Round three! We apologize for the delay in our winter issue but we are so elated to be back and continuing our goal of showcasing writers of various genres. Our contributors and readership continues to grow with each issue that we create and we are so pleased with the quality of submissions that we are receiving. This issue of Black Fox consists of outstanding poetry that evokes emotions and celebrates literature, as well as a nonfiction piece that will be sure to leave a lump in your throat. Of course, we cannot forget the superb fiction featured in this issue. The fiction weâ€™ve selected is more quirky than you may have seen in the past, and this is something that we would love to see more of in our submissions. We desire to read more fiction that thinks outside of the confinements of stories that you may have read in the past, fiction that will inspire and entertain the
reader. One of our missions is to highlight genres that are not always represented in literary magazines, because of this we hope to see more young adult, romance, and nonfiction entries in the future. Black Fox would be lifeless without the slew of talented artists that have contributed this time around. This issue features the art work of Miriam Perez and Tammy Stone, and we are so proud that they have allowed us to showcase more than one of their pieces. Outstanding poets, authors, and artists are all the biggest part of our success with Black Fox. We also could not do this without Natalie Henry, who continues to spice up our covers of each Black Fox magazine. We are sincerely grateful to all of our contributors and readers. We hope that you enjoy this next installment of Black Fox and that you will continue to follow us on this journey.
Meet the Editors
Racquel Henry is first and foremost a writer. In order to pay the bills, she is also a part time Administrative Assistant at a law firm in Tampa, FL., where she currently resides. Much to her own surprise, she actually enjoys the job that helps put food on the table. Racquel writes literary fiction in hopes of being published sometime in the near future. She also enjoys reading a variety of genres, and is currently obsessed with flash fiction. Some of her favorite authors include, Lorrie Moore, Joyce Carol Oates, John Updike, Sophie Kinsella, and Toni Morrison. She is a soonto-be MFA graduate from Fairleigh Dickinson University. At the moment she is searching for a new school to call home, and to pursue a Ph.D. degree. Her story, The Truth About Lipstick, has appeared in The Scarlet Sound. You can follow her writing journey on her very own blog titled, â€œRacquel Writes.â€? She is looking forward to the growth of Black Fox Literary Magazine.
Pam Harris lives in Chesapeake, VA and works as a middle school counselor. When she isn't wiping tears and helping kids study for tests, she's writing contemporary YA fiction. Some of her favorite authors are Ellen Hopkins, Courtney Summers, Jodi Picoult, and Stephen King. You can also find her at the movie theaters every weekend or pretending to enjoy exercising. She has completed her
MFA in creative writing from Fairleigh Dickinson University, and plans to use this degree to help edit this magazine as well as possibly teach others the joys of “make believe.”
Marquita "Quita" Hockaday also lives in Chesapeake, Virginia. She is a high school history teacher who has never been able to shake her love of writing and reading. Marquita is currently enjoying writing young adult (historical and contemporary). Some of her favorite authors are Laurie Halse Anderson, Blake Nelson, Cormac McCarthy and Joyce Carol Oates. She loves watching movies (one day she WILL watch every scary movie ever created) and TV. Marquita has completed her MFA in creative writing from Fairleigh Dickinson University, and can't wait to use that knowledge to teach writing and coedit this magazine. You can follow her and Pam’s writing journeys in their blog, “Y(A)? Cuz We Write!”
Contents Fiction Rushing Water by Tasha Cotter………………………7 Noah and Eve by Tasha Cotter………………………12 Memories by Chris Spanel…………………………...18 Monster in the Closet by Holly Day…………………29 Ovation by Len Kuntz………………………………..63 Stolen, Jarred, and Tossed by Nick Sanford…………74
Non-Fiction Scar by Rafe Posey…………………………………...40
Poetry Boneyard Bed and Breakfast by Matthew Madonia….15 Selected Poems by Changming Yuan………………...24 Eating Words by Terrance Terich…………………….38 Selected Poems by Gabriel Ricard……………………56 Selected Poems by John Grey………………………...70
Contributor Corner An Interview with Terrance Terich…………………..83 An Interview with Nick Sanford……………………..88
Author Interview A Conversation with Jennifer Hillier, author of Creep………………………………………95 Photography Selected Photographs by Miriam Perez……………..53 Selected Photographs by Tammy Stone…………….79
Rushing Water by Tasha Cotter Everyone thought she would have grown out of falling in love that way, but she hadn’t and she was in high school now. To her language was a stream of notes, music came out of mouths in place of words and recently Baskin was the new thing on Janna’s baby kiss pink lips. She did things like put moon charms on her laces, let her bra straps show and worst of all, she hummed songs no one heard, songs she’d written based on great love.
Country music! Country music! she cried down the hall.
For her that’s what Baskin was, a country song. Tall, awkward, black and white, he’d never had a real relationship with a girl. But her songs had a confused quality about them. The lyrics were her own, inspired by, as they liked to say, her flavor of the week. Country music
was cherry and cherry was Baskin. She became an 80s freak, wearing her hair big as cotton candy, leggings, and her lips seemed like cherries. She fell in love with the music, not men. I like the songs men make in me, she once explained to a mystified therapist.
The guys never minded much. Baskin was the fourth person this had happened to. There was never anything intimate about their relationship, but she adored the music and because music radiated from Baskin, she adored Baskin as no one ever had and even though he hated country music, he liked the way her eyes narrowed when she was concentrating, he liked how she talked about banjos and harpsichords, and he liked her brand of confusion, which intrigued him. Initially, he even liked that there was an expiration date to this crazy intense whatever kind of infatuation it was.
For two weeks Janna met him outside of his classes, walked the halls with him, asked about his dying grandmother, and helped him with his trigonometry homework. He’d hold her hand, a couple of times he even touched her pink and blonde hair and she would tell him about why she liked the color pink so much (bubblegum) He understood how every person she’d ever loved had a life span of about eight songs. Would he be any different? In the space of two weeks she’d already written seven of them, humming them when she ran circles around him in the gym as he played basketball with a group of guys. Between dribbles, he’d listen for new lyrics, an unknown song, and on days when he heard it, something inside him came a little loose. In his diary he wrote it’s like head (heart?) is releasing itself from a dock and being taken by a current into the center of a lake. How to reach it now? And the music? Rushing water.
Lying in bed at night, thinking about her heartspotted tights, he found himself humming the lyrics she’d written, the lyrics she’s plucked out of the air like lightning bugs that, as she’d said, came from him. Those songs he would never forget. He knew he had one song left, by her standards, he told himself not to give a shit. She wasn’t real. She was short and pink and TOO MUCH. When her eyes had first zeroed in on him he’d had no idea what Janna was really like, but he’d sensed what might happen.
On the day of the eighth song she sat down beside him in the cafeteria and leaned in to whisper something in his ear. One song, please, she said. Baskin said something too loud to one of his friends, intentionally blocking her out. Outside was all white and snow. She began to sing the very last song. Everyone felt very bad about this. People felt bad for Baskin. The table fell silent and Baskin took her hand, led her out of the school. It was freezing and the
snow was powdery this time of year. They closed their eyes and listened to the song, both internalizing the music as soon as it was released into the air. The lyrics began to fall over them like shoveled dirt. He let her hands go. They were standing beside the flagpole and when the song was over, they were not to be seen.
Noah and Eve by Tasha Cotter Eve walks up, passing the dead rose bushes and goes into the house. Fast and loud rap music is coming from his bedroom. She tries to lovingly nudge the border terrier, Diesel, out of the way and goes in. “Noah, you awake?” She walks over and reaches over to find a way to turn the volume off on the clock radio. Noah utters something that doesn’t sound like language. He kicks the sheet off of himself and turns toward her, toward his walk-in closet that has one door off the hinge, a snow drift of cargo shorts lay collapsed by a broken lamp in the corner. She looks at all this and then back to Noah. “Noah.” Noah’s eyes flicker and close again. Eve walks into the kitchen to check on the pet food bowls. Sometimes there is food out for the dog and cat.
