by Jessi Cole Jackson

Profile

Olivia Berrier is often clueless and always shoeless. She left behind many footprints at Hollins University in Virginia, where she studied Creative Writing and Mathematics. After college, her bare feet have carried her through many experiences, but her life remains anchored by writing. Olivia writes fantasy fiction, sometimes with a mathematical inclination, and has been dropping stories like breadcrumbs across the Internet since 2007. 

Jessi Cole Jackson: On your blog you talk a little bit about the inspiration behind The World As Seen By Angels. Could you tell FFC readers a bit about where your story began?

Olivia Berrier: Absolutely! This story began with a bracelet I received from my aunt a while ago. I’m not sure why, but I love playing with this bracelet while I’m thinking (it just has a nice weight to it, I think) so I decided I wanted to write a story involving both angels and beaded bracelets. A few false starts later, I had the ‘seeing in metaphors’ idea, and the rest of the story took root from there.

Bracelet

JCJ: Would you tell me a little about your writing process?

OB: I do most of my best writing in the early morning, from about 4:30 – 6:30 before I go to work. My morning sessions involve tea, three writing candles, soft music, and if I’m lucky I have a kitty cat named Dickens on my lap. It’s deliciously distraction-free, and since I just woke up, my mind is still in ‘dream’ mode, which is very similar to writing mode.

 

JCJ: I loved how the story’s clear details clashed with our inability to understand what beads and knots represented for the men and women. Yet the Angel specifically understood the young man’s struggle in real world terms. Why focus on depression, out of all of life’s struggles?

OB: I have some personal experience with the challenges of depression, and it took me many years to understand that the time I spent fighting for my mental health isn’t wasted time as I once believed. I think the turning point for me came when I stopped trying to carve this problem out of my world and started learning to live with it. I know there has been a lot of movement in recent years towards ending the stigma and bringing these topics out to really talk about them, and I saw an opportunity with this story to be part of that movement.

JCJ: You mention in your author profile on Amazon that you studied mathematics and you memorize the decimals of Pi for fun. Does your love for math and telling stories intersect at all? Also, how many decimals are you up to?

OB: At the moment, about 60 decimals. My goal was to crack 100 by the end of the year, so I should probably get moving on that… But, yes! I do have some math-writing crossovers. The only one currently published is my short story featured in the No More Heroes Anthology, which has a mathematician main character who specializes in Julia Sets. In the recesses of my computer, I have others in the works as well. They haven’t yet found publishers, but I’m hopeful. One of my goals as a writer is to help bring math to people who might not have enjoyed it otherwise.

JCJ: What are you reading? Who are some of your favorite authors?

OB: At the moment, I’m reading a lot of Dean Koontz. I find that his incredibly concise writing style helps me improve my own. Some of my literary heroes include J.R.R. Tolkien, Tamora Pierce, Jonathan Stroud, and Brian Jacques.

JCJ: What projects are you currently working on? Can you point readers to some of your other stories, either forthcoming or published?

OB: Why, yes I certainly can! I have a list of all of my published fiction here on my blog. I’ve been published by Every Day Fiction four times, as well as other online and print venues. However, the thing I am most excited about is a fantasy web serial which I am posting on my blog every Wednesday. The story focuses on a world where magic is created by dancing, and both have been outlawed due to a mysterious 300-year-old tragedy, but my main character hopes to unravel that mystery and bring dancing and magic back. We’re only a few segments in, so if anyone wants to hop on board the story I’d be thrilled to have you! (https://oliviaberrier.wordpress.com/web-serial-dancing-and-magic/)

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Jessi_Cole_Jackson-150x150

Jessi Cole Jackson lives and works in New Jersey, though she’s not from there. By day she builds costumes for a Tony Award-winning theatre. By night she writes stories, questionable poetry and lots of abandoned outlines. When she’s not working she enjoys cooking, reading, and exploring local farms. You can read more about her sometimes exciting (but mostly just normal) life at  jessicolejackson.com.

 

by Lori Sambol Brody

Lori

Your cell phone chirps to alert you of an incoming email.  Will it be an Evite from a friend, a notification from Netflix, or a response from a literary journal you’ve submitted to?  Upon checking your inbox, you see an e-mail “Lit Journal X re: [Lit Journal X] My Fabulous Story.”  Your heart beats double-time, your stomach feels like it’s full of fluttering birds. 

And then you open the email.

You reread it.

Congratulations!  Lit Journal X wants to publish your story!

