Nonfiction Contest

The Boston Accent 'Wicked Short' Nonfiction Prize

We're looking for creative nonfiction that is fast and powerful yet thoughtful and structured. Work with the immediacy of poetry or memes. Submissions don’t have to be pure narratives or memoir; experimental or essayistic approaches are encouraged. Whatever form you can imagine should suffice, as long as it's nonfictional. 

Guidelines:

Submissions open until Feb. 20, 2019, 11:59 p.m. EST

Suggested length is 500-1,000 words, but up to 2,000 words is okay.

Original work only (no reprints).

Submissions will be read anonymously. Please don’t include names or other identifying information on your document or in its file name.  

The contest will be judged by Editor-in-Chief Sarah A. O'Brien and Nonfiction Editor Alexander Castro.

Prizes:

Two pieces will be published online in Boston Accent Lit.

First place winner receives $75.

Runner-up will receive a book of their choice (list price $25 or less).  

Best of luck! Happy writing.

Chapbook Contest

Boston Uncommon Chapbook Series 2018

 

A chapbook series? In this economy?

Yeah, we're doing it, and we're going to deliver poetry chapbooks as digital downloads. This will allow us to distribute books to subscribers for free (details on becoming a subscriber to follow; stay tuned). Donations will be welcome at the time of each publication, and 100% of donated funds will be transferred to the chapbook author. Boston Accent Lit is aiming to publish 4-8 chapbooks as part of the Boston Uncommon Series. Please reach out to us at bostonaccentlit@gmail.com anytime with ideas, praise, concerns, or questions.

 

Guidelines

  • Manuscripts should consist of 20-40 pages of original poetry, but if you run a few pages over we won't hold it against you.
  • Include a title page, page numbers, and a table of contents. Your name should appear on the title page. You may include an acknowledgements page if necessary. Start each new poem on its own page. 
  • If a poem has been previously published, please note the original publisher either on an acknowledgements page or under the poem's title.
  • Email submissions to bostonaccentlit@gmail.com, and please use "Chapbook Contest" in the subject line. You may include a bio, but this is not required.
  • We prefer submissions not be simultaneous, but simply let us know if you have submitted your work elsewhere; we will consider it regardless.
  • Submissions are extended with a reading fee of $5; these are due by March 16, 2018. If you are not able to use the Cash App, let us know in your email and we can give you PayPal or other payment options.
  • Limit one submission per poet.
  • Have fun, and show us your most authentic work.

 

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Meet the judges

 

Chastity Mathurin

Poetry Editor, Boston Accent Lit

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Chastity is looking for poetry to go beyond being words on a page. She wants poetry to be raw, ugly, beautiful, intriguing, and to stir up emotions. She loves when poets are able to own their craft and expose their true selves on the page.

 

 

 

Sarah A. O’Brien

EIC, Boston Accent Lit

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Sarah is looking for work that is provocative, Detail-driven, and emotional. Give Her those poems that call for God while being tongued by a demon, those poems that make you question your own identity. She’ll take words in whatever form you feel fits the content best. Let your language play.

 

 

 

 

 

 

book review.

All My Heroes Read Poetry

Sarah A. O'Brien

 

 Poet Ariel Francisco

Poet Ariel Francisco

            Ariel Francisco delivers the ultimate companion for the solitude-seeking writer with his latest collection of poetry, All My Heroes Are Broke (C&R Press, 2017). Split into two parts, the book offers a glimpse into the emotions and struggles of a blue-collar poet. The collection delves into Francisco’s literary influences, as the poets who inhabit his bookshelves also make themselves at home in his writing. While setting much his poetry in what can be many writers’ kryptonite, New York City, Francisco manages to avoid cliché by employing image-driven momentum and a confessional tone. The second portion of All My Heroes Are Broke transports readers from NYC to Miami, and its author continues to construct poetry that reads as both authentic in tone and intimate in detail, still peppered with allusions to literary greats.

            A first-generation Dominican/Guatemalan/American writer, Francisco freely allows his ancestry to bleed into his work. Francisco’s collection effectively utilizes setting to characterize various members of the narrator’s family. In “Upon Encountering a Street Mural of Super Mario, I Think of My Mother,” the speaker’s memory is jogged by street art, which “sends my mind racing back,” and he brings readers along on a ride through nostalgic images from the video game. Francisco writes, “always that same message / at the end of every level: / your princess is in another castle” (34). Despite the poem’s potential teetering toward predictable, Francisco shifts the tone just when you think you know where he is going next. The speaker describes how he happens upon his mother playing the game “before her night shift / at a SeaWorld gift shop / where she’d sell orca key chains, / tacky t-shirts, and glazed alligator / heads to dipshit tourists” (35). The emotional honesty Francisco embraces throughout this piece feels as pure as the scene of a small boy in awe of his mother’s gaming skills; he writes, “figured she was just trying to relax / before going to work—it didn’t occur / to me that she was trying / to save herself” (35). In any other poem, this blunt assertion would be eye-roll inducing, but Francisco’s ability to ground readers in his world (“family lunch / at McDonalds” and “dipshit tourists”) while reminding them of their own childhood results in a final image that crashes, causing waves of emotions. 

