Category Archives: Fiction

The 2017 Literary Prize in Fiction winner: “The Tinder Men” by David Henson

Announcing the winner of our first annual Literary Prize! The 2017 So Say We All Literary Prize in Fiction, judged by Leesa Cross-Smith, is awarded to David Henson for his phenomenal short story, “The Tinder Men.”

We’d also like to announce and honor the four additional finalists, whose work (along with David’s) will appear in the upcoming release of The Radvocate, our literary magazine, slated for mid-August.

Kathleen Langstroth, “Primary Education”
Toni Martin, “Fool’s Gold”
Gerardo Gurrola, “Gibbous”
Pouya Razavi, “Echoes”

Here’s David Henson’s story, and Laura Gwynne’s illustration!

accompanying artwork, “The Tinder Men,” by Laura Gwynne

The Tinder Men
by David Henson

Alice spends her mornings searching Tinder for men who look like they might bring weed. She makes plans to meet at a bar of their choosing, then stops responding to their texts for the rest of the day. An hour after she’s supposed to meet the men she says, Sorry, I got sucked into something.

Sorry, I got sucked into something, she texts. I got sucked into something and I lost track of time.

She’s always getting sucked into things.

Sometimes the men respond, sometimes they’re hurt and they never text again. If she hears from them that night, she texts her address. She feels better about casually inviting them over at the end of the night instead of during the day.

Alice likes redheads with messy hair. She likes sex through the underwear, around the underwear, but it rarely happens. She smokes the Tinder men’s weed and observes their many-splendored eyebrows.  

Tonight the Tinder man isn’t responding.

It’s late. Alice can smell that something organic has gone off. She wonders if the smell is coming from her. She wonders if she’s been smelling this bad all day and then wonders if she’s rotting and soon she’ll be dead like her brother, but then she sees the halved grapefruit rotting in the nearby garbage can.   

Alice always thinks she should bring up her dead brother earlier in conversation because all the best moments in life have real tension. She could say her brother died and she is destroyed, and how can this person standing in front of her ever make any kind of difference to her? Her brother died. Her faith is warped and mangled.     

The moon is wading in the black night sky, she thinks. Wading in the kiddie pool sky.

Her brother died and all she could offer was the opposite of proof. A covered up hole in the ground. A name on a stone. A story that somebody once said out loud.

The Tinder man shows up at midnight. He doesn’t mention how she flaked on the first set of plans. Alice is wearing a sweater with no bra. 

I want your body, he says as his Burberry coat slips to the floor.

The Burberries taste like Burberries, she thinks.

A woman said that to me at the gym the other day, she lied.   

She’s already very high. She says, Do you really want this body? Do you want to wear me like a bear skin rug?

The Tinder man ignores her and reaches for the joint between her lips. Later they burn a pizza together and toss pornographic playing cards across the room, trying to get them stuck in the grates of her tiny space heater.

Alice leans back hard into the last church pew. She wants to snap it in two. The wedding ceremony has been dragging on forever. The groomsmen are wearing pastel bowties and the whole thing feels kind of divorcey.

Alice has always believed that weddings are places of conflict. Her parents met at a wedding. Her parents started her family at a wedding.

Alice would have taken her brother as her plus one but of course he died. She promises that from now on, when people die she’s going to start saying they murdered themselves. They murdered themselves with cholesterol foods. They murdered themselves with life.

Alice’s brother murdered himself with the pointless thoughts that dripped into hardened stalactites in his brain.

Her friend Pat is her plus one, but not really. During the reception he mostly chats up old ladies next to the buffet. She watches him from the singles table. The special catering candles heat the silver trays all lined up behind him. She watches her friend like he is a fantastic film that will never end.

Outside, the black ocean sky is raining. Alice squints through the cold hotel window. She feels like a person looking back on childhood. The role of events in life change over time, she thinks, and she hugs that thought all the way up to her discounted room on the seventh floor.

Two days later Alice returns to work. She remembers that she was promoted just before her brother died and she took a long break. She isn’t sure whether or not she’ll be expected to be the manager when she gets there.

Every day is exactly the same at McDonald’s. Soon they’ll all be robots. Well, soon they’ll all be at home and robots will do the work. The government has no plan for how to deal with that. The government is not for them. For now, the government is against them.

She’s still sitting in her car behind the McDonald’s even though her shift ended hours ago. The engine is on. The car dings continually to remind her that she’s not buckled in.

The moon is waiting in the ocean black sky. The moon will come when you call it. The moon will be sucked under by the currents.

Alice takes her hand off the wheel and reaches into her hair. She gently pokes around and tells herself she is searching for evidence of her brother’s murder.

She thinks about how her brother used to say that the world is a collaboration of symbols that were never meant to add up to a meaningful thought. She wonders if he thought that thought on the day he died. She wonders if people have any good thoughts on the day they die.

