10.31.2017

Fall 2017 Issue Launched on October 27

by Barbara Westwood Diehl

Our fall issue went live on October 27, a treat before Halloween--and zero calories. But you may find a touch of sweetness there. Some scary moments, too.

I hope that all our readers enjoy this fine issue.

Thanks, everyone!

Comments:

10.23.2017

Baltimore Writers’ Conference

by Barbara Westwood Diehl

The Baltimore Review will have a table at the Baltimore Writers' Conference on Saturday, November 11, 2017. Mention that you heard about the conference from The Baltimore Review, and pay the early registration fee through October 30. Honest! I have it in writing. This is always an excellent conference, and the food is great, too.

If you're there, stop by our table and say Hello. Get a copy of the big fat Baltimore Review 2017, with all the work in the summer and fall 2016 and winter and spring 2017 online issues. Free pens and bookmarks. Probably other doodads for your amusement, too.

For more info:  http://www.baltimorewritersconference.org/

Comments:

10.23.2017

T. Lucas Earle

by

Comments:

10.23.2017

Andrea Ruggirello

by

Comments:

10.23.2017

Florence Weinberger

by

Comments:

10.23.2017

Ross Wilcox

by

Comments:

10.23.2017

R.M. Cooper

by

Comments:

10.23.2017

Dustin M. Hoffman

by

Comments:

10.23.2017

Callista Buchen

by

Comments:

10.23.2017

Holly Mitchell

by

Comments:

10.23.2017

A. Muia

by

Comments:

10.23.2017

Jill McDonough

by

Comments:

10.23.2017

Shane Griffin

by

Comments:

10.23.2017

Danielle Harms

by

Comments:

10.23.2017

Madeleine Wattenberg

by

Comments:

10.23.2017

Shavahn Dorris-Jefferson

by

Comments:

10.23.2017

Dorene O’Brien

by

Comments:

10.23.2017

Rachel Jamison Webster

by

Comments:

10.23.2017

Len Lawson

by

Comments:

10.23.2017

Elinam Agbo

by

Comments:

8.1.2017

Summer Issue Launched on July 29, 2017

by Barbara Westwood Diehl

The Summer 2017 issue was launched on July 29. We hope that you’ll take some time to click on the poems, short stories, and creative nonfiction here. You may find some of these unforgettable. Honest. You may even want to come back to them for a second read. Maybe share a link with friends, too.

Don’t forget to read the comments and listen to the audio files that some of our contributors included with their work. I love these. Hope you do, too.

In this issue, you’ll find our “Monster” theme contest winners, as well as a mix of monster-related and non-theme work. I’d like to think it’s all monstrously good writing.

Thanks to all our contributors, and congratulations to our contest winners: Caylin Capra-Thomas, Chloë Mattingly, and Dayna Patterson.

Thanks, too, to our final judge, Jane Satterfield, and to all the BR editors and our webmaster.

Thanks to all the writers (about 6,000 per year) who share their work with us. Wishing you all the best with your writing. Finding the perfect words in the perfect order is rarely an easy task, but I hope that you find enormous pleasure in the process. Love what you do.

And thanks, of course, to all our readers. We know that there are at least a couple of thousand journal websites out there. Thanks for kicking back in front of your screen and getting to know this one.


Comments:

7.25.2017

Ruby Al-Qasem

by

Comments:

7.25.2017

P. Ivan Young

by

Comments:

7.25.2017

Barb Johnson

by

Comments:

7.25.2017

Jennifer Carr

by

Comments:

7.25.2017

Kathryn McMahon

by

Comments:

7.25.2017

Maria Kuznetsova

by

Comments:

7.25.2017

Dayna Patterson

by

Comments:

7.25.2017

Melissa Ostrom

by

Comments:

7.25.2017

Chloë Mattingly

by

Comments:

7.25.2017

M.C. Williams

by

Comments:

7.25.2017

Leslie Adrienne Miller

by

Comments:

7.25.2017

Caylin Capra-Thomas

by

Comments:

7.25.2017

Threa Almontaser

by

Comments:

7.25.2017

Matthew Vollmer

by

Comments:

7.25.2017

Terrance Wedin

by

Comments:

6.3.2017

Thoughts from a White, Male Fiction Editor for Minority Writers

by Jake Weber

It’s no secret that the publishing industry is overwhelmingly white and female.  Our journal here at Baltimore Review is—as anyone who looks at our “staff” link can see—not wildly different. We’re not 78% white and female, but we’re mostly white and majority female. We do have some diversity, and we make good use of it—we recently had a story on caste politics in India and happened to have an editor on staff who could speak authoritatively about its background. We don’t know why our demographics are this way, any more than anyone can explain satisfactorily why publishing’s demographics are what they are. We’re all volunteers, and we would be happy to take more help. If you’re a minority and qualified to work at a literary magazine (and willing to work for nothing more than an occasional delicious meal at the senior editor’s house), let the senior editor/master chef know.
 

