Resurrect Your Darlings: Chad Simpson

Today, we’re kicking off a new series for our blog: Resurrect Your Darlings. Ever have to cut a part of a story that didn’t fit but you really loved? Or change a piece for the published version? Ever like some things about an earlier draft better than the final version? Resurrect Your Darlings will be giving writers the opportunity to share the excised parts and alternate endings they just can’t get rid of. First up is the first OZP author, Chad Simpson! Check out his resurrected darling below, then see what he has to say about it after!

three sections from Duplex

When I told my supervisor which apartment complex I lived in, he said, Oh, I know that place.

You used to live there? I asked.

He wrinkled his forehead at me, scoffed. No, he said. But I used to know a woman who lived in one of those, what, little duplexes, right? They still have the same arrangement over there?

I told him they did. Rows of little du- and triplexes.

They still have problems with sound? he asked. You know, they used to hang these thick shag carpets on the walls that separated the units.

Carpets? I asked, pretending idiot. Like for decoration?

He tilted his bald head to the side, wrinkled the skin on it again, and said, No, not for decoration. Jesus. They were hideous. Put ‘em up as a buffer. You could hear a pin drop next door, he said. Not to mention the other things your neighbor might be doing.

When he said this last part, he made a fist and pumped it, knuckles up, forward and then back again three times; each time he extended the fist, he clicked his tongue against the roof of his mouth twice.

Today my neighbor’s phone is ringing, and I am reminded of that conversation I had with my supervisor while we both smoked cigarettes and scattered ashes on the sidewalk outside the guard shack we work in. Sometimes I hear the garbage disposal or her three-year-old wrecking-ball son, who screams and then collides with the wall behind my television. Then he screams again, and a few seconds later there is laughter, another thud from the other side of the wall.

My neighbors are Korean. They don’t speak English well. We are very cordial, though. A month ago, before I threw out a chair, I walked over to their front door and asked if they would like to have it. The woman was confused at first, but I pointed at a chair in her apartment and then to the one on the sidewalk in front of my place, and she accepted the blue rocker graciously. I carried it over, wiped my feet on her rug, and placed it down just inside the front door, where she gestured with her small hand.

The next week, she brought me over a fruit pizza. When I opened the door, she handed me the large glass plate and said, For you.

I smiled and began to say, You didn’t need to do that, when I caught myself, wondered whether this backward graciousness would translate, the way it does in America, to, Thank you. That is very kind of you.

So I said this instead. She smiled back at me and turned away quickly. Her husband stood on their front step, smoking a cigarette, and I kept the screen door open with my back, balanced the plate on one hand, and waved at him with the other. He waved back and exhaled a small cloud of blue smoke.

I’d thought, because it was made by a Korean woman, it would maybe be a more exotic fruit pizza, but it was just the same as an American one. And just as good. The crust was sweet and the top had sugary cream cheese smoothed over it and halved strawberries and slices of banana and kiwi, all arranged just so.

I have only spoken with my neighbors on those two occasions. Maybe it is because they are Korean that I want to speak with them more, hear what they have to say and how they say it. I have heard other Korean men and women at coffee shops, saying, I assume, Oh, this drink is very good. I love the peppermint syrup. Or I have heard a Korean man say to a Korean woman at the movie theatre, You wait in line for the popcorn while I get the tickets. I’ll meet you over there.

I listen occasionally at the wall that is not so thin anymore to hear whether she says to him, Turn the channel already. I hate this show. Or, Move your arm up some so I can rest my head against your chest.

But I hear no talking. Just the garbage disposal, their small son as he slams himself against the walls and his tiny gleeful screams.

So today, when her phone rings, I go again to the wall and listen carefully. I want to know what it sounds like when she picks the phone up off its cradle, holds it to her ear, and says, Hello.

* * *

On my way home the next morning, a new version of my dad comes to me. It’s his sixtieth birthday party. His hair’s gone gray and his neatly trimmed beard is full of salt. He is sitting in the same highchair Teddy sat in the day before, a small cone hat on his head held in place by a rubber band that runs under his chin. His feet dangle in the air, and his mouth is so full of cake he is unable to speak. We take pictures of him smearing frosting all over his face. Then he looks up, shocked that we are all there. He tries to say something, but my mom hushes him with baby talk and fills his mouth with red frosting.

I park my truck on the street and notice some signs tacked to the streetlights. There is a photograph of the dead kitten, alive and pawing at something invisible in the air, above which is written, WHEN YOU SEE ANYTHING ON THIS CAT, CALL PLEASE, followed by a phone number. I grab a flyer and take it inside with me.

