Thursday, December 18, 2014

Interview with Dinah Cox: Flash-Prose Contest Honorable Mention

Dinah Cox shares her thoughts on flash-prose. Check out her Flash-Contest Honorable Mention story here.

William Ruof: What exactly about the flash prose genre appeals to you? How do you find that it changes your writing style?

Dinah Cox: I like the energy and intensity in very short fiction pieces—they’re like the toy surprises at the bottom of the cereal box, though I’d like, one day, to write something more like the entire grocery store. I’ve read on more than one occasion that the blurring of generic boundaries means there’s no difference between the short-short, the flash fiction piece, and the prose poem, but I’ll go out on a limb here and say I’ve written in all three genres (the short-short, the flash-fiction piece, and the prose poem) and each one has its own distinct attributes. The short-short is more like a joke; without a punch line at the end you can forget it. The flash fiction piece has, as a goal, more emotional intensity than the short-short, and the prose poem, where each sentence is at once more compressed and more expansive, is the highest form of the three, the one chance we prose writers have to aspire to something greater.  

WR: You chose to include a lot of dialogue in your story. Did you find yourself having to cut back on your story to meet the 500-word maximum? 

DC: I wrote this piece after a fairly long period of not having written anything at all. I don’t remember having to cut anything in particular, but often I remember the writing process as much more effortless than it actually was.

WR: One of the housemates in your story is from Buffalo. I have to ask, being a Buffalonian myself, do you have any ties to the city, or was it just a random choice? How is setting important to you as a writer?

DC: In my story, the housemate from Buffalo brings home a pizza but refuses to share it with everyone else. When I was an undergraduate, I had a housemate from Buffalo who was generous to a fault with her pizza and with everything else. She grew up to be a volleyball coach at the college level. This particular short piece is set in a bookstore because I’d just read something dumb about social media as the twenty-first century bookstore; I’d just had an electronic exchange with an old friend, and I started to imagine how much better and more meaningful that exchange might have been had we met in a bookstore instead. Many of my stories are set in Oklahoma, where I’m from.

WR: If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring writers, what would it be?

DC: The best advice is the oldest and most oft-repeated advice: read everything. Whenever you’re not reading, write. Whenever you’re not reading or writing, think about the next time you’re going to read or write, and make sure, if you can, that time comes sooner rather than later. Seek advice from more experienced writers; listen to them when they tell you about your shortcomings, even and maybe especially when it’s painful to do so. Overcome your shortcomings. Continue to read and write.

WR: You use first person really well here. Why did you choose to write this piece in first person instead of second or third?

DC: At the outset, the narrator felt like a franker version of myself. I was thinking of an old friend—wishing her well—and, though I haven’t seen her in almost twenty years, I wanted to write about what it might feel like to meet her again. The third person felt too distant—I didn’t even consider it. Neither did I consider the second person; I’ve written only a small handful of stories in the second person, and that’s probably enough for the rest of my life. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Hayden's Ferry Review: Issue 55

from the Editor:

Sigmund Freud was tormented by the mysteries of the subconscious: Where do dreams come from? Why do we have them? What do they mean? In The Interpretation of Dreams, first published in 1899, he attempted to dissect our dreams. He mused that dreams are manifestations of our repressed daytime traumas and hidden desires. Truths, in his eyes, come to us disguised as dreams.

As we read and reread the pieces in this issue of Hayden’s Ferry Review, we were constantly reminded of Freud’s meditations on dreams. Matthew Baker’s “<html>” takes us to the coded world of the internet, a world constructed of numbers where nothing is as its seems. Mel Bosworth, in “This Place of Great Peril,” drops us on top of the 84th tallest mountain in the world, into a slowly deteriorating mind. Carol Davis’s “The Secret Lives of Bridges” allows us to peer into the invisible history of the Brooklyn Bridge. In the “Skydweller’s Fingernail,” Amarsana Ulzytuev and Alex Cigale imagine our feet into clouds, our heads into constellations. Even the art for this issue lifted us into a dream world, where snails slivered up walls (Samantha Sweeting) and girls braided hair between fingers (Anastasi Cazabon) and wild-haired boys shot arrows from branch bows (Lori Vrba).