            Francisco allows imagery to determine tone in All My Heroes Are Broke, sidestepping cliché through tactful and surprising descriptions of familiar setting. In his piece, “Reading James Wright on the L Train,” Francisco is able to play upon the readers’ senses with first the sound of retching: “a sudden heaving pulls me from the text” (27). He then provides a visual of a man in a baseball cap getting sick on the train, “his head lolling between his knees” (27). The poet forces readers to experience this repulsive moment with the narrator, daring to evoke discomfort: “Everyone scatters to the adjacent compartments, lifting scarves up to their noses as they exit.” However, Francisco follows this prescribed desire to escape the poem with the phrase, “The vomit stretches like an evening shadow,” causing a shift in tone (27). With this simile, he transforms a disgusting incident into one that is intriguing and lovely, without ever leaving the setting of the L train. His final lines read, “The train sways lightly, like a hammock. / Beneath a sun-marred window blossoming / with jewels of frost, I begin to read aloud” (27). This diction allows for a distinctive depiction of NYC; Francisco takes what could have been written in a formulaic manner—a probably-drunk Yankees fan making a scene on the train—and instead uses his narrator’s perception to create a moment that feels at once unique and relatable; all readers have at a time used books as a means of escaping reality.

            Francisco’s work is strongest when he allows his narrator’s sassiness and cynicism to shine through, which manifests in several pieces through use of insults and cuss words. In “O Christmas Tree,” the narrator reminisces about his former employment with Home Depot in Miami. The piece picks up momentum at this tonal shift in stanza five: “The trees were always stacked and netted / like body bags” (30). The poet brings exciting images to readers, such as “that stupid orange apron, leaving me sap- / stained” and “my English degree hanging on the wall / like a crucifix that never answered a prayer” (30-31). The voice builds energy as the work progresses, and readers feel present in the poem with a humorous image of the narrator “having to cut the netting and twirl / tree after tree, only for them to say, / again and again: Eh, I don’t know. / How about that big one in the back?” Then, startling readers from the standard shopping scene, Francisco presents an image of dead spiders, “which often turned up in the frozen trucks / with their eight glazed eyes multiplying / the darkness, legs like dried pine needles” (31). Here is what Francisco may do best, creating beauty out of an unsettling reality. He draws an unexpected connection between these dead spiders and “a stiff robin” and his own familiarity with the struggle of immigrants: “sad, strange little immigrants fleeing / their homeland, smuggling themselves / in the trees” (31-32).

            By far, the greatest part of “O Christmas Tree” is its ending, in which the narrator romanticizes workplace arson during his final shift. Francisco writes, “I didn’t quit that night—I just never came back, though I / stood out there a long time, broom in hand / fantasizing about the embers flickering / like tinsel, the smell of roasting pine needles” (32). He then imagines what he’d do when authorities arrived on the scene: “I’ll wish them all a Merry fucking Christmas / as the fire jumps to the store front / and say this blaze is my gift / to myself—the only one I could afford” (32). In these final lines, the flippant attitude of the narrator is felt through that sarcastic sentiment, “Merry fucking Christmas,” and a sense of irony and desperation is maintained with the phrase, “gift / to myself—the only one I could afford.” Readers are engaged with this moment due to the place-based, sensory imagery woven into the poem up to this point, especially “embers flickering” and “smell of roasting pine needles.” Using the relatable experience of a dreaded day-job, Francisco creates a mood that readers can rally behind: burn that place to the ground! He transforms a despondent scene—a man has become unemployed, leaving without notice—into an empowering one. 

            Overall, Francisco's debut full collection is a delight to read, offering vibrant and nuanced depictions of New York and Florida as well as of the writer's own culture. Some standout phrases include the following: “silhouette of a dream-sized woman” (“A View of the Statue of Liberty From The Brooklyn Bridge," 7); “Even under winter’s / tightest fist some light still slips through” (“I Know You Love Manhattan But You Should Look Up More Often," 11); "snowflakes settling into his / slicked back hair like nesting sparrows / seeking safety, the sky crying its apologies" (“Reading Lorca At Union Square," 15); “dandelions that dissipate in the night’s wheezing breath" (“Lights Out, Vagabond," 53); and “I think the sky a dream / not yet starred by bullets" (“The World And Everything In It," 64). In addition to crafting evocative images such as these, Francisco is able to juxtapose neutral observation with implied judgment in very few words. For instance, his narrator describes crowds to be “like so many / pennies at the bottom of a wishing well / rippling beneath another tossed prayer” (“Looking Down From Atop the Empire State Building," 14). The words “another" and “tossed" paint an irreverent tone, subtly mocking those who place faith in fountains and the like. 

