Emily Koon wins the Conium Press Book & Chapbook Contest!

Matt Bell has selected Emily Koon‘s We Are Still Here as the 2016 Conium Press Book & Chapbook Contest winner!

Emily Koon headshotYes, Emily Koon. The same Emily Koon who won our Innovative Short Fiction Contest in 2015, judged by Amelia Gray. As always, the judging process was 100% blind, and Matt Bell was instructed to recuse himself if he could identify the author. We’re surprised that her work anonymously bubbled to the top twice — but then again, not too surprised — she’s just a damn good writer.

The stories in We Are Still Here are an eclectic mix including fairy tales, ghosts, Lizzie Borden, and people living in a Sears. In the title story, a family visiting an amusement park flees after a fatal roller coaster accident, only to find the real horror is on the chairlifts. In “The People Who Live in the Sears,” a group of people who find the real world too painful to function in make new lives in their local Sears department store. In “The Ghosts of St. Louis,” two teenagers living in a futuristic North America attempt to make sense of a world marred by climate change. Characters in these stories wrestle with questions of death, loneliness, abandonment, and their capacity to love, be loved, and inflict pain on others.

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

Emily’s manuscript will be published by Conium Press, and she will receive $1,000, ten author copies, and a copy of the judge’s latest book.

This year’s finalists are Tori BondSamantha Duncan, Claire Hopple, and Rachel Luria.

We’re grateful to all the authors who submitted, and we hope you’ll join us in congratulating Emily, singing her praise on social media, and buying/reading her kickass book when it hits shelves. We expect to release Emily’s collection in late 2017 or early 2018.

Recent Award Nominations for our Authors

It’s nomination time again! We recently sent out nods for the annual Queens Ferry Press Best Small Fictions anthology. We also nominated for the Eric Hoffer Award and the Independent Publisher Book Awards.

The nomination process is always difficult — we published so many amazing pieces in 2016 — but eventually we narrowed it down. We’re pleased to share our picks for this year, and we hope you’ll reread a few of these favorites (and check out other work from these authors).

Best Small Fictions anthology nominations:

Eric Hoffer Book Award nominations:

Independent Publisher Book Award nomination:

The Conium Review 2016 “Count”

Typically, we release our gender ratio statistics around the same time as the official VIDA count. However, we wanted to tally the numbers before the AWP Conference in Washington, DC. There’s also the small matter of today’s inauguration, wherein a serial misogynist was sworn into the nation’s highest office. It seems like a good time to remind the literary community that there are still places where women’s voices can be heard, even if those places seem increasingly under attack.

The Conium Review: Vol. 5 featured a larger percentage of women than any previous print issue of The Conium Review, and our combined print and online count held steady at 76% self-identified female authors. For those who haven’t read The Conium Review: Vol. 5 yet, there is also a distinct feminist undercurrent in many of the pieces, even more noticeably than the average issue of The Conium Review. This wasn’t a reactionary plan of any sort (the issue was finalized before the November election results). In the simplest terms, this is just where our editorial aesthetic leans — toward fiery voices that refuse to be marginalized. Given the events of today, I’m glad to see our press putting out a lit mag with stories in this vein. It seems necessary in this social climate. Keep writing. Keep submitting. Keep reading. Stay strong.

(And as always, we’d like it if you’re writing something a bit weird/surreal/bizarre too).

The Conium Review 2016 “Count”

%

Female (Total Print & Online)

%

Male (Total Print & Online)

%

Female (Print)

%

Female (Online)

%

Male (Print)

%

Male (Online)

Okay, now let’s break it all down. Our 2016 count is 76% female and 24% male. The previous year’s overall count was identical at 76% female to 24% male. The 2014 gender ratio was 64% female and 36% male.

Throughout the entire year, The Conium Review published 29 authors total, with 22 self-identified female authors and 7 self-identified male authors.

