Short Stories 365/109

“The Spark of Change” by Dia Pannes from Speaking Out: LGBTQ Youth Stand Up (Bold Strokes Books, 2011).

This story hurt to read, because the stakes in it are so high. True to form, it’s darker than the stories that came before it. (And someone downplays his hand in such things….)

It’s a different kind of coming of age being dealt with here, the one where you realize your parents are human, motivated much of the time by love and altruism but sometimes by fear and still others by selfish desires. Parents make mistakes, they have blind spots. Sometimes those blind spots are so wide and deep that they fall into them and it’s impossible to say whether or not they will be able to climb back out. 

It’s not just parents, of course. It’s anyone you hold up to impossible standards. Religious leaders. A favorite author. A movie star or sports figure. The bigger they are, right?

For Rimi, though, it is her father who falls short and disappoints. It’s especially hard on her because it’s just the two of them. Her mother left years ago and her older brother lives with his girlfriend. And Rimi idolizes her dad, a volunteer firefighter for their town. I don’t want to say what exactly he does and ruin the story for you, but lives are at stake. I’m not convinced, at the story’s end, that Rimi can fully forgive him. It’s one of those “even so” moments. He holds a certain belief, but it should be trumped by the code of ethics he has sworn to live his life by. Yes, he believes A, but even so, B should prevail. The fact that it doesn’t is chilling. He’s got a long way to fall in her eyes and when he does, he swan dives. He lets her down in stupendous, horrific, pigheaded fashion.

As for Rimi? Well, she soars.

11th Annual Saints and Sinners Panel Discussion


Saturday, May 17
4 PM

Readings and Panel discussion.

What do short story writers hope for from editors? What makes editors say yes to stories? What happens after your story is accepted? Timothy J. Lambert and Becky Cochrane, editors of the anthologies Best Gay Romance 2014 and Foolish Hearts, talk about their process of creating an anthology from the call for submissions to story acceptance and beyond.

Anthology contributors including N.S. Beranek, ‘Nathan Burgoine, Rob Byrnes, Jameson Currier, Greg Herren, and David Puterbaugh will read short excerpts from their stories and discuss their perspective of the writer/editor relationship.

Hotel Monteleone, Royal Salon B

N.S. Beranek
‘Nathan Burgoine
Rob Byrnes
Jameson Currier
Greg Herren
David Puterbaugh

Timothy J. Lambert
Becky Cochrane

11th annual Saints and Sinners Literary Festival Book Launch

The 11th annual Saints and Sinners Literary Festival opens with an evening of cocktails and readings from the anthology: Saints and Sinners 2014: New Fiction from the Festival. A book launch party to benefit the Festival, finalists from the fifth annual Short Fiction Contest will read from their creative works. All guests receive a copy of the book published and donated for this event by Bold Strokes Books and can be the first to sample the anthology’s Saints and Sinners-themed stories.

Hosted by co-editor Amie M. Evans with readings by winner Sally Bellerose, runners-up N.S. Beranek and James Russell, along with finalists J.R. Greenwell, George E. Jordan, and Jeff Lindemann.

Book Launch Party/Reading
Thursday, May 15th,2014
The Beauregard-Keyes House
1113 Chartres Street
7:00 p.m. Tickets $35

Short Stories 365/108

“Forever is Composed of Nows” by Will Ludwigsen from Speaking Out: LGBTQ Youth Stand Up (Bold Strokes Books, 2011).

I pointed out earlier that this anthology is similar in intent to The Trevor Project. These are stories about making it through adolescence as an LGBTQ teen. It’s why each story is prefaced with an anecdote written by the author, a glimpse into the real life events that forged the writer and, directly or indirectly, gave birth to the story that follows.

This story epitomizes the book’s concept. We are told that the main character, Carlos, visits places from his past in the hopes that he can reach through the space-time continuum and convey certain thoughts to his earlier self. To, for instance, tell himself he’s mortal, and caution himself to pay attention to the people he loves before they’re gone, or to assure himself he will eventually be loved. To essentially tell his inner child: It gets better.

At one point Carlos is described as “twenty years older now and rich”, which is a form of better, but not as good as loved. Not as good as happy. Happy is the best revenge. Carlos mulls an event from the past that was pretty violent—again, this story is darker than its predecessors—but ended in a way you might not expect. Life did get better for Carlos, and it started here.

Short Stories 365/107

“Subtle Poison” by Lucas J. W. Johnson from Speaking Out: LGBTQ Youth Stand Up (Bold Strokes Books, 2011).

Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this the first story in the project to feature a transgendered protagonist? This anthology is the most diverse one featured so far. Go back to number 102 and read forward to see for yourself if you don’t believe me.

Why is this is such a difficult concept for some people? A person is who they feel they are, period. I have a friend from back in the day whose outward appearance didn’t match the person she was inside. And by “back in the day” I mean when we were part of a group that lived by the motto “invoke often” and words like, oh, “skyclad”. It still wasn’t that difficult. Listening and hearing – are they really that much of an imposition?

Alex comes out as a boy to his friends at the start of this story. School is a scary place for all of them, but for Alex, whose parents are fundamentalist Christians, there’s no semblance of refuge anywhere. I’ve noticed with this collection that the story worlds are getting darker as we go, moving from total acceptance; to sometimes tense interactions; to name calling; to the threat of physical violence; and now to actually experiencing that violence, and more. I’ll let you find out for yourself where else the story goes. I will say there’s one more element to this piece that we haven’t seen up until now: substance abuse. Alex, the narrator, and their friends get drunk before school and re-fuel while there every day, desperate to escape whatever way they can.

One last thing. There’s a device that makes the ending of the story work. Coming from a quirky family, I didn’t bat an eye at it. Therefore I did not foresee how it would impact the outcome of the tale, and I was fully immersed by the conclusion and moved by it. Which is exactly how it should be.

Saints and Sinners Literary Festival’s 2014 Short Fiction Contest

The winner and two second place finalists for this year’s contest were announced earlier today. I am honored to have my story chosen as a runner-up. Congratulations to all of the contributors, and thank you to contest judge Jewelle Gomez!

“Corset” by Sally Bellerose – Winner
“Love Thy Neighbor” by N.S. Beranek – Runner up
“Voodoo John” by James Russell – Runner up
“Stinkbug” by Rich Barnett
“Rhinestone Magic” by J.R. Greenwell
“If On A Dark Night Two Strangers Should Come” by William Hawkins
“Beanstalk” by Clifford Henderson
“Eleusis” by Robert Hyers
“Red Coat” by George Jordan
“Mum’s the Word” by Jeff Lindemann
“Sample Day” by Jerry Rabushka

Short Stories 365/106

“The Proximity of Seniors” by L.A. Fields from Speaking Out: LGBTQ Youth Stand Up (Bold Strokes Books, 2011).

Brandon needs a friend, and Emma Carroway is a great one. She stands up to the boys at school who bully him because he’s gay, and she and he become fast friends. That would be story enough, but the author chooses to advance time, and then advance it again, so that we get a compelling portrait of a lifelong friendship. We watch the characters grow up and each find their way. It’s very, very nice and there are fantastic word choices throughout. It should be noted that the author’s novel My Dear Watson (Lethe Press) is a finalist in this year’s Lambda Literary Awards.