* * *

My neighbor takes a cigarette out of her pocket and lights it. She doesn’t inhale. The smoke curls around her mouth in large clouds and she coughs, rolls down the window.

I take it you don’t smoke, I say.

No, she says. Smoke stinks. She drops the cigarette through the opened window and it sparks on the highway behind us.

On the two other occasions I’d seen my neighbor up close, I’d never noticed how young she looks. She couldn’t be older than twenty. Her skin is poreless. She looks so young I feel almost dirty having her alone in my truck.

Your friend said you fish? I ask.

Yeah, yeah, she said. I always fish. Very good. She starts to say something else but stops and stares instead out the window at the crooked rows of corn.

When we approach Kreggers’ place, the sun hovers over the stand of trees that hides his personal pond, and behind us, everything is going dark. This is it right up here, I say.

She squints in the direction of the trees and then at me. Her eyebrows rise, then knot up. She makes small waves with her hand and asks, Where is water?

Behind those trees, I say, pointing. It’s not very big. But he’s got it stocked with some nice bass.

Bass, huh? she says. Confident, almost smug.

We each carry a rod through a small opening in the trees. The light filtered through the branches makes the place glow the shade of orange that children draw sunsets in. Beneath the trees it’s cool and smells like the rich parts of the earth you never get to touch with your hands. I’ve spent a lot of time here since I left Ginny.

It’s beautiful, my neighbor says.

I know, I say. The water is just around the corner. It’s the perfect time to snag a few bass. They get hungry when the sun sets.

My neighbor says, Snag a few bass, and laughs.

We turn the corner, and Kreggers is out in the middle of the pond in his johnboat. He’s got a generator in the boat with him that’s large enough there’s almost no room left for him. He’s standing, waving an arm in the air.

What are you doing? I shout. We wanted to get in some fishing.

He looks down at the generator and fiddles with some knobs. He sticks a little rod into the water.

Electricity rips through the humid air and my neighbor stops walking. So do I.

Everything that was alive in the water begins to float to the surface. It ripples with the upturned bodies of small- and largemouth bass, snakes, catfish.

Fucking eels, he shouts.

What is he doing? my neighbor asks.

I tell her he’s shocking the lake.

Shocking, she says, like it’s a question.

Everything comes back to life and sinks beneath the water’s surface, but before they have time to make a swim for it, Kreggers recharges the pond with a stronger current. He spits into the water and it sizzles.

The fish rise up again. The orange light catches on the eels and crappy and bluegill and bass, and we wait for them to come back to life again, to sink back into the water, but they just hang there, slowly rolling into and against one another on the water’s black surface, shining in the near-dark like the tongues of a thousand unseen beasts.

* * * * *

Chad Simspon

Chad Simspon

I only took 1.5 creative writing classes as an undergraduate, but I had my heart set on going to graduate school to study fiction writing. One of my professors—a man whom I respect quite a bit—suggested I take a few years off before going to read and write on my own, so that’s what I did.

My first year out of undergrad, I worked a number of jobs: at a gas station and a pig processing plant; as a security guard. Then I did a year of AmeriCorps. Then I became a juvenile probation officer.

I did a lot of reading, a lot of writing. When I took the job as a juvenile probation officer, one of my bosses from AmeriCorps told me to take care of myself, because the job could take a toll on people. I let her know that I was hoping to do it for only two years. After the first year, I was going to apply to grad school, and if I got in anywhere, I’d be gone.

My first year as a probation officer, I worked second shift and had Tuesdays and Wednesdays off. Every morning, I rolled out of bed around ten and wrote for a few hours. On my days off, I would spend whole days at the library or the coffee shop, trying to get words on the page.

The problem was, for the previous two years, while I was writing a lot, I wasn’t actually writing stories. I wrote about 300 poems, and about three thousand pages of sentences, but no real fiction. So, that year, I tried to figure out how to put a story together, and one of the main pieces I worked on was “Duplex.”

Originally, I’d thought the first section of the story might stand alone as a flash or short-short. I think I even tried to submit it to a few places. As time went on, though, during those morning writing sessions, and at the library or the coffee shop, I started adding more sections to it, to see where things went.

While the story was still flawed—it lacked some needed exposition; there wasn’t much emotional logic to the events—I think I discovered while working on it some aspects of the fiction writer I would later become. I’m thinking of the piece’s voice, and its attention to images, even thematic concerns.

