Photo by Mara Arantes

Our editors revealed their first literary loves.

Krys Malcolm Belc
Associate Fiction Editor
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

When I read Matilda, it completely reinvented my understanding of what books were and were for. It wasn’t just a story; it was a strong message to people who identified with Matilda. I did. And now I have her (and Ms. Honey!) tattooed on my leg. And also, everyone knows that Ms. Honey was a queer icon for people growing up in the 90s.

Emily Doseck
Intern
Northern Michigan University

Ferdinand the Bull/The Story of Ferdinand. It’s the earliest book I remember reading over and over and over again.

Jacob Hall
Associate Fiction Editor
Decatur, Illinois

The Horse and His Boy.

Ethan Brightbill
Managing Editor
Allentown, Pennsylvania

Animorphs #4: The Message, the first chapter book I ever read. Who doesn’t want to fight aliens and turn into a dolphin?

Tianli Kilpatrick
Associate Editor
Northern Michigan University

A Wrinkle In Time series is what got me into reading. However, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” is what got me into writing.

Anne Okonowski
Associate Editor
Dearborn, Michigan

So I’m named after Anne of Green Gables and I remember my mom reading that book to me when I was pretty young and it was magical to be able to identify with a character so strongly. Especially as a child that had a penchant for being dramatic and had quite the temper.

Bill Nyfeler
Associate Nonfiction Editor
Northern Michigan University

2001.

Robert Ball
Intern
Dearborn, Michigan

The Great Gatsby! Instantly became my favorite book and still is today.

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Swim In Pool Supply

Photo by Allen

This year’s Waasnode Short Fiction Prize will be selected by Anne Valente, author of the novels Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down (William Morrow/HarperCollins) and Utah (William Morrow), as well as a short story collection By Light We Knew Our Names (Dzanc) and a fiction chapbook, An Elegy for Mathematics (Bull City Press). She spoke to Associate Editor Jacob Hall to discuss what makes short stories tick.

Jacob Hall: What excites you about fiction as a genre?

Anne Valente: The imaginative possibilities, and the wide range of voices, ideas, and inventions the genre makes feasible. There is so much going on in fiction right now, and I try to read three or four books a week just to keep up. I love that fiction allows the reader to enter someone else’s brain and imagination and experience with them the world that they’ve seen and created. Reading fiction feels like lucid dreaming with someone else, as does writing fiction—building out that lucid dream to share with others.

JH: What makes an individual short story great to you? What do you look for?

AV: Invention and imagination make short stories great for me, and that’s often what I look for, but this doesn’t necessarily mean a high-wire act of building out fantastical plots or worlds. I’ve seen inventiveness in the narration of a character just sitting in a chair observing a party around them. I think what makes any short story great is attention to language—to sentences, to syntax and diction, to how the characters and interiority and setting and narration are being set down on the page—and also to an overarching sense of momentum. Often great short stories capture the reader from the opening paragraph and don’t let go until the final sentence.

JH: What else should we know about you? What are you reading right now?

AV: You should know I’m such a huge fan of Passages North! The journal has consistently published inspired, challenging and innovative work, and I’ve been an admirer since I first began writing fiction. In terms of what I’m reading right now, I just read Colson Whitehead’s Sag Harbor and Chloe Benjamin’s The Immortalists and absolutely loved both. I’m also in the middle of Leni Zumas’s Red Clocks right now and can’t put it down. It’s gorgeously written and structured, and so compelling and haunting.

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Photo by Mirai Takahashi

The judge for this year’s Neutrino Short-Short Prize is T. Clutch Fleischmann, author of Syzygy, Beauty (Sarabande Books), curator of Body Forms: Queerness and the Essay (Essay Press), writer-in residence at Columbia College Chicago, and a nonfiction editor at DIAGRAM. They spoke with Associate Editor Jacob Hall about the theory and craft of the short-short genre.

Jacob Hall: What excites you about short-shorts as a genre?

