Upcoming Event: “Adventures in Literary Readings”

Adventures Reading header

Join several of The Conium Review‘s editors/writers on Friday, April 14th to celebrate the release of Chelsea Werner-Jatzke‘s chapbook, Adventures in Property Management, out now from Sibling Rivalry Press.

Chelsea is outreach coordinator at The Conium Review, and we’re excited to see her come through Portland on her West Coast reading tour. The reading will also feature our James R. Gapinski (our managing editor), Rebecca Schiff (2017 flash contest judge), and Kate Garklavs (2016 flash contest winner). Also featuring readings from Robert Lashley and Dena Rash Guzman.

The reading starts at 7:00pm at Likewise, located at 3564 SE Hawthorne Blvd in Portland, Oregon. Hope to see some Conium Press readers, writers, and friends there! Find this event on Facebook.

“Rehearsal,” by Thomas Michael Duncan

Realistic reel of film, doodle style

Turns out there’s always work for a corpse. I’m talking movies, TV, emopunk music videos, texting-and-driving commercials, crime scene reenactments, all that jazz. If you’ve turned on your cable box in the last month, you’ve seen me dead. Most of my appearances are in the first two minutes of police dramas. Sometimes the script calls for me to be naked, washed up on a beach with seaweed in my hair. Sometimes I play a woman corpse; they position me facedown, shave my back, and put a red curly wig on my head. Open casket scenes are best because I wear a clean suit and coffins are lined with satin. More often I’m discovered in a dumpster, bloody with shackle bruises on my ankles and wrists, or bunched up and stuffed into a front loader at an abandoned laundromat. I get really into my parts. I can keep my eyes open for almost an hour without blinking. I can breathe for a whole day without expanding my chest cavity. When I’m dead, I think dead people thoughts, like what year is it? and where am I buried? and how many ounces in a pint? I block out my surroundings so well that I don’t always come back to life when the scene ends. If this happens, the production assistant dumps a glass of water over my head. That usually does the trick. Last fall I costarred with Dwayne Johnson. It was during his Dwayne Johnson phase. I played his dead brother. DJ cradled me in his gorilla arms and cried and shook like a paint can mixer at Home Depot. I acted dead. DJ didn’t stop crying until after lunch. My agent says I’m the most convincing corpse he’s ever seen, and he’s seen actual corpses. Auditions can be tough—the competition is stiff. Sorry. That’s an industry joke. But really, casting is uncomfortable. The directors shout at me, kick me, call me names, eat plates of linguine off my back. But I am dead as a dinosaur. They usually apologize after. My girlfriend decided we should try role playing, but she always wanted me to play the same part. We broke up. It was mutual. Now I have the apartment to myself so I can rehearse whenever I like. I play loud music and leave all the widows open and door unlocked and shower running in hopes that someone will discover me. That’s my one fantasy. It would be the absolute height of my career to be mistaken for a corpse by a pedestrian. I imagine being declared dead, fooling even the coroner. I would remain in character until the first shovel of dirt hit the mahogany.

About the Author:

Thomas Michael Duncan writes fact, fiction, and the occasional bit of nonsense. He lives in Columbia, South Carolina.

Special Note:

This story was a finalist in The Conium Review‘s 2016 Flash Fiction Contest, judged by Leesa Cross-Smith.

Image Credit: © Handini_Atmodiwiryo – stock.adobe.com

Contributor Update: 2017 “Best Small Fictions” winners and finalists

The 2017 Best Small Fictions lineup has been announced. We nominated five stories for the anthology. We’re pleased to report that “Gazebo,” by Shane Jones was selected as a finalist. This story originally appeared in The Conium Review: Vol. 5.

Several previous contributors also appear on the list of finalists and winners for stories published in other literary magazines, including Jen Knox (contributor to The Conium Review Vol. 1, No. 1), Ingrid Jendrzejewski (contributor to our website, Vol. 4, and Vol. 5), Philip Sterling (contributor to The Conium Review Online Compendium).

Our 2017 Flash Fiction Contest judge, Rebecca Schiff, has also been selected for the anthology. Additionally, our 2016 Flash Fiction Contest judge, Leesa Cross-Smith, was selected as a finalist.

Congrats to all the other authors who made the short- and long-list for Best Small Fictions! View the full list here.