Eventually, I submitted the story as part of my application for grad school, and it helped to get me in somewhere. I even sent it out to a few magazines and received some very nice, if not quite deserved, rejections for it.

It’s hard for me to say that I “love” this story of mine—or these sections of it, even—but I appreciate what writing this story allowed me to discover about the writer I would one day become, and I very much like remembering that period of time in my life when I was always struggling and failing but somehow, for reasons I still can’t explain, remained devoted to putting words together in such a way that they might mean something to someone.

Writer Re-Crush #2: Brian Oliu

Brian OliuThe fortnight of Oliu continues! It’s not secret that we’re big fans of Brian Oliu—I’ve been into his work ever since he visited the afterschool creative writing club I was part of and read an essay where he imagined himself as Pac-Man and all his ex-girlfriends as the Pac-Man ghosts. Since then, Oliu has made a name for himself with lyric essays that take on the form of video game boss battles, computer code, pop songs and Craigslist Missed Connections. As the fortnight goes on, we’ll be talking more about Leave Luck to Heaven, Oliu’s debut collection of video game essays, as well as i/o, his forthcoming memoir. For the purposes of our re-crush, though, we’re going to take a look at the new subject Oliu has turned his eyes on. Or rather, his folding chairs: pro-wrestling.

The thing that’s so striking about Oliu’s pro-wrestler essays, to me, is not simply that Oliu has taken something we think of as ugly and violent and made us see it in a new and (for lack of a better word) prettier light, but that he takes seriously a medium often disparaged—how many times have you heard someone says, “It’s not even real!” as though the fans of pro-wrestling believe it is? As creative writing becomes more and more engrained in academia, it’s harder to find writers who see the high art in the so-called low-brow, who believe that pop culture is a force to be reckoned with. (Then again, maybe that’s how it’s always been—I kind of love to imagine what Hemingway would’ve made of The Rock.)

But of course, in typical Oliu fashion, these essays are not simply about pro-wrestlers. They’re about tornadoes. They’re about childhood. They’re about Oliu himself and how the stories of these wrestlers, these modern-day myths, intertwine with his life. The conceit may seem funny, but the end results are tragic and moving. Haunting, even. Here’s your recommended reading for the day:
Bret Hart & the Finished Dungeons of My Youth
Owen Hart & the Finite Life of Ropes
Hulk Hogan Comes to Tuscaloosa
The Ultimate Warrior Believes in Nothing But Forever

FORTNIGHT OF OLIU

bookcover_final_2ATWO-FOR-ONE SALE

You may have noticed that pretty much every Origami Zoo Press writer is running things this year—everybody’s got books coming out, snagging huge publications and just generally doing good things in the writing world. We hope to spotlight all of our writers this fall, but over the next two weeks, we’ll be focusing on Brian Oliu, whose first full-length book, Leave Luck to Heaven, was just released by Uncanny Valley Press.

As you may know, Origami Zoo Press published Level End, which we think of as kind of a playable demo of Leave Luck to Heaven. We also are running low on copies Level End, and we want to put it in the hands of anyone who doesn’t have it yet, so: for the next two weeks, order any print Origami Zoo Press title and get a copy of Level End free! Alternately, if you bought Leave Luck to Heaven, email your receipt to origamizoopress@gmail.com along with your mailing address and we’ll send you Level End at no cost!

We all need a little more Oliu. Take advantage of this offer before you lose your last life!

Camp OZP: FINAL DAY!

Well, campers. It’s that time. Your parents will be here to pick you up in the morning. While we still have time together here, let’s do one last activity involving formally experimental fiction! Today we’ll be doing some guerilla (performance?) fiction!

IMG_0156For my students, I take them to visit the faculty art gallery on campus, but honestly, you can go just about anywhere where you’ll likely see non-fictional texts around—a grocery store, a sports arena, a restaurant. For my purposes today, I’ll assume you’re going to an art gallery. Note the typical forms of text you find in the gallery. What are they? Placards, including artist names and materials used? Descriptions of the art, perhaps even statements from the artists? Maybe there are texts on the wall more indirectly related to the art (a schedule of coming events, for instance), or texts not related to the art at all (emergency procedures).

