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The Conium Review stands with #BlackLivesMatter

CONIUM stands with #BlackLivesMatter

Dearest readers & writers,

The Conium Review stands with #BlackLivesMatter.

But that statement alone is not enough. Here’s what we’re doing to show our support:

  • Submissions for our next print edition have re-opened for Black writers. We want to read your stories.
  • All others who want to submit to the print edition must upload proof of a donation to support racial justice. If you’re unsure where to donate, our guidelines include a list of options.
  • Our next free call for book and chapbook submissions will be open exclusively to Black writers. I’m working on guidelines for this. Stay tuned.
  • I also encourage Black writers to join our staff. We like innovative and weird fiction. If that’s your idea of a good time, please reach out. Just be aware, all positions are volunteer (whenever there’s money, it goes to Conium authors rather than editors).

This is also not enough. But it’s a start.

Sincerely,
James R. Gapinski
Managing Editor, The Conium Review

“Creature Creator,” by Jane Hammons

Creature Creator

Jane Hammons

Elsa removed the bas-relief from the incubator in the hen house and placed it on the worktable. From malleable clay, she formed her creatures, adding barbs to the tail of one, a saber tooth to the snout of another. She webbed the wings of one in flight, reconsidered the head of the barb-tailed beast and made it fleshier, more sympathetic. To the one at the top of the tableau she added breasts. Then she carried the sculpture across the backyard and into her kitchen where she hid it in the oven.

Mariah, her youngest, was eager to mix a batch of birthday punch for Selena. An addict for years, Selena had been in and out of rehabs, on and off speed, coke, junk. No one had expected her to make it to thirty. Conceived under icy February clouds, Selena’s birthday fell on a harvest moon. Her father was transient, a wanderer taking a shortcut across Elsa’s fallow field. She devoured him. None of her daughters shared a father. Mariah’s, the singer, had been most tender.

Barbara, her eldest, disavowed the birthday rituals as pagan. The product of Elsa’s high-school-sweetheart-marriage, Barbara was prudish, embarrassed by her mother. Ordinarily, Elsa wouldn’t insist that Barbara attend. But for Selena’s landmark birthday, she enlisted the help of shy but strong Lulu, the child she made with a polygamous gambler.

Elsa set out utensils for Mariah. The one who mixed the punch could add ingredients, but the elements Elsa brought up from her cellar were essential.

Bone of father. Elsa scooped the powdery substance from a canister into a brown paper bag.

Blood of mother. Into a tin measuring cup, she poured thick red syrup from a green bottle.

Birth of child. Once she had wrested the honeycomb from the milk bucket where it was stored, Elsa scraped the goo that clung to it into a bell jar.

She placed the ingredients on the kitchen counter then climbed the stairs to her attic bedroom. She undressed and nestled into the bedclothes. Month after month, year after year, birthday celebrations took more and more out of her.

When she woke, Elsa looked out the attic window. The sky prepared to display the harvest moon that would rise over the field of dried corn stalks where sheep and geese grazed.

Lulu trudged into view. Her prey, trapped in a large burlap sack, fought her as she dragged it up the footpath. Without dressing, Elsa flew down the stairs to help. By the time she reached the backyard, the contents of the sack had burst. Barbara looked away from her mother whose naked body was burnished a rosy hue by the setting sun.

“Good work.” Elsa took Lulu’s arm and followed Barbara into the kitchen where Mariah finished pouring the punch from the mixing bowl into the earthenware crock. Elsa untied the apron from around her youngest daughter’s slender waist and tied it around her own thick one. “Where’s the birthday girl?” she asked.

“Here I am.” Selena stood at the top of the stairs. Over one arm, like a broken wing, hung a yellow baby dress. Over the other, a red padded snowsuit bulged, soft and muscular. Atop her head a blue bonnet. Around her legs, Selena had pulled petticoats, and tutus, layering her tight black jeans with clothing from her childhood. She slid down the banister. “Let’s begin.”

Elsa poured the punch and passed the cups.

“Fabulous concoction, Mariah,” said Selena.

“The best.” Elsa was satisfied Mariah could carry on the family tradition.

“Present me, present me.” Selena demanded her gifts.

Mariah handed Selena a small glass teardrop hanging from a thin wire. “I blew it myself.”

