Thursday, April 24, 2014

Behind the Masthead: Gary Garrison, Prose Editor

Have you heard about the new staff of HFR? Our intrepid intern Kacie Blackburn already spoke with Brian Bender, our new international poetry editor, and now she's interviewed one of the prose editors, Gary Garrison. Check out their interview below, and if you want to put this new staff to work, check out our flash prose contest--deadline: May 15th!

Kacie Blackburn: What do you do as a prose editor for Hayden’s Ferry Review?

Gary Garrison: As a prose editor at HFR I have the incredible opportunity to read through all the wonderful work that our first and second readers have enjoyed and handed off to me. Then, with the help and guidance of my amazing co-editor, Allegra, we have to select the handful of stories that we get to share with the world.

KB: What do you look for in a submission?

GG: I try my best to be open to every single make and model of story that I come across. I guess I look for all the little parts--language, voice, narrative, character--to come together into a greater sum, into something that resonates, something that I really have the desire to share.

KB: What is your opinion on dialogue in submissions? Is using “he said”, “she replied”, “they asked”, too much?

GG: I've always admired great dialogue, so if it is there that's great! But if it's not there and the story doesn't really need it, that's also great! I don't know if I've really been bothered by dialogue tags (though I suppose the line between just right and too many is pretty thin), however, tags that call attention to themselves ("he cried!") and tell us something that the dialogue should be able to tell us on its own can be a bit much.

KB: What do you do in your spare time, other than review submissions?

GG: My spare time usually blends seamlessly into my not-so-spare time as I switch from an assigned book to personal choice. Outside of that I play lots of bar trivia (Reester Bunny!) and try to travel way more than I should. I also enjoy watching movies with my cat.

KB: If you were stranded on a deserted island with one book, what book would it be?

GG: My desert island book would, at the moment, probably have to be The Brief And Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao--though that will probably change at any moment.

KB: Have you worked with HFR before this semester?

GG: I worked with HFR as a reader the fall before I started as a prose editor.

KB: What have you enjoyed most about working with HFR, so far?

GG: HFR is an amazing journal! I'm fortunate to have had countless incredible people come before me to build HFR into the literary machine it is today. I'm constantly reading really inspiring work and I get the chance to share those unique little unicorns!

***

Gary Garrison is an MFA candidate at Arizona State University where he is the prose editor of Hayden's Ferry Review. He lives, writes, movie watches, and trivia plays in Tempe with his cat, Widget.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

This Week in History, Earth Day Inspires a Brief Glimpse into Literature and the Environment

Is there any day on the calendar that is not marked with "National Something Day"?

April 21 is National Chocolate Covered Cashews Day (now I am wondering who forgot to inform me that I should have been celebrating the union of two of my favorite snacks yesterday) as well as National Kindergarten Day. April 23 is National Talk Like Shakespeare Day (the slightly less popular cousin to National Talk Like a Pirate Day, which occurs on September 19) as well as National Picnic Day, National Take a Chance Day and National Cherry Cheesecake Day.

Sandwiched between those illustrious events is April 22nd’s humble National Earth Day.

Earth Day got its start in 1970 with Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin. Nelson hoped to provide unity to the grassroots efforts of the environmental movement by concentrating scattered efforts into a single nationwide demonstration of environmental concern and build ecological awareness. The effort did indeed meet with early success and in July 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency was established by executive order. Unlike National Chocolate Covered Cashews Day, it's hard to miss when Earth Day comes around with all the national and international events taking place.

One of the very first things I learned in high school English was that one of literature’s central conflicts is Man vs. Nature. Nature, the way we relate to it and the pervasive worry about the future of our planet are ubiquitous within literature past and present. There is, in fact, an entire field of study that has developed around the topic of literature and the environment, which examines the portrayal of human’s relationship with the environment and how literature shapes our perceptions and environmental ethic, among other topics. To try to give any kind of comprehensive overview of environmental fiction would be a career in and of itself, and this is only a blog. Even trying to define what environmental fiction even is cannot be accomplished here.

Instead, here is a short selection of fiction and poetry that focuses in on nature, environmentalism, and our current post-apocalyptic obsession that is, at least in part, a product of our current concern over the state of our planet:

Fiction
  • Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
  • The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Poetry
  • The Thunder Mutters by Alice Oswald
  • The Ecopoetry Anthology edited by Ann Fisher-Wirth and Laura-Gray Street

And, of course, a selection pulled from the archives and current issue of HFR:
  • Blue Sky White by Tessa Mellas in HFR42
  • Evolution by Weston Cutter in HFR39
  • Irretrievable Bird Species by Kevin Phan in HFR54
  • Organic Computers by Seth Fried in HFR54

Do you know all about literature and the environment? Please feel free to educate us in the comments below!