The emoji for the world is a blue circle with some green splatters on it. She texts three of them in a row to Pat. Pat texts back a yellow thumbs up and a red apple. She takes a blurry picture of herself biting her thumb in her dark car but she doesn’t send it. She lets a few drops of blood drip onto her rubber phone case, then rolls her thumb in it. When she pushes the button for the dashboard light, there’s no fingerprint, only a smear of pale blood.    

When she gets home she signs up for a Christian dating website. She lets self-identified Christian men buy her dinner every other night for a month. They spend hours at restaurants named after days of the week. There isn’t any sex. After the first few dinners, she starts imagining she’s going on auditions to be these men’s mother. She hears it in every man’s voice. Are you willing to take care of me? She knows some of them have weed but none of them offer any.

She takes half of her dinner home in a styrofoam container and eats alone the other nights.

At work she fades into the background, watching as one employee at a time is replaced by an electronic equivalent. The new cashiers are cartoon faces on two foot tall computer screens. Besides pushing the power button, there’s nothing else she needs to do to manage them. Pat meets her in back and they smoke the last of his weed. He has also recently been replaced at his job by a car that drives itself.

Pat is staring at a flashing sign advertising the triumphant return of a pork sandwich.

Isn’t it nuts that little kids eat food every day even though they don’t know why they’re doing it? he says. Or, like, cavemen ate food their whole lives and they had no idea how food works.

They got hungry, she says. So they ate.

But they were just going around and finding stuff they could shove into themselves. That was like the whole point of being alive back then.

Before they unplugged him, machines performed all the normal human functions for her brother. Different sized tubes ran to his mouth and his wrist, secured with medical adhesive tape. His last meal was humid air and IV fluid.  

It sounds lovely, she says.

That night, Alice receives an email informing her that surveillance cameras caught her smoking behind the McDonald’s and that she’s fired. The email is from the cameras. The surveillance cameras are the ones who fired her.

It was only a matter of time, she thinks as she drops her nametag into the nearby garbage can. One of the thoughts that haunted her brother taps her on the shoulder but she deftly ignores it.  

The moon had been growing bigger each night, and now the moon was the whole sky, and you had to hope that a crater was perched over your bedroom window otherwise it would be too bright to sleep.

She’d been the one who picked her brother up from the therapist after his court-mandated appointments. When he told her that the only fix for his brain would be shutting it off, she’d suggested he drive an hour to an isolation tank she’d read about but had never been to. It cost seventy-five dollars to sit in the dark of the isolation tank for one hour, floating in the extra-buoyant liquid. That seemed like fifteen dollars too much to spend on herself. She wishes she’d offered to pay for him, but what difference could that perfect dark really have made?  

There were no more jobs to be had. Alice put a thin rubber band around the stack of unopened bills on the kitchen table. The thermostat hovered at uncomfortable temperatures.

She was mad at herself for being jealous of her brother’s carefree deadness. He wasn’t around to laugh at her or tell her she was being stupid, so she had to keep thinking that same thought over and over. 

Eventually all she could think about was that her problems would never end, but of course that isn’t true for anyone. Everything ends, but the brain has no use for finality, so it chooses to forget the lessons of dead brothers.

Instead, things were dire for a while, and then Pat borrowed money from his father and lent it to her. In fact, they all borrowed money from each other, all the people around, and they borrowed other things, and everyone knew everyone. Alice borrowed money from her dead brother. She wore his winter hat and borrowed the smell behind his ears. The government borrowed their labor, which they lent for free until they were tired and needed to sleep under the glow of the moon. The moon borrowed the night sky, and during the day they all borrowed the rays of the sun. They borrowed memories of each other and played them in their heads when they were having trouble sleeping at night. Viruses borrowed their health and they slept on their couches with the TV on. The atmosphere borrowed their breath and returned it promptly. Or didn’t.

Everyone and everything was so busy borrowing that no one thought to keep track of who owed who, and they forgot what debts were, and they forgot to renew their vehicle registrations, and whenever they felt a certain feeling inside their stomachs, they went out and found pieces of the world to put in their mouths and chew and swallow.

They chewed and swallowed, chewed and swallowed the moon white sky.


David Henson is pursuing a PhD in English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His work has appeared at Fluland, Big Bridge, and won the 2016 Problem House Press short story contest. He writes and records music under the name Shadows on a River, which can be heard at shadowsonariver.bandcamp.com. He tweets @davidbhenson


If you want to support what we do at So Say We All, a literary nonprofit and small press, please consider becoming a sustaining member! Details here: www.sosayweallonline.com/membership

Kali Wallace reads at The Foundry this Saturday!

The Foundry is our literary reading series, and this Saturday’s show features readings from Kali Wallace, Hari Alluri, Elizabeth Marro, Steph Cha, and Matt Young. We jam pack these readings (just for you!) with our favorite established and emerging writers from near and far, with a nice spread of genre and form.

Kali Wallace is the author of the YA novel Shallow Graves and the forthcoming book The Memory Tree. Her writing is stunningly gorgeous, weird, cool, and exciting. She flips the idea of genre or age-level on end. Sometimes Shallow Grave felt like reading a powerful, scientific lyrical essay on grief, cults, and the stars… plus undead teens and exciting mystery and gore!