Today there is none. Eve refills the bowls and feels her cell phone vibrate. She gets her phone out. Who r u? She doesn’t know who is sending her this text. She hadn’t messaged anyone. She closes the phone and pours some dog food into a soup bowl on the kitchen floor. She pushes the pee pads deep into the trashcan and takes out the trash. She goes back inside and tells the cat to stop it. As she opens the door that leads to the basement she’s careful not to let the dog sneak through. Eve watches as the cat hops through the pet door, anxious to see her kittens. Eve follows the black cat down the wooden steps, past empty coke bottles filled with yellow juice and cigarette stubs. And then she is standing in darkness. She moves toward the sound of meowing and reaches for the flashlight she keeps down there. She puts her hand in the soup bowls and they are empty so she
scoops out some cat food and puts it in one of the empty bowls. She raises up and tries to locate that bar to steady herself before going back upstairs. Her light flashes on something, someone and this person is rushing toward her. She wants to say his name, but the word is ruptured, crumbling into the air as the cat contorts itself into an undone circle, tightening itself around its nest of everything.
Boneyard Bed and Breakfast by Matthew Madonia
I brought you flowers, laying forget-me-nots at your feet like a prayer with star of Bethlehem snap dragons for hope, holding bachelorâ€™s button baby breaths in anticipation. I mix your bouquet like a potion say your name like a spell and wait for you to join me I havenâ€™t forgotten that we have a date tonight. My feet sink into the soil just inches from where your hands should be, fingernails sprouting from decaying flesh like autumn weeds growing from the final resting place of dead leaves; there is more life in death than we understand. No one knows this better than you. My Ouija board wife. With the finest cobweb silk spun around your emaciated ivory figure,
you are more beautiful than all of the skeletons in my closet. I can barely see you now, but I know that you are there, like glabella fantasies your object holds permanence even though you are now out of sight. Let’s follow the lover’s path that Romeo and Juliet’s footsteps have trodden into the ground. The night life in this necropolis is wonderful. You guide me to a patch of dirt beneath a grand oak tree dressed in Spanish moss and say that you have been saving this spot for me. Our lips meet. You taste like marble and grey. Perverted poltergeists peak from behind shadows trying to steal a glimpse of our beauty. We are two necromancers with a bone yard for a bed, bringing back to life the ghosts of grave yard girls that died virgins. I told you that we would be together forever, and I plan on keeping my word. There is gunpowder in my hourglass,
and just like your body on the night I found you in the bathroom with the grim reapers scythe at your wrist the last grain has just , fallen, through.
Memories By Chris Spanel There wasn’t anything to be seen or heard but the stars, a silent wind, and two souls upon the ground. “Do you really think?” The boy flipped his head to the side and looked at the angel lying next to him. Her hair was sprawled about, naturally untidy upon the dewy grass. “Do I really think what?” asked the boy. “You told me you thought I was beautiful, Jay,” said the girl. The boy shrugged, “I don’t remember that.” “I do.” The boy stood up slowly, letting his fingers brush gently across the grass as he rose. The air was cool and the sky was gaping at him like a black canvas draped over a dazzling heaven. “You’re forgetting, aren’t you?” asked the girl.
“Forgetting what?” The girl paused and looked up at him, narrowing her eyes as if the act would let her see deep into the boy’s soul. “What’s your name?” She asked. The boy remained silent, looked up to the stars, and began walking. He let one step fall after the other, a smooth cadence bounding between worlds. His thoughts were scanning his life. “Your name is Jay. Your name is Jay,” said the girl. The boy kept on walking; he now could hear the silent steps of the girl behind him. “Don’t you remember my name?” asked the girl. There was a tick of silence. “I’m sorry,” said the boy. He kept on walking. His eyes were glued to the horizon, where a white-capped mountain blended into the black sky.
“Is that where we’re going?” asked the girl. The boy turned to see her pointing at the mountain. “No,” said the boy, “we’re going over that.” “On the other side?” “Not quite,” said the boy. And they continued to walk. Silence encompassed them, but it was as if a conversation was taking place. The connection between them was tense but confusing, as if someone was tugging on both of them from unknown directions. “What do you remember?” asked the girl. “There are a lot of things,” said the boy. “Name one.” The boy shrugged. “I remember life.” “Do you remember me?” The answer was footsteps and a growing sight of earth before them. The land became a little more rugged. It was no longer full of grass, but scattered with patchworks
of it. The boy walked in a straight line, while the girl hovered from one to another. “I’ll tell you what I remember,” said the girl. “I remember life as being grand. It was full of light and laughter. I met you on a path by home, not too far but not too close. When we were younger, it felt like we were on the edge of the world, taking risks every time we went. And I had a family that loved me, and I went to school.” “You went to school?” asked the boy. “Well, yeah,” said the girl. Her voice shook. “So you can read, and write?” “Jay, you can too. You were better than any of us.” “I don’t remember,” he said. The girl moved in closer to him, reached out, and grabbed hold of his hand. They intertwined and locked. “Shouldn’t be too much longer,” said the boy. “Jay, are you sure you know where we’re going?” The boy nodded. “Just follow me.”
And the slope became steeper as the darkness of the sky remained black, the stars remained shining, and the wind blew endlessly. The boy was swift with each step and the girl followed dutifully hand-in-hand. Her eyes were sparkling, but the boy wasn’t sure whether she was sad or happy. “It’s getting cold,” the girl said. “I’m feeling alive,” the boy said. Soon their feet were covered in snow and their breaths materialized before them. Ascension had become a brisk yet tiresome experience. “Almost there,” said the boy. They had reached the top of the mountain and were looking out upon the dark expanse before them. A blanket of shadow was on the world as it was on them. “What now?” asked the girl. “Now,” said the boy. “We jump.” “I can’t.” Her voice shook.
“You have to forget,” said the boy. “You have to let go.” And then Jay jumped, his hand still intertwined with the girl’s. They were being pulled apart, on the brink of breaking where there would be no return, until Karley jumped. Neither of them fell, but rose together into the life of sky. “What is your name?” asked the boy. The girl looked into her own thoughts as the wind caressed her, “I don’t remember.” “Well,” said the boy. “I still think you’re beautiful.”
Selected Poems by Changming Yuan
Orange The swirling light of a setting sun Turns every pip of summer Into a half moon-shaped dreamer Dreaming About a full and golden wheel Keep running towards another season Wrapped within the rind are ten fleshy carpels Ten thousand juicy associations
Truncated Truths (2): Butterfly
From the dullest corner of his heart Flapping out a giant butterfly Three-legged, tailless Flying straight toward the rising sun Its shadow slowly measuring Every inch of the ground route The highway of human souls Like a cadaver dog trying hard To find the decomposed body Of a murdered history
Narrative Viewpoints (1): First-Person
Having perceived more shadows than lamps More cries than songs More raw coffee than refined honey More rotten fish than yulan magnolia More thorns than petals I left my home village for a distant hill began to hike with an unknown god Since then, I have been moving Moving around From east to west From yin to yang From the outer to the inner, where I Hope to relocate my soul, where I believe My senses can better be treated On a rainy day, I will leave a short note To my family, telling them Never bother to find me, for I will have gone alone Along an un-trodden trail, like a dying African elephant
In front of Commercialism
Far, farther, farthest You are forced to retreat, fleeing Into the farthest pristine land Of the inner world beyond the horizon Where the white silences of the arctic The natural balances between life and land May offer you a bunker, where you can Position your soul against all enemy fire
A Parallel Poem: Snorting
Flying between sea and sky Between day and night Amid heavenly or oceanic blue I lost all my references To any timed space Or a localized time Except the non-stop snorting Of a stranger neighbor Then, beyond the snorts rising here And more glooming there I see tigers, lions, leopards And other kinds of hanger-throated predators Darting out of every passengerâ€™s heart Running amuck around us As if released from a huge cage As if in a dreamland
Monster in the Closet by Holly Day The first night is spent listening to the dark, to the scraping of tree branches against the closed window, to the ragged breathing of the new infant in the adjacent room. Iâ€™m so afraid to fall asleep at first, afraid of missing one of the hourly feedings, of sleeping right through the cat noises of the waking child, but soon find that my body wonâ€™t let me sleep through his crying, that the instant his eyes open mine are open, too. Any change in his breath turns my breasts into rock-hard knobs that ache unbearably. There are too many things to pay attention to, too many waking dreams, too many future plans and worries to sort through to fall asleep. The second night, I hear the unchild-related noises, the methodical scratching of nails tapping rhythmically against wood, the occasional high-pitched gurgling laughter that erupts from a throat trying to contain itself. I get up
from bed and rush into my sonâ€™s room half-a-dozen times an hour, until my husband has to physically restrain me, gently, soothing my hair back and whispering let the baby sleep, let the baby sleep. And so I wait, hearing the padding of bare feet pacing in the other room, stopping now and then to scratch nails again and again along the rungs of the wooden crib until the child wakes screaming, screaming for the unbearable seconds it takes for me to leap out of bed and fly to the other room. Morning comes and I look like my own mother now, heavy bags beneath each eye, the faint capillary bruising that no amount of soaking with tea bags can erase. The child looks old, too, a tiny, toothless bald old man in blue pajamas covered in teddy bears. I scoop him up in lead-weight arms and carry him into the sunlit kitchen, where we eat breakfast together and I rock him into his first nap of the day.
