SmokeLong News Digest, Issue 2

News from SmokeLong Contributors and Staff:

sins of omission


Foust’s story collection Sins of Omission will be released this May (2015) by Tidal Press. It’s available for pre-order now.   Themes of family, home, memory and disconnectedness dance with a quiet power through these 42 short-short stories about people playing the cards life has dealt them the best they can.  The opening story is “Eye” which first appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly issue #26.



A Room of Rain


Gary Fincke’s newest collection of stories, A Room of Rain, was released March 3 by West Virginia University Press.  Fincke portrays the fluctuating emotions and self-protective reflections of fathers, sons, and husbands, creating a world where individuals rarely understand each other, yet still arrive at moments of compassion, tolerance, perseverance, and familial love. Read Gary’s SmokeLong Quarterly stories here: “Crushed Ice” and “Yams.” 




The Zoo by JA Tyler

J.A. Tyler’s The Zoo, A Going, published this March (Dzanc Books),  is a story in which the commonplace act of a family visiting the zoo becomes a window through which a child contemplates the breakdown of his family, the loss of a brother he never knew, and his strained relationship with his father, newly back from a war that he cannot comprehend though he can feel its ripple effects. Read J.A. Tyler’s SmokeLong Quarterly story here, These Three Things That Noah Doesn’t .” 




SmokeLong staff news:

Tara Laskowski’s story, “The Heiress,” was published by the Journal for Compressed Creative Arts on March 2.

Gay Degani’s article, “As If Each Word is Worth $1000,” was published by Flash Fiction Chronicles on March 17.

Chris Allen’s story, “Green Graffiti,” was published by Litro on March 27.


Submissions to Digest:

The SmokeLong Quarterly blog will  list newly published works, achievements, and awards by our contributors and staff and asking them (you) to submit to us.  Entries should be recent, info regarding such should be no longer than 100 words including title of new work (flash, short story, essay, poem, memoir,or novel) and name of publisher  (ezine, print zine, publishing house) plus link to said work and/or how to purchase). Please also include all links to your published work at SmokeLong Quarterly.

There will be two lists in the Monthly Digest:

1) recent awards, achievements, and print publications

2) recent stories published online in journals, reviews, ezines  (not posted by author on blog or elsewhere)

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Fridge Flash: The Rise of the Witch

The Rise of the Witch: Witch Lamby

by Stella Urbanski

Art by Stella Urbanski

Art by Stella Urbanski

One day she planned a party for the evilest witch. They had a big, big ball. Afterwards she won the biggest, strongest, baddest idea and contest. And the biggest meanest thing in the world: the witch’s concert! And the mean wizard that lives with them (that’s where they get their power from); he throws it down by magic wand, the big lovely spring thaw. He couldn’t think what was happening to them. He said “Stop me, it’s so scary! Man, I told you, the bravest one.”

The witch’s cracks filled the air with mean collapse, so windy, a loud scream. Everyone is standing back and then…that…saved. Finally, she went to her friends. It was a magical ride from the wizard’s powerful magic, because the world had ended by all the witch’s powers and means.

The badder, the badder the witch’s powers made her, the badder the land had struck, the badder the Witch Lamby’s bad, the badder the loved.


stellaurbanski-fridge flashStella Urbanski is a kindergartener who often resides in what she calls “Stella’s imagination’s world.” She loves big books with pictures, and she would like to have her parents read her all of the Oz, Little House on the Prairie, Narnia, and Harry Potter books before she grows up.

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SmokeLong Staff Reads: March 23rd – April 5th

Dear Submitters, Readers, and Friends,

For the next two weeks, all submissions are being considered for SmokeLong Quarterly Issue 48. SmokeLong Weekly and its awesome revolving door of Guest Editors is taking a two week hiatus.

If you’re wondering what you should send for the next two weeks, first look at our submissions guidelines.  You could also read the most recent SmokeLong Quarterly (or two). But if you’re in a huge rush, here are some recent stories that have been chosen from all-staff reads:

We’re excited to read your work!

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SmokeLong Contributors Appear in New Norton Flash Collection

Flash Fiction International pbk mech.inddWe are very excited that five stories from past SmokeLong Quarterly issues are included in the new Flash Fiction International anthology published by Norton this month and edited by James Thomas, Robert Shapard, and Christopher Merrill. A lovely collection of flash from dozens of countries, the anthology showcases how prevalent the wonderful form of very very short fiction is around the globe.

From the publisher’s site: “A new entry in the lauded Flash and Sudden Fiction anthologies, this collection includes 86 of the most beautiful, provocative, and moving narratives by authors from six continents. These brilliantly chosen stories challenge readers to widen their vision and celebrate both the local and the universal.”

We are thrilled to be a part of this and want to thank and congratulate the authors who shared their stories with us.

