We published Cascio’s essay, Kid, in Issue 12 in the Fall of 2018; speaking about both his writing and his visual art, he says each piece he creates is “a recorded haunting.” I know I’ve never stopped thinking about Kid, so he must be right. Of Cascio’s latest collection Tent City (Alien Buddha Press), one reviewer writes this:
Christopher Cascio notices everything — about neighbor’s dogs, a wrestling match, fathers and sons, a rain-drowned house. Under his inspection the details of living burgeon into major themes, so quietly the oncoming explosions barely register. And then, boom. Call these beautiful, deftly-crafted pieces short stories, small bejeweled things. But they are the size of the world.
RR’s word choice has my attention, because some of it is actually quite far away from words that come to me at first: beautiful, bejeweled. Other words ring true for me: dogs, wrestling, drowned, explosions.
The fusion is in Cascio’s eye for the beauty and value of difficult, superficially ugly truths. He is a master of unveiled views into unpleasant subjects that allow us as readers to “get past” the roadblocks that a less-skilled writer can’t avoid. Stabbings, picking fights, heart attacks, watching a home fall apart, finding the strength not to end your life even when it would make the pain go away…….I have this flashback to the end of A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean:
When I finished talking to my father, he asked, “Is there anything else you can tell me?”
Finally, I said, “Nearly all the bones in his hand were broken.”
He almost reached the door and then turned back for reassurance. “Are you sure that the bones of his hand were broken? he asked. I repeated, “Nearly all the bones in his hand were broken.” “In which hand?” he asked. “In his right hand,” I answered.
Maclean and Cascio are very different writers, but they share the same gift, the capacity to look through the outward ugliness of life to the core beauty that lies within. People can do and say and suffer some monstrous things that are not “the things” themselves. You’ll want this unique collection on your summer reading list! TENT CITY
It is our great pleasure to announce that Beatrice Motamedi is the 2021 winner of The Anne C. Barnhill Prize for Creative Nonfiction. Her essay, How to Make Jeweled Rice, was an early favorite in the submission process, and was named the best of the best by contest judge Mike Smith. Smith writes:
It has been a terrific pleasure to read and reread the eight finalists for the 2021 Anne C. Barnhill Prize for Creative Nonfiction, every one of which, I believe, would delight the contest’s namesake. My job was not an easy one, and I want to congratulate all the writers on producing such accomplished work and thank them for sharing it with the readers of Longridge Review.
“How to Make Jeweled Rice (Shirin Polo),” like a lot of great lyric essays, recognizes alteration—of time and place, of voice, of perspective and language—as a dynamic generator of rhythm. The steps of the recipe for Shirin Polo, handed down to the writer from her mother, anchors poignant childhood scenes of growing up in the 1960s as the child of Iranian immigrants in Milwaukee to an extended scene of visiting “Tehrangeles” as an adult. The essay moves between the steps of the recipe to memories of childhood in which the writer comes to terms with the decision to assimilate into American culture. From the problematizing of the popularization of rice in the United States—through a brief history of Uncle Ben’s, which successfully “stirred the pot” in the second half of the 20th Century—to an episode of people-watching on Rodeo Drive, there is a wry, winking humor at work throughout this essay, which grounds us through the movement between times and places as much as it charms.
Mike also named as notable The Benefit of Others (Cabrera) and Learning Shame (Thomas). Congratulations to Beatrice, and to each of our finalists. On behalf of our editorial team, we are humbled and grateful to have the opportunity to read your work; most of all, you contributed to the dream of honoring Anne Barnhill by offering poignant and powerful narratives from your childhood experience.
Please see our home page or Creative Nonfiction menu tab for links to all of our essays, and thank you!
Beatrice Motamedi is a writer, journalist and teacher. She was a Stegner Fellow in poetry and a John S. Knight Fellow in journalism, both at Stanford University. Beatrice’s work has appeared in Let Me Tell You Where I’ve Been: New Writing by Women of the Iranian Diaspora (University of Arkansas Press: 2006) as well as the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times and The International Herald-Tribune. Her series, “The Long Arm of Childhood,” is part of the Solutions Journalism Network’s Story Tracker. Beatrice lives in Oakland, California.
Anita Cabrera‘s s poetry, fiction and essays have appeared in The New Guard, Brain,Child Magazine, Colere, Acentos Review, The Berkeley Fiction Review, Best Travelers’ Tales 2021 Anthology, MER, Deronda, and other journals. Her short fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Award and adapted for stage by the Bay Area Word for Word Theater Company. She lives in San Francisco where she is active in dance and recovery communities.
