Archive for September, 2009
Here’s my response to last week’s Meta Exercise. Since Julio Cortázar used a narrative piece of art, a novel, to construct his excellent short short. I thought I’d give myself a challenge and try to do the same thing with a less experiential sort of art, in this case, sculpture. Points to anyone who can identify the sculptor.
Inside the museum, she allowed herself to be politely interested in the art, the pale statues he loved so much, David twisting back his arm, a grim set to his mouth, Poseidon’s hand against Persephone’s thigh, hands sunk into the cool marble as if it were a marshmallow. He had arranged for this private trip to the museum; he had paid for their first class plane tickets to Rome, but that was to be expected.
At first, she’d found his attentions in the bar where she worked flattering but overwhelming. His lavish words and gifts masked a paucity of spirit, a blindness, an inability to admire things for anything more than the surface.
At his request, their guide left them in a small room at one corner of the museum. He had wanted to look at a particular sculpture, by themselves, in the quiet. Her... more »more »
Fringe: What was the inspiration for this piece?
Wyer: I end up using the toll tunnels around the Baltimore harbor quite a bit because of my job. I have EZ pass and that word, transponder, was so strange and stupid I knew I had to do something with it. That word, partnered with my fascination with “social” creatures led me to start thinking about ants and the tunnels we make as humans and how we are all just trying to communicate.
Fringe: How did you get into writing? How long have you been writing?
Wyer: I’ve been writing since about third grade. I was, and still am, a hungry reader. Reading drives me to write. I am back to writing fiction again; I finished my MFA in poetry this past May. Writing poetry has allowed me to enjoy fiction after years of anxiety about the form.
Fringe: Is this piece typical of your work?
Wyer: Yes and no. I have been having so much fun with flash and hybrid work that I don’t know if I have fully developed something I could call typical.
Fringe: Is Fringe your first publication?
Wyer: No. I have to say that working with Fringe... more »more »
Every June, tucked sneakily into envelopes containing final report cards, the dreaded Summer Reading List lies in wait to dampen any student’s end-of-year jubilation. Before they’ve even had a chance to start enjoying their summer vacations, that single sheet of paper gives kids yet another reason to dread returning in the fall.
When I read statistics like: “80 percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year,” or “nearly half of all Americans ages 18-24 read no books for pleasure,” or “from 1984 to 2004, the percentage of 13-year-olds who reported that they “read for fun” on a daily basis declined from 35% to 30%, and for 17-year-olds the decline was from 31% to 22%” , I get it. The truth of the matter is, unless it was required for school, most kids would go the entire summer without ever picking up a book.
But, to what degree does the SR list actually help in this matter? All my life, I’ve been an avid reader; and even I balked at mandatory SR. By the time I got to high school, I don’t think I read a single book on SR lists(thank you, Sparks Notes).
I read dozens of books of... more »more »
PBS recently announced that due to a lack of funding, it would be canceling Reading Rainbow, the beloved show that has been encouraging kids to read for over a quarter of a century. Notwithstanding what this means in terms of literacy and reading advocacy, the news came as a blow to my generation, as we grew up with LeVar Burton encouraging us to “take a look, it’s in a book.” In fact, nearly every “library” class in elementary school entailed my class grabbing tiny butt-sized mats to sit on and gathering in front of the tv, letting LeVar work his magic while our school librarian sat back and relaxed. Our friends over at Vernacular have put together a tribute to the show, with posts celebrating favorite childhood books during their Ode to Reading Rainbow week.
However, not everyone was saddened by the program’s death knell–check out what LeVar himself had to say about the announcement: “For 26 years, I’ve told kids they could open a magical door to another world just by reading a book, when the only door it ever opened for me led to a soul-sucking career in the horrifying abyss of public television.”
Ok, so maybe he didn’t actually say... more »more »
Last week I neglected the blog due to a family emergency, but this week I’m back with a short-short exercise based on Julio Cortázar’s “A Continuity of Parks,” found on p. 137 of the book Flash Fiction, edited by James Thomas, Denise Thomas, and Tom Hazuka.
The Meta Exercise
“A Continuity of Parks,” begins with a rich man who is allowing himself to become engrossed in a book. As the narrative progresses, the vivid dream of the novel becomes literal for the man, and he thinks himself into the story, circling the narrative back on itself. Cortázar’s protagonist imagines that he is sneaking into a mansion to kill his lover’s husband, when he arrives in the mansion, knife in hand, he sees himself in an armchair reading a book. Cortázar is essentially exploring literature’s power to literally take the reader outside of him- or herself, and the divisions between real life and fantasy life. Furthermore, the narrative suggests that the story inside the book is relevant to the protagonist’s life, that perhaps, he has a wife who is cheating on him, who wishes him dead.