As writers, dreams are of special interest to us. Writers also work in metaphor, in image. Like dreams, stories require us to suspend our disbelief and engage with the world presented on the page, no matter how whimsical or fantastical.

In The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud organizes dream expression into five categories: displacement, projection, symbolization, condensation, and rationalization. We have chosen to organize this issue of Hayden’s Ferry Review using these five classifications. Freud referred to the stuff of dreams as “day residue,” distorted remnants of our daytime thoughts. The prose and poetry in this issue are forms of day residue, too. In the following pages, you will experience small and large truths, echoes of your life, windows into the human experience.

So many thanks to our contributors, who inspire and engage us every day. Thank you to our staff, who put so much of their time and energy into this journal. And much thanks to you, our reader, for taking the time to pick us up.

Now: enter the dream.


Dana Diehl

Purchase Issue 55 now, or subscribe to receive a year (2 issues) of Hayden's Ferry Review, starting with Issue 55. We will be mailing Issue 55 in early to mid-January.

Issue 55 Contributors

Prose: Kendra Atleework, Matthew Baker, Mel Bosworth, Blair Hurley, Misha Rai, Jeanne Wagner

Poetry: John C. Bennett, Simeon Berry, Moriah Cohen, Matthew Reed Corey, Carol V. Davis, Jeanine Deibel, Norman Dubie, Cody Ernst, CJ Evans, Shawn Fawson, Michael Homolka, Chris Hutchinson, Brad Johnson, Len Krisak, Lucien Darjeun Meadows, Lo Kwa Mei-en, Michael Meyerhofer, Patrick Milian, Jim Natal, Kevin Phan, Ben Purkert, Sarah Pemberton Strong, T.N. Turner, Mark Wagenaar

Translation: Nancy Naomi Carlson [Abdourahman Waberi], Alex Cigale [Amarsana Ulzytuev], Margaret Jull Costa [Enrique Vila-Matas], Anatoly Kudryavitsky and Yulia Kudryavitskaya [Annette Hagemann], Clyde Moneyhun [Maria-Mercè Marçal], Carlos Hernández Peña [Juan Luis Martínez], Colin Rorrison [Rubem Fonseca], Chris Tamigi [Mauro Covacich]

Art: Anastasia Cazabon, France Scully and Mark Osterman, Samantha Sweeting, Lori Vrba


Issue 55 Masthead

Editor: Dana Diehl

Managing Editor: Chelsea Hickok

International: Alex McElroy, Brian Bender

Art: Ashley Czajkowski

Special Projects: Heath Wilcock

Copyeditor: Mindy Wilson

Monday, December 8, 2014

Skip Your Weekly Jazzercism Class, this Work-out Will Blow Your Mind!

Do you know that feeling you get when you finish a good workout? You’re sweaty, stretched out, and all those dopamine receptors in your brain are firing off like crazy? Well, I finally get to feel the same thing. According to Time Magazine, reading functions as a “vigorous exercise” for the brain. So that means that by reading, I get to work out. Guess who isn’t going to the gym this week?

According to psychologists Raymond Mar and colleagues, in a 2009 study of how reading correlates with empathy, reading fiction is correlated with higher levels of empathy and openness to new ideas. Reading nonfiction is actually not correlated with higher levels of empathy. They theorize that reading fiction activates different areas of the brain, enabling people to see themselves in other’s shoes.

According again to The Times, reading complex and detailed material requires the brain to simulate different circumstances by drawing on the parts of the brain that would be used in similar situations in reality.

