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My Year in Stories -- 2011 Reloaded

(Important! If the bottom of this post is cut off, try reloading the page. This usually works.)

First, if you kept up with my stories in 2011, bless you. Really. I appreciate the encouragement. With 2011 behind us, it's time to start looking back. Instead of running through my year's stories chronologically, I'm going to start with my favorites. The links to the stories are at the very end of the post (please click on them and give these litzines some love). 2011 was almost wonderful in so many almost wonderful ways. I totally turned my back on the novels I've been working on for the last who-knows-how-long and turned my attention to flash fiction or at least very short fiction--with one gleaming ornithological exception.

Sprayed on a wall along the Thames Path, LondonMy story "The Birds of North Carolina" was a finalist at Glimmer Train in April, which means the story remains unpublished and therefore under consideration at a couple of dream markets. The story is about a woman who has taught her family to ignore her cries for help. Of course I'll keep you up to date (read you'll hear me screaming) if it's accepted.

In September, "The Shoes, the Girl and the Waves that Washed Them Away" led a brilliant pack of writers (only because my last name starts with A) at Blue Five Notebook. Thank you, Michelle Elvy and Sam Rasnake! The story is an exploration of choices and an essay in surrealism. I'm very grateful to the editors for nominating this story for the Pushcart Prize. It goes without saying that I'm over the moon about the nomination!

In April, I posted "The Pain Taster" at Kaffe in Katmandu. The story is about a voyeur obsessed with a woman's pain--like a wine-taster dissects the nuances of a mature Shiraz. Later in the year, I posted the story on Fictionaut, where it was fortunate to get good feedback. Then one night in early October, I sent it to Robert Vaughan's Flash Fiction Friday radio show, and it was accepted. Robert Vaughan's reading of my story is certainly a high point of my year in stories. To read or listen to this story click on the links at the end of this post.

©Jennifer Noel Bower"Husk of Hare" found its way home to Jessie Carty's Referential Magazine in July. I began writing this story in Berlin, and I remember that most of it came to me as I was on a treadmill at the gym. As it took its fairy tale shape, I couldn't stop thinking that Jennifer Noel Bower should draw the art to accompany it. And then Marcus Speh said he wanted to read it. In the end, thanks to the collaboration of these two incredibly talented people, my odd--and quite dark--little story became something bigger than itself. To read this story click on the link at the end of the post.

Thank you, Matt Potter, for accepting "The Number 4"--one of those stories that happens in a few minutes. I've always wanted to be the number 4. It's always been my number. This story is a simple, surreal exploration of Randall's choices. If Randall could be anything, he'd be the number 4. The story was born in May and lives at Pure Slush, later at Fictionaut and then finally at Kaffe in Katmandu. To read this story click on . . . don't tell me to shut up!

Also at Pure Slush, "A Garden of Knives and Sugar" appears coupled with Katrina Gray's "Bantu". I'm especially proud of this duet. Would you like to know why? Yes? Apart from working with Katrina Gray? Well, when I read the last paragraph of my story to my mother, she said, "Oh, wow. That's really really good." My mother is a writer herself, and she has no problem giving me honest criticism. When she says something is good, she means it. To read this really really good--Thank you, Mom!--story, click on the link at the end of the post.

In April--April was a full month--"Nothing Between Us" was included among a great list of writers at Wilderness House Literary Review. I have to give credit to an editor at Necessary Fiction for rejecting the story and telling me why. Her feedback helped me improve the story. And of course thank you, Susan Tepper, for accepting it and publishing it at WHLR!

In May, I squeaked in to the last round of 52|250 – A Year of Flash with "Three-handed Bridge". Thank you, Michelle Elvy for kicking my butt and urging me to contribute. It made sense for me to contribute this micro. In October this year, Susan Tepper used the story for her Monday Chat with me.

"The Language" was published at The Recusant, a politically radical ezine. At 2600 words, it's longer than several of my other stories put together--so it doesn't get read as much. When someone reads it and comments on it at Fictionaut, I'm always chuffed--so if you want to get me all chuffed, click on that link at the bottom of this post.

On December 1 "Pru in the Dimple of the Broad-smiling Boy" became part of Gone Lawn's Issue 6. The story is about a soul's relationship to its boy. When the story is published, I'll let you know in a separate post. Thank you, Alana I. Capria, for accepting the story and Pru in her need to be heard.

In February Jessie Carty published "Dale's Last Dance" at Referential Magazine. Thank you to all the people who commented on the story. It's humor involving elderly people in a nursing home. Who really knows if this kind of humor will work? I hope it did this time. Thank you to all the people who left such encouraging comments. Only after I named the story did I discover that there's a song with the same title. Oops. Um, link. Bottom. Of post.