The Day goes by uneventful; the baby sleeps on the couch in the living room as I tidy the house quietly around him. I can’t bring myself to carry him back to his own room, not while I can keep a protective eye on him down here. My husband wouldn’t like it one bit, would say I was being obsessive, smothering, but he’s not here right now and I can do anything I want. It’s not until the clock rolls around to five p.m. that I venture into the baby’s room, the last room in the house to clean. I pull the broom over the polished wood floor, watchful for telltale claw marks and demon fingernail clippings.
There’s nothing here to
confirm the noises of the night before, but then again, my parents never found anything in my room, either. I lay my son in his own bed and gather up the laundry and used wet naps. He is awake now, barely, watching me move around the room much as I am always watching him. I smile a smile so big it feels like my face is going to split and wiggle my fingers at him. “Hello, sugar
bump,” I say, bouncing a little in place. “How’s my baby boy? How’s my baby?” and I see something move out of the corner of my eye. Something is clinging to the outside of my house and I am being watched. Before I can get a good look out the bedroom window, though, I hear the door downstairs slamming shut and my husband’s “Hello! Anybody home?” and whatever it is staring back at me through the window melts down the side of the house. I scoop the baby up in my arms and run downstairs to greet my husband. “It’s Daddy!” I say, holding the baby up for a kiss. “Look! Daddy’s home!” I hear the noises again that night as the frustrated and impatient man in my bed gropes at my night-gowned body. I lift his hand from my bare thigh and put it on his stomach, rolling over onto my own stomach, listening. The footsteps pad back and forth in the baby’s room, back and forth, back and forth, then out in the hallway and stop at the
open door of my bedroom. I can feel its presence out there, in the dark, almost at the foot of the bed. I keep my eyes closed, keep my breathing steady, I will not look. My husband throws his arm across my back and I squeak all the way upright, terrified. I catch a glimpse of yellow eyes and something scampers into the hallway, back to the baby’s room. “I don’t think so,” I mutter, and leap out of bed and run into the baby’s room, flipping on the light. My husband is right behind me, no longer pretending to be asleep. “What’s gotten into you?” he snarls, going to the crib and picking up the wailing baby, startled awake by the bright lights. There’s nothing there. “This is really getting ridiculous,” he continues, and puts the wide-awake baby back into the crib, tucking the covers under his chin. “I thought I heard something in here, something that wasn’t the baby.”
He shakes his head. “I didn’t hear anything,” he says. “But if there was an intruder or something besides us in the house, let me take care of it, okay? I’d hate for any of my friends at work to hear that you beat up a burglar while I was passed out in bed. They’d never let me live it down.” “My husband, the caveman,” I joke feebly, and let him pull me back to bed. He does what he does and part of me enjoys it even as my ears strain to pick up noises other than the two of us in the dark, my eyes strain to pick out the shapes in the room. Something by the open doorway trying is trying to see me well. Then morning comes and I’m up before him, baby in arms, coffee warming downstairs. “Did you get some sleep last night?” he asks in passage. I ease the worry lines with the lie, “yes.” I’ve given up finding monster claw marks on the floor, gnawed gashes in the wooden crib, anything that
might validate the nightmares. Crazy cartoon schemes float through my mind—giant strips of flypaper spread over the nursery floor at night, glue strong enough to trap an elephant; mouse traps placed strategically around the crib, in the closet, in the hallway; teaching the baby to sleep with all the lights on. I catch up on sleep with the baby, spend the day in a blur of waking up to thin cries from the child in my arms, feeding and changing, strange dreams. I barely wake up in time to get dinner ready, fix my hair and act like nothing’s wrong. I casually bring up the idea of having the baby sleep in the same room as the two of us that night, but let the idea die before my husband can begin to answer. His eyes are more tired and older than they’ve ever been before—he is growing less patient with me every day. I tuck my son into bed for what feels like the last time, as it has every night for the past week. I keep seeing things out of the corner of my eye, something huge and
terrible that blends perfect with shadow, something small with large eyes and horrible claws, something long and thin with insect limbs and antenna. But the room is empty—the phantoms disappear before I can face them dead-on. I pull the covers up to my son’s chin and kiss him on the cheek, goodnight; goodbye. My husband lulls me to sleep with stories about his day at the office. I feel his hand slide off my breast at some point in his litany. He sighs, stops talking, and rolls over onto his other side, facing the wall. I wake again to the sounds of scratching and wait to hear the baby cry. It doesn’t come. I hold my breath and now I can see something watching me from the doorway, actually hear its breath this time, the almost-giggle as it takes a step towards me, closer, and again. My lungs are bursting. I can’t move. It is right in front of me, standing at the foot of the bed, eyes glowing large and yellow in the darkness. My toes shrink into my feet in absolute terror.
And now it’s climbing up onto the bed, my side, careful so careful not to wake the man sleeping beside me, it’s coming to get me, it’s coming. Because it remembers me, too, from all those years before. And it’s not going to let me get away from it a second time.
Eating Words by Terrance Terich My cupboard is bare, nothing left but the books. Searching for the savory sustenance within leaves and pages turned with every lick of the finger. The bill of fare: To start, a stately Greene salad, paragraphs, fleshy and crisp, gnashed â€˜tween teeth and tongue. Decanting a robust bottle of Calvino syllables swirled and sloshed, or would I rather a domestic? A carafe of Salinger, vintage â€™53. Appetizer: Angel-haired Ferlinghetti, coiling words in strands on the twirling fork, succulent stanzas pouring from each sequential page. Main Course: A choice of a flaky and buttery Chicken Turgenev, or perhaps a smoky, cedar-planked Salman, all dusted with a scattering Pynchon of seasoning flavor. Dessert: Maybe a sweet slice of Flannery Though that might be a little too rich, Instead, a sugary slab of Malamud pie.
A bubble of a burp emerges, An odorous hollow echo Of this mellifluous meal, This repast of writing. My stomach may still grumble But my mind is ever full.
