Tag Archives: short stories

An Interview with Karen Stefano

Karen Stefano 1Karen Stefano is Fiction Editor for Connotation Press: An Online Artifact of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, drama, and book reviews. She’s published her stories in The South Carolina Review, Tampa Review, Santa Fe Literary Review, Epiphany, and elsewhere. Karen was nominated for a 2013 Pushcart Prize. Her collection, The Secret Games of Words, is available in Kindle and paperback formats on Amazon.com

Interview by Robert Hambling Davis 

Secret games of word

RHD: Karen, when I read The Secret Games of Words, I was immediately impressed by two of your many strengths as a fiction writer. I’ll address them separately. The first one, which I call formatting a story, I mentioned in my short review. Did the personality-inventory format of “Undone” come to you with the idea for the story? Or did you write a draft of the story first and then decide on the best format to present the narrative, for the most emotional impact?

KS:  I’ll spare you the details, but in 2007 I began seeing a therapist who would not take a new patient until said patient completed the MMPI. So I got busy with the test and found that the questions delighted me (Would I like to work as a librarian? Hell yes I would!! Do evil spirits possess me? I sure as hell hope not!! Do I hear voices? Yes, but fortunately only when I’m writing!!).  I thought every single question provided an excellent prompt for story-telling. It took me awhile to figure out how to put it all together, to make “Undone” work in terms of “the occasion for telling,” but actually taking the test is how this story came about. Reading the questions also harkened me back to my days as an undergrad at Berkeley, where I was a Psych major, so I suppose the MMPI and other diagnostic tools have always held a place in my heart.  

Generally speaking, format and structure are always difficult for me. I wish I could say I have an organized method for creating short fiction, but I don’t. The shape of my stories seemingly come about on their own, but only after many, many rounds of edits.

Karen Stefano reading at the Tin House Writer’s Workshop

RHD: Of the twenty-three stories in your collection, several are flash fiction. The collection is a mix of short and long, and I enjoyed the changeup. As a fellow fiction writer and editor, I’ve heard other fiction writers express their inability to write flash fiction, saying, “I can’t write short.” You don’t seem to have that problem. Do you read a lot of flash fiction? Do you conceive of a flash fiction piece the same way that you conceive of a longer story? Along these lines, I especially liked “Visitor,” which is a page and a half long, a complete story about a shoplifter who sells counterfeit Ray-Bans on the side of the road, to make enough money to pay her rent. By the end of the story, she’s no longer worrying about her rent as she feels compassion for an abused young girl.

Karen StefanoKS:  I had never written a word of flash before 2013. That year I joined a writing group consisting of myself and the uber-talented Meg Tuite, Len Kuntz, and Robert Vaughan, each of whom are masters of the form. Every week for an entire year we took turns providing the prompt, then we were expected to circulate a draft of a story not exceeding 500 words within the next week, then we had another week in which to critique each other’s work. The experience was immensely productive and satisfying.  “Look!” I could say to myself, “I finished something! I wrote a whole story in just a week!” You have no idea how great this feels when you are working on a novel, when you are a person for whom writing takes a long, long time. “Visitor” stemmed from one of those weekly prompts of 2013. Flash also teaches a writer that every word matters. It’s an incredibly disciplined form and I would encourage anyone who says, “I can’t write short” to give it another try. I am a strong believer that writing flash makes one a better writer overall.

Karen Stefano 4

RHD: You have over twenty years of litigation experience, with a JD/MBA (specializing in law and business administration). How much does your day job inspire you to write fiction?

KS: Yes, and I want to note for the record that I started practicing law when I was just five years old, okay? But to answer your question: So far, very little. I did criminal defense for eight years and to say I met a lot of interesting people would be the understatement of the year. I was thrown into so many situations that touched me deeply. I’ve tried to write about them, but the experiences have just not translated onto the page for me yet. I also worked at a large civil litigation firm that was comically dysfunctional. I hope to make use of that pain on the page some day, but that hasn’t happened yet either. But with all of that being said, smidgeons of my life as a lawyer sometimes come through in my work. The prosecutor in “Undone,” for example, is based on a real life prick I used to encounter all too often in the courtroom.

RHD: Who are some of your favorite short story writers?

