The Short Story Process

REINVENTING AN ART?

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In 2019 we plan to change things up a bit. Our commitment to excellence and artistic change will increase. The poem and short story both have become generic. Needed are drastic new ideas to improve them. Possibly, to blow up both forms and start over.

And so, “The Process.” We’ll start with the short story. I’ll be posting at one of my personal blogs several short stories I wrote in the 1990’s. Apprentice work, but a foundation for where I plan, personally, with my writing, to go. The first of these to go up is titled “The Revolutionaries.” A story with a connection to recently-deceased George H.W. Bush, so it’s appearance will be timely.

Before this I may post one of the new stories I’m working on, tentatively named “Safe Zones.” Again: timely.

Co-editor Kathleen M. Crane is also back writing, working on a rough draft of a new story– one which will carry forward her own ideas on clarity and conciseness in the short story art.

I’ll be discussing the process more in future posts. We have an end point– through radical artistic change, badly-needed renewal of the entire literary art.

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Stay tuned.

-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit NEWS

 

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Poetic Justice?

ONE REACTION TO THE AILEY O’TOOLE PLAGIARISM ISSUE

Ailey-OToole(Photo from The Rumpus.)

THE BIG NEWS in the U.S. literary world over the weekend was the accusation of plagiarism against young poet Ailey O’Toole. The past couple years O’Toole was incessantly networking a host of interconnected literary journals, becoming known within that well-protected, well-screened community as one of the art’s rising young stars– culminating in this interview at The Rumpus. Much drama there expressed. A troubled individual, no doubt.

NOW it’s discovered, by those who published and promoted her, that O’Toole was plagiarizing not just one writer, but a lot of them.

ANOTHER discovery has been less acknowledged– that Ailey O’Toole was an enthusiastic member of the so-called Poetry Cops. She worked hard at having fellow poet Rachel Custer removed as a reader at a lit journal called Barren Magazine— and blacklisted throughout the poetry world. (In this day and age, many literary journals actively support the idea of an ongoing blacklist of journals and writers.)

IS it poetic justice then for Ms. O’Toole to end up in effect banned herself?

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Is there a lesson in this?

IT MIGHT BE that more important than a writer’s perceived political stance is the quality of character. That when a poet is spending half her time trying to get other poets fired or blackballed– dissing and diming them out; instead of focusing on the art– it might be a sign of a lack of that long-forgotten quality.
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-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit NEWS

Pushcart 2018!

NEW POP LIT’S 2018 NOMINATIONS

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And the nominations are. . . .

Every year we vow not to do Pushcart Prize nominations and every year we send them in anyway– usually right at the deadline.

After all, in 2018, despite our ups and downs, we featured a lot of talented writers. The difficulty is choosing among them.

This year we’ve nominated five short stories and one poem. A stylistically diverse mix of the offbeat and the traditional.

FICTION (in order of publication date):

“The First Time” by Anne Leigh Parrish.

“The Hunting Cabin” by Brian Eckert.

“Up On the Mountain” by Jack Somers.

“On the Rails, Off the Rails” by Elias Keller.

“Yelp in Reverse” by Wred Fright.

POETRY:

On Midsummer’s Night” by C.A. Shoultz.
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We thank all writers who allow us to present their writing.

(We thank Pushcart Press for their tremendous work!)

Neo-Beats Out of Control!

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(Classic style.)

At least, they’ve taken over the New Pop Lit site. New Beat writing in all its various iterations.

First, a review of an anthology of Beat-style in-the-larger-sense fiction and poetry.

Second, a current poetry feature of lakebeatgrunge poems from beat56.

AND, a home page Intro to all of this.

HELP!!!

(Our self-appointed task is to cover what’s happening in the lit world. What’s happening at the moment might be right here.)

A NOTE ON STYLE

One thing the cultural period of the late 1950’s and early 60’s had was style. The Beats were the obverse to the established “Mad Men” look. (Think Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack, pictured.)

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As such, the Beats were relentlessly satirized by established pillars of culture. Thoroughly mocked– in venues ranging from television shows such as Dobie Gillis and The Beverly Hillbillies, to movies such as Funny Face starring Audrey Hepburn. The point is that poets and writers mattered. The Beats suffered the slings and arrows of the culturally challenged but they also created exciting fun art.

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(Audrey Hepburn.)

 

Underground Hemingway

AN ADVENTURE IN NORTHERN MICHIGAN’S HEMINGWAY COUNTRY

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(A moose at the Mitchell Street Pub in Petoskey.)

