What should you be reading this spring?
By SFWP Editors
This spring, SFWP is releasing two new titles. We could tell you we’re super excited about them, but of course we are. Why should you be stoked, too, you ask? Well, just read on.
There’s Elizabeth Geoghegan’s new story collection eightball. It’s fabulous, but don’t take our word for it. Francesca Marciana, author of The Other Language, Rules of the Wild, The End of Manners, and Casa Rossa, called it “a masterful collection…the quiet power of Geoghegan’s voice reaches both heart and bone.”
Still not convinced? Read an excerpt from one of the short stories, “Tree Boy,” below:
Tree Boy tells me I will never make a really great photograph because I’ve never done without. I want to think he’s mistaken. Part of me worries he’s right. He makes a point of mentioning my bourgeois upbringing, the shrinks and family vacations, the private schools.
“I’ve always worked,” I say. “It’s not that simple.”
He looks at me and smiles, in a way.
I try harder to show him who I really am. I tell him about my lovers in Chicago. The bass player, the bike messenger, the architect. I tell him what pleases me— that if a man touches my neck, just so, I will come. I tell him I like to get fucked from behind, preferring not to see faces unless I’m in love. I tell him too much and convince myself I haven’t told him enough. I tell him about my first camera, a Brownie. I tell him my favorite tree, the magnolia. My favorite saint, Lucia, the tender image of her eyeballs plucked out and placed on a plate before her.
And I tell him about long, sticky days passed at the stables. Peeling off my clothes and swimming my horse into the lake, sliding off his glossy back and being pulled by his tail through green water. And I tell him about the day he was castrated. How they left his testicles to scorch in the pasture and how—even at nine—I was compelled to photograph them as each day passed. Lumps of skin and blood shriveling in the August sun.
The telephone wakes me just before dawn. Tree Boy calling for a phone number. He softly says the initials, not offering anything more. I resist reciting the number even though I know it by heart. I put the phone down on my pillow, pretend to fumble and look, before reading out the country code for Italy, the long string of numbers beside it.
I am the branch after all. The willow that bends and bends.
But Tree Boy wants to snap me in two.
I keen my ear for the sound of his chainsaw when I’m at school. I search the parking lot. His truck isn’t there. For seven days he is missing from campus. My dog keeps her vigil in front of his studio. I call all the Seattle numbers from the back of Berger. I listen closely to the sound of each woman’s voice before I hang up. I contemplate dialing the number in Italy. I carry Ways of Seeing out to the grill instead. I soak the cover with lighter fluid, toss in a match, and martyr it like San Lorenzo, watching it burn as if waiting for the book to sit up and confront me.
In the morning, there are only ashes and gray clumps of charcoal that I poke through the grate with a stick. I switch format and continue photographing my body. I slice the images into pieces and reconfigure them, trying to turn myself into someone else.
Once you finish this collection, you’ll have to grab Wendy J. Fox’s novel, If the Ice Had Held. Winner of our 2017 Literary Awards Program, this novel will astound you. Benjamin Percy, author of The Dark Net and the judge for the 2017 SFWP Literary Awards Program, called the novel, “razor-sharp…written with incredible grace and assurance. I gave myself over to this story and felt as though I had inhabited these characters.” Pretty high praise, if we do say so ourselves.
Go ahead, read this excerpt and see if you don’t agree:
The software company in Denver where Melanie worked was in the majority of how start-ups ran— less glamorous than the swanky dot-coms of Silicon Valley, with their organic catering menus, on-site yoga, and complimentary Rolfing massage coupons; and more high-acid paper files sweltering under the heat of a hundred laptops, payroll cobbled out of questionable revenue recognition processes, and strings of code written under the damp pressure of a hangover. Their space was not sky-high and bathed in clean, filtered light, but rather it occupied the ground-floor wing of a crumbling office park where the air-conditioning was troubling and unreliable.
All through her twenties Melanie had bounced back and forth between jobs, and then finally, on the eve of her third decade, she landed this one. Through the issue of a company phone and a five-page document explaining how the 401(k) vested, she transformed into her idea of an adult and had stayed tethered to the company since then. The job gave her enough money to secure and pay a mortgage on a small condo close to downtown, to help her mother, Kathleen, out once in a while, and it gave her enough order to dampen the feeling of spinning she’d always had, even if only for moments.
Since she worked in tech, the model was acquisition, and she was not naïve to this. The model meant that the founders and a few of the earliest employees would cash out, and the rest of them would stay in the office, typing toward a different destiny— same keyboards, same products, just new letterhead that sat in the same place as the old letterhead, in a crumpled box under the printer. Still, when it actually happened, she had no idea the company had been for sale until she was asked to proofread the press release. Like an iffy check, it was postdated by several weeks and gave her a queasy feeling.
“Are there going to be layoffs?” she had asked her boss. She was in a small department where she did marketing and market analysis. She was hired without any training back when the company was not profitable; they’d taken a chance on her, so she felt a kind of loyalty. Still, she had read enough to know how acquisitions went. A team from corporate would make people redundant, and then the rest of the employees would plow through, taking on more and more work and living in terror of their cable bill.
Her boss told her not to talk about it. Her boss told her not to make any stock purchases of the publicly traded parent.
“You could be considered an insider,” her boss had said and raised her eyebrow to a dangerous slope, like they were talking about a real tip, a life-changer.
Melanie did not think their little company being absorbed into a conglomerate would make even a blip in the markets, but she swore to secrecy anyway.
Later, when she was not let go and she told her new co-workers at headquarters in Chicago that she had to look them up, they were shocked. We are on the Fortune 500, they had said. Right, she had said, there are five hundred of those? She wondered if people who had gone to business school memorized this list, like the state capitals or the names of the saints.
We can’t wait to put these books in your hands! In the meantime, grab some of our current or past titles here. If they inspire you to spin your own yarn, submit your prose manuscripts to our current Literary Awards Program, judged by Carmen Maria Machado! For your shorter pieces, submit your fiction, creative nonfiction, and book reviews to the SFWP Quarterly now!
See you in May!