In the meantime, though, I’d like to talk to minority writers out there wondering what your status as a minority means for your chances of publication. It can be enormously frustrating trying to find an outlet for your voice. We all know that, even non-minorities; it’s happened to all of us. It still happens to all of us on staff here at BR all the time. This is an imaginative leap for me to put myself in your place, but I would guess that when you’re scratching your head trying to figure out what you have to do to get your story or poem out there, the idea has to come into your mind that being a minority is hurting you. It’s an additional doubt in your mind I don’t have to deal with: Is a majority white editorial team unable to appreciate what you’ve written?
 

This is a huge question. I’m not going to try to give you easy answers, or tell you that your concerns are misplaced. The best I can do is try to take you inside the mind of an editor working for the magazine and let you draw your own conclusions about what that means for you. Here are a few things I’d hope you know:
 

1. We don’t always know what our unconscious biases are, but we know we have them. We’re all writers. Part of our temperament is to learn new things and open up to new ways of seeing things. That doesn’t keep us from being human, of course, and that means we can fall into ruts like anyone else. We end up looking for the same kinds of stories over and over instead of looking for the story that does something different. We can’t promise that your story is always going to find us in the right frame of mind to be open to it, but we do promise that we’re committed to the notion that we need to constantly fight to get ourselves in that mindset. It means you’ve got a shot.
 

2. New can be really, really good. We read a lot of stories/poems. Lots and lots. With all the things out there to write about, it’s amazing that we end up seeing similar stories so often. I’ve read plenty of stories that were apparently inspired by the writer’s trip to Europe during grad school. We also get a lot of domestic realism that is fairly similar. So if you write about an experience that is not familiar to us, that could actually be an enormous plus. It really might.
 

3. Of course, we’re human, so take it easy with the newness. There is an ongoing argument that MFA programs have homogenized literature to the point that 90% of all stories sound the same. I don’t think I’d go that far, but we probably do tend to develop certain prejudices toward certain stylistic tendencies. Your job, of course, is to subvert our sacred cows, to remake literature and blow apart our notions of what a story should be. But in order to subvert a system, you have to first be able to fluently use that system. This is a pretty good example of someone doing it right from both ends.
 

4. Your odds are zero if you don’t submit. Rejection is something every writer faces. It doesn’t hit us all equally, so it doesn’t quite make us all equal, but it is an equalizing force because it is humbling, brutal, and we’ve all faced it at least sometimes. (Two for me this week!) You may face more problems overcoming rejection than I do, but, like with me, every rejection is also a chance to learn something. You can’t let your long odds defeat you to the point you quit trying. I’m troubled by how little minority fiction other than Southeast Asian we seem to get. Our journal is named for a fantastic, historic, troubled city that is 64% black. I hear very little from that segment of the population. I believe fiction is a powerful tool for everyone, and it disturbs me to think that it might be dying among some populations (even faster than it seems to be just dying, period). It’s bad enough how I hear that only women read novels (even if there is some truth to it). I’m worried a day will come when literary fiction is considered something only white people do. We want diversity. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s not only a truer representation of our regional roots, it makes for a better overall product. But we can’t publish what we don’t get. Keep submitting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments:

6.1.2017

Spring Update

by Barbara Westwood Diehl

Our spring 2017 issue went live on May 7, 2017. Thanks to all our writers and readers! We hope that you enjoy the spring issue—I think you’ll find some amazing writing in this one—as well as back issues archived on the site.


Our February 1 through May 31 submission period just ended with some record-breaking numbers (162 submissions on the last day, May 31—a lot of last-minute submitters). Now we have some serious catching-up to do. We’ll be reading our contest submissions and sending a group of finalists on to our final judge as quickly as we can, as well as catching up with all the poetry, short story, CNF, “none of the above,” and video submissions.


February – May stats:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fiction was the largest category, 1,251 submissions, followed by poetry, 1,063 submissions. CNF, contest, “none of the above,” and video submissions made up the balance.

Contest winners will be announced this summer, and their work will be included in the summer 2017 issue.

We will re-open all categories on August 1. Video and “none of the above” categories remain open at this time.

We continue to be in a financial position to pay all non-contest contributors with $40 by Amazon gift card or PayPal. They also receive a copy of the annual print compilation that includes their work. Contest winners receive $500, $200, and $100. All contest entries are considered for publication. We believe in compensating writers for their work and hope that, with the support of our readers, we will be able to increase payments in the future.

The print compilation, Baltimore Review 2017, will be available for purchase in late summer. All this online reading is an incredible free resource, right? But having paper books on your shelves can be even more wonderful, for a whole lot of reasons. And your support keeps journals like The Baltimore Review alive and kicking.

Happy June!

