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Winners and Favorites from the 2012 Short-Fiction Contest PDF Print E-mail
News/Features - Literature
Written by Administrator   
Thursday, 27 September 2012 11:51

We received 69 entries in our fiction contest, and prize-winners and a selection of other favorites are published here.

To refresh your memory, we set a limit of 250 words per entry. (For future contests, a bit of advice: Count by hand – at least twice.) We also required each entry to conform to one of five prompts in genre (ghost story, romance, tall tale, noir, or biography), point-of-view character (inanimate object, child, polygamist, criminal, or nun), and conflict/action (betrayal, reunion, shame, obsolescence, or unrequited love). And for the brave and/or foolish, we offered the elective option of writing in the style of Dr. Seuss, Ernest Hemingway, William Shakespeare, William S. Burroughs, or Twitter. Who knew there were so many stories waiting to be told about longing objects, sensual nuns, and Seussian polygamists?

 
Life on the Mississippi – the Real Story: Author Lee Sandlin Creates a Patchwork History of the “Wicked River” PDF Print E-mail
News/Features - Literature
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 13 September 2012 05:33

“Many in the crowd got roaring drunk – and the drunks at their most extreme were hard to tell apart from the fallers and the jerkers and the howlers. Others gave in to the general mood of riot and began fighting and beating each other up over nothing. But what made the camp meetings truly infamous were the orgies.”

Lee SandlinThis is not the Mississippi River that most people remember from Mark Twain. This is the real deal in all its lurid detail.

Lee Sandlin, who will be speaking at the Bettendorf Public Library on September 27 and the Upper Mississippi River Conference on September 28, said in a recent phone interview that he aimed to re-create “the Mississippi River culture in the first half of the 19th Century” in his 2010 book Wicked River: The Mississippi When It Last Ran Wild. “Basically what I’m doing is trying to introduce people to that kind of very strange little world that had formed then around the river.”

“Very strange little world” is the gentle way of putting it.

 
Serious Fun: The Spectra Poetry-Reading Series, Opening September 15 at Rozz-Tox PDF Print E-mail
News/Features - Literature
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 06 September 2012 05:53

To grasp the concept of the Midwest Writing Center’s new Spectra poetry-reading series, we might start with the 1916 book of the same name. In its preface, Anne Knish explained that the “Spectric” school “speaks ... of that process of diffraction by which are disarticulated the several colored and other rays of which light is composed. It indicates our feeling that the theme of a poem is to be regarded as a prism, upon which the colorless white light of infinite existence falls and is broken up into glowing, beautiful, and intelligible hues.”

Before you flee this article, understand that Spectra was a satiric hoax created by Arthur Davison Ficke (a Davenport native writing as Knish) and Witter Bynner (writing as Emanuel Morgan). The pair gleefully mocked the abstruse pretensions of modern free verse, but several prominent poets – including Edgar Lee Masters and William Carlos Williams – actually embraced the work, not recognizing its intent. Poetry magazine Editor Harriet Monroe accepted a handful of Spectric works before the hoax was revealed by Bynner.

Although the poems were mostly nonsense, they were compellingly playful. One opens: “Her soul was freckled / Like the bald head / Of a jaundiced Jewish banker.” It concludes: “This demonstrates the futility of thinking.” One of the most charming starts: “If I were only dafter / I might be making hymns / To the liquor of your laughter / And the lacquer of your limbs.”

And they were occasionally incisive. In one about “my little house of glass,” Knish wrote: “Sometimes I’m terribly tempted / To throw the stones myself.”

Adam FellTo show how this relates to the new poetry-reading series (which begins September 15), allow me to note that one of the first two featured writers, Adam Fell, closes his poem “Summer Lovin Torture Party” with these oddly familiar lines: “I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh lord. / I’ve been waiting for this moment all my life.”

 
Enter the Reader’s 2012 Short-Fiction Contest! Deadline September 7! PDF Print E-mail
News/Features - Literature
Written by Administrator   
Thursday, 26 July 2012 12:22

We recently freed our short-fiction-contest troll from his five-year captivity in the River Cities’ Reader dungeon, and based on the rules he devised for the 2012 competition, he’s grumpy. (Some might note that Jeff is always grumpy, but never mind.)

Let’s start with the easy rules.

 
A Long Shot Comes in: Jaimy Gordon, April 19 at Augustana College PDF Print E-mail
News/Features - Literature
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Wednesday, 11 April 2012 05:08

Jaimy GordonThere are few people in the arts who admit to being concerned about either their fame or their place in history. Jaimy Gordon is one of that rare breed, but she doesn’t need to fret anymore.

Over the past decade, she said in a phone interview last week promoting her April 19 reading at Augustana College, she wondered whether “I was going to be swallowed up in the oblivion of people who are just mildly well-known in their own lifetimes and then forgotten about.”

Since 1981, she has been on the faculty at Western Michigan University – in a creative-writing program that doesn’t have the cachet of, for example, the University of Iowa’s. Her 1974 novel Shamp of the City-Solo is considered a cult classic, and her 1999 Bogeywoman was a Los Angeles Times “best book of the year.”

She had the respect of her peers but said she remained a nonentity in the publishing world. “I had what I would have called a career,” she said. “But to my surprise, the New York Times among other places didn’t even recognize it as existing. It wasn’t even on the map until I suddenly became famous with this book.”

 
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