Contributor Spotlight: B.J. Hollars

[ed. note: Check out more information about our 54th issue!]


When I began writing “The Year of the Great Forgetting,” I didn’t yet know the cause of my son’s ailment. We were still in the thick of it then, still held captive by the uncertainty of the mystery we could not solve. What, after all, was the cause of his continuous low-grade fever? Was it cancerous, infectious, or merely a misstep courtesy of a couple of overprotective parents?

Since there was no ending to the essay—since we hadn’t finished living it yet—there was no way for me to write the last line. In fact, there was no way for me to write the last scene, either, in which my son and I sit on the backyard deck and stare out at the trees. This scene would only come later; once the test results confirmed that we could nix cancer and infection from the list of possible diagnoses.

As it turned out (spoiler alert, though it feels odd writing this in regards to my son’s health), his low-grade fever was nothing more than a low-grade fever. All our worry was for naught. Nevertheless, the innocuousness of the diagnosis did little to protect my wife and me from the fear we’d felt along the way.

After all, the fear we’d felt was real, even if our worst-case scenarios were eventually—thankfully—proven wrong. Yes, my wife and I could now breathe easy, but those gray hairs weren’t going away. We’d earned them the hard way; now they were ours forever.

At the risk of breaking rule number one, dear reader, I’m going to tell you exactly how I hope the essay will make you feel: I want it to make you feel uncomfortable. I want you to feel helpless, too. Because the truth is, even when I was living it, I often felt uncomfortable and helpless myself. I often felt like a spectator rather than a participant, and the trouble of being a spectator, of course, is that a spectator’s powers are limited. Who among us would rather watch a car wreck rather than push our feet to the brakes? To put it another way: Who is satisfied merely by watching and waiting for the almost-tragedy to strike?

I admit, dear reader, that I’m grateful I finally found the end to the essay, not because I needed an end to the essay, but because I needed to no longer fear fear.

***

B.J. Hollars is the author of two books of nonfiction--Thirteen Loops: Race, Violence and the Last Lynching in America (the 2012 recipient of the Society of Midland Author’s Award) and Opening the Doors: The Desegregation of the University of Alabama and the Fight for Civil Rights in Tuscaloosa (the 2014 recipient of the Blei/Derleth Nonfiction Award)—as well as a collection of stories, Sightings. His hybrid text, Dispatches from the Drownings: Reporting the Fiction of Nonfiction will be published in the fall of 2014. His essay “The Year of the Great Forgetting” appears in HFR 54.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Hayden's Ferry Review #54


Starting today, all subscriptions and sample issue orders will begin with our 54th issue, heading to your mailbox soon!

FEATURING:
Poetry by Brent Armendinger • Ross Losapio • Darin Ciccotelli Oliver Bendorf Jane Wong Doug Ramspeck Monica Berlin • Michael Marberry • Devon Branca • Ines Pujos Ryan J. Browne Beth Marzoni David McLoghlin • Dave Nielsen • J. Jerome Cruz • BJ Soloy • Kevin Phan • Alex Chertok • Maggie Colvett

Fiction by Daniel Hornsby • John Picard Dawna Kemper Seth Fried • Roya Khatiblou Mike Meginnis

Nonfiction by B. J. Hollars • J. D. Lewis

International selections by Vincenzo Cardarelli, translated by Martin Bennett • Rumena Buzarovska, translated by Will Firth Kimberly Blaeser, translated by Margaret Noodin • Kim Myung Won, translated by EJ Koh • Suzanne Jacob, translated by J. T. Townley • Mary Lily Phinney, translated by Michael Wasson & Harold Crook Igor Isakovski, translated by Will Firth

Art by Mariana Lerner Alexander ApĆ³stol • Judith Joy Ross Alberto Goldenstein Arturo Soto Seba Kurtis (cover) Peter Holzhauer

Cover Art "Mirrors" by Seba Kurtis


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Behind the Masthead: Brian Bender, International Poetry Editor

With the end of the year comes the end of the current staff at HFR… but it also brings with it a new staff! They're already hard at work on the fall issue, and they've even launched a flash fiction contest. Kacie Blackburn sat down with Brian Bender and asked him how it feels to be stepping up to the international poetry spot.

