NOLEY REID ON “LET’S DECONSTRUCT A STORY”

Noley Reid

photo credit: Jason Wheat.

Hi Everyone,

“Let’s Deconstruct a Story” is a podcast for the story nerds!

This is a podcast for aspiring writers who know that examining the components of a good story is the key to writing one. In each episode here, I interview a writer about one of their own stories, delving deeply into their choice of POV, plot, setting, and tone. The stories are available for listeners to read (below) before they listen to our discussion.

If you enjoy the podcast, please let me know, and if you have any writers/stories you’d like to recommend, I’d be happy to hear about them.

Also, be sure to scroll down to the bottom where I am announcing the first “Let’s Deconstruct a Story” workshop with Natalie Serber!

Thanks,

Kelly

**Warning: This story includes a discussion of suicide.**

First, please read Noley Reid’s excellent story, “Coming Back,” which is available in Split Lip Magazine here.

Or you may download a PDF of the story here: “Coming Back” by Noley Reid

or on Spotify here.

A transcript of our conversation is available upon request.

Bio:

Noley Reid’s third book is the novel Pretend We Are Lovely from Tin House Books. Her fourth book, a collection of stories called Origami Dogs, is forthcoming from Autumn House Press. Her stories and essays have appeared in The Southern Review, The Rumpus, Arts & Letters, Meridian, Pithead Chapel, The Lily, Bustle, Confrontation, and Los Angeles Review of Books. Follow her on Twitter @NoleyReid and find out more about her writing and upcoming events at http://www.NoleyReid.com.

A novel by Noley Reid

“Pretend We are Lovely” is available at Bookshop here and on Audible here.

“So There!” is on Bookshop.org as well: https://bookshop.org/books/so-there/9781936205455.

“In the Breeze of Passing Things” is out of print but Noley has copies. If you are interested, feel free to contact me, and I will put you in touch with her.

In other news:

I’m happy to announce the first “Let’s Deconstruct a Story” workshop with Natalie Serber on October 13th at 6pm EST. We will be talking about her story, “Children are Magic” which was first published in “One Story” in 2019. More information is available here.

JEFF VANDE ZANDE ON “LET’S DECONSTRUCT A STORY”

 

Hi Everyone,

Hope you are enjoying the last days of summer! I’m happy to have Jeff Vande Zande, a fiction writer from Michigan, on the blog today!

How this work:

“Let’s Deconstruct a Story” is a podcast for the story nerds!

This is a podcast for aspiring writers who know that examining the components of a good story is the key to writing one. In each episode here, I interview a writer about one of their own stories, delving deeply into their choice of POV, plot, setting, and tone. The stories are available for listeners to read (below) before they listen to our discussion.

***

Please read Jeff Vande Zande’s story, “Load” or listen to the MP3 recording here.

***

And then enjoy our discussion here:

or on Spotify here:

BIO:
Jeff Vande Zande teaches fiction writing, screenwriting, and film production at Delta College in Michigan. His award-winning short films have been accepted over 200 times in national and international film festivals. His books of fiction include the story collections Emergency Stopping (Bottom Dog Press) and Threatened Species (Whistling Shade Press). His novels include Into the Desperate Country (March Street Press), Landscape with Fragmented Figures (Bottom Dog Press), American Poet (Bottom Dog Press) and Detroit Muscle (Whistling Shade Press). In 2012, American Poet won a Michigan Notable Book Award from the Library of Michigan. In 2020, Whistling Shade Press released his new collection, The Neighborhood Division: Stories, and in 2022, Montag Press will release his new dystopian novel, Falling Sky. He maintains a blog at http://www.authorjeffvandezande.blogspot.com

My Personal Favorite: Chloe Yelena Miller

Chloe Yelena Miller photo by Hans Noel.jpeg

Chloe Yelena Miller

Hi Chloe!

Welcome to the blog, and thank you for answering the question: At this moment in time, which of your own poems is your personal favorite, and why?

Kelly

***

Carrying by Chloe Yelena Miller

Advice:
Slice the avocado around the wide middle
and across again,
until the quarters split.
Drop the pit in the trash,
scoop the flesh with a spoon.

But it’s never that easy.

Should I have pierced four toothpicks
into the sides of the pit, balanced it
halfway in water,
waited for a sprout?

Should I have willed
life by the window sill?

Most miscarriages
aren’t mamma’s fault,
doctors say.
No one says much else.

Silent first trimester:
breast and uterus bulge,
strange hungers.

Slow shrinking after removal.
Night sweats. Repeated dream —
someone calls my name.

I have hope inside of me
is a Greek pregnancy euphemism.

Funnel clouds trace the land
as leaves flip in the wind.

I stand in a basement doorway,
emergency pack on my back.

How do I know when it’s over?

No sirens screamed
when the doctor said
The fetus has no heartbeat.

My legs in a stirrup,
I couldn’t rush to shelter.

To be, such a weak verb.
To howl, to breathe, to linger,
more viable.

To be.
As in, she is, she isn’t.
She was, she wasn’t.

State of being.
Irregular.

Carriage. Someone behind the curtains.
Such magic.

Miscarriage. The undoing.
Avocado pit, dry in the trash.

***

Chloe Yelana Miller:

I think my answer to the question, “What is my favorite poem in Viable” might change, but for now, it is Carrying. At first, the collection was named after that poem. Later I read Ada Limón’s gorgeous book, The Carrying, and, of course, changed the manuscript’s title. For a longer time, though, the title was Baby Book, which is also the title of composer Lauren Spavelko’s work which uses some poems from the collection. https://www.laurenspavelko.com/baby-book While editing the poem, publisher and editor Eileen Cleary suggested a word be changed to “viable” in the fifth to last stanza and voila!, the manuscript was named.

An early draft of this poem came quickly and is longer than most of the poems. Carrying winds through the experience of learning from the doctor that I had miscarried. I use food, a Greek euphemism for pregnancy, and a storm as three metaphors for what is happening. Maybe that’s too many metaphors for one poem, but since it’s long, hopefully, I get away with it. I like that the poem is framed by an avocado. During an early draft, a friend suggested that no one cuts an avocado the way I do and so, of course, I dug my heels in to leave my strange avocado-cutting approach in the poem as a private joke.

