Archive | December, 2014

WIPs Conversation: Vincent Panella on his work in progress

vincent panellaVincent Panella grew up in Queens and now lives in Vermont. His stories have appeared in recent issues of The MacGuffin and The Paterson Review. Two others will soon be published in Voices in Italian Americana and Carbon Culture Review. Three of his books are The Other Side, a memoir subtitled Growing up Italian in America, Cutter’s Island, a novel about Julius Caesar which won a ForeWord prize in 2000, and Lost Hearts, a story collection published in 2010. After graduating from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop he worked as reporter for the Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, then as a writing teacher at Vermont Law School. He can be reached at

Vincent, in “Canada,” Bobby finds himself up in Vermont in limbo, his car with a blown head gasket, spoiling his plans. He’s used to trouble, of course, and is careful in what he reveals to the inquiring Rebecca. She’s known plenty of trouble and pain herself, what with her cancer and a restraining order on her combustive ex. As JB realizes, they will inevitably connect. For Bobby, Rebecca’s care and affection are restorative. Should the reader expect Bobby to shelve car repairs for the foreseeable future?

Bobby is ready for the next step. I held that out in the end when he reluctantly accepts the most painful parts of his experience with the first and only male lover in his life. Canada ends in hope, not despair – it can’t be any other way. Rebecca is the angel who shows Bobby how to laugh at the naiveté that once shamed him. I tried to render that ending without being gamey or ambiguous and in a way that gives the reader something to think about. This is one of the pleasures of fiction that I aim for in my writing.

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Vincent Panella: “Canada,” a story from Disorderly Conduct, a collection in progress


Bobby wondered if JB had offered him the Airstream so he could hook up with his sister. Her cabin was just up the hill, and on his first day at work she stormed past in a beat up Mercedes. She wore a cap to hide the hair loss from the cancer JB had mentioned without saying what kind, and despite the cancer she still smoked, biting the filter and wiggling the cigarette playfully. Later she came down to the Airstream where she backed up to the woodpile and stepped around to open the trunk. She was built like JB, tall and wide shouldered. She moved like him too, manlike and hulking in high boots and woolen trousers. After flipping away a cigarette she began picking splits from the stack and throwing them into the trunk, so careless of her aim that one or two pieces hit the bumper.

“That’s no way to treat a Benz,” Bobby said.

The words brought her up short. She was square faced and drawn from the winter, and Bobby sensed a challenge as she cradled a split in one arm and held up her free hand as if stopping traffic.

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WIPs Conversation: Melissa Duclos on her work in progress

Photo Credit: Ed Yourdon

Photo Credit: Ed Yourdon

Melissa Duclos was awarded the Guston Fellowship from Columbia University, where she received her MFA in fiction. Her short fiction has appeared in Pound of Flash, Blue Skirt Productions, Scéal, and Bodega Magazine. She is the founder of The Clovers Project, which provides mentoring for writers at various stages of their careers, and a regular contributor to the online magazines BookTrib, Bustle, and Mommyish. Her non-fiction has also appeared in Salon, Electric Literature, Fiction Advocate, Cleaver Magazine, Full Grown People, and English Kills Review, and has been discussed on Oregon Public Broadcasting’s popular “Think Out Loud” program. She lives in Portland, Oregon, where she runs a successful freelance editing business, working primarily with authors of fiction. 

Melissa, in “Expats,” adapted from your novel Besotted, Sasha recounts her experience in Shanghai when she met Liz and “Love” came along. While it tells the story of their evolving relationship from co-workers to roommates to lovers, a broader theme centers on expats like themselves who “willingly settle in a place where they will always be viewed as outsiders?” How does this fact affect their relationship? What role does it play with regards to each woman’s relationship with Dorian?

A place where you are always seen as an outsider is a place that’s very easy to leave. Expat lives, then, are temporary ones. In the novel, Dorian fights against this by trying to buy an apartment, though it’s not easy for a foreigner to do. Sasha fights against it by trying to build a stable relationship with Liz. But Liz, who is new to Shanghai, doesn’t really understand Dorian’s and Sasha’s urges to create something permanent for themselves. It’s too easy for her to mistake her life in Shanghai for a game, and to treat others as though her actions have no consequences. This ultimately leads to her betrayal of Sasha, which Dorian helps set into motion. Continue Reading →

Melissa Duclos: “Expats,” an adaptation from the novel Besotted


Love didn’t run around Shanghai at night, searching the faces reflected in plate glass for someone she used to know. Love didn’t let her feet get dusty, couldn’t tolerate the creep of grime up her shins, the slick of puddles on her soles. When Love stood quite still, as she so often did, she could feel the pull of mountains and rivers and half-constructed skyscrapers and eight lane highways and movie theaters and the quiet parks with their untouched grass circling around her bowed head.

I wasn’t scared of Love; we’d just never met. I hadn’t spent the past ten years wondering why Love had shunned me, though; I knew it was my fault. I’d been closed up, balled tight like a fist. Of course, the men I’d fucked over the years probably wouldn’t have described me that way. But wasn’t that the point? They didn’t even know what they weren’t getting. They didn’t know anything.

But something about Liz had forced an opening. It’s not what I expected when her résumé popped up in my inbox, or when I forwarded it along to Principal Wu. Or when she finally arrived and I took her to her first happy hour, offered her my extra room.

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