In the annual print edition, we published 9 self-identified female authors and 1 self-identified male author, for a ratio of 90% women and 10% men. Within our online arm, The Conium Review Online Compendium, we published 19 authors total, with 13 female authors and 6 male authors, with a ratio of 68% women to 32% men.

Throughout most of 2016, the editorial masthead contained 10 people, 7 of whom self-identify as female, 3 of whom self-identify as male, for a behind-the-scenes ratio of 70% women and 30% men.

Historically, we’ve tallied out “count” only for The Conium Review as a periodical. However, we launched a few books in 2016 through Conium Press. These authors are not reflected in our overall count, but the numbers don’t change much either way. We’re a boutique press with only a couple titles each year. Of the two books published this year, one was written by a self-identified female and one was written by a self-identified male. We also released two limited-run micro-chapbooks, again with a ratio of one woman and one man. If you add these Conium Press numbers to our tally, it becomes 33 authors total — with 24 women and 9 men — for a total ratio of 73% women and 27% men. Whether you crunch the numbers as 76% or 73%, we still think it’s a damn good gender ratio. With the excessive number of magazines that seem to propagate the same male voices over and over and over and over again, we’re glad to offer a counterbalance — even if it’s only partial counterbalance. Especially on today of all days.

“In Memoriam: Lot 69097,” by Kate Garklavs

Sweater Sketch (02)

Julie called me at work to say Kurt Cobain’s sweater was up at auction.

“The famous one?” I asked, picturing dewy midtone green with golden contrast at the hem. So collegiate. My phone’s face blinked red: angry reminder of an unattended inbound call.

“They’re all famous,” said Julie, “right? But look at the listing. I just sent it.”

Sources verified that Julien’s was a respected dealer of rock and pop-culture memorabilia, everything from Cher’s Reebok sweatband (aerobics purposes only) to Clinton’s roach clip. Fifty grand would put you in the running for the mohair sweater of Unplugged fame.

Fifty grand: Where would I get it? I wouldn’t, I knew in the pit of my gut, the locus of my rational mind. I’d just surpassed the thousand-bucks-in-savings mark. I imagined phoning exes, all of them better off now than back then, asking for smallish, interest-free loans; presenting the circumstances — straightforwardly framed — and embellishing with the florid, sexless detail of my ten-year-old-self’s dream. My parents might be good for a few thou, though the nearer retirement came, the less likely they were to indulge romantic nostalgia. Aunt Oona had never had a lover, but even she couldn’t be immune to the memory of a first rock crush, piquant as the night breeze to ocean-damp skin.

Decades back — two, in fact — I papered my walls with full-bleed spreads torn from Rolling Stone. Kurt, halo-haired, anchored the collage. Kurt in stripes, in outsized plastic shades, in tatty tees draping lushly from his slender frame. Always the same unfocused gaze to middle distance, dangled cigarette, occasional sneer to the camera and imagined watcher. Oh, how I wanted to leave my hair to snarl! To set my mouth as a pensive line, maintain an animal silence, fuck the police — anyone who wouldn’t listen or believe I knew the best next steps toward becoming myself. Instead, I brooded. Snapped my flavor-sapped Juicyfruit, the boombox’s volume hovering at 6: loud enough for clarity, quiet such that my mom wouldn’t rap on the hollow-core door and demand that I turn it down, already. Oh, who I would have maimed to see a live show, feel the reverb shuddering through my chest! To stay up past bedtime and beyond. I longed, as we all did, for any tiny modicum of freedom. There at my desk, miniblinds parceling the unctuous noontime light, I could almost feel the unvacuumed shag against my cheek as I lay on my bedroom floor, Unplugged on repeat on the Sony.

Leagues from my childhood bedroom and heady with memory, I retreated to the Xerox room — the only workplace door with a lock. Kristi’d left a big job running, and the copier’s light shuttled back and forth beneath the lowered lid, gold spilling out in warm flashes. I cleared the work table of conduct handbooks and memos and lay down to study the ceiling patterns: to recenter.