Kacie Blackburn: As one of the international editors, what do you do?

Brian Bender: Primarily my job is to consider international submissions and translations for publication at HFR.

KB: Do you ever have any trouble with the translations? By trouble, I mean have there been words that were untranslatable that caught your eye and puzzled you?

BB: Well—yes and no. Translation is a tricky thing in that the translator has to capture the language, cadence, intention (etc., etc.) of the original writer to the best of his or her ability; however, there are major inconsistencies between languages and not everything has a perfect twin (see idiomatic expressions, slang, dialect, all that good stuff—). This isn’t news to the world, but as an international editor, I have to trust the expertise and creative mind of the translator in order to fully magnify the original’s beauty and usefulness for our magazine. Of course there are many more causes of trouble an editor could encounter…but at the end of the day: what delights, delights.

KB: What type of submissions do you prefer: fiction, non-fiction, poetry, all of the above? What truly stands out to you?

BB: As an MFA candidate in poetry at ASU, poetry submissions are generally the easiest and most emotionally resonant for me. Stories and essays are great too, but a good poetry submission greets me with a wink and smile.

KB: Were there any memorable poems that you came across in submissions?

BB: Often I find a door I’ve not yet been through.

KB: How many different languages can you understand?

BB: I prefer to think I’d survive in France for a night or two. But other than that, I leave the translating up to the translators.

KB: Who is your favorite author or poet? Why?

BB: I first met poetry with a poem by James Wright, and since then I haven’t been able to shake him. He and I were both Midwesterners, and his poems reflected on the region with a quiet introversion I’d always appreciated and felt seriously drawn to. Since then I’ve been trying to emulate that (and other things) in one way or another—for better or worse.

KB: Do you remember the name of first poem you read by James Wright? You mentioned, overall, his poems reflect on the region. Was there something specific in this first poem that caught your interest?

BB:Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota” is the answer everyone expects, but they’re right. Without going into critical statements about the poem or personal statements about my life at that time, I can say that the poem walked along on the perfect day. The last line startled me and delighted me and sent me off into the world with a packed lunch.

KB: Do you do any writing in your spare time?

BB: Definitely. Right now I’m working on a book-length poem. It’s been a slow process so far, but a process nonetheless.

KB: Could you tell us a little about this long poem? How long have you been writing it?

BB: In my undergrad an older poet told me: your poems are too short. Six years later my poems are even shorter. I had to change that. So last fall I gave a reading and squished together something like 25 poems into a single one. It died on the table, but the idea crystallized from there.

KB: Have you worked with HFR before this semester?

BB: I used to help out with the poetry submissions awhile back, but hadn’t done anything too serious. I was invited to be international co-editor at a Christmas party and it sounded like a good fit. So far it’s been great.

KB: Do you plan to continue working with HFR?

BB: Only if I get an office. I still don’t have an office.

KB: What have you enjoyed most about working with HFR, so far?

BB: I like having the opportunity to recognize and publish emerging talent. Even if we don’t accept a submission, it’s always fun to see the great things poets and writers are working at. That’s such a boring answer, but it’s true. Such colorful minds.

***
Brian Bender is a poet living in Tempe, AZ, and international co-editor at Hayden's Ferry Review.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Cup of Coffee With Dexter L. Booth (Interview by Kevin Hanlon)

Dexter L. Booth showed up late, frazzled, and having just come from the preparation committee meeting for a friend’s surprise birthday party. He apologized, and we laughed. Planning surprise birthday parties alone would be enough work for most people, but Booth keeps busy and uses every second of the day to his advantage.

A couple of years ago, Booth was still polishing his manuscript and hard at work getting his writing published. “I entered it into a bunch of contests,” he says, “That’s kind of what you do. You enter, you wait, and you just hope someone likes your stuff.”

It didn’t take long for Booth–a graduate of the MFA program at Arizona State University and an alumnus of Hayden’s Ferry Review [ed. note: Booth served as poetry editor for issue 49 & 50]–to get noticed. In 2012, his poetry collection, Scratching the Ghost, won the Cave Canem Poetry Prize. The following year, the book was published. These days Booth is on tour, giving readings and promoting his work while still teaching undergraduate English at ASU.

But Booth is humble. He never intended for any fame or recognition, although he remarked that it was nice to be acknowledged for his writing. He hopes he can inspire others to read and write through his work both in the classroom and on the page.

Scratching the Ghost explores childhood memories, growing up, and everything that comes with life and afterwards. Booth has produced honest and passionate poetry that reveals tender and universal truths of life. It dwells in the areas most people fear to address.

