online magazine for short, good writing

Month: May, 2013

Brief Encounter: Longest Elevator Ride

by Treehouse Editors

The next Brief Encounter theme is “The Longest Elevator Ride.” As always, Brief Encounters should be no longer than 400 words. BE’s should be labeled as such in a Word .doc to distinguish from general submissions. Feel free to send more than one in the same document. Deadline is June 20th.

Lit Mag Spotlight: Ecotone

by Treehouse Editors

Our free Literary Loot Contest for Unusual Prose, now closed to submissions, will award a sweet prize supplied by a collaboration of literary magazines, journals, and indie presses:
A Strange Object   •   Barrelhouse   •   Booth   •   Carolina Quarterly   •   Dzanc Books   •   Ecotone   •   Gigantic   •   Gulf Coast   •   Mud Luscious Press   •   PANK Magazine   •   REAL: Regarding Arts and Letters

Our genre-bender editor Caleb Andrew Ward interviewed Sally Johnson, managing editor of Ecotone Journal:

Q: Ecotone Journal was founded in 2005 and is in its fourteenth issue. What are some of the differences you see in the current issue from its original inception?

A: If you look at the very first issue of Ecotone and our most recent (the “Abnormal Issue”) I think the main difference is really visible in the design. For one, it’s a different trim size. Also, the general growth in aesthetics over the years is very clear. That’s due to a lot of factors: a major one being time and the advancement of not only our general aesthetic, but also the cultural or societal style and taste changes over the years. Another thing to remember is that a staff of graduate students mainly runs Ecotone. While Emily Smith (designer, poet, publisher extraordinaire) has been with Ecotone since its beginning, an MFA student designer has been a rotating under-her-wing figure. Currently it’s the wonderfully talented Ana Alvarez. Just like the shift (be it large or small) in content when a new editor takes over, so does the vision for the journal physically.

Speaking of content, I think through the years we’ve held a delicate balance in taking our theme of “reimagining place” to new places and holding it closer and farther away from us. Some issues, like this upcoming one, really hone in on place and environment. While others, like, say, the “Abnormal Issue” are less focused on that. To me, rather than indicating an unstable or unhinged goal, it shows our range and our ability to keep our purpose the same no matter how different each issue is: produce great art.

Q: The current issue is “The Abnormal Issue,” so can you share with us what the next theme is and when it will be released?

A: Ecotone is a biannual journal, published in the spring and fall. Each year, our fall issue is themed and our spring issue is not: we like to keep things interesting. Our “Abnormal Issue” was from Fall 2012. This spring we’ll be releasing our Spring 2013 issue, number 15! It isn’t themed but as we’ve been assembling it, a clear undercurrent of “home” has been very present: what home is, where it is, do we have just one? As a journal, Ecotone embraces the subversion just as much as the embrace of a theme or idea, so if we find a piece that turns an idea on its head and one that attacks it head-on, we’re happy.

Our next themed issue will come out this fall and is the “Migration Issue.”

A fitting theme considering our new editor will be in transition then: both from their home to Wilmington and from their previous gig to being EIC of Ecotone.

Q: On the topic of Ecotone’s latest issue, what have the editors considered as “abnormal” fiction, nonfiction, poetry, etc?

A: Well, at the time we announced it we had a general sense of “let’s get a lot of great, weird stuff” but mostly we were pretty excited to see what would roll in. Putting a theme on an issue each year we run the risk of limiting writers, something we’d hate to do. Keeping that risk in mind, we usually like to do themes that can focus in on an issue but explode and expand on the page. We kept thinking of all the different ways an essayist or poet or short story writer could have run with the idea of being “not normal.” Maybe it’s in the form or expectation like the selections we featured from Marvin Bell and Christopher Merrill’s collaboration Everything at Once. Or perhaps it’s just a strange concept or plot, more like Andrew Tonkovich’s Falling in which an enormous hole opens up in a religious commune, gobbling a man whole. Then there’s Jen Percy’s essay, Wildman in which she visits Kennesaw, Georgia, and enters a neighborhood store stocked with sinister relics of the South and meets the reincarnation of Stonewall Jackson. We were thrilled at the variety of submissions and truly in love with how abnormal everything turned out to be without having to compromise Ecotone’s standard for literary excellence.

Q: When did you first join Ecotone, and have you noticed a decline in purchases due to E-readers since you began as the Managing Editor?