Kali has a PhD in geophysics, and that wonder and fascination with the natural world is as strong in her writing as her ability to weave the unnatural world, too.

I didn’t know I was waking up until it had already happened.

The birds started dying after midnight. The first people to notice were the early morning birders out before dawn, armed with their notebooks and binoculars, wrapped in scarves and puffy down coats against the surprise cold. They saw their blue jays and orioles and herons all struck dead on their migration north.

[…] The frost melted away before noon, and the birds kept dying. On the news a scientist insisted the freak cold snap had nothing to do with it, never mind that it was the middle of June and Illinois was ready for summer.

The last birds died just before midnight, and I came back.

–from Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace

Kali’s work is powerful and gorgeous, but that’s not to say her writing isn’t also cutting and funny. Is this a San Diego subtweet? Possible.

I was expecting somebody like Mr. Willow, with his have-you-accepted-Jesus-as-your-savior hair and warm smile, but the man in the doorway looked like he had reached the age of thirty without realizing he wasn’t a frat boy anymore. No Steelers jersey, but he had blond hair in gelled spikes, a T-shirt advertising a craft beer, baggy cargo shorts, and a tattoo of a sunburst on his right calf.

–from Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace

Join Kali on Saturday at 7 PM at Public Square Coffee House, who’ll read from her forthcoming book, The Memory Trees, “about a mysterious family legacy, the bonds of sisterhood, and the strange and powerful ways we are shaped by the places we call home.” It’s an evocative story of the inheritance of women, place, and grief.


If you like what we do at So Say We All, a literary nonprofit, please consider becoming a supporting member!

Steph Cha reads at The Foundry on June 10th!

The Foundry is our literary reading series, and our next show is this Saturday, June 10th, at 7 PM at Public Square Coffee House in La Mesa.

The Foundry is equal parts performance and… immersive bookstore. Come hear some fantastic readings, and spruce up your summer reading list. We can’t wait to introduce you to your next favorite writer(s). Saturday’s show features Matt Young, Kali Wallace, Elizabeth Marro, Hari Alluri, and Steph Cha.

Steph Cha is a writer living in Los Angeles. She is author of the Juniper Song novels: Follow Her Home, Beware Beware, and Dead Soon Enough. She is a freelance book reviewer and food writer for the Los Angeles Times.

Dead Soon Enough is the latest installment in the Juniper Song series, and a breeze to slip into, despite not having read the first two novels. Song is a delight. She’s weird, hardworking, kind, and brilliant, but also is quite troubled and a tiny bit troubling herself. Cha’s writing is intelligent, vicious, exciting, and lovely, and redefines the idea of LA Noir.

“Come on, let’s get some tacos or something. We’re at a nightclub with a metal detector, and people are staring at us.”

We walked over to a stand called Tacos Mexico. It was five minutes away, on Broadway, by the renovated Ace Hotel. The street was littered and a homeless man shouted at us as we walked by, his face distorted by anger that had little to do with us. Broadway was gentrifying in strange, random heaves, but it wasn’t the prettiest part of downtown to walk in at night. It wasn’t the safest part either, but I’d dealt with worse demons than the poor and schizophrenic.

–from Dead Soon Enough by Steph Cha

Her books are dark page turners, but also have a strong sense of place, a chilling look at race and feminism, and some killer one-liners.

“Were there no Armenian writers left?”

“I wouldn’t say that. For one thing, tragedy begets writers. You take a whole population and put them through some shit, a few of them will find a voice. Outrage has a way of getting through, even coarsely.”

“Is that what Nora’s writing is about? Outrage?”

“Outrage, pride. Two sides of the same coin when you’ve been victimized.”

–from Dead Soon Enough by Steph Cha

And yes, there’s excitement and fights!

The shock of it almost dropped me. In my short career as a private investigator, I’d been grabbed, dragged, and held at gunpoint. I’d even been knocked out with a blow to the back of my head. But I’d never been confronted with anything as straightforward and openly violent as a hand to the face.

The pain was stunning, bright and magnificent–it filled my whole head, from the ringing in my skull to the pulse in my lip to the tear in my cheek, where one jeweled finger had made first contact. My hands shot up to my face to assess the damage. The fingers at my cheek came away wet with blood.

–from Dead Soon Enough by Steph Cha

Join Steph Cha, alongside Kali Wallace, Hari Alluri, Matt Young, and Elizabeth Marro, this Saturday, June 10th, at 7:00 PM at Public Square Coffee House in La Mesa. There’ll be lots of books for sale, coffee, beer, wine, handcrafted pizza, and cheese boards! [heart emoji] [fire emoji]


If you like what we do at So Say We All, please consider becoming a supporting member for as little as $5 per month. Special discounts on shows, master classes, and advance previews! And the fiery warm glow in your heart you’ll get from sustaining us.

Jami Attenberg reads at The Foundry on March 18th!

