Writing in The New Year

2020 began four days ago, and folks around the world are already eagerly fulfilling their New Year’s Resolutions. The Inklette team came up with three questions to jumpstart thinking about their writing lives in 2020. Take a look through our answers, and come up with your own!


What single piece of work are you most proud of having completed in the last ten years?

Between 2018 and 2019 I finished an Afrofuturist short story in which I explore my own experience as a Black mixed-race woman through the lens of a dark-skinned woman who learns she can swap her skin color with other peoples’. This was an emotionally challenging story to write, but it was also incredibly cathartic.

– Naomi Day, Blog Editor

 

Small Talk, my most recent poetry collection that came out in 2019 and was published by Writers Workshop India, Kolkata, is the work I am proudest of. It is an intimate poetry collection and, at least for me, a radical labour of self-love and self-care, actually. This is the kind of poetry collection I wanted to write and get published as a child, at the start of the decade I believe. And I have now managed it. It feels beautiful. 

-Devanshi Khetarpal, Editor-in-Chief

 

In 2019 I published Survive July, my first fiction chapbook. The collection of flash, mini plays, search histories, and text messages addresses a young woman’s experiences grappling with mental health, sexuality, and relationships. In addition to working with these complex themes, ensuring each piece in the collection was both self-contained and cohesive with the work as a whole was incredibly challenging and rewarding.

-Sophie Panzer, Prose Editor

 

I’m most proud of my first poetry collection, Uniform published by Aldrich Press in 2016, because I at first thought I didn’t have the courage to write it. Once the first poem was put to paper, the others gushed out of the dark places they’d been hiding. Since its publication, I’ve made meaningful and lasting relationships with other writers and have found a niche of friends in the military writing community. If Uniform would have never come about, I know the poems of my second collection, Permanent Change of Station published by Middle West Press in 2018, would have never found the page. Uniform has given me the confidence that poetry can come out of the times that seemed that most vacant.

-Lisa Stice, Poetry Editor

What projects do you anticipate starting or finishing in 2020?

I’m currently working on a series of short stories set in a fictional world whose timeline parallels our own. In this world, society runs on creativity. Those who don’t have creative abilities spend their lives trying to awaken it, and those who do have the power to shape the course of their world. I’m exploring different gender rules, familial structures, and styles of discrimination in this space. I’d love to complete rough drafts of at least seven more short stories over the course of the year.

– Naomi Day, Blog Editor

 

I am not quite sure. I want to finish my translation of Pasolini’s text on India, but I also want to write a series of short stories or a collection of essays on trauma, being an Indian woman in the complexities New York while belonging from a small town, and on running. I don’t know what I will complete this year, but one of them, at the very least, I hope I can get close to finishing. 

-Devanshi Khetarpal, Editor-in-Chief

 

My goal for 2020 is to write more queer fairy tales. My second poetry chapbook, Bone Church, is also pending release with dancing girl press. 

-Sophie Panzer, Prose Editor 

 

I have couple manuscripts that I’m continuing to edit and submit and one brand new project that might be a finished (except for more editing) manuscript soon.

-Lisa Stice, Poetry Editor

What is one new thing you are challenging yourself to learn in 2020?

Novel structure! I wrote two full novels when I was a teenager, with no awareness of the pace or framework of my narratives. I want to study what is captivating for readers, what is most often used by “alternative” writers, and what the novels of folks writing from the margins look like from a writers perspective. I plan to do this by reading a lot more books intentionally, looking for the structure and the ways the author stitches their narrative together (rather than just reading for the powerful story!). I’d also love to find some classes that do this.

Also, dialog! I’ve been stepping slowly into it with my short stories, but I tend to avoid it because dialog is hard! Written dialog is not the same as spoken dialog, which makes it even harder. This is a challenge I don’t really know where to start with, so this should be fun.

