Thursday, February 20, 2014

Underwater Restorations, by Jeffrey A. Ballard

“Underwater Restorations” was born out my love of all things underwater-restorationsunderwater.  As a kid, I used to spend hours snorkeling in Keuka Lake in upstate New York, until I was blue and my father had to pull me out for safety.  I often wished that our house was underwater and imagined how much fun it would be to snorkel and dive down into it—of course, I wasn’t a homeowner then, and now it isn’t something I would wish at all.

Right before I wrote “Underwater Restorations,” I had been attempting to write literary fiction and came to the decision that it wasn’t for me.  Undeterred from giving up writing, I thought back to all the stories I loved to read and movies I enjoyed to watch as a kid, which were all Science Fiction and Fantasy.  And there waiting for me after the genre shift, was the childhood desire to go snorkeling through an underwater house.  These two came together seamlessly and produced “Underwater Restorations.”

Writing “Underwater Restorations” was an easier experience than some I’ve had, and whole lot of fun—which was my intent in writing it: to just have fun.  It is my hope that the reader enjoyed in some of that fun and I plan to come back to Isa, Puo, and Winn sometime in the near future and see what they’ve been up to in my absence.

--Jeffrey A. Ballard

Monday, February 10, 2014

Into the Desolation, by Catherine Wells

There are stories that come to you complete, and there are stories that you have no idea are there until they play themselves out. "Into the Desolation" was definitely one of the latter.

I started off in third person past tense, as I usually do, and I thought the story was going to be all about the Imogene character and her adventures in the Time Wastes. Gus was just a tool, a point-of-view for the reader to see Imogene. But then his voice began to take over, and I realized the story would be better told with his vocabulary and rhythm, and that was first person present tense. I'm not a fan of present-tense stories, but for Gus, it just worked.

I still thought getting into the Time Wastes would be just the first part of the story, and then something would happen. But as I went about motivating Gus to go--as I remembered what it was like to grow up in a small town and imagined how it would feel if a smart kid like Gus stayed--I realized he was subconsciously aching for Imogene to convince him to go. He was a blister waiting to be popped. But I honestly didn't realize what the trigger would be until she asked him, "What makes you think I want to come back?"

I have a friend who lost a child. I've seen how that pain continues to haunt her. But what binds Imogene is the what frees Gus. I wonder what adventures they will have together in the Time Wastes? And how will they grow?

--Catherine Wells

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Seven Tips to Enjoy Your Time in the Unreal Forest- Van Aaron Hughes

“Seven Tips to Enjoy Your Time in the Unreal Forest” is my most seven-tips-to-enjoy-your-timeautobiographical story so far. Like my character Jordan Hudson, I grew up on Mercer Island, Washington, I went to North Mercer Junior High, and I waited for the school bus at a little clearing surrounded by a dense curtain of fog. My memories of that time and place inspired this tale, but just to be clear, all the characters in the story are made up. I never had a brother; my father is not the rat-bastard depicted here (sorry, Dad!); and if you happen to know a gorgeous woman named Traci who went to North Mercer in the late 70s, I never made out with her, much as I would have liked to.

Oddly enough, the key to getting this story to come together was the title. I outlined the whole piece and started writing, even though I feared the story was too episodic and missing something at the end to give the reader a sense of resolution. Also, I didn’t have a title.

Looking for something to seize on for a title, I researched fog and stumbled across this passage from T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land,” which I had read years ago and long since forgotten:

Unreal City,

Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,

A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,

I had not thought death had undone so many.

I proceeded to rip off T.S. Eliot shamelessly. The opening line of my seven-tips-to-enjoy-your-timestory is paraphrased from this passage, there are several other allusions to “The Waste Land,” and most importantly, Eliot gave me the idea that the unreal forest was a place the dead might reappear. I added that near the end, hoping it would create the feeling of resolution the story had been lacking.

Continuing to lean on Eliot, I made my working title “The Unreal Forest.” But somehow I wasn’t satisfied with that. I started thinking about how to embellish it, and hit upon the idea of adding to the title the concept of “tips,” pointers that the narrator is giving to someone else who encounters a similar “unreal” location. I liked the title better with that addition, and it prompted me to divide the story into seven specific tips, hopefully turning the episodic nature of the narrative into a strength. I’d love to hear what people think!

--Van Aaron Hughes