Scar by Rafe Posey The scar is almost three feet long, raised and ragged. It lacks the clarity of the scars you see in movies, or on Halloween, with their tidy hashmarks and even lines. After six years it has largely faded from a harsh red stripe overlaid with black sutures to a pale, fishy white, but it will never really go away. It will never make anyone think “Park Avenue plastic surgeon,” although I suppose it should. That’s where I got it, after all. Sometimes I look in the mirror and think it looks like the remnants of a bad day with a shark, or maybe a chainsaw. Other days I see it and wonder whether my still-increasing pelt will eventually cover it entirely. It can be a puzzle, being your own private science experiment. You’d think I’d be getting used to it. We found Dr. Connor in late April, 2005. I had determined already that there were particular steps I was supposed to follow through transition, but I had also
decided that I would just ignore them. Most trans folk stick with the program, but it seems to me that the Benjamin Standards, as theyâ€™re called, must make transition almost unbearable. The Standards were invented decades ago by Dr. Harry Benjamin, a psychiatrist who worked with patients dealing with gender disorders. Over time, he worked out what must have seemed like an incredibly liberating structure for transition, back then: at least two years of therapy; a year of living in the desired gender fulltime; hormone therapy for at least a year; then surgery. For me, that would have meant starting therapy in my late 30s; living as a curvy, large-breasted man-like person for a year; living as a curvy, large-breasted hairy man-like person for a year; and then finally getting surgery in my early 40s. I considered that for less than a day. I had been trying to change for decades. In high school, I had tried living full-time as a boy, until my mother shut it down. As an adult lesbian, my increasing
femininity made me so depressed and alienated that I stopped telling anyone in my family how I felt about anything. Brayden , my partner, wanted a girl, not any kind of boy, and pressured me into a spiral of overcompensation. While she climbed the partnership ladder at a Chicago investment firm, I stayed home and took care of first one child, and then three. I knew it was ironic that Brayden, wanting me to be a girl, was still so control-oriented that she wouldnâ€™t let me have the pregnancies, but the expansion of the family, like everything else, was out of my hands. By the summer of 2000, I was despondent, on my way to suicidal. Then, sitting on the beach in Santa Barbara, watching the pelicans and the dolphins and the vast swirl of the Pacific, I knew I could live, but only if I changed. Unsure what the path should be, I started wearing menâ€™s shirts again, and cut my hair back to shoulder-length. In 2004 I discovered Kate Bornstein, a trans woman who is generally considered both the queen and the fairy
godmother of my people. Her book, Gender Outlaw, pulled away the layers of emotional cotton I had wrapped around my problems. At the time, I was living in Portland, Oregon with my partner and our kids, trying to stave off despair. I had also reconnected with an old flame, Andrea, who told me that whatever I did about my gender, she would be “consummately okay.” Brayden, meanwhile, wanted me to grow my hair longer and wear nice ladylike pantsuits to events, perhaps to compensate for my insistence on boxer briefs. In March, I moved to a tiny sideways apartment in New York with Andrea. By mid-April, we had arrived at my new name. Then came our research phase, trying to find out how this would all happen. I bought a lot of books and scoured the internet for guidance and role models. At the time, I wasn’t sure I would ever start hormones, but I knew that getting rid of my breasts through what trans guys call “top surgery” would be a good start.
Most people transition as part of a community, but I didn’t know anyone else. According to the internet, my Brooklyn neighborhood was chock full of boys like me, so every time I went outside – to the Gorilla Coffee store down the block, the supermarket, the Peruvian chicken place on the corner, wherever – I stared at everyone who looked even remotely ambiguous. Not that I ever would have struck up a conversation, but still. I was looking for community, even though I had no idea what I would do with it if I found one. Then Andrea got tired of my dithering around on the internet and began to look for resources herself. Within a couple of hours, she had found Dr. Connor listed in an online information site for trans men and called his office to set up a consultation. The appointment with Dr. Connor was terrifying. He held all the cards, and I was doing this “wrong,” which could induce him to turn me down. Fortunately, he liked me, or he liked the idea of the
thousands of dollars we would give him. I think it was both. He asked me a few questions about my gender background, and I tried to figure out what the right answers should be. When he asked whether I had seen a therapist about this, I thought back to the mid 1990s, when Brayden and I were childless apartment-dwellers two blocks from Wrigley Field, in Chicago. I had seen an excellent therapist for a couple of years then; surely Fred and I had talked about gender at some point. I told Dr. Connor yes. He settled back in his chair, fingering his Brooks Brothers suspenders. I looked around, thinking of the lines in that song from A Chorus Line, when the “Dance Ten, Looks Three” girl sings of “grabbing a cab to see the wizard at Park & 73rd.” There I was, sitting in a consultation room full of exotic antiques and the other trappings of Upper East Side success, at that very intersection. Only thing was, the
girl in the song wanted to get tits â€“ and I wanted to get rid of mine. We set an appointment for June 11, and Andrea and I left Dr. Connorâ€™s office, elated and a little scared. I had yet to tell my parents and siblings what I was up to. In my sorrow and alienation, I had pulled far back from all of them, and while they might not be surprised when I told them I was trans, they would definitely be shocked by news of an actual transition, which would strike them as coming completely out of the blue. That night, I sent out an email. It was probably defensive and bossy, because I was scared. The next day I went to Portland to see the kids, and I managed to tell them better. The boys, then four, accepted my explanation without question (I told them it was magic). My daughter, then eight, was baffled by my more scientific yammering, but supportive. Brayden just glared. I spent the next few weeks dealing with the fallout from my email. My youngest sister, Honor, the only
person who had known about my plans beforehand, kept up her litany of support. My brother Gus sent me an email explaining that he would never feel comfortable with me again, because he would know that I was “a disfigured freak.” My other sister, Robin, was mad. My father expressed his annoyance as disappointment, and said I would be soft, like Truman Capote. My mother also compared me to Truman Capote, and said she didn’t understand why I was choosing a life of dishonesty and hiding. The morning of June 11, 2005, was blindingly humid, the kind of the day when the asphalt starts to steam and stink as soon as the sun rises. I put on my favorite old button-down shirt, and realized that it was the last day I would ever need a bra. We went out to the street and flagged down a taxi to take us across the river and away to the Upper East Side. I remember being incredibly hungry and extremely scared. Andrea had her own fears – if I
came out okay, she should call Honor, who was in charge of telling everyone else, but if I died on the table she would have to call my mother and Brayden, neither of whom would be thrilled to hear from her. Dr. Connor, in scrubs instead of his usual finery, had me change into scrubs of my own, and then I stood topless in the operating room while he drew guiding lines around my chest with red and blue magic markers. Had I been small-breasted, this would have been a matter of a touch of lipo here, perhaps a tuck there. But I was 38D, which meant they had to open me up, take my chest apart, and put me back together in a manlier form. A week earlier, we had spent two hours talking through my nipple options—vertical
ramifications of scar tissue on my eventual muscle growth, assuming I started using testosterone eventually. Meanwhile, Andrea paced, and Dr. Connor’s assistant and the anesthesiologist got the table ready. They
seemed puzzled to be participating in my surgery; I assumed that they had gone into Park Avenue-style plastic surgery to make bigger breasts and straighter noses, not to build a new kind of boy. It was not quite nine in the morning when I lay down, scared of the general anesthetic, but more scared that they would give me too little (vain to the end, I had subtracted fifteen pounds from my weight when the doctor was working his calculations). Andrea took one hand, and the anesthesiologist took the other, slipping a long fat needle into the big vein there. I wanted to say something, but then I was gone. I woke up in the middle of the afternoon, dopey and sore, but mostly dying for something to drink. Dr. Connor wandered into the recovery room to check on how I was coming out of the anesthetic. Apparently I had, while still out cold, demanded a sandwich and a Coke from anyone who would listen. I drifted in and out while they laughed, unable to move my arms and not very interested in trying.
Around four, by which time I had managed to stay conscious for a full hour all at once, Dr. Connor and Andrea got me standing, which is when we found that Iâ€™d been lying in a pool of blood all afternoon. A new set of bandages appeared, and then a stiff white vest that would, Dr. Connor suggested, hold me all together. I spent the next two weeks strung out on Percocet in the big striped armchair that comprised our living room furniture. This was before we had cable or air conditioning and I couldnâ€™t raise my arms enough to hold a book for the first week. My drains leaked sometimes, and showering was almost impossible until Dr. Connor took them out, almost a week after the surgery. For several days, I smelled like old empanadas, meaty and a little overdone. And then I began to heal. We went back to get sutures pulled out twice (although, to my astonishment, I pulled out a stiff black thread almost a foot long, just a few months ago), and to get rid of the drains. The wound
started to itch more than it hurt. In August I decided that I would never pass as male if I didn’t start testosterone, and I was tired of people assuming the female end of androgynous. Dr. Connor referred me to another physician, who would administer my hormone shots for the next two and a half years, until New York law changed its “controlled substance” laws for testosterone and I could pick up my prescription and take the little jar of magic home for Andrea to inject into my thigh (tattoos aside, I am a giant sissy about needles). In October, with my voice only just starting to change, my hormones in chaos, and nothing that in any way resembled facial hair, I started teaching at a junior high school in Queens. I found that I was exactly the same kind of stupid as the 8th and 9th grade boys in my classroom, which was both terrifying and reassuring. I was just as excited by my first beard hair as they were by their own. I
was hungry all the time and my feet grew three sizes in a year and a half. I was probably extremely annoying. Nowadays, the scar rarely itches. I keep thinking I’m almost done, but then something new changes—my bone structure shifts again, or more hair suddenly appears, or my voice drops lower (or cracks again when I speak up about something). I have friends who wonder why I identify as trans, but I think maybe they don’t understand that it’s impossible for me to forget that I am a different kind of boy. My scar is always there, and demands my attention when I do things like take a shower, or go to the beach, or visit the ER. At some point, Dr. Connor asked if I wanted to clean up the edges a bit, or use one of his many creams and unguents to make the scar smoother. I told him no—the scar marks the line of before and after, or the chasm from which the man appeared when the woman was banished. I love my scar.