Now, here’s your mission: pick one of those texts and write your best imitation of it. But, as always, make sure it doesn’t just imitate the form, but transcends it. It doesn’t necessarily have to become a traditionally plotted story, but think of what kinds of fictions you could write with an extra-long materials list on a placard, or with an absurdist look at emergency procedures for the gallery, or a description of a piece of art that doesn’t (or couldn’t!) exist. In addition, try to use formatting to your advantage: adjust column width to better imitate placards, match the fonts of the artist statements, etc.

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Once you’re written your art gallery text-imitating fiction, there’s one last step: bring your text to the gallery and, when nobody’s looking, find a nice empty spot for it and hang it up. Don’t put your name on it. Let it be anonymous. Let it blend in naturally with the gallery surrounding it. Let it become a fun, new way for viewers to experience the art around them.

And that’s that. Thanks so much for making Camp OZP a success! Hopefully you’ll leave with new ideas for forms your fiction can take!

[art shown in gallery pictures by Tim Velsor and Colleen Woolpert]

Camp OZP: Day 3

After a hiatus, Head Counselor Sam Martone is back with another edition of Camp OZP!

For this activity from my formally experimental fiction workshop, you gotta get up and move! This activity is designed to be done at a summer program/summer camp campus area, but it can work pretty much anywhere. Basically, go on a walk, wherever you happen to be. Stop every hundred feet or so and take special note of your surroundings. Try to notice things you haven’t before. Feel free to be as descriptive as possible, or do simple bullet points. You can embellish if you’d like. Whatever works for you to remember these details.

IMG_0308Then, read “Orientation” by Daniel Orozco. It’s a story entirely in the form of a first-day-on-the-job office orientation. It starts off relatively mundane, but then things get weird. Here’s a section from early on, when the speaker starts to get a little unnecessarily personal regarding co-workers:

Russell Nash, who sits in the cubicle to your left, is in love with Amanda Pierce, who sits in the cubicle to your right. They ride the same bus together after work. For Amanda Pierce, it is just a tedious bus ride made less tedious by the idle nattering of Russell Nash. But for Russell Nash, it is the highlight of his day. It is the highlight of his life. Russell Nash has put on forty pounds and grows fatter with each passing month, nibbling on chips and cookies while peeking glumly over the partitions at Amanda Pierce and gorging himself at home on cold pizza and ice cream while watching adult videos on TV.

After you’ve read the whole story, think about how the story is working. How does the voice, which is essentially a monologue, make it feel as though there is another character being spoken too? Where does the humor in this story come from? What makes it sound like a normal orientation? Where and how does it break from the thing it’s imitating? Try to brainstorm what other kinds of guided tours might make good stories: museum tours, walking ghost tours, open houses, etc.

Now, return to your notes from earlier. See if you can shape these into a tour of some kind. Feel free to stick to your current location or transpose them somewhere else. Perhaps the head of the Neighborhood Homeowners Club can show the new resident around, or maybe a soon-to-be-graduating senior can give a group of rowdy freshmen their first tour of the campus. Be creative! Push boundaries! You can imitate the style of “Orientation” or try out a new voice/tone. Happy writing!

Important Origami Update!

Origami-Arthropod-Press

If you read David Orr’s New York Times review of an up-and-coming poet’s debut collection, you may have caught a half-familiar name:

…if James Franco were just another M.F.A. student struggling to catch the attention of the two part-time employees of Origami Arthropod Press, he’d probably be reading this piece and fuming about all the attention being given, yet again, to James Franco

No, I’m not talking about James Franco, whose name does sound vaguely familiar now that you mention it. I mean Origami Arthropod Press! Now, it may seem like a simple nod to tiny presses everywhere that just so happens to obliquely (or coincidentally) reference us specifically, but in reality, Mr. Orr had inside information.

Yes, it’s true: due to our lawsuit with the origami animal instruction book Origami Zoo, we’ve been forced to change our name to Origami Arthropod Press. We’d like to thank Mr. Orr for the shoutout, even if it let the cat out of the bag a little too soon!

We’d also like to emphasize that James Franco need not fume! He has our attention! We’ll take this time to also announce that we plan to only publish chapbooks penned by Mr. Franco from now on. Mr. Franco, if you’re reading this, you’re welcome to submit your next 27 manuscripts at origamizoopress@gmail.com.

Origami Arthropod Press: a press that seeks the best and most innovative work from both established and emerging James Franco.

Camp OZP: Day 2

Hey there, campers! Head Counselor Sam Martone here, with another installment of Camp OZP!