Sneak peak at AWP micro-chapbook: “In Memoriam: Lot 69097”

We’re giving away 50 copies of Kate Garklavs’s micro-chapbook, In Memoriam: Lot 69097, at the 2017 AWP Conference in Washington, DC. Kate’s story was the winner of our most recent flash fiction contest, judged by Leesa Cross-Smith. Each of these 50 copies will be numbered and signed by the author. Stop by table 548-T to get yours. We expect them to be gone fast, so show up early if you want to snag one!

ACLU donations at our AWP table

The 2017 AWP Conference is just a couple days away. We’ll be exhibiting at table 548-T, and we’re co-hosting an off-site event on Thursday, February 9th.

This year’s conference is in Washington, DC. Meanwhile, a few blocks from the convention center, a misygonistic xenophone sits in the white house. Consequently, this year’s AWP must be about more than schmoozing and afterparties.

We’re a socially responsible publisher, and we typically donate copies of our print-runs to charities like Housing Works Bookstore Cafe and Open Books. At this year’s AWP Conference, we’re going a step further. We are donating 10% of all AWP sales to the American Civil Liberties Union. Just a couple weeks into the Trump presidency, and the ACLU has already challenged the Trump administration’s actions in court. The ACLU has along history of demanding equal rights and fighting for our basic feedoms, and we’re proud to offer whatever support we can.

On a related note, we hope you’ll consider attending Saturday’s Candlelight Vigil for Free Speech. The vigil will take place at Lafayette Park, directly across from the White House. It is just a short walk from the convention center. The vigil starts at 6:15pm. Hand-held signs only and no large bags allowed (leave that AWP tote bag in your hotel room). Speakers include Kazim Ali, Gabrielle Bellot, Melissa Febos, Carolyn Forché, Ross Gay, Luis J. Rodriguez, and Eric Sasson.

If you know of any other vigils, protests, or other political events taking place during the AWP Conference, please e-mail us with the details.

Rebecca Schiff to judge The Conium Review 2017 Flash Fiction Contest

Rebecca Schiff headshotWe’re pleased to announce our next Flash Fiction Contest judge: Rebecca Schiff.

The winner of the 2017 Flash Fiction Contest will receive $300, online publication, publication as a limited-run micro-chapbook or broadside, and a copy of the judge’s latest book. Submissions open October 1st, 2017. Full guidelines are available here.

Rebecca Schiff is the author of The Bed Moved (Knopf, 2016). She graduated from Columbia University’s MFA program, where she received a Henfield Prize. Her stories have appeared in n+1, Electric Literature, The American Reader, Guernica, The Guardian, and Lenny Letter. She lives in Brooklyn.

If you’d like to get a taste of the judge’s style, you can read some of Rebecca’s work on Buzzfeed and The Guardian. (Of course, you could also just go buy her book).

You can also read last year’s winning flash fiction, selected by Leesa Cross-Smith, on our website. Or stop by our AWP table (548-T) to get a copy of the free micro-chap.

“Empty Nest,” by Jillian Jackson

Rabbit sketch

The day her youngest left for college, she came home with two cats. A boy and a girl, just like her children. Everyone understood. The nest was empty. It’s that thing. It’s only natural.

“You’re such a little peanut,” she said to one of the cats. “My little Peanut. Peanut Butter. Peanut Butt.”

“Biscuit,” she said to the other. “Bisquick. Little Bisque. Bisque-Kitten. Biscuit-Tin. Lobster Bisque. My little Lobster, sweet Lobster Claw.”

She bought them beds and toys and treats. She let them scratch her couch. She scooped their poop twice a day. She liked the crunching sounds they made when they ate their dry food with their precise little teeth. The metal tinkling of the tags on their collars, like tiny bells, joyful sounds that let her know they were close.

It wasn’t enough. While her husband was at work, she went to the pet store and bought some rabbits. The rabbits proceeded to do it like rabbits. More rabbits. Her husband helped her build hutches around the house. She fed them each their own head of lettuce. She stuck her fingers through the wire cages. They were soft, impossibly soft, so soft, eight, sixteen, twenty-four soft little feet, lucky feet.

Too many rabbits, her husband said. The nest was too full. He made her put an ad in the local paper: bunnies for sale. But then he had a heart attack, and when the house was dark and her children had left again and all the flowers had wilted and she put the cards away and there weren’t any more casseroles in the freezer, she was grateful she still had the rabbits, and it seemed to her, in fact, that she did not have enough rabbits.