Comments:

5.3.2017

Tim Hillegonds

by

Comments:

5.3.2017

Beth Goldner

by

Comments:

5.3.2017

Michael Smith

by

Comments:

5.3.2017

Audrey Gradzewicz

by

Comments:

5.3.2017

Jeff Whitney

by

Comments:

5.3.2017

Andrew Collard

by

Comments:

5.3.2017

Maura Stanton

by

Comments:

5.3.2017

Matt Izzi

by

Comments:

5.3.2017

Andrea Marcusa

by

Comments:

5.3.2017

Gail Martin

by

Comments:

5.3.2017

Devon Miller-Duggan

by

Comments:

5.3.2017

Rebecca Bornstein

by

Comments:

5.3.2017

Drew McCutchen

by

Comments:

5.3.2017

Shevaun Brannigan

by

Comments:

5.3.2017

Liz Prato

by

Comments:

4.5.2017

Hello Padura: A Review of Adíos Hemingway

by Holly Morse-Ellington

Adíos Hemingway
by Leonardo Padura Fuentes
Grove Press
pp. #229
ISBN: 978-1-84195-795-1
Release: 2005
Genre: Novel

 

Baltimore Review editor Holly Morse-Ellington was unfamiliar with the Cuban author Leonardo Padura until she traveled to Havana for a creative nonfiction workshop with Lee Gutkind. As part of their writing retreat, Holly and the other workshop attendees had the opportunity to sit down with Padura over lunch and ask him about his writing life. While Padura’s fame is growing among Americans for his screenplay for Four Seasons in Havana, a 2016 Netflix series based on his detective novels, Padura is not new to international literary acclaim. He was awarded the National Prize for Literature in 2012 and the Iberoamerican Nobel Prize in 2015.
 

            With wife Miss Mary out of the country, Hemingway is left to his own vices—drinking Chianti and securing the grounds of his Cuban estate while armed with a fully loaded Thompson machine gun. No, Ernest Hemingway’s property, Finca Vigía, is not under attack by a band of revolutionaries in this fictional recreation of the author’s restless last night at his island home. Instead, Hemingway is attacked by forces he can’t hold off any further: age, illness, and depression. In Adíos Hemingway author Leonardo Padura brings Inspector Conde out of retirement to investigate a case that resonates with the detective turned aspiring writer. Cuban police have discovered human bone fragments pocked with the trajectory of two bullets at present day Finca Vigía, implicating Papa Hemingway in, at best, a decades-old criminal cover-up, or at worst, murder.

            Adíos Hemingway alternates between Ernest Hemingway’s point of view on the night in question, October 2, 1958, and Mario Conde’s present day point of view as he resolves to crack the case. Hemingway has been deceased for over forty years when a severe storm ravages Finca Vigía and uproots a tree that had heretofore concealed the remains of a Caucasian male. “The first thing [Conde] saw were the roots of the upturned mango tree. They were like the skeins of Medusa’s hair, straggly and aggressive, appealing to the distant sky from where death had descended, and through which another death had been revealed.”

            Unlike the Cuban police who have bigger fish to catch, Conde takes an interest in the case to serve and protect Hemingway’s legacy. But living up to his reputation as ace detective, Conde works the alternate theory that the truth will not set Hemingway free: “…and now, in the midst of so many things bought, hunted and given to their owner, a man whose envy had seemed capable of destroying all the writers in the world, [Conde] concluded that he would be happy to find a trail leading him to Hemingway’s guilt: it would suit him quite well if he turned out to be a common murderer.” Not a trace of evidence slips past Inspector Conde. Not even the seemingly red herring that is Hemingway’s most prized trophy—Ava Gardner’s lacy black knickers. At times both Hemingway and Conde—and even Padura—mentally wander off from their respective tasks by reconstructing the scene of Miss Gardner skinny-dipping in Hemingway’s pool. But what would a detective novel with the heat-packing, big game-hunting suspect that is Hemingway be without a femme fatale?

            In his author’s note the Cuban novelist discusses taking creative license with facts to center a story around Hemingway, a writer with whom Padura confesses to having a “fierce love-hate relationship.” Angling for the right words to present a likeness of the literary big fish that is Hemingway is an endeavor that requires finesse and patience. Padura skillfully strikes a balance by arousing equal parts empathy and disgust, pitting the reader in an irresistible tug-of-war between wanting to root for a Hemingway hero while also suspecting he could be a scoundrel deserving of a strong slap on the wrist.

            While the character Hemingway is not completely alone throughout this fateful evening (which accounts for additional suspects), he journeys down a lonely road shadowed by “proud and noble trees . . . like faithful friends,” well-appointed catalysts for the darkness of guilt for scorned writers and wives that looms in his mind. His only real companion is his pet, Black Dog. Padura evokes a haunted man wandering the thicket of branches, talking to himself and Black Dog who “mirror(s) the step of his master, without barking or moving away towards the trees.” That is until his friend, sensing an unwanted presence, barks and is commanded, “Heel, Black Dog . . . that’s enough for today.” One cannot shake the feeling that Padura crafts a chilling parallel between shushing the pet’s warning cries and silencing the character’s inner Black Dog of mental demons.

            It is through Conde’s internal conflict between awe and irreverence towards Hemingway’s work and personal belongings that Padura opens a window for the reader to view the man of mystery more intimately. “Conde committed the ultimate act of sacrilege: he took off his own shoes and put on the writer’s old moccasins, which were several sizes too big for him.” Big shoes to fill indeed.