IMG_6730The next activity in my formally playful fiction workshop deals with the epistolary form. Stories and novels in the form of letters have existed for as long as there’s been a word for fiction (probably longer!), but it’s still a form that sees a lot of action today, despite declining prominence of snail mail in this age of direct messages and Skype calls. Just check out this fantastic story: “P.S.” by Jill McCorkle.

Here’s the first paragraph:

DEAR DR. LOVE,
By now you have gotten several letters from me and this will probably be the last. I don’t care that you never respond. In fact, I’m glad that you don’t, because if you did, a response would show a weakness in your professional ethics. In all my other letters, I have been trying to explain myself a little better because I always felt that maybe you liked Jerry more than you liked me. And what about human nature makes us all want to be the one liked the most? In those other letters I was still trying to convince you that I was the right one, but the truth is that now so much time has passed I just don’t give a shit. The right/wrong stalemate is what keeps people in your office for way too long. I thought I might settle things in my mind by writing you this final letter. And I will tell the truth—not that I haven’t told the truth in the past, I have, but let’s just say I also lied.

As you keep reading, ask yourself: what language does she use to imitate the letter form? Are there any moments that break from that or violate the form? How does she handle revealing information without making it feel like blunt force trauma exposition? What does the voice tell you about this character? I like to point out certain things to my students. For instance, right off the bat, even if we don’t know who this Dr. Love is, we know she’s written to him several times before with no response. I also like to point out that she calls this her final letter. If we were to map this story out on the traditional plot diagram, the fact that she says this is her final letter is our “one day.” It’s what makes this letter the story worth telling.

IMG_9419Today’s exercise is best to do with a partner. Each of you, individually, write a story in the form of a letter from one character to another. The writer of the letter has got to want something specific. This can be something tangible (a new car, a cup of sugar) or less so (love, to be left alone). Focus on how you can use the voice to make this character distinct. Avoid clunky exposition—remember that the person your character is writing to presumably already knows who he or she is, so no “As you know, I am your uncle.” Make the letter about a page long. Then, trade with your partner, and write as the letter-receiver character responding to the first character. Happy writing!

Camp OZP: Day 1

Hello everyone! Origami Zoo Editor Sam Martone here, writing from deep in the wilderness of Vermont. I’ve managed to get a wifi signal by building a router out of birch bark, twine, and an old bottle cap, but who knows how long it’ll last, so I’m here to give you a look at what I’m doing up in these beautiful rolling green mountains for a new weekly blog event called CAMP OZP!

IMG_0164Two nights a week, I teach a workshop on formally playful fiction, so in addition to the accompanying pictures included mainly to make you jealous, I’ll be recreating offering some summer reading/writing prompts based on what I teach. As an introduction, we’ll be talking about Craig’s List Missed Connections stories, as inspired by Brian Oliu. We usually begin the workshop by posing the question “What is a story?” Does it have to follow the classic Freytag’s triangle we learn in English class? Does it have to have dialogue? Characters? It’s worth noting that Oliu’s Missed Connections are lyric essays, although they can be read as either fiction or poetry, further complicating how we think of stories and how we define fiction.

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Now for your Camp OZP writing prompt: Go to Craig’s List Missed Connections for your hometown and read some, then read these Missed Connections by Brian Oliu. Look at what language and formatting Oliu adopts from the real Missed Connections. Then look at where his pieces depart from the “actual” Missed Connections. Now, pick a location in your hometown and write your own Missed Connection! You can try to replicate some of Oliu’s rhythm or language, or you can take it an entirely new direction. Happy writing!

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Interested in seeing all the Missed Connections by Brian Oliu? Order So You Know It’s Me from tiny hardcore press! Need even more from Brian Oliu? Get his new book, Leave Luck to Heaven, from Uncanny Valley Press!

OZP News

We’ve been pretty quiet here at the Zoo…but that’s only because there’s so much going on! We are diving into our next book by the lovely Lena Bertone, and can’t wait to share it with all of you, but more info on that soon. Here’s what else has been going on:

  1. Editor Sam Martone earned his MFA from ASU!
  2. Brian Oliu has a book coming out from one of our favorite small presses Uncanny Valley, called Leave Luck to Heaven–which also has one of the coolest covers of all time, and we know good covers. Go preorder it!
  3. B.J. Hollars also has a new book coming out in September called Dispatches from the Drownings: Reporting the Fiction of Nonfiction from the University of New Mexico Press. Add this to your cart too!
  4. Laura van den Berg‘s collection The Isle of Youth has been named one of six on the shortlist for the 2014 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award.
  5. Dzanc Books unveiled the gorgeous cover to Anne Valente‘s full-length collection due out in October By Light We Knew Our Names. Grab your copy!
  6. Chad Simpson was granted tenure from Knox College, and Ben Hoffman got married!

