Thursday, May 24, 2012

Superb News! Pringle-Toungate 2012 Artist Trust Fellowship Recipient

A Washington arts foundation, Artist Trust has awarded Erin Pringle-Toungate a writing fellowship.  She is one of sixteen artists in Washington state to be awarded the honor, and one of eight in the literary arts category. Over 400 people applied for a fellowship.  Artist Trust is a not-for-profit arts organization that supports regional artists in their pursuits.  

"Fellowships award $7,500 to practicing professional artists of exceptional talent and demonstrated ability."  ~from the Artist Trust website

To read the list of other winning artists, please see the Artist Trust website or the press release in The Seattle Times.


Needless to say, she's very pleased and will be able to finish Midwest in Memoriam completely this summer and make a deep start into a new book.  A new book?  It's dazzling to consider.


Short-Story Month 2012: Day 24, The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

Page 24 of 1948 issue of The New Yorker
From original, in The New Yorker
"Mr. Summers spoke frequently to the villagers about making a new box, but no one liked to upset even as much tradition as was represented by the black box." 

Of course, long before Hunger Games, there was Shirley Jackson's short story, "The Lottery," which is today's selection.  "The Lottery" takes place on a day unlike any day for the reader, but a day the village has seen year after year, the day when a name is drawn and one villager wins. . .

by Shirley Jackson
(also in audio version)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Short-Story Month 2012: Day 23, The Still Point of the Turning World by Patricia Highsmith

Photograph of Patricia Highsmith wearing pearls on the cover of her collected work
Cover of
Nothing That Meets the Eye
"There is a small park, hardly more than a square, far over on the West Side in the lower Thirties, that is almost always deserted. A low iron fence runs around it, setting it off from a used car lot, a big redstone public dispensary of some sort, and the plain gray backs of shabby apartment buildings that share the same block with it." 

From the author of Strangers on a Train, and The Talented Mr. Ripley, and other novels, comes today's selected story.  Any number of the stories that appear in Highsmith's uncollected works, Nothing That Meets the Eye, could be here.  Highsmith is a master story-writer, and it is a current shame that this collection hasn't yet won a major award.

 "The Still Point of the Turning World" is the story of two mothers who are strangers to each other and who bring their children to play at a park; the story follows the plot imagined by one mother about the other.  Highsmith takes a common situation and makes of it a masterpiece of assumption and despair.

by Patricia Highsmith
(somewhere between 1938 and 1949)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Kore Press Finalist: How the Sun Burns Among Hills of Rock and Pebble

A quick and lovely announcement:

Erin Pringle-Toungate's story, "How the Sun Burns Among Hills of Rock and Pebble", was awarded the honor of being a finalist in the 2012 Kore Press Short Fiction Chapbook Award.  The judge, Karen Brennan, had this to say about the story:

"What I most admire about this fine story is the author’s ability to render hyper-dramatic—almost gothicmaterial with a beautifully orchestrated lyricism that never over-reaches itself.  Indeed, the story of the young girl grieving for her murdered sister is made even more poignant for its distant, almost oracular point of view, a point of view that allows the reader to glimpse not only the protagonist’s confusion and sorrow, but also the indifferent, soulless landscape in which she wanders.  A little Cormac McCarthy, a little Carson McCullers, 'How the Sun Burns' is full of dense atmosphere, apocalyptic overtones and heart."

Photograph of a pond behind a barbed wire fence with shadowed flowers
"Dark Pond" by Elliot Bennett, Used under CC license
The other two finalists were Carol Test and Rebecca Entel, and the winner was Mary Byrne, a writer originally from Ireland who now lives in France. Byrne will receive $1,000 and her story, "A Parallel Life" will be published in chapbook form by Kore Press.  Stay tuned to Kore Press ( so you can be the first in line to read Byrne's story.  If you absolutely cannot wait, then you can also find her work in Best Paris Stories

Pringle-Toungate's story will be in her next book, Midwest in Memoriam. You'll also be able to read the story in the Spring 2013 issue of minnesota review.

Short-Story Month 2012: Day 22, The Things They Left Behind by Stephen King

"The things I want to tell you about--
the ones they left behind--showed up 
in my apartment in August 2002. I'm sure
 of that, because I found most of them 
not long after I helped Paula Robeson 
with her air conditioner. Memory always 
needs a marker, and that's mine."

