New fiction: Thaumatrope

My latest flash, “Thaumatrope,” has been published in the inaugural issue of Rhythm & Bones. Thanks to Tianna Grosch, Charlie Allison, and Renee Firer, for not only giving this piece a home but for pairing it with some cool artwork as well.

So check out the issue and submit to them.

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A Little Help from My Friends

One day during the summer, while listening to the Beatles, I decided I was going to write a poem called “The Final Chord of ‘A Day in the Life.’”

For those unfamiliar with the song, it’s the final track from the Beatles’ 1967 LP Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, a record that still casts a large shadow over pop music today. One of the earliest examples of “progressive rock,” the song begins with John Lennon singing over a simple acoustic melody and climaxes with loud, swirling psychedelia. It ends with an E chord that’s played on several pianos and slowly fades for roughly a minute. In order for the listener to hear the chord’s vibration for that long, engineer Geoff Emerick had to turn up the recording levels really high, so the song basically ends with a loud crash before a long, slow fade.

I was always fascinated by the fact that the Beatles (as well as Emerick and producer George Martin) chose to end such an epic song in that way. To me, it was the antithesis of the album’s beginning, which announced the arrival of the titular band on stage. That final chord in “A Day in the Life,” on the other hand, was the exhausted audience trudging to the parking lot after the show.

So I decided to write my poem about that. But a couple of things happened to my piece along the way.

First, one of the lines from the song (“Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall”) kept playing over and over in my head. I eventually incorporated it into the piece, so it was no longer inspired by just that final chord. For this reason, I gave it a new title: “Holes.” (By the way, the revised piece also quotes a Bob Dylan song.)

Second, after I wrote the rough draft, I thought it was, well, boring. Considering that I was using such an adventurous recording for my inspiration, I felt my piece should reflect that same spirit. So I decided to take a different approach: Instead of writing a poem, I wrote a flash using stream-of-consciousness. While I had read some works that employed stream-of-consciousness (notably James Joyce’s Ulysses, Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, and Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse), I had never tried writing it myself. But I decided to give it a shot. After all, what did I have to lose?

It took me a little while to get this into shape, but fortunately I got a lot of help from seven of my writing friends (both on and off Scribophile). Sure, it sounds like a lot of people were involved in what ended up being a very short piece (under 800 words), but it’s a good idea to hear from different people about a work-in-progress, especially if you’re trying out a new form.

Some people may be familiar with it and know what to look for in that type of piece. For example, a few people suggested that for “Holes,” I break some grammar rules. I’ve done that for poems, but I would have never thought about doing it for a flash, or at least not to the extent I did it in mine. Of course, others may not be as familiar with the form, so they may judge it based on a completely different set of criteria. Still, one should consider all opinions, even from those readers who may not “get it.” After all, they may see something in a piece that others never noticed, so their feedback is just as valuable as everyone else’s.

Overall, this experience was a positive one for a couple of reasons. First, “Holes” was accepted for the inaugural issue of Tape Hiss, which will probably be out in the next month or so. But also, writing the piece and sharing it with a writing community have inspired me to go on more literary adventures, which I will write about in future posts.

Have you tried experimenting with your writing recently? If so, did you share your work-in-progress with writing friends? Please feel free to tell me about it in the comments.

Lost and Found

So late last month, I got my first acceptance of the year. It was for a found poem that will be appearing in Unlost Journal in April.

After receiving the acceptance, I thought, Why not write a post about found poetry?

Since there are plenty of resources about found poetry on the web, I won’t try to define what found poetry is. (Besides Unlost, you should check out Poets.org and the Found Poetry Review.) Instead, my goal here today is to inspire you to try writing found poetry since it is fun to do.

Now, by no means am I a found poetry expert. I still have yet to try an erasure or a cento, but I have had a few pieces published.

Also, there are people who can make a poem out of anything. I’m not one of those people (at least not yet).

However, I did manage to craft a poem using text from a copywriting book. That poem, “Wisdom,” was published in Five 2 One’s #thesideshow.

To create that poem, I picked a random chapter in Joseph Sugarman’s The Adweek Copywriting Handbook (in this case, Chapter 17), and started circling words (or parts of words) and phrases. Some of them were just prepositions (e.g., of, into) that by themselves do not have poetic value but are needed for the poem as a whole. Along the way, I also found some phrases that might be good in a poem; for example, here’s a paragraph from page 103 of Mr. Sugarman’s book (I hope he doesn’t mind if I borrow it):

With less copy, your ad will look less imposing to the prospect and he or she will be more likely to read it. The second advantage is that you are making the slippery slide even more slippery by making it shorter. Your prospect will get to the bottom of the slide much faster, yet still get the full impact on your sales message.

From this, I ended up circling the slippery slide, get to the bottom, and impact. If you read “Wisdom,” you may have noticed that I used all three of these. However, you may have noticed that they’re used with other words that do not appear in the paragraph. These words were taken from other pages in the chapter (e.g., environment, which appears in the next paragraph). Sometimes I add a few words not in the source, but in this case, I only used words from the text. When I do add words, I try to add as few as possible since the idea of found poetry, after all, is to create something new from something already published.

So are you interested in found poetry? Do you have any additional resources you would like to share? Do you have any favorite found poetry books? Let me know in the comments.

Back in the Saddle

At the beginning of the month, I posted my goals for the year in one of the forums on Scribophile. Of course, I said I was going to write and submit more. But I also mentioned that I wanted to get back to writing regular posts for this blog.

So here I am. Nice to see you again.

For this entry, I thought I would keep it simple and just inform readers about what I’ve been up to lately.

