Wednesday, October 7, 2015

From Volume 35: A story from Jeffrey Ihlenfeldt

Jeffrey Ihlenfeldt


Dust and the Moon


He shook a mound of nuts and raisins into his palm, then closed the bag and crammed it back into his pocket alongside his pen and a small Bible. A “half-Bible,” his brother called it, a book so slim that only one testament could fit. But one testament was enough. A single revelation. A single conversion. He washed the dried fruit and nuts down with a swallow of water, as warm as his blood.

“Less of a shock to the system,” he whispered, something he remembered from an article in a health magazine. He took a long drink.

The cellophane in his pocket crackled with each stride. And each stride became a reminder of the civilization he had left behind in search of God’s country, which had begun with the short walk from the Organ Pipe Cactus Monument visitors’ center and would end, according to his plan, at the vistas of Mount Elijah. Then he heard the crunch of tires atop gravel, which drowned out the scraping of his boots along the trail.

In the Spotlight: Jeffrey Ihlenfeldt

Writer Jeffrey Ihlenfeldt here discusses his short story "Dust and the Moon," which appears in volume XXXV of The Worcester Review and shares his writing process, daily routine, and upcoming work. 

In addition to being an accomplished writer, you are also a professor at Harrisburg Area Community College. Could you describe what a typical day teaching and writing looks like during the semester?

Of course, since most of my teaching responsibilities relate to writing and literature, there's a great deal of reading involved—not only before class but also after. I read student assignments—especially as it relates to creative writing—fairly constantly.

I do make a point of keeping a strict schedule for my own writing—generally early mornings. The other thing I do is treat my creative writing classes as an opportunity to explore my own ideas as well as my students’. For example, I actively participate in writing prompts, impromptus, and assignments that we complete in class. This helps me to exercise my writing skills along with my students. It also reinforces the notion that all writers—no matter how seasoned or how experienced—start at the same place, the blank page.

Ultimately, I find that setting a writing schedule and sticking to that schedule as closely as possible gives me the time I need for my own work.

On your website, you mention that you teach additional writing workshops aside from those at the college. What are these workshops like? What expectations should writers who attend them have?

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

From Volume 35: A story by Sean Rabin

Sean Rabin
Day 1
First there is a punch. Then a knee to Lloyd’s ribs. His legs give out. Sharp fingernails hook his armpits. Drag him down a hall. He closes his eyes against the lights. Only glimpses the steel door as he is thrown past it. Within the cell is perfect darkness. Lloyd lies still. Catching his breath. Searching for serious injuries. His ribs ache but his breathing is smooth. The cold concrete floor soothes a swollen cheekbone. Miraculously, all his teeth are still in place. Toilet stench tells Lloyd to roll left. Onto a thin mattress with a pillow and blanket. Neither feels clean but Lloyd immediately falls asleep.
Day 2
The caged bulb in the ceiling blazes. Forces Lloyd to wake. Confirm all assumptions about the cell. Steel door. Threadbare blanket. A second door was not, however, expected. In the wall opposite his bed. Wooden, with a doorknob. And the word NO burnt into it. With discomfort Lloyd stands. The cell is eight feet square. From its center he inspects the wooden door. For spy holes. Booby-traps. Acknowledges its perfect fit. No gaps for light or sound. Eyes the handle. Round. Do they think he is stupid? Go ahead. Open the door. Be free. How ridiculous. But Lloyd is curious. And already in prison. What more can they do? No hinges are visible. The door must open out. But into what? Another cell? Is someone next door? Lloyd knocks. No reply. He grabs the handle. A shutter in the steel door opens. Two eyes on the other side. Can you read? they ask. Lloyd steps back. Yes. What does it say? NO. What does it say? NO. The shutter in the steel door slams shut.

In the Spotlight: Sean Rabin

The introspective writer of the story “No” in volume XXXV of The Worcester Review, Sean Rabin reminds his readers of the value of perseverance and never becoming slave to custom.