A: I’ve only been Managing Editor for Ecotone since August of 2012, but I’ve been involved in the class as a reader since August of 2011. Since I joined? No, not particularly. However, there is a definite shift in other ways due to advancing technology and thus decreasing dependence on the printed form. For instance, our library subscription has dropped, but our subscriptions through Project Muse have skyrocketed. As readers, we’re becoming more and more willing to forgo the physical, I think. That’s terrible news for us, technically, but as Ecotone has always been about finding opportunity in risk, we know that with the changing of how people read or who reads there’s a chance to stake out new territory. This year we’re planning on launching a blog and totally redesigning our website. Bottom line: we want to reach out to our readers, wherever they are and however they are reading. While we’ll always do that through our beautiful, meticulously-made printed journals, if there’s a chance to find more Ecotone fans behind a screen, we’ll be there, too.

Q: What is your job as the Managing Editor?

A: I think the best way to answer that question is by saying I don’t have a single job as Managing Editor but a lot of jobs. I also can’t exactly give you an “average” day in the life since it depends on the time of year, where we are in the production schedule, if a grant is due, etc. But, my biggest job as I see it is making sure Ecotone gets printed on time and is the best magazine it possibly can be.

I’m in charge of things like making sure the galleys get to authors, getting authors their contracts (and getting them paid!), making sure we have the final version of a piece before it goes in for threading. Also, since Ecotone is run as a class, it’s my job to make sure the class is learning as well as corresponding with genre editors and students about what’s on deck for the next week. There’s also a lot of boring stuff like getting the mail, answering emails, writing grants, and things of that nature. I also man Ecotone social media. A ton of what I do is correspondence, making sure everyone is on the same page and connecting the dots. But, with the genre editors behind me: Carson Vaughan (NF), Nicola DeRobertis-Theye (F) and Regina DiPerna (P)? It’s easy and fun.

Q: Who are some of the bigger names that Ecotone has had the privilege of publishing in the past?

A: Ecotone has been home to so many talented and fantastic writers. As far as name-recognition goes we have a pretty impressive list that includes Ron Rash, David Shields, Billy Collins, Mark Doty, Philip Levine, Rick Bass, Ben Fountain, Mary Ruefle, Joy Williams and Ander Monson. I could go on and on. Obviously, all of these folk are mega-talented, hence the name recognition. But, I think it’s important to recognize writers who aren’t yet “big” since everything we publish in Ecotone is outstanding work that we fell in love with. When we publish an author’s first publication it’s so exciting, and I’m usually always thinking, big name or not (yet), “I can’t believe we got this piece. I can’t believe we get to show it to people.” That’s a great feeling.

Q: In the past eight years since Ecotone’s start it has been nominated for numerous awards and has had some of its more recent work re-published in Best American Essays, Best American Short Stories, and Best American Poetry. What is up Ecotone’s sleeve for the future?

A: Whenever we get news about those nominations and awards we’re just thrilled because that means someone (or a lot of someones) was just as head-over-heels about a piece as we were, and it usually means more people will get to read it, and that’s the whole point. The plan for future issues is to keep trying to out-do ourselves, keep pushing ourselves more, especially with our new website. Hopefully that means more awards!

Q: What kind of work does Ecotone do in accordance with Lookout Books (another publication from UNCW)?

A: Lookout Books is our sister imprint. It’s a teaching press at UNCW head up by the truly and fantastically talented Emily Louise Smith. Lookout Books (and there are four of them now!) are all written by an author who was first an Ecotone contributor. Since Lookout is a teaching press it is run, in large part, by graduate students who take a practicum and work in the Publishing Laboratory on UNCW’s campus. What’s most exciting about this partnership we have with them is watching an author we first loved in our pages get the spotlight they deserve for a whole book. Our relationships with those authors are invaluable and unique.

Q: If you could make any bug talk which one would it be and why?