KS: Oh, there are too many to list, but I’ll try. Lorrie Moore, Deborah Eisenberg, Flannery O’Connor, Benjamin Percy, Steve Almond, Miranda July. There are also many emerging writers whose work I love. Donna Trump, for example, who we featured recently in Connotation Press, writes beautifully. I hope that in the very near future she gets the wide audience she so richly deserves. Robert P. Kaye (another Connotation Press alum!) is another of my favorites. His work is brilliant and with the right exposure I see him as the next Karen Russell (and no, I’m not overstating it).

Karen Stefano 5RHD: Aside from the Squaw Valley Writers Workshop, you’ve been to the Tin House Workshop twice and to the Breadloaf Conference. What’s your feeling about writing workshops and conferences in general? Do you feel you’ve had stories published that perhaps wouldn’t have been published if you hadn’t workshopped them?

KS: Honestly? In my view, the most beneficial thing about workshops is the people you meet, the relationships that are formed. Take you and me, for example. We met at Squaw, in a workshop, which by definition can be a setting where one can feel pretty vulnerable. You and I connected because we enjoyed one another’s work and we stayed in touch and exchanged work for awhile thereafter. I’ve had similar experiences in other workshops and the results are amazing. I mean, I’ve formed some real friendships, friendships that have gotten me through some pretty rough times in the past year or so. That is a remarkable gift. We need each other. Writing itself is difficult. And the writing life is even more difficult. We need to cheer each other on, to help one another through the days of self doubt. 

And yes, getting edits and critiques from people I’ve connected with has definitely helped shape stories that would otherwise have been “DOA.” But that doesn’t always happen in the workshop itself. The reality is that not every writer in the workshop is going to have useful and productive suggestions for your work. You have to pick and choose what and who you listen to.

rhdavis-1 –Robert Hambling Davis is a fiction editor of The Fox Chase Review. He has been published in The Sun, Antietam Review, Memoir (and), Philadelphia Stories, Santa Monica Review, and elsewhere. He’s been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes, and received three Delaware Division of the Arts grants, two for fiction and one for creative nonfiction. He was a fiction semifinalist in the William Faulkner Creative Writing Contest in 2002 and 2012, and a creative nonfiction winner in 2013. Robert helps direct the Delaware Literary Connection, a nonprofit serving writers in Delaware and surrounding areas. He is a member of the Delaware Artist Roster, and has given writing workshops and readings in the Mid-Atlantic.

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Coming Soon….The Winter 2015 Edition of The Fox Chase Review

The Banks of the Pennypack Creek in Philadelphia

The Banks of the Pennypack Creek in Philadelphia

The winter 2015 edition of The Fox Chase Review is now in production. This edition will feature:

Poetry by:

M.P. Carver, Colin Dardis, Marty Esworthy, Melanie Eyth,  Gene Halus, Phil Linz, Gloria Monaghan, Stephen Page,  Chad Parenteau,  Prabha Nayak Prabhu,  Felino A. Soriano, Jack Veasey,  Lee Varon

Fiction by:

Ramona Long, Mary Pauer, Jeffrey Voccola

 

Einstein’s Beach House – Stories by Jacob M. Appel

einsteinPaperback: 188 pages

Publisher: Pressgang (December 5, 2014)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0984940588

ISBN-13: 978-0984940585

Review by g emil reutter

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In Einstein’s Beach House, Jacob Appel, tackles family relationships, love affairs intermingled with hedgehogs, turtles and mental illness. Of Rabbis and conductors, child advocates and child molesters. These eight stories flow nicely in a matter of fact voice of the author, who no matter what the topic is, makes sense of it all, or does he?

The title story is set at the Jersey shore when a couple finds out that their home, which has been the home of the family for generations, was once Einstein’s beach house. The father, who is out of work, begins to give tours of the house at twenty five bucks a head. His wife is not approving but accepts the cash until a knock comes to the door and it is Einstein’s niece who has come a knocking. Appel is a master at character interaction, defining the family relationship between parents and children in short order.

Appel writes quirky stories, humor pops up in unexpected places and the stories flow with great energy. It is in these dysfunctional stories Appel tells us it is ok to be who you are, no matter who you are. He leaves us sometimes with joy, sometimes with broken hearts but always writes stories that keep moving even when death is just around the corner.

