10th Anniversary: Set alight by the short story

This essay was originally published on May 14, 2012. It is being re-shared in support of LPR’s 10th Anniversary celebration.

This is what I wanted to do with my own stories: line up the right words, the precise images, as well as the exact and correct punctuation so that the reader got pulled in and involved in the story and wouldn’t be able to turn away his eyes from the text unless the house caught fire.

Raymond Carver, author’s 1991 forward to Where I’m Calling From

Raymond Carver

Raymond Carver in 1984 (Photo: Bob Adelman)

I’m not always comfortable writing about writing. For me, it’s sort of like talking about what I want to write instead of actually doing it. However, since May is National Short Story Month, I decided (at the urging of a friend) to jot down a few words about fiction in general and the short story in particular.

There’s talk about short stories being out of favor, short story collections being hard to sell and so on. I’m not too worried about that. The market is both fickle and cyclical. I believe that short fiction will make a comeback any day now. Even if it doesn’t capture the public’s attention the way it once did, the form is significant and merits reading and writing and perpetuating through literary journals.

NOTE: If you enjoyed this essay, please check out LPR’s Issue 13: Doubt. https://littlepatuxentreview.org/issues/13-winter-2013/

10th Anniversary: How to listen so writers will talk

This essay was originally published on July 25, 2013. It is being re-shared in support of LPR’s 10th Anniversary celebration.

Susan at the Music issue launch, for which she interview Marie Howe. (Photo: E. Q. Tennant)

Susan at the Music issue launch, for which she interview Marie Howe. (Photo: E. Q. Tennant)

As a child, I rode everywhere on trains – Chicago, New York, even San Francisco, and that’s a darn long time on a train. My father worked for Amtrak; we rode for free. Train tracks run through back yards full of creaky swing sets, shaggy dogs and flapping rainbows of laundry – the back doors of houses, which seem much more intimate than the face the houses prepare for the faces they meet through the front door.

Watching out those windows for hours on end, I noticed there were so many lives, just as full as mine, which seemed like a revelation to me as a child. I was so curious about all of them. I also read obsessively – my mother used to beg: “Please, at least take the book outside” – for trips through other people’s heads.

NOTE: If you enjoyed this essay, please check out LPR’s Issue 12: Audacity. https://littlepatuxentreview.org/issues/12-summer-2012/

Pushcart Prize Nominee: Myra Sklarew

Along with publishing emerging writers, one of the public roles and great pleasures of an independent, small literary journal is to nominate individual poems, essays, and stories for awards like the Pushcart Prize. This is one more way to say “thank you,” to the hard working writers, without whom LPR wouldn’t exist. These nominations also require renewed attention to the craft and presence of the pieces LPR publishes, and often that attention is rewarded with renewed joy.

Myra Sklarew was profiled by Lalita Noronha in the Winter 2014 Science Issue. Then-editor Laura Shovan reads this poem at the Winter 2014 issue launch.

The Sunflowers of Umbertide

Before I go into the dark places, before I enter
the tunnel of the past, before I climb down
into the pit where I kneel on the earth,
where those I once loved leave me a remnant
of bone, before their lost names scatter
to the wind, before the trees forget what they witness,
before for no reason at all a child is taken
from life, before before . . .

I stand in Umbertide

where the sunflowers turn their bountiful heads
eastward, their buds still in circadian rhythm.
And I am warmed by them, my eyes fill
with their seeds and petals, florets in perfect spirals,
their golden offerings risen high on their stems.
I carry them in my arms, the entire field of sunflowers
from Umbertide, so the coldness of the pit
in the cold country will not freeze me entirely.

Order your own copy of the Winter 2014 Science Issue.

10th Anniversary: Full Circle

This essay was originally published on January 16, 2015. It is being re-shared in support of LPR’s 10th Anniversary celebration.

“I only know the joy of diving into the pure and essential world of the story.” ~ Kris Faatz

A few days ago, a writer friend and I traded sympathy about the process. She said, “Sometimes the only thing worse than writing is not writing.”

I often flip back and forth between two moods: pessimism when I’m working and meanness when I’m not. Every writer knows those feelings. And all of us know a nasty truth: the words we labor on so lovingly today may never reach anybody else tomorrow.

Kris'childhood aspirations are captured in this circa 1970s photo: music and books.

Kris’ childhood aspirations are captured in this circa 1980s photo: music and books.

