Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Local Artist Spotlight: Tom Leveen

This week, Hayden’s Ferry Review had the opportunity to talk with writer Tom Leveen, an Arizona native writing in the competitive and demanding Young Adult genre. Instead of writing fantasy fiction, which is currently popular with teenagers and fans of YA lit, he bases his work in reality and focuses on real-world problems a teenager might experience. His stories reveal the complexity of seemingly minor issues in teenagers’ lives.

His books speak of the challenges that occur during the transition between high school and college, and teenagers’ need for orientation, support, and guidance. “You as a YA writer are the last person that will be able to make some impact in them, that might change their future,” he says. This is one of the reasons he writes the kind of books like Party, Random and Zero.

During our interview, he mentioned that he draws on his experience with theater to develop characters and change points of view. He attended sessions for classical training with the Utah Shakespeare Festival Actor Training program, gaining experience as a theatre actor and director. He says, “I encourage other writers to attend at least one semester of theater to know how to separate the different personalities of each character they want to involve in their stories.”

Tom has written five books and is currently working on several projects, one of which will be out in the market by August 2015. When I asked about the best part of writing, he said that not only teenagers read his books, but everyone can learn from them. “You deserve the time and space to write. Or read, for that matter. Work it out with whoever you have to. But write.”

Tom has spoken, taught classes, or been on professional panels for the following organizations: The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Romance Writers of America, Phoenix ComiCon, Tucson Festival of Books, Arizona State University Rl Txt, and others. Additionally, Tom has been the Artistic Director for an independent theater company, Is What It Is Theater in Phoenix; been recognized by the Phoenix New Times for their annual “Big Brain Award” in the Performing Arts Category, been awarded  Best New Local Author 2012 by the Phoenix Magazine, and more. Check him out here: http://tomleveen.com/
-Zalma Aguirre

Monday, October 20, 2014

Behind the Masthead: Heath Wilcock

And now, the highly anticipated interview with HFR’s Special Projects Editor, Heath Wilcock! Heath gave intern Lauren Mickey the inside scoop on exciting topics, such as: stand-up comedy, fame, breakfast fowl, the to-be-installed HFR steam room, etc.

Lauren Mickey: Okay, so, you are the "Special Projects Editor" at HFR. What does this mean? What sort of "special projects" are you working on (or do you plan to work on)? 

Heath Wilcock: Special Projects Editor means that I run HFR. I'm the person in charge. I arrive in the HFR den promptly at 5am and demand my morning breakfast, which consists of one whole roasted fowl. Other editors are rarely in the office at this hour, and the janitorial service do not understand how important I am, so I'm usually left to my own devices. In this case, my device is actually a briefcase where I keep an entire cooked fowl locked inside. After eating my roasted fowl, I'm oftentimes covered in grease and need to bathe. But before I head to the HFR steam room, I sit at my desk and contemplate my sins. 

Special projects I'm currently working on: 
· Brand new HFR website
· HFR agenda for coming AWP
· Putting in a new steam room
· Being there for others
· Convincing everyone that I'm in charge

LM: You handle HFR's social media, correct? What does this entail? How do you keep things interesting on those sites / platforms?

HW: Yes, Lauren Mickey, that is correct. [turns to camera, grins wide, holds it for a solid minute] I tweet at least once a day. I do have a hard time finding a universal voice for HFR. I've been trying to play with it a bit. With a magazine that's over 25 years old, it has established a sweater vest literary fineness, and then I come in and try to make that sweater vest entity say something that's probably garbage. To avoid this qualm, I end up tweeting pictures of myself with a certain facial expression that is a cross between satisfaction and mistrust. That gets more attention than say "10 Reasons Kafka Despised Fondue Parties."

LM: You do improv. Does this at all affect your fiction writing, your work at HFR, your teaching, etc?