The Inner-Self by Miriam Perez
My Muse and I Series of Self Portraits: Spanish Mermaid by Miriam Perez
Smoke of Oblivion (Cover) by Miriam Perez
Selected Poems by Gabriel Ricard Show Your Work The crowd has asked me to keep this brief, to keep smiling and to work in five jokes between the time it takes you to throw twenty-six knives and for me to get out of these handcuffs while falling from the rafters on fire. I’ve met at least half of the people out there. About half of those are going to want to know how we managed to get this act down on the first try. The other half will have all sorts of things to tell you. Thirty-five stories, twenty-two anecdotes, seventeen horror movies, two thousand and six weird memories and some disaster from a drive-in that burnt down when the kids wanted something more. I’d only believe about a third of it, but if you don’t, then I’d prefer you hang around until at least the twenty-fifth of the month. Nine hundred dollars buys you a lot of time to think
about what you still have to pay for.
Cowards Live Outdoors Raymond loved that movie for a long time. He spent months afterwards hiding out in an attic with fifty years of history spread out amongst four families, twenty mistakes and three counties people would rather forget ever existed. That attic had one hell of a view. The Peter Lorre workaholics drank warm beer and talked about the work they would do tomorrow on the cars that were on fading fast day and night. He marveled at why the thunder and lightning could only be seen from the little window and didn’t bother the clear skies and summer days that choked Christmas and his February birthday. Pretending to be Vincent Price wasn’t hard. Easier still was to believe he had been the last man on earth for quite some time. His mother was a successful entertainer in some of the lesser-known grocery stores. His father had been gone longer than he had been alive fighting the good fight in Kansas City and San Francisco. They had better things to do than be home, but somebody always left money and library books on the kitchen counter. It wasn’t so bad. Most nights he watched TV and kept the living room clean.
He didn’t care for sleeping. He didn’t like dreaming of visiting the moon on a whim and finding out that half of it was cardboard that tasted like provolone. The other half was just an optical illusion big enough to terrify anyone who claims the first step is nothing compared to the second. Another dream was of an older man walking into a bar, sitting down and not paying any attention to the black smoke that covered his jacket like a short history of a stunning mind's eye. He would order six drinks at a time and not so much as glance at the woman who stormed in right after him, started screaming and didn’t stop even when it was just the two of them in there. Raymond hated those dreams, and he didn’t care for being alone when they were through with him. The whole God thing was kind of weird, and the other kids were just stupid, but movies and cardboard boxes filled in the blanks nicely. The attic did the rest of the work. Between the pulp magazines, old hats, empty cigarette packs and ventriloquist dummies, he eventually moved away from those boring, real movies. He came up with hundreds of his own,
before a car full of old ladies took him away to get a real education and a decent meal. Most of them featured a hero who knew what it meant to be lucky rather than good. He turned out fine. He grew up to be seven-ten, and full of bright ideas.
Ready-Steady Your Glass I’d like to think I was one of the smart ones for getting out of here when the police force doubled to one thousand strong and thoroughly hammered. The same year the town orphanage became a skyscraper, and those two star crossed lovers from the class of ‘89 were finally caught for what they had been doing to all those lonely widows out in the good neighborhood. This is a small place that went straight up and became a labyrinth under purely dishonest, hallucinogenic circumstances. It’s gone through a few documentaries worth of culture, a few million immigrants and at least that many buildings and homes. When I lived here there was only one McDonald’s. Think about that. And it never, ever burst into flames for no good reason. I’m not one of the smart ones. I moved away after Lucy and Katherine got married and took forty-six lives with them in the gunfire that rolled with the confused aftermath and very nearly sent the sun into permanent exhile. I left when scientists figured out why the tornadoes were only destroying Main Street.
For weeks afterwards I was seventy-six state lines away and smug as hell about that. I had no reason to be. I didn’t have the right. You gotta realize I’ve never been very brave. I didn’t want to tell anyone I loved them without some peace and quiet first. I figured the whole lot of us would get old and marvel at how little the kids of the day appreciate how many liquor stores they have to choose from. Statics were built in other countries and dimensions. That’s what I wanted to believe. I’m not smug anymore. I jump every time I hear a horseman coming by to collect and make sure the debtors never outnumber the gamblers fresh out of middle school. When I did visit I marvel at change by myself, and that’s exactly as lonesome as it sounds. Occasionally I see people my age, but they’re all amnesiacs in gorgeous Halloween outfits, and not a single one has recognized me. No harm, no foul since I don’t recognize them either.
Ovation by Len Kuntz Before she died, Ruthie wanted to go skinny dipping. She paid a man from the home named, Jay, to take her. They rode in the van with the bad shocks and she watched her skin bounce, heard it slap, her dermis the color and texture of tortillas. In the rearview, Ruthie saw herself as a series of shudders, a broke down woman with white dandelion seed hair strapped into a wheel chair unit. When she leaned forward she could pick out the sparkly bits of sliver-blue in her irises. Her eyes were the thing that had changed least over the years. She knew she'd never been beautiful, but Levi had gushed about her eyes. At first, Ruthie thought he just wanted inside her skirt, but Levi never stopped remarking on their light, said the colors shifted in the sun, said it was like panning for gold. And so she'd believed him.
"Are we almost there?" Ruthie asked. It had been decades since she'd been so excited. Her stomach gurgled. She felt giddy and girlish. Jay leaned over the headrest, his breath smelling awful of cigarettes. When he shot her a look, Ruthie knew not to ask again, not to push her luck just yet. Levi was deeply muscled with skin like cooled lava, the first black man she'd ever befriended. He stared at her constantly and this made her feel as if she were being excavated.
His consistent attention wasn't overly
sexualized, though. He just seemed very interested about her. Levi worked on the other side of the lake doing landscaping for the Wheelers and one brave day Ruthie rowed across, tied the boat to the dock, and called to him. His gaze went immediately to her eyes, gleaning something she was unable to discern. Sweat twisted down his neck, into his chest like inky rain and she was ashamed
by how desperately she wanted to lick it off. Ruthie was not that kind of girl; she was a virgin and had only really kissed Tommy Pittman. Levi smelled of mown grass and sour perspiration and Ruthie adored the aroma at once. She was exhausted with always having to be ironed and perfumed. They talked for hours that day. And the next. And for days and days that summer. Ruthie's affection for Levi became dominating and exclusive. She knew she would never love another, but Ruthie soon learned that Levi's fondness was simply that. He did not love her, not in the way Ruthie desired. Levi loved a white man named Benedict. To be homosexual back then, and to also mix races, was preposterous. Levi realized he was in a doomed affair, just as Ruthie knew she was now equally ill-fated.
Listening to Levi describe his yearning for Benedict was a paradoxical torture for Ruthie. He had opened up a place inside her that no one else could fill. Levi confessed to Ruthie that he would meet Benedict on Friday nights in the hidden cove east of Storm Lake. They'd go skinny dipping. "You should come!" Ruthie laughed, but secretly she was holding herself back from having a heart attack. The thought of seeing Levi naked ran a hot blade of lust through her. "Seriously, join us. We get there at nine. I'd love for you to meet Benedict." The days leading up to that Friday were impossible. Ruthie had decided she would do it; she would swim naked with her beloved and her beloved's lover.
At the last minute, however, she chickened out. Convention got into her brain.
Suddenly it all seemed
ludicrousâ€”her infatuation with a man who did not feel the same. And to go skinny dipping with them! Saturday morning her world burnt down. Both Levi and Benedict had been found drowned, washed up in the cove with cattle rope strung around them, neck-to-neck. Ruthie broke, actually felt something coming unhinged inside her, irreparable for all eternity. That was sixty-seven years ago. Now the river came into view. Jay grumbled as he extricated Ruthie. "This is the worst idea ever," he said, pushing her to the water's edge. "I paid you $1,000. Where else are you going to get that kind of money?" Jay had fitted her with a life vest and tied a tow rope around her waist. He was ornery but strong and had no trouble lifting her into the water.
