Category Archives: Lit Mags

One Story Throwback: Tornado Bandit

We had some scary storms yesterday in Massachusetts. The town where my boyfriend works got hit pretty hard, and today my thoughts are with all of those in Springfield, Monson, Westfield, and other towns that were affected by the tornadoes last night. Cambridge didn’t get much more than some rain and cloudy skies, but it was kind of a nail-biter with all of the news coverage and Mike’s phone battery on the fritz. Glad to say all is well with him.

My apartment is kind of a mess these days, with roommates moving out and a new roommie moving in. Last night was spent watching the news and cleaning up for the transition. During the reorganization, I found all of my old One Story magazines that I hadn’t yet read. This morning I found one in the kitchen (not sure how it got there) titled “The Tornado Bandit” by Anne Corbitt. I thought, Maybe it’s a sign, and read it on the train this morning. I’d read it before, but it was a welcome re-read.

Corbitt’s characters are the richest part of the narrative, which says a lot since the story is rife with mystery, adventure, and CIA secret agents. The story begins with this scene: The Miltons return home from Tennessee to find their house ransacked and a dead body in their guest bathroom. The struggle didn’t originate in their home, however, having busted through two other houses before ending in theirs. This brings together three very different couples: The Miltons who have settled into a cookie cutter lifestyle; the Billings who can safely be referred to as the rednecks with big money signs in their eyes; and the Finkelsteins, the Orthodox Jewish couple from down the street. Leah Finkelstein witnessed the Tornado Bandit and his later victim struggling in her home; the experience eventually drives her mad.

But rather than a mystery these couples can figure out, the Tornado Bandit becomes something else. The Miltons, particularly Carl, realize how boring their life has become and how little they have left of it. Late night rides in the cars off the car lot where Carl works and stints at the casinos in North Carolina become a regular occurrence for the couple that’s been shocked out of their routine.

The Billings, prompted by an invitation from Oprah, want to pursue a singing career for Tanya. The Finkelsteins deal with their own, tragic kind of change. Leah Finkelstein loses her grip on reality more and more, until finally she is tranquilized and numbed to the world around her.

The story has a surreal quality to it, like the Tornado Bandit somehow stopped time for these three couples, and we are watching their actions in the interim. The story ends with time picking back up again, ironically with the slowdown of the Miltons’ lives, the disappearance of the Billings, and the silence from the Finkelsteins’ house.

There is an eerie quality to Corbitt’s writing, and also a real sense of her characters that allows their faults and dreams to mix together to create a fullness admirable in such a short story. Want to read the story? Check out One Story‘s archives or leave me a comment with your favorite characters and why, and I’ll send you my copy. I’ll pick a winner and send the copy out next week. Don’t forget to leave an email where I can reach you!

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Can’t get enough Staccato Fiction

Even when I’m busy, but I need that bit of a pick-me-up, Staccato Fiction is always there for me. If I sound like an addict, it’s because I am. Today I read “Those Plums,” but there’s no author name credited! I’ll try and figure this out, and update you on who’s responsible for this little gem. (Update 5/20: I just went to the Staccato Fiction site and saw that the story is credited now! Thanks, Harley Crowley for a lovely story.)

Reminiscent of Julio Cortazar a la “Blow Up and Other Stories,” and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the world in “Those Plums” quickly shifts from recognizable to slightly distorted. It’s like those seemingly identical pictures side-by-side where one of them is slightly different. The story’s world after the second paragraph is slightly different. Slowly we begin to realize something is not right, along with the narrator. The other character in the story – inexplicably gaunt – is explaining his predicament, and his voice (I could hear it) is weak with his inexplicable exhaustion. All we know is that it began happening after he ate “all those plums.” The narrator continues to relate to this new world as though it were the old, recognizable one, and is met with further unmistakable clues that, no, this is no place that she knows.

Whomever this author is, s/he did an incredible job of building up a reality that gets knocked down so quickly. Four paragraphs! That’s all s/he needed to knock my socks off.

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Sam Lipsyte’s “Deniers”

Simon, from my writing group, is always telling me to read Sam Lipsyte. He says that the darkness in my stories reminds him of Lipsyte’s, a compliment I secretly gobble up. I don’t try to be dark for the sake of being dark, but it’s always nice to hear the visions that I see match up – if only slightly – to what my readers see.