            Padura is a good fit to explore what went on in the mind and daily goings-on of Hemingway, a man who chose to live in Cuba for two decades and arguably befriended the fishermen in nearby Cojímar. Right or wrong, Hemingway is rooted in Cuban culture more firmly than the upended mango tree in Adíos Hemingway. In a 2017 interview in Havana with American writers, Padura is asked if he considers leaving Cuba like other Cuban artists have once they’ve reached his level of success. Padura states that Cuba is not only home but also integral to his work. “The memory of a writer,” he says, “to belong to a place and to a culture is very important.”

            Padura continues to say that he created his recurring protagonist, Detective Conde, as a novelist’s way “to try to make a chronicle of Cuban life.” Padura adds, “The dead body is not important. [What is] important is the atmosphere….More or less, this is my way.”

            And in Padura’s way, the identity of the bones in Adíos Hemingway are irrelevant. It’s Padura’s ability to imagine and extract the deeper emotions a character buries under his ego that makes this novel as compelling to read as solving the crime.   

 

#

 

A review of Adíos Hemingway (2005) by Leonardo Padura Fuentes, translated from Spanish by John King. Included are notes from a conversation with author Padura on February 2, 2017 in Havana, Cuba at Fototeca de Cuba and continued at the restaurant, El Zaguán.

 

Holly Morse-Ellington is an essayist and playwright whose works have been published in Broad River Review, Baltimore Style, and Baltimore’s City Paper, among others. She recently returned from Cuba where she participated in Lee Gutkind’s creative nonfiction workshop, “Bringing Havana to Life.” Holly is also an editor for The Baltimore Review. www.hollyneat.com  

Comments:

3.24.2017

Best Small Fictions 2017 - Congratulations to BR Contributor Nick Almeida!

by Barbara Westwood Diehl

Congratulations to BR contributor Nick Almeida on having his story "Watchdog" selected for Best Small Fictions 2017! And congratulations to all the winners, finalists, and semi-finalists. Happy to see other BR contributors in the lists.

The guest judge for Best Small Fictions 2017 was Amy Hempel. For the complete list and more information on the anthology, see the Braddock Avenue Books site.

Love very short fiction that packs a punch? Be sure to purchase a copy of anthology when it's launched in the fall.

Comments:

2.17.2017

Summer Contest Theme: Monsters

by Barbara Westwood Diehl

Comments:

2.13.2017

None of the Above

by Barbara Westwood Diehl

Partly because some of you have asked about submitting work that doesn't fit neatly into one of our categories, and partly because I'm really curious to see what will land in the queue:

Announcing a new category, "None of the Above":

Have something that doesn’t fit neatly into any of our poetry, short story, CNF, and video categories? I’m not even going to try to list all the possibilities. There are too many. There are probably many “None of the Aboves” that I couldn’t even begin to imagine. No guidelines for “None of the Above”—which kind of makes sense, don’t you think? Well, now you have it. A category for—everything else.


Comments:

2.7.2017

See You at AWP!

by Barbara Westwood Diehl

Hope to see all you readers, writers, and editors in DC sometime during the AWP conference, held February 8-11, 2017! Did you know that AWP is celebrating its 50th anniversary?

The Baltimore Review will have a table at the Book Fair, February 9-11, 9 am - 5 pm. Be sure to stop by. There will be copies of the BR for sale, of course, at a discounted price. Please purchase a copy or two, if you can. The BR, and all the literary journals you read and send your work to, depend on your support!

For all the AWP details, see https://www.awpwriter.org/awp_conference/overview 

 

In addition to seeing many of you at the BR table, I'll be participating on a panel with editors from Carve, Chattahoochie Review, and Midway. (By the way, most of us don't use the term "slushpile" anymore. One of those terms from long ago that's fading into oblivion. Just saying.)

Details:

Comments:

2.7.2017

Best of the Net Poetry Winner - Sarah Giragosian

by Barbara Westwood Diehl

Congratulations to Sarah Giragosian on winning a "Best of the Net" award for her poem "Family History"!

Congratulations, too, to all the winners and finalists.

And a big thanks to Sundress Publications.

Comments:

1.30.2017

Welcome to Our Winter Issue

by Barbara Westwood Diehl

Welcome to our Winter 2017 issue! This issue includes our contest winners, as well as thirteen other works—a mix of poems, short stories, and creative nonfiction. Please relax, sit back, and take some time to read this issue. Listen to the recordings, too. There are poems, stories, and essays here to break your heart and open your eyes. Some of these characters may seem familiar. Some may fascinate you—even if you could never love them. As for some of the others, you might be inclined to take them home for cake and tea—or a bottle of good red wine—and let them stay the night.

Our next submission period is February 1 through May 31. Before submitting, please take some time to read through our issues to get a sense of what we like. Not that we don’t like surprises. We do!
 

Congratulations to the winners of our winter contest! The theme for this contest was “Milestones,” which we thought fitting: The Baltimore Review is now celebrating 20 years of publishing.
 

1st Place – “Lucid” by Mason Boyles

2nd Place – “A Professional Male Ballet Dancer in Twelve Step” by Kendall Klym

3rd Place – “My Hope Level” by James English
 

Thanks to our final judge, Lia Purpura.

We learned after the final judging process that some finalists’ work had been previously published or recently accepted for publication by another journal. Therefore, the excellent story by James English was awarded 3rd place as an “editor’s choice” award.