A: Oh, tough question. But, maybe I’ll give a corny poet answer and say: I wouldn’t need to make any bug speak; they do a ton of communicating as it is. I think the reason I like researching arthropods so much (I’m writing a collection of poems that involve bugs and their sex lives) is because they lead very interesting existences, evolutionarily and physically, and that means I can put a whole ton of metaphor on top of them and they hold that weight really beautifully. Though, maybe I’d just ask a house spider to give a PSA about how not okay it is to kill house spiders. You’re just worsening your bug problem, right there.

visit Ecotone’s website

Seventh Summer

by a contributor

Brendan Sullivan

The boy remembered his seventh summer
how pelicans haunted the bay,
swooping down
to snatch tiny minnows
and ghost crabs
hidden in the waves.
His grandmother died in June
old lady smell and tuberoses
filling the parlor
where guests offered prayers
crushed tight like robins.
It rained all day
God’s judgment
his mother said,
her tearless face terrifying
beneath the long black veil
as her hands pushed away the coffin.

In July he went fishing,
the reek of blood worms
churning his stomach
while the boat rocked
and the sun ate up the sky;
the thick black of beetles
chewing through his jeans
as he pretended to fly
in a plane with no wings.
His father came home late August
shiny new medals
bursting holes in his chest,
the shrapnel in his head
lending him a stranger’s voice,
and promised this time would be different

But his mother stopped dancing in the garden
and took to her bed again
claiming God was now the enemy
and his father talked
only to the whiskey bottles
hidden in the basement
where the maw of early autumn
settled in like men of straw.

Brendan Sullivan is a lifelong beach bum who has turned from acting to poetry, as he finds it a more remarkable and at times, reliable muse. He also enjoys surfing, sailing and diving. His work has been published at Wordsmiths, The Missing Slate, Every Writer’s Resource, Gutter Eloquence, A Sharp Piece of Awesome, After Tournier, Bareback Magazine and Bare Hands.

This Week in Words – May 25

by Treehouse Editors

It’s a holiday weekend, so I’m going to keep this short.

If you want to know what Ginsberg would have you read, or you just want to add some Beat work to your poolside book pile, check out his “celestial homework” from a 1970s class reading list.

If there’s anything worse than anonymous internet feuding, it’s members of the literary community anonymously feuding on the internet (and Wikipedia at that).

If you’re looking for bits of fiction to read during coffee breaks for the next twelve weeks, keep an eye on Matthew Sharpe’s blog (after you’ve finished reading the latest here, of course).

And, just because I can, I’m suggesting you read this poem my sister shared with me. It’s Walt Whitman’s “A Noiseless Patient Spider” and – spoiler – it’s not just about a spider.

Safe and fun weekend, everybody.

Lit Mag Spotlight: A Strange Object

by Treehouse Editors

Our free Literary Loot Contest for Unusual Prose, now closed to submissions, will award a sweet prize supplied by a collaboration of literary magazines, journals, and indie presses:
A Strange Object   •   Barrelhouse   •   Booth   •   Carolina Quarterly   •   Dzanc Books   •   Ecotone   •   Gigantic   •   Gulf Coast   •   Mud Luscious Press   •   PANK Magazine   •   REAL: Regarding Arts and Letters

Treehouse coordinator Johannes Lichtman interviewed Jill Meyers, co-director of A Strange Object:

Q: You and Callie Collins started A Strange Object shortly after it was announced that American Short Fiction was closing its doors. What was the impetus to start publishing books instead of moving to another journal or publishing house?

A: At the magazine, we loved collaborating with writers and publishing some of the best fiction in America. That was great work—some of the most rewarding work I know—and so we aimed to continue doing it.

But we were looking for a way to deepen our relationship to the work and the writers (and give ourselves some new challenges as well). And books—in print or digital form—require that sustained attention and effort.

Besides, Austin has many fine magazines already (Unstuck and Foxing Quarterly among them). It’s a little underrepresented in the press category.

Q: Have you picked the debut release(s) for ASO yet? Can you share any info about your fall catalog?

A: Yes! Our first book is Kelly Luce’s debut collection Three Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail, which will be published October 1. The stories examine the power of memory and often swivel into the fantastical. They’re set in Japan, and they’re playful and enigmatic (Haruki Murakami comes to mind).

Our second book is photographer Nicholas Grider’s Misadventure, out in January. It’s a darker, more bracing book. His stories wrestle with the complexities of obsession and control; they play with form and structure and challenge the typical queer narrative.

Those two will be published in print and ebook formats; we’re also preparing some digital-only projects for a fall launch.

Q: Usually editors tend to say “the best way to get an idea of our aesthetic is to read the work we’ve published.” But since your debut release is still pending, how would you describe ASO’s aesthetic?

