New Story: Dr. Marsh’s Final House Call

Published September 8, 2018 by Philip Ivory

skylinesketch

I have a new short story appearing at Two Cities Review, titled “Dr. Marsh’s Final House Call.”

Read it here

Some back story: This piece originated from my participation in the NYC Midnight Short Story Contest earlier this year. In this contest, you are given a random challenge and deadline to complete it by.  The challenge includes three randomly assigned elements that you need to use to create your story: a genre, a thing or object, and a person.

The genre I was assigned was Ghost Story. The thing was a Power Outage, and the character was a Physician. You can judge for yourself how well I integrated these diverse elements.

If you subscribe to the philosophy, as I do, that limitations and parameters force a writer to be more creative, the NYC Midnight contests (short stories, flash fiction and screenwriting) are fun and useful. I didn’t win with this story. But by participating, I have produced two stories that have gone on to be published, which more than makes the contest worthwhile. (The other story was “How We Cured Racism,” published late last year.)

My thanks both to NYC Midnight and to Two Cities Review. I’ve written dark fiction before, but never a ghost story, so this was a great challenge for me and a lot of fun.

 

WYSa

 

 

Public Reading: “The Wonder That Was Ours” by Alice Hatcher

Published September 8, 2018 by Philip Ivory

I just attended a public reading by my friend Alice Hatcher of selections from her debut novel “The Wonder That Was Ours” at the east side Barnes and Noble here in Tucson. Alice did a fantastic job talking about her writing process and the evolution of her novel, which includes a wily set of cockroaches who provide outrageous narrative voices … hence the giant inflatable cockroach (see below) gracing the ceiling at B&N!

If you missed the reading but want to sample her novel, check out the generous excerpt in the current edition of Tucson Weekly. Buy the book at Barnes and Noble online.

Kudos also to Stephen Russell, seen standing in the last photo, another friend to Alice and manager at Barnes and Noble who along with his staff set up a wonderful community event. Stephen also celebrated his last day at Barnes and Noble today. Best wishes, Steve!

The event was a great success, standing room only with all of the available in-store copies sold. An exciting start for a significant new literary talent: My friend, Alice Hatcher.

 

Debut Novel by Alice Hatcher: The Wonder That Was Ours

Published September 4, 2018 by Philip Ivory

My good friend and fellow Tucson writer Alice Hatcher had her debut novel published today, The Wonder That Was Ours, and I couldn’t be more excited. Congratulations, Alice!

I’m eager to get my copy, because Alice is an awesome writer, who combines a sense of history and social awareness with wry humor and an ability to create compelling characters who are flawed but deeply human.

If you’re in Tucson, come out this weekend to see Alice read from her novel and take questions at Barnes and Noble at 5130 E. Broadway at 2 PM on Saturday, Sept. 8.

The Wonder That Was Ours won Dzanc Books’ 2017 Prize for Fiction and can now be ordered through Amazon.

A former academic historian, Alice has published stories, essays and poems in such places as Alaska Quarterly Review, The Beloit Fiction Journal, Notre Dame Review, Lascaux Review, Fourth Genre, Contrary, Chautauqua, and Gargoyle, among other journals.

Adrienne Celt, author of Invitation to a Bonfire and The Daughters, says: “Hatcher’s unique narrators offer a bird’s-eye view of history, with all the glory and devastation that entails: an ambitious experiment that ends in an achingly compassionate achievement. This book is funny, warm, and piercingly intelligent―and it will probably break your heart.”

For more on Alice’s work, check out http://www.alice-hatcher.com.

Be sure to come out and meet her on Saturday. I’ll see you there!


 

Writers Studio Summer 2018 Intermediate Class

Published September 1, 2018 by Philip Ivory

I just completed teaching an 8-week summer session at Writers Studio Tucson. I had a great class with really talented students who worked extremely hard to develop their craft and produced some stunning material. Here we are meeting for a final pre-class bite at Brother John’s on Stone Avenue.

Writers Studio offers classes to help you develop your skills in writing fiction, poetry and creative nonfiction. From our web site:

The Writers Studio, founded in 1987 by Pulitzer Prize winning poet Philip Schultz, offers ongoing writing workshops — both on site and online — designed to help students discover and nurture their own voices. We welcome students at all stages, from those who have only dreamed of writing fiction or poetry to those with MFAs hungry for additional serious, ongoing instruction. Students provide the desire to write and the willingness to learn, and we provide the structure, the technical know-how, the professional feedback and the friendly community to enable them to reach their full potential.

Our fall session starts in late September. Visit our web site at Writers Studio and sign up for a class today! If you don’t live in a city that offers in-person classes, try one of our online sessions.

Apparition on the Threshold: New Flash Fiction at Ghost Parachute

Published May 1, 2018 by Philip Ivory

I have a new flash fiction piece online today at online journal Ghost Parachute. It grew from an exercise I did when I was as student in the Writers Studio Intermediate Class in 2014, taught by Janelle Drumwright. The exercise is based on a gorgeous poem “Ignis Fatuus,” by Yusef Komunyakaa.