Yesterday I received a frantic email telling me that there was a Lipsyte story, “Deniers,” in last week’s New Yorker. So I read it.
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Short Story Month 2011 > May Flowers

Okay, so maybe I’m comparing apples to oranges, but let’s get stoked for what May’s really all about: Short stories! Check back here and at TTTR’s Tumblr for short stories you should check out all month long.

Other places celebrating Short Story Month 2011:

Get the latest:

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Resolutions: Resolving!

Remember way back when, when Shane and I resolved to support more literary magazines?

The literary magazine, once known for its ability to stimulate and titillate the minds of intellectuals across a vast spectrum of existences, is making its triumphant return into the hearts and conversations of millions and millions and millions and millions of beautiful people just like you.

Well, I’m happy to say I now have a subscription to One Story, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Redivider, and come March 15th, Ploughshares. Though I have absolutely no idea when I plan to read all of this, I know that I hope it will be underneath my covers with a flashlight.

What lit mags have you subscribed to or read at the library?

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The Things They Wrote: New Contest Alert

By Melanie Yarbrough

One of my goals for 2011 was to complete five stories and submit them to literary magazines. With my writing group serving as motivation, I set out to do just that. At the moment, I have two stories in the hands of Redivider and Ploughshares, and another story in the works. Not bad for the pre-ides of March, I’d say.

If one of your goals is to write, submit, and get rejected/published this year, may I suggest supporting my alma mater’s literary publication: Ploughshares. Their fiction contest runs until March 15th, and the $20 submission fee includes a one-year subscription to the magazine. That’s pretty much a win-win if I ever heard one. Check them out, revise that story you’ve been meaning to share with the world, and submit. And may the best woman win.

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Things They’ve Read Thursday: New Year’s Travel Edition

By Melanie Yarbrough

Since I’ve been back in the Bean, I’ve been doing some serious reading, making up for the time I spent in the Bermuda Triangle that is home. Doing some extended traveling for the holiday weekend like I am? Here’s some essential reading for the train/plane/car/Vespa/airport waiting room.
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Foursquare with a purpose: ElectricLit’s Broadcastr Announcement

Electric Literature had some exciting news up their sleeves yesterday at the eBook Summit in New York City: Broadcastr, “a storytelling app that will let people record audio versions of location-specific stories around the globe.” GalleyCat likened the new platform to Foursquare, but all I can think about is how right I was to stubbornly not believe my AP American History teacher that oral tradition was dying, if not dead. So, for Ms. Greene, and the rest of us tireless storytellers, Electric Lit presents Broadcastr:

– M

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Where We Live: Wigleaf, etc.

By Melanie Yarbrough

It’s been a busy week, what with my preparations to go home for the holidays and Shane’s working crazy hours. We’re sorry if you’ve felt abandoned. It doesn’t mean we haven’t been thinking of you, checking up on you, missing you. Have you been missing us? Is this creeping you out?

This week’s Where We Live is a hodge podge, as are our brains at the moment, and we beg forgiveness. Continue reading

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A big fat welcome to Fwriction: Review!

It’s Tumblr Tuesday over at one of our favorites, fwriction (writing. friction. fiction.), and today there’s a bit of an announcement. Danny Goodman, the site’s baby daddy, has launched his very own literary journal, fwriction: review. It’s a spin-off of sorts (think Daria to Beavis and Butthead rather than Saved by the Bell: The College Days), and we’re excited to see what sort of writing comes out of it. The first piece showcased is some nonfiction by Casey Lefante, “Love Letter,” written about her home in New Orleans. There are plenty of anthologies, tributes, and novels set in or dedicated to the city, and Lefante makes good company. She marries the weight of responsibility of the citizens of New Orleans with that of those of our generation with beautiful language and striking insight:

On the plane, I thought about this, about all the things that my generation has been given and what we are expected to fix. I thought about the mistakes we’ve made, the negligence, and then I thought of the mistakes that the previous generation has handed us with the expectation that we will have all the tools to do something about it.

We don’t.

Lefante is a great foot to step out into the world on, and we’re wriggling in our seats for what’s coming next. Will it come from you? Check out fwriction: review’s submission guidelines and jump in.

– M

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