"Damn river's ice cold," Jay spat. He fed the rope some slack and Ruthie drifted out a few feet. "Turn around." "Why? "Just do it." "You're a nutty old broad." "I am," Ruthie agreed. "But if you don't keep your back turned for a full five minutes, I'll report you to Nancy. I'll tell her you hatched this plan, that you robbed me. I'll see you ruined." Jay called her an antique female dog, but did as she requested. Ruthie had worked her skirt off already. Next she undid the buttons of her blouse, and then sawed a jackknife through the rope. She'd planned well, had even spent time sharpening the blade. There. She floated. A current caught her at once. It was wonderful.
The waves sounded sloppy, like enthusiastic applause, an ovation. She went under, which was perfect, because that gave her the ability to finagle the life vest off. When Ruthie came back to the surface, she was naked and Jack was a tiny bug on the shore. She tilted her head back. She closed her eyes and listened to the water having its way with her. She did not protest. She felt Levi caressing parts of her no one had ever even seen, the parts she'd saved for him all these years. And some time later when Ruthie went under for good, she heard Levi say, "Open your eyes, Baby Doll. I want to see your eyes again."
Selected Poems by John Grey The Man Who Killed His Guardian Angel The law will be here any minute though not the cops from the nearby precinct house. This is a SWAT team after your own heart. And they won’t bang the door down. They’ll slip easily through the walls. Forget fingerprints and DNA and all that TV drama crap. Their eyes will move from your face to the corpse and back again and that will be enough. And they won’t get sidetracked drumming up a motive. You’re all the reason they will ever need. Your punishment is that there’ll no longer be a guardian angel looking out for you. It could be worse, my man, up there in the rafters, swinging gently by the throat. They might have sentenced you
The Painter in the Loft I hear footsteps on the stairs, women mostly, coming from his studio. Outside, there’s children chalking up the sidewalk for hopscotch. The park across the street is luminous green. Bluebirds have returned to their nest boxes. Mothers push baby carriages along the scented paths. But, to him, these images are flatter than canvas. So it’s willing bodies or nothing. It’s the great undraped, the lovely female form. I lie in bed, listening to his artistic choices as they ascend, descend. Light of foot coming, even lighter going, and, in between, the silence of another’s brush-stroke.
Regarding the Company I Keep lolling about with a son of night basking in the chilly glow of his black humor thinking how profound is the one who goes beyond simple cigarette and coffee into the heart of all cynicism, tolls its death wish out through black marble eyes marveling at the way he waits and waits until the sun slips away from this 16th street dive and what little light there is is at once milky and bloody in awe of the arch of his body, the hard hammer of his invisible core, how he holds his hands aloft to celebrate these tools of his grim trade, before oozing through the door onto the willing streets honest enough to nudge aside my worthless sophistication for his midnight undertow, primeval as the volcano crack of storms, of new dark forests jutting up through earth like spears, this one out to make dark sculpture from the formless mass of all that once was good in me
Stolen, Jarred, and Tossed By Nick Sanford On October 31st, Lily Florence stole the name of the boy whoâ€™d refused to kiss her on the lips. She stored it in a jam jar; she screwed the lid shut tight. It was such a fancy name--one she thought might sparkle and glow, perhaps even sing--but as she stared into the glass jar, the blandness of the thing inside left her eyeballs uninterested and her curious
unimpressed with the entire situation. Where is the boy? Why isnâ€™t he coming for his name? She observed it, that shapeless thing pretending to be better than air, for a moment longer. And quicker than a bee decides to sting, Lily shoved the jar into her pink Cinderella lunch box, smoothed the wrinkles out of her skirt, and stormed home. The birds took great care not to fly too close to her path. Squirrels stopped munching on their acorns. Even the ants
ceased their work, in fear that they might, somehow, interfere. “Excuse me,” she yelled as she approached the nameless boy, who maneuvered his G.I. Joes over a dirt mound. “Excuse! Me!” She now had his attention—it felt light in her hands, very uniform, and maintained a mild fuzziness, like a tennis ball. But it wasn’t yellow. It was uninteresting, just like the boy’s name. She unlatched her lunchbox and placed it inside. “I have your name. It’s right here inside my lunch box. Don’t you want it back? I stole it from you.” The nameless boy, not really caring, juggled a dirtbathed night crawler between his small fingers. He stretched it a bit, like an accordion, but not so much that it broke in half. “You can’t steal someone’s name. You’re dumb.” “I can. Look, it’s right here.” Lily held up the small jam jar for the boy to see, balancing it on her palm so the
glass received the sun’s full shine. The boy saw the thing inside and suddenly realized that his mother hadn’t used a name when calling him in for breakfast earlier that morning. The newspaper man only waved at him, addressed him with no title, and the white initials that had once been stitched into his backpack had disappeared. Lily now had his concern. She put that in her backpocket. It poked her a bit. That thing was awkwardly shaped! “I want it back. Give it back to me. Now!” The boy lunged for the jar, but Lily had borrowed speed and reflexes from her cat earlier that morning. She wore those two things around her neck, in a tiny gold locket that used to belong to her grandmother. “You can have it back. But only if you give me something in return.” He threw the worm across the yard. “You can have my Joe—it’s brand new.”
“I don’t want your Barbie.” “What! It’s not a—” “I want a kiss. On the lips. But the cheek will do.” Lilly smiled, her teeth perfect only because she’d stolen the dentist’s last week. They were a bit large. “Ew, I’m not kissing you.” The boy fell backward, landing somewhat harder than he originally intended, onto the cool green grass. “I don’t need that stupid thing anyway.” “Yes you do! You can’t go anywhere without your name. No one will know what to call you. Your mom will forget you. She won’t love you anymore. The teachers . . . they’ll do attendance and you’ll be absent forever! Now. Kiss. Me.” She stomped her foot into the soft earth and accidentally squashed a thick beetle, who’d been working all morning to get out of the sun and into a cool patch of shade at the opposite end of the yard. It crunched against her rubber sole. She looked at the bottom of her shoe and
wondered if all journeys, if all desires, ended like that: a splat—an odd assortment of juicy bits and pieces. “No. I like someone else. I want to kiss them. I didn’t want to kiss you earlier and I don’t want to now.” With crimson cheeks, Lilly yelled, “Fine,” and quicker than a blue jay says hello to morning she reached down and took the boy’s mouth. The nameless lips wiggled in her palm. He tried to say something, but no one could hear his silence, and even if they could, how could anyone help him if they didn’t know what to call him? She waited for the sun to set before she tossed those things that would not pucker, those things that would not smooch, those things that would not do what lips were supposed to do, in a gently moving stream. If she couldn’t have those lips, no one would.
At the Station by Tammy Stone
Last Engine Running by Tammy Stone
Boy Meets Train by Tammy Stone
Pushing with Light by Tammy Stone
Contributor Corner An Interview with Terrance Terich
BF: Describe the moment when you knew you wanted to write poetry. Do you remember the first poem you ever wrote? What was it about?
TT: In college, at UCLA, in a similar fashion to most English majors of that age, I began to become very interested in Beat poetry. I started to read everything I could get my hands on and was especially enamored of Allen Ginsberg. When senior upper division enrollment came around, I desperately wanted to get into the Beat poetry class, but it was filled immediately. As I scrambled to find another class, most other options filled up as well. The only class left was 20th Century Lesbian Poetry. I was the only male in the class and to top it off, I was straight. It
turned out to be the most memorable and most inspiring class I had taken, giving me the chance to write some of my first serious poetry. I was very encouraged by my fellow students and the professor. I ended up writing three poems to tack on to my final essay assignment and got a great response. I ended up writing an entire book of poetry after that class.
BF: In your cover letter to us, you mentioned that you “rediscovered [your] love of writing poetry.” Can you share the moment that reunited you with poetry?
TT: Absolutely. After a feverish rush of writing poetry in college and a few years after, I had a long fallow period. I was working in various bookstores in different positions, including buying (when that still existed) and managing. After making the decision to return to school to get my Master’s in Teaching, I took several prerequisite courses to
qualify for a few different programs. One graduate school required a creative writing class, despite my experience in writing and portfolio. It turned out that it was well worth taking as it rekindled that love of poetry that I once had, motivating another feverish rush of writing.
BF: Right now, you’re in graduate school to become a high school teacher. We’re quite fond of other educators! Do you plan on incorporating your love of poetry and writing with your teaching?
