orphans and runaways, / whole worlds imagined with all the grownups evil / or vanished." And after you read the poem, perhaps you will also have an idea of what it means for you to "azalea."
I always like to hear of the many successes our past and present contributors are having, and as usual, this issue has great news to share from two past contributors. Ellen Kombiyil's Histories of Future Perfect was published this year by The (Great) Indian Poetry Collective, and you can find it on their website and elsewhere. Kombiyil's poetry has appeared in several past issues of Eclectica, most recently in 2012, and we are honored that two of those poems appear in her book. Mark Magoon, whose work appeared in Eclectica exactly one year ago, has a book coming out from ELJ Press in September. The Upper Peninsula Misses You also contains work that appeared in Eclectica and is described on the press's website as "a book of poems that tells an unpitying family tale with brutal sympathy—a narrative that is fractured by semi-historical acts or section breaks." I hope you'll check out these poets' work—and share your own successes with us!
As always, I think this is a great issue, and I hope you enjoy it! Happy reading to all!
From Anne Leigh Parrish, Fiction Editor
I've been writing fiction for a long time, and I still wonder just what it is that makes a short story successful. It's a combination of many things, of course, like craft, imagery, voice, setting, and so on. Yet a short story can do well in all of those areas and still fail—still be blah, for want of a better term. What do I look for when I read submissions for Eclectica? What do I try to do when I write a story of my own? I want fiction that makes me feel something, that wakes up some part of me I haven't been in touch with for a while. I want to be startled, maybe even a little rattled. I want to have to think twice about what I've just read.
In "The Salvation of Ruby Kae McKeever" by Roxie Faulkner Kirk, a young girl is swept away by wanting to join her high school's Swing-Singer group and express the passion and joy she feels after watching them perform. A more somber tone is struck in Kirie C. Pedersen's "The Executioners" when a young woman joins the crew of a rundown vessel bound for Alaska right after the massive Exxon Valdez oil spill. Reality and reason suddenly skew in a bizarre encounter between the protagonist and an unlikely stranger in "The Gardener" by Robert Garner McBrearty. Tables are turned when an artist falls for his model in Israel Okwuje's "Exfoliation" and then becomes the subject of study and scrutiny. Next, a young woman finds herself caring for a dying woman and is inspired by her courage and good humor even at the end in "Tasneem" by Ahsan Butt. We are made to feel the pain, loneliness, and the general malaise of an almost 30-something woman as she reflects on her life in Christopher S. Bell's "Some of The Above." Reality once again takes a sharp left turn into a place we've never been yet instinctively recognize in "Stillborn" by Eric Wilson. Ann Gilligan Bond then draws us inside the mind of a young man teetering on the edge as he navigates the attractions and perils of the opposite sex in "The Mermaid Effect." An ordinary life is probed with extraordinary insight in Timmy Johnson's "Thunderbird." And lastly, family life, a passion for music, and a need to honor a dead relative all weave together elegantly in "Second Fiddle" by Anna Ottman.
I'm confident each of these stories will stir something special within you. And, along with the amazing photographs provided by our guest artist, Lydia Selk, you're in for quite a treat.
From David Ewald, Nonfiction Editor
In the three years so far I've served as nonfiction editor for Eclectica Magazine, a lot of writing (and more than a few images) has come my way. Often this writing is good, and several pieces are outstanding. But this being nonfiction, I was reminded recently of the perils of working in the genre.
The creative writing instructor in Todd Solondz's 2001 film Storytelling tells his class, "I don't know about 'what happened'... because once you start writing, it all becomes fiction." As much as I'd like to believe that, I just can't. Nonfiction remains nonfiction, and unless you're very lucky or not a good writer, the truth of what you've written will stay on the page or on the screen long after you're gone. I believe there's truth in everything I've accepted for Eclectica's nonfiction section, and truth, in addition to great writing, is what I seek most of all.
But how to handle the truth? The handling of one's work is up to each author individually. I can only give an anecdote: not long before Solondz's Storytelling was released, I graduated college, and that year, in our undergrad literary magazine, I published a piece both funny and truthful. It was also a piece in which I let slip an unflattering nickname and description of someone from my hometown. When writing this piece, I didn't censor myself and certainly didn't think through potential audience. I just wrote; that is as it should be. But during the editing phase, getting eyes on it, even the eyes of family members, would have been helpful. After buying a copy and reading my work, my mother said something to the effect of, "Oh David, you better hope this person you've portrayed in an unflattering way, this person who's still alive and is living and working in our hometown, doesn't read this."
I'm not sure how many copies of that pre-9/11 literary magazine exist now. I suspect very few. It's possible that some day I'll be off the hook. Had I published on the Internet, I would never be off the hook.
My strong advice to writers submitting to the nonfiction section is to not only send something great, but to also make sure those you know and those you love will be okay with your work existing permanently, for all to view easily and instantly. Once Eclectica has published your piece, there's no taking it back; it becomes part of something I remind my students about on a monthly, if not weekly, basis: the digital footprint.
But enough of that. This issue offers up a mix of nonfiction led by Spotlight Author nominee John Sheehy's moving memoir of his mother's death and its aftermath, "To Thee Do We Cry." I was especially impressed with the way Mr. Sheehy pushed his narrative; by challenging the boundaries of how nonfiction can be read, Sheehy achieves something quite literary.
On the social media front, Eclectica Magazine's Twitter feed continues to attract, and if you haven't followed us yet get in on the action @EclecticaMag. Finally, I hope to post more interviews ala mine with Caroline Kepnes late last year; more Eclectica authors are seeing their novels and poetry collections released, and their voices can be read soon on our tumblr.