 

***

Bio:

Chloe Yelena Miller is the author of a poetry collection Viable (2021, Lily Poetry Review Books), and a poetry chapbook, Unrest (2013, Finishing Line Press.) She is a recipient of an Individual Artist Fellowship from the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities (2020.)

Miller teaches writing at the University of Maryland Global Campus and Politics & Prose Bookstore, as well as privately. She has an MFA in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College and a BA from Smith College. Miller lives in Washington, D.C., with her partner and their child. Follow her: http://www.chloeyelenamiller.com or @ChloeYMiller

Carrying was originally published in All We Can Hold: A Collection of Poetry on Motherhood (Sage Hill Press; 2016)

 

 

Viable cover .jpg

Viable can be purchased from the press: https://lilypoetryreview.blog/lily-poetry-review-press/
or a signed copy from the author http://chloeyelenamiller.blogspot.com/p/unrest-poetry-chapbook.html
or your favorite independent bookstore, like Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington, D.C. https://www.politics-prose.com/book/9781734786927

WENDY RAWLINGS ON “LET’S DECONSTRUCT A STORY”

 

Short Story Collection by Wendy Rawlings

Hi Everyone,

I’m thrilled to have Wendy Rawlings on “Let’s Deconstruct a Story,” the blog where we read a story and then discuss it with the author.

As Susan Perabo said, “This is a blog for the story nerds!”

Please either read the PDF of the story below or listen to the audio recording below before tuning in to our discussion.

 

All best,

Kelly

 

Coffins for Kids on Sound Cloud

Coffins for Kids PDF

 

Our discussion of “Coffins for Kids” is available on Anchor here:

 

 

Or on Spotify here.

 

 

Bio: Wendy Rawlings is the author of a novel, The Agnostics, and two collections of stories, Time for Bed and Come Back Irish. Her work has most recently appeared or is forthcoming in AGNI, Creative Nonfiction, Kenyon Review, and The Pushcart Prize anthology. She’s a professor in and director of the MFA Program in creative writing program at the University of Alabama.

Wendy Rawlings

SUSAN PERABO ON “LET’S DECONSTRUCT A STORY”

Hi Everyone,

I’m thrilled to host the acclaimed short story writer, Susan Perabo, on the blog today. “Why They Run the Way They Do” is one of my all-time favorite short story collections!

As usual, please read the story posted below before listening to our discussion.

Also please send me reading recommendations! I’m always looking for good short stories.

All the best,

Kelly

Susan’s story available here:

This Is Not That Story in The Sun

This Is Not That Story PDF

 

Our discussion of “This Is Not That Story”:

On Anchor:

Or on Spotify here!

And here is a rough transcript of our discussion brought to you by the dictation service at Microsoft Word:

Susan Perabo and Kelly Fordon transcript

 

 

 

 

Susan Perabo

 

Bio: Susan Perabo’s most recent books are The Fall of Lisa Bellow (2017) and Why They Run the Way They Do (2016), both from Simon & SchusterHer fiction has been anthologized in Best American Short Stories, Pushcart Prize Stories, andNew Stories from the South, and her fiction and non-fiction have appeared in numerous publications, including One Story, Glimmer TrainStory, The New York TimesThe Sun, and The Chronicle of Higher Education. Her work has been featured on the podcasts Modern Love and Selected Shorts. She is a professor creative writing at Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA.

Why They Run the Way They Do: Stories and The Fall of Lisa Bellow are available at Bookshop and Amazon.

In Other News:

I am hoping some readers will help support this worthy cause! I love Inside Out Literary Arts in Detroit 🙂 I’m writing in support of them, and I will send anyone who donates $100 an original poem 🙂 You can even send me three words you’d like included in the poem!

TREENA THIBODEAU ON “LET’S DECONSTRUCT A STORY”

Treena Thibodeau (@TreenaThibs) | Twitter

Treena Thibodeau

 

Happy July, everyone!

Welcome to “Let’s Deconstruct a Story” where we read a story and then “deconstruct” it with the author. Today I’m thrilled to have Treena Thibodeau on the podcast.

In order to get the most out of our interview, please read Treena Thibodeau’s story first here:

Someone Will Come and Get Us at The Rumpus

SOMEONE WILL COME AND GET US PDF

 

Please enjoy our Podcast discussion here on Anchor:

or on Spotify:

 

Bio: Treena Thibodeau’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Rumpus, Atticus Review, Able Muse, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Pithead Chapel, and Barrelhouse. The director of the online reading series TGI (www.tgicast.com), Thibodeau’s fiction has received support from the Vermont Studio Center, the Tin House Summer Conference, and the Gulkistan Center in Iceland. She holds an MFA from Columbia University and resides in Queens.

 

WANDEKA GAYLE ON “LET’S DECONSTRUCT A STORY”

Motherland 1.jpg

 

Hi Everyone,

Happy summer!

Welcome to “Let’s Deconstruct a Story!” This week I’m talking to Wandeka Gayle about a story called “Prodigal” from her new collection, “Motherland and other Stories.”

First, please read “Prodigal” by Wandeka Gayle

And then enjoy our discussion below!

Kelly

PS: I’m always interested in learning about great stories I might have missed, so if you have any ideas, feel free to contact me any time.

 

You can listen to this episode on Spotify:

 

Anchor:

 

Or:

Google Podcasts

Radio Public

Pocket Casts

Breaker

Wandeka Gayle

 

Bio: Wandeka Gayle is a Jamaican writer, visual artist, Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Spelman College and the author of Motherland and Other Stories (Peepal Tree Press, 2020). She has received writing fellowships from Kimbilio Fiction, Callaloo, the Hurston/Wright Foundation, and the Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing. She has a Ph.D. in English/Creative Writing from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.  Other writing has appeared in Prairie Schooner, The RumpusTransition, Interviewing the Caribbean and other journals and magazines. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. 