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You can find the book here: http://www.amazon.com/Einsteins-Beach-House-Jacob-Appel/dp/0984940588/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1417220259&sr=1-1&keywords=einsteins%27s+beach+house+by+jacob+m+appel

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g emil reutter at Chop Suey Books-g emil reutter lives and writes in the Fox Chase neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pa. (USA). https://gereutter.wordpress.com/about/

 

The Summer 2014 Edition of The Fox Chase Review is now live

Pennypack Creek between Veree Road and Pine Road- Philadlephia, Pa

The Summer 2014 Edition of The Fox Chase Review is now live for your reading pleasure

Poetry by: Vinita Agrawal, Andrea Applebee, Jose Angel Araguz, Peter Baroth, Mike Cohen, Erin Dorney, Zach Fishel, Kristina Moriconi, Ariana Nadia Nash, Salvwi Prasad, Zvi A. Sesling, Kimmika Williams Witherspoon

Fiction by: Katie Cortese, Beverly Romain and J. Erin Sweeney

The Fox Chase Review can be found here:  http://www.thefoxchasereview.org/

Enjoy the Latest Ficiton in the Fox Chase Review

fox chase reviewEnjoy the latest fiction in The Fox Chase Review by Natalia Cherjovsky, Louise Halvadsson, Jen Michalski, Lester Mobley, Dawn Sperber, Chad Willenborg, and George Wyelsol. Click this link to follow the stories: http://www.thefoxchasereview.org/fiction.html

The Summer 2012 Edition of The Fox Chase Review is now Live

The Summer 2012 edition of The Fox Chase Review is now live and on line. Featuring poetry by: A.D. Winans, Le Hinton, Stevie Edwards, Mel Brake, Stephen Page, James D. Quinton, Frank Wilson, Anthony Buccino, John Dorsey, Melanie Lynn Huber, Jim Mancinelli, James Arthur, Christine Klocek-Lim,  Nicholas Balsirow, Jane Lewty, Elijah Pringle and prose by Russell Reece.

If you are in Fox Chase stop in and visit with us at The Fox Chase Reading Series (our schedule).

Celebrate National Short Story Month with The Fox Chase Review

May is National Short Story Month. The Fox Chase Review added prose to our publication in January 2010 and we have listed them right here for you to have a look back. Celebrate National Short Story Month by reading the writers published in The Fox Chase Review.

Short Stories in The Fox Chase Review January 2010 to January 2012

End of the Season  and Just a Job by Alice Wootson http://www.foxchasereview.org/10WS/WootsonA.html#1 

Breakfast at Sal’s by Noah Cutler http://www.foxchasereview.org/10SU/NoahDCutler.html 

I am Joy by A. Ignoni Barrett http://www.foxchasereview.org/10AW/AIBarrett.html

Trapped by Michelle Reale http://www.foxchasereview.org/10AW/MReale.html 

True Flies by Amy Burns http://www.foxchasereview.org/11WS/AmyBurns.html 

Monkey Mountain by Jen Michalski http://www.foxchasereview.org/11WS/JenMichalski.html

Elizabeth on a Good Day by Susan Gibb http://www.foxchasereview.org/11WS/SusanGibb.html 

Astro Mother and Girl Odysseus by Dawn Sperber  http://www.foxchasereview.org/11WS/DawnSperber.html 

Old Habits and It’s Raining Blood by Louise Halvardsson  http://www.foxchasereview.org/11June/LouiseHalvardsson.html 

Family by Michael Onofrey http://www.foxchasereview.org/11June/MichaelOnofrey.html 

Mexico by Robert Hambling Davis http://www.foxchasereview.org/11June/RobertHamblingDavis.html 

Life Among the Clouds by Noah Cutler http://www.foxchasereview.org/11June/NoahCutler.html 

Fingerprints on the Windowpane by William Hastings http://www.foxchasereview.org/11June/WilliamHastings.html 

The Children’s Magical Garden by Amy Bergen http://www.foxchasereview.org/11AW/ABergen.html 

A Beijing Feast by Peter Tieryas Liu http://www.foxchasereview.org/11AW/PTieryasLiu.html 

Boxing up Martin and The Exorcism by Nathalie Cherjovsky  http://www.foxchasereview.org/12WS/NataliaCherjovsky.html 

The Snake Charmer’s Arm & Other Altered States by Andrea Isacson http://www.foxchasereview.org/12WS/AlexandraIsacson.html