When I was three, I made up my first stories, and when I was six wrote and illustrated a “book” called “The River.” In second grade I devoured and plagiarized from Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series. In fourth grade, I got into mythology; in fifth, I traded all earlier loyalties for elves and hobbits; and in sixth, I fell in love immediately and forever with Watership Down. From the beginning, I wanted to be a writer, but later tried math and science and finally (I thought) settled on music, which after books had been my first love. Approaching thirty, working as a musician, I drifted back to writing when I decided – no problem! – to start a novel about the colorful, crazy backstage world of the classical symphony.

NOTE: If you enjoyed this essay, please check out LPR’s Issue 14: Music. https://littlepatuxentreview.org/issues/14-summer-2013/

10th Anniversary: Once You’re Inside

This interview was originally published on September 11, 2015. It is being re-shared in support of LPR’s 10th Anniversary celebration.

prison wallsNote: All the men’s names have been changed to preserve their anonymity.

I didn’t know what to expect when Linda Moghadam and I visited the men’s writing group at the Patuxent Institute. I had a clue as to the motivation and tenor of the men from reading a brochure Linda had given me about the creative group. Working together, the members had this to say about the purpose of forming a group and the power of the arts:

“The group wants to have a positive impact on people involved with the street culture, prisons, and policy makers who can re-introduce educational programs into the prison systems.…


NOTE: If you enjoyed this essay, please check out LPR’s Issue 13: Doubt. https://littlepatuxentreview.org/issues/13-winter-2013/

10th Anniversary: Five Myths about the Afghan People


This essay was originally published on August 7, 2015. It is being re-shared in support of LPR’s 10th Anniversary celebration.

Angie Chuang

Angie Chuang

I was one of thousands of “embedded” reporters in Afghanistan during the post-9/11 years—only I didn’t embed with a military unit, I lived with a family in Kabul (and traveled with them to their rural village in Ghazni) for nearly a month. This family and my experiences in Afghanistan with them formed the central narrative of my hybrid memoir, The Four Words for Home.

We’ve officially withdrawn U.S. and NATO troops from Afghanistan, and we’re left with a vague feeling that though the Taliban were overthrown from official leadership, our understanding of this complex nation is more tenuous than ever. Perhaps it was easier for the U.S. government and the American Mind to perceive “The Afghan People” as mysterious and inscrutable. That way, we could throw up our hands and chalk up any nation-building failures to the inherent fierceness and ungovernable nature of the Afghan people. Just ask Alexander the Great in 330 B.C. or the Soviet Army in 1988 A.D.

So in honor of Little Patuxent Review’s forthcoming theme issue on Myth, I offer my personal debunking of five myths about Afghanistan and Afghans I’ve commonly heard.

NOTE: If you enjoyed this essay, please check out LPR’s Issue 19: Myth. https://littlepatuxentreview.org/issues/19-winter-2016-myth/

10th Anniversary: A Partial List of the Voices I Stole

This essay was originally published on August 21, 2015. It is being re-shared in support of LPR’s 10th Anniversary celebration.

Tyler Barton. Photo credit: Natalie Morgan Sharp.

Tyler Barton. Photo credit: Natalie Morgan Sharp.

The “Concerning Craft” series introduces Little Patuxent Review contributors, showcases their work and draws back the curtain to reveal a little of what went into producing it.

An excerpt from “Lease,” which appears in Little Patuxent Review’s Summer Issue:

What Miss Allens don’t realize is eleven is just two ones next together. Mean, she don’t know basic maths. One and one is two. Followed by a zero means twenty. So I walked right up through her yard, past the sign advertising the bike and slapped a Jefferson in her left hand. She spit into her bucket mean the way she does at strays, and she crumbles it up, tosses it at me. Starts shoutin.

  1. Holden

If you really want to hear about it,[1] I have this complex about third person narrators. Who the hell’s talking to me, and where the hell are they?

These are questions I started asking myself a few years ago, when I was first trying to write, feeling a need to justify my tendency toward the first person. There was something repulsive to me about reading a story or novel and picturing the words coming from a writer, narrating from her desk, or—god help me—his favorite coffee shop. I wanted the words to come from somewhere (that at least seemed) real-life. When a character is a narrator, I see them talking to me—something people do every day in my real life. They’re right there. It’s as if I just happened upon them.

NOTE: If you enjoyed this essay, please check out LPR’s Issue 18. https://littlepatuxentreview.org/issues/18-summer-2015/