WIPs Conversation: Len Joy on His Work in Progress

Bookmark and Share

Len JoyLen Joy lives in Evanston, Illinois. His short fiction has appeared in FWRICTION: Review, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Johnny America, Specter Magazine, Washington Pastime, Hobart, Annalemma, and Pindeldyboz. He is a competitive age-group triathlete. In June 2012 he completed his first (and probably only) Ironman at Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

Len, in the beginning chapters of American Past Time excerpted here, Dancer Stonemason appears to live out a baseball player’s dream: pitching a perfect game in front of his family and carried off a hero on the day he gets called up to the Big Leagues by the St. Louis Cardinals, the team he’d followed as a boy. But the duration of game precludes the call up. Still, “No matter what else happened they would always have that game. That moment. And Doc was right. He was young. He’d get another chance.” With a growing family and money beginning to get a little tight, the words seem ominous. Can you give readers a hint of what’s to come?

If Dancer had come out after three innings, as they had planned, his whole life would have played out differently. The doctor is not always right. Sometimes you only get one shot.

Continue Reading →

Len Joy: “Dancer,” an Excerpt from American Past Time

Bookmark and Share

American_Pastime_ECover_Sized  1

September 5, 1953

Dancer Stonemason drove through Maple Springs headed for Rolla. His left hand rested gentle on the steering wheel, and in his pitching hand he held a baseball – loose and easy – like he was shooting craps. The ball took the edge off the queasy feeling he got on game days. His son, Clayton, sat beside him and made sputtering engine noises as he gripped an imaginary steering wheel, while Dede, Dancer’s wife, stared out the window with other things on her mind.

They cruised down Main Street, past the Tastee-Freeze and Dabney’s Esso Station and the Post Office and the First National Bank of Maple Springs and Crutchfield’s General Store. At the town’s only traffic light, he turned left toward the highway. At the edge of town they passed the colored Baptist Church with its neatly-tended grid of white crosses and gravestones under a gnarled willow. The graveyard reminded him of the cemetery up north, near Festus, where his mother was buried with the rest of the Dancer family. She’d been gone fifteen years now and some days Dancer had trouble remembering what she looked like.

Across from the Baptists, A-1 Auto Parts blanketed the landscape with acres of junked automobiles. His father’s Buick was out there somewhere. Walt Stonemason had been a whisky-runner for Cecil Danforth. He knew every back road and trail in southern Missouri and there wasn’t a revenue agent in the state who could catch him.

At his father’s funeral Cecil told Dancer that Walt was the best damn whiskey runner he ever had. Dancer wanted to ask Cecil if his dad was so damn good how’d he manage to run that Roadmaster smack into a walnut tree with no one chasing him. But Dancer knew better than to ask Cecil those kinds of questions.

Continue Reading →

WIPs Conversation: Cal Freeman on His Work in Progress

Bookmark and Share

Cal FreemanCal Freeman was born and raised in West Detroit. He holds a BA in literature from University of Detroit Mercy and an MFA from Bowling Green State University. His writing has appeared in many journals including Commonweal, The Journal, Nimrod, Drunken Boat, Ninth Letter, and The Paris-American. He currently lives in Dearborn, MI and teaches at Oakland University.

Cal, in this excerpt Pastor Timothy Eigen finds himself compromised in his position as spiritual advisor and marriage counselor by his feelings for Paula and ability to dismiss Jerry for someone who “loves her for her prettiness though and has no notion of her beauty. An old story dating back to David and before.” By the end of this chapter things it appears are going to get rather tricky, and could affect Eigen’s life in many ways, including the relationship he has with his congregation. Does this dilemma continue on as the crux of the novel?

In a sense, yes, though Eigen manipulates the situation in order to get what he thinks he wants. He and Paula fall in love and she leaves her husband, which is what, at this point, she is leaning toward anyway. The tragedy is that every choice she and Eigen could conceivably make is untenable. The psychic consequences of this kind of thing make the pastor’s descent into an early senescence merciful.

Continue Reading →

Cal Freeman: An Excerpt from Tractors, a Novel in Progress

Bookmark and Share

 

Eigen sat in his gliding rocker near the big bay window of the farm. If it weren’t for the denuded trees, the light would make you think it was summer. He had told himself when he first moved here that he’d do something with the fields. Some beans and cabbage maybe. But leading the congregation combined with the piano lessons had proven too much. Fallow fields. The furrows where the plow had once turned up and divotted the earth were indistinct, shambolic clay without apparent form. Straight lines become a diaspora of muck.