Another humorous story--this time about a guy who prefers showers to baths, was published at The Legendary: "The Dirty Parts." I'm so glad the editors liked this story. It's so hard to sell humor.

"Inferno"by Meg Tuite's Exquisite Quartet, a collaboration with Meg Tuite, Sam Rasnake and Amber Sparks. You can read it at Used Furniture Review (link below, as if I needed to remind you).

My story "The Orangery" first appeared at Every Day Fiction in 2010 and has now been included in The Best of Every Day Fiction Three--but more fantastically, the story is read regularly in the course Creating Great Characters at NYU's school of Continuing and Professional Studies! When the teacher of the course sends me a mail telling me how positively the students react, it always makes my day. A footnote since I started writing this post: the teacher has now started reading my other stories. The Pain Taster, The Number Four and Husk of Hare. Thank you!

I write creative non-fiction as well. My story, "When the Body Knows Best," which Chicken Soup for the Soul renamed "Listening to My Body," was supposed to come out in the book Shaping the New You in December 2010. The book, with foreword by Richard Simmons, didn't actually hit the street until 2011. Chicken Soup for the Soul pays hundreds of dollars for a story, so THANK YOU, Chicken Soup! And thank you also for the wonderful feeling of walking into a bookstore in Vancouver or Singapore or Nashville and finding my byline. OK OK, I moved this one in Whistler, British Columbia to No. 1.

Also published in 2011...

"An Innocent E-Visa Fiasco" at Airplane Reading
"The Rising" at Kaffe in Katmandu
"Three Conversations with Steven the Optimist(ic Therapist)." Originally at HOUSEFIRE, but you can read it at Fictionaut as well.
"Freedom Can Wait." Originally at HOUSEFIRE, but you can also read this one at Fictionaut. The story has been chosen to be part of the Best of HOUSEFIRE Year One.
"...and Counting" at EDF
"1975, What I Wanted" at Fictionaut
"Sentimental Me" also at Fictionaut
"The Readers in Car 103" republished by TrainWrite, previously published at Flash Fire 500.

Last but certainly not least is my story "A Simple Recipe" in the 2011 Writers Abroad Anthology Foreign Flavours. All proceeds from the anthology are going to The Book Bus, a registered charity whose mission it is to increase child literacy in Latin America and Africa. The anthology is a mix of fiction and non-fiction all related to exotic food. I think it's something unique. The book even includes 33 recipes. If you enjoy reading about food, and you want to support The Book Bus, Foreign Flavours would be a great Christmas gift to yourself--or to twelve of your friends!

Well, I hope you've made it to the end with me. Again, if you followed my stories all year, I want to kiss you all over--figuratively (don't get any ideas).

I must be off,

Links to the stories:

Husk of Hare with art by Jennifer Noel Bower and audio by Marcus Speh at Referential Magazine
The Pain Taster at Kaffe in Katmandu, read by Robert Vaughan on Flash Fiction Friday
The Number Four at Pure Slush, Fictionaut and Kaffe in Katmandu.
A Garden of Knives and Sugar with counterpoint "Bantu" by Katrina Gray at Pure Slush
The Shoes, the Girl and the Waves that Washed Them Away at Blue Five Notebook Series and nominated for the Pushcart Prize
Nothing Between Us at Wildnerness House Literary Review
Three-handed Bridge at 52l520 a Year in Flash and Monday Chat at Fictionaut with Susan Tepper

The Language at The Recusant
Dale's Last Dance at Referential Magazine
Pru in the Dimple of the Broad-smiling Boy at Gone Lawn (Winter Issue 6)
The Dirty Parts at The Legendary
Inferno at Used Furniture Review, collaboration with Meg Tuite, Amber Sparks and Sam Rasnake
The Orangery in The Best of Every Day Fiction Three
Listening to My Body in Chicken Soup for the Soul, Shaping the New You
An Innocent E-Visa Fiasco at Airplane Reading
The Rising, a micro at Kaffe in Katmandu
Three Conversations with Steven the Optimist(ic Therapist) at Fictionaut
Freedom Can Wait at Fictionaut
...and Counting at EDF
1975, What I Wanted at Fictionaut
Sentimental Me at Fictionaut
The Readers in Car 103 at TrainWrite previously published at Flash Fire 500
A Simple Recipe in Foreign Flavours, a charity anthology benefiting The Book Bus from Writers Abroad


Christopher Allen is the author of the absurdist satire Conversations with S. Teri O'Type.

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