Here are the SLQ authors included:

Berit Ellingson
Sovetskoye Shampanskoye” (from Issue 33)

Avital Gad-Cykman
Fire, Water” (from Issue 6)

Judd Hampton
Three-Second Angels” (from Issue 7)

Tara Laskowski
Little Girls” (from Issue 26)
United States

Stefani Nellen
The Attraction of Asphalt” (from Issue 17)

In addition, many of the other authors included in the anthology have been contributors of SmokeLong Quarterly.

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Matt Sailor Guest Edits March 16th – March 22nd

Matt Sailor author photo (1)Matt Sailor lives and writes in Portland, Oregon. His flash fiction has appeared most recently at Whiskey Paper, Cartridge Lit, and Fjords Review. His editorial background includes working as an associate editor for NANO Fiction, the fiction editor for The Mondegreen, and the editor-in-chief of New South. He writes an ongoing essay series, “Great Moments in Cinematic Drinking,” for Hobart. His awards include the Paul Bowles Fellowship and the National Endowment for the Arts creative writing fellowship.

Matt is reading submissions that come in March 16th through March 22nd.

Below is a brief interview with Matt.

An anonymous donor gives you an extravagant sum to design your own writing residency. Where is it? What does it entail?
So many residencies are based in rural areas or at universities in small towns. I understand the appeal of that kind of residency, but I personally chafe a bit against the idea that a writer works best in solitude. I’m just as productive (maybe more) in public spaces–coffee shops, bars, long bus rides, park benches. My dream residency would be urban, taking writers to great cities where they can work in a vibrant community (both literary and otherwise). Maybe an exchange program where writers switch apartments and take advantage of the hosting writer’s literary network.

Create a five to seven story reading list  that you think would help people write a story you would love.

Ripe Figs,” Kate Chopin
More than a hundred years later, it’s still hard to top Chopin’s very short pieces, some of the first flash fiction ever written as far as I know. Ripe Figs contains the entire span of human life–from youth to old age–but only metaphorically, wrapped up in a brief anecdote about a young girl’s impatience for the spring.

“The Fish” by Lydia Davis
Lydia Davis is a master of the form, and this story shows why–a deft and surprising turn in which a lonely woman identifies with the fish she has prepared and is about to eat. The comparison is as unexpected as it is inevitable.

“Brochure,” by Thomas Bernhard
Bernhard’s flash fiction is dark and morbid and hilarious and upsetting all at once. In “Brochure,” a small, mundane event transforms into an eerie depiction of the fragility of human life and the inevitability of death.

Sometimes We Both Fight in Wars,” by Leesa Cross Smith
For my money, Leesa Cross Smith is one of the best flash fiction writers out there. Her use of language is so unexpected and gorgeous that it can catch my breath in my throat.

Watermelon” by Kathy Fish
This story paints such vivid images, scenes that we can hear and see and smell. It traces a sibling relationship from the innocent days of youth to the pain of growing up and facing the real world–and all of it is accomplished through the most carefully selected details, in about 100 words.

“Two Photographs by Walker Evans,” by Josh Russell
This story begins as a description of a photograph, which is the perfect metaphor for the narrow scope that can work in a piece of flash. What makes the story great is how much it contains for its brevity–a description of a single photograph expands to contain a love affair, a child’s first exposure to the nude female form, the career of a famous photographer, and a hauntingly beautiful ending.

What are you working on right now? Can you tell us about your writing process with it?
At the moment, I’m working on various short pieces–fiction and essay–sort of sling shotting between them as the mood strikes me. Having wrapped up a novel late last year, it feels good to be able to work on shorter pieces again. I’ve just started a new job that involves a long commute, so I’ve actually been doing a lot of this writing on the bus. My bus ride is very scenic–it takes me on a circuit of Portland at sunrise and sunset, and on clear days I can see Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens out the window. It’s a perfect setting to be generating ideas and allowing my mind to wander onto unexpected combinations of images, words, and ideas. The more focused polishing of these fragments will come later, and will be a much different process, but for now it feels great to generate without any preconceived notions about the final product.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given? What’s the worst?
I took a playwriting workshop in high school, at a summer program. The teacher there told us that we needed to honor our inner 8-year old, let the little kid come out and play. That might come across as a bit cliche, but it was liberating for me at a time in my life when I took myself very, very seriously. It’s something I still try to keep in mind when I’m writing–that making things is fun. It reminds me of an inscription Melville is said to have written inside his desk: “Stay true to the dreams of thy youth.” So much writing advice is about the hard work and the struggle of it. All of that is true…but over-emphasized, I think.
As far as the worst–it’s more an aggregate of advice. All those teachers and writing critics who value simplicity and clarity in writing, who caution you against making things too complicated or attempting too many verbal acrobatics. Clarity is something you attempt down the road, when you’re revising and trying to make sure your meaning didn’t get lost in the way you phrased it. To appeal to clarity as if it should guide you through the writing process…it’s a surefire way to make sure you generate bloodless, uninteresting work.