Judging the many fine poems, stories, and creative nonfiction work is never an easy process. We enjoyed seeing how so many writers incorporated the theme into their work, and we’re confident that we will be reading many of these works in literary journals in the future.

Thanks to all our readers, writers, and editors!

Comments:

1.25.2017

Laura Donnelly

by

Comments:

1.25.2017

Michele Leavitt

by

Comments:

1.25.2017

Joy Ellison

by

Comments:

1.25.2017

James English

by

Comments:

1.25.2017

Kendall Klym

by

Comments:

1.25.2017

Mason Boyles

by

Comments:

1.25.2017

Roy Bentley

by

Comments:

1.25.2017

Shonté Daniels

by

Comments:

1.25.2017

Laura Jean Schneider

by

Comments:

1.25.2017

Alexandra Renwick

by

Comments:

1.25.2017

Philip Schaefer

by

Comments:

1.25.2017

Richard Schmitt

by

Comments:

1.25.2017

Andrew Siegrist

by

Comments:

1.25.2017

Alice Lowe

by

Comments:

1.25.2017

Hilary Schaper

by

Comments:

1.15.2017

Thoughts from the Casting Chair

by Jake Weber

Things I’ve learned in a month of reading for a literary journal, written the day after watching La-La Land.

If you submit to a lot of literary journals, you’re probably familiar with the advice to regularly read the journals to which you’re submitting work. You probably also realize that you have neither the time nor money to subscribe to and read every journal to which you submit. I resolved a few years ago to settle the issue in this manner: I would support the journals that have supported me.

So I’ve subscribed or donated to the few journals who’ve published my work so far. The Baltimore Review, the journal that published my first story a few years back, made a request via their Facebook page in December asking for another kind of support—they were seeking readers. They promised that it would open my eyes to what life looks like from the other side of Submittable.

I was always curious about how journals worked from the inside, and that alone seemed a good enough reason to volunteer, if altruism and loyalty weren’t. A month and a hundred stories I’ve read and voted on later, I’ve learned a lot more than I thought I would: about the business, about writing, and just existentially.
 

What I’ve Learned about the Business

First, the guts of how it works. Hundreds of stories come in, and we have to pick a maximum of ten for a quarterly journal. Our journal isn’t scientific about how we get the work done. Readers go in, find work to read, and then vote “up,” “down,” or “maybe”—easy on the maybe’s, the editor tells us. From there, we just kind of talk amongst ourselves, and it’s up to Barbara Diehl, the head editor, to make the final calls. She has a laissez-faire attitude rather like that of Geoffrey Rush in Shakespeare in Love: It will all work out in the end. Mysteriously, the journal will have enough poems, stories, and creative nonfiction for each issue.

The quality of writing that comes into The Baltimore Review is far higher than I thought it would be. The nation’s over 300 graduate writing programs, joined with the thousands of people who have led interesting lives they now want to share as amateur writers, leads to an absolute deluge of good writing. I had assumed half the stories submitted would be drivel better suited for fan fiction sites. Turns out, I see a story like that maybe one in 15.

The rest of the writing is at least passable. Even a “bad” story isn’t bad. If you were a professor in a Creative Writing 101 class, these “bad” stories would stand out as the good ones you got. I can at least see the kernel of a good story in these. Maybe 20% of the stories have the framework of a good plot or compelling characters, but the writing just isn’t tight enough to make it sing.

Then there’s the small percentage of works that are obvious home runs. I’ve seen one of these so far. Well, actually, I thought I’d seen two, but one story that was my favorite so far—one I liked so much I called my wife in so I could read it out loud to her—was voted down by nearly all the other readers. Like dozens of form rejection letters I’ve received from journals say, this is a subjective business.

Roughly 50-70% of all the writing we get is fairly similar in terms of quality, and it’s very, very hard to pick from these which to vote up and which to vote down on. There are hundreds and hundreds of these, and at most, we can pick ten. And that leads me to the next section.
 

What I’ve learned as a writer

Lesson one for me, and one every writer should embrace, although we’ve all heard it a million time: Rejection is nothing to get upset about. Rejecting three or four stories a day has given me a whole new perspective on the three to four rejections I get a month. I “down” vote a lot of stories I like. I “up” vote some, knowing they probably have a slim chance against the other stories that made it to the second round. And I’m beginning to do it in a rather matter-of-fact way, even though I realize there’s a human being at the other end of that story who worked her ass off on it and has a lot of emotional capital invested in it. There are some good stories I don’t even read to the end, because I can just see they have enough flaws to not make it. Why? Because there are still another 200 stories to read by deadline. I don’t have a choice.

The second thing I’ve learned is the need to leave no dead spots in my own writing. The story can’t take two paragraphs to get moving. Once it’s got momentum going, it can’t lose that momentum with a tedious bit of exposition. I’d say more stories are guilty of slowing down than not getting going in the first place. They have a great first line that blends into a great paragraph, laying out the framework of the conflict that will give the story tension. Then, two pages in, they break away from the action with a line like, “Zebedee’s family took vacations to a lake house in southern Utah when he was a boy.” This is interrupting the action, in which Zebedee was about to go rush out to fight a fire. If you’re going to fill in the character with some exposition, you have two options: 1) keep it short, or 2) give it a momentum of its own. Dominica Phetteplace chose the first in her short story “The Story of a True Artist,” which is the first selection in this year’s Pushcart Anthology:

And we got $5,000 for it. My half was enough to put off foreclosure for another couple of months while my dad continued to look for a job. If we continued to get more deals like that and grow our audience, my parents might not have to work at all, and we could move into a Beverly Hills mansion with a swimming pool. That was the plan.