            Francisco's skill, apparent throughout All My Heroes Are Broke, lies in allowing detailed setting to reveal character quirks and emotional truths. This book will leave readers looking forward to more from Francisco in the future. 

 Francisco's book is  available now from C&R Press .

Francisco's book is available now from C&R Press.

 A powerful poem from  All My Heroes Are Broke,  page 29

A powerful poem from All My Heroes Are Broke, page 29


Ariel Francisco is the author of All My Heroes Are Broke (C&R Press, 2017) and Before Snowfall, After Rain (Glass Poetry Press, 2016). Born in the Bronx to Dominican and Guatemalan parents, he completed his MFA at Florida International University in Miami. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Academy of American Poets, The American Poetry Review, Best New Poets 2016, Gulf Coast, Washington Square, and elsewhere. He lives and teaches in South Florida.

 

Sarah A. O'Brien is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Boston Accent Lit.

Art Contest

Ten Emerging Artists to Watch 2018

Call for Art:
Boston Accent Lit’s Ten Emerging Artists to Watch

Editor's Note: The deadline has been extended until midnight on February 5

 

Boston Accent Lit seeks submissions from artists aged 30 and under, or previously unpublished artists of any age, from throughout the United States for Ten Emerging Artists to Watch 2018. Visual artists working in all media are welcome to submit their recent work for consideration. This competition will be juried by Boston Accent Lit's Art Editor Michael Rose. Submissions are due by January 31, 2018.
 


About the Juror:
Michael Rose joined Boston Accent Lit as its founding Art Editor in 2016. Michael is an art historian, gallerist, and advisor based in Southern New England. He has served as Gallery Manager at the Providence Art Club, one of the nation's oldest arts organizations, since 2014. Michael earned his BA in Art History from Providence College and his Certificate in Appraisal Studies in Fine and Decorative Arts from New York University. He has completed additional coursework at the Rhode Island School of Design and was a member of the Fall 2017 cohort of Practice//Practice, AS220's national professional development program for arts administrators. You can learn more about Michael at his website michaelrosefineart.com.

 

Competition Rules:

  • Artists must be based in the United States.
  • Submitters must either be previously unpublished or, if previously published, be no more than 30-years-old as of January 31, 2018.
  • Each artist may submit up to six works for consideration.
  • Artists may also include a short statement and a biography or CV.
  • All work must be original and the product of the applicant.
  • The juror reserves the right to personally invite individual artists or those previously published in Boston Accent Lit to apply for this competition.

 

Ten Emerging Artists to Watch 2018 will be published in Boston Accent Lit's February 2018 Anniversary Issue. This Issue marks two years since the founding of the publication. Ten Emerging Artists to Watch will be accompanied by an essay by Michael Rose and will feature works by selected artists along with their information.

 

How to Submit:

To submit, please send your materials to bostonaccentlit@gmail.com under the heading “Ten to Watch” with your last name in the subject line. All submissions will be considered. Submissions are due by January 31, 2018.

 

Contact:

For questions about submitting please contact bostonaccentlit@gmail.com or, to speak with Michael directly, please reach out to him at michael@michaelrosefineart.com.

 

interview.

Boston Accent Talks To Jennifer Taub, Founder of #DivestDonald

By Charles Bane, Jr.

 

 

Jennifer Taub is a Professor at Vermont Law School where she teaches courses in contracts, corporations, securities regulation, and white-collar crime. She earned a J.D. cum laude from Harvard Law School, and a B.A. cum laude from Yale College. Prior to joining academia, she was an associate general counsel at Fidelity Investments. Professor Taub has written extensively about the 2008 financial crisis and on the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. This includes the book, Other People's Houses, published in 2014 by Yale University Press.

 

 

Boston Accent Lit: Is it your opinion that President Trump has consciously decided to pursue personal gain through his administration, in knowing violation of the Constitution?

 

Jennifer Taub: None of us are mind readers. However, we can draw inferences from a person's words and conduct. Based on his words and conduct from the campaign through the present, a reasonable conclusion is that he intends to pursue personal gain without regard for Constitutional requirements and ethical norms. 

 

BA: What kind of effect does this have on current and future office holding, if unchecked?

Taub: Ultimately, I believe his greed will be his downfall. His tax returns will come out. Remember that Richard Nixon said "I am not a crook" concerning his tax returns. Then the IRS investigated, and he was forced to pay $465,000 in back taxes in April 1974. A few months later, after the Watergate scandal broke, he resigned.