When did you first begin to play with language? Did writing find you or you it? That is to say, what inspired you to write?

I remember writing my first poem at ten, and realizing how much fun it was. Here was something I could actually do without needing money or formal lessons or anyone’s permission. I didn’t grow up in a particularly bookish family, so I suppose writing found me. I wrote my first novel at fifteen just to see if I could finish it. Ideas have always come easily to me, but learning to write well took a long, long time. As life grew more complex, I found writing became increasingly necessary for me to navigate the world. Although I’m not particularly interested in realism, the act of writing somehow helps me to process what’s going on in my life. When I write I feel as though I’m functioning at my best. Doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing. When I’m not writing I pretty much feel like I’m wasting time. It’s not a particularly social way of living, but the people who know me know I don’t have a lot of choice in the matter.

What was the inspiration behind "No"?

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

From Volume 35: A story by E. G. Silverman

E. G. Silverman

Four Leads

Yesterday, alone, I drove for many hours through the geography of my childhood, to the house where I was young. I wanted to see an old playmate of mine. But it was gone. Gone like time. Only a stump left. A fat round stump of concentric circles. And my memory of it.

I was a tomboy. I loved to climb trees, feel the rough bark rubbing against the fabric of my denim overalls, listen to the leaves rustling around my head like angels, and breathe deep the scent of the wood and the sap. I was comforted by these beings that nestled me in their arms.

When I was a little girl, a grand old sugar maple stood guard beside our house. Its green fingers tickled my bedroom window. My mommy told me the tree was a ladder to heaven. She said that if I climbed too high in the maple, I would find myself up in the sky and unable to return. I didn’t believe her, but I steered clear of that tree anyway, just to be on the safe side. Every day I would gaze at the tree, beckoning me like a gateway to a magical land.

In the Spotlight: E.G. Silverman

When it comes to writing, E.G. Silverman is blunt: “[T]here’s no magic involved. …[A]t the end of the day, writing is hard work, and only those who are serious about it will be successful.” The author of the story “Four Leads,” appearing in volume XXXV of The Worcester Review, Silverman here explains his writing process and influences (and what his writerly instincts would have him save if his house were on fire).  

F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “You don’t write because you want to say something. You write because you have to say something.” As the author of four novels, what is your response to this? 

To paraphrase the Pope, who am I to disagree with F. Scott Fitzgerald?  However, in my experience, most writers write simply because they have to. Maybe they have something to say. Maybe they don’t. Do I? I’m not really sure, but I suppose that if my primary reason for writing was because I had something to say, I’d have said it by now and been long done with the entire enterprise. Writing is tough and, if anything, it gets tougher the more I’ve written. So, at the risk of over-generalizing, what writers have in common, at least writers who’ve been at it for decades, is some overwhelming, all-consuming, annoyingly relentless inner voice that just won’t leave them alone, a voice that needs an outlet, a voice that demands putting words on paper (or okay, a computer screen), a voice that makes them go to work every day, writing, writing, and writing some more. If that’s what Fitzgerald meant by having something to say, then, who am I to disagree?

You mention on your website that you have worked with Brian Morton, Sheila Kohler, Carol DeChellis Hill, and Jonathan Baumbach. Could you talk about how these writers have helped you develop your craft?

Monday, July 27, 2015

Congratulations to TWR Editor Parker Towle

I'm delighted to to share the happy news that poetry editor Parker Towle's second full-length collection of poetry, The World Spread Out, was for published in April 2015 by Antrim House Books.
“Parker Towle’s poems achieve a fine balance between our coming and going on the face of the earth and the magical presence of the earth itself. An inveterate hiker, he testifies to human beauty and human difficulty, those flashes of feeling incited by terrain, exertion, camaraderie, and the insight love bestows. His recall of a campground or adolescent moment feels deeply accurate, the stuff of lived imagination.”~Baron Wormser 

Parker will be a guest on Bookshelf, NHPR on August 7, and he will also be reading at the Gale Free Library in Holden, MA library on Sept 16 at 6:30.