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“Souvenirs” reviewed at “Necessary Fiction”

Souvenirs Cover Mock UpEric Andrew Newman at Necessary Fiction has reviewed Matt Tompkins’s Souvenirs and Other Stories (Conium Press, 2016).

He notes “In his book Souvenirs and Other Stories, Matt Tompkins is able to bring magic to the mundane . . . ” and he says the stories “all pack a narrative punch.” The reviewer goes on to compare Matt’s style to that of George Saunders and Manuel Gonzales.

Eric closes the review by saying “While every narrative in Souvenirs and Other Stories seems fairly simple on the surface, they ultimately have multiple layers and grapple with more complex issues than those seen at first glance. Not only do the stories wrestle with loss, but also companionship, family, reality, and sanity. Each of the stories deals with the kernel of a bigger issue, but never in a heavy-handed and always in an entertaining way.” Read the full review at Necessary Fiction‘s website.

“Souvenirs and Other Stories” now available on Kindle

Souvenirs ebook coverMatt Tompkins’s new book, Souvenirs and Other Stories, officially launched last month in paperback format. Today, the ebook version officially goes live. Get the Kindle edition of Souvenirs here.

Matt’s book is a bizarre and surreal collection of stories. Beth Gilstrap, author of I Am Barbarella, says it’s “reminiscent of a quirky, yet lovable mixture of the likes of Harvey Pekar and Aimee Bender,” and Christopher Kennedy, author of Ennui Prophet, says this book is “a pleasure to read from cover to cover.”

To celebrate the ebook launch, we’re also unveiling the “Dis/appearances” theme, guest edited by Matt Tompkins. The “Dis/appearances” pieces will appear (pun intended) throughout the weekend. We’ll be posting one story per day beginning later today! Check back this evening to read the first piece.

Introducing our new fiction editors

We’re pleased to formally announce our four newest staff members: Holly Lopez, Meredith Maltby, Marina Petrova, and William VanDenBerg! They’ve already begun reading submissions and have proven themselves valuable members of The Conium Review team.

Holly Lopez is a recent graduate of the MFA program at Queens University of Charlotte. Her work has appeared in Plots With Guns, Charlotte Viewpoint, and Choose Wisely: 35 Women Up To No Good. She is also the recipient of the 2012 Marjorie Blankenship Melton Award in Fiction. As an editor, she appreciates when writers subvert expectations and produce stories that are fresh and unconventional. She’s most interested in strange stories that also have dimension, red-blooded characters, and effectively tap into the human condition. Some of her favorite authors include George Saunders, Donald Barthelme, Aimee Bender, Kelly Link, and Karen Russell.

Meredith Maltby is the poetry editor for the Tulane Review and was a featured poet at Design Cloud Chicago’s HERE / NOW event. Meredith has previously published her work in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, The Chicago Tribune, ROAR: a literary journal for women of the arts, and Gravel Journal, among others. She appreciates interesting and strange writing from underrepresented voices. She admires and is influenced by Amelia Gray’s Gutshot, Lincoln Michel’s Upright Beasts, Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood, Bonnie Campell’s Mothers Tell Your Daughters, and anything by Ariana Reines or Melissa Broder.

Marina Petrova was published in The Conium Review: Vol. 4, and when we posted our call for editors, she was eager to get more involved with our small press. She graduated from the MFA program at The New School in May 2014, where she had previously served as a reader for LIT. Her work has appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Underwater New York, and Calliope Anthology. She’s currently working on a collection of short stories. In her non-writing life, she also works as a Business Analyst for a Media Tech company. Marina is a native Russian speaker, and growing up she was influenced by Chekhov, Nabokov, and Bulgakov. More recently, she’s become a huge fan of Donald Barthelme, Italo Calvino, Ben Marcus, Junot Díaz, and George Saunders.

William VanDenBerg is a first year MFA student at Brown University. He is the author of two chapbooks: Lake of Earth from Caketrain Press and Apostle Islands from Solar Luxuriance—he’ll be signing copies of these chapbooks at our AWP Conference table in Los Angeles (table #1238). He loves the work of Donald Barthelme, Ann Quin, Lindsay Hunter, Amelia Gray, and Steven Millhauser.