  • Since November, I’ve been working on a horror story that’s right now is roughly 6,000 words long. I won’t talk too much about this now because I’m planning on making it the subject of a future blog post.
  • I completed a fiction piece that I began around this time last year and submitted it for publication.
  • I also finished a new poem I had started in December and submitted it for publication.
  • I began some experimental pieces. I’m not sure how successful these will turn out, but it’s been fun trying new forms.
  • Speaking of Scribophile, I had been absent from it during most of the fall, but I returned to it in late December. Since then, I’ve posted some of the new works mentioned above and critiqued poems and stories by others. As I’ve mentioned before, Scribophile is a valuable resource for writers. If you’re interested in improving your writing and meeting other writers, you should definitely check it out. (In case you’re wondering, no, I don’t work for them.)

That’s it for now. What have you been up to lately? Please tell me about it in the comments.

The End of the Exclamation

Last Wednesday, tNY Press (which was, until last year, the Newer York) closed its doors after five years on the experimental literature scene.

As I mentioned in my first post, tNY published my first fiction piece, “Anatomy of a Bird” (not counting the stories I published in college literary magazines). However, even if they never published me, I would have remained a fan. They published not only great pieces on the Electronic Encyclopedia of Experimental Literature (EEEL) and the Shrug (their print magazine), but they also released great books, such as S. Kay’s “apocalypse in tweets,” Reliant.

To really get an idea of what tNY accomplished, though, one just needs to read the email Editor Josh Raab sent out last week:

Over the past 5 years we have published 800+ writers, 600+ artists, 1500+ stories, 5+ books, and 4 issues of our magazine. We raised $35,000 from 700 strangers on the internet to Kickstart our mission. We’ve also been legally threatened by The New Yorker, assaulted by Facebook’s algorithm changes, and totally worn out by the literary publishing world and all its insular idiosyncrasies. tNY is officially closed at midnight tonight.

Your support, readership, kind words, and amazing writing have been our motivation throughout all of this. We still believe in the ability of experimental writing to change the way people think, we’re just not the people to do it, not right now. There is a new experimental press on the scene already, submit to them at he

There are certainly things I would have done differently as an editor which might have secured tNY’s future. I’m working on a reflective post of advice and anecdotes for people who want to start lit mags. Add me on LinkedIn or Medium where I’ll be posting it.

I’m moving on to make music and be a freelance book editor, find/hire me at joshuaraab.com. Chuck is going to keep on internet riffing and dadding at yourdeadbffsurl.tumblr.com. Megan will remain flustered at flusteredpoet.tumblr.com. Thanks to Christopher Morgan, Daniel Bullard-Bates, Celeste Mora, Alitzah Oros, Steve Vermillion, Melissa McDaniel, Nils Davey, Eric Paull, Jane Stephens-Rosenthal, Rebecca Weiner, Soren Stockman, and all of the people who believed in tNY and helped us get to this point.

Keep writing, keep reading. Today is the last day ever to buy books from tNY so go to the website and stock up. The store/site will go down at midnight PST, the EEEL will remain up as an archive, [Chris’ note: Since Thursday, I have not been able to access the ExperimentalLit.com site, which contains the EEEL. Until the site is fixed, my “Anatomy of a Bird” piece can be found in Medium.

Love you all,

Josh & co.

What’s interesting about all this is in April, they tweeted they were now part of the LA Review of Books. Here’s what they said about it at the time:

We don’t know what this means except that big things are coming. If it wasn’t already cool as hell to be published on our website, now our stories will be syndicated on LARB’s website and newsletters, and sometimes print editions. We hope their audience of hundreds of thousands of readers around the world ushers in a new day for our small press.  We’re as hellbent as ever on changin the way we read and write.

theEEEL is no longer at theEEEL.com, you can find us at ExperimentalLit.com.

Thanks for everyone who has supported us through the years and brought us to this point. Tell your friends. And keep submitting! And buy our books 🙂

But then a month later, Raab and the rest of the staff made this announcement:

It’s been an amazing 5 years. We’re so grateful and humbled by all of your support, and also by the neverending genius of our writers. But it’s time the editors move on to new things as we have grown tNY as big and strong as we are able.

That said, we’d hate to snuff out all the potential it still has. Between the print magazine, books, and our new partnership with the LA Review of Books (via ExperimentalLit.com), tNY.Press is an amazing factory for new writing talent and literary experiments.

We are looking to sell and/or pass the baton to a person or publisher who want to get their hands on a real dope venue for experimental lit. We are taking bids until June 15 and then making a decision on June 20th. Please share this post, tell your friends, spread the words, so we can put tNY into good hands.

Now it’s tempting to try to fill in the blanks of these press releases, all issued within a two-and-a-half month period, but I’m going to resist the urge to do so. Instead, I’m going to wait to see if Raab discusses the situation further in his Medium/LinkedIn posts.

Whatever the reasons are, tNY will truly be missed. They published some strange and unique works, such as a narrative about a young woman who likes to stand on her head (complete with upside-down fonts), a satirical ISIS contract, and a collection of surreal stories with diagrams. Plus most (if not all) of their texts were accompanied by art that was just as unusual. Through the words and art, though, tNY showed us that radical works could also be accessible.

Fortunately, there are other outlets for these types of works. As Raab mentioned in his email, there is at least one new pub on the scene: SN1. Press, which is now accepting submissions. There are some others that have been on the scene for a while. Weirderary, which is looking for “your weirdest stuff,” has been around for about a year. And then there’s Lotus-eater, which “craves originality and experimentation,” and the long-running [PANK]. There are probably many others I’m either forgetting or not aware of. 

So as Raab wrote in his email, “keep writing, keep reading,” because as long as there are people who want to invent new ways of expressing themselves, there will be publishers who will want to bring it out into the world.

Till next time,

Chris