HW: Yes. It has a profound effect on developing scenes, establishing relationships, defining character statuses, finding the funny, exploring themes, turning mistakes into revelations, and so on. However, with writing I do slow things down a bit more, try to make it more complex with the use of language. Improv needs to be experienced in a live setting, whereas stories are striving for that timeless quality. You'll never see the same improv show twice, but you'll always return to the same story that shifted your thinking. I'll also act out my stories in my room, playing the different characters. It helps me see how a character would react to a problem that is honest to his/her traits. If my wife's around, I'll have her improv with me. She's great at reacting honestly.

LM: What is most exciting to you, as a reader of submissions? Are you particularly drawn to humor in prose, or not necessarily?

HW: I get the most excited when I come across a piece that is a tight ten pages and it leaves me breathing hard, either from laughing, crying, or simply exhausted from pleasure. I enjoy humor in prose, but I don't necessarily seek it out. I crave stories. Whether it's scary, philosophical, absurd, or sad, I just want to be involved. I don't stick to one food at the family dinner table, I absolutely dish myself a portion of each. Except that one dish that has been on the dinner table for a couple of months, leaks a smelly substance, and uses bad language when guests come over. I don't care for that dish, or story. 

LM: You're kind of Vine famous... Would you like to comment on that? Like, how does it feel to be famous? (Also, does HFR have a Vine yet?)

HW: I have yet to receive my multiple butlers that are required to carry me while I drizzle the finest Beluga serum on my naked body. And until this happens, I'm not considered famous. Vine is a great platform to create small scenes or share a strange image. That's what I like using it for. I'm surprised and grateful that so many kind people follow me. HFR does have a Vine account. It only has one post for our flash fiction contest. Definitely need to do more with that. 

LM: What are you currently reading / watching / generally obsessed with? Are any writers overwhelming you with their brilliance, lately?

HW: I'm currently reading a wonderful collection of stories by Shawn Vestal called Godforsaken Idaho. Let's see, shows I'm watching. I think Key & Peele is a fantastic show; every episode is smart, smart, smart. They get me excited to explore new ideas. Also Nathan For You is incredible. I have to pause that show to catch my breath. I also enjoy Bob's Burgers, Venture Bros., and everything from Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim. Lately I've been watching a lot of documentaries, specifically Iraq and Afghanistan war documentaries. I'll watch them, get really upset, and then clean the house to cool down. I recently read Jeanette Winterson's Sexing the Cherry and she stimulated my senses, hard. I also just picked up Donald Antrim's short story collection The Emerald Light in the Air. Pretty excited to dig into that. His novel, Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World, was the most twisted, funny, and surreal book I've ever read and I couldn't get enough. Other obsession is Steve Martin. Will always be Steve Martin.

LM: Do you ever perform stand-up comedy sets for your students, or is that frowned upon? 

HW: I perform stand-up for my students and they sit there and frown. Then I have them circle around me and chant, "you're doing your best," while I openly weep. 

LM: What is the most magical thing about working at HFR

HW: The steam room, once I get that installed. 

Heath Wilcock is an MFA candidate at Arizona State University and currently serves as the Special Projects Editor for Hayden's Ferry Review. He lives in Tempe with his wife and four-year-old daughter.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Behind the Masthead: Allegra Hyde

This week, we get the behind-the-scenes on prose editor, Allegra Hyde.

Lauren Mickey: You’re a prose editor at HFR – but what does this mean? What are your main responsibilities?

Allegra Hyde: In the words of that strabismic wonder, Jean Paul Sartre, “There is only one day left, always starting over: it is given to us at dawn and taken away from us at dusk.”
LM: Are there any writers, musicians, animals, theories, etc. that have all of your attention and/or admiration, as of late?
AH: I like unicorns and post-structuralism.
LM: What are some techniques, themes, etc. that you typically focus on - or return to - in your writing?
AH: In retrospect, I’ve written quite a few stories about loneliness. Also about people making immoral choices. Also about utopian communes. And, for reasons unknown to me, I have a difficult time avoiding the word “erinaceous.” It just slips in – burrows in, you might even say – so that it has appeared in almost every story I have ever composed. Sometimes I’ll use the word several times a page, and only catch it in revision. Maddening? Yes, and yet it is a comfort as well. To be trailed by a word the way one might be followed by a starving cat, or a robber, eventually becomes more of a ritual than an annoyance. You end up feeding the cat some tuna that you happened to be carrying in your pocket. You give the robber your grandmother’s sapphire necklace. Everyone is happy. You feel less alone.