Plastic laminate against skin feels the same regardless of surroundings. I let the cool of the tabletop rise to meet my downturned palms and move through them, studied the pinprick scatter of the crumbling tiles above. My heartbeat slowed to match the thrum, click, return of the copier. I closed my eyes.

When the sweater arrived, it would be wrapped in royal-blue tissue, wrinkleless, encased in protective plastic. The exterior box would be nothing fancy, its plainness a deterrent to would-be thieves. Its only signifier of prestige would be the embossed gold J of the return address. I would coordinate my opening of the package with the weather, waiting for the ideal stretch of misted fog — conditions to enable maximum contrast between my body and the air. Running a knife along the box’s long edge, I’d mute my inhalation as I smoothed back the tissue.

Of course, skin-to-mohair contact would be the only way to capture whatever essence lived in those fibers: incorporate it, atom by atom, and draw its strength. Bare feet, too, the necessity of cold running from the blank tile up through my willing footsoles, the low evening light dully patching the leaves of the rubber tree, captive in its red slipcast pot. A walk around my apartment in the brittle garment would reveal a newness to the space, each thrift-store lamp and candlestick endowed with a fresh graciousness: inherent splendor made visible by the erasure of familiarity.

Outside, the mist would gather into droplets; streetlamp auras would widen and burn. The sweater would warm to a living heat and carry me from the evening into the day, day into evening, the cycle forming its own routine. I’d mask the original brown pocketside stain with coffee spills of my own, would smoke leaning from the bathroom window for the purpose of accreting cast-off ash, burn holes to circle the cuffs and climb the lengths of the sleeves, rivaling the damage done by the former wearer. I’d tug loose threads to let the weave grow wide, the humid air move in and through.

When the sweater ceased to keep its form and became instead a network of threads — more a memory of the thing than the thing itself — I would unclothe and prepare the garment for unravel. Spritz the threads with chicken stock and blot them dry, interlace the buttonholes with bacon. Lay the garment spread-armed in the courtyard, out of plain view but not hidden, and wait for my departure to signal welcome to the animals who would unthread arm from body, body from itself — a disappearance detached, unwitnessed, and feral.

About the Author:

Kate Garklavs lives and works in Portland, OR. Her work has previously appeared in Ohio Edit, Juked, Matchbook, and Tammy, among other places. She earned her MFA at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and she’s currently a reader for the Portland Review.

Special Note:

This story won The Conium Review‘s 2016 Flash Fiction Contest, judged by Leesa Cross-Smith. It will also be republished as a limited-run micro-chapbook for distribution at the 2017 AWP Conference in Washington, DC.

Image Credit: © pylypchuk25 – stock.adobe.com

Call for Submissions: “The Conium Review: Vol. 6” open reading period

The Conium Review is reading for Volume 6 between January 1st, 2017 and April 1st, 2017! We like strange stories, inventive language, bizarre characters, and innovative conceits. Show us what you got.

Past contributors include Shane Jones (author of The Crystal EatersLight Boxes, and Daniel Fights a Hurricane), Maryse Meijer (author of Heartbreakers), and Zach Powers (author of Gravity Changes). We’ve also published many emerging writers, including some first-time authors. In the end, we don’t care what your CV says; we just wanna see something good on the page.

Work published in The Conium Review has been featured in the Best Small Fictions anthology, the Plougshares “Best Short Story” column, the Wigleaf Top 50 long-list, and elsewhere. Full guidelines are found here.

All submissions should go through our Submittable page (e-mailed submissions will be deleted unread).

The 2016 Flash Fiction Contest winner is Kate Garklavs!

Kate G headshotLeesa Cross-Smith has finished deliberating, and she has selected Kate Garklavs‘s “In Memoriam: Lot 69097″ as the 2016 Flash Fiction Contest winner.

Kate Garklavs lives and works in Portland, OR. Her work has previously appeared in Ohio Edit, Juked, Matchbook, and Tammy, among other places. She earned her MFA at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and she’s currently a reader for the Portland Review.