Since I become a Writers Studio teacher myself, I have assigned the exercise a number of times, and it always yields interesting results.

My piece,  to which I eventually assigned the name “Apparition on the Threshold,” is probably the closest to poetry of all the pieces I’ve written.

Imagistic and enigmatic, it doesn’t pause to explain itself, instead letting images flow from one to another, allowing the piece to unfold according to its own mysterious logic.

This is a testament to the Writers Studio method, as I would never have written this piece without being exposed to the Komunyakaa exercise.

Here is “Apparition on the Threshold.”

(Before finding its home at Ghost Parachute, this piece underwent an arduous journey, which you can  read about here.)

 

Read the rest of this entry →

The Little Story That (Almost) Could(n’t)

Published April 22, 2018 by Philip Ivory

This is a storyIMG_1614 about a story that was accepted three times but almost but not quite ended up nowhere.

My flash fiction piece, “Apparition on the Threshold,” was born out of an exercise in my Writers Studio Intermediate Class in 2014. (My thanks to Writers Studio teacher Janelle Drumwright for providing encouragement and guidance that helped me develop the exercise into a publishable piece.) It’s an imagistic piece born out of some memories and/or imaginings from my childhood.

I started submitting “Apparition on the Threshold” for publication in late 2015. On February 18, 2016, I was notified that my piece had been accepted by an online journal called Mystic Illuminations. (Strangely enough, it was the same day I learned that my day job of over 20 years was going away, perhaps an omen of rockier times ahead on all fronts.) Here’s what the nice people at Mystic Illuminations had to say:

 We truly enjoyed your work and found that it fits beautifully within the scope of our journal. We would like to include “Apparition on the Threshold” in our next issue of Mystic Illuminations.

I acknowledged this with a thank you and sent polite notices to five other places to whom I had submitted the piece, informing them that I needed to withdraw it from consideration.

The folks at Mystic Illuminations were friendly and helpful, and set up an interview with me at The Writers Lens which was a lot of fun to do.

I waited patiently for word on when the next issue would appear. Mystic Illuminations was a beautifully designed, graphics heavy site. I imagined that was what accounted for the delay, which stretched from weeks into many months.

In June of 2016, I was informed that the next issue was definitely in the works, and I was invited to update the bio I had sent in months earlier.

In October, I was surprised to find that a new issue of Mystic Illuminations had gone online … but with my piece missing in action.  I sent a “What’s the deal?” query and was told somewhat apologetically that Mystic Illuminations had published an all-poetry issue, and they had forgotten to tell me my fiction piece would be held for the next issue.

Another year ticked by. Other stories of mine were submitted to other places, many rejected, some accepted.  In December 2017, I received an email from Mystic Illuminations, regretfully informing me that no other issues were liable to be published. I was encouraged to try my story elsewhere.

So my piece had been in limbo for nearly two years. I was determined not to let it die in obscurity. I send it out to some other places.

It didn’t take long. The Zodiac Review informed me of their acceptance of the piece on December 28, 2017. It was one of the kindest acceptance letters I’ve received:

It’s a superior, polished piece worthy of a loftier venue than ours.  We know that because two of us, owners of some 100 years of experience in writing, speaking and communications, can’t find anything “wrong” with it.  Or any opportunity to suggest an improvement or make a correction.  We’d like to publish it in our next issue, out in April-May. 

Naturally, I was delighted. My piece had found a wonderful new home. What could go wrong? I notified a half dozen or so other journals that I had to withdraw the piece for consideration. Surely this would be the last time I would need to do that.

Here’s the point where this little chronicle might seem to defy belief. On January 31, 2018, I received this notice from my friends at The Zodiac Review:

Sorry to report that we have decided to discontinue publishing The Zodiac Review. Thanks for submitting.  Best of luck to you in all things.

Reeling a bit and wondering if my piece was cursed, I … and really, what other option does one have? … rolled up my sleeves and tried again. I sent the piece out again into the world, tactfully approaching some of the journals I had previously withdrawn from, explaining my situation and hoping they might be charmed by my saga of the little piece with the big Voodoo whammy on it.

On March 23, two days after I had resubmitted it to them, I received word from esteemed journal Ghost Parachute (which I know of because it published work by a writer friend, Lilian Vercauteren) that “Apparition on the Threshold” had been accepted, for the third and let us hope final time.

It’s slated to go online on or around May 1st, with artwork created especially for my piece.

So has “Apparition on the Threshold” found its forever home? Stay tuned for May 1st, and we shall see. Whether the piece is actually worthy of such drama is another question, one I’ll leave to my readers to decide.

One final note. A website called Duotrope.com has proven to be invaluable for me. Duotrope provides a search function to help you find the most appropriate journals to send your fiction or poetry to. It also has a tracking feature to help you remember where and when you submitted your material … something that was essential in helping me navigate the journey of “Apparition on the Threshold.” The site requires a reasonable annual fee but is worth it.