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Jennifer Pieroni Guest Edits March 9th – March 15th

Jennifer Pieroni is the author of the novella Danceland. She studied writing at Emerson College, and now lives on the north shore of the state with her husband and son. Her fiction has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies, including Guernica, Wigleaf, and PANK. She served for more than a decade as the founding editor of the journal Quick Fiction.

Jennifer is guest editing March 9th – March 15th. Below is a brief interview with her.

Jennifer PieroniWhat was the last moment or thing you noticed that you thought could be turned into a story?

I sometimes have those passing thoughts-that the coincidences, or quirky things from life might make a good story. Fortunately, these days I forget most of those moments. I think it’s the things that we remember, and that we struggle to forget, that make good fiction.

Create a playlist of songs that make you think of writing.

I listened to The Firebird Suite obsessively while writing Danceland. I studied Stravinsky and the Russian mythology, specifically.

What are some stories you’ve recently read online and admired?

 I’ll admit I don’t do much reading online.  I will say, I’ve always admired and appreciated wigleaf’s aesthetic.

If you were able to design your own MFA  and were given unlimited financial resources, who would you invite to teach?

 I’d want visionary mentors who were at the top of their game, who could imagine the impossible, relate to and understand others, and were incredibly prolific with the highest quality work. How about Carl Sagan, David Letterman, and Joan Didion? Also, David Lynch.

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Margaret Luongo Guest Edits March 2nd – March 8th

Margaret Luongo (Photo Credit: Billy Simms)

Photo by Billy Simms

Margaret Luongo’s stories have appeared in Tin House, The Cincinnati Review, Granta, New South, Consequence, The Pushcart Prize anthology and other publications. Her second story collection, History of Art, will be published in early 2016 by LSU Press. She teaches creative writing at Miami of Ohio.

Margaret will be reading submissions sent in March 2nd through March 8th.

SLQ:  Tell us about the writing process for the most recent story you’ve written or published.

ML: “Repatriation” was supposed to be a segment of a short story sequence called “History of Art”. I was intrigued by the idea of lost art, and the influence it has had on artists even after it has been lost. I struggled with the opening of the piece for a long time, starting off with something really character driven, from the point of view of an art historian during WWII who was sent to Europe to repatriate stolen works of art. I got one sentence into it and then got stuck, put it aside for about six months, and then told the story from his daughter’s point of view. It was too long to be part of the History of Art sequence, but it seemed to need expansion even still. I tried to expand it, and then decided to make it as short as possible, because I was having time-management issues, short as it was. It jumped all over the place in time, even though it mostly took place in the daughter’s head. My first response to any problem in short fiction is to truncate. I figure if it’s weird, unwieldy, or ugly, if I make it short enough no one will complain. “At least it’s short.” I actually say that to myself. So, I compressed as much as possible and sent it to Cat Parnell at Consequence Magazine. She immediately recognized my failure and encouraged me to “decompress” in a few key areas. I ended up revising with Cat, via emails and phone calls, for several weeks. I also sought help from a former student and a family member regarding certain technical aspects to do with guns and target practice, most of which I ended up cutting. The last revisions happened fast (for me). I was surprised by them and really grateful for Cat’s attention. The story is still weird, but it’s a better story than it was. I really like the characters and I was glad to spend more time with them. (The story can be found here:

What music helps you write or feel relaxed enough to get started?

Lately, for the last year or so, I’ve been listening to classical guitar while I write, mostly Andrés Segovia and Carlos Barbosa-Lima, sometimes Christopher Parkening. I went through a brief Brahms phase (Ein Portrat) when working on the revision of Repatriation. On the way to and from writing, I really like Foo Fighters. I find their music oddly bracing and cheering, especially In Your Honor and Sonic Highways.

If you accidentally insulted a witch and she cursed you to live the rest of your life in a work of fiction, what would you pick?

Oh, boy. I would probably pick Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson. All the characters live perpetually in interesting times, and they get to do it over and over, with varying results. Eventually, the characters attain wisdom and detachment through this perspective, though the hurts hurt just as much. The book takes place mostly in London and the English countryside, both places I’d like to spend more time in, even though much of the book is set during wartime.

What do you think takes a piece of fiction from good to great?

The writer’s extreme attention to every single thing in the story—sentence-level felicity, form, character, language, style, everything. I like it when a writer makes me forget everything I think I know about what a story should do; the story is so idiosyncratic that no one can learn anything from it. It’s not a model for anything but itself. I don’t think I could tell anyone how to achieve that effect, except by paying extreme attention, to avoid the usual narrative and craft-related moves. Sometimes I think we’re too quick to eradicate what’s strange in our work, in order to make it conform, but often it’s the strangeness that gives the piece life.

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