Motherland and Other Stories is available at Peepal Tree Press, Amazon, and Bookshop.

MY PERSONAL FAVORITE: Shanta Lee Gander

GHETTOCLAUSTROPHOBIA by Shanta Lee Gander

 

Hi Shanta,

Thanks for joining us today! Please let us know: at this moment in time which of your own poems is your personal favorite, and why?

 

First, please read Syna-ghetto-sthesia An Exhibition by Shanta Lee Gander

Shanta Lee Gander on her personal favorite:

This is an interesting question because it is not only hard to choose, I am still working on looking at my work as “good enough.” Perhaps an odd thing to admit out loud, but as an artist – I am also a photographer as well and write in other genres – I find my work to be perfectly imperfect in different states and stages of finish. Some things are more finished or “complete” than others. While some things I have decided to let them stay as they are while constantly seeing what could have been better.

I feel like that is just the overall cycle of life. If I am to pick which one of my poems I feel the most drawn to at this moment, it would have to be, “Syna-ghetto-sthesia: An Exhibition.” I wrote this a bit ago and it was the first time that I actually started engaging with the place where I grew up without shame but as an artifact within the process of creating and making art. When people ask me where I am from, I often say Connecticut clear and without a mumble. But if there is a further question of where, or if I am just volunteering saying, “I grew up in Hartford,” there are edges and notes of shame underneath my voice. I think for the construction of this book, before I ever knew it was a book, I decided to engage the urbanscape as a place of possibility within my poetry. It was something, previous to this, that was easier to do in prose. The urbandscape didn’t have to just be in places like New York, but other places where the urban offered a lot of flavors of the surreal, fantastic, the ridiculous, alongside all of the other things about the place that still cause my face to twist in disdain.

Creating the past and the place that I have so many complex feelings about into an exhibition space on the page allowed me to enter it a different way. Again, it was not expected in terms how how this came to be and when it did, it was almost as if the place itself – the apartment building that did burn down in late 2019 while my parents were still living there – was instructing and inviting me to see it, in habit it in a different way.

***

 

Shanta Lee Gander

BIO

Shanta Lee Gander is a writer, photographer, journalist whose work has been featured in The Massachusetts Review, PRISM, ITERANT Literary Magazine, Palette Poetry, BLAVITY, DAME Magazine, The Crisis Magazine, Rebelle Society, on the Ms. Magazine Blog, and on a former radio segment Ponder This. Shanta Lee’s photojournalism has been featured on Vermont Public Radio (VPR.org) and her investigative reporting has been in The Commons weekly newspaper covering Windham County, VT. Shanta Lee is the 2020 recipient of the Arthur Williams Award for Meritorious Service to the Arts and 2020 and named as Diode Editions full-length book contest winner for her debut poetry compilation, GHETTOCLAUSTROPHOBIA: Dreamin of Mama While Trying to Speak Woman in Woke Tongues. Her contributing work on an investigative journalism piece for The Commons received several New England Newspaper & Press Association (NENPA) awards for her journalism work. Shanta Lee gives lectures on the life of Lucy Terry Prince (c. 1730-1821) — considered the first known African-American poet in English literature — as a member of the Vermont and New Hampshire Humanities Council Speakers Bureaus. She is the 2020 gubernatorial appointee to the Vermont Humanities Council’s board of directors and has a solo photography show, Dark Goddess, being featured in the Manchester, VT gallery, Southern Vermont Arts Center in August 2021.

Shanta Lee is an MFA candidate in Creative Non-Fiction and Poetry at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has an MBA from the University of Hartford and an undergraduate degree in Women, Gender and Sexuality from Trinity College. To see more of Shanta Lee’s work, visit Shantaleegander.com.

 

GHETTOCLAUSTROPHOBIA: Dreamin of Mama While Trying to Speak Woman in Woke Tongues is available at Diode Editions. Also at Bookshop

 

In other news:

I’ll be visiting the Crazy Wisdom Poetry Circle next week! Please join us AND bring a poem to share during the open mic. See the link below:

Kelly Fordon.flyer.6.23.2021

ESPERANZA CINTRON ON “LET’S DECONSTRUCT A STORY”

 

Today on the blog, Esperanza Cintrón and I will be talking about her story, “The Beard” from her award-winning Wayne State University Press collection, Shades, Detroit Love Stories, which was chosen as a 2019 Michigan Notable Book.

It’s best to read the story before listening to our discussion so we don’t spoil the ending for you.

 

Just click on this link for the full story, “The Beard,” here.

 

I hope you enjoy our discussion of “The Beard” below! Or directly on Spotify here.

 

 

Bio: Esperanza Cintrón is the author of Shades, Detroit Love Stories, a collection of interconnected short stories published by Wayne State University Press (2019) and selected as a 2020 Michigan Notable Book and a finalist in the 2020 Midwest Book Awards.  Her three books of poetry include: Visions of a Post-Apocalyptic Sunrise (Stockport Flats Press, 2014), the 2013 Naomi Long Madgett Award winner What Keeps Me Sane (Lotus Press, 2013) and Chocolate City Latina (Swank Press, 2005). Boulders, Detroit Nature Poems won first honorable mention (2021) and will soon be published by Finishing Line Press. Her work is anthologized in Manteca! An Anthology of Afro-Latin@ PoetsOf Burgers & BarroomsAbandoned AutomobileDouble Stitch: Black Women Write About Mothers & DaughtersErotique Noire/Black Erotica and others. She has been awarded a Michigan Council for the Arts Individual Artist Grant, a Metro Times Poetry Prize, Callaloo Creative Writing Fellowships at Oxford and Brown Universities and a National Endowment for the Humanities scholarship. A native Detroiter, she is co-founder of The Sisters of Color Writers Collective and creator of its literary journal Seeds for which she served as Editor until 2006. Cintrón holds a doctorate in English Literature and teaches writing, film and literature at WCCCD in Downtown Detroit.

