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Contributor Update: Yvette A. Schnoeker-Shorb published at Gival Press

Yvette A. Schnoeker-Shorb has two poems published on the Gival Press website. Read “Little Girls and Tea Parties” and “Noise” here.

Yvette’s flash fiction, “Unbecoming Canine,” appeared on our website late last year. Her work has also appeared in Dark Matter: A Journal of Speculative Writing, The Broken Plate, Epiphany Magazine, Blue Lyra Review, and  elsewhere.

Congrats on this latest publication, Yvette!

Contributor Update: Darren C. Demaree’s “The Pony Governor” to be released this July

Darren C. Demaree’s poetry collection, The Pony Governor, will be published this July by After the Pause. If you want a brief taste of The Pony Governor, hear Darren reading from the book’s opening sequence on YouTube. Hannah Stephenson, author of In the Kettle, The Shriek, says “The Pony Governor overflows with music and intelligence.” All proceeds from The Pony Governor go toward the Ohio Alliance for Arts Education.

Darren was a contributor to our Fall 2013 issue (Vol. 2, No. 2). He’s is the founding editor of AltOhio and Ovenbird Poetry, and he’s managing editor of the Best of the Net Anthology.

Pony Governor cover

“The Pony Governor,” by Darren C. Demaree

Contributor Conversations: Chelsea Werner-Jatzke interviews Charles Rafferty

Chelsea Werner-Jatzke interviews Charles Rafferty (contributor to The Conium Review: Vol. 2, No. 2). Charles is the author of ten poetry collections, most recently The Unleashable Dog (Steel Toe Books, 2014), and he’s the author of the short story collection, Saturday Night at Magellan’s (Fomite Press, 2013).


[Chelsea Werner-Jatzke]: There’s a sentence in your poem, “The Man in Charge of Darkness”: “He remembered/ when he first wanted the job—after breaking/ his last flashlight in the belly of a cave”. The line, “his last flashlight in the belly of the cave” describes the effect of your flash fiction, to me. The reader only sees what the narrator shed light on. Can you talk about focus in your fiction?

Charles Rafferty Headshot[Charles Rafferty]: My stories tend toward the tiny. I’m drawn to the pivoting moments in my characters’ lives. I like considering the moments that immediately precede or follow a great triumph or disaster. The farther away from that moment I get, the less interested I become.

[CWJ]: Reading Saturday Night at Magellan’s and The Unleashable Dog back to back, I was struck by the number of times you use the word “contrail.” Can you talk about what it is about that word that draws you to it? How that happens with language?

[CR]: How funny! I hadn’t even realized I was using that word repeatedly. It’s a very precise word–it reminds me how fortunate we are to have a word for this particular mark across the sky. It’s not especially beautiful sounding, but it starts off crisp and becomes diffuse. It happens while we’re not paying attention, like the stars and the bees. I do get on “word jags” every now and then for reasons I don’t think are important to try to understand. Just this morning I was alarmed to find four instances of “rafters” in the story I was working on. The story is too tiny to let all of them stay.

[CWJ]: I’d love to know more about how you organized Saturday Night at Magellan’s. A story like “My Yoga Pants, My Executioner” marks a shift from the first two thirds of the collection.

[CR]: Saturday Night at Magellan’s is organized into three large blocks. The first group of stories centers around a mature character, someone often in their forties, someone like me. The second group centers on characters in their teens, someone like I used to be. The third group consists of a bunch of crazy stories that didn’t quite fit into the other two groups. They tend to be wilder or sillier and sometimes surreal.

I began writing stories in 2009, so many of the stories in Magellan’s were me consciously trying on different voices, different approaches. That last section of Magellan’s is where I put all the outliers. I knew I’d never create enough stories similar to “My Yoga Pants, My Executioner,” but I didn’t want that fact to preclude me from collecting it into the book.

When I read a book of poems or stories by someone else, I almost never start with the first piece and read the book in order. I’ll flip through to whatever catches my eye, or I’ll choose something based on how much time I have available. So I tend to have a “good enough” attitude toward organization. As long as it seems logical, I don’t expend too much energy on it.

[CWJ]: I’m hoping you can discuss the point at which you know if something is poetry or prose. This question could also be phrased as: Would you describe your writing as “an armload of bees/ apparently happy to assume the shape/ of whatever box” (“The Man Laments the Bees That Didn’t Sting”)…?

[CR]: In many cases, I don’t see any distinction at all between poetry and fiction. As an example, the story “Rio de Janeiro” was originally written for a 78-word fiction contest Esquire was running (it didn’t win), but I ended up publishing it at The Prose-Poem Project. Then, because it seemed to fit, I included it in my book of short fiction, Saturday Night at Magellan’s.

All this being said, there are certain things that push me toward fiction–the need to change scenes, the presence of dialogue, the presence of more than one character. This last point is probably most important. For a story to work, I feel I have to have characters bump up against each other. The match needs something to strike against.

“Helping the Detectives,” by Christine Brandel

Crime Scene Sketch BW

Dear Detectives,

If you are reading this, it means one of two things: I’ve been arrested or I’m dead.

If I’ve been arrested, you’d damn well better have a search warrant before you go nosing around my private business. Instead of reading any further, just have a good think about yourself and your life choices, you fascist pigs.