T. Clutch Fleischmann: I love short writing in particular because of the way it so often sits outside of genre, hitting some spot that traditional genre categories can’t always reach—thinking of what happens to narrative, to image, to voice, to concept, when they live within the (limits of) the short form. The way I so often inhabit short writing is all about returning, coming again and then immediately again to something that changes as I read it, that exists as much beyond its limits as within them. If longer writing lets me get lost in its rhythms and motions, lets me live in it, short writing is a thing that I carry with me, that might even become a part of my own rhythms and motions, the way I can hold it.

JH: What makes an individual short-short great to you? What do you look for?

TCF: So many things! I hesitate to say what I look for in any pointed way, as my favorite writers of short forms all offer such different things. I want to say here, “a moment of thought,” that short-shorts can get me into a pulse of thinking, or a breath of experience. A great short is mysterious in this way, that thinking and experience are mysterious, extending beyond themselves. Maybe the simplest way to say it is that after reading a great short, I am eager both to move away from it, to sit in the silence that follows, and to encounter it again. That seems like the surest sign something meaningful has happened.

JH: What else should we know about you? What are you reading right now?

TCF: I’m so excited about my reading pile right now, thank you for asking. I have near me Jackie Wang’s Carceral Capitalism, Myriam Gurba’s Mean, the anthology Writers Who Love Too Much, Juliana Huxtable’s Mucus in My Pineal Gland, Douglas A. Martin’s Acker, and Sung Yim’s What About the Rest of Your Life. I feel so grateful for all of these books! I think that’s what I’d like you to know about me, that I am excited about these books today, and that I want you to read them, too.

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Alarm

Photo by Maxim Mogilevskiy

Editorial intern Zoe Maki on today’s bonus story: In “Generosity,” Holly Karapetkova gives us a poet-tyrant stuck between blurred lines of selfhood with a splash of humor and irony.

Generosity

The late dictator was a generous man, given to torture only on Sundays and only after offering his subjects a choice among several artistically choreographed positions. He had once been a poet of questionable talent, and while no one dared to recall the quality of his verses, his pen name had taken up most of the cover space on his books and was difficult to forget.

Like the worst Roman Emperors, the dictator was extremely popular during his early years in office; all of the children born in the first decade of the regime were given one of his names in tribute. Later, it was said he derived great pleasure from calling his victims by their names, his own names, during the torture process. It seemed at moments when the pain set in that he was both giver and receiver, victim and tormentor, until he could no longer tell the other’s body from his own, his life from another’s death. Then the pain expanded out before him like an open sea. He would dive down so deep no name could call him out.

Holly Karapetkova’s poetry, prose, and translations from the Bulgarian have appeared in Alaska Quarterly ReviewPrairie SchoonerPoetry Northwest, and many other places. Her second book, Towline, won the Vern Rutsala Poetry Prize and was recently published by Cloudbank Books.

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Photo by Rebecca Hyett

Our editors confess their ideal vacation spots.

Lizzie Michael
Associate Editor
West Dennis, Massachusetts

I’m going to LA this spring break. Never been there before, but I heard that it’s warm, which is what I’m looking forward to the most.

Robert Ball
Intern
Dearborn, Michigan

Any and all places of religious significance. Jerusalem, Mecca, Bihar, etc. Also Alaska! Cold, beautiful, and isolated… yes please!

Anne Okonowski
Associate Editor
Dearborn, Michigan

The Bermuda Triangle. I’m going to a new dimension. So long, everybody! But actually, my dream vacation would be to hike around Iceland.

Emily Doseck
Intern
Northern Michigan University

My family never did spring break trips for various reasons, but my dream vacation right now is Disney World because I feel like the only person who’s never been there.

Charlie Edwards
Intern
Engadine, Michigan

Long Beach, California was a wonderful place to visit. My dream vacation would be Milan, Italy.

Ethan Brightbill
Managing Editor
Allentown, Pennsylvania

Oslo is where my wife and I spent our honeymoon. It’s my favorite city so far, and Norway’s undoubtedly my favorite country to visit. But I’ve gone to Long Beach Island, New Jersey many times, and the novella I’m writing is sort of in response to it. I’ve never written anything about Norway.

