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!


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!”




Must-Read Horror

Published August 4, 2017 by Philip Ivory

For anyone interested in horror writing, this is a list published about a decade ago by the Horror Writers Association of must-reads in order to familiarize oneself with the genre. I must admit I have only read about a third of this list. It’s subjective, of course. I would definitely add Poe, Robert Louis Stevenson, Peter Straub and others. Shirley Jackson definitely belongs here, particularly and most egregiously since the list features only one woman, albeit in the most important, lead-off position. Hope this is stimulating, at least.

Twenty-One Horror Classics (list by Robert Weinberg*)
1. Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
2. Dracula by Bram Stoker
3. The Ghost Pirates by William Hope Hodgson
4. The Collected Ghost Stories of M.R. James
5. Burn, Witch, Burn! by A. Merrritt
6. To Walk the Night by William Sloane
7. The Dunwich Horror and Others by H. P. Lovecraft
8. Fear by L. Ron Hubbard
9. Darker than you Think by Jack Williamson
10. Conjure Wife by Fritz Leiber
11. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
12. Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
13. Richard Matheson: Collected Stories, Vols. I, II, III
14. Hell House by Richard Matheson
15. The October Country by Ray Bradbury
16. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
17. The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
18. Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg
19. Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
20. The Stand by Stephen King
21. Watchers by Dean Koontz

*source: “On Writing Horror: A Handbook b The Horror Writers Association” 2007 Writer’s Digest Books

Tucson Writers: Free Lecture to Jumpstart Your Writing Skills

Published June 9, 2017 by Philip Ivory

Check out the latest in a series of special free lectures from Writers Studio. Join us for an inspiring talk by Writers Studio teacher Frances Lynch on the value of using writing exercises to improve your craft.

WHAT: Free Lecture: Writing Exercises — The Path To Your Best Writing

WHERE: Woods Memorial Library at 3455 N. First Avenue

WHEN: Thursday June 22 at 6:30 to 7:30 PM

Hope to see you there!

Also, new classes start at the Writers Studio here in Tucson in only a few weeks. Sign up for a workshop class and put exercises to work to enhance your writing skills and try your hand at new voices and techniques:

Register here.

Flash Sale: $30 off any summer writing class. Discount must be taken at time of registration, cannot be combined with any other offer. Valid while supplies last. Expires 6/12/17. Use coupon code: Facebook17

New Flash Fiction: The Daytime People

Published May 26, 2017 by Philip Ivory

Today I had a flash fiction piece published in a new online journal, Edify Fiction. It’s called “The Daytime People” and was directly inspired by an afternoon I spent observing people in a fast food restaurant here in Tucson.  You can Read It Here.

The Daytime People

Embed from Getty Images

The piece  was created for a Writers Studio reading event last fall. My thanks to Renee Bibby and all my friends and colleagues at Writers Studio for providing the inspiration for this piece and the impetus to write it.

Hope you enjoy the piece, and feel free to leave a comment by clicking on the orange dialogue box to the right of the story title.

If you have fiction, poetry or digital art of a uniquely positive nature, consider submitting it to Edify Fiction.

Thanks for reading!



Writers Studio 30th Anniversary Anthology

Published April 20, 2017 by Philip Ivory

The Writers Studio is the renowned creative writing program founded in 1987 in New York by Pulitzer Prize winning poet Philip Schulz. With its branches in NYC, San Francisco, Tucson, Hudson Valley as well as its online and “Kids Write” components, Writers Studio has been helping poets and fiction writers reach their potential for 30 years.

Through my work with Writers Studio as a student and now as a teacher, I’ve become more confident at developing strong narrative voices that take command of my creative material. Using effective narrators that help guide the reader through a satisfactory literary experience has helped me  publish multiple short pieces and make progress on a novel, a first draft of which I hope to complete later this year.


To celebrate its three decades of helping writers develop their craft, Writers Studio is releasing a 500-page 30th anniversary anthology, featuring nearly 100 hundred authors. The publisher is Epiphany Editions.

The Writers Studio at 30 features work by Writers Studio advisory board members Jennifer Egan, Robert Pinsky, Edward Hirsch, Grace Schulman, Matthew Klam, Carl Dennis, and Jill Bialosky, as well as 30 years of students and teachers from its creative writing classes.

I’m proud to be one of the authors featured, with a short fiction piece titled “Probably Last Meeting of the Bluebell Ridge II Homeowners Association.” It was previously published in The Airgonaut.

A celebratory reading will be held in New York on May 6 at the Strand Bookstore to mark the occasion. Wish I could be there, but traveling to NY is not in my budget right now.

The Writers Studio at 30 Anthology should be a great resource for anyone interested in enjoying a smorgasbord of strong narrative voices used in service to poems and stories containing wildly divergent subject matter. 