 

BA: You've written a highly-praised account of the 2008 financial crisis, Other People's Houses. Are you alarmed by Trump's choice of Treasury Secretary?

Taub: The appointment of Stephen Mnuchin for Treasury Secretary is a betrayal to his voting base. Mnuchin is known as a "foreclosure king." He personally earned about $300 million after purchasing and then flipping IndyMac, renamed as One West. Remember IndyMac was a subprime mortgage lender that failed in early 2008 and was bailed out by the FDIC. This cost the FDIC deposit insurance fund more than $9 billion. During his period of ownership, the bank reportedly foreclosed on more than 36,000 homeowners and allegedly violated the law in several instances.

 

BA: Will the other shoe drop from Trump on Wall Street Reform?

Taub: We are still waiting to see what the Republican-majority Senate plans for the Dodd-Frank Act. Remember that 60 votes are generally still needed for legislative changes. So, if the Senate Democrats stand firm, the damage down to financial reform can be limited.

 

BA: Could you speak a little about the "Divest Trump" movement which you maintain with "joyful purpose."

Taub: I was inspired to launch the #divestdonald hashtag and begin the movement in November after reading the work of a bipartisan group of legal ethicists and Constitutional scholars including Kathleen Clark, Norm Eisen, Richard Painter, Stephen Schooner, Zephyr Teachout, and Laurence Tribe.

 

This phrase, #divestdonald, is designed to draw public attention to how this President was poised during the interregnum to violate, and now after being sworn in, is violating the Constitution. In particular, the foreign Emoluments Clause, found in Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the Constitution forbids the President from taking any payment from a foreign government or official unless Congress first approves. This would include payments for hotel rooms and licensing fees. It would also include any of the joint ventures Trump’s operations have with foreign governments.

 

This is a case of both monumental corruption and historical significance.  When a President takes the oath of office, he solemnly swears to “faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and . . . to the best of [his] ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Yet, Trump is defying the Constitution.

 

In particular, the foreign Emoluments Clause, found in Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the Constitution forbids the President from taking any payment from a foreign government or official unless Congress first approves... Yet, Trump is defying the Constitution.
— Author Jennifer Taub, creator of #DivestDonald

The reason that I maintain a joyful purpose is because of the incredibly beautiful activism we are seeing across the country. From the Women's March, which was apparently the largest protest in American history, to the protests against the unconstitutional Muslim ban. I am inspired. Also, to be clear, the hashtag #divestdonald means more than just him selling his assets and placing them in a blind trust. It signifies that We the People need to divest of him as President and elect someone better. So, when we divest, what will we get? We need to shape that now. I believe this vision has six parts:

 

1. Shared prosperity and a living wage

2. Equal treatment, dignity, and justice for all

3. Affordable, comprehensive healthcare through single-payer

4. Debt-free, affordable higher-education

5. Banking that is not too big to fail

6. A sustainable, healthy planet

  

For more updates on #divestdonald, follow Taub on Twitter @jentaub.


Charles Bane, Jr. is the Nonfiction Editor of Boston Accent Lit. He is an American author of three collections of poetry, including the recent The Ends Of The Earth: Collected Poems (Transcendent Zero Press, 2015). He has written The Ascent Of Feminist Poetry (TZP, 2015 ), I Meet Geronimo And Other Stories, (Avignon Press, 2015), and Three Seasons: Writing Donald Hall (Collection of the Houghton Library, Harvard University). He created and contributes to The Meaning Of Poetry series for The Gutenberg Project.

interview.

winner of the 2017 accent prize: Tracy cross

An Interview with Boston Accent's Justin Goodman

 

Congratulations to Tracy Cross on winning the 2017 Accent Prize with “A Piece of Good Luck,” a story about the desperation of the disenfranchised to obtain wealth at whatever cost. A dystopia fed on Sinclair Lewis and Aldous Huxley, one can take an equal amount of political allegory as aesthetic joy; having edited three of her other works as part of the prize’s award, I can say this carries through the rest of her work.

Be sure to read the winning story, published in Issue 7, here.

 

1. How do you want our readers to know you? 

Well, I am a huge Prince fan, so last year was devastating. I mean, Bowie went first. Okay. But Prince? I was not close to ready and I’m still mourning him. But George Michael was the cherry on top of a 2016 Crap Sandwich.

 

I also have a wickedly, dry and dark sense of humor. 

 

Sometimes, I am easily distracted; usually it’s by something I think would make a good story. Or there’s something shiny and I turn into a two-year-old: “Did you see how shiny that was? Wait, what’s going on, now?” 