Write a story in which the protagonist becomes engrossed in a film, painting, book or other piece of art... more »more »
Okay, maybe there’s a few words in there. If you look close. Go ahead, look close.
O SAY CAN YOU SEE
Nonverbal Reviews and Adaptations of Women’s Poetry
- Deborah Poe birds & beads Kate Schapira
- Anna Lena Phillips boots, bottles, buttons Molly Tenenbaum
- Melissa Severin tucks Emma Rossi, Elizabeth Barbato, Suzanne Heyd, and Daniela Olszewska
- Krista Franklin opens a window on Linda Susan Jackson
- Krista Franklin gilds Ruth Ellen Kocher
- Abi Stokes collages Matthea Harvey
- Tyler Flynn Dorholt splices Sandy Florian, Joyelle McSweeney, Laura Solórzano, and Kim Hyesoon
- Jennifer Karmin street teams Kristin Prevallet
- Daniela Olszewska puts a bow on Chelsey Minnis
- Christine Neacole Kanownik horses around with Jennifer Scappettone
- Janet Snell goes Dickinson on Nanette Rayman-Rivera
All right, I’m no Margaret Atwood, but here’s my (somewhat belated) stab at last week’s Cubist Exercise. It’s a start.
Imagine a bar of soap lying by the side of your sink. It’s a flat, creamy beige block no bigger than a deck of cards, with edges that aren’t quite plumb, smoothed by hand and water. You made it from skin-scarring lye and olive oil in the pot you use to make soup, carefully weighing the ingredients on a postal scale, and whirring them together with a hand blender, watching carefully for the signs of miraculous alchemy, the puddingy texture, the marks on the surface that stay turgid for a moment before vanishing. You poured the soap into a shoebox mold, and cured it in the open air for a month, to remove its green bite.
This soap is anti-corporate. All its glycerine is intact, compared to the stuff so easy to buy at the store. In a stroke of marketing genius, companies sell you soap that robs skin of its moisture, then offer the the glycerin back to your dry hands in various lotions and creams.
Imagine the industrial soap used to clean up after suicides, the blood from a gunshot wound... more »more »
I like to catch up on blogs when I first get to work, so I’ll have something to read while I drink my coffee. On this particular morning, I came across “This Is Not To Say,” a lovely essay in Brevity by Amy Lee Scott. It’s only 3 paragraphs–after all, Brevity’s schtick is short creative nonfiction–but in that brief space, Scott manages to both evoke the sweetness of an afternoon in a waning summer and turn the whole boat around in the last biting sentence.
Says Scott of the essay, “I also wanted to practice writing a sharp turn, something that would wield the essay from one emotional state to another by stitching memories together in an associative manner. This is surprisingly difficult to do in a short space, so I thought I would tackle the space issue by using a catalog.” Later in the interview, she admits that the use of the catalog technique can feel gimmicky, but I think it works well here, as the images stacked together create quite a picture–and one that gave a good start to my day.more »
There’s a lot of good things down here in North Carolina, and one of them is happening right now: SPARKcon, “a showcase of creativity, talent and ideas of ‘the creative hub of the South,’ the Triangle NC.”
The event is a “creative potluck” made by teams of volunteers. The poetrySPARK team has put together a great bunch of readings. There will be a big NC Writers’ Network reading Friday night, and on Saturday, a series of four themed readings. These each have two headliners, including Carolyn Beard Whitlow, Joanna Catherine Scott, and Alex Grant, and then some rabble-rousers to round things out. Count me as one of the latter—I’ll be reading during the experimental reading at 10 p.m. Fringe Poetry editorial assistant Nellie Bellows will read during the narrative/lyrical reading at 7:30.more »
Amidst the gray drizzle that enveloped New York last Saturday, I set out to explore Governor’s Island, a tiny piece of land just about a ten minute ferry ride away from the lower tip of Manhattan. Watched over by the Statue of Liberty, this island served as a military outpost for years, until the city of New York took over just a few years ago, opening it to the public for the first time. Now you can take a free ferry to the island and have a picnic, play a game of mini-golf, bike the periphery, and check out the numerous art exhibits that pop up in unexpected places.
This past weekend was the beginning New Island Festival, a giant celebration of Dutch art and performances that will run through Sunday, part of the city’s observance of the 400th anniversary of the founding of New Amsterdam. As we wandered, open-mouthed, through the festival, we saw sights we can’t fully describe here–suffice it to say, there were accordions, beheaded dolls, wind-up stuffed bears, a dirt-covered fat man, a woman decked out in a spangled Elizabethan-era collar singing Britney Spears covers, and a flying piano.