A: Callie and I are looking for fiction that is risky and heartfelt and engaged with doing something new. Something that forges a circuit between your heart and your brain. Personally, I’m deeply interested in the uncanny: novels and collections that can “make the strange familiar, and the familiar strange.”

Q: You edited American Short Fiction, first as a managing editor under Stacey Swann, then as editor-in-chief, with Callie Collins at your side, for several years. I know it’s not fair to ask you to pick your favorite story you published, but what were one or two of the stories that you were proudest to share with the world and why?

A: They were all my favorites.


OK, then. The opening of Ethan Rutherford’s “Peripatetic Coffin” gave me the biggest rush. It’s such an incredible, bold, incantatory opening—to a nuanced story about war. But it’s the Civil War and there are death-trap submarines! (Please go pick up his collection. It’s out May 7.)

Paul Yoon’s stories work on you like a delicious, slow-descending spell. Lucy Corin’s “Madmen” was absolutely revelatory. (You can read it here.) Josh Weil’s “The First Bad Thing”—well, it’s a sexy road-trip narrative that’s set in a dystopian future, what’s not to love there?

Oh, there are too many.

Q: What’s the best thing about being an editor (besides all the money and coke)?

A: It’s really two things; they are twinned. Or cousinned, maybe.

First: the moment of falling in love with a great new voice—that shiver of discovery, or hearing “the click of a well-made box.”

Then: the conversation with the writer, the exchange, about details and vision—the effort to bring the work to its best-yet incarnation.

Big publishing houses obviously hold the monetary and distributing advantages over indie houses, but what advantages do the indies hold over the mainstream?

Indies can make riskier choices and commit to their authors in a bigger way. They also know where the dive bars are.

Q: I heard you and Callie were recently on the cover of the Austin Chronicle smashing an e-reader. That’s not really  a question—it just sounds awesome.

A: It was awesome, until the Kindle started leaking some strange fluid.

Q: This is the portion of the interview where we encourage you to talk shit about a person, place, or thing of your choosing. Go.

A: The Pulitzer board is just ridiculous. Not choosing a fiction winner, come on. Think of the missed opportunity there, and to suggest there’s something wrong with fiction—oh, what’s that? Adam Johnson? Oh.

Q: If you had your druthers, what would people be saying about A Strange Object three years from now?

A: That it’s one of the most innovative and consistent small presses around—and that we publish compulsively readable collections, novels, and odd, stirring, hard-to-characterize nonfiction. That our editing is impeccable. And that we look stunning in Google Glass.

Q: Who’s cuter: Your dachshund or a box full of kittens playing with mittens?

A: I can’t believe this is even up for debate. Please see Exhibit A. Emmet’s cuteness is undeniable.

Emmet the dachshund

Exhibit A

5 Things I Heard in the Afterlife

by a contributor

from Bill Yarrow, author of INCOMPETENT TRANSLATION: “El Desdichado” by Gérard de Nerval, INCOMPETENT TRANSLATION: “Le Bateau Ivre” by Arthur Rimbaud, and TRANSLATIONS FROM THE ENGLISH: Song Of Unself:

  1. You can’t go faster than the traffic.
  2. Every change of direction is a loss of speed.
  3. Stupidity is baffling only to intelligence.
  4. If you eat it, you will crap it.
  5. An all-asbestos car is a great idea if all you care about is not burning.


by a contributor

Bill Yarrow

I cerebrate myself and singe myself
and what you illume, I refuse
for every good Adam betrothed to you will to me betray

I chafe and incite my soul
I bake and chafe in my disease
my speech, every item of tongue foams in this soil-
free dust

earth’s parents … whose parents …
arrrrggghhh … I now sixty-seven
sixty-eight, sixty-nine years

chagrin besmears me, increases
till death, old shoals in obeisance

nothing suffices as harbor
but a permit to claw at every yawing chasm
exuberance is beauty … lesion of enthusiasm

Bill Yarrow is the author of Pointed Sentences (BlazeVOX 2012). He has been published in many print and online journals including ThrushDIAGRAMContrary, and RHINO. He is a Professor of English at Joliet Junior College where he teaches creative writing, Shakespeare, and film. Two chapbooks (Twenty from MadHat Press and Incompetent Translations and Inept Haiku from Červená Barva Press) are forthcoming in 2013.

Return soon for Bill’s list of 5 Things.