Issue 35, Final Fringe


A Dysfunctional Family Holiday


Fringe is once again teaming up with Redivider, Black Ocean, and Quick Fiction to host the Dirty Water Reading Series’ 2nd Annual Dysfunctional Family Holiday.

There will be holiday-themed mad-libs and short readings by Fringe contributor Steve Himmer, as well as Sommer Browning, Stace Budzko, and Tao Lin.

Oh, and there will also be free food, spiked egg nog, and a KEG. Yes, that means FREE beer. Just in time for the [guilt-ridden, drama-charged] holidays ahead!

Sunday, December 16
Grub Street 160 Boylston, 4th Floor, Boston MA
FREE Admission, food, beer

Wishing you drama-free holiday!

12/16 Note: Unfortunately, the reading has been canceled due to extreme Boston weather!

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Thanks a lot, Dave Obey.


Full disclosure: I’m cross-pollinating. The publishing company I work for, Beacon Press, has a great blog (the Beacon Broadside) and a terrific and thoughtful blog editor.

I just do not understand why this country keeps throwing money at abstinence-only education. Clearly, it doesn’t work; clearly, we don’t have the best interests of our youth at heart if we refuse to give them scientifically based education that respects them as thinking, and yes, sexual human beings. So it is incredibly disturbing that abstinence-only funding is being used as a pawn on the Hill by a party with a so-called progressive agenda. I hadn’t planned to mix work and Fringe, but today’s post by Carole Joffe is just the kind of thoughtful whistleblowing we need in this country:

But Democrats supporting “abstinence-only,” especially after the November 2006 election, when they regained control of the House and Senate?! A powerful Democratic committee chair proposing to give even more to these programs than the Bush administration has asked for?! No, this is not a Saturday Night Live or Jon Stewart parody. This is Washington politics. In a move that stunned advocates for “comprehensive” sex education—that is, programs that include discussion of both abstinence and birth control... more »

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The Witch of Portobello: A Review by Julia Henderson


Okay, I know. I wrote my review of The History of Love and gushed about it, and now you’re all going to think that I only write gushy reviews. But here’s the thing…this book *really* made me think about who I am and where I am going, and who I want to be as a woman, a wife, a soon-to-be-mother, a daughter, and a human.

I didn’t always like Paulo Coehlo’s work. I tried to read The Alchemist in college and the novel just didn’t do it for me. But a friend recommended Veronika Decides to Die to me while a loved one was in the hospital for depression and I was struggling to understand what might be happening in there, and ever since, Coehlo has been one of my obsessions.

When I picked up The Witch of Portobello, I didn’t know quite what to expect. The synopsis said “How do we find the courage to always be true to ourselves—even if we are unsure of whom we are? That is the central question of international bestselling author Paulo Coehlo’s profound new work…”

“Oh. Profound,” said the skeptic in me. “We’ll just see about that.”

But all I know is this…the protagonist of the book, Athena, follows... more »

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Here it is ladies, evidence of a drastic advance in gender equality…guyliner.

Before you know it, we’ll be making 100 cents on the dollar.

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Support the Small Stuff: Juno


Brook Busey-Hunt went from working in a cubicle to stripping a la stage name Diablo Cody to blogging on The Pussy Ranch to writing a memoir called Candy Girl: A Year in The Life of an Unlikely Stripper all by the age of 28. It isn’t a traditional path for a screenwriter, but it’s the way this particular Midwest girl got to Hollywood – and her first film Juno comes out this week.

Juno might be one of the best films out right now for a number of reasons.

1. It is not a war film
2. It is not begging for an Oscar (although it might get nominated for a couple)
3. It is an indie film! We love indie films!
4. Killer soundtrack

5. Great cast
6. Funny!

But probably the best reasons are the lead actress, Ellen Page, and aforementioned Brook Busey-Hunt, who now goes by Diablo Cody, and who penned the script for this film. The premise of the film is pretty basic: high school girl gets pregnant, decides to keep the baby and then put it up for adoption. The boy who impregnates her is Michael Cera, from this summer’s blockbuster Superbad, and the adoptive parents are played by Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman. It sounds... more »

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writing beyond the MFA


Before delving into the real topic of my post, I wanted to take a moment to join in the recent spate of holiday-gift-madness posts with some suggestions of my own.