– Naomi Day, Blog Editor

 

Dialogues and movie/television scripts, I’d say. I love film and television now, thanks to my boyfriend plus Netflix plus iconic New York city cinemas. I am very much interested in cinema as a visual language, as a language with a unique albeit occasionally unsettling syntax of sound, images and movements. And I always wonder what a film in my vision would be. As a writer, a script for a short or feature film, or even a few television episodes, seems appealing. I would love to write a drama largely between middle-class, urban Indian women in the spaces designated to them even as they are continuously disowned and disregarded by them and in them, or are not fully and equally included in them. 

-Devanshi Khetarpal, Editor-in-Chief

 

I would really like to further develop my humor writing in whatever mediums I can find, including prose, satire, scripts, or stand-up.

-Sophie Panzer, Prose Editor

 

For 2020, I’m challenging myself to learn crocheting and accordion, and to get my dog and I both out doing scent detection again. I find that challenging myself to do something totally different than anything I’ve ever done before helps me approach familiar tasks with a more open mind. My daughter and I both took a couple crochet classes at a local yarn store while she’s been on winter holiday, and I’ve started a project of making my mom a scarf. My daughter has played button accordion for three years. Over that years, I’ve watched each of her lessons and thought, “Heck, I think I’m going to give it a try.” It’s been really fun (yet difficult). My terrier and I have been missing working as a scent detection team, so I have committed for us to regularly work together in 2020.

-Lisa Stice, Poetry Editor

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Bookstores We Love

It is the holiday season, which means it’s time to visit some bookstores and buy book-gifts for your loved ones. The Inklette team has curated a list of their favorite bookstores across the world. So check these out if you happen to be in any of these cities:


McNally Jackson Books (Nolita)

52 Prince Street

New York, New York (United States of America)

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Source: Vulture

One of my favorite things about McNally is their international fiction section, where they sort different books and/or writers according to the region or country they are from. And unlike other bookstores, the international fiction section is not hidden away in some corner or under some staircase. They also do not use the more hegemonic terminology by labelling them all as “foreign” literature, and make it easier for visitors to see what contemporary fiction currently looks like in different parts of the world. The way they do it almost makes one feel as though it is a love letter to translation and translators as well. The Nolita location is my favorite: it’s cozy with a wonderful cafe, and all their events are free, with cozy seating and give ample opportunities for readers to interact with writers after the event. 


Libreria del Viaggiatore

Via del Pellegrino

Rome, Italy

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Source: Facebook

From what I recently read online, this bookstore is about to close soon. But my friend and I discovered this bookstore in a rather quiet neighbourhood of Rome. It was small and cozy; Italian was a more recent acquisition for me, and I was living in Italy for months. I discovered a book by Henry James on Washington Square, downtown New York, where I go to school and lived my freshman year, in Italian. And then, of course, I saw Pasolini’s book on India– one I never knew existed in a shelf at the corner. The Traveler’s Bookshop in Rome is not just travel guides and cookbooks, but much more. It’s a bookstore to read about place(s) in a different language of place.

-Devanshi Khetarpal


The Elliot Bay Book Company

1521 10th Ave

Seattle, Washington (United States of America)

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Source: Pinterest

Elliot Bay is an open bookstore with a second, smaller level and a cute little cafe in the back that’s perfect for working (with earphones in – it gets noisy!). My favorite sections are the graphic novels — there are at least three rows near the front of the store — the POC history section on the second floor, and the queer section towards the cafe. It also has an enormous selection of cookbooks and a lovely atmosphere.


Charis Books & More

184 S Candler Street

Decatur, Georgia (United States of America)

Charis is a small feminist-centered bookstore in Decatur, just east of Atlanta. There are always several friendly women there ready to help you find what you’re looking for. They have a small but vibrant queer section, as well as many POC and international authors. I’ve seen books in other languages in several sections of this bookstore, and they highlight books that several book clubs are reading in the front section. They have a larger space in the back of the store where they hold events and author readings.