WHILE we were on our honeymoon two weeks ago, one of our more fascinating experiences was an underground tour conducted by a young woman who may or may not exist in reality. (A ghost?)

We were at the City Tavern Grill in the quaint town of Petoskey, both of us sitting at the bar, in a saloon which young Hem himself used to frequent. I was at the exact spot– second from the end– which Hemingway was said to like.

We must’ve seemed easy marks. Out of nowhere, a woman approached us and asked if we’d like a tour of the saloon, including its underground tunnels.

“Sure,” we said.

The woman was dressed like someone from another time period– the 1920’s, perhaps– with a feather in her hair and wearing a delicate retro black dress. In build she was tiny, as if from that bygone era when people were smaller than today. Her waist could not have been more than 20 inches around– Scarlett O’Hara territory.

Beyond this, she spoke in a dramatic manner, as if on a Victorian stage. She batted her eyelashes like a silent movie actress. When she walked, she shimmied like a flapper from the pages of a Scott Fitzgerald story.

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The woman knew, somehow, by looking at us that we were Ernest Hemingway fans. She told us how often Hemingway frequented this spot– named The Annex in his time. The bar and its furnishings were the same. She showed us signed bills from Hemingway for food and drinks. The last one was from 1947.

This narrative was related in a secretive manner, as if she’d personally known the man.

Her name, she said, was Mary Ellen. She reminded us that in the time Ernest Hemingway first came here, Prohibition was in force. At any sign of police, observed through a peephole, booze and customers moved swiftly downstairs, to the basement.

Mary Ellen asked us cryptically if we’d like to visit the basement.

Without waiting for a response she turned and made her way down rickety stairs to the basement. We followed.

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The basement was gray and dimly lit. Bannisters, walls, shelves of liquor bottles– everything– was covered in dust. Layers of dust, in some cases. We looked at each other with our eyes, asking ourselves, “Can we trust this woman?”

In the way she spoke and was dressed, she could have indeed stepped through a time warp. Or, could she be instead an escapee from– ?

We didn’t continue that thought because we didn’t want to continue it. Instead we stumbled along after Mary Ellen, through lengthy depths.

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Mary Ellen showed us a number of blocked or partly-blocked tunnels, used both to smuggle bootleg liquor into the saloon, or out of it. One of the tunnels led to the nearby Perry Hotel, where we happened to be staying for the week.

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The smuggled booze came from the Al Capone gang. From his base in Chicago, Capone controlled all liquor going into resort towns which spread north along the Lake Michigan shoreline, including this one.

The lights began flickering.

“The lights are going out!” Mary Ellen said dramatically.

Her eyes seemed truly afraid. Perhaps the time allotted for the private tour was over, or someone above needed her. Or perhaps she was about to turn into a pumpkin, or vanish, or appear her real age, or something. We were, after all, only days from Halloween.

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We made it back up shaky wood stairs to the main floor, breathing, despite ourselves, a sigh of relief.

The tour was one of many highlights we encountered in the quaint town of Petoskey.

-K. and K.

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Alan Swyer at New Pop Lit!

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Ace storyteller Alan Swyer is back with another entertaining tale– this one titled “The Sage.”

It’s about a filmmaker who’s hired to make a documentary film about a meditation guru, who’s a bit of a control freak, and has a high opinion of himself, and. . . . Complications ensue.

EXCLUSIVELY at New Pop Lit.

Our “Best of the Net” 2018 Nominations

Here are our Best of the Net nominations for 2018.

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They encompass work published online between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018.

(Best of the Net 2017 is here. The Sundress Publications website is here.)
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AS ALWAYS we had more good work than we were able to nominate. For fiction, we nominated two of our longer stories– both require some investment in reading. Both stories required an ample investment in imagination and work in writing. Both stories are excellent in very different ways. They exhibit the range available within a “Pop Lit” designation.

WE hope you read or re-read all of the nominated works.

We thank these writers and all the writers who’ve generously allowed us to publish their work.

Fiction:

“Churchgoing in New England” by Richard Greenhorn,
published 9/28/17.
“The Rottweiler” by Alex Bernstein,
published 1/12/18.

Non-Fiction:

“Hemingway” by Samuel Stevens,
published 7/28/17
“Cry Wolfe” by Robin Wyatt Dunn,
published 11/16/17.

