Tag Archives: Hermeneutic Chaos Journal

Weird and Wonderful Flash: Hermeneutic Chaos Journal

20 Mar

It’s Market Monday and I’m advocating Chaos.

Last week Hermeneutic Chaos Journal published its March issue, and I’m lucky enough to be included. I discovered HCJ in one of the Best Small Fictions collections, and immediately fell in love with their voice. I have only twice read stories at a magazine and concluded that my work is an obvious match—the first time with the Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, then with HCJ. In both cases I thought of a particular story immediately that might be right for the magazine, and in both cases the editor said yes to that submission within two days. Lightning should strike only once, really, so I now must accept that this particular brand of serendipity will never happen for me again, which makes my publication at HCJ especially sweet. Would you like to join me, there?

Do I like what they publish? Very much indeed. I’ve already highlighted a story from HCJ on a Fiction Friday, and I’ve got another HCJ flash I want to revel in some Fiction Friday coming in the next few months. In the meantime, here’s Sara Barač’s spare and evocative “Former Yugoslavia, Former You” from the current issue, and Jennifer Maritza McCauley’s sad, quiet “The Girl We Forgot” from Issue Sixteen.

Do they do justice to the published work? I love the art at the top of HCJ’s homepage, and each piece chosen to grace an issue page. So that—the arresting images and colors—grab me first. When I click on the link to a story, I get a soft, spacious white page with the story laid out simply, a minimalist presentation that lets the work speak for itself. As a bonus, any author who’s willing provides an audio file to accompany the story, so you can close your eyes and be read to, if you like. I’d never been asked to provide a reading of a published story before, and I enjoyed doing it. I don’t know why more online magazines don’t take advantage of what the Web allows.

Do their guidelines speak to me? They had me at this: “We admire all forms of experimental, hybrid and avant-garde literature, collaborative writings, visual and graphic outpourings – anything that literature is capable of.” That’s speaking MY language for sure, but the proof is in the reading. As it happens, I connect with, enjoy, and admire the work published here, and that’s the proof. I also appreciate being able to submit up to three pieces of prose at once (up to a total of 3K words).

So maybe invite a little literary chaos into your life and send a story or three their way? Let me know if you get published at HCJ so I can congratulate you!

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Testing Writing Rules: A Fab Flash

27 Jan

It’s Fiction Friday and I’m celebrating with a story that reminds me of one of my least favorite writing rules.

I’m all for breaking the rules of writingcraft. I love to engage in a furious bout of TELLING rather than showing, thank you very much, and I wonder sometimes if I’m capable of writing any other kind of story than the “zero-to-zero” Jerome Stern outlawed in Making Shapely Fiction. But the rule I most like to break? The one that makes me snarl? “Write what you know.”

I get it. The rule actually means “Use what you know.” And that’s good advice. But when you’re first starting out, and everywhere you turn someone’s advising you solemnly to write what you know, and then shoving Carver and Hemingway at you, not to mention Updike, not to mention Philip fucking Roth (notice a pattern?) you find yourself thinking, well, I don’t spend my evenings staring at a shot glass or swapping angry silence with a spouse or toting a gun or rushing off to dark corners to either masturbate or get it on with somebody else’s spouse, so I write about… what… Scrabble? Cats?? Wait, I know! My parents’ divorce or that time my brother almost lost a finger because there was suffering, people suffered.

Rule BookI’m just saying: If you limit your fiction to the things you know—things, then, you already understand—why on earth are you writing in the first place? Build a brick oven or make a suit of armour. Do something creepy with papier mâché. Writing is about discovery. The whole point is to write what you don’t know—what you can’t know, in fact, until you write it.

So that’s me, being right, and sharing my rightness with you. Except when I’m wrong! And today I’m wrong. A little. Because the fab flash I’m celebrating is built, I’m certain, on intimate knowledge. Of insomnia. And how do I know that? Because I used to suffer from insomnia. I know how it feels, what it looks and smells like, the particular ways in which it rubs away at your smarts and senses. And I recognize it in a beautiful flash fiction published at Hermeneutic Chaos Journal.

I’d bet money Tessa Yang wrote “Peripheral” from the experience of having suffered from insomnia, or she knows well an insomniac who told her all about it. And so, I would say, she used what she knows, which is why I’m only a little wrong. OR I’m even more right than ever (win-win!) because maybe she just did a little research and then imagined herself, like a champ, into it. Either way (1) Please break writing rules whenever you can, and (2) Read this terrific, quiet, shifty little story ostensibly about one thing but really about something else and then something else again….

Which is really all to say that the one true-blue writing rule you can forever depend on? Reading well leads to writing well. Enjoy.

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