This year’s finalists are Thomas Duncan, Melissa Goode, Jillian Jackson, Ingrid Jendrzejewski, Meghan Phillips, and Tessa Yang. Here’s what Leesa had to say about Kate Garklavs’s winning story:

The language of this story is surprising and so, so pretty. ‘piquant as the night breeze to ocean-damp skin’ and ‘the copier’s light shuttled back and forth beneath the lowered lid, gold spilling out in warm flashes.’ ‘My heartbeat slowed to match the thrum, click, return of the copier.’ I loved reading this story, but even more than that, I loved rereading this story. It’s funny and sweet and pretty much everything I look for in my flash fiction. Nostalgia and romance, a bit of ridiculousness, a whole lot of heart.”

—Leesa Cross-Smith, contest judge and author of Every Kiss a War

Kate’s winning piece will be published on The Conium Review Online Compendium, and it will be made into a limited-run micro-chapbook for distribution at the 2017 AWP Conference in Washington, DC. She will receive a $300 prize and a copy of the judge’s latest book.

There were tons of amazing submissions, and we can’t wait to see what you’ll send us next year. The general submission queue opens on January 1st. Additionally, we’ll be announcing the 2017 Flash Fiction Contest judge shortly. Sign up for our newsletter to stay informed about these calls for submissions and news from The Conium Review and Conium Press.

Vol. 5 Collector’s Edition is out now!

The big day is finally here. About two weeks after The Conium Review: Vol. 5 paperback hit shelves, the collector’s edition is ready to go out into the world.

As with previous collector’s editions, the contents are handcrafted with care. Each booklet has been designed to form an aesthetically cohesive collection of stories. The 3″ by 3.25″ booklets are printed with craft paper covers, a parchment title page, and linen inner pages. They are saddle bound and then tied together with natural hemp twine. Finally, there’s a wax seal that keeps the parcel together, and it’s deposited neatly into a little wooden box hand-stamped with archival ink. In total, there are eleven micro-chapbooks (one for each story in the issue) plus a little black booklet that contains copyright info, masthead details, and the table of contents.

In this collection, you’ll find new work from Jessica Roeder, Samantha Duncan, Liz Kellebrew, Kate Gies, Shane Jones, Kathryn Hill, Emily Koon, Jasmine Sawers, Ingrid Jendrzejewski, and Maryse Meijer. A woman falls in love with a giant banana, a tiny goat takes up residence in a woman’s left ventricle, a ghost tour goes awry, and more.

This box set will be shipped to contributors and a few of our bookstore and library partners first. Once those orders have gone out, the remaining copies of the collector’s edition will go up on our website for sale to the general public. This is a limited-run product, and we expect it to sell out. Be sure to check our online store regularly if you’re trying to snag a copy!

Vol. 5 Collector’s Edition Preview: “Ruby Goes In”

The Conium Review: Vol. 5 collector’s edition is coming soon! Here’s a sneak peak at some of this year’s design. This is a mock-up of the micro-chap for “Ruby Goes In,” by Kate Gies. This flash fiction was one of our 2016 Innovative Short Fiction Contest finalists. This little booklet is 3.5-inches by 3 inches. The cover is recycled craft paper, the interior leaf is 24-lb parchment paper, and the inner pages are 24-lb bright white natural linen paper. This is one of several individual stories that will be presented inside the collector’s edition.

Vol. 5 Collector’s Edition Box Set Preview

The Conium Review: Vol. 5 paperback edition officially launched on December 15th. The Vol. 5 collector’s edition is slated for December 30th.

Like the Vol. 3 collector’s edition and the Vol. 4 collector’s edition, we’re loading up a wooden box with individual handmade objects. Each story will be represented as its own micro-chapbook.

This year’s box will actually be more box-ish than previous years (rather than resembling a wooden book). It’s roughly a 3.5-inch cube (not quite a cube — one side is around 4 inches — but close enough). It’s fitted with a metal latch and hinges. This box will be hand-stamped with the title, ISBN, and price.