TT: Yes, indeed. In my studies, I have already created four or five lesson plans on poetry. I also spoke with my mentor teacher for my upcoming student teaching internship to see if I could lead a poetry unit. One of the favorite lesson plans I have created is one in which students paste Billy Collins’ poem, “Marginalia,” onto a large piece of
construction paper and create their own commentary, notes, and marginalia around the poem. I can’t wait to try it out! BF: Has any other poets and/or authors influenced your writing? Is there a current poet that you’d like to rave about to our readers?
TT: As stated earlier, I love Billy Collins. I think he is a great entry point for those intimidated by poetry as he is clever, funny, yet highly accessible. Some other fairly contemporary favorites include B.H. Fairchild (and especially his poem, “A Starlit Night”), Czeslaw Milosz, Sharon Olds, Maxine Kumin, and many others that perhaps aren’t as current.
BF: Where do you see your writing career in ten years?
TT: More than anything, I just hope to still be creating. Whether it is poetry, short stories, essays, or novels, I just
want to keep writing. There is nothing else in the world that fulfills me as much as the actual act of writing. I am very honored to have been published and will hopefully be able to submit more work in the future, but for me, that creative spark, that placing of the right word in the perfect place, and that path from the flutter of a new idea to a fully fleshed out, finished piece is unbeatable.
An Interview with Nick Sanford
BF: Describe the moment when you just knew you wanted to be a writer. What was the first story you’ve ever written?
NS: First off, I’m absolutely flattered that you all wanted to interview me. Thank you so much for accepting my piece and presenting it in this lovely edition of Black Fox Literary Magazine. I appreciate it so much.
I didn’t write at all as a younger child, but I always thought it was amazing how an author—just one person!—could compose an entire universe with just their words. Wondering what the process might be like, I decided to write a book during my senior year of high school. It was about a nine-year-old boy who discovered a mysterious
land within a cornfield, found guidance in a talking firefly, and was taught the ways of magic by a witch who’d lost her name.
For the longest time I wanted to be a doctor. But I finally realized that I liked to pretend and make things up way too much. Plus, I think the characters in my head are way more fun than first year med students.
BF: You’re in the process of receiving a B.A. in creative writing. What piece of advice from this program has helped you grow as a writer?
NS: Perhaps one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received was this: Always make your characters want/desire/yearn for something, even if it’s a package of Skittles. Okay, so the professor had said “a glass of water,”
but I like Skittles far better than water and, let’s be honest, they’re just more exciting.
Another thing I’m also constantly reminding myself of is that sometimes, less is more. In some cases, it can be SO much more. We as writers get obsessed by the images we see in our head and are compelled to relay every detail imaginable to our readers, but it’s important to remember that there is also a great deal of magic to be found in the story that exists in the white, wordless spaces of the page as well. That extra space only the reader can fill out for themselves. Imagination is a wondrous thing.
BF: You mention that you’re a writer of magical realism, which is a genre that is unfamiliar to many readers and writers. How would you define magical realism?
NS: The term magical realism can mean so many different things and is hard to define. However, for me personally, the genre of magical realism (sometimes referred to as fabulism) takes a fantastical element and makes it the norm, takes that sense of other and grounds it in a way that makes it believable for the reader. The magic becomes part of our own reality and, hopefully, causes us to look at our own journeys in a new and exciting way.
As a writer of magical realism, I love the freedom this subgenre possesses. It enables one to create an entirely different surfaceâ€”a fantastical new faceâ€”to the world we all know and interact with each day, while still being able to comment on the human condition, composed of those tiny, shiny, glimmering, who-knows-what-they-are things hiding beneath the surface.
BF: What authors have influenced you? Is there a current novel that you’d like to rave about to our readers?
NS: So many writers have influenced me, so this is a difficult question to answer; however, the author that has had the greatest impact on me as a writer would have to be Aimee Bender. Many of her characters and worlds contain absurdities, but the absurdities have meaning and purpose.
She taught me that literary fiction doesn’t always have to mimic real life. Stories of fantasy can—despite what some people think—have meaning and “literary merit.” Whether it be a story about a young girl who can taste her mother’s despair in the lemon cake she bakes, or a boy with an iron for a head who’s born into a family of pumpkin heads, her tales contain characters that undergo experiences applicable to us all in some form or another. They tell of magic and pain, suffering and triumph, and glory and disaster: all
elements that reverberate throughout our world, shaping and influencing us all.
I’d encourage everyone to read The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender. It’s a coming-of-age tale about a young woman who learns to cope with her unusual ability of being able to taste people’s emotions. Bender’s descriptions are poignant and breathtaking.
BF: What direction would you like to see your writing career take in the next ten years?
NS: While I love writing and reading literary fiction, my true passion lies within the realms of YA fiction. I have a YA urban fantasy novel with a literary bent that I’m basically finished with now, so maybe one day I can charm an agent into representing my words. I love the short-short story, so I suppose I’ll continue writing and submitting
those to places as well. In the meantime, I need to graduate college and think about potential grad schools/programs. Hopefully someplace will want me. After that? I guess only the stars know.
Thank you again, Ms. Harris, Ms. Hockaday, and Ms. Henry for interviewing me. I think you have a fantabulous magazine and wish it all the success in the world.
Happy writing :) [I feel as if emoticons are way under-used in the literary world.]
A Conversation with Jennifer Hillier: Author of Creep
BF: Your debut novel, Creep, came out last year. It has been described as a dark and intense psychological thriller. What draws you to dark fiction? Have you tried writing in another genre?
JH: One of the first adult books I ever read was Stephen King's Pet Semetary, and that's when I realized it was delicious fun to be scared. From there I discovered crime fiction, and so I suppose I've always gravitated toward darker stories. It feels natural to me to write thrillers, and that's what I've always written. Someday, though, I would love to write a really juicy romance. That would be a total switch!
BF: Can you share the details of your journey toward publication? What made you decide to work with an agent instead of submitting to editors on your own?
JH: I decided to go the agent route because I envisioned writing as a career, and liked the idea of having someone help me navigate the often wavy waters of publishing. I queried close to a hundred agents with Creep, and about half rejected me. Ten agents requested more material, and out of that group, Victoria Skurnick of Levine Greenberg offered representation. That was a great day. She put me through another two rounds of revisions before submitting to editors. A few rejections rolled in, but then we got an offer. It's been wonderful working with Gallery Books (an imprint of Simon & Schuster), and I've built a great relationship with my editor.
BF: I recently read Creep and thought it was quite a pageturner. The suspense seemed to drip from every scene. What kind of tips can you give other writers about maintaining tension throughout a story?
JH: Thanks so much for reading! I think the key to a quickly paced, tense story is to not get bogged down with extraneous details. My prose is naturally sparse, and I think this bodes well for writing thrillers. A page-turner should always have the reader dying to know what's next, and if you get too self-indulgent with descriptions (like I do in my first drafts), you'll end up killing the tension.
BF: I also noticed how the novel was told from various points-of-view through third person. Many writers grapple with writing in third-person because they veer away from
the designated POV. How did you determine that this mode was best for your novel? Also, how were you able to shift POVs without confusing the reader?
JH: I always write a very close POV, and I open every chapter telling the reader exactly whose head we're in. I'm also clean with my POV shifts; they're usually restricted to chapters. It's pretty typical in my genre to write from multiple POVs, and I enjoy it because it allows us to see different dimensions of the story. I always pick the character who can best show us what's happening in any particular scene, and love that it's a way to move the story forward faster.
BF: You maintain an authorâ€™s website, a blog, and a Twitter account. How important should social media be to
an author? How do you find a balance between social media and getting actual writing done?
JH: I also have a regular Facebook profile and a Facebook author page! I do think it's important, especially for a new author, to have a web presence of some kind, though I'm still on the fence over how much participating in social media actually helps in terms of sales figures. Not every writer is comfortable with social media, and not all readers use social media to find new books. What I do know is that as a reader, it's frustrating to be interested in authors and not be able to find a site that gives me more information about them. So at the very least, I recommend every author have a website. It definitely can't hurt.
In terms of balance, I tweet throughout the day and update my Facebook page whenever I have something interesting
to report. I don't find either to take up much time, though I can't say the same for blogging. Blogging—and the reciprocity of commenting on others' blogs, which is a part of it—takes up a lot of time, and lately I've had to restrict my blogging to once per week because I just don't have enough time (and energy) to blog and write.
