Archive | January, 2014

WIPs Conversation: Robyn Parnell on Her Work in Progress

Robyn ParnellIn a misguided attempt to summon the Muse, Robyn Parnell once saw the profile of the love child of Barbara Kingsolver and Chuck Norris formed by the dust bunnies underneath her computer monitor. She chugged a caffeinated beverage until the image faded. Parnell is an Author’s Guild and SCBWI member; her fiction, poetry and essays have been published in over ninety books, magazines and journals (several of which have not filed for Chapter 11 protection). In 2012 she got to practice her It’s-an-honor-just-to-be-nominated speech when one of her short stories was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Notable publishing credits include her juvenile novel The Mighty Quinn, her picture book My Closet Threw a Party and her short fiction collection This Here and Now; less notable credits are not noted in this notation. When not working on innumerable fiction projects Parnell rehearses her NEA grant refusal speech and considers obtaining whatever professional help is necessary to enable her to compose a more pretentious Author’s Bio blurb. For more information,  see: and

Robyn, in “The Assassin,” excerpted from your novel Looking Up, JD and Ciela are recovering in the aftermath of life, post-“incident.” JD is trying to attain a new “normal,” hence his fateful visit to Rivercrest. At what point do these scenes arise in the novel?

What JD and Ciela come to call The Incident occurs in the book’s third chapter. Before Cheryl’s death and Ciela’s peculiar injury (“The Incident”), JD regularly walked/hiked in Rivercrest Park. JD’s desire to return to a normal routine after Cheryl’s funeral (Chapter 14) is what prompts that fateful visit to Rivercrest (Chapter 15).

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Robyn Parnell: “The Assassin,” an Excerpt from Looking Up

 Sunday May 23, 1999

Everything has a price, but few things are valued.

The morning after Cheryl’s funeral JD awoke at six-thirty with one of his wife’s aphorisms roosting in his mind. He thought at first Ciela had whispered it to him, but she was still asleep. She’d kicked off the covers and was lying on her side, facing him, one arm draped across her knee, the other tucked underneath her head. In that position the curve of Ciela’s neck seemed not only normal but alluring, and JD scooted over in the bed. He saw that Ciela’s eyelids and nose twitched in R.E.M. reverie. Judging from the up-curve of her lips it was a good dream, and he decided to let her enjoy it.

It was JD’s second morning wakeup, only slightly less pleasurable than the first one, hours earlier, when he’d been stirred from a dark, fitful sleep by Ciela. Her warm feet massaged the backs of his knees and moved down to his calves, her long, slender toes intertwining with his. She’d spooned her torso around his back and nibbled his shoulder blades, softly, then insistently.

I can’t reach your neck, she whisper-laughed.

They’d made love for the first time since The Incident that had left Ciela with her neck stuck in permanent tilt-mode. Their lack of post-Incident sexual intimacy was something they hadn’t discussed, not even once, JD realized, as he rolled out of bed and padded to the bathroom. Pulling on his socks, underwear and sweatpants, he enumerated the episodes of the past six weeks: a blur of tests, doctor’s visits and now what?s…and Cheryl’s death. The blur seemed manageable if not under control – what choice did they have, other than to live through what needed to be lived through? – even as it obscured his awareness that he and Ciela had seemingly lost the desire for desire.

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WIPs Conversation: Kevin Eze on His Work in Progress

Kevin EzeKevin Eze, a Nigerian writer, is the author of the forthcoming novel The Peacekeeper’s Wife (Amalion Publishing, Fall 2014). His works have been anthologized in Writers, Writing on Conflict and War in Africa and Long Journeys: African Migrants on the Road. His stories have recently appeared in The Four Quarters Magazine and Outside In. He was one of the winners in the Africa Book Club Short Reads Competition in 2013. He writes in English and French Languages from Dakar, Senegal.

Kevin, Mali, the story, does an admirable job of relating the conflict and turmoil in Mali, the country, through its narration, its characters, but, most of all, in its setting—a hospital where “(a)ll but two wings are closed due to fleeing personnel”…“rebuilt after a suicide bomber levelled the old maternity ward,” and where a “nurse would be driven crazy working in a hospital without towels or paper.” How did you decide to set the story in such a place?

A hospital in distress better captures the drama of the human condition in Mali at the height of the conflict. A hospital is a waiting place, a corridor of life. The Malian people were trapped in this tenuous corridor, like in a hospital, waiting, to either return home “restored” or be carried home for burial. The UN-backed French intervention was the doctor. But the hospital was also the irony of the Malian conflict: Malians sought refuge or treatment at the same hospital, irrespective of the color line.

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Kevin Eze: “Mali,” from a Story Collection in Progress


In Africa, when an old man dies, it is a library burning down.

-Amadou Hampâté Bâ


After her daughter died, Amy made the hospital her home. She returned to her village to wash her k’sa, a traditional African dress, a few days a month, but those days were less frequent. No need to return, no need to worry about her k’sa. She wears hospital scrubs instead of dresses.

She wakes on a traditional mat, where people normally sleep during the hotter seasons, in the emergency unit. She sleeps there deliberately, in expectation of the next casualty. Some days the sun over the Sahara rises with the shuffle of footsteps, the wails of family members, to which she awakens. Immediately she swings into motion to help those around her. She knows she is safe thanks to the British soldier who guards the hospital.

“Someone would like to see you,” a nurse says. Amy, face still unwashed, rubs the fatigue out of her eyes.

“Has another person died?”

The nurse pauses. “He is waiting outside.”

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