We sat down for nearly three hours and chatted about technology, ghosts, and what it means to be a black poet in the 21st century.

Kevin Hanlon: Where does (your) poetry take place?

Dexter L. Booth: Somewhere between the real world, where our feet are on the ground, and the sort of mental space that I won’t say is necessarily religious, but somewhere between the real world and that dream state. You know, when you wake up and things are kind of hazy, you’re still sort of dreaming, and you’re not quite sure if someone is next to you or not. I think my poems take place in that space. They try to figure out the self: the waking self and the daily self.

KH: In your poem, “Letter to a Friend,” from the section entitled Our Famous Shadows, you write, “I always come back to these woods/feeling guilty under the accusing/leaves. How everything changes–/a mother again loses her son to the stream.” Where is the line between influence and experience in your work?

DLB: I don’t know. I was a visual artist in undergrad – a painting major. I have this visual part of my mind, and I think that sometimes that helps my poetry because I can see things in a way that’s a little different than people that don’t have that background. I try to write from experience, partly because I like confessionist poetry, and partly because this was a time in my life when these things needed to be addressed. So I think those two things are very closely connected in this book.

KH: What are Our Famous Shadows?

DLB: That was actually an alternative title for the book. A lot of the poems are about childhood and this idea that you become infamous for the things that you did in your childhood. There are these huge events in our life you’re like, when I as a kid a kid, I did this thing, and it’s awesome. Then you get older and you realize it wasn’t really that great. And then sometimes you have strange events in your life and you’re like, oh this thing happened and it was weird, and you look back and think, What? I survived?

I think childhood becomes the shadow that follows you around. You’re not always going to be the same person, but the things you did in your childhood–the friends you made, how you were raised–those are the things that stick with you. In some ways, those are the things that get artists some sort of attention. I think childhood is one of the key elements to writing poetry and staying creative. The most creative people I’ve ever met are children. That’s one part of myself that I never want to let go of: that freedom that children have to imagine things the way that they do.

When you’re little you’re like, oh there are no rules, you can do whatever you want. You draw whatever you want–you can make yourself purple if you want. Then you grow up, and especially if you go to art school they say, “Well there are these rules, and you have to color in these lines.” I think we get accustomed to working in these structures that we forget that there is a sort of freedom in not following the rules.

KH: You moved here from Virginia, and it comes out a lot in your poetry. Can you tell me about that?

DLB: I was born and raised in Virginia, and pretty much my whole family is there. No one has really left…ever. When I came to Arizona for my MFA I was the first one in my family to move out of Virginia. I got in my car with my cats and some art supplies, and I just drove across the country. I had never even left the state. It was terrifying. And so again, you can see that reference to the title [of the book]. Virginia as a state doesn’t have the best history, and so literally there are lots of ghosts in Virginia’s history that I felt followed me across the country. In some ways, I had to come to terms with those.

There’s a poem in there for my friend John where we talked about race. The poem is entitled “Queen Elizabeth.” It was very strange leaving Virginia and then coming here. I met people who would say, “I’ve never had a black friend,” and, “What’s it like to be black?” It was very strange.

KH: In that poem, “Queen Elizabeth,” you talk about being a black writer. What’s that mean?

DLB: What does that mean? I think that’s the question for the 21st century: What does it mean to be a black writer in poetry? For me, I just want to make my own path. Obviously, in the book, about 95% of the stuff actually happened. That was a real situation [in “Queen Elizabeth.”]. I was at a poetry reading and I heard a younger black kid say, “I don’t want to be a black writer.” That was something that bothered me because I had thought that same thing previously, before even coming for my MFA. Back then I said, I want to go do this thing. I want to write poems, but I don’t want to be that guy. I didn’t want people to assume that I wrote like Langston Hughes or was a slam poet. I guess in some ways that poem is me coming to terms with the fact that what it means to be a black writer is whatever I do with my writing. Every day that I wake up I’m going to be my heritage, and so I have to take that and move forward. I can’t worry about those things when I write.

KH: We live in an ever increasingly technological world. Why write? Why poetry?

DLB: I write because I don’t know what else to do. I’ve been writing and making art since I was little, and that’s the only thing that I enjoy. I have always wanted to affect people’s lives, but I don’t trust myself enough to be a doctor and cut someone open. That’s just not a thing that I should do. But with poetry, I can affect people and I never have to meet them–there’s no recovery time. They can’t blame me if they walk away from the poem and they’re like, “Oh my lungs hurt,” you know? I have nothing to do with that. I just don’t know anything else that I’d be doing with my life other than writing and teaching. I love it.