The Foundry is So Say We All’s literary reading series, bringing you both established and emerging authors from all over and from right in our backyard. Come find your new favorite writer with us. Our next reading is Saturday, March 18th at 7 PM at Tiger Eye Hair!

Today we feature novelist Jami Attenberg, who will read to you from her 6th book, All Grown Up, brand new, published this week (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). It’s an enchanting and entertaining read, often quite sad despite its humor, and challenges us to root for and fall in love with a character who doesn’t always make the best decisions. Unlikeability can be risky business, and Attenberg pulls it off. Her main character, Andrea, carries us through her transition to 40, her relationship with her mother and brother, many (many) men and women, and maybe most triumphantly, her comprehension of herself.

Here’s an excerpt from All Grown Up on Lenny, “Charlotte.”

I call my brother. “Mom gave me the chair Dad died in,” I tell him. “And you took it? She tried to give it to me, too,” he says. “Well, I didn’t know what it was,” I say. “I guess I blocked it out.” That is a thing I’ve been known to do, and my brother doesn’t argue the point. “I’ve had nightmares about it,” he says. “Just toss it.” “Like in the garbage?” I say. “Andrea, just throw it away,” he says.

But I understood why my mother held on to for it so long, and also why she felt like she had to hand it off to someone instead of putting it in the garbage. It was Dad’s chair. So I decide to sell it on Craigslist, that way I know where it’s going. I look up the value of the two pieces online. The set is worth about a thousand dollars. On a Saturday morning, I list it for two-fifty. Priced to move. Looking for a good home. P.S., my father died in it.

[Read the full excerpt here: http://www.lennyletter.com/culture/a662/charlotte/]

You can also listen to NPR’s Weekend Edition interview with Jami from this Sunday here: http://www.npr.org/2017/03/05/518364707/a-middle-aged-coming-of-age-in-all-grown-up

ATTENBERG: I mean, I don’t know who made these rules, who made this list of milestones, but somebody did it. And you know, it looks something like being married or partnered up, having a kid, owning a home, knowing what your career is and what direction you want to be going in your life, kind of really wanting to know what’s next, which is something that she says a couple of times in the book. And sometimes, those milestones aren’t of interest to people or available to people. And how do you figure out what it means to be an adult if you haven’t achieved those traditional milestones?

And here’s a longer, in-depth interview with Jami at Lit Hub: http://lithub.com/jami-attenberg-on-literary-break-ups-credit-card-debt-and-epic-book-tours/

We’re looking forward to having Jami Attenberg read at The Foundry, alongside Wendy C. Ortiz, Karolina Waclawiak, Alex Zaragoza, and Kiik A.K., on Saturday March 18th at 7 PM.

We will have books for sale, drinks for donations, and some very good stories read just for you. Tiger Eye Hair is a hair salon in a scooped-out historic Texaco station in San Diego’s beautiful Golden Hill neighborhood. $5 suggested donation at the door.


If you like what we do at So Say We All, a literary non-profit, please consider becoming a sustaining member. Details here: www.sosayweallonline.com/membership

Black Candies: The Eighties

Announcing our next Black Candies theme! The Eighties.

blackcandies80s

Black Candies is a journal of literary horror and darkness. In these dark corners, we have infinite room to grow, and to innovate. We’re allowed to push boundaries and set precedents. We revel in the daring. We aim to scare. Scary can be good. Scary can cause change.

This year, our theme is The Eighties. Whether you lived through it, or fetishize it, there’s no denying its continued effect.

Horror and the ‘80s go hand in hand. Movie fans can point to it as the decade where franchises like Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, Hellraiser and Friday the 13th turned monsters into celebrities. It’s a decade that gave birth to the VHS, which allowed us to mainline horror right into our living rooms. The format also enabled a generation of crude, disgusting, and often brilliant filmmakers whose access to the expansive market gave them free reign to coat their screens with blood.

But art wasn’t the only thing that became horrific. Both consumerism and nationalism surged. Hate and bigotry blinded us to an epidemic that ravaged the country, while those in power laughed about it. We were ruled by an idiot entertainer. Any of this sound familiar?

What we’re looking for: We’re looking for stories that are set in, pay homage to, or reference the ‘80s in a major way. No smartphones, no Internet. Analog technology. Drugs. Yuppies. Wealth. Social commentary. It’s pretty open to interpretation, really. Think Stranger Things. Think nostalgia. Think Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.

What we’re not looking for: Even though splatter films ruled the era, that’s not what we want. Black Candies attempts to publish the best in literary horror. We want to be scared, shaken and disturbed by your story, but at the same time, we want to fall in love with your prose. We want it to be smart. Gore and blood is fine as long as your story doesn’t obsess over it.

No word limit, but 2,000-6,000 is ideal.

As always, Black Candies makes a concerted effort to make horror less of a white dudes club. We would love to read more submissions from women, POC, LGBTQ, and diverse voices.