 

I'm not afraid to say that I suffer from depression. So, along with my sense of humor, I try to look for the light in the darkness. If you can find one tiny spot of light, you can pull yourself out of anything. I try not to let depression rule my life because I don’t want to be the person looking back and thinking, “I could have done so much more.”

 

I'm a mom, a (semi) practicing Buddhist, and I have been doing yoga off and on for about 20 years. I am a really good cook and aspire to go out to dinner at Alinea in Chicago. It’s one of best molecular gastronomy restaurants.

 

I also make a mean apple pie.

 

 

2. Because the Accent Prize is meant for “self-identifying women of color,” it makes sense for you to tell our readers what your sentiments are about the labels we attach to writers, such as “Black Writer” or “Woman Writer.”  

To me, before we identify who wrote the story, I think it's the importance of writing a good story that should come first.

I have read stories, without regards to the author. As long as the story is good, I anxiously await the next one or try to gather as many stories as I can by the author.  Race and gender are not very relevant to me because the work speaks for itself. 

 

I remember reading “Blood Son” by Richard Matheson. It blew me away. I mean my head flipped in the air at the end. Soon, it was all about Richard Matheson. Did I care what he looked like? No. I would sneak down to the main branch of Cleveland Public Library and ask my cousin (who worked there) for all the Richard Matheson books. I read those books in the back of the library from open to close.

Then, I read some books by his contemporaries. I lost my mind in Charles Beaumont’s work. I read some Ray Bradbury and felt my head explode. After consuming a lot of what these authors have written, I looked at pictures of these people and thought, “So, that’s what he looks like. Now, where can I get more books?”

Race was never a big issue for me. I’ve read Octavia Butler and thought she must have had an imagination that felt like another world. I mean, “Bloodchild” scared the shit out of me. I had to read it several times to really “get” it. I also read “Speech Sounds” and thought that this could not be the same person. I didn’t find out her race until much later, but I didn’t care. She wrote really good stories.

 

In answering your question, I self-identify as a writer. I don't want to be known as "that black writer" because it's not necessary. My work speaks for itself.

If the public feels it's so important to identify me as a black woman writer, so be it. Sadly, this is the type of world we seem to live in now. Everything and everyone has a label.

However, I would like to be known as "the chick with the dark sense of humor that writes dark stories." 

 

3. You’d mentioned a love of genre when we’d first talked [the original interview had occurred over the phone], and it seemed that you were most enthusiastic about horror. Is there a reason you feel drawn to horror in particular?

I don’t feel particularly drawn to horror. I like a good horror movie or story that either leaves you thinking or scared to walk down the street at night. If I write a horror story that has people looking at me and saying, “I didn’t know you were so dark”mission accomplished. 

 

When I was young, my mother would take me to scary movies. I think it was just all about taking someone to the movies with her. She never leaned over and said, "It's not real." It was more like her jumping out of her chair or grabbing me.

Imagine being seven or eight and going to see Alien. What I remembered most was the alien bursting out of John Hurt's chest and Veronica Cartwright making a noise like, "Eww..." Most people jumped. I thought it was a bit funny. This little thing slithers across the table. It has no eyes and just these teeth. And then it's gone.

 

I’m drawn to a lot of different genreshorror seems to be a bit of the easiest because it’s what I know. My imagination has always been on overdrive, even as a childto this day, I can’t sleep with an appendage hanging over the edge of the bed or the closet door open. Ironic, isn’t it? 

 

 

4. We’d talked about confronting the grimness of the world with humorreadily apparent to those who read your storybut do you feel there’s a point at which the world is too grim to be laughed at? I’m thinking of two of your stories that we edited (“The Sin Eater” and "A Day in the Life"), which were played straight almost entirely.

The other day I spoke to my father...actually, let me back track. I went home to Cleveland, Ohio for a funeral not too long ago. We drove through the city and it had to be the most depressing thing I've seen. There were torn-down houses, empty lots and very few people. It almost looked post-apocalyptic. No, it was post-apocalyptic.

When I spoke to my dad the other day, we were talking about all these depressed citieslike Detroit, Gary (Indiana) and of course, my city, Cleveland. It's like these cities are being abandoned or dying. As opposed to when I grew up and everything seemed alivewith lots of shiny lights. To see such a deceleration in my lifetime is pretty much astonishing and depressing. I wonder where the people went; why did this happen and could it have been avoided?

These places are modern-day tragedies. There is no humor to be found in them, but, if you look hard enough, you can find redemption or hope in all this sadness: a small child laughing while they play with a ball or the squeal of a kid going down a sliding board.

 

If you can find one tiny spot of light, you can pull yourself out of anything. I try not to let depression rule my life because I don’t want to be the person looking back and thinking, ‘I could have done so much more.’
— Fiction Writer Tracy Cross

 

5. “A Piece of Good Luck” focuses on a world where everyone lives in “Quads” based off of their socioeconomic class. You’d said that you might come back to it, you might not, even with one of your edited stories featured in the same world. Has that changed at all since we talked, or is it still ‘wait and see’?

