Archive | April, 2014

WIPs Conversation: Aaron Tillman on His Work in Progress

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAaron Tillman is an Assistant Professor of English at Newbury College. He received a Short Story Award for New Writers from Glimmer Train Stories and won First Prize in the Nancy Potter Short Story Contest at University of Rhode Island. His short story collection, The Cross-Eyed Monkey Cabaret, was selected as a finalist in the 2013 Autumn House Press Short Fiction Competition and the 2013 Santa Fe Writers Project Awards. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Prick of the Spindle, great weather for MEDIA, theNewerYork, The Carolina Quarterly, The Drum Literary Magazine, Opium Magazine, The Ocean State Review, Scrivener Creative Review, Burrow Press Review and Glimmer Train, and he has recorded two stories for broadcast on the Words & Music program at Tufts University. His essays have appeared in Studies in American Humor, Symbolism, The CEA Critic, and The Intersection of Fantasy and Native America (Mythopoeic 2009).

Aaron, these opening chapters of The Voice of Artland Rising represent the starting points of dual narratives, chronicling the circus life of Berni and her magically talented son, Artland. Do their stories continue to unravel sequentially as the novel continues?

Unravel is really the right word – a lot of that taking place here. And yes, the unraveling happens in what I’ve been calling co-chronological order, leading toward and away from the events at Bean Hollow State Beach where Artland’s supernatural abilities first appear (publically, at least). The novel shifts between the Before Bean Hollow chapters—tracking Berni’s tumultuous early adulthood, including Artland’s birth and formative childhood—and the After Bean Hollow chapters, where Berni and her lover, Seymour, work to conceal and to exploit Artland’s extraordinary new talents, anxious for him to appear “just like everyone else—only more!”

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Aaron Tillman: The Voice of Artland Rising, Chapters 1 & 2


Chapter 1—After Bean Hollow

Gravel Lot Dining, Warehouse Studio Dancing


It was Artland’s idea to eat outside in the gravel lot on the 44 x 32 inch dinette table they had used for non-performance dinners throughout the summer. For this first meal with Amanda Moskowitz, Artland needed something to take the pressure off. Something to talk about if words withered in the fever of her arrival. His mother and Seymour had reluctantly agreed to the arrangement, hoping that Artland might change his mind once they were all inside. But when Amanda arrived with a tight bunch of pink shell azaleas and a suspicious look on her seasoned-sixth-grader face, there was no turning back.

“Aren’t you going to take my coat?” she said to Artland, pulling off her turquoise shell, sweeping strands of strawberry hair off her shoulder as she pushed it into his chest. The jacket dropped awkwardly in Artland’s arms. He glanced up at his mother who was straining to hold a smile.

“We can hang it in the closet,” Berni offered. “You get a hanger for Amanda’s coat,” she said to her son, “and I’ll put these beautiful flowers in water. Did you see what Amanda brought us?” she asked Seymour who was rooted beneath the threshold of the kitchen, smothering the stubble on his heavy chin with a wide, sweaty hand.

“They’re from my auntie’s store,” Amanda declared.

“They’re lovely,” Berni said.

“Indeed,” Seymour confirmed.

“My auntie said they could brighten up even the dirtiest places.”

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WIPs Conversation: Len Joy on His Work in Progress

Len JoyLen Joy lives in Evanston, Illinois. His short fiction has appeared in FWRICTION: Review, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Johnny America, Specter Magazine, Washington Pastime, Hobart, Annalemma, and Pindeldyboz. He is a competitive age-group triathlete. In June 2012 he completed his first (and probably only) Ironman at Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

Len, in the beginning chapters of American Past Time excerpted here, Dancer Stonemason appears to live out a baseball player’s dream: pitching a perfect game in front of his family and carried off a hero on the day he gets called up to the Big Leagues by the St. Louis Cardinals, the team he’d followed as a boy. But the duration of game precludes the call up. Still, “No matter what else happened they would always have that game. That moment. And Doc was right. He was young. He’d get another chance.” With a growing family and money beginning to get a little tight, the words seem ominous. Can you give readers a hint of what’s to come?

If Dancer had come out after three innings, as they had planned, his whole life would have played out differently. The doctor is not always right. Sometimes you only get one shot.

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Len Joy: “Dancer,” an Excerpt from American Past Time

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September 5, 1953

Dancer Stonemason drove through Maple Springs headed for Rolla. His left hand rested gentle on the steering wheel, and in his pitching hand he held a baseball – loose and easy – like he was shooting craps. The ball took the edge off the queasy feeling he got on game days. His son, Clayton, sat beside him and made sputtering engine noises as he gripped an imaginary steering wheel, while Dede, Dancer’s wife, stared out the window with other things on her mind.

They cruised down Main Street, past the Tastee-Freeze and Dabney’s Esso Station and the Post Office and the First National Bank of Maple Springs and Crutchfield’s General Store. At the town’s only traffic light, he turned left toward the highway. At the edge of town they passed the colored Baptist Church with its neatly-tended grid of white crosses and gravestones under a gnarled willow. The graveyard reminded him of the cemetery up north, near Festus, where his mother was buried with the rest of the Dancer family. She’d been gone fifteen years now and some days Dancer had trouble remembering what she looked like.

Across from the Baptists, A-1 Auto Parts blanketed the landscape with acres of junked automobiles. His father’s Buick was out there somewhere. Walt Stonemason had been a whisky-runner for Cecil Danforth. He knew every back road and trail in southern Missouri and there wasn’t a revenue agent in the state who could catch him.

At his father’s funeral Cecil told Dancer that Walt was the best damn whiskey runner he ever had. Dancer wanted to ask Cecil if his dad was so damn good how’d he manage to run that Roadmaster smack into a walnut tree with no one chasing him. But Dancer knew better than to ask Cecil those kinds of questions.

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