“Fantastic!” Selena pulled out one of the studs in her earlobe and replaced it with the drop of Mariah’s breath.

She looked next to Lulu who had no gift. Capturing Barbara had taken all her time and energy. She thrust the torn burlap sack at her sister.

“Exquisite.” Selena tied it around her waist.

Reluctant to admit she was present against her will, Barbara ripped pages from her Bible and threw them at Selena. They fell like autumn leaves around her.

“Marvelous.” Selena gathered them and tucked them into her burlap waistband.

“And now this.” Elsa took the bas-relief from the oven. “It hasn’t been fired yet, so it can become whatever you want it to be.”

Selena dug into the moist clay. She carried the first piece, the bountiful breasted mammal to Elsa. The animal with the wings went to Mariah, the saber-tooth snout to Lulu, the handsome barbed-tailed creature to Barbara. The spiny-plated creature she recognized as her own.

Mariah smeared the clay like a mudpack over her arms. She rustled her delicate wings, eager to try them. Rejuvenated by the punch Lulu stabbed vigorously at the table with her saber-tooth snout. Barbara stuffed her mouth with clay and slapped her long, barbed tail upon the floor. Selena rattled the plates along her spine.

Elsa applied the clay breasts to her withered ones. Together the family trundled and gnashed out the door and into the fields, where they chased the geese, teased the cows, butted the sheep and shook the trees. The stars fled into the black sky. The moon glowed.

Night became day. The beasts molted their wings and barbs, plates and snouts. Barely conscious, the creatures sought the softest parts their mother. Suckling and chewing, they slept. Elsa hoped what remained of her when they woke would not frighten them. Bone, cartilage, gut, hair. It needed to be collected and stored in the cellar. One might deny what she’d experienced, believe it a dream, another forget. But she was confident that at least one daughter would nurture and recreate the mothers she carried within her.

About the Author

Jane Hammons taught writing at UC Berkeley for thirty years before moving to Austin, Texas, where she writes, takes photographs and frequently listens to live music. Her fiction has appeared in Akashic Books (online Mondays Are Murders); Alaska Quarterly Review; Contrary Magazine; Southwestern American Literature and Tupelo Quartery. She is a Citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.

Editorial Note

This piece was selected during a special “(Re)new” themed call for submissions. The theme was curated by our managing editor, James R. Gapinski. The theme celebrates The Conium Review‘s new website and James’s forthcoming title, Fruit Rot, due out on July 15th from Etchings Press at the University of Indianapolis.

Our 2020 Innovative Short Fiction Contest opens soon!

The Conium Review‘s seventh annual Innovaive Short Fiction opens on May 1st! The winner receives $500, publication in our print edition, five copies of the issue, and a copy of the judge’s book. The entry fee is $15. Full guidelines are available here.

We’re pleased to welcome Emily Wortman-Wunder as this year’s judge. She won our 2018 contest, judged by Maryse Meijer. Since then, Emily has released her award-winning short story collection, Not a Thing to Comfort You, through the University of Iowa Press. Her fiction and essays have won also appeared in NimrodThe North American Review, and The Atlantic.

Send us your weirdest and wildest fictions.

 

Announcing the 2019 Innovative Short Fiction Contest Winner: Joe Aguirre

Sarah Gerard has finished deliberating, and we have a winner! Joe Aguirre is the 2019 Innovative Short Fiction Contest Winner with his short story “Three Riffs for the Devil.”

Joe Aguirre writes from Shrewsbury, MA. He’s driven a laundry truck, practiced maritime law, and sorted organs in a pathology lab. His work is forthcoming in Fugue. He will receive a $500 prize for his winning story, publication in The Conium Review: Vol. 8, copies of the issue, and a copy of Sarah Gerard’s latest book.

Here’s what the judge had to say about Joe’s winning story:

“‘Three Riffs for the Devil’ is a confident, pitch-perfect satire of getting what you ask for, with winking jewels of dark wisdom. Sharp and original, it pokes at the reader’s ribs, sticks its fingers into our weak points, asking, What’s your own vice? In what form will the devil come for you? Maybe he already has.”

~ Sarah Gerard, author of Sunshine State

This year’s finalists were Brittany Ackerman, Debbie Graber, Alison Foster, Jasmine Sawers, and Kate Simonian. Thanks to all those who submitted. As always, the decision was difficult, and we appreciate you trusting us with your work.