Frances Thomas is a writer and editor based in Brooklyn, New York. Born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, she moved to the United States in 2014 to study communications and creative writing at New York University. Her work has appeared in The Maine Review and Academy Press.
Catherine Con holds a BA in English Literature from Fu-Jen Catholic University, Taiwan, and an MS in System Science from Louisiana State University. She is a Computer Science instructor at the University of South Carolina, Upstate. She is published in Emrys Journal, Tint Journal, The Bare Life Review, The Petigru Review, HerStry, Shards, Dunes Review, Emrys Journal Online, National Women’s History Museum, and Catfish Stew. Con was nominated for 2020 PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers, and selected for “2020 Local Authors” by Greenville County Library, South Carolina.
Carroll Grossman, also known as Teaberry, lives and writes in Louisville, Kentucky. Born and raised in the mountains of eastern Kentucky, she followed her dad along narrow deer paths, steep hills and razorback ridges, and across clear, cool streams. Many of her stories and poems reflect the honest, strong and resilient nature of those living in economic poverty while surrounded by great natural beauty. Her work has appeared in Edible Louisville; Harmony, Humanities Magazine of the University of Arizona College of Medicine; Calliope, an anthology published by Women Who Write. Her work may also be found in, The White Squirrel, a literary arts magazine of the University of Louisville; Interstice, a literary publication of South Texas College; Literary Accents and Canary, a literary journal of the environmental crisis. A collection of poetry, Possibility . . .Yes, was published in 2012. She recently received her MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University.
Douglas Imbrogno is a lifelong storyteller in words, pictures and moving imagery. He worked for 35 years as a long-form feature writer, feature editor, and multimedia producer for a legendary small newspaper, The Charleston Gazette, in West Virginia. He currently is editor of the multimedia magazine WestVirginiaVille.com and co-founder of AMP Media, a multimedia production shop that does everything from short documentaries to music videos to ‘Naturegrams.’ He also edited and compiled “WHAT WHY HOW: Answers to Your Questions About Buddhism, Meditation, and Living Mindfully by Bhante G,” released internationally in January 2020 by Wisdom Publications.
Lina Lau is a mother, green tea drinker and writer based in Toronto, Canada. Her work can be found in XRAY Literary Magazine, The Citron Review, Hippocampus Magazine, carte blanche, and others. She writes during the in-between moments of parenthood. Follow her on Twitter @LinaLau_ and on IG @_linalau_.
Paulina Pinsky is a writer and educator based in Brooklyn. She received her MFA in Nonfiction Creative Writing from Columbia University, where she currently teaches comedy writing to high schoolers. She is the co-author of IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE AWKWARD, from HMH September 2021. She was a 2021 MacDowell fellow and has been published in Narratively, Human Parts, Columbia Journal, Slackjaw Humor, and HuffPo Women. Visit her website, www.paulinapinsky.com, where you can find links to her socials (@mizpiggy111).
We are exceptionally proud to present these writers and their outstanding essays. Out of over 70 submissions, our editors chose these five to forward to contest judge Carter Sickels. Carter has made his choice, and we will announce the winner on Friday, October 16; on that date we will also post links to each essay, along with bios of these talented writers.
Thank you for your support of this contest. Our goal is to keep the spirit of Anne Barnhill alive in the writing world she loved so much, as well as to offer recognition and reward opportunities for writers who “present the finest essays on the mysteries of childhood experience, the wonder of adult reflection, and how the two connect over a lifespan.”
Summer of 2006. Four childhood best friends. A family secret.
Here at Longridge Review, we like to share good news about writers whose work we have published. Today’s good news is about Natalie Rodriguez, whose 2017 essay “The Permission of Alcohol” examined her disordered drinking to facilitate expressions of grief.
The COVID-19 situation is interfering with the anticipated release of many new books, but Natalie reports that the ebook version of new YA book, Elephant, is available for an unlimited time on Booksprout. All you need to do is create a free account on Booksprout to download the book. The book is also available right now for Kindle on Amazon and Nook for Barnes and Noble.
After a strange encounter leaves him hospitalized, a timid teenage boy named Matt “Matty” Smith comes home to a continuous series of events met with anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Under the guardianship of his grandma, Lucia, Matt lives with unspoken questions about his grandfather and parents. The elephant in the room. As Matt develops over the summer, the secrets only grow more profound and complex. Will the answers ever come? While searching for answers, Matt and his three childhood best friends encounter the meanings of love, forgiveness, and fate.