LM: How do you describe HFR to people who ask you about it? 

AH: 7 by 10 by 1/2.

LM: What song(s) do you have playing on repeat lately? 

AH: Iggy Azalea's "Fancy."
LM: Has working at HFR changed the way you read and/or write?
AH: Yes.
LM: What do you think the color of your aura is? (I know nothing about auras, and I'm pretty sure that they're not self-prescribed, but whatever…) 
AH: Leopard print.
LM: What do you hope for your someday-legacy to be?

AH: A novel – or ideally, multiple novels – that occasionally appear on the shelves of musty bookstores, or as kindling for an expurgatory bonfire in some terrible dystopian future. If people feel the need to my books I will have done something right.

Allegra Hyde’s writing has appeared, or is forthcoming, in The Missouri Review, New England Review, Southwest Review, Passages North, Chattahoochee Review, and North American Review, among others. She curates similes at www.allegrahyde.com.

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Brief Praise for GONE GIRL and What is Next In October

Whether you enjoy them or hate them film adaptations of books this year have seen relative success. It is mostly a struggle for a fan of a novel however to see their favorite book whittled down to fit two hours. There is the worry that favorite scenes and/or characters will be omitted. Then there’s the worry that one’s carefully constructed perceptions of setting and characters will be changed or distorted by another’s vision of the novel. However there is always that curiosity that one has in seeing how the novel unfolds visually. It almost gives us a moment to feel as if the world of the story, the characters, the connections are tangible.

So last week was the release of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn which has currently made number one in the box office ratings. A combination of elements has made the transition from book to film a success for Gone Girl. One major element is the fact that the film’s screenplay was written by the author herself so a lot of the major plot strands and her vision were held in place by her collaboration in this endeavor. Also we have a director who has made very successful film adaptations of books like Fight Club and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo create the suspense, the mystery of the novel by visually executing it with the help of actors like Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike. This does not mean that this is the correct formula for every film adaptation, but this is only a success story.

In upcoming film adaptations for the month of October:

1.       Addicted
Director: Bille Woodruff
Book & Author: Addicted by Zane
2.       Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Director: Miguel Arteta
Book & Author: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
3.        Kill the Messenger
Director: Michael Cuesta
Book & Author: Dark Alliance by Gary Webb
4.       The Best of Me
Director: Michael Hoffman
Book & Author: The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks
5.       Dracula Untold
Director: Gary Shore
Book & Author: Dracula by Bram Stoker
6.       Before I Go to Sleep
Director: Rowan Joffé
Book & Author: Before I Go to Sleep by S. J. Watson
7.       Horns
Director: Alexandre Aja
Book & Author: Horns by Joe Hill

-Leslie Verdugo

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Fitter: THE DOCK: October 2014

Happy October! While you're sipping your pumpkin chai latte, enjoy a new story by Helen Ellis, "The Fitter."

HFR: What's the story behind the story?

HE: The story behind the story is that last year, for my birthday, I got myself a fitter. My fitter is a 1950's pinup type who works in a lingerie store on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Once I started singing her praises, I found out that there was a famous fitter on the Lower East Side: a Hasidic Jewish man, who with the help of his wife, runs a tiny one room shop, piled floor to ceiling with boxes of bras. He looks at you and names your size and she steps behind a curtain with you and literally hooks you up. I wondered what it would be like to be married to a man who made our living by staring at other women's breasts all day long. I thought, "I'd be jealous." And then I wondered what it would be like to feel I had to fit him for a new wife.


