Image courtesy of British Library Photostream
From Tom Dooley, Managing and Fiction Editor
In June, the Submittable newsletter, Submishmash Weekly, had a single-line mention that Eclectica Magazine was looking for fiction, nonfiction, humor, etcetera. We didn't know they were going to do it, and at first we had no idea where the sudden deluge of extra submissions were coming from. There was even some question as to whether or not we were being spammed. But no, they were real submissions, and in fact, there were a lot of really, really good ones. So, a big thanks to Rachel Mindell and Submishmash for bringing us this bountiful harvest, which we are in turn handing over to you, our readers.
Bountiful is one way to describe this issue. Another would be to say it's a summer blowout. As part of the festivities, I'm happy to announce we're upping the prize money for our Spotlight authors, who will now receive $50 each. We're still naming one winner and two runners-up, but all three will receive the same remuneration. The truth is, it's nearly impossible sometimes to agree if a poet's work is more remarkable in the realm of poetry than a fiction writer's work is in the realm of short stories, or a memoirist's work is in the realm of nonfiction. We still wanted to keep the Spotlight, though, and while we considered the idea of naming three Spotlight authors each issue, in the end we felt doing so would take us down a slippery slope to socialism. Or at least, it would be a departure from tradition we weren't willing to take.
David Vardeman was ultimately selected for the Spotlight on the strength of his novella Pariah, which impressed me as a piece of work reminiscent of To Kill a Mockingbird. There are many things to love about Pariah, from the light-infused imagery to the vividly realized characters, the beautiful prose... one thing that might not jump out at the reader, given how organically it plays out, is the structure by which Vardeman unfolds his story. I really loved this little masterpiece, as I did the other 12 entries in this issue's fiction section, every one of them something special. If you have the time, I'd recommend reading the entire section—indeed, the entire issue—in order from "cover" to "cover." I sincerely believe you'll be blown away by the quality of writing represented therein.
Time won't permit me to discuss all the work in the fiction (and humor!) sections I was involved in selecting, but I would like to mention Melissa Lewis-Ackerman's story "What Happened on Brandt Street," because I want to reinforce a few of my "rules" in the face of my breaking them. As a general rule, I refuse to publish fiction about fiction—or fiction with writers as their protagonists—in the same way I'm not interested in poetry about poetry, movies about making movies, etcetera. Even when done well (i.e., the film Adaptation), the whole thing tends to be tedious and self conscious and "meta" as heck. As another general rule, I avoid stories about sexual abuse—not because those stories shouldn't be told, but because, like stories about the Holocaust or cancer or 9/11, it takes an exceptional writer to avoid the many pitfalls of taking on a topic like that, and because so many exceptional writers have already mined the material to death. "Brandt Street" has a writer and victim of incestuous child molestation as its protagonist, and (ack!) she's an editor at a lit mag, too. It's a testament to Ms Lewis-Ackerman that I was forced to bow to another, much less employed rule, which is to break the rules when you have no choice.
With each editor's note, I try to provide some updates on what our alumni have been up to lately in the world of publishing. In keeping with the BIG nature of this issue, I have a lot of news!
First, longtime and prolific contributor Stanley Jenkins, whose latest hybrid of fiction, poetry, memoir, and sermon is represented in the Salon section, has a new book out, Down the Plymouth Road, which is a sequel to A City on a Hill. Stan and I shared a conversation recently, which is up on his publisher's website. If for some reason you enjoy that conversation, you might want to take a look at an earlier one we did.
Chaya Bhuvaneswar's debut short story collection, White Dancing Elephants, is due out from Dzanc Books this coming October and available for pre-order now. It presents stories of the #MeToo movement from the diverse perspectives of women of color and LBGTQ women. It also features willful androids, strange orphanages, 16th century Indian-Portuguese slaves who outwit their captors, and the Buddha's birth story. Jamie Ford, NYT-best selling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, called Elephants "A magnificent collection of stories that defy conventions, stereotypes, and reveal the universal complexity we all share as humans—gifted and flawed individuals, who struggle to reconcile the mixed signals of our own hearts."
