Tag Archives: Maria Pinto

“Carry an Armload of Spaghetti Up the Stairs” – A Conversation with Kendra Fortmeyer

Author Kendra Fortmeyer speaks with our senior editorial consultant Maria Pinto about the process of writing her first novel, HOLE IN THE MIDDLE (now available for pre-order on amazon.co.uk), as well as discovering her characters, turning walls into springboards, and wanting to backup-dance for Of Montreal. 

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MP: Your debut novel, Hole in the Middle, comes out with Little, Brown this summer. Congrats, congrats, a million times congrats! I hear you were at Clarion, the premiere science fiction and fantasy workshop in the country, when you got the news of its pending publication. Describe the first 24 hours after that fateful phone call/ email/ however these things are communicated.

KF: A secret: I knew about the sale quite a long time before Clarion! It became finalized right just before I was accepted to the workshop, but I couldn’t tell anybody. A second (less secret) secret: publishing is (99% of the time) a painfully glacial industry, at least from the author side. Agents have enormous piles of manuscripts on their desks, as do editors; contracts can take months to negotiate; announcements of sales are, themselves, carefully calculated and timed so that your book will receive the most attention possible. So the disappointing answer, in short, is that I’d known about the sale for months but had to Keep It A Secret, because according to mystical publishing algorithms, announcing the sale was most advantageous in July. This can be quite difficult, especially when you’ve poured your heart and soul into a project and presented it trembling to the world, but at the end of the day, soul-trembling or not, publishing is a business (that does, hopefully, present the soul-trembling product of your heart to the world in the best possible light; my agent and editor are brilliant and I would never doubt them).

But! In those 24 hours after the announcement, my beautiful Clarion classmates threw me a surprise doughnut party, because they are the best humans, and I will never stop telling the world so.

MP: What were some things that surprised you about the writing of this book?

KF: Hole in the Middle is my first novel, and so the whole thing was a learning experience. I was most surprised by two things: the first was the point when I couldn’t hold the entire story in my head anymore. As a short story writer, I’d always had an intimate knowledge of my work: where, exactly, certain conversations fell on a page, which language had been used already and which hadn’t. Trying to conceive of an entire novel at once was like trying to carry an armload of spaghetti up the stairs—it’s a bigger and more daunting and slippery experience.

The second is how a novel grows and changes over the course of its writing, and by necessity: when you write a flash fiction in one sitting, it is of a single time and place, and a single instance of yourself. I drafted this novel over the course of a year, during which I was every season of myself. It took a greater deal of editing than I anticipated (in a much more compressed time) to bring the book in line with itself. Continue reading “Carry an Armload of Spaghetti Up the Stairs” – A Conversation with Kendra Fortmeyer

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“Love Song of a Femme Fatale on Scholarship” – Fiction by Maria Pinto

The Seven Deadly Sins, Lust - Erte
The Seven Deadly Sins, Lust – Erte

Dive into the mind of an infatuated freshman with “Love Song of a Femme Fatale on Scholarship”Maria Pinto‘s frisky flash fiction from our Winter 2017 issue.

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SOMETHING ABOUT SEEING TEACHER ON THE BUS, under the yellow light, the ridges of his brown corduroys flaccid, the finger upon which she’d always assumed she would find a gold band if she bothered to look, how the finger tapped at his bony knee, something about the way the finger had a gold band-shaped stripe on it, the stripe pale, a little indented, the way the knuckle hairs had a practiced wither there, how the stripe rendered him vulnerable as a midair-poised ass, hot, pink from slapping, something about all these things taken together made her want to push the moment, to fuck him. She did not interrogate why. She was a freshman; there was only the urgent press of do, do, do.

When he’d boarded the bus at the foot of Crippling Debt Hill, she felt him see her reading from the anthology for his class. He took the seat across from her, but she didn’t feel him look at her again. Her cheeks burned. She wanted to get up and lean over, to dot his face with damp kisses. Instead, she pretended to keep reading till the lines on the page went blurry.