The Fitter
Helen Ellis

The Fitter is mine. Myrtle Babcock can get her flabby pancake tits out of his face. He’s sizing her up in her ill-fitting turtleneck that’s off-white and thin because it’s been through the wash too many times. Her “nude” athletic bra shows through like she’s smuggling ferrets. Here’s what, sister: every woman needs underwire, and when you stuff two pounds of downed round into A-cups, beige ain’t invisible.

The Fitter doesn’t touch her. He shakes his head no when she offers to lift her top.

I say, “This ain’t Mardi Gras, Myrtle.”

The Fitter waves his hand for me to be quiet. He leans forward in his recliner.   

My husband, The Fitter, looks like every other middle-aged man in this town. Somehow skinny and fat. Always in khakis with a nice enough smile. He talks like everybody else. He mows his own lawn. If you saw him at the gas station, you wouldn’t do more than say hello. But The Fitter is a wonder. He’s part good old boy, part angel on earth. He’s what you call pilgrimage-worthy. Rich women from big cities charter limos to drive them from Highway 85 to a dirt road to our porch. Myrtle is local, on the saggy side of forty, and I know what it’s taken for her to finally knock on our door.

She arches her back, offering her sad state of affairs like a teller offers bags of cash in a bank heist.

The Fitter waves his hand.

I say, “That means back up, Myrtle. Stand like you normally stand.” I think: Like you’ve been waiting in line for an hour at the 7-Eleven and now the Slurpee machine’s broke.

The Fitter says, “34 C.”

Myrtle says, “No!”

“Yes,” says The Fitter. To me he says, “Pull her three styles: a full-coverage, a plunging neckline, and a balcony. None beige. Pull her the pink one with the roses on the double straps. This woman is a princess at heart.”

Myrtle squeals and claps her hands. Her breasts flap like empty pantyhose legs. She follows me down the hall of our one story house to the dressing room, our master bath. Before I shut the door on her, I say, “Don’t get any funny ideas.”

She says, “What on earth are you implying?”

I say, “That right there: those airs. It has all been done, Myrtle. Love notes in the medicine cabinet, panties under his brown towel. Just last week, those women from down at the pool showed up in their two-pieces and ran through our sprinklers. But he married me and he married me eighteen years ago. As long as I draw breath, nobody – including you – is getting The Fitter.”

Myrtle huffs and plops down on the toilet.

I go to our walk-in closet. It is a forest of bras. The Fitter orders them from London. He orders them from France. He orders them from anywhere you might see someone’s underpants. All those mini-hangers you see in department stores? The Fitter had rods specially built. There are fifteen rows running floor to ceiling, covering three walls. Rods for the most gargantuan of what can only be referred to as brassieres run across the ceiling. The cups are as menacing as cauldrons of boiling oil.

C cups are at my knees. I squat. I comb the rack. My equilibrium is shot because of what those women from down at the hospital have been putting me through, but I catch my balance and surf the carpet. I’m a good employee. I’m the only employee and I want to keep it that way. So I’ll pull Myrtle the best, what The Fitter has asked me to pull: the pink bra with roses that costs $125. But that will be the cheapest by far. I’ll make Myrtle pay for her flirting: her entire paycheck from working the Kroger’s express line. I come out with three bras totaling $643.

The Fitter sits on the edge of our bed.

Myrtle is hanging her head and shoulders out from behind the bathroom door, telling him how much she likes the kimono she’s wearing. The kimono is a genuine kimono ordered all the way from Japan. The Fitter has six. All silk. All colors you don’t see anywhere in real life. The Fitter likes his customers to have a taste of the exotic. His theory is: if a woman is treated well, she’ll spend money like she’s treated that well all the time. The kimono Myrtle is wearing is covered in cranes and hibiscus. It’s the same one I wore when The Fitter’s first wife fitted me.

Myrtle is braless. I had no idea her breasts could drop any further with her bra off, but by God, they most certainly can. Her nipples peek out from behind the door like eavesdroppers.