To answer your question, I find that now, somehow, quite a few of my stories will be connectedor already arein a pre and post Quad world. There may be three or four more Quad stories and I’ll end it. I’ve got other interesting worlds to explore.  The Quads seem like a strange place, but it almost feels like home to me because it's a place I invented based on things I’ve seen. It’s not like cities went from thriving to becoming ghost towns overnight; it has been happening and we have been watching.  Sometimes we choose not to see what’s happening because it’s so depressing, but that doesn’t make it disappear.

 

The idea of “The Quads” has been bouncing around in my head for years. I've finally put pen to paper and made it happen. I’m the chick with the overactive imagination breathing life into what a lot of people consider dead and abandoned. I want to show the reader where they come from, how it happened and what life is like during.

For me, it’s almost like The Quads are inventing themselves. Some of the dead or abandoned cities have some type of justice system happening among the people (dead bodies or body parts turning up in abandoned houses). In my opinion, there's only a matter of time before the poorer communities will start being fenced off from the not-so-poor communities “for their own benefit and safety.” When this happens, I'll just post a picture of myself on my blog with the words"I warned y'all."

 

 

6. Getting into the story, it notes that “before the Quads, [Hugh and Floyd] lived near each other in the countryside.” It isn’t just a shift from old to new, free to enslaved, but also from open to close. That the world becomes to them (and feels to us) small, regimented, and novel seems reflective of the stratification we see today. I won’t press the analogynew technology making the world feel smaller, capitalism consolidating wealthbut do you feel that this is a fair reading of the story?

But have you noticed how the more tech-savvy we are, the further we are from each other? Don’t talk to me, just text me, while we are sitting in the same room, across from each other. My daughter has an iPad. She will play on it all day if I let her and if her cousins come over; they sit and play next to each other (on their iPads) instead of directly speaking to each other. It’s a strange dynamic to me because we didn’t have technology like this when I was young.  It was more of a “Take your sister and go outside. See you when the street lights are on.” 

 

I mean, I’m still waiting for my flying jet car just like they had on The Jetsons.

 

Hugh and Floyd lived in a simpler time. I’m not saying general stores and cowboys, but smaller cities or communities like I grew upeveryone knew everyone. Having been bounced around the penal system, they (can choose to be or) are oblivious to the world changing around them.

 

In a sense, yes, the world does become smaller to them. The Quads don’t give them room to stretch, but they adapt to it because it’s necessary. In the same right, the world remains the same for them with crappy factory jobs, small apartments, black-and-white TV with antennas and cheap beer.

 

 

7. Typically writers focus on what one might call the domestic imaginationtypically middle-class people living through typical day-to-day affairs in vigorous contemplation. What’s appealing about your story, however, is it focuses on working-class characters. You could call them 'criminal class,' even. Why write their stories? What do you think is missing about their perspective?

I write what I know.  I have lived and worked around upper, lower and middle class people all my life. I’ve discovered the penchant in fiction for working class portrayal is usually a stereotype: somewhere there’s a trailer, someone has an alcohol or drug (more likely alcohol) problem and there will always be small children (in soiled diapers) running around. Conversely, in reading about working class blacks, there is alwaysalwaysa single mother raising a child (probably a boy) on her own. Her husband has left her and her son is always on the cusp of doing something wrong-joining a gang, talking back, etc. And one day, a white savior will appear and help her son get his life together. I read this and just throw the book across the room, running around my living room, yelling, “Really?! Seriously?!”

 

I write to disprove these stories. This isn’t how real people live. I’m not ashamed to say I’m working class. I get up, go to work and do my job. I come home and read with my daughter, fix dinner, watch TVmaybe get some editing or writing doneand go to bed. This is the perspective that is always missing from the story. All of our stories are important because one would be surprised at how much we all have in common as people and not stereotypes.

 

Additionally, not all criminals are bad. There are quite a few stupid ones out therewhich I have proven in my story. When someone says criminal, there’s always a stereotype associated with it. I wanted to show these two guys, with bad luck, trying to catch a break. These guys wouldn’t beat you down in an alley for your wallet. They are too old and too tired. They messed up in the past and they just want to live their lives and adapt to their new surroundings.

 

8. Ultimately though, your story is about the ability to change one’s future. I saw this in one of the other stories you had us edit (“Tempus Edax Rerum”). Like we talked about in the original phone interview, you write about the irony of making change because it plays out in daily life all the time. Very O. Henry that way. But that begs the question, one I think that is implicitly asked in “A Piece of Good Luck”: How much can one change the direction of one’s life? Do you have any thoughts on this? 