KH: What is the state of poetry today?

DLB: I think that we are entering a kind of a renaissance, at least in my mind, with technology, with slam poetry, with rap music, with all of these things that are branching out from traditional poetry, as we knew it. Especially with the Internet and self-publishing there are people who can publish their poems everywhere. There are people who stand on corners and sell their poems that they staple together. I think a lot more people are writing now, which is good. I hope that means a lot more people are reading.

KH: Do you think it’s important to unplug?

DLB: Yes, definitely. When the weather’s nice I go out to Hole in the Rock by myself with a computer or a notebook and write. Even if I’m at home writing, I cut off the Internet because I do get distracted. I’ll wonder, “Oh what are people doing on Facebook?” and that’s just not important…ever.

KH: When do you know a piece is finished or whole?

DLB: When I can’t fix it anymore. With Scratching the Ghost, I can’t do anything to the book now that it’s published, so it’s just done. Once it’s published that’s as close to finished as it’s going to get.

KH: What is your greatest source of inspiration?

DLB: Now I get it from other people, from watching the world. After the book, I was tired of writing about myself, so now I write about other people and things that are going on in other countries. The world sufferings, I guess you could say.

KH: What’s next? What are you working on?

DLB: Right now I’m working on a collection of poems that are letters to different friends. They’re letters to friends, but they’re letters to the world that address a larger issue.

***
Dexter L. Booth reads tonight (April 9) at 7 p.m. at the Tempe Center for the Arts. Scratching the Ghost is available from Graywolf Press.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Where Are They Now: An Interview with Past Contributors (Part 2)

With fifty-three issues published, nearly twenty-five hundred contributors accepted and tens of thousands of submissions read, we start to wonder where our previous contributors have run off to. Fortunately, I was able to catch up with a few of them, and we were able to go through a round-table discussion of questions and answers in order to find out what some of them have been up to!

Here's part two of our interview, featuring: Anthony Varallo, a fiction contributor in Issue 47; Hugh Sheehy, a fiction contributor in Issue 36; and Liz Prato, a nonfiction contributor in Issue 50. Check out part 1 here!

Sophean Soeun: If you could have written one bestselling book/series before the original author wrote it, which book/series would it be and why?

Hugh Sheehy: I don’t have a good answer for this. I mean, I feel like I should say Shakespeare, which is pretty awesome to imagine for myself, though I suspect a little boring for other people (they’d be let down to think of Shakespeare as being just five foot six, for starters). There are plenty of writers I admire--more recently, folks like David Mitchell and Jane Smiley--but I tend to read their work until I lose interest in it. (As a result, I’m always at a loss when people ask me about my favorite authors and books, or worse, about my influences, because I suspect that readers would be better at spotting them than I am.) One series of books that made a deep impression on me when I was young is John Bellairs’s Johnny Dixon novels. I haven’t read them since I was ten and eleven, and I doubt I’ll go back and look at them anytime soon, lest I correct my memory too much: I want to write books that make people now feel the way those novels made me feel then.

Liz Prato
Liz Prato: I just realized every title I was coming up with -- like Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret? and Ramona the Brave -- are from my childhood, so it’s not so much that I could have written those books, but that they taught me what I wanted to write. And that goes back to the question about bizarre ideas. I was never reading fantasy or sci-fi. I was just reading about ordinary people trying to figure out this being human gig, because I’ve always found that plenty mysterious. Any book that helps another person understand that better -- that’s what I want to write.

Anthony Varallo: I read a lot of Hardy Boys books as a kid. They had a whole display of them at the supermarket—right at the checkout lane—for some mysterious reason. That always impressed me, that you might need The Secret of the Old Mill or The Sinister Signpost as urgently as aspirin or breath mints. I guess I’d like to write a book like that.

SS: Why is there so little understanding among beginning writers of what actually constitutes a story/plot/conflict?

Anthony Varallo
AV: I had almost no idea what a short story--or a “literary” short story--was until I got to college. I simply hadn’t read many short stories; I read novels. That’s something I remind my students all the time: those of us who aspire to write short fiction come to short fiction through the novel, which is very different from the short story. I think we sometimes forget how confusing the short story can seem to beginning writers (“Why does nothing happen?” “Why is this so depressing?” “How could that be the ending?”) who have never seen a “plot” that’s closer to “a series of ordinary events ending in epiphany.”