What was he doing on the bus? She’d never seen him on this route. Shouldn’t an older professor at an elite university drive a reliable Prius, at least? Here was proof of the bleak state of education in this country.

The bus made a sudden stop to let a yelling passenger off and everyone lurched forward or to the side but him. She sighed.

In class today, he had said something ridiculous about a poem and she’d felt those words rumbling in her chest all afternoon. These lines know they can never know a woman. Words can never know a woman. The interior of a woman is ineffable, which earned him a laugh from the others. She knew he was not joking, so she didn’t laugh. She felt him watch her mouth as it didn’t slip open to show her teeth. Maybe he was a cad.

On the first day of the semester, his brown-black eyes had lingered on her at the end of every sentence. She’d heard somewhere that everyone thinks a good public speaker is looking at them most of all, but that didn’t stop her from playing with her lip, watching him watch her do it. All the watching felt involuntary.

Continue reading “Love Song of a Femme Fatale on Scholarship” – Fiction by Maria Pinto

“A Disorienting Fog of Residual Energy” – A Conversation with Shannon Moore Shepherd

20150723_174708Shannon Moore Shepherd is the author of “Creature Feature: Caligynachtmare: Dread the Beauty,” a fantastically fierce poem from our 7th issue which we nominated for Best of the Net this past September. Shannon is also a musician, a master eavesdropper, a sloppy but intuitive tarot reader, and a fearless insect photographer. She studied Creative Writing at Bradley University and is working on a Gothic homage to her hometown of Peoria, Illinois. In her recent interview with our senior editorial consultant Maria Pinto, Shannon talked about her poetry, as well as feminine beauty, writing voice vs. speaking voice, and the romance of nauseous anticipation…
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MP: First, let’s discuss the title of your stunning, Best of the Net-nominated poem, “Creature Feature: Caligynachtmare: Dread the Beauty” which opened FLAPPERHOUSE #7. How did you know it had to be a three-parter? How dope is Caligynachtmare as a coinage? Did the title come before during or after you wrote the final draft?
SMS: It came after. This poem came, as it says, from very far away. The entity came into focus slowly. I didn’t know what to call her, so I made up a hybrid of caligynyphobia (fear of beautiful women) and Nachtmahr, German for “nightmare.” In folklore, the mare (who came dans nacht) was commonly gendered female and said to ride things. All kinds of things. She was evidently very restless. I wanted her to ride in from across the galaxy, which brought to mind vintage sci-fi. So she gets her own Creature Feature, entitled Dread the Beauty. That’s how the three parter came to be. Really, I just couldn’t bear to choose one or the other.
MP: If the “I” in the poem is loud and clear with its moon-sickness and dark promises, the “you” is wonderfully meek. Where did these two subjects come from?
SMS: So, the “you” is always a little tricky, right? I’ll admit, for me it always starts out a real flesh and blood human with whom I have an ax to grind spiritually or intellectually or romantically but can’t really do so inside my own body. That person or those couple of individuals get dragged off to my poetry den to meet their fate there. But I have to say, this you, in the end, looked more like… well: MRAs to conservative politicians to priests to good-old-boys. The irritating little power struggle I was experiencing with one human at that particular time was suddenly a since-the-beginning-of-time kind of thing.
MP: One way I read this poem is as a corrective to the glossy, static photo of a beautiful woman in a fashion magazine with an arrow pointing to her eyes nose and mouth and notes about what brand of lipstick and foundation and mascara she’s wearing floating around her head. Was it your intention with this piece to re-mystify feminine beauty, to reclaim its dangerous, ineffable properties?
SMS: Yea, it’s really cute how we’ve gotten the hang of making “beautiful women” something benign, tame, palatable, pleasant. Can you imagine asking Hecate to turn her chin just a little to the left? She’d crush your esophagus. Could you imagine the guy sitting next to you on the subway opening an issue of Maxim and finding the true likeness of Lilith staring back at him? He’d stroke out. We all have an inkling that the examples of the feminine we’re given to this day are weak, watered down, incomplete at best. Occult aesthetic is going mainstream so that’s neat and everything, but thousands of years of trying not to be scary, powerful beings so that little boys don’t piss themselves really can’t be remedied by haut witch collections of 2017. This being is manifested directly from male fear. And she’s insanely gorgeous. Blindingly so, if you ask me.