[You can buy some of our prior issues on Amazon: Black Candies: Gross and Unlikeable and Black Candies: Surveillance.]

Submission deadline: August 31st, 2017

READY? Go to our submissions portal here.


If you like what we do at So Say We All, the literary non-profit and small press that brings you books like Black Candies, please consider becoming a sustaining member for as little as $5 per month.

Share stories, find community this week and beyond

In this bleak weather and/or bleak world, it’s a good time to find community and create art. Here are some ways to come together (or… squirrel yourself away alone with your creative despair) to create and share stories and art this week:

As Community:

LONG STORY SHORT: Just Lust

Long Story Short is our improv, open-mic style storytelling show. Got a story? Come tell it. No notes, 5 minutes, anyone can sign up. The best approach is to think about how you’d tell your friends the story. And suddenly, a room full of strangers become your friends and hear your secrets.

Saturday, January 21st, 7 PM
San Diego Writers, Ink
Details: https://www.facebook.com/events/603679303160081/

VAMP: Law and Disorder

It’s our first VAMP of 2017 and what better way to say goodbye to 2016 and ring in a new era with stories of obedience and disobedience, law and lawlessness, and everything in between? And what happens when the good guys snap and the bad guys save the day? Sometimes law and order save us and sometimes they ruin lives, and sometimes it’s all just terribly embarrassing.

Featuring:
Ari Honarvar, Chris Onderdonk, Ed Farragut, Krisa Bruemmer, Lauren Cusitello, Liam James, and Ryan Hicks

VAMP: Law and Disorder
Thursday, January 26th, 8:30 PM
Whistle Stop Bar
Details: https://www.facebook.com/events/1044032809057280/

As Writers and Artists:

SUBMIT FICTION TO OUR CONTEST

The first ever So Say We All Literary Prize in Fiction: send us your work! The winner will have their story illustrated and published online and in The Radvocate Fifteen. And also get $250. The deadline is 4/30, the entry fee is $10, and the contest judge is Leesa Cross-Smith. Details here: www.sosayweallonline.com/contest

SUBMIT FICTION, NON-FIC, POETRY, ART, WHATEVER TO THE RADVOCATE

The Radvocate, our literary journal, which is a beautiful little book showcasing poetry, fiction, non-fiction, interview, and art from a variety of emerging and established creators. Like you? Send us something. We are currently reading submissions and we want to be devastated by yours. Deadline is 4/30 and Radvocate submissions are always free. Details here: http://www.sosayweallonline.com/the-radvocate-re-opens-for-submissions-115/

WRITE WITH US

We offer two free Greenroom Writing Workshops each month, one in San Diego (the first Monday at 7 PM at Words Alive) and one in Chula Vista (the second Tuesday at 7 PM at The Industry). These are FREE, generative workshops, all levels, and totally drop-in. We’d love to see you there.

San Diego, Feb 6th: https://www.facebook.com/events/1795431407383358/

South Bay, Feb 13th: https://www.facebook.com/events/375813066114208/

Become a Member

http://www.sosayweallonline.com/membership/
The arts needs supporters and friends now more than ever. With federal funding on the chopping block, the future is frightening for creativity and public art. Join us as a sustaining member so that we can continue to do our outreach work, finding and sharing stories from and by people not being heard from. Join us as we create and celebrate the arts and literature. We are so much better with your help, and we need you more than ever. Details: http://www.sosayweallonline.com/membership/

Thank you, and we hope you’ll share stories with us soon.

The SSWA Literary Prize in Fiction judged by Leesa Cross-Smith

***DEADLINE EXTENDED TO MAY 10TH***

Announcing the brand new, first ever So Say We All Literary Prize in Fiction! One first place winner will receive a $250 prize and publication online and in print. We are excited to explore this realm. And! We are extra excited (and feeling a bit fannish) because our inaugural contest will be judged by the amazing Leesa Cross-Smith.

Leesa Cross-Smith is the author of Every Kiss a War and the editor of WhiskeyPaper. Her work has appeared in Best Small Fictions. She loves baseball and musicals. Find more @ LeesaCrossSmith.com and WhiskeyPaper.com.

Contest Guidelines:

  • We are looking for fiction short stories
  • Surprise us. We want your beautiful, your weird, your uncouth, your unexpected, your experiments, your sadness, your joy, your fear. Story is our currency here: give us characters we can’t forget doing things we can’t forget.
  • Length: under 3,000 words please.
  • Please make sure your submission does not have your name or any identifying information in the attachment
  • One story per $10 entry fee. Multiple submissions are fine, as long as each is its own entry with its own $10 entry fee.
  • Simultaneous submissions are also just fine. However, if your work gets picked up elsewhere, please withdraw immediately. Entry fees are, regretfully, not refundable.