We are artists after all, aren’t we, writers? Why not make something for those you love? We owe it to ourselves and our careers to support art, our own medium and others. Giving something homemade is giving something of yourself. Write a story or a poem, knit something (if you knit), bake a cake (you don’t have to be a pro) or some cookies, craft something. Or support other artisans. Gift-giving does not have to support the store-bought culture of our country.

Ok, that aside…what to do if you are graduating this semester with your MFA? Have you realized at this point or some earlier point what a useless piece of paper that diploma is? Do you think I’m a dick for suggesting so? Do you still hold hope that your thesis manuscript will get read by agents, editors, and you’ll be offered a contract in a few short months? Pinch yourself, or pinch me, and take heed. Below are some suggestions for life after graduate school.

1. Keep writing... more »

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A Holiday Hassle: Gifts at Work


Don’t get me wrong, I love the holidays, and I love giving and receiving gifts. But after all the hassle my office has just gone through deciding how to give the gifts (yankee swap vs. secret santa), the merry has melted right out of the thing. There are so many rules to consider, so many feelings to potentially hurt. Like when the big boss takes the best gift out of the hands of the lowliest office worker, because that’s how you “play.” Or when the poor Jewish person is forced to trade gifts as a Secret Santa (my office elected to go with Secret Snowflake, instead). Or when someone opens your carefully selected, deprived-you-of-sleep yankee swap gift and says, “What kind of gift is this?”

Frankly, I could do without anything from my co-workers. It’s enough for me to take a few hours out of work, eat some good (enough) food from our contracted caterer, and chat with everyone. But some are very adamant about it; last year someone floated the idea that rather than give each other gifts, we collect gifts for a charity. Nice idea, was the response, but we should still do yankee swap, too (and we did,... more »

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Holiday Gifts? Buy Women for Women


Here’s a holiday gift suggestions for those of you who are still shopping — check out Women for Women International’s bazaar, which sells crafts made bywomen survivors of war.

For those of you who don’t know, Women for Women is an award-winning nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lot of women in war-torn countries.

You can sponsor a woman, which entails a $27/month donation. $5 of this donation keeps the organization running, and the rest provides your sister with staples for her family, and pays for job and rights-awareness training. Depending on where and how educated your sister is, you may be able to correspond with her. At the end of one year, each woman “graduates”.

The upshot is this — the organization helps women in warn torn countries find each other, recover, start self-sustaining businesses, and apply for micro-credit. In my book that’s a worthwhile goal.

So consider getting me a set of those cutting boards(are you listening, Santa?), or better yet, sign up to sponsor a woman.

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Breaking News: Man Finally Put In Charge Of Struggling Feminist Movement


WASHINGTON—After decades spent battling gender discrimination and inequality in the workplace, the feminist movement underwent a high-level shake-up last month, when 53-year-old management consultant Peter “Buck” McGowan took over as new chief of the worldwide initiative for women’s rights. . . .

“All the feminist movement needed to do was bring on someone who had the balls to do something about this glass ceiling business,” said McGowan, who quickly closed the 23.5 percent gender wage gap by “making a few calls to the big boys upstairs.”

…more at, you guessed it, The Onion. Via WomPo, the women’s poetry listserv, which is well worth checking out itself.

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Fringe 13 Now Live!


This month’s issue of Fringe features sleek new web design, and chic new literature. Here’s a gloss of the issue:

  • In her series of poems Fragments from a Nonexistent Yiddish Poet, Jehanne Dubrow takes on the persona of Ida Lewin, and captures a nostalgia for a past where the social order was regimented, and therefore a little safer.
  • Jackson Bliss transports us into the world of limo drivers, and then beyond, into the realm of the unexpected in the short short Change Gonna Come.
  • Holly Anderson and Sev Coursen’s series of poems The Secret Language of Flowers is, perhaps, the most formally unusual piece we’ve published — click around and you’ll see.
  • Venus Envy tells the story of a woman who is done with beauty, who goes to extraordinary lengths to lift herself out of the status quo and into the heroic.
  • Mihaly Flandorffer Peniches work is graphic. His bold use of color and simply-rendered figures make his images feel mythical as cave paintings.
  • In her excellent piece of criticism, Jaffney Rood explains what happens when academic culture collides with working-class students.
  • Another Kind of Nigger, Matthew Haynes’ nonfiction piece, riffs on the theme of Ethnos, which we will take up again in February. Haynes, half-Hawaiian, half-white, recounts devastating... more »

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Breaking the Sequence


Has this ever happened to you: You come across a passage or line in a book and think it brilliant, and are thrilled that you’re the first one to discover it, only to find that people have been talking and writing about that exact thing for years?

