WIPs Conversation: Raymond Cothern on his work in progress

Raymond CothernRaymond Cothern studied writing with Walker Percy and Vance Bourjaily. Winner of the Deep South Writers Conference and the St. Tammany National One-Act Play Festival, his plays have been produced in New York City. Nominated for a Pushcart Prize, his fiction, poetry, and essays have been published in North American Review, Manchac, Intro 8, Two Thirds North, American Antheneum, and in the book Meanwhile Back at the Café Du Monde.

Raymond, in “Motherless Child,” Sarah reflects on her unusual upbringing after her mother Lacey’s suicide. At times, the roles of mother and daughter had seemingly reversed, and Sarah finds herself “admitting again she became a psychiatric social worker with dim hopes of saving her mother, or failing that, saving herself.” Perhaps she failed to save her mother, but, as the narrative slowly reveals more about Sarah’s own personal struggles, it seems to offer hope for her by the end. Although largely focused on Lacey, do you consider “Motherless Child” an indirect route to Sarah’s own story?

Oh, absolutely. It is as much Sarah’s story as it is her mother’s. Some may be left to the reader’s imagination how much Lacey’s actions may have affected her daughter. The thought of a mother sharing intimate details of a sexual nature with a daughter might make the skin crawl, for a daughter as well perhaps for a reader. Having repeated plenty of parental patterns of my own, and especially seeing how much I passed on to my two daughters, I have always been fascinated at how much less desirable attributes—whether genetically or environmentally—get pushed on.

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Raymond Cothern: “Motherless Child,” a story from The Whole Lying Opera


Sarah’s uncle telephoned in the morning with the news but was so distraught Sarah had difficulty understanding him. Told he would call again later when he knew more and had more things arranged, Sarah tried to remain calm—her mother was gone—while thinking through preparations for going to Louisiana for the funeral. She finished a stack of patient progress reports as the day wore on and that night was cooking stir fry and checking the television listings for something to divert her thoughts when her uncle called again. The receiver under her chin, she had trouble following his rambling sentences—especially after being informed in a cracking voice that her mother had taken a swan dive from a bridge in San Francisco.

“And she wanted me as a pallbearer?”

“Yes,” Billy Wayne told her. “She left instructions how things should be carried out.”

“And you’re telling me the funeral is at an old bar in Louisiana?”

“No, no. The request is for the pallbearers to meet there prior to the funeral.”

“If you weren’t my uncle I would think this a joke. My mother is really dead, right?”

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WIPs Conversation: Gabriela Denise Frank on her work in progress

Gabriela_FrankGabriela Denise Frank is the author of CivitaVeritas: An Italian Fellowship Journey, a collection of essays and prose poetry. In 2014, her Pushcart Prize-nominated story, “Pas de Deux,” was published in Behind the Yellow Wallpaper: New Tales of Madness. Her work is supported by the Northwest Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies in Italy (NIAUSI), 4Culture and Jack Straw. www.gabrieladenisefrank.com

Gabriela, in “Into the Light,” a story from your collection in the works, Lou can’t shake past memories of her abusive father. It’s holding her back in her relationship with Sam, an all-around good guy and self-defense instructor who’s taught her how to fight back against attackers, men like her father. What she’s learned becomes invaluable when things come of a boil with her neighbor, Nils. Would you say the story’s climactic encounter is a figurative and nearly literal representation of Lou coming to grips with her closeted past?

It’s both figurative and literal, and also karmic. As humans, we get caught in traps of our own making, oftentimes the very snares that we were hoping to avoid. I think that’s because we’re attracted to patterns. Patterns can keep us alive –we learn to identify and avoid dangerous situations like dark alleys, for instance– but certain relationship dynamics can become so inborn that they inhibit our growth, if we’re not very evolved. When we are unaware as to how patterns play out in our lives, or even that they are there at all, we live at their mercy.

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Gabriela Denise Frank: “Into the Light,” a short story from a collection in progress


Nestled in a cheap wicker basket, the carnations and daisies didn’t say, I love you or Congratulations, they said, Sorry for being an asshole. Squatted atop Lou’s thick brown doormat like a hobo taking a rest, they winked as she approached. The homely arrangement somehow fit the potpourri of boiled cabbage and laundry soap that hung in the hallway of her apartment building just north of downtown Seattle.

She bristled at the idea of their sender lurking at her door like a lovesick schoolboy. The tiny vomit yellow envelope was the kind that men with no style picked for girls they barely knew. Squinting down, Lou conjured her neighbor’s voice from a snarled nest of inky blue letters: To better future encounters. She tore it open, her eyes narrowing into green slits. I will do my best to accommodate you, he claimed. My intentions are good.

“Like hell,” she growled. Lou stopped short of kicking the flower basket down the hall, picturing the old Japanese custodian stooping to sweep up her mess. Foiled by her conscience, she unlocked the door and gave the basket a slapshot with the side of her boot, kicking it into the living room where it lodged beneath the radiator. The arrangement remained there for days until the flowers crisped from the popping steam heat and a hole burned in the side of the basket.

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WIPs Conversation: Jamie Duclos-Yourdon on his work in progress

Jamie Duclos-YourdonJamie Duclos-Yourdon, a freelance editor and technical expert, received his MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona. His short fiction has appeared in the Alaska Quarterly Review, Underneath the Juniper Tree, and Chicago Literati, and he has contributed essays and interviews to Booktrib. His debut novel, Froelich’s Ladder, will be released by Forest Avenue Press as part of its 2016/2017 catalog. He lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife and two children.

Jamie, this excerpt from Poor Henry finds the protagonist juggling new-father and house-husband responsibilities, which on this day include a “secret mission” to retrieve a family portrait. However, the normal excitement of his daily life is suddenly jolted by the appearance of a stranger outside his living room window, seeking safety. What was the genesis of the school shooting plot twist as you pieced things together?

School shootings have become so depressingly common in the United States, it didn’t seem far-fetched to imagine one occurring in Vancouver, Washington. For the purposes of Poor Henry’s narrative structure. I needed a definitive action to take place at the midway point. While the shooting itself doesn’t represent that action, it does create an environment in which the characters can meet, and their worst attributes can be brought to the fore.

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Jamie Duclos-Yourdon: an excerpt from Poor Henry


They’re late. They’ve been late for twenty-five minutes, crawling south on I-5. Henry would’ve called ahead to say they were coming, but he doesn’t have Dina’s number—they’ve only ever corresponded online. He might’ve sent an email from his iPhone, but they’re moving too fast to monopolize the use of his thumbs. So instead they’re just late, and not by a little. Gripping the steering wheel, he tries to ignore the dashboard clock.

As they pull up to Dina’s address (familiar from her description of the scorched grass), he spies a parking space. Turning off the engine, he stares across the street. In the driveway is an SUV. He’s under strict instructions not to park behind it, lest he block in the landlord. Henry’s understanding of the situation, as gleaned tangentially, is that Dina rents an artist’s studio behind the main property, as well as a bedroom on the second floor—the square footage of the former roughly equal to that of the latter, which must demand an economy of space.

For a moment, he and Peyton sit and listen to the cooling of the engine—waiting for what, Henry couldn’t say. The sight of Dina peddling past, pant leg cinched and head shaved bare? Or for the clock to read 10:00, a nice round number? They were supposed to meet before work, a concession on Dina’s part. Henry had the foresight to visit the bank yesterday, rather than add to his hectic morning. It had required numerous trips to the ATM to withdraw the eight hundred dollars, the price of his commission well exceeding the daily maximum.

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