Everywhere Stories Contributor Spotlight: Frances Park

Contributor Frances Park’s story, “The Monk in the Window,” is set in South Korea. It’s one of 20 stories included in Volume II of Everywhere Stories: Short Fiction from a Small Planet, available now from Press 53, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

Frances Park wrote her first novel on an Underwood typewriter at the age of ten, and has kept the dream going. In addition to short stories and essays, she’s the author or co-author of ten books including novels, children’s books, and a memoir published in five countries. For her work, shes been interviewed on Good Morning America, National Public Radio, Voice of America, and The Diane Rehm Show. She lives in the Washington, DC area.

Frances Park’s comment on “The Monk in the Window”—A curated excerpt from a longer work, the story is set in post-war Korea, a period that both fascinates and saddens me, as my newlywed parents lived through the war. The figure of the monk has loomed large in my imagination ever since my mother told me the story about how an actual monk once knocked on their door in Seoul and made wild predictions—some tragic, some not. They all came true.

Everywhere Stories Contributor Spotlight: Gabriela Maya

Contributor Gabriela Maya’s story, “Let us go forth into the wide world,” is set in Brazil. It’s one of 20 stories included in Volume II of Everywhere Stories: Short Fiction from a Small Planet, available now from Press 53, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

Gabriela Maya was born in Sweden to Brazilian parents in political exile. At thirteen she moved to Brazil with her parents and spent her teens in Rio de Janeiro, absorbing the vast difference between continents. Not content with Europe and South America, she lived for two and a half years in Japan studying ceramics, and then proceeded to pursue an MFA in Creative writing at the University of Iowa and a PhD. in Creative Writing and Literature at the University of Houston. She teaches at the University of Houston Honors College.

Gabriela Maya’s comment on “Let us go forth into the wide world”—I spent my teens living in Rio de Janeiro, and the presence of homeless children there is ubiquitous—quite a difference from the streets of Stockholm, where I had lived during my childhood. Children of the middle-class in Rio are cautioned to stay away from these pivetes, as they are disdainfully called, who often beg, peddle candy or engage in small thefts. I remember one day when I was walking down the stairs to the subway station with several other teenagers from my private school, and a small, black, bare-chested boy of maybe ten years of age, dangling from the bannister, looked me right in the eyes and smiled radiantly. I smiled back. As soon as we had passed by, my colleagues started poking fun at me and warning me against such interactions. I didn’t say anything at the time, but this incident stuck with me. I began to write a series of portraits and histories of street kids as I imagined they might be, with full histories of where they came from and what they longed for. Much later, I was studying fairy tales in graduate school and began to link the lives of these children with the kind of lack and abuse that is often pictured at the start of fairy tales, and I realized that the fairy tale could provide me with a particular kind of framework for these portraits. The story of how Carla ended up on the street is one of these portraits.

Everywhere Stories Contributor Spotlight: Barbara Krasner

Contributor Barbara Krasner’s story, “The Guardian,” is set in Poland. It’s one of 20 stories included in Volume II of Everywhere Stories: Short Fiction from a Small Planet, available now from Press 53, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

Barbara Krasner holds an MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts and an MA in History from William Paterson University. She frequently writes about the Holocaust. Her work has appeared in Jewishfiction.netJewish Literary JournalJewish Women’s Literary Annual, and other publications. She teaches creative writing and Holocaust history in New Jersey.

Barbara’s comment on “The Guardian”—I visited my grandfather’s ancestral village in Poland in 2008 to research a novel. Then in the winter of 2009, I attended the Key West Literary Seminar on Historical Fiction. After hearing Ursula Hegi read, I thought more about the 80-year-old man who led me and two others through the village. I wondered about the burden he carried. I drafted the story on the spot.

Everywhere Stories Contributor Spotlight: Robert Kostuck

Contributor Robert Kostuck’s story, “Mí Encanta Panamá,” is set in Panama. It’s one of 20 stories included in Volume II of Everywhere Stories: Short Fiction from a Small Planet, available now from Press 53, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

Robert Kostuck is an M.Ed. graduate from Northern Arizona University. Recently published fiction, essays, and reviews appear in many American and Canadian print journals. He is currently working on short stories, essays, and novels; his short story collection seeks a publisher.

Robert’s comment on “Mí Encanta Panamá”—The inspiration for this story was limited. Years ago a friend in the Peace Corps was stationed in Panama. On her first day in La Palma she took several photographs of the rooftops of buildings and a storm approaching from the sea. One of these photos served as inspiration for the first sentence of the story. The rest of the story I made up from the jumble of memories in my mind.

