My story cycle Gentle Persuasions now available for free

My story cycle Gentle Persuasions can be downloaded for free from Dialogue’s website.

I just noticed that Dialogue has made its 2009 issues available in its open archive, which means that you can read my short short story cycle “Gentle Persuasions” for free (PDF download). Or you could just go ahead and download the entire issue. And should you decide to read “Gentle Persuasions”, you might also want to check out the liner notes. And if all goes according to plan my prose poem* series “Speculations: Wine” and “Speculations: Oil” will appear in the spring 2012 issue of Dialogue. So you might want to subscribe now.

* not sure exactly what to call them, but in the series are short short stories, creative exegesis, anecdotes, extended jokes — many of them some or all of those at once. I use prose poem because I approach each one by looking for the rhetorical conceit and poetic rhythm and language that I would with poetry.

Winners of the Portuguese Short Story Contest Announced

The sponsors of the Concurso Mórmon Parley P. Pratt de Contos em Português (Parley P. Pratt Mormon Short Story Contest) are pleased to announce the stories and authors awarded in the contest’s first year, and the stories selected for inclusion in the contest short story collection to be released later this year.

Continue reading “Winners of the Portuguese Short Story Contest Announced”

Stop trying to ape the final paragraph of The Dead!

Many thanks to Mark Athitakis (@mathitak) of American Fiction Notes for bringing to my attention an excellent commentary on the contemporary American short story by John Barry at City Pages. In his commentary Dead End: Has a single James Joyce short story unduly influenced contemporary American short fiction?,” Barry complains that American short story writers focus too much on the, admittedly awesome, ending of “The Dead”* — the lovely, longish short story (almost novella) that concludes Joyce’s pitch perfect story collection Dubliners:

And I haven’t been to a class on the American short story that hasn’t involved a paen on the merits of “The Dead.” It’s the greased flagpole we’re all trying to climb, just because we know we can’t.

I know, because I’ve been in a few of those classes, and I’ve taught a few. And while I’m not going to say that it’s Joyce’s fault, I will say that our nation is full of aspiring writers, some better than others, swinging and often whiffing for that gentle melody that comes with the perfectly tuned final graph. Continue reading “Stop trying to ape the final paragraph of The Dead!”

The essential Mormon short story collections

Laura’s excellent post on Benediction got me thinking about Mormon-themed short story collections. Specifically, the relative paucity thereof, but also the fact that even with the few that have been published there are several that I consider the essential starting points (rather than novels) for anyone seeking to understand (or produce work in) the field of Mormon literature.

By essential I don’t mean the most literary or the most Mormon or the most well-known or even the most influential. Rather I mean that if they were to disappear, they would leave the most gaping holes in the field.

Here, then, are my nominations for the essential Mormon-themed short story collections*. Continue reading “The essential Mormon short story collections”

All the Great Lights

Note. The following is an excerpt from a collection of missionary-memoir short stories by S.P. Bailey called All the Great Lights. You can read the complete collection at S.P. Bailey’s website. And please comment here! Reaction to the story would be great. But it might also be interesting to engage in a conversation about self-publishing in this manner. Is it extremely shameful? Or just sort of pathetic? Does publication by some small Mormon press–or even Deseret Book–really ensure quality or add meaningful prestige? Another topic worth discussing might be the missionary-memoir genre and its place in Mormon letters. Other topics would be fun too. Please comment!

11. The Sickness

Elder Hargrave’s homesickness was palpable every day he spent in the MTC. There was something precious about him writing letters home or carefully opening his family’s many packages to him. Hargrave taped a tiny portrait of his girlfriend inside the front cover of his “white bible,” the book of mission rules most elders carry in the left breast pockets of their white dress shirts. He looked at that picture so often that some missionaries must have thought he was contemplating key rules like “[y]ou and your companion are to sleep in the same bedroom, but not in the same bed.” Continue reading “All the Great Lights”

This Side of Lazarus

With my grandfather’s death just two weeks ago, the increasing demands of my doctoral studies, and my family’s attempts to move (they’ve been foiled for the moment by buyers that decided to back out at the last minute), I haven’t been able to give the final post in my series the time it needs. So I’m posting a narrative essay/autobiographical short story to tide myself over until I can get part five of “The Tragic Tell” written.

I haven’t written much in this genre, so this attempt may seem a bit amateurish; I’m open to any comments or suggestions you heavy hitting storytellers might have to make it better.

Anyway, here goes.

This Side of Lazarus

And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
-Luke 16:24

Come with me
and we will be buried in water,
fire, nomenclature, earth.
-Javen Tanner, “Eden”

I’ve been manipulating the story for years. It usually begins in the present tense at a Village Inn somewhere in Northern Utah. Several characters hover in the haze: my parents and siblings, my father’s mother, maybe some family friends. But Grandpa always confronts me clearly from across the table. Continue reading “This Side of Lazarus”

Speaking Anecdotally

When I first started taking Portuguese literature classes, I came across a literary form I wasn’t familiar with, the Crônica. A short short story meant for publication in newspapers, the Crônica may be the chief form of short fiction in Portuguese. Since these stories are almost always told in a chronological order, are based on everyday life and are often slightly critical, they might be best compared to the Anecdote (although they are generally longer). [In Portuguese, the term Anedóta doesn’t exactly mean the same as our anecdote, but instead is limited to humorous stories.]

I guess what surprised me most about the Crônica was that it never seemed like a separate literary form to me. I thought it was simply a short story that appeared in the newspaper, no different from other short stories. In this sense also, I think it is like the Anecdote, a form that is sometimes lost or ignored because of its ubiquitousness, and because it is so often contained in other forms.

In the LDS context, I think the Anecdote is probably one of our most prevalent forms of literature, regularly used both by prophets and most Church members. Continue reading “Speaking Anecdotally”