Continue reading “A Disorienting Fog of Residual Energy” – A Conversation with Shannon Moore Shepherd

“Walk With Me Along a Crumbling Cliff…” – A Conversation with Jonathan Wlodarski

img_2555-copyJonathan Wlodarski is the author of “The Cake,” a deliciously disturbing short story from our Winter 2017 issue that we nominated for the Pushcart Prize last month (and is now freely available to read on our site). Our senior editorial consultant Maria Pinto spoke with Jonathan about his fascinatingly twisted tale, as well as first-person plural narration, dystopian fiction, and Fabergé eggs…
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MP: I will never hear the old cliche “a piece of cake” in the same way again. What was the germ of your chilling, Pushcart-nominated story, “The Cake”?
 
JW: The genesis of this piece came from a question–it’s a tradition to eat cake at weddings, so why isn’t there an equivalent for funerals? I scribbled the words “funeral cake” on the margins of another story I was working on and let the idea bubble and simmer for a few months.

MP: The narrator’s “we” takes a subtly sinister turn in the story so that we find ourselves held hostage inside a lonely, claustrophobic perspective. How did you achieve this unique voice? Were there aspects of the writing of this story that you found difficult?

JW: The use of “we” as a narrative perspective was sort of an accident. In my earliest draft, I wavered between a “we” and an “I,” so the narrator was more obviously individual, but in revisions I realized that the collective–or the false collective–was an important aspect of this story. The most challenging part of writing it was reckoning with the ending, when our town has dwindled to one person and our “we” is really just an “I.” I really struggled to express what that person would sound like and there were lots of verbose, grandstanding monologues that got written and cut.

MP: This is how dystopias are often made or exacerbated in the popular imagination–the thing that brings a population together or eases its pain also catalyzes that population’s ruin. The cake starts out as a palliative for death, but ends up wiping out the town. Is there a real-world problem onto which this pattern maps, for you? What is your relationship to dystopian fiction as a genre?

JW: A conceit central to my fiction is concept-as-metaphor, and in this instance, my concept (the cake) is a metaphor for, at its core, addiction. I suspect that’s the undercurrent thrumming at a lot of our popular dystopian fiction: addiction to power, addiction to normalcy/equality/sameness, addiction to obedience/submission. There are more explicit kinds of addiction in dystopias, too–addiction to virtual reality/the internet seems to be one perpetually on our minds–but I think it’s usually way more subtle.

As for my relationship to the genre, I’d say it’s fairly average. I don’t go seeking it, but I’ve read and enjoyed it. My favorite is Lois Lowry’s The Giver, which surprises and frightens me each time I read it.

MP: Do you have an audience in mind when you write?

JW: My hope is always that the audience that reads my writing is, if nothing else, willing to take a walk with me along a crumbling cliff from time to time.

MP: Who comes to your fantasy dinner party of authors and artists, alive and/or dead?

JW: Jasper Fforde; Viola Davis; Judy Garland; Alexander Chee; Aimee Bender; Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz; Alissa Nutting; Sarah Ruhl; Laura van den Berg; Rebecca Makkai; Whitney Houston

MP: What are you reading right now? What books do you come back to over and over again, especially while you’re writing?

JW: I’m reading Alexander Weinstein’s short story collection (Children of the New World) and the March graphic novel trilogy. I have a near-claustrophobic fear of not reading enough, so I rarely read a book more than once, even if I adored it. One exception to that is The Song of Achilles (Madeline Miller), which amazes me for finding new ways to devastate me emotionally each time I read it. It’s a great example of a book that weaves a complex, subtle tapestry of feelings without demanding the reader feel anything.

