My Year in Stories

Looking back at these stories gives me a sense of self or better selves, of how I saw my world and how I wrote little worlds into being. My life as a writer is torn is so many directions. When I look at these stories, I'm challenged to find a single voice. Maybe I don't have one. Here are a few of the highlights:

In January 2010 I was still going to bookstores, hoping to see Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tough Times, Tough People. Occasionally I'd spot the book, open it to my story and stand there like Mr. Bean nodding and pointing to my name. Recently I found the book in Singapore. Here it is with its cover showing:

It is an amazing feeling to walk into a bookstore in Singapore and find a book with your story in it. Unfortunately, almost all the books in the store were wrapped in plastic so they could be returned, so I couldn't do my Mr. Bean act. I did take one book up to the bestseller rack. I also found the book this week at Kroger just five minutes from my parents' house in Nolensville, Tennessee. Small world.

In February Piker Press published "Our Stepford Wife," a humorous-I-hope tale about an unusual love triangle. Something else unusual for an online magazine: I got a paper contract in the post with a personal note from the publisher. Another "p" word that comes to mind: professional.

In March, my story "The Orangery" appeared at Every Day Fiction. It's the story of a daughter coming to terms with the perennial voice of her mother. Thank you to all the people who showed up and commented at Every Day Fiction. And thank you to the editors of EDF for giving the world a story every day.

Flash I wrote. I did. I'm not very good at it, and I should stop trying. I like these nuggets, though, at Lowestoft Chronicle, Gambol Magazine, and an especially weird bedtime story at In Between Altered States.

This summer I caused a few days of drama when I unthinkingly posted "Red Toy Soldier" on Fictionaut after it won The Smoking Poet's Third Annual Short Story Contest. Live and learn. And one thing I learned: I'm not as smart as I look.

Full of Crow published "The Wishing," a story about a little brother who can't escape being little. It's not autobiographical in the strictest sense. I never published one of my brother's stories. My brother was much larger than I am, though. It was a difficult relationship. That was never a secret.

At the end of the summer, something STRANGE happened. "Christmas 'Neath the Bridge of Sighs" (cowritten with M.J. Nicholls) won the Strange Circle Short Story contest. Read the story about the story here.

My story "Hunger" found its way into the Writers Abroad Anthology in November. It's about a troubled fellow from Hackney who goes to Germany in search of a girl because she once told him that everything works in Germany . . . so he thinks his life will too. The story has nothing to do with my own. Eating is too important to me to be so hungry.

A few of my creative non-fiction babies were picked up and petted this year. Connotation Press liked "Coming Home"; "Night Train to Brasov" appeared in the Motif vol. 2 Come What May: an Anthology of Writings about Chance, and "Listening to My Body" (originally entitled "When a Body Knows Best," but Chicken Soup changed it) will be in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Shaping the New You, in stores December 28, 2010.

My year was also filled with the usual rejection rejection rejection. I would have peppered this post with rejection letters if any of them had been inspired or funny or absurd or nasty; but sadly they were almost all the garden variety "no thanks" letters. Most of the stories above were rejected a couple of times before they were accepted; some were rejected "a few" more times.

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Shaping the New You
On December 28, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Shaping the New You will be in stores. If you like inspirational stories, I hope you'll pick up a copy; if this is not your type of reading, I still hope you'll pick the book up, turn to page 300, and nod and point like Mr. Bean.

I must be off,


  1. Chris! I am so thrilled for your success in 2010 and hope for the continued blessings of multiple voices in 2011. I love that you can be male or female, strange or normal, in the stories you tell. To hell with one voice! Let them all shine through. It is what makes you, YOU, and accessible to a broad audience of readers. I vividally remember The Orangery and Red Tin Soldier - and that recall doesn't happen often. You are a TALENT!

    PS: How did I miss the MJ collaborative weirdness? Must Be OFF, to read.

    *HUGS* to you my friend

  2. Hey, Jenn :)
    Thank you for your encouragement. It means the world to me.

    The story Mark and I wrote is available as a pdf download for a couple of dollars I think. The story behind the story is almost as strange as the story itself (which is verrrrrry strange).

    I hope you're having a great holiday season. I always look forward to seeing your new drawings.

    Chris :)

  3. christopher, all that chicken soup makes me hungry. i'm happy for you - a year filled to the rim - especially those contest wins! i've also never had a funny or sad rejection letter, you know, like "we wish we could have published your piece but when we put it on our server, it crashed the system", or "when we considered printing this story, we were reminded of all the other, better stories out there..." etc. next year, perhaps...go well into that new one!

  4. Thank you, Marcus. I almost always get the generic rejection letter, but I did once get some actual feedback about a story that helped me reshape it.

    All the best to you too. I hope your new year is also packed to the ceiling with acceptances.

  5. A formidable and encouraging year of successes! We'd love to have stories coming out every week, or every month, but it never works out like that. And anyway, you don't want to spread your legs too thin. (Yey! I mixed metaphors!) Jennifer put it best I think: keep up the great writing!

    P.S. Chris has neglected to mention his fine work as the handsomest co-editor of Metazen. He bagged JINCY WILLET!

  6. Somebody let Jincy out of the bag! Ha. That was great fun to interview a writer I respect greatly.

  7. Well done, Master Allen, well done.

  8. You've had an amazingly productive year! congratulations to you, and I hope 2011 is even better. I will definitely pick up the Chicken Soup long enough to read your tale--mostly I can't tolerate inspirational stuff, but that looks like a shape up, which is the single area where I can, but besides that, maybe there will be people in hearing distance at the book store and I can say, "Hey! Here's my friend Chris's story!" teehee--anything for a little peripheral fame, eh.

  9. Hey, Derek! Thanks, man.

    Hart! Thanks for stopping by. It does look like a productive year, doesn't it? There were long stretches of rejection between publications, and I took a lot of naps. I love your twelve days of twelvsies. Great fun.

  10. Chris -

    I've enjoyed reading the fruits of your labor this year and celebrating with you the successes. I look forward to 2011!

    Thanks for sharing the part about rejection. I cannot imagine any of your writing being rejected! Maybe someone should start a business writing creative and fun rejection letters.

    Merry Christmas!

  11. Hi, Kris! Thank you, and thank you for reading. Maybe next year I'll get some fun rejections.

  12. Chris,
    I've been reading your stories throughout the year and have really enjoyed them. I loved The Orangery and Red Toy Soldier and... I've loved a lot of them. Hope you have a wonderful Christmas and New Year and look forward to seeing more in 2011.

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  14. Martha, I'm always lifted up by your encouragement. Thank you. I hope your new year brings lots of great stories as well.

  15. Wow! What an inspiring update. I'm invigorated by your publishing successes of 2010. Here's to many more in 2011. Cheers!

  16. Thank you, Cindy! I hope your new year brings logs of great stories as well. :)

  17. Hey enjoyed reading and browsing your pics, thanks for sharing.

    Istanbul yeah totally agree I just have to go to a city spanning two continents!


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