Thursday Apr 18

KarenStefano So over a month ago, my best friend gave me a card that reads, “LIFE BEGINS AT THE END OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE.” It still sits on my kitchen counter, reminding me both that I am loved and that I constantly need to challenge myself, something I failed to do for a long, long time, a failure for which I paid dearly. It’s an honest, accurate statement, and I also believe it’s a statement that applies equally to good writing. Maybe someone will make a card that reads, “GOOD WRITING BEGINS AT THE END OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE.” Living (and writing) outside of your comfort zones takes courage, a courage that is tied directly to honesty in many ways. That mingling of courage and honesty then works like magic to reveal Beauty, sometimes Beauty we didn’t even know existed.

And it just so happens that there’s a lot of courage, brutal honesty, and beauty in the fantastic work appearing in this month’s issue. “An Impression,” “A Small Fortune,” “A White Man,” and “A Tiny Murder,” are four stunning linked pieces of flash fiction from featured writer Kiik Araki-Kawaguchi. Kiik A.K. delivers both powerful imagery and searing wit as he ushers his reader into the secret world of internment camps. In his interview he shares the inspiration for these stories and also tells us his aspirations as a writer…and as a human being.

Featured writer Laura Madeline Wiseman stuns us with her ability to find beauty in the ordinary. “Holdings,” “Amateur Bottleer,” “Coiled Messages,” and “Hit the Bottle” each glimmer, filling emptiness with hope, and each with a remarkable power of evocation.  So many stunning lines infuse these pieces with life, but I think this one might just be my favorite: In the hotel shadows, I lie, sing mermaid songs, imagine out loud the salty blue tempest that brought these bottles to your ready hands until you pull me to you in silence…”

In his brilliant piece, “The Life and Death of Sir Frederick Frances,” the incredibly talented Robert Cole introduces us to a man “terrified of insects and masturbation,” a man who “lives in the past, thinks in the present, and dies in the future tense.” In “The Collected Abstracts,” Cole escorts us, readers-turned-voyeurs, through a labyrinth of intersecting lives, daring to speak the unspeakable truths.

Jennifer Donnell’s prose in “How to Get a Tiger to Bed,”Finger Toes,” and “Carrot Dangler” will dazzle you with its honesty: “Take last week, he showed up with a dagger shaped like a rose…”   “He tells you he loves you, hopes you're decapitated by bears, adores you. He sells the camera you thought he wanted and forbade him from selling, then buys you a chocolate bar…”

And in “Keeping Scores,” Philip Krummrich offers up terrific, well-crafted dialogue that keeps the reader absolutely hooked as he delivers a bit of…the mysterious.

This is a dangerous issue packed full of Courage, Truth, Beauty. Read it. Move out of your comfort zone.