Contest Details:

  • Submission window: 1/15/17 – 5/10/17
  • ***EXTENDED DEADLINE: May 10th at 11:59 PM pacific time!***
  • Deadline: April 30th, 2017 at 11:59 PM pacific time
  • $10 entry fee
  • $250 prize for one first place winner
  • Blind submission process! No names in your files!
  • The winner’s story will be illustrated, published in The Radvocate Issue Fifteen, and published online on our website.
  • The top five finalists will also be published in The Radvocate Issue Fifteen.
  • All contest entries will be considered for publication in The Radvocate Issue Fifteen.
  • We love you and cannot wait to read your work and share it with Leesa.

Ready? SUBMIT HERE.

Here’s a little bit more about our judge:

Leesa Cross-Smith is a homemaker and writer from Kentucky. She is the author of Every Kiss a War (Mojave River Press, 2014). Every Kiss a War was a finalist for both the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction (2012) and the Iowa Short Fiction Award (2012). Her short story “Whiskey & Ribbons” won Editor’s Choice in the Raymond Carver Short Story Contest (2011) and was listed as a notable story for storySouth‘s Million Writers Award. She is a consulting editor for Best Small Fictions 2017. Her work has appeared in Best Small Fictions 2015, SmokeLong QuarterlyLittle FictionWigleaf Top 50Longform FictionCarve Magazine, Hobart, NANO FictionMonkeybicyclePithead ChapelGigantic SequinsFolioAmerican Short Fiction (online)Midwestern GothicJukedWord Riot, Sundog LitThe Rumpus, and many others. She and her husband Loran run a literary magazine called WhiskeyPaper.

Send Leesa your brightest stars. You got this.


If you like what we do at So Say We All, a literary non-profit and small press, please consider becoming a sustaining member for as little as $5 per month. Details here.

Henry Hoke reads at The Foundry on January 14th!

The Foundry is our literary reading series! It’s this Saturday 1/14 (tomorrow!), at 8 PM at Public Square Coffee House in La Mesa.

Tomorrow’s reading features wild, weird, beautiful, funny, intense, and unexpected work from amazing authors we are truly honored to host here in San Diego: Meredith Alling, Cali Linfor, Justin Maurer, Leah Thomas, and today’s feature: Henry Hoke.

Henry Hoke is southern expat gothic. He wrote The Book of Endless Sleepovers (Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2016) and Genevieves (winner of the Subito Press prose contest, forthcoming 2017). Some of his stories appear in The Collagist, PANK, Winter Tangerine and Carve. He co-created and directs Enter>text, a living literary journal.

I first heard about Henry by way of seeing his book cover (revealed online by the designer, a writer/friend Ryan W. Bradley), which is an excellent “judge a book by its cover” meeting story. His debut, The Book of Endless Sleepovers (2016, Civil Coping Mechanisms) is a powerful book that slithers through boyhood, love, agony, predators, fear, family in an almost mystical way. It’s a quick and feverish read, but masterful in its completeness. And yes, it has a killer cover.

An excerpt:

Parents: if you teach your children to pray, they will only pray for endless sleepovers.

“It’s a little bit night and a little bit morning.” 4am, not dawn, but when day teases the edges of the world. If they walked outside they’d be drifting silhouettes, a terrifying time. But warm inside, Huck’s mumbled response is comforting. Tom wakes up at 4am when he sleeps over, wakes loudly or moves just enough to rouse Huck, and Tom always asks the same question: “What time is it?” And Huck always has the same answer: “it’s a little bit night and a little bit morning.” Tom wakes at this time for the rest of his life.

*

“We have to work out a system,” Huck says and lays out a map of tunnels and turrets on the rug. Tom stares at a spot of dried blood on Huck’s ear. It’s all Tom can see. It’s going to be the best snow fort ever.

*

Imagine yourself on a raft in a slow-moving river at night. Every soft animal makes sounds from the bank. You are in the center of the raft, and surrounding you are all your friends, asleep. This is heaven. He wakes you up by singing “I just stuck a top in my crotch.” You wonder if he’s sure what crotch means and if he’s hurt and if you are in love with him. The water is stupid with stars.

*

When the girls twist the stems of apples and the pop-tops of canned Coke they always end up on H for Huck. Never, in the history of twisting girls, have they reached the letter T.

Tom and Huck are on their backs in the grass again.
Huck says he can’t wait to have kids, so he can beat them.
Tom tries to imagine what their children would look like.

How many times can you write the word “pussy” in a book of Mad Libs? Tonight we’re going to find out. By god.

–from The Book of Endless Sleepovers by Henry Hoke

Henry’s next book, Genevieves, is forthcoming this year. We can’t wait to read it, and we can’t wait to introduce San Diego to Henry. Join him, along with Meredith Alling, Leah Thomas, Cali Linfor, and Justin Maurer, at The Foundry reading series, this Saturday, January 14th, at 8 PM at Public Square Coffee House in La Mesa.

THE FOUNDRY #3
Saturday, January 14th at 8 PM
Public Square Coffee House
8275 La Mesa Blvd, La Mesa CA 91942
$5 suggested donation.

–Julia Dixon Evans


If you like what we do at So Say We All, a literary arts non-profit and small press, please consider becoming a sustaining member (for as little as $5 per month). We love you and we can’t do this without you.