LP: Funny -- my problem with a lot of short stories I see from young writers is that nothing happens. And by that, I mean there is no conflict, nothing at stake, nothing pushing against the character. I just read an amazing story by Joanna Rose that accomplishes what both Tony and I are talking about. It takes place during an average week in a small town bar, and the entire conflict is that a stranger comes in and acts like a dick. The tension comes from how these insular, dignified people will react. It’s a quiet story without enormous action and no life or death consequences, and the tension is still thick throughout. The epiphany at the end is what maintaining the integrity of their community looks like to these people. But that’s probably precisely the sort of plot that baffles beginning writers.

Oh, and I totally I agree that the issue is people try to write short stories without reading short stories, without making an effort to understand how and why they work. A lot of young writers struggling to get their work published ask me for advice, and I say, “Do you re-read your favorite stories and figure out the way they work?” and it’s not just that they say no -- it’s as if that never occurred to them. There’s a way in which writers are like astrophysicists, though: it’s not enough to imagine a world beyond our boundaries, and it’s not enough to just understand the math and the science. You have to be able to do both.

Hugh Sheehy
HS: I like to think of John Gardner’s statement about fiction having a moral imperative as deriving from the Latin stem mor-, which means “custom”: so fiction has to show us a theory of what people are, how they work in a certain place-and-time (which, since we’re talking about representation here, is interchangeable with “mind”). So fiction presents us with some kind of narrative (implicitly so, if there is no story to speak of in the fiction, as you see in some of the work, for instance, of Lydia Davis) that demonstrates how an author works out tensions she perceives between subjects she imagines in a more or less verisimilar way: they might be a particular bankrupt husband and wife with only a car left to their names and the bank coming for that on Monday, or they might be a forlorn cuckolded widower and a woman who grows teeth all over her body, or they might take some other form. I think what’s difficult for a lot of beginners--I know it was (is) for me--is learning to accept and then embrace the need to keep working with the tensions between subjects until the conflicts stand out clearly and drive or order the action. This is a wordy way of agreeing with the definition of fiction-writing Liz and Anthony are discussing. It also, I think, can shed some light on why writers just starting out often traffic heavily in cliches--sometimes composing stories using cliches of speech and writing in order to tell a story that is itself a cliche. Fiction writing is a kind of thinking, one many of us have to learn.

But I think there are professional writers who are confused about this stuff. Take the “story” versus “plot” issue. The difference goes beyond terminology into realms of metaphysics and aesthetics. I teach my students that “story” refers to the larger sense of narrative created by a story’s telling: the sense we have of characters having lives off of the page. And I teach that “plot” refers to the way the story is told: the point of view, the structuring of events, the personal narrative strategies each writer fashions to make things like tone work--in short, the writing. But there’s a problem some might see with this distinction, particularly that the “story” the reader imagines is inseparable from the “plot” they read as it is embodied in the words on the page. If the language that makes up a story cannot be separated from a reader’s reading-and-imagination of the story, then it makes no sense to distinguish between “story” and “plot”. Some folks might say I am guilty of reification when I speak of a story distinct from a plot; I would say that when I am writing, I am choosing to tell some things and not others. And then they might point out that the story I speak of does not exist apart from the words on the page, and I might say that if I am reifying it is with good intentions, and so on and so forth. I think there’s a poorly articulated conflict among creative writers over whether to privilege the word or the imagination, language or story. It’s been around since at least the mid-Twentieth Century quibbles over how to write, what to write about, the political role of writing--in short, whether story itself can make a difference, or whether creative writing has to move on to other effects to do more than provide a temporary escape for readers. Today there’s a lot of vague talk about experimental writing versus conventional writing, and while there are clearer differences between writing programs, creative writing teachers need to cover a lot of terrain and accommodate students who want to write, not understand critical ideas, even if those can be very useful. Add in small (or large) differences in aesthetic philosophy between teachers, and you can get a whole lot of confusion over basic things, like what is meant by “plot” (which is, unfortunately, commonly used to mean something like “narrative stencil”). In the face of a muddle like that, some students might just shrug their shoulders and write what they intended to write when they registered for the course. That’s too bad for the less sure writers, because a little learning can go a very long way in fiction writing. That said, I think the terminology problem may fade a little as we get better at teaching CW (a young academic field) and increase our library of craft books. Still, there will probably always be some conflict over the basics, because differences in fundamental understanding make way for invention and large scale innovations in arts.