Potomac Review is pleased and proud to report on the continuing success of Issue 52 contributor, Melanie Bishop. Her young adult novel, My So-Called Ruined Life (Torrey House), is due out in early January–watch for a review of it here on our blog.
Melanie is the founding editor of Alligator Juniper at Prescott College in Arizona. Her story, “Trina Comes Home,” which appeared in issue 52, is part of a story cycle called Home for Wayward Girls.
PR editors, Julie Wakeman-Linn, Jarvis Slacks, Zachary Benavidez, and John Wang, read for a lively audience on November 25th. The occasion was to honor MC’s Safe Zone for LGBTQ students, staff and faculty, and also to honor the hard work of the editorial team.
David Goodrich is a retired climate scientist who likes to ride bikes. A couple of months after retirement in 2011, he rode from Delaware to Oregon. Since then, he’s ridden down the Appalachians and on the Way of St. James in Spain. Tales of the road turn into stories.
When I retired a couple of years ago, it occurred to me that what I wanted to do was read and write and ride. The biggest ride was right after retirement, when I got on the bike in my driveway and ended up on the Oregon coast three months later. The Potomac Review story “Small Hours on the High Plains” comes from the Kansas stretch of the ride. Setting is a big part of my stories, both fiction and non-fiction. I encounter kind and remarkable people along the way in circumstances beyond my powers of imagination, so I try to weave their stories together. I’ve been lucky to have access to the Writer’s Center in Bethesda and their very talented group of workshop leaders. Their critiques help keep me on track.
My muse lives on the road, and come springtime I’ll be back out. For twenty years or so, I’ve been fascinated by the Ghost Dance, the tribal religious revival of the 1890’s, culminating in the tragedy of Wounded Knee. Next spring I plan to ride across South Dakota, through the Black Hills and to the edge of the Badlands. I can’t believe there isn’t a story there.
This week we round out our introductions of new editors by presenting fiction editor J.W. Wang, who obtained his Ph.D. in Creative Writing from Florida State University. His work has appeared in Cimarron Review, Quarterly West, Hobart, Poet Lore, and elsewhere. He is founder and editor of Juked and lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland, with a growing collection of rescued animals.
Associate Editor Karolina Gajdeczka attends a Writer’s Center program in Leesburg with speaker Leslie Pietrzyk.
Being new to the Leesburg area, I was really excited to find out about the events in Leesburg that The Writer’s Center puts on every First Friday. This past Friday, November 1st, I attended one of these events when I found out that a friend, writer Leslie Pietrzyk, was speaking.
Leslie Pietrzyk is a local writer whose work includes novels Pears on a Willow Tree and A Year and a Day and short fiction and essays featured in places including The Iowa Review, New England Review, Washington Post Magazine, The Sun, Gettysburg Review, River Styx, TriQuarterly, and Shenandoah. She is also the founder and editor of Redux Literary Journal. She also teaches in the graduate fiction program at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, DC as well as the Converse College low-residency MFA Program. Her event was titled “Making the 300-Page Leap: Writing Stories vs. Writing a Novel.”
The event took place in the lower level of the Leesburg Town Hall, where writers and organizers mingled around coffee and refreshments before the event. I was excited because, as a short story writer who has sometimes wondered about foraying into novel territory, I was interested in learning about the differences in these types of writing, the expectations and strategies.
Pietrzyk was well-prepared with notes and thoughtful examples, connecting each point to The Great Gatsby (because it is widely read and thus an easy example, also a personal favorite of hers), as well as other books, including her own novels. Some of the thoughtful points she covered include:
- · Time: A novelist vs. a short story writer should be more mindful of time (the time span in which the story takes place) and time management. Having an idea of the time of the beginning and the time of the ending will serve as a guideline for how much time it takes to “get there” through the story.
- · Setting: Settings help create the “mood” of the book, and often act as their own characters. Settings should be inseparable from the characters and plot.
- · More plot: In a novel, readers read to find out what happens next, so the plot is even more important (whereas in a story, the writer might get by enticing the reader with pretty language or interesting dialogue). A novel is a story about what happens, and what happens should have immense consequences that lead to a deeper meaning in the book.
- · Characters: Characters should all mean something in a novel, and should have depth so they are capable of something surprising. Ideally, characters in a novel need to act, and preferably act poorly, so their actions lead to more and more complicated circumstances and more desperation. What do the characters want? Externally and internally?
- · Ending: A novel should end with huge changes and significant consequences and messages; whereas a short story could end on a subtle shift or realization.
Overall, the experience was enjoyable and informative, and served as a great reminder that there is a writer community available wherever you go, and that the DC metro area is especially chock full of writer events like these.
This week we’re happy to introduce a new associate poetry editor, Julie Platt, who is Assistant Professor of English, Director of the Writing Center, and Director of Composition at the University of Arkansas at Monticello. Her poetry chapbook, In the Kingdom of My Familiar, is forthcoming from Hyacinth Girl Press, and her poetry has most recently appeared in Barn Owl Review, Moon City Review, and Birdfeast. She researches the relationship between creative writing and technology, and is excited to share some of her findings with readers of the blog.