Over the next few days, will show other pieces of the collector’s edition, leading up to its reveal and sale on December 30th. Stay tuned!

“Filigree,” by E. M. Stormo

Band Aid sketch

Every friend group has the friend who everyone hits, and for us it was Tommy. He wasn’t even our smallest friend. That was Jean. But Tommy received our violent affection.

At the bar, Lisa kneed Tommy in the gut and then elbowed him in the back because she got bored waiting in line for the bathroom. Tommy held her drink and salvaged it during the attack. The bouncer wanted to break them up, but it wasn’t even the worse beating Tommy got that week. Wyatt slapped the shit out of him over Sunday brunch and afterwards, when everyone was saying their goodbyes, Bobbio did that thing where you point out a fake stain on someone’s shirt and poke their nose, except he broke Tommy’s nose with the maneuver. Jean drove us to the hospital in her minivan. The whole way there, Bobbio made fun of Tommy for his soft bones and weak cartilage. Tommy apologized to us for the inconvenience, stopping out the blood with some junk mail Jean had lying around.

I never hit Tommy in public. I liked to wait until we were alone.

He brought it on himself, according to the doctors. Tommy emitted a violence-inducing pheromone. But every doctor who treated Tommy had been rough with him, tugging his testes too hard, or pricking his veins for needless blood work. The doctor who reset Tommy’s nose had rescheduled several other patients to get right to his operation.

One time I hit Tommy and he hit me back. It felt like a baby animal attack. I laughed at him and he hit me again. I kept laughing louder the harder he punched me. Eventually, he drew blood, a little from my face but most of it from his bruised knuckles. My sides ached from laughing. I covered for him and told everyone I fell down the stairs, so he wouldn’t face any retribution. Such an incident ran the risk of someone else taking it too far, as Bobbio had on many occasions.

Inspection Week arrived after a particularly brutal season. I made sure to shower with Tommy before our full body exam. He had bruises down his back in all different colors: dark greens, blues, and deep purples, and red scars and rashes running through it.

I could make out our individual work. On his lower back, there was the burn from when Wyatt pushed him onto the grill. I called Wyatt into the showers to admire it. Wyatt slapped Tommy on the shoulder and said he’s looking abstract back there. I asked Wyatt who was responsible for a certain bruise cluster and he called Bobbio into the showers to settle the matter. Bobbio claimed authorship, his words, of the entirety of the upper back section. I drew their attention to the filigree and Wyatt switched off the showers to get a better look at it. Tommy stood their shivering. Bobbio called Lisa and Jean in to see. Lisa said those were Jean’s scratches everywhere. Jean blushed and admitted to the filigree.

Tommy beamed with pride as we examined him. Do a spin, Wyatt said and twirled him on his finger. We marveled how the front was just as complex as the back. It was a shame to add anything new to it or allow him to heal.

After passing inspections, we went out to celebrate with a drink. A kid named Carter, who was like the Tommy of another friend group, made fun of our Tommy’s black eyes and crooked nose. But Tommy was ours to abuse and if somebody from another group so much as insulted him, a fight broke out and we kicked their asses so hard they couldn’t be friends anymore. Bobbio smashed a bottle over Carter’s head and it was on, a 5 V 5 brawl. We sized up our counterparts from across the room. I told Tommy to hang back and leave it to us. Let Jean’s nails take care of it. Or Lisa’s famous knees. Wyatt can slap them into submission. Let Bobbio take things too far, kicking Carter while unconscious. Allow me to destroy the bond between them.

In our late twenties, our friend group drifted apart. Tommy was the first to be married. He now lives upstate with his wife and kids.

If I ever hear of her laying a hand on him, I’ll call up the old gang and we’ll pay them a visit, beat up the whole family.

About the Author:

E. M. Stormo is a fiction editor by day, writer by night, and a teacher and promoter of musical literacy at all times. His work has appeared in Thrice Fiction Magazine, Bartleby Snopes, Entropy Magazine, and The Airgonaut.

Image Credit: © nikiteev – stock.adobe.com