 

Shades, Detroit Love Stories is available for purchase from Wayne State University Press, Bookshop, and Amazon.

In other news:

Check out Robin Luce Martin’s fantastic story, “Through the Hole,” on Pendust Radio.

I am reading at the Crazy Wisdom Poetry Circle on Wednesday, June 23rd at 7pm and there is an open mic event following my reading, so please think about attending and reading your own work as well!

Here’s the link to sign up.

LINDA NEMEC FOSTER

 

MY PERSONAL FAVORITE

Hi Linda!

Welcome to the blog and thanks so much for answering the question:

“At this moment in time which of your own poems is your personal favorite, and why?”


A Kiss is Just a Kiss

“It’s the kissiest business
in the world. You have to keep
kissing people.”
–Ava Gardner

My mother (in her own words)
“didn’t know much,”
but what she knew, she knew.
How to darn a sock’s hole until its universe
imploded into a white dwarf of string theories.
How to polish Window Wax into a mirror
until it reflected a gaze more intense
than Snow White’s stepmother.
How to magically stir the cauldron of laundry
to transform Prussian bluing into a pure white shirt.

And then, her encyclopedic knowledge of movie stars.
She never called them actors or actresses but Stars.
As in the heavens, the constellations, the Big Bang.
Her lessons were taught by chain-smoking
gossip columnists. She poured over their theses
illuminated in the pages of Confidential, The Lowdown,
Hush-Hush, and Uncensored.

My mother could tell you:
how Jean Harlow really died
“It wasn’t kidney failure but she was poisoned
by all that peroxide she used on her hair,”
how Greta Garbo brushed her teeth
“She never used toothpaste–only salt,”
how Joan Crawford plucked her eyebrows
“She didn’t–enough said.”

My mother loved the back-stabbing of it,
the kiss and tell of it, the guilty pleasure of it.
And when she read this quote from Ingrid Bergman–
“A kiss is a lovely trick designed by nature
to stop speech when words become superfluous”–
my mother (with her blue hands and absent husband) almost
believed it.

 

***

 

“A Kiss is Just a Kiss” was previously published in The Apalachee Review and included in the book, The Blue Divide (New Issues Press, 2021). Copyright 2021 by Linda Nemec Foster.


“Memory and Forgiveness: A Kiss is Just a Kiss”

When the critically acclaimed movie Terms of Endearment came out in 1983, I saw it with a friend—a neighbor who had a very close and positive relationship with her mother. For those who aren’t familiar with the film, its plot centers around the tumultuous relationship between a controlling mother (played by Shirley MacLaine) and her strong-willed daughter (played by Debra Winger). My friend couldn’t understand the characters’ relationship: how could a mother and daughter fight so much? how could they not have a wonderful friendship (like she had with her mother)?

I don’t remember how I responded to her questions (which I thought were naive) but I do remember telling her I didn’t find the characters’ relationship unrealistic at all. What I didn’t tell her was that I could definitely understand that relationship because I had a similar one with my mother. We were never close, we were never friends. It wasn’t until dementia “softened” her mental capacities in the last seven years of her life that we had some semblance of a decent relationship. That might sound like the irony of ironies —dementia being a “saving grace” of some sort—but it’s true.

And it wasn’t until I acknowledged my mother’s own difficult life of abandonment (her father died when she was 10 and her mother died five years later) that I began to understand her weaknesses, her emotional challenges…and I began to forgive her.

When I wrote this poem, “A Kiss is Just a Kiss,” it went through many drafts (at least 20). But with each draft, I became more convinced of my mother’s love for me—even when she found it so difficult to express that love. Because of the early deaths of both her parents, she was a drop-out and basically had an eighth-grade education. She didn’t read lofty “tomes” written by Fitzgerald or Hemingway, but she was a voracious reader when it came to gossip magazines. She loved learning about the “true lives” of the Hollywood stars. I think it was pure escapism for her—just like her addiction to certain soap operas: General Hospital, Days of Our Lives, Another World. My mother created her “other world” by slipping into the private lives of Jean Harlow and Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford and Ava Gardner.

“A Kiss is Just a Kiss” was previously published in the literary journal, Apalachee Review, and included in my new book, The Blue Divide (New Issues Press, 2021). A number of reviewers have described the book as “tender, brutal, unflinching, magical” and my poems as “acknowledging loss wherever it occurs—all with…tenderness and resilience.” I could have never achieved that tenderness and resilience without having the mother I had. With her Window Wax and Prussian bluing, with her obsession for housework and gossip. With the dementia that made her laugh. With the understanding that made me forgive.

 

***

 

Check out the starred review of The Blue Divide in Publisher’s Weekly!

Also, please take a peek at this stunning video of Linda’s poem, “City of Stone, City of Trees,” which was produced as a video/poem with watercolor animation by Matvey Rezanov (who worked on the Oscar-nominated film “Coraline”) and music score by Lena Orsa. The piece was screened at the REELpoetry Video/Film Festival sponsored by Public Poetry in Houston on February 24-28, 2021.

 

Bio:

     Linda Nemec Foster is the author of twelve collections of poetry including Amber Necklace from Gdansk (finalist for the Ohio Book Award in Poetry), Talking Diamonds (finalist for ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year), Living in the Fire Nest, and The Lake Michigan Mermaid (2019 Michigan Notable Book). Her work has been published in numerous magazines and journals: e.g. The Georgia Review, Nimrod, Quarterly West, Witness, New American Writing, North American Review, Paterson Literary Review, and Verse Daily. Foster’s poems have also appeared in anthologies from the U.S. and U.K., been translated in Europe, inspired original music compositions, and have been produced for the stage. Her first commissioned libretto, Spirit of the Lake, will have its world premiere in 2022. She has received over 30 nominations for the Pushcart Prize and awards from the Arts Foundation of Michigan, ArtServe Michigan, National Writer’s Voice, Dyer-Ives Foundation, The Poetry Center (NJ), and the Academy of American Poets. From 2003-05, she served as the first Poet Laureate of Grand Rapids, Michigan. In the fall of 2019, she was the poet-in-residence at the University of Bielsko-Biala in Poland. Her new book, The Blue Divide, is forthcoming in April of 2021 from New Issues Press. Foster is the founder of the Contemporary Writers Series at Aquinas College.