My favorite part of the day though, hands down,... more »more »
I have a friend who thinks it odd to read a book you’ve read before, but has no problem re-watching film fare. I have no such qualms. I’m greedy, and if something was thrilling the first time around, I’ll be back to get a second fix after a suitable amount of time has passed, like a criminal returning to a particularly tasty crime scene. Or like someone who read a good book a few years ago and fancied dipping in again.
At the moment, I’m re-reading a book I’d bought whilst travelling, and it’s perhaps not strange that the book has absorbed some precious moments from it’s first outing. I turn to the first page and instantly am drawn back to a park bench in Olsztyn, where I opened that same page almost a year ago. I guess it’s the same thing as imprinting some good times onto (or perhaps into) a song, but I like to think of anything book based as a more meandersome breed of nostalgia. Not only does the experience last longer, but you also get to revisit a host of those long lost places you’d once seen and wandered.
Not that it’s purely about the places. On... more »more »
Fringe: What was the inspiration for this piece?
Caine: About ten years ago, I was living in a small studio on W. 4th St. with a writer friend of mine. Working as “writers,” it was difficult to keep the overpriced studio (which was only about 400 square feet), and I guess I started to feel a little bit angry that it was so hard to live in New York. Also, it was something of a challenge to live with my friend; he did have a penchant for Pop Tarts and chain smoking. This year, after I saw so many of my friends lose their jobs, I re-wrote the story to reflect their frustrations. No one is living in a cardboard box, thankfully.
Fringe: How often do you write? Do you do it on a schedule?
Caine: I try to write every day. I think one of my problems is that I am always thinking about writing. I used to worry that thinking about writing interfered with experiencing life and relishing the moment. But lately I tend to worry that thinking about writing is just interfering with writing…
Fringe: How did you get into writing?... more »more »
Move over Bratz–there’s a new wildly inappropriate toy in town. This little missy comes equipped with her own disco ball, flashing strobe light, and yep, you guessed it–a stripper pole. True, pole dancing is gaining popularity as a tongue-in-cheek way for women to have fun at the gym or bachelorette parties. And yes, this doll is apparently sold only in Asia to off-price retailers (translation:sketchtastic). But this, combined with other disturbing trends among young girls, points to a more and more sexualized childhood experience.
Surprisingly, this isn’t even the first time this has happened–back in 2006, British retailers Tesco sold a product called “My First Stripper Pole”–an actual Stripper Pole How-To Kit for little girls. Here’s a blurb from their marketing materials:”Unleash the sex kitten inside…simply extend the Peekaboo pole inside the tube, slip on the sexy tunes and away you go!” Seriously, Tesco? The product was quickly taken off the shelves after an angry backlash from parents, but clearly, the world still has a yen for teaching tots how to strip. Disgusting.
When I was a kid, the most popular dolls on the market looked like this:
Somehow, we’ve gotten to this:
Women have their whole lives to feel inadequate for not being thin... more »more »
Now that Fringe has put a call letter out for Features, the pitch letters have been rolling in. It seems not everyone knows how to write a letter pitching a feature story or interview, so I thought I’d provide some handy tips that cover what Fringe looks for.
- Tell us what type of story you’re pitching. Is it a review? An interview? A feature?
- Spend a paragraph describing your topic, that includes a reason why you think it would be of interest to Fringe readers. This is the place to show that you’ve been to more of our site than just our guidelines page. Are you interviewing a first-time author published by a small press? Writing a feature on avant-garde poetry? Reviewing a small-press book that explores the intersections between literature and politics?
- Explain who you are and explain any relevant credentials you have. Are you a published freelancer? A first-time writer?
- Send the piece as an attachment if you’ve already written it. If you haven’t, send online clips of your writing, if you have ‘em.
- Write two to five paragraphs, but no more than a single typewritten page.
- Address the letter to a “sir.” The vast majority of us here at Fringe aren’t sirs, so... more »
For those of you who don’t know, a short short, also called flash fiction or micro-fiction is a short story of as few as 200 words or as many as 2,000. It’s bite-sized fiction or nonfiction. Fringe publishes them, as do many journals, but Quick Fiction is famous for publishing excellent flash fiction of 500 words or less exclusively.
My idea is this: on Tuesdays, I’ll read a short short and post an exercise intended to mimic that story. The following Tuesday I’ll publish my version. I should be writing a new short short every two weeks, and I invite you, dear reader, to read and write with me.
The exercises will be done Pam-Painter style. In the first graf I’ll explain how I think the story at hand works, and in the second graf, I’ll break down the assignment.
Here’s this week’s exercise, based on the Margaret Atwood story “Bread,” found on p. 198 of the book Flash Fiction, edited by James Thomas, Denise Thomas, and Tom Hazuka.
The Cubist Exercise
In “Bread,” Margaret Atwood takes a concrete object, bread, and views it through multiple lenses. The story has five different sections, each that asks the reader to... more »more »