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Congrats to Our Best Small Fictions 2016 Nominees

Best Small Fictions coverLast week, we mailed off our nominees for the Queen’s Ferry Press anthology, Best Small Fiction 2016. We’re proud to officially announce our selections. There were so many good stories to choose from. Congratulations to the five nominees:

About the Nominees:

Caitlin Scarano is a poet in the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee PhD creative writing program. She was a finalist for the 2014 Best of the Net Anthology and the winner of the 2015 Indiana Review Poetry Prize, judged by Eduardo Corral. She has two poetry chapbooks. This winter, she will be an artist in residence at the Hinge Arts Residency program in Fergus Falls and the Artsmith’s 2016 Artist Residency on Orcas Island.

Tamara K. Walker dreams of irrealities among typewriter ribbons, stuffed animals and duct tape flower barrettes. She resides near Boulder, Colorado with her wife/life partner and blogs irregularly about writing and literature at http://tamarakwalker.wordpress.com. She may also be found online at http://about.me/tamara.kwalker. Her writing has previously appeared or is forthcoming in The Cafe Irreal, A cappella Zoo, Melusine, Apocrypha and Abstractions, Gay Flash Fiction, Identity Theory, a handful of poetry zines, and several themed print anthologies published by Kind of a Hurricane Press.

Ingrid Jendrzejewski studied creative writing and English literature at the University of Evansville before going on to study physics at the University of Cambridge. She has soft spots for go, cryptic crosswords, and the python programming language, but these days spends most of her time trying to keep up with a delightfully energetic toddler. Once in a very great while, she adds a tiny something to www.ingridj.com and tweets at @LunchOnTuesday.

Sarah Mitchell-Jackson is a novelist and a short story writer. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in The Critical Pass Review and Really System. Her debut novel, Ashes, will be out this year published by Blue Moon Publishers. You can read more of her work at www.smitchjack.wordpress.com.

John Englehardt’s stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Sycamore Review, The Stranger, Monkeybicycle, The Monarch Review, and Furlough Magazine. He won the 2014 Wabash Prize in Fiction, as well as The Stranger‘s A&P fiction contest. He’s a recent graduate of University of Arkansas’ MFA program, and now lives and works in Seattle.


2016 AWP Panel: “What the Heck Does Innovative Fiction Actually Mean?”

The 2016 AWP Conference schedule is now available. The Conium Review is pleased to be presenting an informal talk on innovative fiction. The panel is called “What the Heck Does Innovative Fiction Actually Mean?: Authors Cut Through the Jargon.” It’s scheduled for Friday, April 1st at 3:00pm on the Scott James Bookfair Stage.

Panelists include Carmiel Banasky, Ashley Farmer, Lindsay Hunter, and Stephen Graham Jones. James R. Gapinski moderates.

Carmiel Banasky is a writer and teacher from Portland, OR. Her debut novel, The Suicide of Claire Bishop, confronts the portrayals of mental illness in art. After earning her MFA from Hunter College, Carmiel spent four years on the road at writing residencies. She now teaches creative writing in LA.

Ashley Farmer is the author of the short fiction collection Beside Myself and two forthcoming poetry collections: The Women and The Farmacist. A former editor forAtomica, Salt Hill, and other publications, she currently coedits Juked.

Lindsay Hunter is the author of the novel Ugly Girls, which the Huffington Post called “a story that hits a note that’s been missing from the chorus of existing feminist literature.” She is also the author of the flash fiction story collections Don’t Kiss Me and Daddy’s.

Stephen Graham Jones is the author of fifteen novels, five collections, and more than two hundred short stories. More forthcoming.

James R. Gapinski is managing editor of The Conium Review. His fiction has appeared in Lunch Ticket, NANO Fiction, Cheap Pop, Word Riot, and elsewhere.

Be sure to stop by The Conium Review‘s table during the 2016 AWP Conference too. We’ll have discounted books for sale, a free micro-chapbook, and other swag. We’re at table #1238. The full map and list of exhibitors is available here.

“This Is Great But You Don’t Need It,” by John Englehardt

Maze Sketch

You find happiness beside a food truck on Pike and Broadway, while you are waiting for the tacos you just ordered. It’s an illogical type of happiness, the kind that has no object, as if a net that smothered your thoughts has been chewed away, and now your attention spills outward. So you decide not to go home. You carry your tacos to the park to eat them with yourself—which, you decide, is not the same thing as eating them alone.

So you walk, and you keep finding what the happiness is. You think: it is the plum blossoms. It is the dogs carrying leashes in their own mouths. It is how your blood feels powerfully sober. It is a group of people at a bus stop who all stand on their toes, lean over the curb, together catching sight of their bus, which is just now coming down a hill.

So the next morning, you are in line for coffee when a nanny for some rich Microsoft family walks in. She’s holding hands with a toddler. A few minutes later, she offers him banana chips and he swings his entire arm in a Frankenstein-like fashion across the table, scattering the chips across the floor. The girl doesn’t seem to care. She gathers her hair across a front shoulder and sips the brimming foam from her latte. And when she straightens and smiles at you with her whole face, you decide to ask her out on a date.

That night, you both walk through snow flurries, to a bar that has transformed with the weather, feels like a ski lodge. The girl orders whiskey. When her hair dries out, it looks iridescent from the bar lights, like a frizzy halo. She gets drunk with you and tells you about writing suicide notes to her parents when she was only six years old, about an ex-boyfriend who had to take all his clothes off anytime he took a shit. You think: this is fun. You think: I am learning.