Linda Nemec Foster
www.lindanemecfoster.com
poet, writer, literary presenter,
founder, Contemporary Writers Series at Aquinas College

Linda Nemec Foster

Purchase Linda’s book at  Amazon | B&N | IndieBound
ShopWMU | Chicago Distribution Center

IN OTHER NEWS:

I Have the Answer has received a couple of warm hugs after a year in pandemic lockdown. It is a finalist for the Midwest Book Award in the short story category and a category finalist (short story) for the Eric Hoffer Award. In the month of May, it is available at #WSUPress for 40% off. See the link above!

Linda Nemec Foster and I were both featured on “A Little Too Quiet” the stellar Ferndale Library Podcast produced by Jeff Milo. Our interviews are available here:

Kelly Fordon on “A Little Too Quiet”

Linda Nemec Foster on “A Little Too Quiet”

JOSEPH HARRIS ON “LET’S DECONSTRUCT A STORY”

Hi Everyone!

Happy May!

Today on the blog, Joseph Harris and I will be talking about his story, “Jack” from his award-winning Wayne State University Press collection, You’re in the Wrong Place, which was chosen as a 2020 Michigan Notable Book.

It’s best to read the story before listening to our discussion so we don’t spoil the ending for you.

Just click on this link for the full story:

“Jack” by Joseph Harris

 

Kelly Fordon and Joseph Harris discuss “Jack.”

**If you would like a written transcript of this discussion, please use the contact form to request a PDF. I have a rudimentary transcript provided by Otter (it isn’t perfect!) I can provide as an alternative to our recorded discussion.

 

If you enjoy this discussion, please check out the podcast “Let’s Deconstruct a Story”, for more episodes on Spotify here.

 

Joseph Harris

 

Bio:

Joseph Harris is the author of the story collection You’re in the Wrong Place (Wayne State University Press, 2020), recently named a Michigan Notable Book by the Library of Michigan and a Midwest Book Award Finalist for the short story. His stories have appeared in Clackamas Literary Review, Midwest Review, Moon City Review, Great Lakes Review, The MacGuffin, Third Wednesday, Storm Cellar, and have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He holds an MFA from the University of Minnesota, where he received the Gesell Award for Excellence in Fiction and the Winifred Fellowship, and an MA from Wayne State University, where he received two Tompkins Awards in Fiction, the Loughead-Eldredge Endowed Scholarship in Creative Writing, and the Thomas R. Jasina Endowed Scholarship in English. He lives in Oak Park, MI, and is completing a second collection of linked stories set in Northern Michigan.

“You’re in the Wrong Place” is available at:

Book Beat (via Bookshop)
Wayne State University Press
Pages Bookshop

Also coming up on May 11th at Pages, see below! Please follow this link to join us!

 

LAURA VAN PROOYEN

Laura Van Prooyen

Laura Van Prooyen’s latest collection, Frances of the Wider Field, was published by Lily Poetry Review in 2021.

I’m thrilled to have her on the blog today reading from her stellar new collection.

 

Or join us on Spotify here.

Afterward, be sure to check out her bio below and purchase a book.

 

Upcoming Events:

On May 1st, I’ll be deconstructing a story from Joseph Harris’  new short story collection, You’re in the Wrong Place, available at Wayne State University Press here on the blog, and on May 11th, I will be talking to Caitln Horrocks about her short story collection, Life Among the Terranauts, at Pages Bookshop.

 

 

Bio: Laura Van Prooyen’s collections of poetry are Frances of the Wider Field (Lily Poetry Review Books 2021), Our House Was on Fire, nominated by Philip Levine, awarded the McGovern Prize (Ashland Poetry Press 2015), and Inkblot and Altar (Pecan Grove Press 2006). She is also co-author, with Gretchen Bernabei, of Text Structures from Poetry—a book of writing lessons for grades 4-12 (Corwin Literacy 2020).

Laura has over 20 years experience teaching poetry and writing in a variety of academic settings including: Dominican University, Henry Ford Academy: The Alameda School for Art + Design, Chicago Public Schools, Del Valle High School, and the University of Illinois at Chicago. She also facilitated therapeutic writing sessions for soldiers with PTSD in an Intensive Outpatient Program for three years at Brook Army Medical Center.

Having been raised in a tight-knit Dutch community just outside of Chicago, Van Prooyen now lives in San Antonio, TX. She earned a B.A. at Purdue University, an M.A. at The University of Illinois at Chicago, and an M.F.A. in Poetry at Warren Wilson College. Laura serves as the Managing Editor of The Cortland Review and teaches in the Low-Residency Creative Writing MFA Program at Miami University in Ohio. She is launching Next Page Press, with the first title to be released late 2021.

 

Frances of the Wider Field is available at Lily Poetry Review here, Bookshop here, or Amazon here.

RENEE SIMMS ON “LET’S DECONSTRUCT A STORY”

 

Hi Everyone,

On “Let’s Deconstruct a Story” we read a story and then “deconstruct” it with the author. This week, I’m talking to Renee Simms about her story “Rebel Airplanes.”

Please read her story, Rebel Airplanes, before listening to our discussion.

Follow this link to listen to our discussion on Spotify.

Renee Simms

Bio:

Renee Simms’ work appears in GuernicaOxford AmericanCallalooThe Los Angeles Review of Books, and elsewhere, and her short story collection Meet Behind Mars was an Indies Forward finalist and listed by The Root as one of 28 brilliant books by Black authors in 2018. She’s received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Ragdale, Vermont Studio Center, and Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Renee teaches creative writing and African American Studies at University of Puget Sound and in the MFA program at Pacific Lutheran University.

 

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I hope you enjoy this blog post! If you do, please support Renee and buy the book, which is available at either Wayne State University Press or Bookshop.