I love my city, Cleveland. Clevelanders almost have the same mantra, which is keep    your head down and keep moving forward. It doesn’t matter how you feel, it’s the progression of moving forward and understanding that this time tomorrow, and things will be different that keeps you moving and makes everything okay.

 

I’m a person that believes what you put out in the universe, you will receive back. Put out negative energy and that’s what you get. So, yes, anyone can change the direction of their life if they choose to change it. Some people just go with the flow because it’s all they know and they think, “Well, if I change, it won’t be good.” If we look at Hugh and Floyd in the short story, one of them not only thinks outside the box, but also believes in what he’s doing so strongly that he doesn’t consider the consequences of his actions. He just knows he is right, despite warnings from everything around him. 

 

As a writer, I am petrified to share my work, but this is only normal. Once I removedthe fear and said to myself, “This is not half bad and your friends and family wouldn’t   lie to you, give it a chance and send it out.” It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but someone will like it. And that’s what led me to Boston Accent Lit.

 

9. For our readers, what are you working on now?

Well, I feel like I am always editing.  I am editing the three stories you guys reviewedand I really appreciate it. Editing and entering contests or anthologies seem to be one route I’m taking with the shorter stories.

 

I am also self-editing a book about a man who spent a chunk of his life in juvie and a psychiatric ward before The Quads are in existence. Once he is released, The Quads are being formed and he has to rapidly assimilate into society. On top of all of this, he believes he is a superhero. 

Once he starts seeing his “Wellness Coordinator,” he learns a dark secret about himself and why he believes he is a superhero. It doesn’t necessarily unravel from there, but it puts a lot of his life in perspective and helps him to get a better understanding of himself and his situation.

One of the underlying issues of this book is mental illness. I hope to take away the stigma people often associate with mentally-ill people. This book touches on using medication to help with mental illness, journaling, ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) and other methods of self-help for mentally-ill people. People fear what they don’t understand. If one person reads this book (I’ve titled it Monachopsis. It means the subtle but persistent feeling of being out of place) and either gets help or realizes they aren’t alone, then I’ll be a happy camper.

 

One additional thing I’ve done is added a playlist in the back of the book, so the reader can really get into the protagonist’s head. There’s a wide variety of music like Steely Dan, Public Enemy, and (of course) Prince, but it leans a bit heavy on some old school ska and rock steadylike The Specials and Alton Ellis.

 

 

10. Anyone you want to thank? Any social media you want to plug? Etc?

I would like thank my sister, Teri Cross Davis, for reading all my writing and not calling me up asking if I was okay because of the scary things I write. And I’d like to thank Jess Stork for diving into my world and sharing her world with me at the right timeright after the election. She always gives me the right amount of input and advice on my work. And we both are from Cleveland, so we have that connection as well.

 

If people are interested in what I’m reading-they can follow me on goodreads: https://www.gooodreads.com/ldglns.  

If they want to experience the dry humor, I’m on twitter: https://twitter.com/1dangerouswoman
and for my random crushes or thoughts, they can find me on tumblr: http://blacklotus71.tumblr.com/

 

       I would like to thank Justin and Rashi for their edits as well.

Book Notes

The Phoenix of Gratitude

By Justin Goodman

 

         In the last novel we’ll ever see by Jane Austen, the posthumously published Northanger Abbey, Henry Tillney falls in love with Catherine Morland out of gratitude. “In other words, that a persuasion of her partiality for him had been the only cause of giving her a serious thought.” Unusually, but not oddly, this is the author from which I developed my cynicism. Because, contrary to what Jane Austen fans know of the stylized Hollywood version, she knew three things: wit, society, and morbidity. After all, so the story goes, Austen lay in bed, dying from Tuberculosis. Likely she was nearly weightless, smelled of unending sweat, and would cough blood into a handkerchief. From the far corner of the room, during one of these coughing fits, Cassandra, her sister, asked if there was anything she wanted. Austen’s last words: “I want nothing but death.” She died shortly after on July 18th, 1817.

            In our century, Henry’s sense of gratitude comes across as parochial. Either as wholesome and naivein a way life prior to WWII can appearor, as Austen writes in the sentence following the above quoted, “dreadfully derogatory of an heroine’s dignity.” These negative connotations to an honest word are pretty clear when, even on the Wikipedia page for parochialism, we are reminded that the word “particularly when used perjoratively” is opposed to universalism. It should remind you of the screaming matches leading up to the Trump Cabinet about Globalism and Nationalism. #MAGA is the cry of either a patriot of the naivest type, or a return to evil; the love of country is equivalent to its contrapositive. Meanwhile, those who live in cities are either dupes or American-hating “commies"; the love of others is equivalent to its contrapositive. If Austen were alive to see this, she’d probably be unsurprised. These conflicts, after all, are the heart of her work.