Much later than I should have, I read A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf, and it happened to me. There’s a section in this amazing essay in which Virginia (Can I call her Virginia? I think she wouldn’t mind) decides to evaluate a recent novel written by a woman named Mary Carmichael. She expects it to be sentimental and sappy, as most novels written by women at the time tended to be. But instead of long, flowing sentences, she found that Mary used short, abrupt ones, almost as if Mary were intentionally trying to avoid sounding sappy.

As she read further along, Virginia noticed that the plot, though set up to be a typical love story, turned out to be a story of the friendship and scientific careers of two women. Such subject matter was rather shocking in that day, as women typically were featured in novels as in relationship to men, not as... more »

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Facebook: Gettin Literary Wit It


With all you’ve probably been hearing about Facebook lately, you’d think the entire world is being taken over by an evil empire, intent on sucking out our souls, wasting our time, and invading our privacy. But maybe something good has come out of everyone’s favorite social networking site.

The Facebook Review
is the first literary magazine that seeks to use Facebook as its platform to publish members’ creative work. Set up as a group, users can join and then read and comment on the work. Submissions for poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and reviews are all accepted and decided upon by an editorial board consisting of the last issue’s contributors, which is a pretty nifty system (called an “editorial train”). Submissions are made by sending a facebook message to the managing editor, and issues are posted as “news updates,” with new installments going up daily.

Issue 2 features a pretty amazing short story titled “The Vegan Muffin” by Tao Lin, an up and coming writer who will be reading at Fringe’s own “Dirty Water” reading on December 16 at Grub St, 160 Boylston St, Boston. Check it out!

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Send Us Submissions About Ethnicity and Race


The Ethnos issue is coming, and we’re still looking for submissions.

We’re looking for writing that navigates the complexities of ethnicity, race, and identity, and are accepting work in the genres of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, criticism, and cross genre, as well as original artwork. Experimental and political work are always welcome. See the site for complete guidelines.

We have extended the submissions period — it now closes DECEMBER 31, so there’s still time to get your work in.

While we always judge your work on its literary merits alone (using a blind submissions process), we are are particularly interested in publishing minority writers, and intended this special anniversary issue to help us get the ball rolling.

Why wait? Send us your stuff!

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Bettye LaVette


Here’s a holiday recommendation for those with musically Fringey taste. I just got back from a trip to the West Coast that ended up being something of a vinyl binge, and picked up Bettye LaVette’s 2005 album I’ve Got My Own Hell to Raise. LaVette is a soul singer who has somehow remained below the radar–possibly because her extraordinary voice is so evocative and high-octane it may make pruder listeners uncomfortable.
I’ve Got My Own Hell to Raise is a collection of LaVette’s renditions of great songs by exclusively female songwriters. Most songs were originally performed somewhere in the intersection of country and folk (Joan Armatrading, Dolly Parton, and Lucinda Williams are all represented), and LaVette growls them up to red hot emotion. This is raw, relevant, profane soul.
You can listen to tracks on LaVette’s website:
Posted by Katie, even though it says Sarah.
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Feed the Hungry with Good Vocabulary


Over Thanksgiving weekend, I discovered a cool new site, via my aunt by way of my mother. It’s called FreeRice.

The site gives you a vocabulary quiz that is quite hard — my best level was a 46 — and featured words like “scintilla,” “veld,” and “decollate”. Word difficulty increases with every question you get right. For each correct answer, the site donates 10 grains of rice to a starving country via the UN — site advertisers foot that bill.

FreeRice’s sister site, keeps a grim death toll of people dying from hunger each minute.

Do something that’s good for your vocabulary and for the starving — check it out.

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The First Page


So these days reading slush for Ploughshares and Redivider, as well as working for Fringe, I’m reading a lot of pour-water-over-my-head-to-wake-myself-back-up, clamp-jumper-cables-to-my-nipples-to-wake-me-back-up, boring-as-rust first pages. Lizzie talked about cover letters a gazillion posts ago; I thought I’d do a sequel. Here’s some thoughts on the first 300 words, because really, an editor can tell from page one whether the story is going to be good or not at least 90 percent of the time. So print this out, crumple it up, and eat it–that’s supposed to work for memory. Three simple rules:

1. do something new.
2. start the story arc.
3. write a brilliant sentence.