Former Fiction Editor Anne Leigh Parrish's new novel The Amendment ("nuanced, witty, and insightful, exploring the fetters of family and community that prove impossible to escape") came out last month, and Stephen Bett just released his 22nd book, Back Principles: a book of spiritual fatigue, which is "a serial poem, 'minimalist' in its poetics, and subtle enough to sustain repeated readings." Joanell Sera is launching her her novel, The Vines We Planted the first chapter of which she read at the San Francisco Hoopla last summer, and longtime contributor Jascha Kessler has a new, 500 page book of essays called Essays available on Amazon. And Ryan Blacketter let us know his novel Down in the River was re-released this summer. You can buy it on Amazon or even better, straight from the publisher.
If you're looking for something to augment your book reading, check out Sticks & Stones, Erica Goss's bi-monthly newsletter, and dedicated to poetry, reading and literature. Also GK Wuori's Cold Iron. Also Eli Cranor's recurring column in Russellville, Arkansas' Courier News, From the Pocket.
Want to forego reading altogheter? If you enjoyed Jennifer Finstrom's review of Jesse Minkert's book Rookland, check out the Official Rookland Release Show, featuring L. Swartz, Robert P. Kaye, and Jesse Minkert.
If there's something you think our readers and family of writers ought to know about, please don't hesitate to drop me a line. I'll either add it to this note, include it in the note for the next issue, or give it a shout out on our Facebook pages. Meanwhile, enjoy this issue, and have a great summer!
From Gilbert S. Purdy, Review Editor
I'm delighted to welcome back one-time Interview Editor Carole Mertz to do a review of Mary Jo Bang's A Doll for Throwing. Matthew Wade Thomas appears in our pages for the first time with an essay on One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Hopefully, he will grace us with more work in the future. The section offers two more reviews from Eclectica's Poetry Editor, Jennifer Finstrom, letting the world know about recent volumes by Eclectica alumni Jesse Minkert and Kenneth Pobo. Thanks to Ann Skea, as always, for a raft of insightful reviews.
I would like to invite anyone who might read this to send along reviews of books, art, music, cultural organizations, companies and events—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 expanding 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
From David Ewald, Nonfiction, Travel, and Miscellany Editor
"You must treat us like children," a literary agent I worked for once told me. He was referring to the angle a writer (in this case: me) must take in order for his or her work to succeed with an audience (the aforementioned "children"). At the time I didn't consider the agent's advice, but it was brought back to me upon reading "Isms of the World: A Guide for Children." Of course, Spotlight Runner-Up Larry Smith doesn't intend actual children to be his audience, but perhaps, through his humorous, cutting, and all-too-current primer, he is making a point: as readers, we are all children, with a lot left to learn.
I had plenty of submissions to read this latest go-around; hence there are a few more pieces in the Nonfiction section than there usually are. I found each one engaging and unique, and, in the case of Mark Stein's "The Hidden District," pleasantly challenging. You want epic memoir expertly evoking the late 1950s / early 1960s French-Algerian political situation and French cuisine? We have it here (V.K. Reiter's "Fine Dining"). More in the mood for a brief psalm-like piece of poetic beauty? We have that too (Joni Renee's "To Eat With Her Hands"). We even have an essay about the history of Australia's response to the immigrants who would call the Land Down Under home ("Send Back Any Bastard"); at times I felt Jamie Derkenne could have been writing about my own country, about many of the world's nations now.
I couldn't resist a story about a dog and its inadvertent owner lost in a foreign country (Aaron Dorman's "Onya's Korean Adventure"), and I was delighted to see the fantastic Michael Milburn return, this time with an essay on a subject that has plagued many a writer ("On Envy"). All in all, this summer 2018 Nonfiction section is bursting with goodness.
That's not to downplay the awesomeness to be found in the Travel and Miscellany sections. Nektaria Petrou ("Ice Cream in Antioch") and Cynthia McVay ("Deities of Sicily") take us to places I have not yet been to in the pages of Eclectica, and for Miscellany, two works of drama, "B-Side Man" by Alonzo LaMont, Jr. and "Death: A Play" by Tina Cabrera, prove that, as Seneca said, plays are to be read. I would add that these two plays need to be read; they say much about where we are going as humans.
And on that note, I take my leave of you. Keep cool. It's only going to get hotter.