It would be a total fault not to include Stephen King in a celebration of National Short Story Month since he is one of the working masters of the short story.  Any number of his stories could be selected, but the reasoning for the selection of his story "The Things They Left Behind" are these: 1) It's one of King's more recent works, and she thinks, shows more his abilities than some of his recent longer works; and 2) it's one of the few creative works to deal with 9/11 in a smart and cathartic manner.

As with any of King's work, it is difficult if not impossible to find online; even when magazines publish King, his work is available only to those who have paying subscriptions to that magazine (and as well it should be, regardless of who the writer is).  "The Things They Left Behind" is from King's collection Just After Sunset, and the title links to the story via the Google Preview for the collection.

by Stephen King

Monday, May 21, 2012

Short-Story Month 2012: Day 21, The Red House by Ian T. MacMillan

Photograph of a red house in the country
Red House by Mike Klein,
Used under CC license
She discovered today's story, "The Red House", in the 1997 edition of the O'Henry Prize Stories which was assigned in one of her college classes (this is also the book where she first read Carol Shields).  She thinks she even wrote an essay about "The Red House", regarding its ending especially, which is fantastic in its brevity and poetry.  The story follows a quiet boy who lives in an isolated family with a strange father (this is totally based on her memory).

There is no excerpt because her copy of the prize stories was eaten her dog Gretta, then a puppy.  

For years, she has hunted for this writer while the story haunted her.  But he was difficult to find; perhaps because his last name has a typo on the Random House website ("MacMillian"), or perhaps because the story's title isn't listed in anywhere but three places online. But after some sleuthing, she has found out these important details: "The Red House" originally appeared in The Gettysburg Review; it appears in MacMillan's book Our People: Stories (2008), which has a publication year one year after his death; and in an interview with Karen I. Johnson, MacMillan had this to say about "The Red House": 

[Question by Johnson]
Two of these stories, “A Story of Water You Could Never Tell” 
and “The Red House” are not what I would consider traditional 
narratives.    How would you describe the style of these two stories 
and what led you to write in this style? 

[MacMillan's Response]
“The Red House” was an experiment in the use of second 
person (you).  It felt right, until I read some draft and saw 
the word ‘you’ too many times, so I began crossing them 
out, in effect crossing out subjects and verbs of a lot of 
sentences, which gave the narrative a kind of stream of 
consciousness quality.  The result enhances the tangibility 
of the experience, I think, and “A Story of Water You 
Could Never Tell” was a further exercise in the use of this 


Needless to say, this story is high up on her list of excellent stories, and thanks to National Short Story month and choosing a story a day, she has found its book and has ordered her copy. She hopes you will, too.

by Ian T. MacMillan,

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Short-Story Month 2012: Day 20, Bartleby, the Scrivener by Herman Melville

Bartleby. I am a rather elderly man. The nature of my avocations, for the alst thirty years, has brought me into more than ordinary contact with what would seem an interesting and somewhat singular set of men, of whom, as yet, nothing, that I know of, has ever been written--I mean, the law-copyists, or scriveners. I have known very many of them, professionally and privately, and if I pleased, could relate divers histories, at which good-natured gentlemen might smile, and sentimental souls might weep. But I waive the biographies of all other scriveners, for a few passages in the life of Bartleby, who was a scrivener, the strangest I ever saw, or heard of. While, of other law-copyists, I might write the complete life, of Bartleby nothing of that sort can be done. I believe that no materials exist, for a full and satisfactory biography of this man. It is an irreparable loss to literature.
First page of Bartleby, from here
“Why do you refuse?”  
  “I would prefer not to.”

And for Day 20 of National Short-story month, we turn to one of the great American writers whose work serves as a foundation for all that happens this day, Herman Melville.  

Today's selection is his story "Bartleby", the tale of the disenchantment of bureaucracy and the waste of human life when stamped into the system. 

If you enjoy this story, you'll likely find a similar experience in Nikolai Gogol's story, "The Overcoat."

by Herman Melville 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Short-Story Month 2012: Day 19, The Babysitter by Robert Coover

Photograph of payphone with handset facing out
Photograph by Kelly Teague,
Used under CC license
"She arrives at 7:40, ten minutes late, but the children, Jimmy and Bitsy, are eating supper, and their parents are not ready to go yet.   From other rooms come the sounds of a baby screaming, water running,  a television musical (no words: probably a dance number--patterns of gliding figures come to mind)." 

