WIPS Conversation: Fate Kitchens on his work in progress

Fate Kitchens

Fate Kitchens grew up in Tennessee and now lives in New Jersey. He’s learned to love the northeast, but he’s still missing some things from the south. Until he can somehow unify those two, he writes fiction.



Fate, in this excerpt from The Fallow Land, Baines’ and Tommy’s plans for the day take a radical turn when Tommy finds a young woman’s dead body on Harp Hendrix’s expansive property. Does the narrative to follow focus largely on solving the crime that led to her appearance there, or does it become more of a subplot in the grander scheme of things?

It’s not strictly a whodunnit in terms of things resolving through some brilliantly plotted twist, but a killing is a major event in this little town. A whole lot of what happens is character driven, as far as how people react to this death. But yeah, I guess you’d say the crime is the center of gravity.

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Fate Kitchens: an excerpt from THE FALLOW LAND

Tommy Shanks couldn’t hold his piss, and he was lazy to boot. You’d hear worse if you asked around, but if it wasn’t for those two things, my life would’ve been a whole lot simpler. We were doing yard work that summer – landscaping, if you want to sound fancy – and it was the first time anyone had ever heard of Tommy having a steady job. I took him on as a favor. He wanted to get his life in order, but nobody would hire him.

Tommy’s truck was parked in the yard when I went by to pick him up at seven. The sun was still low in the sky. I wanted to start work before it climbed above the trees and punished us.

I knocked and waited. Nothing. An air conditioner hummed around back, outside the bedroom window. I beat on the door with the side of my fist. It was sheet metal and made a hollow, ringing sound. The trailer wasn’t set right on its blocks. The windows rattled with every blow.

“Tommy! Come on now! Get up and get out here!”

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WIPs Conversation: Julia Hirsch on her work in progress

Julia Hirsh HEADSHOT - Version 2Julia Hirsch began her career in Hollywood where she worked for ten years as a story editor. Her book, The Sound of Music: The Making of America’s Favorite Movie (McGraw-Hill, 1993) sold over 100,000 copies.  She has been featured in Entertainment Weekly, the Los Angeles Times, and New York Magazine. After raising two children, she began writing and producing television commercials in the advertising field, winning numerous awards for her campaigns and commercials. She’s written two novels: WHITE RUSSIAN and MERMAID AVENUE.

Julia, in this excerpt from White Russian Sophie finds herself in a Belarusian prison cell for spurious reasons, where the fact that she’s American doesn’t easily provide a get-out-of-jail free card. Can you explain for readers how Sophie ended up such a predicament?

Sophie’s eighty-one-year-old father, Sam, was a proud American Communist in the 1940s and 1950s and remains an unreformed political agitator looking for one last fight. He travels to his homeland, Belarus, to join an underground political theater company whose goal is to overthrow the country’s dictator, Alexander Lukashenko. (This company is based on the “Free Theater of Belarus” who perform political plays all over the world to spotlight what is happening in Belarus.)

Sophie gets a call from Yelena, the director of the theater company, who tells her she has to come to Belarus and retrieve her father because his tactics are getting the theater group in trouble with the KGB (Belarus’ police still use that name), and Sophie has to bring her father home.

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Julia Antopol Hirsch: an excerpt from WHITE RUSSIAN


“You haven’t read me my rights! I want a lawyer! I want a phone call! I’M AN AMERICAN!”

“Na kaleni, suka!”

The guard smacked me across the face, and I fell back on my cot. My head still throbbed from the policeman’s initial beating at my arrest. I could actually hear my eyes move when I looked off to the side, like sand pouring out of a bucket. Now I felt a burning numbness on my cheek. My mind began to drift. Focus, focus.

I’d been falling in an out of consciousness since they brought me in. I remembered the beating at the demonstration, male voices holding me up while a pair of hands glided slowly over my breasts and hips in their version of a “body search,” and screaming for my belongings as they grabbed my purse.

I rubbed my cheek. The memories rushed back in bursts of motion, like pages in a flipbook.

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WIPs Conversation: Carmen Lau on her work in progress

Carmen LauCarmen Lau’s short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Gigantic, Fairy Tale Review, The Collagist, Wigleaf, NANO Fiction, Matchbook and other journals. Her short story collection, The Girl Wakes, will be published by Alternating Current in 2016. She received her MA from UC Davis.
Twitter: @artemisathene


Carmen, in “The Great Queen of Wonderhaven,” a young girl suddenly falls through the figurative “rabbit hole” and becomes Wonderhaven’s queen after blowing out her birthday candles. Like Alice, she lives in a surreal world and is often overwhelmed by what she encounters, but in this case it’s sometimes by news and events of the “real world” as told to the Queen by her mother and her cynical cousin Laurie. How do you see fairy tales in the context of literature and storytelling, and do you have particular favorites that perhaps influence you own work?

I’ve always been taken by the symbolic possibilities of using fairy tale elements in storytelling. There’s something pre-rational about fairy tales; they come from and address the places within ourselves that defy “reason.” They are primal and spiritual at once, expressing the dichotomies within the human mind in vivid, sometimes colorful, sometimes brutal images.

Reading the works of Kate Bernheimer and Angela Carter especially was an awakening for me. I read J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan for the first time at a relatively late age and was amazed by it. That book is for the child within grownups. It made me cry like a baby.

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Carmen Lau: “The Great Queen of Wonderhaven,” the first part of a novella from the collection THE GIRL WAKES


On her ninth birthday, immediately after blowing out the candles on her cake, the girl who would become queen fell into Wonderhaven. Right under the noses of her mother, her father and her cousin Laurie, she crawled under the table while the lights were off and fell into this world without so much as a yelp, for she, besides being pure-hearted, was also self-composed.


Self-composed is the queen,

as a folding fan that reveals its colors

only when it slides silently open.

Pure-hearted is the queen,

as the still-green bud of a tulip.


In this world there was a palace encased in ice, a forest and the villagers in the forest, and the shadows that bedeviled them. To make a very long story short, because she was pure of heart, because she was self-composed, she smote the shadows and saved everyone here. The ice that coated the palace walls melted, and the forest became bright and hot, and the villagers rejoiced. And so, with great pageantry, she was crowned the queen.

Three crowns she wore: a crown of flowers, a crown of gold, a crown of stars. A cape woven of morning dew she trailed after her as she approached the throne; each drop shone blinding like a little sun. Her subjects knelt like a sea of wheat bending to a gentle wind as she walked to the throne. And when she took the throne she raised her hand and said, “I will be a good queen.” And her subjects roared with joy, knowing she would keep her promise.

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