The Fitter waves his hand.

I say, “Myrtle, in with you. He’s ready. Let’s go.

Myrtle shuffles backwards into the bathroom.

Her turtleneck is slung across my vanity table. My guess is that she’s tucked the bra she came in with into her purse. I imagine a loose Lifesaver adhering to the Nylon. Women never think to hang their things on the fancy hook where they took the kimono. I shut the door in disgust and hang the bras on the towel bar. Myrtle tolerates my curtness because she’s heard tell of what will happen now that we’re alone.

From the bedroom, The Fitter says, “Start with the basic.

I take the full coverage and unhook the triple-clips. The bra is black with a baby blue satin ribbon between the cups. I hold the straps in the 10 and 2 position.

Myrtle drops the kimono to land in a puddle at her bare feet. There is no reason she should have taken off her jeans, socks and shoes. It’s a fitting, not a pelvic exam. When I pick up the kimono, I see she’s painted her toes. Had them painted more likely. No one can do a French pedicure right on her own feet. A French pedicure is an investment. A French pedicure is what some women get to go on their honeymoons. When The Fitter and I went on our honeymoon, I had my toenails painted red. Red is what good wives wear. French pedicures make your toes look like fingers. You look grabby. French pedicures are for man thieves.

I say, “Who did your toes, Myrtle? That maroon-headed know-it-all down at the blow-out shop you call a mother?”

Myrtle says, “Barbara sends her love.”

“Barbara doesn’t know me.”

Barbara is the manicurist where I get my wig fixed. I’ve had to wear that wig for a good part of a year now, and I’ve learned that if I don’t get it washed and styled once week, the top of my head looks like something has crawled up on it, had a seizure, and died. No matter what time I make an appointment, from opening to close, Barbara is ever present at her station, gossiping at a volume loud enough to carry over three hairdryers while she dunks hands of all ages into paraffin wax. When my wig comes off, Barbara and her customers practice the fine Southern lady art of staring without overtly staring. But I can feel their eyes like hot-from-the-dryer fabric softener sheets stuck to my clothes. They each cling to the hope that one of them will take my place. They want the regular beauty parlor appointments that being The Fitter’s wife afford me. Except Barbara wants this for her daughter. Now that she’s sent Myrtle here, I must look worse than I think.

I don’t like Barbara. And I don’t like her daughter because I don’t trust any woman who calls her mother by her first name.

Myrtle says, “Don’t leave me hanging.”

I can’t help myself: I say, “Good one.”

I hold out the bra and Myrtle slips her arms through the straps.

And then my hands are on her breasts. That’s just the way that it is. I don’t think about who I’m handling, I just handle it. I scoop. I pour. I pack. I hook. I smooth back fat. I adjust straps. Not too tight, but tight enough to leave a mark. I’m fast. I get Myrtle locked and loaded before she can blush.

The Fitter says, “Well?”

Myrtle looks in the full-length mirror on the bathroom door. She pivots, taking in the miracle. Her breasts sit above her rib cage.

“Oh, thank you!” she cries to him. “Thank you, thank you!”

The Fitter says, “Hop.”

Myrtle looks to me and I nod. I hate it when they hop. When they hop, every woman is a sixteen year-old girl. Myrtle hops and for the first time in a long, long time her breasts don’t boing like Slinkies.

“Oh!” she cries.

The Fitter says, “See there.”

“Oh, I do! Thank you! I do I do I do!”

Myrtle will not shut up about what The Fitter has done for her because women love men who are the best at what they do. Even more, they love men who are faithful. And what’s more faithful than a married fitter who doesn’t touch, much less look at another woman’s breasts?

The Fitter is quiet. He lets Myrtle’s gratitude warm our once hothouse of a home. Without me hawking over him, I know he lets himself smile. He knows Myrtle’s so mystified by her transformation that she’ll reach for her reflection in the mirror on her side of the door, or if she’s crazy bold reach for the knob. There is a chance I won’t stop her.