It's Day 19 of National Short-Story month.  Today's selection is Robert Coover's story, "The Babysitter" from his collection Pricksongs & Descants (1969) .  If the story were a piano piece, it would be likely subtitled Variations on a Theme.

Like the composer who shows his or her skill by performing a piece in varying styles, Coover demonstrates his skill as a storyteller-writer in "The Babysitter" by creating a larger experience of plot through weaving (or unweaving) the possibilities that arise from the well-known urban legend typically known as The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs, its several variants, and the imaginative mind-space of the characters.  


Coover won the 1987 Rea award, and the jury had this to say of his work:

"For taking the dross of the ordinary and spinning it into the treasure of myth Robert Coover [is] a writer who has managed, willfully and even perversely, to remain his own man while offering his generous vision and versions of America."

Friday, May 18, 2012

Short-Story Month 2012: Day 18, The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe

It is Day 18 of National Short-Story Month, and who better than Edgar Allan Poe for such a day?  Here is the first story she ever read by him, "The Tell-Tale Heart" (although she read it in fourth grade in a collection adapted for children, and at that time, she didn't know what "adapted" meant and was quite irritated to find out, once she did, that it meant she hadn't actually read the story as it was meant to be).

The following newspaper article is the original publication of "The Tell-Tale Heart" (January 11, 1843), and it comes from the Edgar Allan Poe Digital Collection virtually located at the University of Texas at Austin-Harry Ransom Center.

by Edgar Allan Poe

The New York Sun. [From the Pioneers.] The Tell-Tale Heart. By Edgar A. Poe. Art is long and Time is fleeting, And our hearts though stout and brave, Still, like muffled drums, are beating Funeral marches to the grave. [Longfellow.  Then text of story begins.
Original newspaper for The Tell-Tale Heart,
The New York Sun 1/9/1843. For larger version, go here 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Short-Story Month 2012: Day 17, Old Lady Lloyd by L.M. Montgomery

"The children believed she amused herself counting the gold in the big black box under her bed. Spencervale children children held the old lady in mortal terror; some of them--the "Spencer Road" fry--believed she was a witch [.  . .]" 

Illustration of fictional character Anne Shirley from L.M. Montgomery's book Chronicles of Avonlea
From Chronicles of Avonlea,
character Anne Shirley
It's Day 17 of National Short-Story Month.  Until today, every selected story has been by a United States author.  Today's selection, however, if from the United States' close relation, Canada.

L.M. Montgomery's story collection, Chronicles of Avonlea, follows the place, people, and the main character Anne Shirley, from Montgomery's popular series Anne of Green Gables. By this time, Anne Shirley is a young woman; however, knowledge of Anne Shirley's past is not necessary to enjoying these works.  Most, if not all, the characters are not from the original series.

It has seemed to her every time she had read any of Montgomery's work, whether at age 12 or 30, that Montgomery is a superior writer at, especially, the crafting of landscapes.  It is somewhat easy to have a reader imagine, let's say, an orchard.  But it is something quite other to walk the reader through the orchard as another person.  But Montgomery can do that, and does that consistently.  It is a beautiful world L.M. Montgomery gives us.  

There is a fragile lightness and cheer and underlying wish for goodness that comes beneath Montgomery's work, but that does not come from, for example, a negligence of the desperation of humankind.  No, Montgomery does not have a sort of Pollyanna-with-closed-eyes perspective but seems almost constantly aware of the precipice, and it is that that enriches her work.  

But we can save what she might think about Montgomery's work for another day.  Today we must read the story "Old Lady Lloyd", and celebrate that such a work and writer should be in the world.      

by L.M. Montgomery

Spencervale gossip always said that "Old Lady Lloyd" was rich and mean and proud. Gossip, as usual, was one-third right and two-thirds wrong. old Lady Lloyd was neither rich nor mean; in reality she was pitifully poor--so poor that "Crooked Jack" Spencer, who dug her garden and c hopped her wood for her, was opulent by contrast; for he, at least, never lacked three meals a day, and the Old Lady could sometimes achieve no more than one. But she was very proud--so proud that she would have died rather than let the Spencervale people, among whom she had queened it in her youth, suspect how poor she was and to what straits was somtimes reduced. She much preferred to have them think her miserly and odd--a queer old recluse who never went anywhere, even to church, and who paid the smallest subscription to the minister's salary of anyone in the congregation.
Text for Our Lady Lloyd by L.M. Montgomery