An interview with The Foundry’s Meredith Alling

The Foundry is our literary reading series. We hope to see you at The Foundry #3, on Saturday, January 14th at 8 PM at Public Square Coffee House in the La Mesa Village. As we approach the show, we’ll feature the readers so you can get to know them (and get super excited). Up next is Meredith Alling.

Meredith Alling lives in Los Angeles, and is author of the brand new story collection Sing The Song, from Future Tense Books. Sing The Song is beautiful work. Meredith’s stories, some heartbreakingly tiny, some sprawling and vast, are gorgeous and unsettling. She has a sharp wit with language and a gift of crafting characters and places that quickly get under your skin. And we can’t wait to share her voice with you at the Foundry.

So Say We All’s program director and Foundry host Julia Dixon Evans recently had a chance to ask Meredith a few questions about her book, her writing process, and Los Angeles.

JULIA DIXON EVANS: Do you remember when we met? I do. It was on Twitter. But then in real life?

MEREDITH ALLING: I have a really terrible memory when it comes to details, especially when it’s a question of time, but I am pretty sure we officially met on the rooftop of the Standard Hotel in LA one night during AWP 2016. And we had a good time and bonded for life.

JDE: And then the next night I heard you read “Rita.” I remember writing down a line (“nothing between me and the ground is untrue”) and feeling almost giddy when I rediscovered it in Sing The Song. But I loved your live reading. How do you prepare? How do you choose what to read

MA: I actually haven’t done that many readings. Less than ten. How I prepare is by taking half a Xanax and then having a drink. You’re not supposed to mix Xanax with alcohol, but this combination works for me, and I’m still basically blacking out with anxiety, just not to the point of paralysis. As far as choosing what to read, I try to pick stories that will be entertaining when read aloud, either because they are easy to follow or funny or some combination. I’ve been bored at a lot of readings (sorry) so I don’t want to be boring.

JDE: You’re definitely not boring. And that same month, you had just found out that Sing The Song was going to be published! What was the best part of that process, of watching your stories go from disparate little things into a book?

MA: Finding out that the book was going to happen was a big deal. I was a huge fan of Future Tense and for years I had literal daydreams about publishing something with them, so that moment of finding out was extremely special. It was also really great to work with Kevin Sampsell and Bianca Flores on edits. They were both really supportive of my style, and while they had great notes, they always left the final decision up to me. That’s something unique to working with a small press, I think. I have friends who have published with big houses, and sometimes the project can get away from them.

JDE: Let’s go back to that line, “nothing between me and the ground is untrue.” That, and so many other moments in the book (other faves – Lady Legs: the dirt was soft and stupid, Hellsure: Catherine on a wormless morning, praying to God), where every word seems to matter and seems to be incredibly unexpected and revealing, revolutionary almost, made me wonder: do you write carefully? Is it calculated? Or are you more frantic, getting a storyline out of your brain and then you go back to fine tune these gems?

MA: I write very carefully, and slowly. Most of my stories don’t have a strong narrative arc, or a narrative arc at all, so a lot of it is about the mood, and for me, I like to get into that on a sentence level. I spend a lot of time on each sentence. I like to get into the language and work on the tone and create those unexpected moments that begin as unexpected moments for me, too.

JDE: I felt, more than with most short story collections, that your book was unputdownable. Part of that is that the writing is propulsive and brilliant, of course, but also, I think there’s something intentional in the way these stories are pieced together and ordered. Can you talk about that a little?

MA: That is very generous, and I’m glad to hear that, as the process of ordering the stories was a little nerve-wrecking. There are so many, and they are all so different (I think), and so it felt tricky to figure out how to be deliberate about the order. Bianca was really helpful in working with me on that, and we ended up deciding on an order that we felt would build energy as you read.

JDE: What was it like to create new work for the book?

MA: It was fun but also stressful. I had days when I felt really good and confident, and other days when I was worried and scared. I guess that’s just writing (or any creative work), but knowing that what I was working on was possibly going to be part of this book that was already in motion added a new level of pressure. I would try to put that thought out of my head and write as I normally do, but it was hard. Ultimately I feel really happy with the new work, but there were a lot of emotions.

JDE: You have a super fascinating job. Tell everyone what you do.

MA: I work for a nonprofit called 1in6 that provides resources and support to men who have had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences. We also support the people who care about them (family, friends, professionals, etc). I’ve been with 1in6 for almost four years now, and I manage our awareness campaigns as well as our social media and various creative projects. It’s a great organization, and I’ll call out two of our resources here: our free and confidential 24/7 online support line, where anyone can go whether they are in crisis, have questions, or are looking for local resources, and our free and confidential online peer support groups, which meet twice a week for men who have experienced any form of sexual abuse or assault.

JDE: And how do you manage or pair making art with doing difficult, heady work like that during the day?