So, in summary, using your brain to read a book is like a full work-out, but with only a fraction of the sweat and without the need to throw on your favorite gym shorts or yoga pants. Don’t have time to read a book? Well then, pick up a copy of HFR, and read a few short stories. It’s a lot less work than a work-out. (hardeharhar)

- Philip LaMaster

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Bun in the Oven: Flash-Prose Contest Honorable Mention

We are so excited to share our "500 for 500" Flash-Prose Contest honorable mention winner, Dinah Cox. This piece is moving and surprising; we know you'll enjoy it!

Bun in the Oven

Dinah Cox

My old friend Eleanor was getting a divorce. A long time ago, before they were married, I lived with Eleanor and Stan and a bunch of other people in a four-bedroom house owned by the college Eleanor and I attended. Stan was much older, old enough to be considered scandalous, and we kept it under wraps he was living there at all. But he was gentle, the kind of man who played the acoustic guitar and volunteered to cook. These days, they lived in the mountains with their two sons, in a cabin heated only by a wood burning stove. I was dying to know what had precipitated their divorce.

“What happened to Stan?” I said. We were in a bookstore, in the weirdo section, the two of us keeping company with healing aromas and and Dr. Weil and crystals and mushrooms and shit. Eleanor was always a big believer in this or that. I was a doubter. The clash between her made-up mysticism and my unwelcome mockery was, in my mind, one of the most enjoyable parts of our friendship.

“Stan suffers from multiple addictions,” she said. I thought multiple must have meant more than two. Probably he drank a lot and smoked pot and looked at pornography most of the time when he wasn’t at work. Gambling seemed out of character, not to mention strangely anachronistic as addictions went. Maybe he wanted to have too much sex or did something extra-weird like buy too many bongo drums or drink too much cough medicine or make out with strangers in bathroom stalls. Or maybe he took pills. But I’ll admit to disliking the language of addiction and 12-step programs; it seemed a bit pedestrian for someone as adventurous as Eleanor. I wanted to know what he’d done to her.

“When did you know?” I said. “Describe the exact moment.”

“We were working in the garden,” she said, “And he fell asleep under a tree.”

“Yeah,” I said. I could imagine the scene: a row of seedlings waiting to be planted, the boys off catching frogs in the creek, Eleanor up to her elbows in loose tree roots and dirt. His indifference, her loneliness, the boys being boys.

“You ought to buy this,” I said, pointing to a display copy of Stuff Your Pillows with Human Hair. “Just kidding.”

“I couldn’t take it anymore,” she said, and, in a flash, I remembered something that had happened years ago, when we all lived together in the college-owned house. One of our housemates, a six-foot-something woman from Buffalo, brought home a pizza and didn’t share it with the rest of us. “You’re a big eater,” Stan had said to her. “Bun in the oven?” And at that moment, I’d watched as Eleanor looked at him and said silently I do not love you I cannot love you I will not love you. She had the same look now, only brighter, and more full of ease.


Dinah Cox's first book, Remarkable: Stories won the fourth annual BOA Short Fiction Prize and is forthcoming from BOA Editions in 2016. Her stories appear in StoryQuarterly, Prairie Schooner, Salt Hill, Zone 3, Beloit Fiction Journal, J Journal, and elsewhere. She teaches in the English Department at Oklahoma State University where she's also an associate editor at Cimarron Review. 

This Week in Writing

Mark Strand, Pulitzer-winning Poet Laureate in 1999, passed away at age 80 on Saturday due to liposarcoma (fat-cell cancer) at his daughter’s house in Brooklyn.

P.D. James, creator of Adam Dalgliesh Mysteries, also known as the “Queen of Crime,” dies at age 94 on Thursday in Oxford, England. Her first work, Cover Her Face, was published in 1962, and her last, Death Comes to Pemberley, in 2013.

Claudia Rankine’s book of poetry, Citizen: An Americal Lyric, is a finalist for the National Book Award in poetry.

According to reviewer Janet Maslin, Brock Clarke’s book The Happiest People in the World uses C.I.A. Operatives to drive the interest of readers.

Christopher Fowler’s new book Bryant & May and the Bleeding Heart is the second book published in America this year by the author.

-Zalma Aguirre