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Seriously though, how awesome are our authors!! We are so proud of and happy for all of you!

Finally, we know you want to stay in (writing) shape over the long summer, so for the first time ever, we’re hosting Camp OZP with head counselor Sam Martone. Starting in July, check back each week for a new craft lesson and writing exercise to keep those writing muscles in honed!

Short Story Month: Lena Bertone

On Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”

lenabwI reread Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” and it was as good as every time I read it. That awful grandmother who thinks she is so good—she is so candy sweet and conniving, and so convinced of her own righteousness. She’s just like one of those awful children she sits with in the back seat of the car as they drive through Georgia; those children who openly insult her and harass their parents; the only difference between the awful children and the awful grandmother is that she is premeditated in her awfulness. At least the children have the excuse of being selfish and rude because they’re young and ignorant; the grandmother’s selfishness is willful and dangerous. This is why she’s a grotesque.

After I reread the story, I went back to the author’s essay, “Some Aspects of the Grotesque in Southern Fiction,” because I wondered, do I really know what she means by grotesque? I think that calling a character a grotesque means that the character has some sort of monstrous quality, or some aspect of that character has been embellished to be terrible or terrifying (in a physical or moral way). But when I read Flannery O’Connor, her characters are, above all, REAL. There is nothing unbelievable about the grandmother, and nothing unbelievable about the Misfit, this well-mannered murderer, this philosopher-executioner, right down to his strong, white teeth. It is, in fact, their contradictions and their strangenesses, the ways they behave unexpectedly, that somehow make these characters so real.

And this is actually what Flannery O’Connor says about characters in the realm of the grotesque—that though they’re in dangerous, unlikely situations, the characters themselves have “inner coherence.” Though on the surface they may seem jagged and contradictory people, we readers still identify this inner coherence and it makes them feel like real people; and how they proceed in the story—how they react to the situations they’re confronted with—is based on this realness of character.

In this story, so many pieces of the setup are tidily lined up for us—the first mention of the Misfit, the interior view of the grandmother’s good-natured scheming, the cat in the car (which, for Pete’s sake, sleeps through the family’s lunch at the diner!)—it should be too much for a reader to believe. And then it gets crazier—the made up story of the hidden passage, the grandmother’s taunt inciting the children to riot, the accident. And then even crazier—the Misfit and his minions show up, the dangling shoulder, the grandmother’s futile and ridiculous pleas. This is almost too much story, but what grounds it is the presence of these two characters, who, despite being in the very odd situations of this story, are fully themselves and behaving accordingly—in fact, doing the best they can, and in the process, showing us as readers the ways in which they can be terrible and human when put into these strange and unexpected situations.

Though the grandmother sees some kind of vision right before she dies, in which she imagines the Misfit as one of her own children, it has always been the last line of the story that has been most interesting to me, because the Misfit, the most complicated, intelligent character in the story, despite the backwoodsiness of his language and the violence of his actions, chastises his minion for finding joy in killing. The Misfit tells him, ambiguously, “’It’s no real pleasure in life,’” leaving us wondering if the Misfit thinks it’s wrong to like killing, or just impossible to be happy. The Misfit is certainly the most sympathetic character in this story, his complexity of character leading him through his dark life.

I love the magical and the surreal, but it’s not the weirdo things people put in their stories that make them resonate for me: it’s how those those weirdo objects, settings, and situations reflect and work upon the characters to illuminate human emotion. I read Amber Sparks’s story “All the Imaginary People Are Better at Life,” and feel Ruby’s real, crazy indignation that her imaginary friend is telling her to get her shit together; I read Sarah Carson’s “When You Leave,” and am shocked by the sorrow I feel at God’s casual dismissal of the narrator’s pain. I read and I want to feel the way a story wraps around a character and squeezes; how a character who feels like a real person will behave in unexpected and awful situations. This is the grotesque that Flannery O’Connor writes and writes about, and there’s nothing unreal about it.

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Lena Bertone’s Origami Zoo chapbook, Behind This Mirror, will be released in fall 2014! Continue celebrating Short Story Month even more with Origami Zoo Press by reading these posts by BJ Hollars, Anne Valente and Ben Hoffman, and by checking out our sale–all chapbooks of fiction are $5!