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Announcing the Conium Press Book & Chapbook Contest

Scrapper coverAs we continue to ramp up book and chapbook projects, we’re excited to offer a new annual contest with a $1,000 prize plus publication of the winning title! The Conium Press Book & Chapbook Contest opens for submissions on June 1st and closes on September 1st. The contest is open to manuscripts of any length; Conium Press doesn’t get hung up on “publishable” word counts. Chapbooks and full-length books are both considered.

The inaugural judge is Matt Bell, author of ScrapperBaldur’s Gate IIIn the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the WoodsCataclysm Baby, and How They Were Found.

This contest is open to fiction-only, but our definition of fiction includes hybridized writing (as a litmus test, see if you can keep a straight face while claiming that the piece has elements of fiction—yes?—okay, then it’s eligible). Full guidelines are now available here.

“Pitcher of Cream,” by Caitlin Scarano

doodle stove and firewood

This winter, I live alone.

I collect dolls with marble eyes (ribbon core, oxblood, onionskin) and antler hands. I imagine they have bones and are not just stiff with sawdust. I keep the wood stove humming until the back of my neck is damp with sweat. Each day, I bake a loaf of sourdough, perfecting the ratio of sugar to salt to flour. But there’s no one around to eat it but me – by now, all of my children have gone missing or set out with their little suitcases and weaponless hands.

No matter. I still have all of their shoelaces. The sound of dogs howling from the next homestead over.

But the space between our houses grows while I sleep. The forest around me deepens. The trees fall in love and multiply. The snow an intoxicant. I pray the pines don’t get bolder, that they don’t grow organs and hands.

This winter, the sun only rises on certain days. I record them and carve a chart into my headboard. The townsmen would not believe me if I tried to teach them the patterns I’ve discovered, how things secretly align.

Like the woman I am, I keep to my house, my mule, my tasks.

One day I am out chopping wood and a little boy appears on the edge of my yard. He is not made of skin.

“There’s no one left to play with here. You should carry on your way.” I rest the axe on the splitting stump, but keep a hand on the handle. For some reason, I am afraid.

The boy doesn’t say anything. Against the snow, he is hard to see. He has no coat. I cannot tell if he trembles. I do not turn my back on him. His black eyes follow me. I try not to imagine how many rows of teeth he might have. I pull the axe from the stump and yell, “Git!”

I don’t see him again for four days. When he returns, it is on a day when the sun has not risen. On the edge of the yard, I scoop snow into pails to melt on the woodstove. Behind me I hear a little cough. In the dark, he seems smaller, less frightening. Maybe I imagined him wrong the first time. I invite him into the house but I do not touch him. After lighting the hurricane lanterns, I tell him to sit at the table like a good boy. He hesitates and then climbs into the chair where my husband used to sit. Some boys turn into men.

“Would you like some bread and butter?”

“Yes and cream.”

I keep cream in the blackest pitcher. I pour it into a bowl for him and he licks it as if he were a cat.

“Where are your people?” I ask.

“Will the winter end?” he replies while buttering his second piece of bread. His hands are dirty and rusty with old blood. His voice is so little it seems to get lost in the long corridor of his throat. But he is strong. I can see the tight muscles in his neck, and imagine how he’s come to hunt and scavenge.

“It always did before.”

“Does that make a thing true?”

After dinner, he fingers the hair of my dolls but does not take them down from the shelf to play. I give him my oldest son’s red coat. The buttons are missing so I use a bit of rope to belt it around his waist. In a blue lunch pail, I wrap bread and cheese between strips of cloth. I don’t give him meat. He doesn’t ask to stay. If we are both to survive this season, it will not be because of each other.

At the edge of the yard, he turns back to me, his black eyes inky with moonlight. “Where did they go, your children?” he asks.

“Does that make a thing true?” I reply.

 

About the Author:

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.

Special Notes:

This story won The Conium Review‘s 2015 Flash Fiction Contest, judged by Laura Ellen Joyce.  It will also be made into a micro-chap for distribution at the 2016 AWP Conference in Los Angeles, California.