Even when breaking away to fill in background about the main character’s family, it’s interlaced with the present, a story about two YouTube artists breaking up their partnership. We get all we need to know from this little digression, and the momentum doesn’t slow down.

With option two, you simply have to start the passage with another line that has all the force of the first line of your story, so we springboard into the trajectory of the side-story. It’s like the Triple Lindy: Every time it starts to come down, it needs to find a way to go back up, until we reach the final resolution.

Heather Dewar did this in her short story “Spring” from the current edition of Baltimore Review. She needs to introduce another character, Samantha, about 2/3 of the way into the story. The compact introduction could be the first lines of another story:

Samantha lives down the block. She is a sixty-something woman who used to help with the plants. She is round and ruddy and lives in a house that reminds Ginny of an old, abandoned cabin on a lake. An orange kite hangs year-round from a hook on her screened-in front porch. Three seasons of the year, her yard seems to shine.

I’m not saying be flashy. Flashy or gimmicky writing is easy to spot. I’m just saying you have to realize that every word is going to readers dealing with a lot of words from a lot of good stories. Show the reader you are grateful they’re reading your work by never presenting anything that isn’t headed somewhere.
 

What I’ve Learned Existentially

I just saw La-La Land last night. Its strength lies in how—prior to the standard Hollywood ending, in which staying true to your dreams is always the right course of action—it rather honestly interrogates the risks involved in putting all the eggs of one’s life in the art-above-all basket. The female lead, played with such aggressive, earnest cuteness by Emma Stone that I felt I was being hit by a whole basket of buttons, has a low moment. After one too many casting calls where she’s been interrupted or immediately cast aside for one of the dozens of prettier, more talented girls waiting outside, she tells her love interest that maybe she should have gone to law school. “Like the world needs more lawyers,” her boyfriend tells her. She replies with, “Well, it sure doesn’t need more actresses.”

That’s what it feels like to me as an author being on the other side of a literary journal. Writers are typically spared the indignity of casting calls, where we size up our competition face-to-face. But here I am, in a sort of virtual casting call, and I’m overwhelmed by just the sheer volume of people who write and write well. Am I doing the right thing with my life? Even though I’m in my forties, and I clearly write as what people would call a “hobby,” couldn’t I pick a more tangibly useful pastime? Shouldn’t I spend more time volunteering, where I can at least point to the form I helped someone fill out, the social service I helped connect them to, the I.D. card I helped them secure?

Does the world need more writers?

I’m not going to end this blog entry with the feel-good “Here’s to the ones who dream” song-and-dance offered by La-La Land. Maybe the world doesn’t need me to write. Yet, I keep on writing. So do most of you reading this.

I leave you to your own devices to answer the question why, in the face of these odds, you keep on writing. (My answer is something like “compulsion.”) Faith offers happy answers. Art offers the possibility that the endeavor you devote your entire self to may provide only rare moments of joy but will often seem to be in vain. Artists understand this possibility going in. It’s what gives the whole proposition value.

Comments:

1.6.2017

First Year of Primary Care Practice

by Margaret Adams

A post in our Milestones series from past contributor Margaret Adams.
 

During my first week at work in my first job as a nurse practitioner, I had a head cold. I sniffled through my new employee orientation, my eyes and nose running like a faucet, sneezing into the collars of the too-formal shirts I had unearthed for the occasion. I wondered if I actually had allergies or if it was the mold we’d just discovered in our new Pacific Northwest closets, and then I despaired over the fact that I couldn’t even tell whether or not I had a rhinovirus or an allergy, and I was supposed to be the clinic’s newest provider. I showed up for work nauseous both from nerves and from swallowing my own mucus all night.

On my first day of practice—no preceptor, fully licensed, and on my own for the first time—I saw seven patients, walking into an exam room seven times and saying, “Hello, I’m your nurse practitioner. What brings you in to the clinic today?” It felt like parade day for The Emperor’s New Clothes. I stood outside of each room for several minutes, adjusting the lab coat and stethoscope, which I would later refer to jokingly as “my authority costume,” hand poised to knock, gathering the gumption to go in.

That first day, I met a woman who was to be one of the most difficult patients I would have for the next year, one of the many patients I would spend whole weekends worrying about, wondering if they were okay, if I’d done the right thing by them. Later, I would want to say to her, “Do you know that you were the third patient I saw, ever, as a nurse practitioner?” I never said this to her.