Visit masthead page to learn more about these editors and the rest of our staff.

“Why VIDA Matters to Me: Part I, Men Only Tell Half the Story,” by James R. Gapinski


A few months ago, I was talking about the VIDA “count” with a friend-and-fellow-writer.  The count has been at the forefront of our editorial discussions this year—The Conium Review journal has a large gender gap, but we’re trying to change that this year and beyond.

In the middle of the conversation, my friend-and-fellow-writer said something like “I feel like, as a woman author, I should care about VIDA, but I don’t.  It doesn’t matter to me.”

“Doesn’t matter?”  I couldn’t believe it.  But over the past few months, I’ve dug deeper.  I’ve explored some critiques of VIDA, and I’ve discovered how some writers, editors, and readers consciously or unconsciously determine that underrepresentation and misrepresentation isn’t a ‘big deal.’

I can’t speak for my friend-and-fellow-writer, but I can speak for myself and why VIDA matters to me (and by extension, why the VIDA count is on The Conium Review’s radar).

Part I, Men Only Tell Half the Story

I’m getting tired of hearing the same half of the story on a continuous loop.  Certainly, there are good male authors (I hope I’m one of them), but the literary world is publishing way too many of them while simultaneously ignoring way too many women.  Sure, men are capable of writing new, innovative fiction.  However, that fiction is invariably filtered through the same gendered lens.  We can pretend that gender doesn’t matter, but we secretly know that it does.  Right?  A man, for example, could not write Elissa Schappell’s Blueprints for Building Better Girls.  A woman, for example, could not write Junot Díaz’s Drown.

It’s tough to consider “a man could not write” or “a woman could not write” arguments in isolation, because gender is just one part of who a person is.  You can easily imagine all sorts of differences between authors.  And you can imagine how every iota of difference creates a different experience and a different story and a different lens.  But on a fundamental, broad-stroke level, gender matters.  The underrepresentation of women matters.  VIDA matters.  Because if the publishing industry continues to discriminate against women, we’re ignoring half of the conversation.  We’re missing out on a huge chunk of the human experience.  We’re hearing the same monotone voice over and over, ignoring the women who have entirely unique stories to tell.  Stories that we need to hear.

The male narrative has been shoved down our throats so often that it’s all many readers know.  This brings us back to The Conium Review.  We’re guilty of having a shitty count (VIDA doesn’t officially count us, but we’ve ran our own numbers). However, we’re hitting the reset button, learning from our first four issues, and making changes at the journal.  We’re not going to get truly innovative fiction while only publishing a single worldview.

In a 2011 interview (reprinted in the anthology Paper Dreams), Cate Marvin of VIDA recalls her reaction to the first “count” in 2010; she mentions reading male-dominated literary journals, noting “The fact is, I often felt bored when reading these publications.  (And I felt guilty for being bored!)  Now I know why (whereas before, I felt I ought to be interested).”  Frankly, male authors are starting to bore me too.  It’s not that these authors don’t resonate with my experience.  Some of my favorite authors are men: Etgar Keret and George Saunders, specifically.  But other men on my list o’ faves have been replaced by Aimee Bender, Amelia Gray (super excited that she agreed to judge our Innovative Short Fiction Contest), Lucy Corin, Karen Russell, Karin Tidbeck, and other women.  They tell the other half of the story.  Women turn the literary monologue into a dialogue, and that’s pretty damn exciting.

Even if somebody overlooks the obvious social justice issues, the low publication rates of women matters because it negatively impacts the literary narrative.  We keep getting that tired monologue.  Personally, I want to read a variety of voices.  I don’t want the same ol’ same ol’.  I want to be challenged by what I read (and what I write), and that doesn’t happen when the literary community recycles the same half of the conversation in slightly different packages.  That’s why VIDA matters.  It impacts anybody who loves reading and writing—female and male alike.

About the Author:

James R. Gapinski is The Conium Review‘s Managing Editor. He holds an MFA in creative writing from Goddard College. His work has appeared in theNewerYork, Line Zero, Heavy Feather Review, and elsewhere. James lives in the Boston area with his partner, two cats, and a collection of 8-bit video games.