Jacob Hall
Associate Fiction Editor
Decatur, Illinois

Chicago, where’d I’d fill myself with an absurd amount of Italian beef and deep dish pizza.

Krys Malcolm Belc
Associate Fiction Editor
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

I’m a staycation enthusiast but I’m also really homesick for the east coast. An ideal spring break for me would involve hanging out with my brother and sisters in NYC and eating a LOT of bagels.

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20171209-P1140654

Photo by Bill Benzon

PN’s Sara Ryan on today’s bonus poems: In “Prodrome” and “I Feel Like Inwardness,” Dan Gutstein plays with language and its constantly shifting identities. These poems meld definition and meditative meaning, and they create a dark, eerie sense of time and its ever-forward movement. In a kind of linguistic translation, Gutstein allows language to unravel upon itself, and through that, these unsettling poems engage definitions of death, the word “no,” and the very names that we give to color.

Prodrome

Curtains instead of snow,
fuel instead of snow.
The darkening darkens.
Walkers unlike confetti in wind

unlike a thumpless boot.
Language travels a gradient
with less certainty than water
away from the color of ice.

The word “sepia” cannot inhabit
shoulders and seams.
“Gray scale” cannot inhabit
the many shoulders and seams.

A commonplace junction / what alights /
what endures / who is phoning.
“Halo” as in “premonition” /
what alights.

The opposite of exhaust
will not delimit
the opposite of a curvilinear motif.
Nightwork of the snow, rotary,

nightwheel of the wind.
Kitchens, watchers,
and the illiquid hands of a clock,
chipping.

 

I Feel Like Inwardness

metal fatigue
in the museum
of our reflexes

voice: eviction: disorder.

   [2]

There are different
kinds of “no”
(registers and meters)
I feel like meters

the word “death”
as in “accrual”
“accrual” as in
“cemetery,” the word.

   [3]

Curvature / rail
streetcar / torque

warehouses retain
a few glimpses
of utility (square footage

so reverent
it impairs the durable
without song

   [4]

What is inward
& simultaneous (we

are water & we
are breathless

eyes: voice: repose.

Dan Gutstein is the author of two collections—non/fiction (stories) and Bloodcoal & Honey (poems)—as well as stories and poems that have appeared in PloughsharesAmerican ScholarPrairie SchoonerThe Iowa ReviewTriQuarterlyBest American PoetryThe Penguin Book of the Sonnet, and elsewhere. He blogs at dangutstein.blogspot.com.

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bookends

Photo by Muzik Hounds


We asked the Passages North editorial staff what new authors and books they’re excited about.

Jacob Hall
Associate Fiction Editor
Decatur, Illinois

I wasn’t familiar with Lauren Groff until recently. I’m checking out Delicate Edible Birds now.

Sara Ryan
Associate Poetry Editor
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Returning to Kingdom Animalia by Aracelis Girmay, reading (or trying to read) Zoologies by Alison Hawthorne Deming, and When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities by Chen Chen.

Taylor Favour
Intern
Northern Michigan University

Honor by Elif Shafak! It’s so good!

Robert Ball
Intern
Dearborn, Michigan

Super excited to read Lost in September by Kathleen Winter. It’s her second novel and her first is easily my favorite contemporary work.

Charlie Edwards
Intern
Engadine, Michigan

The Book of Dust Volume 1: La Belle Sauvage by Phillip Pullman.

Zoe Maki
Intern
Northern Michigan University

Pretty much any story by Etgar Keret.

Alexander Clark
Associate Nonfiction Editor
Michigan

Priest Daddy by Patricia Lockwood.

Tianli Kilpatrick
Associate Editor
Northern Michigan University

Roxane Gay’s Hunger and Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib’s The Crown Ain’t Worth Much.

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Freeway Lights, Through Chainlink

Photo by Scott Hart

Editorial intern Nick Hansen on today’s bonus short: Tom Kelly’s commentary on societal trends and his zany portrayal of everyday life draw the reader into a wonderfully anarchic world in this prose poem complete with banana peels, turtle shells, and power-granting cartoon stars.