MA: As part of my work at the nonprofit, I hear and read really unbelievable stories of survival, and that perspective helps to keep me grateful for being able to do things I enjoy and want to do. Writing is really hard work, but it’s also fun, and something I’m doing because I want to do it. I don’t make myself write on any kind of schedule or set any sort of word count goals or whatever, and part of that is because I want it to remain this thing I enjoy and that I’m grateful to have in my life. There’s so much freedom in writing. I’m getting really corny. Writing I love you.

JDE: Writing definitely loves you back. Also, you’re a big reader, which, y’know, is one of those make-or-break things for writers. What book(s) are you the most looking forward to reading this year?

MA: Oh man, a lot. Off the top of the dome: Sorry to Disrupt the Peace by Patty Yumi Cottrell, Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang, Caca Dolce by Chelsea Martin, Too Much and Not the Mood by Durga Chew-Bose, Genevieves by [fellow Foundry #3 reader] Henry Hoke, and Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward.

JDE: In San Diego we feel like the arts and lit communities are up against so much, and there’s kind of a grassroots, on-the-verge unity feeling about that, which is an exciting silver lining. Los Angeles seems like a different beast altogether: bustling and vibrant, but huge. What is the writing and literature/reader community like in LA for you? In what ways do you use it, and how do you serve it?

MA: The LA community is so great, and actually feels sort of small. It’s easy to connect with people and find out about events. Shortly after moving to LA in 2011, I started going to readings and meeting people, and everyone was super nice, and from where I stand, I don’t really see any “cliques.” There are also some great independent bookstores that are really supportive of small presses. I try to support those bookstores as much as possible, and also go to as many readings and events as I can and buy books at those events.

JDE: What’s next for you? I hear you have a novel idea. I hope we get to see that one day, because I will eat that up with a spoon.

MA: I’m working on… something. I can’t tell exactly what it is right now, but someone’s knee is injured.

JDE: Thank you so much for answering my questions, and thank you also for reading with us in The Foundry on 1/14. I love you and your writing, and I can’t wait to introduce you to San Diego and have them love you too.

MA: Thank you so much Julia! Love to you.


Join Meredith as she reads alongside Leah Thomas, Henry Hoke, Cali Linfor, Leah Thomas, and Justin Maurer at The Foundry #3, Saturday 1/14 at 8 PM at Public Square Coffee House.

RSVP and invite your people here.


If you like what we do at So Say We All, a literary arts non-profit and small press, please consider becoming a sustaining member for as little as $5 per month, or make a one-time contribution to our winter fundraiser here.

Leah Thomas reads at The Foundry on Jan 14th!

The Foundry is our literary reading series, now in its sophomore year. With the Foundry, we aim to bring both emerging and established voices in literature to our stage, from San Diego as well as showcasing touring authors.

Our first Foundry of 2017, The Foundry No. 3, is Saturday, January 14th at 8 PM at the beautiful new Public Square Coffee House in La Mesa. Grab coffee, a little snack, maybe a glass of wine, and relax with some fiery hot stories.

To get you all excited, as we approach the show, we’ll feature each of the writers. Up first? Leah Thomas. Leah is a VAMP contributor here in San Diego, and she charmed us on the stage at The Whistle Stop with her storytelling.

Leah’s debut novel, Because You’ll Never Meet Me (Bloomsbury, 2015), unravels the story of an unlikely friendship between two whip-smart kids with isolating circumstances. It’s a young adult novel, and we’re excited because Leah will be the first YA reader in The Foundry. The novel won a series of accolades and nominations, including being a Carnegie Award Nominee and a William C. Morris YA Debut Award Finalist.

From Because You’ll Never Meet Me:

Dear Fellow Hermit,

My name is Oliver, but most people who meet me end up calling me Ollie. I guess you don’t really have to, though, because odds are you’ll never meet me.

I can never travel to wherever you are, because a big part of what makes me a hermit is the fact that I’m deathly allergic to electricity. This is kind of massively incapacitating, but hey–everyone has problems, right?

-Ollie

Oliver:

Firstly, my father has confirmed that your penmanship is atrocious. At least you can spell.

Secondly, you are correct. We will not be meeting. This has little to do with your deafening personality. I am electric. Exposure to me would floor you.

-Moritz.

Ollie and Moritz’s friendship unfolds over letters exchanged, and we watch the boys also exchange hope, accusations, guilt, fear, dreams, sadness, and trust. It’s a funny, compelling read with a heart-wrenching edge to it: disability and isolation, bullying and the other, all flow steadily above the surface.

Leah’s follow-up to Because You’ll Never Meet MeNowhere Near You hits the shelves in February.

We can’t wait for you to hear Leah read at the Foundry Reading Series on Saturday, January 14th. Join us at Public Square Coffee House in the La Mesa Village at 8:00 PM. Details, RSVP, and invite your people: https://www.facebook.com/events/190542514741682/


If you like what we do at So Say We All, a literary arts non-profit and small press, please consider becoming a sustaining member here, or donating to our winter fundraiser here. Thank you, so much. Let’s hear the stories we need to hear in 2017.