 

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See you in two weeks when Laura Van Prooyen will be reading poetry from her new book, Frances of the Wider Field!

 

 

ARI L. MOKDAD

Ari L. Mokdad

 

Hi Everyone!

I’m always testing out new venues, so I hope you will follow me over to Spotify this month where I’m talking to Michigan poet Ari L. Mokdad about two of her amazing poems.

Below you will find links to Ari’s two poems, available in journals online.

If Nothing Changed, There Would Never Be Butterflies

After the Israeli Army Burned Our Land, We Remember the Olives

 

CHECK OUT OUR OTHER EPISODES ON SPOTIFY here.

Thanks, Everyone! Please sign-up for the blog, if you’d like to hear more features. Next up, Renee Simms with a story from her collection, Meet Behind Mars!

Kelly

Bio:

Ari L. Mokdad is an alumna from Grand Valley State University where she received three Bachelor of Arts degrees in Dance, Writing, and English. She has earned regional and national choreography awards, most notably, for her work “Grounded” which was selected to perform at the American College Dance Association in 2014. Ari had the privilege of working with many artists while at GVSU, such as Julie Blume, Thayer Jonutz, Autumn Eckman, Lauren Edson, Lizze Mackenzie, and Thodos Dance Chicago. Ari received her Master of Arts from Wayne State University in 2017. While in Detroit, she debuted a projection-mapped solo at the historic Detroit Music Hall titled Body Studies. Ari’s embodied lyric essay, titled “Body Studies: Arabets” was published in Elemental: A Collection of Michigan Creative Nonfiction, which was the recipient of the 2019 Michigan Notable Book Award. Reimagining the Mother of God which was generously supported by the Lynch and Sons Fund Institute of Arts. Ari is currently completing her MFA from Warren Wilson College and her Ph.D. In 2019, Ari performed in Theotokos: for the Arts and debuted Water Studies with the Detroit Dance City Festival at the Detroit from Wayne State University. She is the recipient of the 2020 Rona Jaffe Foundation Graduate Fellowship and was awarded the 2021 Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs Grant for her forthcoming performance When Water Moves.

 

DONNA BAIER STEIN ON “LET’S DECONSTRUCT A STORY”

Donna Baier Stein

 

Welcome to #letsdeconstructastory!
Today I’m happy to talk to Donna about her story “A Landing called Compromise” from her prize-winning collection Scenes from the Heartland.

The way the blog works:

  1. Please read the story, “A Landing called Compromise” here at The Saturday Evening Post.
  2. Listen as we “deconstruct” the story below.
  3. Afterward, please purchase the book at the link provided below.

Enjoy!

 

Also, please check out our other episodes on Spotify here.

 

 

Bio:

Donna is the author of The Silver Baron’s Wife (PEN/New England Discovery Award, Bronze winner in Foreword reviews 2017 Book of the Year Award, Will Rogers Medallion Award and Paterson Prize for Fiction, more), Sympathetic People (Iowa Fiction Award Finalist and 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Award Finalist), Sometimes You Sense the Difference (chapbook), and Letting Rain Have Its Say (poetry book). She was a Founding Editor of Bellevue Literary Review and founded and publishes Tiferet Journal. She has received a Bread Loaf Scholarship, Johns Hopkins University MFA Fellowship, grants from the New Jersey Council on the Arts and Poetry Society of Virginia, a Scholarship from the Summer Literary Seminars, and more.

Donna’s writing has appeared in Virginia Quarterly Review, Saturday Evening Post, Writer’s Digest, Confrontation, Prairie Schooner, New York Quarterly, Washingtonian, New Ohio Review, and many other journals as well as in the anthologies I’ve Always Meant to Tell You (Pocket Books) and To Fathers: What I’ve Never Said (featured in O Magazine).

Donna was also an award-winning copywriter for Smithsonian, Time, World Wildlife Fund, The Nature Conservancy, and many other clients in the direct marketing industry. www.donnabaierstein.com

Purchase Donna’s book at Bookshop here or Amazon here.

KEITH TAYLOR

Keith Taylor (photo credit: Doug Coomb)

 

Hi Everyone,

I hope you are all doing as well as can be expected during what is HOPEFULLY the last few months of this pandemic.

I’m so thrilled to share this audio recording of Keith Taylor reading from “Let Them Be Left” his stellar new chapbook from Alice Greene books! The poetry in this chapbook is wonderful. It transported me to a better place.

Alice Greene & Co. books are so aesthetically pleasing. If you don’t know this publisher, check them out here. I’m just in love with their products. You will not be sorry to own this stunning book.

Another beautiful one to check out from Alice Greene is Holly Wren Spaulding’s new book, “Familiars.”

Also, I am happy to announce I’ve started a podcast! Keith Taylor’s reading is also uploaded to Spotify as the first episode of a podcast called “Let’s Deconstruct a Story or Enjoy a Poem.” You can enjoy Keith’s reading on Spotify anytime if you go here: https://open.spotify.com/show/0Z3kQKEci3XNxgjIpH9Obn

 

KEITH TAYLOR READING FROM “LET THEM BE LEFT.”

 

PLEASE CHECK OUT OUR OTHER EPISODES ON SPOTIFY here. 

 

 

Bio:

Keith Taylor is originally from Western Canada, but has lived for the past 45 years in Michigan. He has authored or edited 18 books and chapbooks. His most recent are Let Them Be Left (Alice Greene & Co., 2021), and Ecstatic Destinations (Alice Greene & Co., 2018). His last full-length collection, The Bird-while (Wayne State University Press, 2017), won the Bronze medal for the Foreword/Indies Poetry Book of the Year. His poems, stories, reviews, essays, and translations have appeared widely in North America and in Europe. More than two years ago, he retired from the University of Michigan, where he taught Creative Writing for 20 years.