Until May 6, you can pre-order the anthology at a discounted price of $20.

Click here for Discount Pre-Order.



Book Review: Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon

Published April 5, 2017 by Philip Ivory

Robert McCammon’s 1991 novel Boy’s Life (not to be confused with Tobias Wolff’s This Boy’s Life: A Memoir) is a richly imagined, episodic, and often sentimental 1991 tale with horror/fantasy shadings about a white 12-year-old boy growing up in a racially segregated town in the south during the 60s. It’s an odd, rich soup, in which incidents involving good-old-boy townsfolk doing KKK stuff sit alongside fantastic bits like a stegosaurus getting loose from a circus van and then charging out of the woods to attack cars on the highway, mistaking them for rival dinosaurs.

In between, there are loads of Bradburian reminiscences from the perspective of our boy narrator, Cory. They are magical memories of small town growing up, awash in a romantic nostalgic afterglow. Tales of bullies, baseball, camping trips and nascent encounters with the mysterious species known as girls, as well as portraits of oddball locals like the rich guy’s grown son who walks around town stark naked. (Everyone in town is used to it.) There are also vignettes involving faithful dogs and a seemingly-enchanted bicycle with a personality all its own.

Along the way, we’re treated to danger, death and a mystery involving a murder victim submerged in a car in a lake, an incident witnessed by Cory and his dad. In particular, it’s Cory’s dad who’s haunted by the horror of not being able to help the bound, sinking victim. The quest for a solution to this mystery (no spoilers here), and the peace of mind it would bring to Cory’s dad, becomes the main unifying narrative thread, but dozens of others are woven in between.

Perhaps best to think of the book as a phantasmagorical tapestry with dollops of sociological/historical observations of the period. From a narrative perspective, the author unapologetically violates the perspective of his first-person narrator (Cory), cutting away to incidents that Cory did not witness. Whether this is a faux pas or an act of supreme authorial confidence is something the reader must decide.

I enjoyed the Boy’s Life a lot, although the episodic structure made forward narrative momentum sag in places, and its extremely fond and nostalgic perspective on growing up is a bit sweet for my taste. But the author cannot be faulted for lack of imagination or invention. This is a richly baked cake of the warm, wondrous, adventure-packed boyhood we all deserved but didn’t get.

Robert McCammon’s Boy’s Life on Goodreads
Robert McCammon’s Boy’s Life on Amazon


Followup: Light to Dark: Using Mood to Create an Effective Narrator

Published March 31, 2017 by Philip Ivory

I just wanted to thank everyone who was able to show up on March 23 for our Writer Studios lecture event, “Light to Dark: Using Mood to Create an Effective Narrator.”

We got a sizable crowd that filled up most of the space at our location, a meeting room in the Woods Memorial Library. Many old friends were there, some who had taken our classes before, and some who seemed to be new faces.

Reneé Bibby (at podium), director of the Tucson branch of Writers Studio, was the moderator, and I was one of the panelists, along with Lilian Vercauteren (left side of table) and Donna Aversa (center). It was really fun to be part of the discussion and talk about examples from our own work to illustrate how we had made certain technical choices to sustain a viable narrator and evoke effective mood.

Writers Studio hopes to have more such events in the coming year, focusing on choices we all make to be better writers. I’ll report on them here.


Light to Dark: Using Mood to Create an Effective Narrator

Published March 15, 2017 by Philip Ivory

The Writers Studio Tucson Lecture Series presents

Light to Dark:
Using Mood to Create an Effective Narrator

Join us for an evening of craft and conversation featuring local Tucson writers Donna Aversa, Phil Ivory, and Lilian Vercauteren

When: Thursday, March 23, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Where: Woods Memorial Library (3455 N. 1st Ave)

This event is free and open to everyone.

The moderated panel discussion will feature these Tucson Literary Luminaries:

  • Donna Aversa is a fiction writer who has studied and trained to teach at The Writers Studio Tucson, and is passionate about The Writers Studio method. With degrees from the University of Arizona, she is an attorney in private practice. Donna is currently working on a collection of short stories.
  • Phil Ivory studied literature at Columbia University. His fiction has been published in The Airgonaut, Literally Stories, Devolution Z, Bewildering Stories and elsewhere. Nominated in 2017 for the Pushcart Prize, he was previously a winner of the 2015 Writers Studio “Write-to-Read” contest and Bewildering Stories’ 2016 Mariner Awards. Phil teaches at The Writers Studio Tucson and maintains a blog at
  • In her early twenties, Lilian Vercauteren came to the US to see what the fuss was all about. More than a decade later, she has only barely scratched the surface of discovering the American spirit. She has written and published several short stories and is currently querying a novel length manuscript with literary agents. She is an alumni of The Writers Studio Tucson Master Class.

Questions? Contact Reneé Bibby at or 520-591-8795.