[writing prompt] the misconceived history story :: Marisela Navarro


In the Misconceived History story in “A Public Denial” by Allan Gurganus (published in the anthology Flash Fiction: 72 Very Short Stories) the narrator attempts to restore his deceased grandfather’s dignity by challenging rumors that his grandfather’s death was the result of his own foolhardiness.

The story opens with this line:

Despite persistent rumors to the contrary, my grandfather did not die driving a Toyota across his pond.

The story resembles a persuasive essay; the narrator uses transition words such as “despite,” “while,” “admittedly,” and “evidently” to compose his argument. What I love about the story is how Gurganus uses no emotion to tell it, just the facts, yet it still carries an emotional impact. For a story that spans only two pages, I find this remarkable. Continue reading

[marginalia] Saying Goodbye To My Novel :: Marisela Navarro


I worked on my novel for six years, on and off.  I completed and revised several drafts.  Something was wrong with it, but I didn’t know what.  My whole body went into it.  My fingers, shoulders, knees, eyes.  It grew, seed to forest.  I gave it a name.  I forgot about it.  I cared, I didn’t.  Nothing was so serious.  I avoided it.  These are all the places I traveled to throughout the years I said I was writing a novel:  Puerto Rico, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Florida, Jamaica, Maryland, California, Texas, North Carolina, Illinois, Virginia, France, New York, New Hampshire, Nevada, New Zealand, Colorado, New Mexico, Maine.  I wrote the most in Massachusetts.  Other things I did that come to mind first, without thinking:  painted walls, moved apartments, tried on wedding dresses, ate sushi, jumped rope, had dreams of lovers dying. Continue reading

[marginalia] The Literary Slacker :: Jen Pieroni

Reality Bites

This post is part of our ongoing web series MARGINALIA about all things writing, reading, & learning. To submit your own experience, please read our guidelines.

I knew I was actually going to finish Danceland when I kept drafting it even though I’d already realized that the structure was all wrong. Being of the “slacker generation” (see film: Reality Bites), I don’t believe I had ever before exemplified the stick-to-itiveness to see a failing project through. (See unfinished novel: Fishtival). Why did I bother this time? Because I really, really wanted it. Continue reading

draft @ Mission Creek Book Fair, April 6, Iowa City


Saturday, April 6 from 11-6 we’ll be at The Mill in downtown Iowa City for the Mission Creek Book Fair. Come and see us along with a horrendously awesome line-up of other presses and magazines including Graywolf Press, Third Man Records, POETRY Magazine, Coffeehouse Press, Sarabande Books, Curbside Splendor, Buzzfeed, Zyzzyva, Black Ocean, The Iowa Review, Birds LLC, Spork Press, Ugly Duckling Presse, Forklift, Ohio, Hobart, [PANK] Magazine, Rescue Press, H_NGM_N, Wag’s Revue, A Strange Object, Graze, Canarium, MAKE Magazine, cookNscribble, Tiny Hardcore Press.

And definitely check out the entire weekend line-up of music and literature on the Mission Creek 2014 website.

[marginalia] The Art of Knowing When Two Things Might Actually Be One :: Aaron Burch


Simplyvinyl Photography

This last year, for the first time, my university’s introductory creative writing classes were multi-genre. In fact, I taught Intro CW at two different universities, and both were multi-genre. This meant, for the first time, I taught poetry. I started the semester with poetry, thinking we’d start with the small and grow into reading and writing longer pieces. I also liked the idea of ending with the more familiar instead of starting with it but then having to leave it behind.


In what is something of a lucky chance of timing, this last year I have begun writing and publishing poetry myself. For a long time, I teased my poet friends, made fun of the genre—in part out of a kind of “siding with the home team,” us-against-them sports mentality as a prose writer; and in part for the reasons many often struggle with poetry: it seemed frustratingly coy, or like it was smarter than me, or that I just didn’t get it. In the classroom, I am rarely less than overly candid, and so I led with my own biases but also my recent excitement: I have come to be ever more excited by poetry in only the last six months, so let’s all be excited!

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All-Fiction Issue 4

Issue 4

Issue 4 is here! We hustled to get it done in time for AWP 2014 in Seattle, and it came straight from the presses the day before we boarded our cross-country flights to the 11,000-writer extravaganza and sprawling bookfair. Thanks to everyone who stopped by our table and picked up a copy or subscription.

We’re really proud of this issue that features fantastic stories by David James Poissant (an old MFA classmate who has his first collection just out!), Helen Phillips (whose flash collection And Yet They Were Happy we loved), and Amy Bloom (Amy Bloom!!!!!!!!!!).

And look at that cover. Look at it! We love the artwork by Mark Vollenweider that features an image from Helen Phillips’ story in this issue.

If you’re teaching a fiction workshop this fall, this issue would be a great resource for your revision unit (if we do say so ourselves).

And what’s that? You say you’d like to buy an issue? It’s so easy. Just visit our website.

On the horizon: perhaps you’ll be seeing us in The Boston Globe soon. That’s right. Keep your eyes peeled.

And looking ahead to our next issue, we have an all-poetry issue planned that will be edited by the wildly talented duo of Lisa Ciccarello and Donald Dunbar.

Thanks, as ever, for your support!


photo by Anna Bodnar

photo by Anna Bodnar

Tweet. Waft. Other than bird-twitter, silence. Other than a hint of warm air drifting from the bougainvillea beyond my window, stillness. Used dishes in the sink, on the counter, and I’m avoiding them. Financial papers sitting in a drawer, overdue, and I’m not tackling them now. A perfect afternoon for writing and dreaming and listening.

I am listening for voices. Today I’m staring at my laptop thinking about my protagonist, who’s escaped a difficult situation to find herself in even greater peril (though she doesn’t yet know this). I’m also imagining her associate (snippy, one-upping) and her antagonist (calm, inscrutable). But I am not sure what to do next. I close my eyes. I cannot hear either one of them. So I begin distracting myself trying to imagine another scene (I want to get from A to B, but how?), or maybe the next scene after that (my protagonist’s new quest partner appears—but in what way?). But I don’t envision those scenes clearly either. For a while I suppose I can’t hear these characters because, well, I don’t actually know some of them very well, so of course they appear hackneyed and melodramatic—I need to believe in them and their desires, which must seem very reasonable and necessary, in order to make them real, and right now my protagonist-antagonist dynamic appears really straightforward and obvious and dull…

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image by Catherine Nelson

Some of those terrible writing books that use the word “inspired” a lot probably advised me to wake up early and write poems with the sun rising at the cock’s crow. That type of thing. For a time, I tried this in earnest. It did not work, and, looking back now, it’s certainly possible that going to bed at 3:23am every night wasn’t part of the regime they were prescribing.

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