Everywhere Stories Contributor Spotlight: Alison Grifa Ismaili

Contributor Alison Grifa Ismaili’s story, “The Stop,” is set in Morocco. It’s one of 20 stories included in Volume II of Everywhere Stories: Short Fiction from a Small Planet, available now from Press 53, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

Alison Grifa Ismaili’s work has been published in Fiction InternationalLitro (UK), and Bartleby Snopes, among others. Currently, she resides in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with her two little boys and her very patient husband.

Alison’s comment on “The Stop”— I drew inspiration to write “The Stop” back in 2010 while I was making a series of bus trips to visit my in-laws in the Sahara. I had been traveling on the route from El Jadida to Marrakech when our bus stopped in Booshen, and there was a group of vendors selling all sorts of wares. Among them, a little boy weaved in and out of the crowds with a basket of prickly pears. Something struck me about his little face, and for some reason, I’ve carried him around with me for the past few years. I’m not great at journaling, but at the time, I had the good sense to scribble down, “Booshen. Prickly pears.” I’ve always wanted to go back to his image and write something to convey his calm and comfort in the frenetic marketplace. This past winter, late 2015, I was finally able to piece together the rest of the story.

The Gettysburg Review: Winter 2016

The Gettysburg Review is one of our best literary magazines. For the years I’ve been reading it, first under the editorship of Peter Stitt and now Mark Drew, the content (and appearance) of the magazine has been consistently excellent.

The 2017 Literary Magazine Rankings bear this out: TGR ranks #11 in Fiction, #13 in Poetry, and #6 in Nonfiction. Few magazines boast such a strong overall performance.

And all you have to do is pick up a copy of the current issue, 29:4 (Winter 2016). I loved the opening story, “Learning About Now” by Kent Nelson and the essay by Peter Selgin, “The Strange Case of Arthur Silz.” The poetry is strong, too, including two by my friend Catherine Staples.

I believe all writers should subscribe to (and read!) a few literary magazines. I’m not at all sorry that The Gettysburg Review is one that appears in my mailbox each quarter.

Everywhere Stories Contributor Spotlight: Joel Hodson

Contributor Joel Hodson’s story, “Memiş the Conqueror,” is set in Turkey. It’s one of 20 stories included in Volume II of Everywhere Stories: Short Fiction from a Small Planet, available now from Press 53, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

Joel Hodson is retired and currently lives in Staunton, Virginia. He was educated at Indiana, Emory, and George Washington Universities and has served internationally in a variety of positions: Consultant for the U.S. Department of State; Senior Fellow at the National University of Singapore; Visiting Professor at Doshisha University, Kyoto, Japan; Senior Fulbright Lecturer in Turkey; and Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco. In the United States, he taught at Georgia State and George Washington Universities as well as University of Notre Dame. He was also Director of Education for the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library. He has published two books on American history and popular culture as well as scholarly, encyclopedia, and newspaper articles. He is a former editor and board member of the journal American Studies International. This is his first piece of published fiction.

Joel’s comment on “Memiş the Conqueror”—This story was written in 1985 when I was living in Turkey and is based on an incident there. It is one of a series of stories in an unpublished collection titled At the Russian Restaurant.

Book Culture

I love books, and I have a lot of them. I also have a lot of bookshelves, but not quite enough. (There is a growing pile on the floor of my office.) So I should be divesting myself of books, and occasionally I do manage to give away or sell a few, but between the books I buy and the books I receive for reviewing or other reasons, my book collection keeps growing.

For the past three years, I have been a member of the panel of judges for the Library of Virginia Literary Award for Fiction. (That’s the award my book What the Zhang Boys Know won in 2013.) Some time in the spring of each of those years, I’d start getting shipments of books that had been nominated for the award. I won’t say how many books were nominated, but it was a lot. Now that my term as judge is over, I’ll be able to make my own reading choices, but I confess I’ll miss those shipments of books.

A few years ago I learned the Japanese word “tsundoku” (積ん読). (A Japanese-speaking friend recently told me it’s not a word that’s actually used in Japan, but he knew what it meant.) It is the condition of acquiring books but letting them pile up without reading them. I read a lot–over 80 books this year plus countless literary magazines–but even if I stopped acquiring new books I would never be able to read all the books I have (I’m not a young man). As disorders go, it’s pretty harmless, but it’s a sickness all the same.

Most years I volunteer as a moderator for one or more panels at the Virginia Festival of the BookWhen I get my assignment–which includes a copy of each author’s book that will be discussed on the panel–I read and take notes on the books. In the years I do two panels, that’s a lot of reading, but I love it. Discussing these books in front of an audience is exciting. Not to mention the free books. (I also buy several new books each year at other events during the festival. I can’t help myself.)

