Friday, March 26, 2010

TC @ AWP 2010!

Third Coast will be attending the AWP Conference and Bookfair April 8-10 in Denver.

Editorial staff will be on hand at the Bookfair to meet, greet, and answer your questions. Stop by our table and say hi as well as pick up a copy of the magazine!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Literary Fiction is Alive and Well Linkbucket

by guest blogger Erin Fitzgerald

There's much more to revolution and innovation in literature than the Kindle. To find some, all you have to do is open your browser.

Duotrope is the Google of online literary magazines. Print ones have listings as well. Over 2800 listings are here overall, all searchable, and each includes tons of writer-reported information. If you register with Duotrope, you can contribute to the data collection -- and take advantage of Duotrope's very robust Submissions Tracker. The "What's New" page is a great place to watch for new publications, and to see which publications are currently making decisions. Litlist is a newer kid on the litmag indexing block, and one where editors and writers both can participate.

NewPages is a great stop for more traditional browsing of new media. There's lots of other things going at NewPages, too -- reviews of print and online litmags and books, regularly updated calls for submission and contest entries, bookstore listings, and plenty more. If you only have time for a little bit each day, there's also the NewPages blog.

If you like the blog approach, Emerging Writers Network is definitely one to bookmark, as is PANKblog. Both have merit of their own -- the former is affiliated with Dzanc Books and the latter with PANK magazine. Both have strong fingers on the pulse of independent online literature.

If you appreciate awards, then visits to the Million Writers Award and the Wigleaf 50 are in order. Both projects celebrate online fiction in the previous calendar year, as does Dzanc Books' Best of the Web in a print edition. These are all great places to find exciting work.

Once you've read some of what's out there, it's time to read the commentary. HTMLGiant and BIG OTHER both offer it many times daily, each with their own aesthetic, priorities, and sets of contributors. Comments sections are always open, and often fascinating. Lurk a little, and decide which place is for you. (I like them both, for different reasons.)

Fictionaut is where the Internet does things for writers that the meatspace world really never could. Fictionaut users can post their work online -- privately, to groups, or publicly -- and receive feedback. The front page shows you the most recent additions, and the current favorites. It's a great place for writers to see or be seen. Everyone can read, and participation is by invitation from a member. Fictionaut also has its share of interviews and updates. That includes Luna Digest, a regular news feature put together by yet another favorite site, Luna Park.

Twitter and Facebook are as ubiquitous in the online literature world as they are everywhere else. Friending and following writers and publications is a great way to find out about the next big things, and to be part of a vibrant community.

These links are just the beginning. The Internet is full of hard-working, talented writers and readers who are changing the world. Jump in, and don't look back.

Guest blogger Erin Fitzgerald is a writer and the editor of the Northville Review. She blogs at Rarely Likable: a litblog for dilettantes the home of frequent literary linkbuckets -- a great source for those attempting to keep up with the conversation about literature and writing that is happening on the web. See recent posts for a brief review of some of her short fiction available online.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

What We're Reading: Erin Fitzgerald

Review by Eileen Wiedbrauk

The short-short and flash fiction of Erin Fitzgerald, writer, editor and blogger, can be found among some of the most respected online journals (full listing here). And we -- the bloggers and editors of Third Coast -- have been reading it all.

Fitzgerald's stories are the kind of the little treasures I love to come across when reading on the web. She has a way of turning the common place, the frustrating, or the ubiquitous aspects of contemporary American life into interesting and surprising narratives. Picking the kids up from school, identity theft, and the teeny-bopper jewelry boutique become occasions for horror, humor, and the start of an interplanetary war respectively.

In spite of the brevity of much of her work -- or perhaps because of it -- Fitgerald is able to believably adopt the voices of wildly different characters. The mesmerizing voice of the narrator in "This Morning Will Be Different" tells us "I am ready," but not for what. The narrator lays out all the things she will do and in the end leaves us with only an echo -- a sense of yearning easily understood by many a daydreamer. The narrator of "There Are Always Children" speaks in a much more visceral manner: "A thought crawls into my skull through my sinuses." But for this unnamed narrator thoughts arrive too late. "That should be a warning," Fitzgerald tells the reader.