But, I do.

I whisper, “Careful, Myrtle. The Fitter don’t cheat.”

He didn’t call me until his first wife ran away with the falsies distributor. Since then he won’t stock falsies. Won’t even look at one: cotton/polyester blend or saline (which my body rejected after my surgery). He swears he loves me the way I am now, but I’m heartbroken. I miss what I had. Why his first wife couldn’t have fallen in love with the nipple tape guy is beyond me.

The Fitter calls, “Next.”

I choose the balcony bra. It’s lavender and gold stretch lace with aerodynamic support. It’s meant to hike your breasts up like corsets used to do. You get all of the oomph with none of the ow. Those in the business call it The Cleavage Maker.

I bend Myrtle over at the waist and drop her breasts into the demi cups like muffin batter. When she rises, those muffins are baked. Myrtle marvels and pats the tops.

The Fitter says, “I don’t hear anything.”

Myrtle opens her mouth, but catches sight of my face.

I know my color’s gone. The side effects from my “aggressive” treatment grab me out of nowhere and make me want to barf.

I reach out for toilet, but it’s Myrtle’s arm I catch on the way to the floor.

Myrtle rests my back against the bathtub. She calls out, “The bra’s fine.”

“Fine?” says The Fitter. “I’ve never heard just fine.”

“It’s beautiful,” calls Myrtle. She runs the faucet over a washcloth. “Gorgeous.” She wrings it. She tips my head between my knees and lays the cool cloth on the back of my neck. She calls, “I’ve never felt more like a woman.”

She cringes at her faux pas. She looks at me like, Oops. My bad.

I wave one of The Fitter’s signature waves. This one means, Forget it.

The Fitter is a man of few words, but the ones he speaks outside of day-to-day dealings are all compliments. When I came for my first fitting, he had his first wife pull a DD with modesty padding because he said I had a body meant for tight sweaters. When we married, he filled my dresser with cashmere crewnecks because he said I deserved to wear nice things. In bed, he’s said it’s my giggling that drives him wild. At work, he’s said I’m tireless, a perfect model, and great with customers. But none of this is true anymore.

Sweaters swallow me. Insomnia drives me to spend nights on the couch. I won’t deserve Employee of the Year this year; Myrtle can attest to that.

I say, “I wasn’t always this jealous.”

She says, “You’re right to be jealous.”

“Goddammit.” I pull the washcloth off my neck. I wring it like I’ve wanted to wring so many customers’ necks.

She fishes an open Lifesaver roll from her purse. She frowns as she pulls it out because the green one is as I predicted stuck to her Old Yeller of a bra. She offers me the orange at the top of the roll.

I refuse.

She says, “One of us is going to get him. You might as well let me be nice to you.” She unwinds the foil string, pops the orange in her mouth, and offers me the cherry.

I take it. And of course it tastes good. Red is always the best flavor. It takes the dry bitterness out of my mouth.

The Fitter calls, “What’s the holdup?”

When we don’t answer, I hear the bedsprings squeak. The Fitter walks towards the bathroom door. He knocks. He’s never knocked.

He asks, “Is everything okay in there?” And then: “Myrtle, is she okay?:

“I’m fine,” I answer.

But I know I’m not fine. The sicker I get, the more business booms.

I reach out and let Myrtle help me to my feet. I take the pink bra from the towel bar. Myrtle takes off the balcony. Her breasts droop. They look sad. The pink bra is happy. I hold it for her to slip her arms through, but Myrtle doesn’t budge. She stares at the appliqué roses on the straps.

She says, “I can’t afford it."

“You could charge it.”

“Barbara won’t let me have any debt.”

Myrtle pulls her not-so-sporty sports bra over her head. She gathers herself. Her tamped down nipples look like googly eyes.

I say, “Keep the other women in line?”

Myrtle nods.

I slip the pink bra in her purse. I wave. It means, Yours.