This story is for those who feel their voice is unheard and for children, teenagers, and adults who never had the chance to heal from their pain.
If you need some new — safe — contact in quarantine, Natalie is all over the socials and would love to hear from you!
Congratulations to our finalists for the Anne C. Barnhill Prize for Creative Nonfiction!
Neema Avashia (Boston) Rochelle Harris Cox (Northwest GA) Dorian Fox (Boston) Jenna Korsmo (Tuscon) Jessica Langlois (Atlanta) Elizabeth Lantz (Columbus) Mary Mahoney (New York) Elizabeth Muller (New Jersey) Laura Stanfill (Portland OR) Lisa López Smith (Central Mexico)
We are exceptionally proud to present these writers and their outstanding essays. Out of over 120 submissions, our editors chose these 10 to forward to contest judge Randal O’Wain. Randal has made his choice, and we will announce the winner on Friday, October 11; on that date we will also post links to each essay, along with bios of these talented writers.
Thank you for your support and patience as we developed this contest. Our goal is to keep the spirit of Anne Barnhill alive in the writing world she loved so much, as well as to offer recognition and reward opportunities for writers who “present the finest essays on the mysteries of childhood experience, the wonder of adult reflection, and how the two connect over a lifespan.”
It’s always exciting for us at Longridge Review to get publishing news from one of our essayists. Mike Chin’s short story collection, You Might Forget the Sky Was Ever Blue (Duck Lake Books, September 2019), is out this month. Do not miss Mike’s thoughts, ideas, and advice about his work and the writing life . . . and don’t forget to order his book!
Q: You Might Forget the Sky was Ever Blueis your first full-length short story collection. Congratulations! The book includes stories about a third grade teacher in Baltimore trying to make sense of the 2016 election campaign to students, a teenage sexual assault survivor making his way through a changed world, and a boy is raised to believe he’s Hulk Hogan’s little brother. Though fiction, they sound inspired by real life. Can you talk a bit about how the genres of fiction and creative nonfiction relate as well as diverge?
A: I’m a big believer that nothing in life happens in a vacuum. Everything affects everything else, and that very much includes the pop culture we ensconce ourselves in, which might include politics, music, movies, television, and even professional wrestling.
Rather than playing coy in a (likely as not futile) effort to make the stories timeless, a number of these stories lean into their surrounding culture from the real world to enrich the characters and setting. The first story in the collection, “Prophecy,” is very much set during the 2016 presidential election campaign and uses social media as a source of chronic tension throughout. The story “Brother” uses Hulk Hogan’s evolution as a public figure as a backdrop for understanding the protagonist’s place in life and worldview.
Q: Book promos say Sky includes experiments in form with a social conscience. What exactly does that mean?
A: Two stories in particular—“Prophecy” and “Better”—lean into collage style structures that jump around a lot. In the former, the story aims to gather a bit of what it was like to be an average citizen during an especially tumultuous moment in American history. Conversely, “Better” uses its snippets to span a lifetime, gathering snapshots across decades that the reader can piece together to understand the whole.
In regards to the social conscience of the book, some of the glue that binds this manuscript includes leaning into uncomfortable conversations around political leadership, sexual assault, how we society treats people from the LGBT community, and more. Rather than taking a ‘there are good people on all sides’ stance, the collection, or at least the characters from these stories, do take positions, and it’s up to the reader to decide whether or to what degree they agree—but at least (I hope) they’re thinking.
Q: Your essay forLongridge Review, The Bionic Elbow: On Fathers, Sons, and the American Dream, has elements in it I recognize in Sky; there may be more. I really love that essay, the way you braid in and out of seemingly disparate experiences like professional wrestling, fatherhood, emerging sexuality, parental expectations, death/loss –somehow you make it all connect. Do you have any special process for this kind of writing, do you plan to do it in advance or do you just write and weave it together as you go?
A: I’ve experimented with this style of writing (most directly influenced by Maggie Nelson) in a number of pieces—fiction, non-fiction, poetry. Typically, I’ve drafted pieces like this in a pretty linear fashion, truly letting my mind wander and make organic connections. I will admit that there’s a deceptively high level of revision typically required after that first draft, though, to buff out the pieces that really are more flights of fancy than essential to the text, and to make connections that feel clear enough to me more explicit for readers living outside my head.
Q: Do you have a favorite story in Sky? What is it and why?