           Take the book everyone knows, Pride & Prejudice. Elizabeth Bennett is a village woman of immeasurable worldlinesstranslated as wit and humorwhose friend, Charlotte Lucas, embodies a parochially practical type. When her cousin, the Reverend William Collins, attempts to woo her, for instance, she sees it as loquacious stupidity and refuses him. Elizabeth, atypically for a woman of her time and place, scorns the well-off. When he makes the same proposal to Charlotte, though, wary of a potential future of spinster poverty, she readily accepts it as a necessary sacrifice. Elizabeth goes on to butt heads with Mr. Darcy who, seduced by her independence and strong will, inevitably falls in love with her. After a series of dramatic plot points involving Darcy racing to London to save Elizabeth’s impetuous youngest sister from a man formerly serving in the military during the French Revolutionary Wars, Elizabeth, overwhelmed by gratitude for his kindness, ultimately falls for him in return and they marry.

           Passionate intensity is what drives the fiery-eyed Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen in the Hollywood Austen, which is how many remember her writing. Yet clearly, this passionate intensity is all that crosses over between the twoonly, in her novels, it is closer to Yeats’ sentiment that “the best lack all conviction, while the worst / are full of passionate intensity.”

           In Sense & Sensibility, to turn to another Austen novel, this behavior isparalleled in Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. Elinor is the sensible eldest daughter and Marianne the romantic (read: sensibility-driven) second-oldest. Elinor is often referred to as cold-hearted because of her restraint, while Marianne is driven to spuriousness, at one point fainting from emotional distress. Elinor, caught between duty to family and love for Edward Ferrars, refuses to act. Marianne, incapable of restraint, is entangled in a failed romance with the flirtatious John Willoughby. Once this romance fails and Marianne is taken ill with distress, the ever-patient Colonel Brandon, who had been in love with Marianne from the start, tends to her. Out of deep gratitude for his patience and dedication, she comes to admire and love him. They marry, much like the equally opposed Darcy and Elizabeth, out of human gratitude. Can such division be sewn together in such a way today, in America?

                                                      ***

           With all the frenzy of this past election cycle, we tend to forget that the federal level of our government is not the centerpiece of our system. I would wager that the increased focus on federal elections has distanced people from their very real, very parochial way of living. Communities, divided into abstractions of red and blue, have lost the feeling of gratitude for one’s neighbor that brought the founding fathers together. Think of it, the love you’d feel for people who committed treason with you. Even the parochial John Adams and internationalist Thomas Jefferson, an Austenian love story of sorts, who each declared the other egocentric and self-serving, have gone down as dedicated friends in American myth. Similar, I may add, to Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy.

           Which is the point. The funny thing about Austen is that neither worldliness or parochialism, globalism or nationalism, lacking conviction or being full of passion, are useful for confronting the ills of the world. There are no heroes and heroines in Austen. There are only heroic bonds built on strong contrasts.

           And this is bound to happen in any small community in America because the wisdom of local politics tends toward people, not party, in stark contrast to what we see in Washington. What we see there, what we see spreading to our homes, is an issue that will not be resolved by reasoned or angry debate with strangers (with rare exceptions). Rather, it must be built on conviction and love. Things which, when combined, tend toward a feeling of gratitude.

 

Communities, divided into abstractions of red and blue, have lost the feeling of gratitude for one’s neighbor that brought the founding fathers together.
— Editor Justin Goodman on modern-day politics in the United States

           So, you ask, is it enough? Of all Austen’s characters’ storylines, Marianne Dashwood “was born to an extraordinary fate.” Unlike many of the parallel figures Austen wrote into her novels, Marianne discovered “the falsehood of her own opinions” after marrying Colonel Brandon. No other Austen figure converts at the end of the novel to such an extremeeven sharing the reasoning of mutuality that “her society restored his mind...and [Marianne] found her own happiness in forming his.” Perhaps it is enough. Yet there is a certain morbidity in submission that is “dreadfully derogatory of an heroine’s dignity.” In the end, her conversion was Colonel Brandon’s happy ending. And so it seems that the battle, instead of ending in gratitude, merely shifts to a gothic sense of uneasy peace. You can imagine them fighting over servants or the best route to Bath, as you can still hear Austen’s last words resonate in the temperamental joy of their beginnings.

 


Justin Goodman, Assistant Fiction Editor of Boston Accent Lit, graduated from SUNY Purchase with a B.A. in Literature. His film, book, and music reviews have been published in Red Carpet Crash, Cleaver Magazine, and InYourSpeakers, respectively. Other work has been published in Italics Mine, Counterexample Poetics, and 352 Degrees. Take a look at his website here.