AWP 2019 Book Signing Schedule

AWP2019 Table Signing Schedule

The 2019 AWP Conference Bookfair opens tomorrow! Stop by booth 8066 and say hello, browse our books, and learn more about The Conium Review. We’ll also be featuring three author signings this year, starting with Simone Person from 1:00pm to 2:30pm on Thursday, March 28th. Next, we have James R. Gapinski signing books from 11:30am to 1:00pm on Friday, March 29th. Finally, Charles D. Brown will be signing from 1:00pm to 2:30pm on Friday, March 29th.

About the Authors

Simone Person is the author of Dislocate, the winner of the 2017 Honeysuckle Press Chapbook Contest in Prose, and Smoke Girl, the winner of the 2018 Diode Editions Chapbook Contest in Poetry. She grew up in small Michigan towns and Toledo, Ohio and is a dual MFA/MA student at Indiana University in Fiction and African American and African Diaspora Studies. In 2018, Simone became the Prose Editor for Honeysuckle Press. She sporadically, and to varying degrees of success, uses Twitter and Instagram at @princxporkchop.

James R. Gapinski is the author of the novella Edge of the Known Bus Line (Etchings Press, 2018) and the flash collection Messiah Tortoise (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2018). His short fiction has appeared in The Collapsar, Juked, Monkeybicycle, Paper Darts, Psychopomp, and other publications. He lives with his partner in Portland, Oregon. Find him online at http://jamesrgapinski.com and on Twitter @jamesrgapinski

Charles D. Brown is a writer and filmmaker from New Orleans. He currently lives in Los Angeles, where he received his Master’s in Professional Writing from the University of Southern California. He has made two feature films: Angels Die Slowly and Never A Dull Moment: 20 Years of the Rebirth Brass Band. He has published two novels Vamp City (as C.D. Brown) and Looking Back On Sodom. His fiction has appeared in The Conium Review, Oddville Press, Writing Disorder, Jersey Devil Press, The Menacing Hedge, plus the anthologies Dimensional Abscesses and Nocturnal Natures.  He teaches composition, journalism, and media production at a variety of colleges.

AWP Preview: ARCs of Emily Koon’s “We Are Still Here”

Emily Koon’s We Are Still Here drops this July. We’ll have Advance Review Copies (ARCs) on display at our booth. Reviewers can contact us to request a sample copy. If you’re not a reviewer, but you still want a sneak peak at this fantastic collection, you may be able to snag a free copy at “Books & Brass” or “Literary Masquerade.” These books and other freebies will only be available while supplies last, so get there early!

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AWP Preview: TJ Fuller’s “Slim Fit”

TJ Fuller is reading at our March 28th AWP Offsite Event: “Books & Brass.” He won our Flash Fiction Contest, judged by Rebecca Schiff, author of The Bed Moved. In his surreal winning story, “Slim Fit,” the narrator jumps into a commercial for slim fit jeans; the story is rife with creativity, longing, and humor. Rebecca Schiff says “From the first sentence, ‘Slim Fit’ brings us into its strange, funny world. TJ Fuller trusts that the movement of language and his delight in its premise will become the reader’s delight. It does.”

As part of TJ’s contest prize, we’ve made this story into a limited-run micro-chapbook. This micro-chap includes craft cardstock cover, bleached linen interior pages, a more natural and pulpy interior leaf. The binding is hand-sewn, and each copy will be signed and numbered.

“Slim Fit” will be distributed at the reading for free, along with some other Conium Press swag. Take a peak at the images below, and be sure to get your complimentary copy at our event!

Northwest Micropress Fair After Party

NW Micropress Afterparty (compressed)

 

This year at AWP, we’re going all out. The conference is coming to The Conium Review‘s home city of Portland, OR. We’re doing an event every night of the conference, starting with “Books & Brass: An Evening of Prose, Poetry, and Live Jazz” on Thursday, March 28th. Next, we’re hosting a “Literary Masquerade” on Friday, March 29th. Finally, we’re pleased to announce the lineup for our final event, “The Northwest Micropress Fair After Party” on Saturday, March 30th. This particular event follows the Northwest Micropress Fair, which is an independently organized book fair held in the Cleaners at the Ace Hotel. We’ll be tabling at this micropress fair and we’ll also have a booth at the main AWP Conference bookfair. We’ll be selling books and doing author signings at each location.