I had been working for almost year when it occurred to me that I was becoming accustomed to the job—more, that the job was changing me, in ways that I could neither predict nor control. I sat with a patient on one of the worst days of his life, bearing witness and bearing bad news, and while I felt hollow and sad inside, I didn’t hear any rushing in my ears, and I didn’t lose any feeling in the tips of my fingers. Nothing changed in how I was present with that patient, or in the decisions that I made as his provider, but it was odd to notice the ear-rushing and finger-tingling only in retrospect, as a lost thing, rather than as something consciously experienced the first few times around. Afterwards I inserted a birth control implant into an anxious woman’s arm, and my hands didn’t shake a bit when I injected the anesthetic into her skin, not even when I knew she wasn’t looking and I could afford to let them shake. I knew that I knew what I was doing.

After months of being desperate for a day when I wouldn’t be so inexperienced, so emotionally overwhelmed by the onslaught of humanity that is both my greatest privilege and my biggest challenge as a family nurse practitioner, the milestone that was my first full year of practice came as a bittersweet victory. I still felt frequently overwhelmed, spending long evenings reading articles and reviewing my own decisions, but I was beginning to catch myself in moments of a new, hard-won confidence, unflappable in the face of things that would have thrown me just a few months earlier. The funny thing was, instead of feeling purely victorious for having achieved some measure of equanimity, I was disoriented, and wistful for my earlier raw, reactive self. One of my biggest fears was of becoming hardened. While it was a relief not to come apart at the seams, I felt as though I had lost something. I still caught myself thinking about patients weeks after they’d left the office, still had to pause and ready myself before some of the hardest conversations the job requires of me. But I had developed a new sturdiness, and it scared me even as I knew that I had waited for it.


Margaret Adams is an author and family nurse practitioner living in Seattle, Washington. A former columnist for The Bangor Daily News and a Pushcart Prize nominee, her stories and essays have most recently appeared in The Bellingham Review, The Portland Review, The Baltimore Review and The Delmarva Review.

Comments:

10.25.2016

Jenna Le

by

Comments:

10.25.2016

Mary Peelen

by

Comments:

10.25.2016

Avram Kline

by

Comments:

10.25.2016

M. Ann Hull

by

Comments:

10.25.2016

Krysten Hill

by

Comments:

10.25.2016

Heather Dewar

by

Comments:

10.25.2016

Jackleen Holton Hookway

by

Comments:

10.25.2016

JD Scott

by

Comments:

10.25.2016

Robert Brunk

by

Comments:

10.25.2016

Siân Griffiths

by

Comments:

10.25.2016

Tad Bartlett

by

Comments:

10.25.2016

Sarah J. Sloat

by

Comments:

10.25.2016

Danielle Kessinger

by

Comments:

10.25.2016

J. Eric McNeil

by

Comments:

10.25.2016

Robert Vivian

by

Comments:

10.25.2016

Curtis Smith

by

Comments:

10.25.2016

Lisa Rosinsky

by

Comments:

10.25.2016

Joseph Rakowski

by

Comments:

10.25.2016

Jennifer Martelli

by

Comments:

10.18.2016

Our Wild Places

by Gabe Herron

A post in our Milestones series from past contributor Gabe Herron.
 

Our best stories have milestones within them, marking out the locations of older meaning, and because of the limitations of language, we've carved out these beautiful symbols that transcend the toolset we've used to shape them. There are places that only narrative will lead us, if we let it, and more importantly, return us safely from. The sums of these milestones tell a story too. They murmur that we have been constructed of the same stuff, molded by the same forces of selection in the heat of the hottest of all foundries. That we have been made much alike and for damn good reason. So, when I become turned around in the forest of a story, tangled and lost in its understory, I listen for the sounds of drumming. If I hear a rhythm beating out in that darkness, I start in that direction, even if going that way is weird, or confusing, or scary, and sometimes because it's weird, and confusing, and scary. I can always turn away, always run for it if needed, and so, I try and get myself as close as I can to the place where stories were first told—our human hearth.

We can still hear their drumming because our ancestors aren't behind us; they are us. We are their story. The story of their collective successes and many failures. We all share hundreds of thousands of years of emotional coevolution, common instincts, and multilevel selection for mutual awareness, and those are the forces, always present and persuasive, that churn within us all, that make us what we are today: walking the earth, doing our human stuff, the good, the bad, and the indifferent. If we don't pay them some tribute, if we do not honor the ancestral rhythms left encoded within us, then one day, we may be overrun by their pounding, and so become their tribute instead, because what we do not understand about ourselves, we leave for others to understand for us, and then to capitalize upon. But I believe narrative is a connection back to our origins, a path to something much greater than ourselves, and one of the primary forces that shaped us.

These milestones connect us all together. We are their locators, curators, and transmitters. As we find them, as we leave their locations behind for others to find and to fix, we mark out our humanity, so that none of us feel so lost inside its vastness. It's as timeless a thing to do as can be done: the making of these bonds between a storyteller and a listener, between a writer and a reader. It's possibility forged of human spirit. But really it's enough just to share in a world that is created together, a good practice, to share a world, even if only an imaginary one, so that we know we are in every way for each other, and because of each other we're not alone, but a collection of many through the millennia—a tribe of storytellers.