This story was selected for inclusion in the Queen’s Ferry Press anthology, Best Small Fictions 2016, guest edited by Stuart Dybek.

Image Credit: © dule964 / Dollar Photo Club

The Conium Review’s 2015 Pushcart Prize Nominees

Pushcart Cover 2016The Conium Review‘s annual Pushcart Prize nominees are:

  1. Emily Koon’s “The People Who Live in the Sears” (print)
  2. Sarah Mitchell-Jackson’s “Clown Boutique Fairy Tale” (online)
  3. Marina Petrova’s “Dictator in a Jar” (print)
  4. Zach Powers’s “The Eating Habits of Famous Actors” (print)
  5. Melody Sage’s “The Petrified Forest” (online)
  6. Tamara K. Walker’s “Camisole” (print)

Congrats to all six nominees!

 

About the nominees:

Emily Koon is a fiction writer from North Carolina. She has work in Portland Review, Bayou, Atticus Review, and other places and can be found at twitter.com/thebookdress.

Sarah Mitchell-Jackson is a writer of short and long works of fiction and has been known to pen the odd poem. She lives in Cambridge, UK, with her husband and son. You can find her online at smitchjack.wordpress.com.

Marina Petrova lives and writes in New York City. Her work has appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Underwater New York, and Calliope Anthology. She received an MFA from The New School in May 2014.

Zach Powers lives and writes in Savannah, Georgia. His debut book, Gravity Changes, will be published in spring 2017 by BOA Editions. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Black Warrior Review, The Brooklyn Review, Forklift, Ohio, Phoebe, PANK, Caketrain, and elsewhere. He is the founder of the literary arts nonprofit Seersucker Live (SeersuckerLive.com). He leads the writers’ workshop at the Flannery O’Connor Childhood Home, where he also serves on the board of directors. His writing for television won an Emmy. Get to know him at ZachPowers.com.

Melody Sage is a professional artist. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in The Best of Vine Leaves Literary Journal 2013, Quaint Magazine, Apeiron Review, and elsewhere. She is the 2014 recipient of the Scott Imes Award and currently resides in Duluth, MN.

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.

The 2015 Flash Fiction Contest Winner is Caitlin Scarano!

Caitlin Scarano‘s piece, “Pitcher of Cream,” is the winner of The Conium Review‘s 2015 Flash Fiction Contest, judged by Laura Ellen Joyce! This year’s finalists were Ashley HutsonGary Joshua GarrisonEmily KiernanAri LaurelMarsha McSpadden, and Jan Stinchcomb. An honorable mention goes to Kitsune Hirano.

Laura said that Caitlin’s story “was haunting and beautiful and every word was chosen with care.” She went on to say “The story felt complete: a whole world in a few hundred words. The chilling ambiguity of the missing children and the unreliability of the narrator made this a perfect flash fiction.”

Caitlin Scarano

Caitlin Scarano

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.

Caitlin will receive a $300 honorarium for her winning piece and a copy of the judge’s latest book, The Luminol Reels. You’ll get to read Caitlin’s winning flash fiction piece on Saturday, December 19th when it goes “live” on The Conium Review Online Compendium. The story will also be made into a broadside or micro-chapbook for distribution at the 2016 AWP Conference in Los Angeles. Caitlin will be on-site to sign copies for AWP attendees.

Announcing the 2016 Innovative Short Fiction Contest Judge: Lindsay Hunter

Lindsay Hunter headshotWe’re excited to have Lindsay Hunter as The Conium Review‘s 2016 Innovative Short Fiction Contest judge. The winner receives $500, publication, five copies of the issue, and a copy of the judge’s latest book. The contest guidelines are posted. The submission period starts on February, 1st, 2016.

Lindsay is the author of Ugly Girls, Don’t Kiss Me, and Daddy’s. She lives in Chicago with her husband, son, and a couple of pit bulls.

Thanks again to all those who submitted to the 2015 Innovative Short Fiction Contest. We hope you’ll submit again in 2016.