Poetry:

“Black Water” by Robert Beveridge,
published 10/16/17.
“Processed World” by Rus Khomutoff,
published 02/02/18.
“Starbucks Bars to Be Sung I” by Timmy Chong,
published 4/12/18.
“Jonesing” by Timmy Chong,
published 4/12/18.
“Tourist Trap” by Holly Day,
published 4/18/18.
“Losing Another One” by James Croal Jackson,
published 5/7/18.
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Why Did They Publish It?

THE COLLAPSE OF BIG FIVE PUBLISHING IS ONGOING

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Call it a collapse of credibility more than anything.

James Frey may be the most egregious person on the literary scene today.

Frey’s 2003 best-selling memoir, A Million Little Pieces, was later revealed by The Smoking Gun to contain large fabrications.

In 2010 James Frey was shown by Suzanne Mozes of New York magazine to be running a “fiction factory” ruthlessly taking advantage of aspiring young writers.

Frey’s just-released novel, Katerina, is getting slammed by literary critics.

-Including by Ron Charles at the Washington Post, who says it may be “the worst novel of the year.”

-Including by Claire Fallon at Huffington Post, who states firmly that “James Frey Still Sucks.”

THE QUESTION everyone is asking is “Why does James Frey continue to be published?”

It has to be more than Ms. Fallon’s take that he’s published simply because he’s a white guy. There are scores of talented white male writers out there who aren’t landing big book contracts from Big Five publishers like Simon & Schuster. At New Pop Lit we’ve published many of them, including Clint Margrave, Jack Somers, Brian Eckert, Richard Greenhorn, Gregory YelnishAlan Swyer, D.C. Miller, Alex Bernstein, Alex Olson, Jon Berger, Michael Howard, Don Waitt, Wred FrightJoshua Caleb Wilson, and Elias Keller, to name some of the more recent names.

simon & schuster bldg(Simon & Schuster Building.)

COULD IT BE that giant book companies which are part of gigantic media conglomerates and insulated by layers of bureaucracy within Manhattan skyscrapers are simply unable to locate actual literary talent? Instead they take the easiest path: “Round up the usual suspects!”

It’s a top-heavy and feckless system worthy of collapse.
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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

Junot Diaz and the Sensitivity Police

SENSITIVITY TRAINING FOR ALL NOVELISTS?

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(NOT the Sensitivity Police.)

I DISCUSSED the matter months ago in the latter part of my second post about the Junot Diaz controversy. The rules and standards the writer must obey, and the lines he or she must never cross, expand by the day. Maybe the hour.

The writer’s personal behavior is subject to scrutiny in the new Orwellian literary world. But as important is a person’s writings. Fiction is no longer regarded as fiction. It will be used in judging you.

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Case in point is this essay by Lyta Gold from the precocious characters at Current Affairs which appeared on May 8th. (I’ve covered Current Affairs before at this blog, including here.) Note how, referring to Junot Diaz, Lyta Gold has “strongly suspected, from his prose alone, that he’s a virulent misogynist.” Quite a leap. (Was the character Popeye in William Faulkner’s novel Sanctuary based on Faulkner? Who knows!)

The atmosphere of Gold’s essay is not that of literature, but religion. Current Affairs‘ peculiar pseudo-Communist/Social Justice religion.

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The giveaway line is when Lyta Gold says, about Junot Diaz’s writing, “his work was presumptively taken to be flawless and free of sin. . . .”

Free of sin? Is this how writing is being judged?

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Lyta Gold further says that “no writer . . . gets to be validated by invisible particles of virtue.”

Well, yeah. But is this the standard? Is this why Junot Diaz was validated to begin with?

Virtue?

David_A_Christian_in_dress_uniform(Literary awards– for virtue?)

Or because of his writing? Why are writers published? If all that will be accepted, after thorough personal screenings and background checks, are virtuous writers, the art of literature will be in even more trouble than it is now.
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current affairs staff

(Current Affairs staff, from their website.)

PART of what’s happening, ironically enough, is the imposition of bourgeois morality. The Current Affairs staff, like many such staffs, is completely bourgeois in background and sensibility. When expedient– in feeding their own selfish needs and conveniences– they’re as egoistic as Ayn Rand. In the case of Current Affairs, ambitious careerist ladder climbers. Harvard grads, most of them.

The happenings which Junot Diaz puts into his stories and novels are outside their experience. Not surprising, then, that they’re thrown by them. Which doesn’t justify an easily applied label like “misogynist” (a clinical term). If we start judging writers by their musings, their fantasies, and their fictional characters, we’re all in trouble.

This could be the future, if the Sensitivity Police have their way. A kinder, gentler literature– innocuous, harmless, and irrelevant.

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Comments are welcomed.
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-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit NEWS