Gabe Herron lives outside a small town near Portland, Oregon with his wife, son, and daughter. His stories have won Glimmer Train's Short Story Award for New Writers, and Best New Writing's Editor's Choice Award.  His fiction has appeared, or is forthcoming in Glimmer Train, Prairie Schooner, and The Missouri Review.  He has worked at Powell's Books for fourteen years.

Comments:

9.20.2016

Baltimore Review Winter Contest

by Barbara Westwood Diehl

We are pleased to announce that the final judge for our winter contest will be Lia Purpura.

To submit your work, click the big blue button at the following link: http://baltimorereview.org/index.php/submit

 

Comments:

9.20.2016

Cairns

by Kate Washington

A post in our Milestones series from past contributor Kate Washington.

 

From the meadow, we turn toward the rushing sound of Butte Creek, looking for carefully balanced rocks on the velvety forest floor. This cairn marks a rim trail we call the springs hike, not shown even on topo maps, skirting a shallow, V-shaped canyon. We first followed these cairns when our girls were eight and four and the scant mile and a half that felt long to our daughters’ short legs.

My husband and I have marked years and seasons at our cabin by our girls’ ability to range. Our first visit was the Labor Day weekend before the elder started kindergarten. She was five, her younger sister could not yet walk, and we stuck close to our fence line, with short meadow forays. Now they are eleven and seven. We have gone a little farther every year, finding hidden springs, coaxing them atop boulders, scaling pinnacles at an overlook on the nearby Pacific Crest Trail.

That first time we took the springs hike, it was June, and many cairns had fallen during the winter. We repaired them, carefully balancing stones unearthed from trail dust. It’s all about rock selection; the right rock will perch on another at an angle that looks impossible, and yet it stands, squat yet graceful.

The trail winds east, natural cairns dotting the landscape too: glacier-abandoned boulders cantilever over the trail, their crevices carved by millennia of freezes and thaws. A mile in comes a wide, loose rock fall where it’s easy to lose the trail’s thin thread. Here cairns are both harder and easier to spot: they are surrounded by stone, but their unnatural, snowman orderliness jumps out from the jagged, angular jumble of porous dark-gray lava and blocky pale granite. This spot is a seam between two mountain ranges, volcanic Cascades to the north (Mount Lassen, not far away, last rumbled to life a bare century ago) and massive granite Sierras to the south.

Then we arrived at the vast, magical complex of springs, gathering water as they jet down to the creek they swell. Willows and grasses turn a wedge of hillside shocking green. The clear water is hardly warmer than ice. We stuck hands into tiny mossy, gushing caverns, and we like to follow the water down to the deep creek, but the hill was too steep and willows too thick for small legs. And so after energy bars and goldfish crackers, after luxurious drinks of water straight from the ground, after soaking hot feet and squeezing wet bandannas over hot heads, we turned and trudged back. The tired four-year-old stumbled and rode on her father’s shoulders.

Those shoulders were not available this summer, even if the child were not too tall to ride them. My husband is recovering from lymphoma and a near-deadly bone marrow transplant. At the beginning of summer he could not walk a city block, much less hike a mile and a half or travel to a mountain cabin far from his physicians. Nor could he travel last summer, when he was undergoing chemo. He missed the springs hike, missed marking the girls’ height on the cabin doorjamb, missed so many little rituals. By this Labor Day, he had grown just strong enough to revisit the cabin, but there were no cairn-led hikes; a short, slow, cane-assisted walk along the road was accomplishment, and reason for celebration, enough.

I have been a full-time caregiver and solo parent for more than a year, and I am exhausted all the time. But earlier this summer, for July 4, I arranged home nursing care for my husband, packed up the car, and took our girls to the cabin for our every-summer respite. We set out one morning for the springs hike. This year, suddenly, the distance seemed short. Eleven-year-old legs set a fast pace, and we reached the springs before anyone even stopped to ask for snacks. We pushed all the way to an icy swimming hole we’d heard about farther up canyon, and then up and over a manzanita-covered ridge that loops west to our cabin.

The ridge section of this hike, like all hikes, was a little too long for our younger girl. She stumbled. I told her to climb up a boulder and budged her firmly piggyback. There would be no doubling back on this hike, nor in our lives; however much we might like to, we cannot retrace the milestones we have already passed. And so,
shoulders squared under a new burden, I scanned the trail ahead for the improbably balanced cairns that marked our precarious, contingent way forward to the place our family loves best.



Kate Washington’s creative nonfiction and freelance work has appeared in such publications as Brain, Child; Bellingham Review; Under the Gum Tree; The Washington Post; Sunset Magazine; Yoga Journal; and more.

Comments:

9.9.2016

Celebrating 20 Years: A party—and send us a picture of you and your copy of the BR!

by Barbara Westwood Diehl

We hope to see many of our BR contributors and readers at the party! Donate in advance through the PayPal Donate button on our website or pay at the door. That $20 includes a copy of Baltimore Review 2016.

Have any print copy of the BR from 1997 - 2016? We'd love to see a picture of you holding a copy of that issue in some exotic place. Oh, all right, we'd love to see a picture of you holding a copy at one of the local joints, too. Email the photo to editor@baltimorereview.org, so that we can share it. Thanks!

Comments: