You Never Know
by Amy Kiger-Williams
My dad keeps a rifle in the coat closet in the laundry room. I don’t know why he has it. He doesn’t like hunting or fishing like his father does. He likes Captain Beefheart and Mad Magazine and British racing cars and Monty Python and wearing aviator sunglasses and playing with chemicals in his photographic darkroom in the basement. I cannot imagine a time when my father has ever fired this gun, and I never ask him why it’s there or what he’s done with it. But I take it out of the closet when my parents aren’t home. I take it out of the closet and inspect it, its simple design, the metal barrel, the length of it. I am afraid to touch the barrel, but I do, I touch it with my finger tip, just tapping it lightly as if it’s on fire.
I’ve spent the majority of my twenties working on my upcoming book. I will be twenty-nine when it comes out in August. In a way, it grew up with me: from getting the idea for it after graduating from Hofstra University in 2013, to outlining it in my first apartment a year later, in Harlem, to writing it on breaks during my various day jobs, to deleting over thirty-thousand words and starting over after moving to Brooklyn two years later, to getting an agent, to losing said agent a year later, when they left agenting for publicity, until eventually securing a book deal on my own with a small, albeit mighty and rapidly growing, independent press. Round after round of edits.
by Amy Bobeda
You pull the Lovers. In your deck, they are a medieval prince and princess. Her dress is pink or blue. She wears a heninn like Maid Marion in Disney’s Robin Hood, my favorite movie. In my deck they are naked, holding the apple. Their roundness cannot be ignored.
by Joshua Bohnsack
First, there is a mountain.
Then there is no mountain.
Then there is.
Brett told me about this song his mom played when he was young. He said, “I should ask my sister. She knows.” Brett was a Dead Head. We pushed over a toolshed once so his mom could see the sunrise, but this was before. Brett had recordings from Dylan shows that nobody else had recordings of. Brett hid his handheld recorder in his sweatshirt sleeve and said he would loan me a ZIP disk so I could hear obscure versions of “Most of the Time” and I wish I had a ZIP drive so I could hear them.
by Jennifer Spiegel
Nothing To See Here
In June 2015, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Surgery, Chemo, Radiation, Reconstruction, and More Surgery followed. Between then and now, I wrote Cancer, I’ll Give You One Year: A Non-Informative Guide to Breast Cancer, A Writer’s Memoir In Almost Real Time.
The Normal Strange
by Kathe Koja
What he carried to her he carried in a red string bag.
Life is strange. The aching break-up; the ferocious good luck that blooms from the blue; the infant’s amazing and fully expected birth; the shattering death of a loved one: when our outer and inner worlds are suddenly transformed or shaken, never to be the same, we say, This feels unreal. We say, Life is so strange.
Liquid Stories: Writing & Teaching the Personal as a POC in White Literary Spaces
by Freda Epum
In a meeting with a prominent prize-winning author, she asked me, “Are you sure this really happened the way you think it did?” I was writing a series of poems confronting microaggressions I experience as a woman of color in predominantly white spaces. It was a poem about getting a flu shot in which the nurse focused on my dark skin noting that she “could not see the blood.” At the time, I was merely excited by the opportunity to meet with such a prominent author that it did not hit me that I was in fact talking to an older white woman with very different life experiences. The critique was short, “seems like you know what you’re doing.” I felt dismissed. Of course the black girl knows how to write about the black things. It was fitting.
In my early twenties, I ached to be a writer, but the stories I wrote were never as good as I wanted them to be. Even worse, sometimes a story idea that had initially seemed promising would fizzle out midway through. I thought that surely this didn’t happen to “real” writers, who, in the grip of the Muse, produced fully-realized stories from the get-go. And then I read Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, in which she insists that nearly all good writing starts with a “shitty first draft,” that writing is an inherently messy process, that the bulk of it is, in fact, re-writing.