I recently participated in a Facebook meme that sounded like a lot of fun, and it was. It’s basically a pyramid scheme, but one that doesn’t have any victims. I have no idea with whom the game originated, but that person posted on Facebook and asked people to play. Each of those people then did the same, with the instruction that the people who joined on their walls would send to the first person one book–their favorite–and then on their walls invite more people to play. The new people then would send the second-level people a book, and do the same thing. Because a participant only sends out one book, the cost of playing is minimal, but the payoff is potentially enormous. So I signed up and sent out one book to the address I was given, then recruited players on my Facebook page. I think I had about 12 people sign up. A few of them couldn’t quite figure out how the thing worked, but several of them followed the instructions perfectly (one person had over 40 people sign up on her page) and the books started flowing. As of today, I’ve received 30 books through the game and I feel pretty guilty about it. Plus, I have no place to put them and they’re currently piled on a chair in my office. There’s some good stuff there, though, and I hope to read books like A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman, NW by Zadie Smith, Blasphemy by Sherman Alexie, Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, and many more.

The novelist David Abrams has a great blog called The Quivering Pen on which he reviews and comments about books and writing. He also sends out a regular emailed newsletter to subscribers in which he runs contests for free books. I don’t always bother to enter the contest, but recently I did when Abrams was offering a “Big Box o’ Books.” So I threw my name in the cyber-hat and, miracle of miracles, won. The box arrived last week and it was a bit like an early Christmas. The box included a few titles I’d already read, but a few that I am really looking forward to reading, like Jonathan Baumbach’s The Pavilion of Former Wives, Robert Coover’s Huck Out West, B. A. Shapiro’s The Muralist, and many others.

Then there are the books I receive for review. I’m not a big-time reviewer with a regular gig, but I’m on the radar of some publishers and publicists, so I do get advance reading copies from time to time. (I’m reading one of those right now that I plan to review this winter.

And I’ve been known to buy books, too. I recently got an enticing offer from a small press that I hadn’t purchased from recently, so I bought several of their books. (Check out Shambala, especially if you have an interest in mindfulness or Buddhism.) Also, I did a reading in Greensboro, North Carolina recently, and I like to support independent bookstores that are kind enough to host me for such events. I bought a couple of new hardcovers there that look great (one by a friend). While I was there, my publisher, Kevin Watson of Press 53, gifted me a couple of the press’s new titles.

So many books, so little time.

 

Everywhere Stories Contributor Spotlight: Pamela Hartmann

Contributor Pamela Hartmann’s story, “The Hôtel Paradis,” is set in Egypt. It’s one of 20 stories included in Volume II of Everywhere Stories: Short Fiction from a Small Planet, available now from Press 53, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

Pamela Hartmann did not intend to wait nearly a lifetime before throwing herself into fiction writing. She began teaching EFL temporarily with the Peace Corps in Korea, but “way led on to way.” She moved on to teach in Greece and then for over thirty years in California. During most of that time, she also wrote academic ESL textbooks. Today, she volunteers at a wildlife rehabilitation center and, finally, writes fiction. “The Hôtel Paradis” is her second published short story.

Comment on “The Hôtel Paradis”—The idea came from a one-sentence newspaper item about a woman’s lawsuit against an Egyptian hotel, for impregnating her daughter. Surely there was a story here. With none available, I invented one. The line about “flowers” being “picked” I credit to an avuncular Egyptian consul to Athens, forty-something years ago. He attempted, without success, to dissuade two friends and me—exceptionally unworldly students in a college-year-abroad program in Greece—from visiting his country for spring break. (We were not “picked” in Egypt, to our disappointment.) If the characters and family dynamics ring true, it’s due to that one week—and my immersion shortly afterward in Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet and, in the 1990s, Mahfouz’s Cairo Trilogy.

Everywhere Stories Contributor Spotlight: John Matthew Fox

Contributor John Matthew Fox’s story, “Fatu Ma Futi,” is set in Samoa. It’s one of 20 stories included in Volume II of Everywhere Stories: Short Fiction from a Small Planet, available now from Press 53, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

John Matthew Fox won the Third Coast Fiction Contest, the Shenandoah Fiction Award, and was a finalist for the Chicago Tribune Nelsen Algren Award. His fiction has also been published in Crazyhorse, Hobart, Los Angeles Review, and Arts & Letters. He provides resources for writers at the literary website Bookfox and is living in Orange County while working on a novel.

John Fox’s comment on “Fatu Ma Futi”—I wrote this story more than a decade after I traveled to Western and American Samoa with a group of fellow college students. I stayed there for a summer, teaching children subjects like Math, English, and Bible, and although I’ve traveled to more than 40 countries since, I’d still rank it as the most beautiful place I’ve been. Other than the trappings of place and vocation, the story isn’t autobiographical, but I wanted to examine a young missionary’s confusion about gender, sexuality, and desire (my short story collection, of which this is a part, is all about missionaries). I still have some of my lavalavas packed in the garage, and though loose skirts are marvelous for hot climates, I haven’t missed wearing them. I do, however, miss Samoan tunafish, island time, and the tradition of men eating first.