He read a new verse translation of The Book of Job by Stephen Mitchell. He had been using Job’s story more and more in his sermons the last couple years, and he supposed this made sense in light of his divorce. “Man born of woman, few of years and full of trouble,” and so on. It was his job to warn them. This congregation especially with their two-car garage, two-income households. It is important to live within this mystery. Are the blessings of this world blessing us? If the creature comforts leave us, if love flees us, will we maintain faith? Will we curse God? Is untested faith faith? He would ask them.

Continue Reading →

WIPs Conversation: Margot Demopoulos on Her Work in Progress

Bookmark and Share

03.03.2014 Margot Demopoulos croppedMargot Demopoulos’ fiction appears or is forthcoming in the Sewanee Review, the Massachusetts Review, Fiction International and others. Her nonfiction, “Patrick Leigh Fermor – We May Just Forget to Die,” appeared in the Spring 2012 issue of the Massachusetts Review. Her book reviews have appeared in the Kenyon Review, the Sewanee Review, the Potomac and others. She participated in the Bennington Writing Seminars, the Colgate Writers’ Conference, the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, and the Key West Literary Seminars and studied with Claire Carmichael, Peter Ho Davies, Mary Morris, Lynn Freed, Alan Cheuse, Varley O’Connor and others. Her fiction was a semifinalist in 2009, and a finalist in 2010, for UCLA’s James Kirkwood Literary Award. She is represented by Lisa Bankoff of ICM Partners.

Margot, “The Grapevine” is quite a compelling chapter in your novel, following Gottlieb’s exploits traversing Crete’s White Mountains with the help of local guides, any of whom could possibly be a traitor. Earlier, Gottlieb brought aboard his new friend Karvos to join the Greek Resistance as a translator for the British army, and become part of a tradition, seeing that “For centuries, Cretans have defended their island with remarkable ferocity.” The Nazi occupation, of course,  presented the ultimate challenge. What inspired you to tackle the subject and this period in history?

I’ve been fascinated by this period since hearing stories about it from my grandmother. Hitler invaded Crete by paratrooper. Thousands of paratroopers and gliders dropped over the northern coast. What Hitler failed to consider was the iron will of the people of Crete. They had a history of resisting invaders. Men and women rushed from their homes to fight back with what they had—axes, pitchforks, rusty flintlocks, knives. There was mass resistance. The civilian population never gave up. They worked hand in glove with the British throughout the occupation. This story is relatively unexplored in American fiction and it certainly resonates today. Civilians throughout the world are striking back, not just at foreign invaders, but at their own corrupt and oppressive leaders.

Continue Reading →

Margot Demopoulos: “The Grapevine,” an Excerpt from a Novel in Progress

Bookmark and Share

 

It takes Gottlieb another two nights of hard climbing on rough terrain, led by a succession of local guides, to make it over the White Mountains. Gottlieb’s current guide—Sherlock, or as he himself pronounces it,”schlock”—has been with him since midnight. His code name comes from his calabash pipe, a prized gift from a British officer. Sherlock marches with a pitched forward gait, throwing his weight over his walking staff. He has a permanent squint, clenching small dark teeth as sweat wicks off his face, his features drawing together as if in the throes of childbirth. Hair and beard are curly and thick as a gypsy’s—not a strand of gray—though the man is older than Moses.

Sherlock stops and leans on his staff to re-light his pipe. It isn’t just a walking staff. It’s a hickory cane with a thick-leaved branch bound to it with wire, the leafy end dragging along the ground. Sherlock has been sweeping the trail clear of their tracks ever since they set out. He collects cigarette butts, orange peels, burned matches in his pocket, buries his own shit under the rocks—not a sign of human passage left behind.

The old man isn’t the fastest lead, but along these masses and ridges, and in the dimness of a half-moon, he knows every mandráki bush, trickling stream and dripping cave. Piles of unremarkable rocks that Gottlieb would have passed without noticing conceal stashes of weapons. Caves with no distinguishing markings to Gottlieb’s eye, are food stores, re-stocked by locals with dried figs, dripping cheeses, and bottles of rakí.

Continue Reading →