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 writeyourselfsane.com
  • 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 renee@writerstudio.com or 520-591-8795.

 

Pushcart Prize Nomination

Published March 8, 2017 by Philip Ivory

A distinguished annual literary event.”
— New York Times

 

Early this year, I received a letter from Pushcart Press informing me that I am nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

This means that I was invited to submit to the Pushcart Committee up to three stories I had published in 2016. The pieces are now under consideration for publication in the upcoming Pushcart Prize XLII: Best of the Small Presses 2018 Edition, to be published in November. To win the Prize is to be published in the book. And vice versa.

(Okay, it’s a mite confusing. I’m submitting stories from 2016 for a book that will be published in 2017 but which will be labelled 2018. If I win, I will take a TARDIS to the ceremony. Well, I would, if I had a TARDIS. And if there were a ceremony.)

“Of far more significance than other awards.” 
— Joyce Carol Oates

As a teacher with The Writers Studio, I know how valuable these annual volumes are. We use them in teaching our students, selecting stories and poems that demonstrate craft techniques that we ask our students to emulate in their own writing.

To comply with the nomination, I submitted the following three stories:

Where did the Pushcart Prize come from? Here’s an excerpt from an article in Poets & Writers, “Pushcart Prize Turns Forty”:

The idea for the Pushcart Prize anthology was first conceived in the early 1970s by founding editor Bill Henderson, who at the time was a senior editor at Doubleday. “I was tired of the publishing industry turning writers into dollar signs,” Henderson says, citing the tendency for big houses to favor marketability over substance.

I’m grateful to whomever nominated me for this prestigious honor. That person’s identity is unknown to me. Truth be told, many people are nominated and there are long odds against winning. I should know by end of May whether I’ll be a winner or remain a humble nominee, and I’ll report any news here.

“This is the anthology that the writers read.”
— Russell Banks

Meanwhile, you can purchase the Pushcart’s most recent edition, Pushcart Prize XLI: Best of the Small Presses 2017 Edition at Amazon.com.

Probably Last Meeting of Bluebell Ridge II Homeowners Association

Published March 1, 2017 by Philip Ivory

Please check out my new piece of flash fiction at The Airgonaut, a monthly online literary journal specializing in absurdist, fabulist, magical realism, and surreal work.

I set a challenge to myself to see if I could write a piece in the format of notes from a homeowners association meeting. The resulting story can be read here:

Probably Last Meeting of Bluebell Ridge II Homeowners Association.”

Thanks for reading!

Embed from Getty Images

 

The Masters Review Fall Fiction Contest

Published February 27, 2017 by Philip Ivory

I must be feeling ambitious, so I have submitted a new story not only to the Epiphany contest (deadline March 1) mentioned in my last blog entry, but also to the Masters Review Fall Fiction Contest (deadline March 13, see link below.)

Both offer generous cash prizes and publication, and both require $20 entry fees.

Take a look, and if you decide to enter … Best of luck!

 

 

The Masters Review Submission Manager Powered By Submittable – Accept and Curate Digital Content

Source: The Masters Review Submission Manager – The Masters Review Anthology – Judge Roxane Gay $5000 awarded

Epiphany Magazine Spring Writing Contest

Published February 23, 2017 by Philip Ivory

Deadline’s been extended to March 1 for this contest run by Epiphany magazine. There’s cash money to be had, so consider entering!

 

ANNUAL WRITING CONTEST

Our annual Spring writing contest deadline has been extended until Wednesday, March 1. We have four fantastic judges—writers whom we respect and admire—judging this year. They are:- Peter Ho Davies (Fiction)- Saïd Sayrafiezadeh (Nonfiction/Memoir)- Patricia Smith (Poetry)- Ann Goldstein (Translation: Fiction) —–1st Prizes: $400 + publication in our contest issueRunners-up: $100 + publication in our contest issue*Contest submission fee includes a free 1-year subscription to Epiphany (a $23 value). Join our mailing list to be notified about future submission periods.

Source: Epiphany Magazine Submission Manager

11th Annual Short Story Challenge

Published February 22, 2017 by Philip Ivory

I recently participated in the 11th Annual Short Story Challenge, sponsored by NYC Midnight. Each writer is given a prompt involving three elements: a genre, subject, and character assignment.

My genre was political satire (something I’ve not done before, and I wasn’t jumping for joy to be assigned it.) My subject was a loophole. My character was a bodyguard.

I tend to enjoy the creative challenge of responding to arbitrary parameters. The piece I ended up writing is called “How We Cured Racism.” I had 8 days to write it (a maximum of 2500 words) and uploaded it in time for the Contest’s first round deadline on January 28.

I’ll find out in March whether I will be selected to advance to the second round, which will require responding to new parameters and writing a piece at a maximum of 2000 words, but this time in only 2 days.

I hope I get to try the next round, as I found the first one stimulating and was pleased with the result. Currently, I’m revising the story and hope to start submitting it for publication soon. I’ll post more about the contest as soon as I hear anything. 

 

“The Yellow Man” cited in 2016 Mariner Awards

Published December 26, 2016 by Philip Ivory

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I’m honored that, for my novelette “The Yellow Man,” I’ve been named a recipient of Bewildering Stories’ 2016 Mariner Awards. Because it was broken into installments, my story is listed on the awards page among “serials.”

My thanks to the editors at Bewildering Stories who treated this story with loving care since accepting it for publication earlier in the year.

Check out “The Yellow Man” and other recipients of the 2016 Mariner Awards.