BF: Speaking of finding a balance, what does a typical day look like when you’re writing (for example, do you prefer to write at home or in public? Do you prefer to write in the morning, or at night while everyone else is asleep?)
JH: I write at home, in a designated home office that's all mine. Typically, I'll write with the door closed, and I'll have a cup of tea to my right and a lit candle to my left. I usually write in the afternoons, but I'll write well into the night if I
need to. I write Monday through Friday and will usually take weekends off, unless I'm up against a deadline.
BF: What is your favorite part of the writing process? What is your least favorite?
JH: My favorite part of writing is being surprised by what comes out. I don't outline, so I'm often shocked by the things my characters say and do. My least favorite about the process is reading reviews. Even if they're positive, it's stressful. I hope that one day I'll be able to read my reviews and just roll with them, but for right now, they make me nervous.
BF: How has your life changed now that youâ€™ve been published?
JH: It's always been a dream of mine to see a book of mine on the shelf, and it was proud moment for me to see that dream come true. But overall, life is still the same. I still have terrible writing days, I still write horrible first drafts, and I still get insecure about my work. And I still feel funny when I tell people I'm a writer, though at least now I can tell them where they can find my book.
BF: Who are some of your current favorite authors? Who was your favorite childhood author?
JH: Stephen King is my all-time favorite, and I've definitely been reading his work the longest. I'm also a huge fan of thriller writer Jeffery Deaver (who ended up blurbing Creepâ€”another dream come true), Chelsea Cain, and Greg Iles. I loved the Hunger Games trilogy, so now I'm a big fan of Suzanne Collins. As a child, I loved Nancy
Drew and the Hardy Boys, but I was introduced to Stephen King at age 11, so he probably ranks as my favorite childhood author, too.
BF: Finally, Freak, the sequel to Creep, will be released in August 2012 (I canâ€™t wait!). Can you give us any hints on what we can expect? Do you have any other projects in the works?
JH: I love writing villains, and Freak definitely has a whole bunch. In this new book, we'll get to see Dr. Sheila Tao finally settle some scores, with the help of a beloved character in Creep who also returns. I do have an idea for a new story brewing, that takes place in a cold, wintry city (maybe Toronto, maybe New York, haven't decided yet), and the villain has a very large pet cat who assists in the killings (maybe I'm joking, maybe I'm not).
Thanks so much for this interview! I am so honored to be included in your magazine. Contributors
Cover Artist: Miriam Moreno Perez is an author and experimental photographer from Madrid, Spain. Apart from an author and a photographer she is also a fully qualified teacher and a journalist in Cornwall, England, where she lives since she graduated at University College Falmouth in Journalism back in 2004. Miriam’s literary work has been published by Danse Macabre Literary Magazine (Issues: Somnium, Stonewall and Commedia Cometh), Breadcrumb Sins, The Scrambler, Shalla Magazine's (Anthologies: The Pop's Issue and Mannequin Walking), Cránnog Magazine's Anthology, Ygdrasil: A Journal of the Poetic Arts, Is Greater Than, Shattercolors Literary Review and Magnolia's Press. Some of her short stories have been broadcasted by Sue Farmer, producer and presenter of “Do The Write Thing” radio programme on Redruth radio, Cornwall. Miriam specialized in press photography, subject which she also teaches, and some of her press photography can be seen in newspapers online like Suite101. She also writes for this global newspaper online and wrote for other online and print newspapers like the West Briton in South West Cornwall, England.
Miriam’s passion for photography goes beyond her passion for press photography. In fact, this artist has been always particularly interested in avant-garde, experimental photography. This particular project, “My Muse and I Series of Self Portraits”, was taken at the turn of 2009, and is the result of a blend of conspicuous photographic and artistic techniques. Surprisingly, these pictures could have technically been taken at the very beginning of the sixties since all the used equipment was already available in most of the Western World at this time. This work is seen by her maker as European Naturalism. Naturalism, a photographic movement with its origins in North America, was the pioneering of contemporary photography as we know it. Nowadays, photography, and the progressive, “free” stateof- art visual aesthetics which lead the Western world would have never come into existence without Naturalism. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Tasha Cotter's work has recently appeared in or is forthcoming in Booth, The Rumpus, Contrary Magazine, and elsewhere. Her fiction was recently nominated for a storySouth Million Writers award, and her poetry has been nominated for Best of the Net Anthology 2011. You can find her online at www.tashacotter.com. Holly Day is a housewife and mother of two living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her poetry has recently appeared in Hawai’i Pacific Review, The Oxford American, and Slipstream. Her book publications include Music Composition for Dummies, Guitar-All-in-One for Dummies, and Music Theory for Dummies, which has recently been translated into French, Dutch, Spanish, Russian, and Portuguese.
John Grey is an Australian born poet who works as financial systems analyst. He has recently been published in Poem, Caveat Lector, Prism International and the horror anthology, â€œWhat Fears Become.â€? His work is forthcoming in Big Muddy, Prism International and Pinyon. Len Kuntz is a writer from Washington State. His work appears widely in print and online at such places as Connotation Press, Thunderclap! Press, Pure Slush and others. You can find him here: lenkuntz.blogspot.com Matthew Madonia is an Emmy Award winning Spoken Word artist who has appeared on the CW, HBO and PBS. Matthew is previously unpublished and currently studying Creative Writing at The Florida State University. Rafe Posey teaches composition at the University of Baltimore. His favorite things include infrastructure, estuaries, and breakfast. His writing has appeared in The Light Ekphrastic, Urbanite, and Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation. Rafe's short story collection, The Book of Broken Hymns, is available as an eBook. Gabriel Ricard is a writer, actor, producer, stand-up comic and editor. He writes short stories, poetry, film/stage scripts, book/film/music reviews, interviews, essays, standup material and novels. His work has been published in numerous online and print publications. Currently, he is a contributor to both The Modest Proposal and Unlikely Stories. As an actor he has appeared in and co-produced successful productions in both theater and film. He has also
worked in radio and professional wrestling. Born in Canmore, Alberta, Canada he lives in Waverly, VA.
Nick Sanford is currently an undergraduate studying English/Creative Writing at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington. In an area of never ending rain, he writes fantastical fiction and enjoys meeting characters who journey through life a little differently than most. He despises purple Skittles. His work has appeared in HOOT Review Online and is forthcoming in The Conium Review. Follow him on Twitter @SanfordNick. He loves meeting new faces. Christopher Spanel is a fiction writer based in his home town of Lincoln, Nebraska. He is completing degrees in Finance and Economics at the University of Nebraskaâ€” Lincoln while minoring in English. His work often focuses on the relationship between love and the realm of incorporeal existence. Currently, Christopher is working on a novel and a collection of short stories. Tammy T. Stone is a writer and photographer based in Toronto but currently living and traveling through South and Southeast Asia. Her fiction and journalistic writing have been widely published in North America and abroad. Her photography has been exhibited in Canada and published in THIS Literary Magazine, Splash of Red, Travel Etc., and Temporary Infinity Magazine, among other publications. Her self-published book about Toronto graffiti, Tag It! Toronto: A City's Imagination Revolution, sold out in its first edition at Pages Books & Magazine in Toronto. To view her self-published books, please go to:
http://www.blurb.com/user/store/TammyStone. To contact: email@example.com.
Terrance Terich is pursuing his Masterâ€™s Degree in Teaching in Seattle, Washington and hopes to be employed as a high school English and History Teacher by the next school year. In his previous life, he toiled in bookstores and acted as a contributing editor for Treblezine.com, an indie music website. Though he tries to write fiction on occasion, his real passion is poetry. He has two previously published poems.
Changming Yuan is a 4-time Pushcart nominee and (co-) author of Chansons of a Chinaman (2009) and Three Poets (2011). He grew up in a remote Chinese village and published several monographs before moving to North America. With a Canadian PhD in English, Yuan teaches independently in Vancouver and his poetry has appeared in nearly 460 literary publications across 18 countries, including Asia Literary Review, Barrow Street, Best Canadian Poetry, BestNewPoemsOnline, Exquisite Corpse, London Magazine, Poetry Kanto and Poetry Salzburg.