Maybe it wasn’t rabbits, precisely. Maybe it was something else she needed. Hamsters. Hamsters were small. They could fit in your pocket. That could be her new thing. Now that she was not all the things she used to be, she could be the lady who did that, who went around town with a hamster in her pocket.

The hamster did not like her pocket. It did not mind its cage: the wood chips, the brightly colored tubes, sucking from the metal tip of the water bottle. The sound of its nails against the plastic, its feet scrambling through the loops, comforted her. “Silly hamster,” she said. “Hamster-Ham. You are my smoky little Ham.”

When she got the hamsters she also got two goldfish. Impulse buy at the checkout line. The same way she would sometimes buy a candy bar, or a trashy magazine. Two fish, a tank, a filter, fish flakes, pink pebbles, seaweed plants, a castle, a plastic diving man, a Jacques Costeau. She wondered what they would do if she stroked their glittering scales with the pads of her fingers.

Weeks later she was out running errands. She was buying food for herself and for the cats and the fish and the hamster and the rabbits. When she got to the dairy section, she thought, how silly. How silly to spend money when there are creatures that will give these things to you for free.

She bought a full-grown chicken and a couple of chicks. She named the chicken Pokey. “Little Poke,” she said. “Hey there, Pokey-Partner.”

She put the chicken in a coop in the yard and the chicks under heat lamps in the living room. Their yellow feathers glowed under the hot red lights. She cupped a chick in her hands and said, “What a lovely fluff. Fluffy baby.”

Then, of course: a cow for the milk. A couple horses, because, why not?

To the horses, she said: “Beautiful. Perfect,” and she ran her palm over their wet velvet noses, kissed the wide hard plane of their foreheads.

Birds: lovebirds, parrot, parakeets. She gave them their own room. “This is for the birds!” she punned. Soon, she joked to no one in particular, she would need an ark. But, she laughed, there were sometimes more and sometimes less than two of every kind.

But when she fell asleep at night, she thought: this is not what I want. How have I strayed so far from what I want?

What she really wanted was to lock herself inside a cage. For someone to feed her, bathe her, pet her, brush her. She wanted someone to make up nicknames for her, call her sweet diminutives, to hold her, tightly, so tightly she could not breathe, and tell her that she was beautiful, perfect, perfect; that she was the best thing in the whole world, the only thing, and she wanted to go limp in that warm embrace, to know nothing except the sound of a soft voice singing her praises, unintelligible words of comfort, murmurs of endless, boundless love.

About the Author:

Jillian Jackson is a graduate of the MFA program in Fiction at Boston University, where she received the Florence Engel Randall Graduate Fiction Award. She’s also the recipient of a St. Botolph Club Foundation’s Emerging Artist Grant. Her work appears in Smokelong Quarterly and Misadventures Magazine.

Special Note:

This story was a finalist in The Conium Review‘s 2016 Flash Fiction Contest, judged by Leesa Cross-Smith.

Image Credit: © Vadim Gnidash – stock.adobe.com

Join us at AWP for “Literary Friction” offsite reading

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We’re pleased to be participating in an AWP 2017 offsite reading with F(r)ictionSibling Rivalry Press, and Upper River Boot Books. The event will be at Bar Louie, located at 701 7th St NW (just a few-minute walk from the convention center). Event starts at 8:00pm. No cover charge, and the first 50 people in the door get free drink tickets. Find the event on Facebook and share it with your friends.

Readers for Conium Press are:

  • Maryse Meijer, reading from “Her Blood,” published in The Conium Review: Vol. 5.
  • Melissa Reddish, reading an excerpt from her novella-in-flashes, Girl & Flame, published by Conium Press in 2016.
  • Kate Garklavs, reading her flash fiction, “In Memoriam: Lot 69097,” winner of our 2016 Flash Fiction Contest, judged by Leesa Cross-Smith.

The Conium Review‘s outreach coordinator, Chelsea Werner-Jatzke, will also be reading from her Sibling Rivalry Press chapbook, Adventures in Property Management. Readers for the other presses include David Abrams, Amie Whittemore, Ben Janse, Joy Baglio, Michelle Lin, Kazumi Chin, Kai Carlson-Wee, Anders Carlson-Wee, and Geffrey Davis.

We hope you can make it, and stop by The Conium Review‘s AWP bookfair table: 548-T.