Why? Because (1) editors are sleepy and they’ve probably already read 20 stories by the time they get to yours, (2) the most tiring thing in the world–more tiring than Thanksgiving–is waiting for a story to begin, and (3) the editor carefully reading your opening sentences should be given a reason to continue doing so. I think if I don’t get two of these three things in the first page, the monster under my bed ends up finishing the story. He likes to eat paper too, but not for memory. He likes it because “it tastes like smart.”

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In the Prologue to Strange Pilgrims, Gabriel Garcia Marquez talks about a dream where he goes to his own funeral and sees all his friends there, but when he wants to leave with them, he’s told he’s the only one who can’t go to the after-party. (That’s right, in dreams there are always after-parties.) Well, Marquez relates this being-left-behind to expatriation and isolation. Sounds heady, I know, but as a minority and an adoptee, isolation is all up in my writing’s business, so I thought I’d talk about it. I thought I’d talk about setting as well, so be prepared for the following mess.

So here’s what I’m thinking. Sure, Marquez uses the unfamiliarity of the setting to isolate his characters. Why not? They’re pilgrims, after all. But when they really feel isolated is when they run into things that should be familiar to them but aren’t. Like when the Prez in the opening story runs into people from his home country who lie to him about their motives.

Marquez also uses the ole pathetic fallacy, where the Prez’s thoughts are mirrored by the weather and place. This is okay if you’re going for the magical realism thing. Yet what is it Charles Baxter... more »

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November 23 is Buy Nothing Day!


Come all ye fair and tender shoppers
Be careful how you spend your dough
It’s like a puddle after a rainstorm
It first appears, then there’s no more

Tralala, it’s Buy Nothing Day! If you’re in the US or Canada, that is; in other countries it’s November 24. Buy Nothing Day was founded in 1992 to help us think about how we consume; it’s no accident that it falls on Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year. There’s a lot of potential for preachiness with something like this, so I reckon it’s best to approach it in the spirit of having fun and raising awareness. Adbusters has some good ideas for stuff to do, as well as posters you can print out.

Adbusters also makes ads for BND every year, and then tries to get big networks to run them—with varying success. I like this one, which involves mittens (though the music, well, …).

Lots of places will have skillshares and other events, so if you want to get involved, check your local weekly to see what’s happening near you. And if taking your folks to the potluck at the anarchist bookstore sounds implausible, consider designating a surrogate Buy Nothing Day for yourself later in... more »

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Leaving the Country to Give Thanks


Five years ago I met my Canadian girlfriend, M. I’d like to tell you that we met reaching for Adrienne Rich’s The Dream of a Common Language in our favorite independent bookstore, but we met in typical college fashion, in a gay bar across the river from campus. An athlete and later coach, M always worried about her visa status even though by the end of last year, she’d been living in the country and paying taxes for nearly a decade. Like other naïve Americans, I found it hard to believe that a successful and educated Canadian citizen would have problems immigrating to the United States. I would recall to M how easy it was for my friends and me to cruise beyond the Canadian border in High School to take advantage of the lower drinking age in Thunder Bay. That’s what the border had meant to me…that is, before meeting M.

The fluidity of the border also shifted dramatically post 9/11 as M left graduate school and entered the professional public, landing a coaching position at Harvard University. But even Harvard couldn’t provide visa security and despite having three job offers after leaving, M had to pack up and ship out... more »

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The Amazon Kindle - Wave of the Future or Overpriced Tech-toy?


In this morning’s “Around the Water Cooler” segment of Good Morning America, I learned about the new Amazon Kindle. It’s concept isn’t new — it’s a wireless reading device that can hold up to 200 books, can display current newspapers and can even connect you to over 250 blogs. It’s a s thin as a pencil and only costs…$399.00!

Forgive me for saying so, but I like to be able to take my books on the train with me, throw them in my bag, hand them off to my friends when I am finished, and read them on the beach. I remember the e-reader craze of the early 2000s. They never caught on. What makes Amazon think that these e-readers will be different?

I may be old-fashioned, but I still like the idea that people can stroll into the library, produce a card they got for free, and have access to books. I like the fact that when my friend is finished with “the book that changed her life” she can hand it to me and not worry that her life-savings is suddenly in my possession.

I admit that the idea of Fringe readers downloading the latest issue to their e-reader to take... more »

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