If I’m dead, however, I’d like to help you out. I don’t mean to imply that you’re incapable of doing your jobs, though I confess I don’t have much faith in the police (see Par. 2). I’m just saying I don’t want to end up a name scribbled on a cold case box hidden away in your station’s basement.

First, we need to decide if my death was the result of natural causes, suicide or homicide. Have you found me crumpled on the floor underneath a tall ladder, my body bruised and covered in white paint? There’s your natural cause, my friends. Would you mind taking a minute to look up and admire the ceiling I managed to get to before my fateful fall? Thanks.

Otherwise, the causes aren’t likely to be natural. I am super duper fit and have no family history of anything bad at all, except narcissism, which is annoying but not fatal. On a day-to-day basis, I am ever so safe. The electrics and other utilities in my house are regularly tested and maintained. My emergency plan for bad weather is foolproof (I’ve done a trial run and all). If I’m dead, it was a human—not fate or a terrible accident—that killed me.

Suicide or homicide? Well, at this point, I can’t be sure. But there’ll be obvious clues. Most suicides don’t leave a note, but you know what? I’m not like most suicides. The letter you’re holding in your hands should be evidence enough to the fact that I love the sound of my own voice. If I’ve topped myself, trust me, there will be a suicide note. It shouldn’t be difficult to locate. You’ll find a sealed envelope on my desk or, if I was feeling particularly dramatic, clutched in my right hand. Pry it away from my pale, stiff fingers, and your case is solved. Of course, a clever murderer might just be trying to fool you. Don’t be suckers. Any spelling or grammar mistakes in the note? If so, I didn’t write it. I wouldn’t be caught dead including typos in any suicide note of mine.

If you’re still not sure, you’re probably thinking you need to talk to my closest friends. Here’s where you’re going to hit a roadblock. See, I don’t have any closest friends. I don’t any friends. I guess that’s partly why I’m offering you this help. I know that the police, despite your being fascist pigs, have a heavy workload, and I’d hate to be a contributing factor in your own premature deaths by stress-induced heart problems.

Check the calendar on the kitchen wall for a date with a red circle around it. Move ahead twenty-one days. If my time of death falls within that week, there’s a chance I was suicidal. I once wrote a story called “Helping the Detectives” about my own demise; find the file on the computer and note when it was last edited. If it too coincides, well, maybe I was feeling preoccupied by thoughts of my own mortality. See if you can find the final image ever recorded of me—you’ll want to look at the security tapes at the gas station up the road (fast forward to an hour before closing time the night I died). Enlarge it and focus on the eyes. Do they look as empty as the eyes of the corpse currently toe-tagged in your morgue? If so, suicide’s looking better and better.

If not, I’m afraid you’ve got a homicide on your hands, gents and/or ladies. Who did it? Obviously, I can’t tell you, but I hope I can keep you from barking up any wrong trees. I’ve got three ex-husbands, but don’t bother trying to finger one of them. All three were nice enough chaps but each took the money and ran, so there’d be nothing to gain from bumping me off. I was never that important anyway. None of them would risk his now prosperous life just to rid the world of me.

Workplace motivation? No. I’m a coatroom attendant at a restaurant. I work on my own, and the patrons don’t acknowledge my existence. I doubt even good detectives like yourselves could describe the face of the last coatroom attendant who hung up your jackets. Being inobtrusive is in my job description, for Christ’s sake. No work interaction led to my slaying.

Alas, I’ve really got nothing in terms of solid leads for you. I mean, in sixth grade, Bobby Lee threatened to tie my body to a tree and leave me to the grizzlies, but I’m sure that anger has subsided by now. Besides, I think I read in some alumni newsletter that he succumbed to cancer a few years ago. Survived by a wife, three kids and a brand new grandchild—how he found even one person to love him, I have no idea. I flipped the bird to a guy who cut me off on the freeway last week; I didn’t get the license plate number, but he was driving a blue hatchback. I’m sorry, I’ve just never been into cars, so I can’t give you the make or model. I was in the right lane, driving only a little above the speed limit, so if he came after and killed me for that, be sure the prosecutor trying the case drives home my stellar record behind the wheel to emphasis I was an innocent victim.

I’ll be honest with you: the perpetrator is going to be a stranger. I know you don’t want to hear that, they’re the hardest cases to solve. But there’s just no one who knows me well enough to want to kill me. That’s why I keep my house so incredibly tidy (I bet one of your officers has already commented on this). It’s the only other thing I can think to do to help you. There will be no fingerprints anywhere in this house, save mine and my landlord’s (you’ll have his on record from a drunk and disorderly arrest about eight years ago). If you find anyone else’s, you’ve found the killer.

I hope I didn’t die naked. If I did, would you mind keeping that detail out of the papers?

Thank you.

About the Author:

Christine Brandel is a writer and photographer. In 2013, she published her first collection, Tell This To Girls: The Panic Annie Poems, which the IndieReader described as a “well-crafted, heartbreakingly vivid set of poems, well worth a read by anyone whose heart can bear it.” To balance that, she also writes a column on comedy for PopMatters and rants and raves through her character Agatha Whitt-Wellington (Miss) at Everyone Needs An Algonquin. More of her work can be found at clbwrites.com.

Image Credit: © Kreatiw / Dollar Photo Club