 

Before that, he worked as a bookseller in Ann Arbor for almost 20 years, but over the years he has also worked as a camp-boy for a hunting outfitter in the Yukon, as a dishwasher in southern France, a housepainter in Indiana and Ireland, a freight handler, a teacher, a freelance writer, the co-host of a radio talk show, and as the night attendant at a pinball arcade in California. Taylor has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and from the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs. He has been Writer/Artist In Residence at Isle Royale National Park (twice), the Detroit YMCA, The International Writers’ and Translators’ Centre of Rhodes, Greece, the University of Michigan Biological Station, and Greenhills School.

Purchase Let Them Be Left here.

MY PERSONAL FAVORITE: Karen Schubert

 

Karen Schubert

 

At this moment in time, which of your own poems is your personal favorite, and why?

 

Currently, my favorite poem is:

 

I Miss You, Chicken in Every Pot

 

The party theme is idioms, so I pocket a toy block. We arrive late, and every counter is crowded with coconut bars, pizza, eggs on the half shell that look like eyeballs with green olive pupils, lying on red squiggly pasta brains. Are you Left Holding the Bag? I ask Luke. He fishes out a pair of dentures, clenched shut with green Duck Tape, a fresh shell poking out between them. I’m Biting the Bullet, he says. Bats in the Belfry asks me about my costume. I hold up my prop. Writer’s block is not an idiom, she says. Then I’ll take the cake, I counter. Penny For Your Thoughts says, Eat dessert first. Chalk and Cheese walk in. They’re British. We have to look it up.

The t.v. is hooked to an extension cord in the driveway, and Dressed to the Nines, Two Peas in a Pod, and Tears Before Bedtime are watching the Cleveland Indians rack up runs in the championship game. A fire burns in the firebowl, even though the night is freakishly warm. Bored to Deaths stride in with a board on their shoulders, skeleton faces. Three Sheets to the Wind pours us drinks with sparkling wine and violet liqueur, like drinking fragrance. Bite the Bullet tells us he feels awkward at parties, never knows what to say. Half Bored to Death is a good listener. I keep missing Mike, who died so quickly in June. He’d be Chicken in Every Pot, a big social justice guy. Or maybe Role Model, brown pillow/bun in fishnet stockings.

The host, Cat Out of the Bag, gives us ballots. We know Bats in the Belfry will win, even though she knocked over the pizza and left her belfry on a chair. You should have seen her a few years ago as Phyllis Diller. I vote for Three Sheets to the Wind, who looks a bit like Westward Expansion. To me, Halloween’s a spectator sport, I tell Raining Cats and Dogs. But look, I say, Now I’m Eastern Bloc, holding my arm all the way out. I’m Blockhead, Artist’s Block tells me. We came together. When we leave, we take the cake plate, empty.


Karen:

Thank you for asking about my favorite poem! At this moment in time, I am partial to “I Miss You, Chicken in Every Pot.” It was a fun poem to write. Much of it is true—my friend throws wonderful Halloween parties. I consider Halloween a spectator sport; I’d rather spend half a day making a dessert than a costume, and although the costume-committed may take a little swipe at my lame-osity, they also like dessert, so I’m a tiny bit off the hook. This poem is meant to immortalize their amazing talent and enthusiasm and to express my affection.

I like the way the theme of idioms lent me an opportunity to mess around with humor, the funny contradictions, and double-meanings. I hope the mention of death doesn’t feel jarring in a light-hearted poem, but rather an emotional layering. We’re always feeling more than one thing, no? The prose poem format is a nice package for storytelling and scene-building while retaining its poemy resistance to backstory and context.

The poem was a finalist in Winning Writers Wergle Flomp contest, which was a real kick. I included it in Dear Youngstown, a chapbook of poems centered around my adopted home, where blight and struggle are set against the arts and people working so damn hard to keep this place whirring. It’s also in my new book The Compost Reader, with maybe a longer lens and also several Halloween poems.

One more note about the content of the poem: when I wrote it, I was thinking about Mike, who had died the summer before. Every time I turned a corner, I expected he’d be standing there. Last week, our friend Luke, Bite the Bullet in the poem, also true, also died, and now with COVID, it feels cruel to be grieving without coming together to cry, remember, raise a toast. So here’s to you, Luke, and to all friends, yours and mine.

 

 

 

 

Bio:

Karen Schubert was born in Portsmouth, Ohio, and grew up mostly in Orchard Park, New York, close enough to the Buffalo Bills’ stadium that if she climbed the pear tree, she could hear the rock concerts. She lived in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, for twenty years, then settled in Northeast Ohio, where one line of her family has lived since the early 1800s. She is the author of Dear Youngstown (Night Ballet Press), Black Sand Beach (Kattywompus Press), I Left My Wings on a Chair, a Wick Poetry Center chapbook winner (Kent State Press), Bring Down the Sky (Kattywompus Press), and The Geography of Lost Houses (Pudding House Publications). Her poems, fiction, creative nonfiction, essays, reviews, and interviews have appeared in numerous publications, including National Poetry ReviewDiode Poetry JournalDMQ ReviewGrist: A Journal of the Literary ArtsLouisville ReviewApple Valley ReviewWater~Stone ReviewAGNI OnlineAeolian HarpBest American Poetry blog and American Literary Review. Her awards include the William Dickey Memorial Broadside contest winner, an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award in poetry, and residencies at Headlands Center for the Arts and the Vermont Studio Center. She holds an MFA from the Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts and is co-founding director of Lit Youngstown, a literary arts nonprofit with programs for writers, readers, and storytellers.

The Compost Reader is available for purchase here.