After celebrating with chocolate, champagne, or 50 year old whiskey, what do you do next?  I’ve put together a checklist to ensure I thank Lit Journal X, notify other publications to which I’ve submitted my story, and, upon publication, market the story.

Before the Story Is Published

  • Send a thank you note to Lit Journal X, addressing it to the editor who sent the acceptance, expressing how excited you are about seeing “My Fabulous Story” in that journal.  Because of course you are.  You wouldn’t have sent it to that journal if you wouldn’t be excited.  Sometimes the editor will need you to confirm that your piece is still available, that you agree with the intellectual property rights you are giving them, and provide a biography.  Timely provide that information to the editor.
  • Immediately withdraw “My Fabulous Story” from consideration from all other literary journals, following the instructions on Submittable or on the journal’s website if the journal accepts e-mail or snail mail submissions or has their own submission manager.  Since you keep track of all your submissions on a list or spreadsheet, it should be easy for you to do.  Tell the journals that the piece has been accepted elsewhere, thank them for their consideration of the story, and let them know that you’re looking forward to their next issue.  Most of the editors for literary journals don’t get paid for their work, and it’s nice to let them know how much we appreciate their dedication to publishing our stories.
  • Lit Journal X may send you suggested edits, questions, or proofs.  Make sure you timely follow up with them.

On Publication Day

  • When you see your piece published, send an e-mail to the editors you have been working with thanking them again for including your piece in the new issue of Lit Journal X.  You should read the issue – or at least a portion of it – and mention to the editors something you liked, another story or poem or the look of the journal.  This is not only about supporting the writing and publishing community – of which you are a part – but also recognizing the hard work of the editors who usually dedicate their time as a labor of love.
  • Market “My Fabulous Story.”  You should modify your endeavors to fit your specific circumstances.  For example:
  • Post one notification each on Facebook and Twitter (you don’t want to annoy anyone by constant promotions).
  • Send e-mails to friends who are (amazingly enough) not on social media or do not regularly check their Facebook pages.
  • Post an entry on your blog regarding the publication of “My Fabulous Story” and update your blog’s publication list.
  • Submit news of your publication to Pamelyn Castro’s Flash Fiction Flash Newsletter (to subscribe send an email to FlashFictionFlash-Subscribe@yahoogroups.com).
  • Send a “yahoo” email to the Internet Writing Workshop list serv, which posts publishing successes once a week on its blog (http://internetwritingworkshop.blogspot.com/; to join see http://www.internetwritingworkshop.org/ ).
  • If you are involved in a community author’s group, notify the group of your publication.  (Our local library has a local author’s group with a Facebook page.)
  • Thank anyone who responds positively to your story.  Contrary advice exists on re-Tweeting positive Tweets concerning your story.  Most of the writers I follow do it, although I have read articles that re-Tweeting these comments is a breach of etiquette or bragging.  Re-Tweet if you are comfortable doing so.  I usually do since it appears to be socially acceptable in my Twitter-sphere.
  • If you receive negative feedback to your story, you can either ignore or respond briefly with a note thanking them for reading and giving you constructive criticism.  Do not engage a dialogue with your critiquers or belittle them.

And what if Lit Journal X has rejected your piece?  I have a list for that as well.  After drowning your sorrows with chocolate, champagne, or 50 year old whiskey:

  • Send a quick note to Lit Journal X thanking the editor for considering your piece.  Most journals put considerable time into reading your piece and “Your Fabulous Story” has gone through multiple readers.  Where the editor has given you encouragement or feedback – one journal, in rejecting my story, sent me reader’s notations – mention this in your email.  Editors are writers too and don’t like rejecting work: they know you have sweated (metaphorical) blood over your story.
  • Note on your submission spreadsheet that your story was rejected.  Specifically note if you received any encouragement, feedback, or if the journal asked you to send more work.  While the latter may seem like a form rejection, that request is sincere.  In the future, when you have a piece perfect for that journal, you can note in your cover letter, “Thank you for your encouragement on my piece ‘My Fabulous Story’” or “Thank you for your feedback on ‘My Fabulous Story.’  I made revisions pursuant to your suggestions and it was accepted elsewhere.”
  • Take a look at “My Fabulous Story.”  Was any of the feedback helpful?  Do you feel like it needs another revision?  If so, revise it or set it aside for revision.
  • If your story doesn’t need revisions, send it to two other journals in the same “tier” as Lit Journal X.

These are the steps I follow and can be modified for your purposes.  What do you do?