The hushed but workable terror that pervades "There Are Always Children" snakes through her other works, even those cloaked in the trappings of sensible suburban adulthood. It's there in a subtle way that leaves the reader unsettled but intrigued in "Where Did It All Go Wrong?" "Waiting Room" and even in "Trumpet Voluntary."

Perhaps that should be a warning is a good means of describe Erin Fitzgerald's stories -- not a warning to stay away, but to stick around for the twist.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Third Coast Contest Winners Announced!

Congratulations to the 2010 contest winners in fiction and poetry! A listing of the winners, runners up and finalists can be viewed on the Third Coast website. The winning entries themselves will appear in the Fall 2010 issue of Third Coast.

Thank you to everyone who entered! The 2011 contest will open in September. More details to be posted this summer.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

First Impression, Last Chance

by Nathan Norton

Certain things in life are kind-hearted enough to extend to you a second chance. Your story’s initial impact on editors is not one of those kind-hearted things.

You get one little lonesome chance. A chance. Not chances . . . chance. One. That’s it. One chance to hook the editor, assistant editor, reading intern, or whatever other English-savvy entity that might be holding your publishing future in the palm of their usually rather opinionated hand.

As a reader for Third Coast, I can say with a certain degree of experience that this is resoundingly and inescapably true. If you don’t believe me, talk to some editors or other lit mag readers. They’ll tell you the same thing. Page one—often sentence one—is where you need to start shining, or else you’ll be discarded like Hillary Duff’s musical relevance.

The first line of a story has a hefty workload. Raise questions, introduce conflict, establish tone and voice, and many times introduce your primary player(s). It doesn’t have to do them all, but it has to do a handful of them. Without most of these elements in the first one or two lines, your reader is already asking, “Why am I reading this?”

The hairy and entirely realistic nature of the beast is that editors don’t have time to sift through your story looking for potential. Fluff is for pillows. Fat is for Albert. Cut them both. Be interesting and direct immediately.

Most editors I’ve spoken with and read advice columns from will give a short story one page to get them interested. The most generous among them ventured as far as three. The cruelest among them said if the first sentence isn’t unique and intriguing, they toss the piece immediately. That means that no matter how amazing your story might get on page twelve when your ninja-wizard detective launches a Montana-shaped fireball out of his Mysterious Trench Coat of Mystery and disintegrates the Dreaded Duck of Doom, the editor didn’t get that far. There wasn’t enough spice in the first page to keep him wanting more.

It really is quite a tall order. And if it crushes your soul just a little to know that many editors may be reading nothing more than a few paragraphs of that masterpiece you’ve been working on . . . well, it should. You have to be at the top of your craft at the top of your product. Evocative language, original voice, conflictive first sentences, they’re all early attention grabbers that seize readers by their easily distracted haunches and demand “I’M WORTH READING!”

Consider some of the following first sentences:

The Zamboni had to go around Joey Cooper, the man thinking about omelets. – Misha Angrist, “So Much the Better”

It was half-past love on New Day in Zenith and the clocks were striking Heaven. – J.G. Ballard, “Passport to Eternity”

A man without hands came to the door to sell me a photograph of my house. – Raymond Carver, “Viewfinder”

During these last decades the interest in professional fasting has markedly diminished. – Franz Kafka, “A Hunger Artist”

I stood in my filthy overalls and boots serving deviled eggs to a woman who had lost her rabbit. – Peyton Marshall, “Bunnymoon”


I know, right? Don’t you just want to read all of those stories right this very moment to find out what in G. Gordon Liddy’s name is going on? These are great examples of mere sentences—not paragraphs, but sentences—that capture attention quicker than Tiger Woods’ personal infidelity captured frenzied media coverage. This is the kind of effect you want to have on your readers. You want a reader to say, “Tell me more, Master Storyteller!” not “Who cares, ya hack?”

Polish that first page. Read it over and over again. If you don’t find yourself grinning just a little at your accomplishments in the preliminary sentences every time the words pass your eyeballs, re-write them until you do. Then re-write them again until your friends and family do. Then re-write them again until complete strangers do. Be sure to make it sparkle. Your first impression could be your last chance.

Nathan Norton serves as intern to the Third Coast fiction editors.