A: While I’d probably call “Prophecy” my favorite for its structure, contemporary concerns, and bits and pieces borrowed from my own life, I’ve probably already spent too much interview space talking about that one. So, I’ll go to the next one down the line, the title story, “You Might Forget the Sky was Ever Blue.” It connects to the story that comes before it in the collection, “The End of the World,” which ends on a traumatic experience. “You Might Forget” picks up on the aftermath, which I feel is too often given short shrift in storytelling—the more administrative pieces of school officials sorting through a messy issue and how that intersects with someone’s personal experience. It’s a story that was largely born out of the years I spent as an administrator for an educational program, taking those less glamorous behind the scenes tasks and carving some art out of them.
I’m a prolific drafter and feel pretty adamant that, if I like a piece of writing, I’d rather see it out in the world somewhere than sitting dormant on my hard drive.
Q: You publish a lot of writing, with work either in or forthcoming in over 200 publications. What advice do you have for other writers about getting your work out there?
A: I’m a prolific drafter and feel pretty adamant that, if I like a piece of writing, I’d rather see it out in the world somewhere than sitting dormant on my hard drive. So, I make conscious effort to submit regularly and widely, not being afraid to shoot for the stars with the pieces I most believe in, or to take a chance on a less established venue with pieces I’m not as confident will connect with editors. I know some folks prefer to be more selective about where they publish, and I can respect that, but for those who may be more interested in publishing widely, I advocate for getting in listservs and social media groups that advertise calls for submissions you might not come across more organically. There’s such an advantage to placing work with venues that are actively seeking submissions (especially from less established writers) as opposed to only submitting to publications that already have overwhelming submission queues.
Q: What’s the best way for readers and writers to keep up with you and your work? (website, Twitter, etc.)
A: I’m active on Twitter and publicize most anything I publish there. I also try to keep my website up to date, and I update my blog at least twice most months.
Suzanne Farrell Smith’s essay, “The Helping Man,” is nominated by Pembroke Magazine for Pushcart Prize. Congratulations and good luck! This fall Suzanne also had an essay published in Brevity, “If You Find a Mouse in a Glue Trap.” Finally, her essay “Work and Love” is published in Issue 8 of Adanna. Way to go, SFS!
Read our editor Mary Heather Noble’s blog post, On Writer’s Block: Notes from the Kitchen Island. “I’ve tried all kinds of ways to avoid doing this work. I tried moving far away, and when that didn’t help, I wrote and published a few scenes from that childhood path and then suffered the consequences. I’ve tried writing about other things. I’ve tried literally running away.” This is a gorgeous and vulnerable self-examination of, among other things, the mountain climbing we do as children and as adults.
Do you have a question for us? Write to us at Ask the Editor. In December, we will tackle the question, “What qualifies as childhood for your mission?” Read Heidi’s blog post about her authorial choices in her essay, Your Boss.
We ask you to follow our blog! We don’t post there often, but when we do it’s focused information you can use about writing and writers, as well as updates about our journal.
by Essayist and Guest Blogger Heidi Davidson-Drexel
I was not officially a child when I was violated by my boss, a reality which further muddied the mess of emotions I felt about it. I used to struggle with what to call the experience. I was enough of a child at the time to feel molested, but couldn’t reconcile that term with my age. For awhile I referred to it as a controlling relationship- a title modification that allowed me to skim past essential details. But it wasn’t a relationship. It seemed there were no accurate descriptions, words or phrases that fit.
To write about it, I had to allow myself to peer into my inner state at the time it all happened. It wasn’t an easy place to go. But when I finally got up the courage, the overwhelming feeling I had was one of sympathy for my younger self. The internalized guilt and self-hatred had dissipated with the years and I could see the confused young person I was, grabbing onto anything she could find.
This feeling of understanding grew as I worked on it. The barrier between adolescence and adulthood is like a line of buoys separating the shallow end of the pool from the deep end. It’s flexible- easy to cross back and forth. In all of the outer ways, I was like an adult. I started working at 14 and was supporting myself while in college. I studied hard and did well in school. But emotionally, I was still splashing around in the shallows.
When I started out writing this piece, I thought if it as an explanation to some nameless person, some naïve reader who might not understand how such a thing could happen. I wanted to show how easy it is to lose the ground under your feet, how it could happen to anyone. By the time I finished the essay and reread it, it was clear. I had written it, not for some nameless bystander, but for my younger self. For the part of me that still didn’t understand what had gone wrong, and for the parts of me that still felt I had done something to cause it. I wrote this for the child I was, in the hopes that she can begin to move on.