 

Arizona Mystery Writers

Published April 19, 2018 by Philip Ivory

My thanks to my friends at Arizona Mystery Writers for inviting me on April 14 to deliver a reprise of the “Craft of Dark Fiction” lecture I gave for Writers Studio last December. My friend Bill Adams is a longtime member and accomplished writer who initially approached me about repeating this lecture for his group. My thanks to him and also to the group’s workshop chair Kay Lesh who made the arrangements with me.  Thanks also to another good friend and outstanding writer, Alice Hatcher, for helping with the audiovisual aspect of my lecture.

The lunch was tasty, the meeting was fun and the group was attentive and appreciative. I was speaking about horror fiction, which often intersects with mystery, although the two genres can also seem like two very different worlds.

Just for fun, I created and handed out the flyer below, a personal list but one that name checks examples of short writing in the dark fiction field that have impressed and influenced me. Check it out.

 

How We Cured Racism

Published December 30, 2017 by Philip Ivory

My new short story is called “How We Cured Racism.” But first, some back story.

Embed from Getty Images

A couple days ago, I found a woman’s wallet lying on the pavement in the parking lot where I was food shopping. I spotted a woman getting into her car and rushed over to return the wallet to her, for which she was very grateful. As I walked back to my car, a man standing by his truck spoke to me. He had observed the scene and told me that I had done a very good thing. He seemed very impressed, almost amazed by this simple act. (It made me wonder —  would he have done the same?) Then he told me the universe would do something good for me.

“I hope so,” I said in return.

Maybe he was right, because in the last two days I’ve had two works of fiction accepted for publication. One won’t appear until well into 2018. (More on that when it appears.)

The other was a story I had developed by participating in NYC Midnight’s 11th Annual Short Story Contest, which I wrote about in this blog earlier in the year. I didn’t win the contest, but have been sending the story out for publication for the last few months.

Today, which happens to be my birthday, I woke up to an email informing me that the story had been accepted at a journal called Rosette Maleficarum, which identifies itself as “a literary journal of dreams, nightmares and madness.”  Not only that, but it had been published today and was already online.

Here’s Rosette Maleficarum’s creedo:

“This literary journal shows the beautiful, yet depraved nature that lies within reality, both in humanity and the environment surrounding us. From dark, Gothic fairy tales, to dream-laced poems, the Maleficarum dances between the boundaries of life and death itself.”

So whether it was because of good supermarket karma, or because it was my birthday, or for whatever reason, I’m grateful for the publication.

It’s an edgy, speculative story that leans toward the dark and disturbing. In some ways I think it reflects the tumultuous, divisive, unhappy world we currently find ourselves in. It is perhaps all the more disturbing in that the voice that narrates the tale is that of a child.

Find out for yourself. Read “How We Cured Racism” at Rosette Maleficarum today.

Thanks, and a much happier New Year to all of us.

 

 

The Horror! The Horror! The Craft of Writing Dark Fiction

Published November 29, 2017 by Philip Ivory

Calling all Tucson-area writers and devotees of the scary and macabre! Come out and hear me, Phil Ivory, deliver a special free lecture at 2:30 on December 9, 2017 at the Himmel Park Library here in Tucson. It’s part of the Writers Studio lecture series. It should be fun, inspirational and a little bit scary!

DESCRIPTION:

From William Faulkner to Shirley Jackson to Margaret Atwood, writers have achieved memorable effects by putting characters in extreme situations and evoking sensations of fear, dread, awe and horror. In this Writers Studio lecture, we’ll look at horror not as something confined to the macabre shelf but as an emotion that will add power and resonance to any material regardless of genre. We’ll talk about using description to evoke a dark and lingering mood. Crafting the best narrator to evoke singular emotional effects. Laying groundwork for readers to have a powerful emotional experience while never telling them what to feel.

So take a writing journey to the dark side, and come back stronger than you were before.

 

Hope to see you there on Dec. 9!

And while you’re at it, why not sign up for one of our upcoming Writers Studio Winter classes?  Show the world how scarily creative you really are.

Essay Published … Sgt. Pepper at 50: What Can Writers Learn?

Published September 12, 2017 by Philip Ivory

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the release of perhaps the single most influential rock and roll album of all time, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, a leap forward in the popular conception of what a long-playing record could be and a zenith in the Beatles’ creative output.

I thought it would be illuminating to write an essay exploring some of the writerly techniques used by the Beatles in composing the record’s amazingly eclectic array of songs, focusing on insights that writers might apply to their own work.

The essay has been published at The Bookends Review, an independent creative arts journal. Read it here:

The Bookends Review
Sgt. Pepper at 50: What Can Writers Learn?
by Philip Ivory

Thanks for reading. Please share any comments below. And as the Beatles would say, “Sit back and let the evening go!”