JOHN MCNALLY ON “LET’S DECONSTRUCT A STORY”

ON “LET’S DECONSTRUCT A STORY”
John McNally
Hi Everyone,
I know it’s been a while since my last post but you know how life goes by…especially during the pandemic.
It feels like one day has passed but it’s been three months.
Or is it that three months have passed in the space of a day?
Or is that a different way of saying the same thing?
If you, like me, are having trouble grasping paradoxes that would not have troubled your pre-Covid-era brain, then I’m sorry, but I am sending one more your way, and I hope it doesn’t cause your brain to implode.
“The Phone Call” by John McNally, is a story that will deposit you deep in a closed timeline curve and though it is quite a trip, I have faith that you will make it back to reality in one piece.
In fact, I think you will find it quite enjoyable.
As a bonus, after you’ve read John’s story and watched our video, please loopback (!) and check out this video on time travel/time loops that I happened on by Vi Hart, which completely blew my already addled mind.
Here’s a refresher on #letsdeconstructastory because I have not posted anything new since December 1st:
#letsdeconstructastory is all about unpacking short stories to see how they work on a cellular level. It’s a place for writers to geek out about the work of other writers and hopefully add some new tools to their own toolbox.
Here’s how it works:
1.  Please read the story here first.
2. Listen to our discussion
CHECK OUT OUR OTHER EPISODES ON SPOTIFY here.

Biography:

John McNally is the author or editor of eighteen books, including The Fear of Everything: Stories, The Book of Ralph: A Novel, and The Boy Who Really, Really Wanted to Have Sex: The Memoir of a Fat Kid. His craft book Vivid and Continuous has been adopted in many college creative writing courses. He has also had screenplays optioned and in-development and his work for a Norwegian film company in 2019 took him to Norway’s Arctic Circle for research. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, John is Writer-in-Residence and the Dr. Doris Meriwether/BORSF Professor in English at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. He is presently writing a thriller set in Thailand, where he plans to retire.
Buy the book:
John’s book is available for purchase: On Bookshop here or The University of Louisiana Press here or Amazon here.
Also! George Saunders has a new book out about deconstructing stories called “A Swim in a Pond in the Rain“:

“One of the ideas in the book is that, when we read a story, we read with the same mind we use to read the world. So, concentrating on a story and the way we’re responding to it can tell us a lot about ourselves. I’ve found it so pleasurable and clarifying to tune out everything but that one story, those specific lines. Reading a story is, really, an exercise in believing that other people exist and are valid—the writer of the story, but also those fictive people. We get to practice caring about some people we don’t know—good practice for real life.”

—George Saunders

JACOB M. APPEL

Hi Everyone,

I am posting a workshop today that I offered last month on #letsdeconstructastory about Jacob M. Appel’s story, “Creve Coeur.”  I’m also attaching the story–please read it before you view the video. I would love to hear from anyone who has other thoughts about this story. I’m sure I didn’t catch everything 🙂

 

New this month: A free writing prompt below!

 

On January 1st, I will return to author interviews and story discussions.

 

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday!

Kelly

 

jacob m. appel

 

Please read the story before you watch the video.

Creve Coeur

 

 

 

You can find Jacob’s books at Bookshop.com and Amazon.com.

 

Free Writing Prompt (you will need one hour at least): 

  1. Brainstorm about high school. What comes to mind? Don’t think too hard about this: just write down the first ten things that surface. For me: lemon creme cookies, Roy Rogers, nuns, my dog, Shannon, walking to school along cobblestone streets, etc…you get the idea. It doesn’t have to be anything riveting. In fact, your memories might be quite ordinary. That’s OK! We can work with that.
  2. Circle three items on the list that you think you could write more about. Set a timer and spend five minutes writing about each one.
  3. Read through the writing you generated during those fifteen minutes and circle one sentence that intrigues you. Write for five minutes with that sentence as your starting point.
  4. The goal now is to write a story under 1000 words. Take one word/item/object from the three sections in #2, as well as the writing you generated in #3. The goal is to use all four items in your story.
  5. Write the first draft of this 1000 word story in first person. When you do this, you may find that the narrator is essentially you, which may or may not work well in a fictional story.
  6. Write the story again in the third person and allow the narrator to do at least a few things you would never do, just to get some distance.
  7. I would love to hear what you come up with! Send me your story for a free two-line critique via my contact form! Good luck! 🙂

In other news:

Goodbye Toothless House is a finalist for the Eyelands International Award.

“I Have the Answer” received a nice review from Sundress Reads.

Also, Wayne State University Press is having a HUGE holiday sale. Use the code HOL1 for 45% off of all titles! Here’s the link to my books: I Have the Answer and Garden for the Blind.

The 2020 Rochester Writers Author Fair took place on November 28th and 29th and all of the author interviews are available via Youtube. Thanks to Michael Dwyer for including me!

 

RACHEL SWEARINGEN ON “LET’S DECONSTRUCT A STORY”

 

I’m thrilled to talk with Rachel Swearingen today about a story from her new debut collection, How to Walk on Water! Rachel’s book was just mentioned in the New and Noteworthy section of The New York Times on Sunday, which is a huge deal! Check it out here.

 

To get the most from our conversation about the story, “Advice for the Haunted,” it’s best to read it first here: Advice for The Haunted.

Enjoy!

 

PLEASE ENJOY OUR CONVERSATION HERE:
OR ALL OF OUR EPISODES ON SPOTIFY HERE.

 

 

Rachel Swearingen is the author of How to Walk on Water and Other Stories, winner of the 2018 New American Press Fiction Prize (October 1, 2020). Her stories and essays have appeared in VICEThe Missouri Review, Kenyon ReviewOff AssignmentAgniAmerican Short Fiction, and elsewhere.

She is the recipient of the 2015 Missouri Review Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize in Fiction, a 2012 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, and the 2011 Mississippi Review Prize in Fiction. In 2019, she was named one of 30 Writers to Watch by the Guild Literary Complex. She holds a BA from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and a Ph.D. from Western Michigan University and teaches at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago. https://www.rachelswearingen.com

You can find this fantastic book at Bookshop here or Amazon here.

 

IN OTHER NEWS:

My essay, Astraphobia, has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize by River Teeth.

My poem, Riding out the Pandemic in My Great Grandmother’s Bedroom, was nominated by the Museum of Americana for Best of the Net.

I Have the Answer is available for purchase, and I may be biased, but I think it would make an excellent and affordable holiday gift for your friends and family. I am happy to send a signed bookplate to anyone who buys the book. Please contact me via the website contact page, if you are interested. Stay safe and well, everyone!