About the Event

The After Party officially begins at 7:30 when the doors of the Cleaners at the Ace Hotel reopen for business. The readings start at 8:00pm, with music to follow and a cash bar available. The Northwest Micropress Bookfair and After Party includes a ton of presses, including Presses and producers include: Entre Ríos Books, Scablands Books, Chin Music Press, Page Boy Magazine, Sage Hill Press, SPLAB, Short Run Seattle, Blue Cactus Press, Frontera Magazine, Margin Shift Reading Series, Cadence Video Poetry Festival / Northwest Film Forum, Till Writers, Ravenna Press, StringTown Press, Papeachu Press, Rhododo Press, Coast | No Coast, Winter Texts, Crab Creek Review, Poetic Games, Not a Pipe Publishing, Cascadia Rising Review, The Conium Review, Arq Press, Overcup Press, and Floating Bridge Press.

This will be a big event on the final night of the conference. Don’t miss it! Reading for The Conium Review are TJ Fuller, Chelsea Harris, and Simone Person. Find this event on Facebook.

About the Readers

TJ Fuller writes and teaches in Portland, Oregon. His fiction has appeared in Hobart, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Jellyfish Review, and elsewhere. He won the 2017 Flash Fiction Contest at The Conium Review.

Chelsea Harris has appeared in The Portland Review, Literary Orphans, The Conium Review, Grimoire, and Smokelong Quarterly, among others. She received her MFA from Columbia College Chicago and currently lives in Washington State.

Simone Person is the author of Dislocate, the winner of the 2017 Honeysuckle Press Chapbook Contest in Prose, and Smoke Girl, the winner of the 2018 Diode Editions Chapbook Contest in Poetry. She grew up in small Michigan towns and Toledo, Ohio and is a dual MFA/MA student at Indiana University in Fiction and African American and African Diaspora Studies. In 2018, Simone became the Prose Editor for Honeysuckle Press. She sporadically, and to varying degrees of success, uses Twitter and Instagram at @princxporkchop.

Emily Koon’s “We Are Still Here” is available for pre-order

Cover (Proof version)In early 2017, we announced Emily Koon’s We Are Still Here as the winner of our Book & Chapbook Contest, judged by Matt Bell. Two years later, a couple revisions, a half-dozen cover mock-ups, and we’re finally ready to bring this beast of a book to market. It’s slated for release this July. We’ll have printed galleys on display at this year’s AWP Conference in Portland. If you’re a reviewer interested in receiving an advance copy, reach out to editors@coniumreview.com.

We Are Still Here contains thirteen short stories and a novella. Throughout this stellar debut, discover a surreal band of mall dwellers, a fairy tale featuring goblins and ghosts, a “go wherever” story in which Lizzie Borden is fully prepared to give her mother forty whacks, and more.

Matt Bell, author of Scrapper, says “Emily Koon’s We Are Still Here is a smart and surprising debut, with each story alive to the many absurdities of life—as well as the joys and the heartbreaks those absurdities contain. Funny and inventive, this book will thrill fans of Amelia Gray, Lindsay Hunter, or Laura van den Berg, while introducing readers to Koon’s own exciting talent.

Pre-order your copy of Emily Koon’s debut collection here.

AWP Offsite Event: Literary Masquerade

Flyer for Literary Masquerade eventWe’re hosting multiple events in Portland, OR for AWP. It’s our home base, so why not? This will be an AWP to remember. Books & Brass kicks things off on March 28th, and we’re excited for our Literary Masquerade on Friday, March 29th at 7:00pm.

This event takes place at the Beech Street Parlor, located at 412 NE Beech St. This restored Victorian is decked out with vintage furniture, decorative wallpaper, and antique fixtures, it’s the perfect place for a masquerade party. Costumery encouraged, masks provided, all are welcome. There will be some free Conium Press swag, many of the authors will be selling and signing books, and “DJ No Requests” will be spinning records later in the evening.

Readings from Rita Bullwinkel, Charlie Brown, John Englehardt, Ashley Farmer, James R. Gapinski, Chelsea Harris, Liz Kellebrew, and Christine Texeira.

Learn more about the event on Facebook (and invite your friends!)