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Lori Sambol Brody lives in the mountains of Southern California.  Her short fiction has been published in Tin House Flash Fridays, New Orleans Review, WhiskeyPaper, alice blue review, Atticus Review, and elsewhere.  Her first piece of non-fiction is forthcoming in Pithead Chapel and she will be participating in the chose-your-own-adventure at Lockjaw Magazine.  She can be found on Twitter at @LoriSambolBrody.

 

by Andreé Robinson-Neal

If it were possible to have your eyes closed as you read, it might also be possible to feel, smell, and hear the story. You might be saying to yourself, “I can hear the story if I buy an audio book,” but that is not what is meant here.

Anjali’s fingers were hard despite the softness of the cream she was kneeding into Reena’s face. They were a worker’s hands, the hands of a woman who washed clothes, did the dishes and cooked the meals for the family along with her work as a beautician.

Abha Iyengar’s Many Fish to Fry is filled with touchable, smellable, hearable moments on each page. She takes us to Paharganj, a neighborhood in Delhi, to meet a variety of memorable characters, including Reena Vardharajan (which was shortened to “Rajan” because “Vardharajan” is so long, isn’t it?) and her family; Parvati, Reena’s part-time maid (who is a barely tolerable and weak replacement for Murali, the former full-time servant); Anirban Dasgupta and his wife Proteeksha, the Punjab/Bengali couple who live next door in Flat No. 69; jewelry maker Sanjay Singh and Neeru his wife; and the ever-effervescent private detective Harinmoy Banerjee. There is also the matter of fish, interwoven intricately throughout.

Thanks to her beautician, Reena’s love for jewelry making has been rekindled. She meets Sanjay as she embarks on her new career as a part-time business woman. Making jewelry provides her an outlet, something her traditional mother, traveling businessman husband, and busy children struggle to understand. She takes over the dining room table to craft her designs and spends afternoons visiting Sanjay and other merchants in the roadside shops to the dismay of her husband.

When [Reena's] seriousness with her work began to interfere with her attention to the little details around [her husband Anand], thing she had taken care of earlier because she had nothing else on her mind, he expressed his disapproval.

“You are getting too involved. Why do you need to do all this running around at your age? … I miss the hot rotis you make for me. you have no time to talk to me … and the dhobi just can’t iron shirts like you do … did.” …

She had expected him to be highly supportive.

But when a Hilsa fish shows up unexpectedly on her doorstep, followed closely by an unexpected meeting with Harinmoy Banerjee, a colorful private investigator and self-labeled Super Sleuth who rings Reena’s door looking for Proteeksha, the next door neighbor from Flat No. 69, Reena embarks on an adventure filled with intrigue, laughter, tears, and gossip. And of course, fish.

Iyengar skillfully mixes language and cultures into a delicious stew that will suit any taste. She intermingles traditional Hindi and Bengali words and phrases (there is a glossary of terms in the back for the less initiated) with Western terms familiar to any English speaker of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Her words come off the page to tickle the palate. The sound of the traditional words and phrases, when read aloud, are lyrical to the ear: phrases such as Na rehega bans, na bajegi bansuri (“If there is no bamboo, there will be no flute,” meaning “If the source of the trouble is removed, then the trouble won’t occur,” according to the glossary) and Daane daane pe likha hai khane wale ka naam (“On each morsel is written the name of the person destined to eat it”) are just two examples.

As Chris Galvin Nguyen, the writer of the book’s forward indicates, Many Fish to Fry examines Indian social issues and suggests what it is like to move beyond tradition through the use of “real-life trends of language and culture in India.” For weeks after reading it, you will be challenged not to end every sentence with Harinmoy’s classic Is it not, dear?

This is not Iyengar’s first book, but it is her first with Pure Slush. She has a number of other published works worth checking out and can be found at www.abhaiyengar.com and www.abhaencounter.blogspot.in.

___________

 

Andree-New

Andreé Robinson-Neal got bit by the writing bug back in the late 1970s while watching Rod Serling and reading Ray Bradbury—both of whom are everyday inspirations; although she has worked in education for more than a quarter-century, she has never been cured of her penchant for speculative fiction. Find some of her flash fiction at starvingartist.com. She writes under the name AR Neal, who will hopefully one day be identified as a famous NaNoWriMo participant.

by Tara Laskowski

taralask

Last fall, SmokeLong Quarterly ran a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to redesign our 13-year-old web site. The campaign was more successful than we anticipated, raising nearly double our initial goal. I’ve been working ever since on the new design and content system, and we launched the new site earlier this month.