One of your friends throws a brunch party. His house is a big faded triangle with bicycles and damp people oozing from the doors. You eat waffles late into the afternoon. Then a strange guy with hair braided into pigtails—someone’s co-worker, probably—interrupts a group conversation. He says, “Man, I don’t believe in power. All power is just inferiority, anyways.” No one responds. The whole room is silent, and one friend is holding a pillow to her chest and smiling at the ceiling. You decide that all of you, together, are making the world a better place with that silence.

These days, you rarely check your email. You are not signing onto Facebook to look at pictures of “Ashley and Justin’s rustic barn wedding.” You are not wishing for the things people always do. You are not jealous of the couples wearing sweat pants in Trader Joes, buying falafel mix for dinner on a Friday. You do not even want a volatile lover inconsistent with your own nature. And when you look in the mirror, you do so only long enough to decide that you are balding with dignity, though just a few years ago you would not have considered that to be possible.

The Microsoft nanny asks you out to lunch, to a restaurant that only serves Pho and cream puffs. After squirting plum sauce into her “medium veggie,” she tells you she has contracted a skin disease that, while treatable, is painful and semi-contagious. It will be two years before she can be sexually active. You’ve only been on one date, so you can’t be sad. She takes you into the bathroom and pulls down her pants to show you the red dots spreading around her thighs and torso. Molluscum Contagiosum. She got it from swimming in a hotel pool. You walk her home, and saying goodbye feels like practice for the other times you’ll have to leave someone else, for when it will be much more difficult.

So you walk alone until dinnertime, and by then all the brick apartment buildings and Victorian mansions have their lights on. Tenants are painting at their kitchen tables. They are putting everything in drawers. They are smoking too much weed and spending hours reading about the Illuminati. They are poised on living room rugs, performing stretches that will help with sciatic nerve pain. They are not the type of people who think that, at age 26, if they haven’t found someone to “be with,” that they might end up alone. They do not pretend that there can be a plot for their happiness. They know how feelings that never change are lies.

It ends while you are asleep. Your mind discovers that there is no reason for your happiness. It’s not that your subconscious reviles that emotion—it’s just that, from a certain angle, happiness looks like something you don’t need anymore. So it gets released, and in the morning you sit in bed, laptop on thighs, staring at previously read emails. You get ready, but the longer you look in the mirror, the more you have to stand in front of it. And on your walk to work, all the blinds are closed. Attractive strangers are smug. You want to care about the plum blossoms, but you don’t. You try to see them falling around you like pink TV snow. You try to see them as they were. But what you are doing is this: you are reaching out into the world to find happiness again, but it’s one of those things that wouldn’t be real if you could touch it, that wouldn’t be worth much if it could be chased after leaving.

About the Author:

John Englehardt’s stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Sycamore Review, The Stranger, Monkeybicycle, The Monarch Review, and Furlough Magazine. He won the 2014 Wabash Prize in Fiction, as well as The Stranger‘s A&P fiction contest. He’s a recent graduate of University of Arkansas’ MFA program, and now lives and works in Seattle.

Special Notes:

This story won The Conium Review‘s 2014 Flash Fiction Contest, judged by Ashley Farmer.  It was also made into a micro-chap and distributed at the 2015 AWP Conference in Minneapolis, MN.

This story is one of The Conium Review‘s nominations for the Sundress Publications anthology, Best of the Net 2015.

This story was nominated and listed as a semifinalist for the Queen’s Ferry Press anthology, Best Small Fictions 2016, guest edited by Stuart Dybek.

Image Credit: © carlacastagno / Dollar Photo Club

John Englehardt is the 2014 Flash Fiction Contest Winner!

We’re pleased to announce the winner of the 2014 Flash Fiction Contest.  Congratulations to John Englehardt for his winning piece, “This Is Great But You Don’t Need It.” This year’s judge, Ashley Farmer, says “This story is a heart-breaker and a rule-breaker, a clear breath and a gut punch. It’s unorthodox in its point of view and risky in its sincerity. A full life and full world in three short pages, yet I’d stay there for longer if I could.”

John Englehardt’s stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Sycamore Review, The Stranger, Monkeybicycle, The Monarch Review, and Furlough Magazine. He’s a recent graduate of University of Arkansas’ MFA program, and now lives and works in Seattle. John will receive a $300 prize and a copy of Ashley Farmer’s latest book; his winning story will appear on The Conium Review Online Compendium, we’ll turn it into a handcrafted micro-chap for distribution at the AWP Conference, and John will be reading “This Is Great But You Don’t Need It” at an off-site reading at Eat My Words Books in Minneapolis, MN.

The 2014 Flash Fiction Contest finalists were Sarah Colwill-Brown, Ingrid Jendrzejewski, Melody Sage, Caitlin Scarano, Hsien Chong Tan, and Will Walawender.

The Conium Review editorial staff thanks everybody who submitted and supported this contest.  We look forward to announcing next year’s judge soon, and we hope many of you will consider submitting to the contest again in 2015.  In the meantime, remember that our general submission queue is currently open.  Furthermore, our Innovative Short Fiction Contest, judged by Amelia Gray, begins reading submissions on February 1st, 2015.