MP: What’s on the horizon for your work? Who or what can we look forward to encountering in your coming stories?

JW: I’ve been working for about a year and a half on a collection of linked stories about people with made-up diseases (stomach acid turns into mother-of-pearl, man coughs up spiders, etc.)–I’m wrapping up the first draft of the last piece, so after that it will be a constant spiral of revising and submitting. Ghosts have been on my radar for awhile, so I might crank out a ghost story or two. Something that’s been fascinating me for about a year now are Fabergé eggs, as evidenced by my author bio, so I decided it might be a fun exercise to write a poem about or inspired by each of the eggs the Fabergé workshop made for the tsars.

And Our Most-Viewed Pieces of 2015 Were…

The False Mirror - Rene Magritte, 1928
The False Mirror – Rene Magritte, 1928

Nearly twice as many eyeballs gazed upon our website in 2015 than in 2014, and now we shall countdown the 5 pieces which attracted the most of those eyeballs this past year:

#5. “A Deer With the Head of Emily Dickinson” by Cassandra de Alba, a deliciously eerie poem which will also appear in Cassandra’s forthcoming chapbook of deer-centric poems published by Horse Less Press.

#4. “The Rud Yard” by Vajra Chandrasekera, a hilariously terrifying take on the future of the surveillance state, which we nominated for both a Pushcart Prize & the Best of the Net.

#3. “Gelid” by T. Mazzara, our Fiction Editor’s touching prose poem for a departed friend.

#2. “Earth Comes Down” by Maria Pinto, a bluesy slipstream story with an impressive second-place finish, considering we posted it to our site less than 3 months ago.

and the #1 most-viewed piece on our site for 2015 was “9 lessons in witchcraft” by Danielle Perry (another Best of the Net nominee), which vastly increased our cult following among the occult.

Congratulations to Cassandra, Vajra, Mazzara, Maria, and Danielle, and thanks for all the eyeballs!

“Earth Comes Down” – Fiction by Maria Pinto

Yemaya - artist unknown
Yemaya – artist unknown

“Earth Comes Down” is Maria Pinto‘s bluesy slipstream short story about a mysterious woman who appears following a powerful storm. It’s just one of many cosmically flappy lits in our Fall 2015 issue, now available in print ($6) & PDF ($3). 

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SHE WAS FOUND ON THE WOODED SIDE OF THE HIGHWAY by two paramedics on their way back to dispatch. The eye of mega-storm Yemaya had lately passed over us. Though the rain had stopped, the sky still roiled grey and white like restless marble. Downed trees and branches hindered evacuation travel, so the highway was otherwise bare, and there she was beside it, pacific and strange in the mud. Though the medics initially feared she might be pinned there by flotsam from the woods, this was not the case. She was a sight. Her skin glistened with some sort of arctic-blue ooze. Twigs and leaves stuck to it. She wore a thin blue, brown, and green shift and no underthings. Not enough for the way the winds still huffed. Her mouth opened and shut like that of a beached fish, though she made no sound. She was maybe biracial, her hair wavy and matted in places.

Wilson, who is now under investigation for the woman’s disappearance, sat in the back of the ambulance while Reece drove. Wilson claimed that during the long ride to the hospital, even though she had not made the slightest noise before they strapped her to the bed, the woman stared up at the ceiling, babbling like a child. A coo here, a gurgle there. She was breathtaking, according to the report Wilson gave. It was superfluous information, to be sure, but it had been included anyhow. She was “so damned gorgeous we could barely look at her; so gorgeous it was easy to imagine that a man or group of men had taken what he or they wanted and left her for dead on the side of the road.” It was too easy to imagine this and too easy to imagine it again. Like a nightmare fantasy you close your eyes and savor. The report said that at least the paramedics had had the grace to look sheepish as they rhapsodized upon the beauty and violability of her form. They could not help themselves. Men will be men. Continue reading “Earth Comes Down” – Fiction by Maria Pinto