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.

Everywhere Stories Contributor Spotlight: James Dorr

Contributor James Dorr’s story, “The Wellmaster’s Daughter,” is set in Mali. 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.

Indiana (USA) writer James Dorr’s The Tears of Isis was a 2014 Bram Stoker Award nominee for Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection. Other books include Strange Mistresses: Tales of Wonder and Romance; Darker Loves: Tales of Mystery and Regret; and his all-poetry Vamps (a Retrospective). An Active Member of the Horror Writers Association, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and the Short Mystery Fiction Society with nearly 400 individual appearances from Aboriginal Science Fiction to Xenophilia, Dorr invites readers to visit his blog at jamesdorrwriter.wordpress.com.

James Dorr’s comment on “The Wellmaster’s Daughter”—I had been researching deserts for another project when I came across information about the Sahara so fascinating I decided it deserved its own separate story.

Everywhere Stories Contributor Spotlight: Lucinda Nelson Dhavan

Contributor Lucinda Nelson Dhavan’s story, “Almost Enlightened,” is set in India. 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.

Lucinda Nelson Dhavan was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan. She went to India on a Fulbright Grant immediately after graduating from Sarah Lawrence College and has lived there, more or less, since. For several years she was features editor of an English-language newspaper in Allahabad, after which she returned to writing fiction. Her short stories have appeared in The Paumanok Review, Gargoyle and Carve, among others, and One World: A Global Anthology of Short Stories. Her first novel was a finalist for the PEN/Bellwether Prize, and she is currently putting the finishing touches on another.

Lucinda’s comment on “Almost Enlightened”—Varanasi feels ancient, it has a glow of the mysterious and spiritual about it. Yet, it is a city in which people carry on ordinary, modern lives. In this story I tried to catch the unsettling experience of these two ways of life accidentally meeting.

Everywhere Stories Contributor Spotlight: Rijn Collins

Contributor Rijn Collins’s story, “Street of the Candlesticks,” is set in Belgium. 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.

Rijn Collins is an Australian writer with over 80 short stories published in anthologies and literary journals, performed at festivals in Melbourne and Chicago, and broadcast on Australia’s Radio National. She recently won first place in the inaugural Sarah Awards in New York. More of her work can be found at rijncollins.com.

Rijn Collins’s comment on “Street of the Candlesticks”—Rue des Chandeliers (Street of the Candlesticks) is a narrow pedestrian street snaking through the medieval heart of Brussels. For seven months back in 2006, it was my home. Trying to find my feet in a city where I knew no-one, I would sit at my windowsill and write about the stories that passed by below. Nobody ever thinks to look up at the windows. “Street of the Candlesticks” is a blend of fact and fiction and for me, a love letter to my favorite place in the world, beautiful Brussels.