Mario Kart 64 simulation of a joyride on the Los Angeles freeway

My go-kart glides beneath a big rig, zig-zags banana peels sprinkled along the carpool lane, zooms past Danny Devito doppelgangers in limousines, a woman on a Vespa flinging her feathered scarf. I hug the hairpin bend & perform stunts to shake turtle shells trailing my rear like a celestial tail. When my bumper bashes the barricade & wedges me in the digital trench, you swoop ahead faster than the Road Runner & I pretend to blow sassy smooches but can’t rip my hands off the wheel. I’d like to ask if you’re saddled with similar setbacks: the world apprehended as a highway slideshow, the dubious existence of feet. My Littlest Deuce Coupe shotguns onto the pavement & an electric star spanks its taillights. More radiant than a game show host dunked in a glittery whirlpool, I whip within earshot & deliberate icebreakers: excuse me, we haven’t met but the back of your head caught my eye; is your ride fuel-efficient, too? We juggle the lead like ponies primed for a photo finish. Our chemistry’s palpable, near Newtonian, though my neck won’t crane to capture your attention. My sparkle-power fades & I spin-out like a basketball twirling on a Harlem Globetrotter’s finger. I steer for a shortcut to bridge our distance & swerve off the edge of the track.

Tom Kelly is a first-year creative writing doctoral student at Florida State University. He earned an MFA in creative writing from Old Dominion University, and his poems appear in The Southeast Review, Barrelhouse, Painted Bride Quarterly, Gulf Stream, Permafrost, decomP, and other journals. Follow him on Twitter @tomvkelly.

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Photo by TRANDINH

We asked our editors how their New Year’s resolutions are going after the first month of 2018.

Bill Nyfeler
Associate Nonfiction Editor
Northern Michigan University

I have resolved never to answer these crew quarters questio… DOH!

Jennifer Howard
Editor-in-Chief
Escanaba, Michigan

I’ve resolved to say “thank you for listening” instead of “I’m sorry I bothered you with my feelings.” So far so good!

Tianli Kilpatrick
Associate Editor
Northern Michigan University

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but I would like to graduate.

Ginny MacDonald
Associate Nonfiction Editor
Dowagiac, Michigan

I have resolutions, I just don’t make them. Which causes my failures to be even more demoralizing.

Ethan Brightbill
Associate Fiction Editor
Allentown, Pennsylvania

I resolved years ago never to make another New Year’s resolution, and I have been quite diligent in upholding that.

Jacob Hall
Associate Fiction Editor
Decatur, Illinois

I’ve learned that the best way to avoid disappointing myself is to never set any real expectations. You can’t blow your resolutions if you don’t have any.

Robert Ball
Intern
Dearborn, Michigan

I would like to eat less pizza. So far I’ve just substituted it with other junk food. So technically it’s going well?

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passionate runners

Photo by Markus Trienke

Associate fiction editor Krys Malcolm Belc on today’s bonus story: In “Mushing,” Mary Jones has created a narrator who is ready to visit the Alaska of dreams: an incredible place you can take someone new you want to impress, a place that will show you what you’ve read about in books, what you’ve imagined so many times when you’re living regular life. A place of adventure and wonder, a place waiting just for you.

Mushing

The old man is a father for the first time. He’s making a plan. He wants to take his boy to Alaska this summer. He’s thinking about adventure. In Alaska you can go bear watching for one thing. Or else you can go on a dog-sled ride. There’s 1,100 miles of bush country in Alaska. He’d read about, once, years ago, in a book he used to love. Even in the summer, when it’s warm, you can do it. They’ll take you by helicopter to a glacier. A place where it’s snowy all year round―like Juneau or Skagway or Seward. A place where the seasons don’t change. And the mushers keep the dogs ready. The dogs are ready year round, for those who cannot wait.

Mary Jones’s stories and essays have appeared in Alaska Quarterly ReviewIndiana ReviewColumbia JournalBrevityCarveThe Southampton ReviewPank, and elsewhere. She teaches fiction writing at UCLA Extension.

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