We are very happy with the look and feel of our site—and the reviews so far have been pretty positive amongst our readers and writers. In the process of redesigning and in the conversations we had about the site, I came to realize that what was important to us at SmokeLong was probably counterintuitive in many ways to the direction that online publishing is going. We were designing a site that in many ways valued the traditions of print publishing.

smokelong_logo3

Why, oh why, you ask, would we want to do a thing like that? The answer probably lies in the origins of SmokeLong itself. I wanted to stay true to many of the elements of our old site that Dave Clapper designed when he launched the publication in 2003. I wanted simple navigation. Good archives. Most of all—I wanted the stories grouped into issues.

When we started our web site redesign, we browsed a bunch of different online literary journals to get a feel for what we did and did not want. We definitely liked the sites best where the navigation was easy and clear and where the stories—for lack of a better term—just looked pretty.

So it is important to me that our issues remain clearly defined, and that our readers know what issue a particular story is from and how to find the other stories in that issue. Much like a print publication, I want our readers to be able to ‘flip back’ to our table of contents whenever they need to. When they read an author’s interview, I want them to easily find other interviews in the issue.

It is also important to me that our writers and their stories are front and center. We want their bylines and bios clear and easy to find. We spent days poring over fonts to make sure that our readers’ eyes wouldn’t go bleary. We made sure their interviews are easy to find, and that each story is paired with original art.

Here’s another little touch on the site that makes us old-school: at the end of every story and interview, we’ve got our logo as an end mark. Do you know how much I love that end mark? Sure, it is probably only necessary in a print magazine to signal to the reader that they don’t have to turn the page to hunt for the rest of the article. But it makes me happy.

So yes, when you check out the new SLQ, you’ll see we have tried to combine the best elements of print and online publications. You can read within each issue like you’ve picked up the book, but you can also, at your fingertips (and without taking up any bookshelf space) browse any other issue we’ve ever done or search for any author we’ve ever published. That’s pretty sweet, isn’t it? We prefer to keep our innovations within the stories themselves, stunning you with content, not technology. Our goal is for our readers to lose themselves in the writing, not the web site.

Check out our latest Issue 47 here and email us at editors@smokelong.com with any questions, comments, free dinners, or just to say hello.

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Tara Laskowski has been the editor of SmokeLong Quarterly since 2010. Find out more about her at www.taralaskowski.com.

by Sarah Crysl Akhtar

Sarah Akhtar

I’ve often taken the powerful emotions triggered by real events and turned them into fiction, and find that a pretty successful recipe.

And I’ve almost always managed to steer clear of the Polemical Palisades and Sentimental Canyon while doing it.

But recent world events had enraged and frustrated me, and before I knew it, I was writing A Story with a Message.  And I was so moved by what I’d written, I made myself cry.

Danger, Will Robinson!

Even as I began to suspect it was dreck, I submitted it to the site most familiar with and welcoming to my voice.  And for good measure, sent a copy to a friend, whose intellect is boundless and whose judgment is sterling.

The response from both quarters was what I dreaded even at the moment I hit send.

I’m grateful nobody sent me dentist bills for the throbbing toothaches my story must have inflicted on those first readers.  Instead of powerful emotion and throat-catching moments of universal human suffering and sacrifice, I’d written The Big Rock Candy Mountain of almost unbearable sentimentality, and we all knew it.

The story needed a heart transplant and four follow-up surgeries.  At one point I almost pulled the plug on it, convinced it wasn’t worth keeping alive.  But It was accepted after the third revision, with the gentle observation that I still had time to find its true soul.

I was still working on it almost up to publication date.

More tears were shed over that story–but this time by readers who found it extraordinary.

I suspect I could have placed the original somewhere.  There’s certainly a market for the Hallmark Hall of Fame genre, too.  But sentimentality is like bonded leather–a cheap substitute for the real thing.  Don’t dazzle yourself with an ersatz product, even if you’re pressed for time.

If you find your eyes welling up when you read your first draft, remember that a holiday commercial can accomplish the same thing.  Get up from your computer, mop your eyes and make a strong cup of tea.  Then get back to work.

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Sarah Crysl Akhtars shtetl forebears gifted her with the genes that impel her to make much from little. So of course she writes flash fiction, cultivates orchards on her windowsill and bakes fabulous shortbread. Her son gives her what’s immeasurable—the best of all possible worlds. (Less miraculous fruit of her labors has appeared on Every Day Fiction, Perihelion SF Magazine, 365tomorrows and Flash Fiction Online.)

 

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