-Naomi Day


Pomegranate Books

4418 Park Ave

Wilmington, North Carolina (United States of America)

It’s a bit of a drive for me, but Pomegranate Books is worth it. They have a great poetry section, and they love supporting local authors. Comfy couches and wingback chairs create a place where I feel like I’m right at home. Their coffee shop is also a nice perk; my favorite treat is the coconut milk thai tea. On the second Friday evening of each month, Pom Books hosts an open-mic poetry session. I don’t get to attend the open-mics as much as I like (my husband often trains out of town, and so I have no one to watch my daughter), but the other poets are always kind and welcoming when I do get a chance to join them.

-Lisa Stice


Ramesh Bookstore

Dharampura Bazaar

Patiala, Punjab (India)

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Source: Just Dial

Occupying a corner of a complex composed of a handful of shops in the busy bazaar of Dharampura, Patiala, the bookshop is a flash poem—ending the moment it began. It is December right now, and I realise how far the store lies from the sunrays. This is in contrast to the place from where Ramesh used to sell second-hand books several years back— the staircase right outside his house a couple of metres away in the same bazaar. I don’t know if Ramesh lives in the same house now, or if the house hasn’t been razed. I can’t tell if the switch from an open-air place of business to a nameless cave signifies progress, economic or otherwise. All I am aware is that I owe my introduction to Mario Vargas Llosa and J.M. Coetzee to this dark recess in town.

-Sudhanshu Chopra


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Editor’s Note

I have realised that my body has three chambers, one for each language I speak. Punjabi will be added to this mix of Italian, English, and Hindi soon, I hope. And here I am, in Paris for a month-long writing workshop, where sometimes I utter an Italian word, where sometimes I try to guess, from the little knowledge I have, how to say what I want in French. This search for the right word, the right language at the right time is exhilarating and yet tiresome. The politics and traumas and embedded ills of every language are burdens we must carry and live with, speak with, heal from, learn from.

But even as I sit in a city like Paris, it is these burdens and traumas and ills that I am learning from. It is these entities that teach me how to question. With every line and every submission we received for this issue, we have sought work that made us question our expectations from it, that made us question the pattern of language and see a different manner of invention. In the works we have published in our eighth issue, you might find work that questions, that speaks with and of an unacquainted gaze. For me, these poems remind me of a mirror I saw in the ladies’ lavatory back in my hometown of Bhopal, with several bindis stuck onto the glass. Women had been there, women had forgotten something and left behind, women had looked at themselves in the mirrors, and the traces of those women were looking back at me while I gazed at my own self.

At the point of these observations, of these back-and-forth of glances and languages and words and places, phrases and lines from Inklette‘s eighth issue came to my mind: “I have already neglected my focus” from Devon Fulford’s Pink, “all thought was on the present,” from Jimmy Banta’s The Endless Night, “I’ve been living in my body for many years” from Chuka Susan Chesney’s Kempt, or “My tongue is still learning the craft” from Satya Dash’s Eight Reconciliations on a Sunday Night.

There is visual art, prose and poetry in these pages that will make you question and will seep its way into your memory, your tongues, the chambers of your body, whatever may occupy them, and find you again when you are walking down the streets of cities, when you are finding the chambers of your body, trying to give everything a name. Inklette, as usual, will be publishing a weekly blog on Fridays and will continue to grow. We are planning to launch a podcast soon and like our interview with Domenico Starnone, there will be many more international writers we will try to feature, interview and publish. Thank you so much for reading, appreciating, remembering, submitting. We are so very grateful to have you accompany us on this journey.

Sincerely,

Devanshi Khetarpal

Editor-in-Chief and Founder, Inklette Magazine

Interview with Domenico Starnone

TRANSLATED BY DEVANSHI KHETARPAL

Devanshi Khetarpal: When I think of language, I often think of place, and of the place of time. For me, it seems that language is married to both things. In the short story, specifically, what is the element or affect that is the closest to language, according to you?

Domenico Starnone: If I understood your question correctly, I would say that in short prose you have a contraction of space and time, and the language points to an effect of density, as when, at the point of embarking on a journey with three suitcases, we discover that if we choose only the essential, if we arrange it properly, only one suitcase is enough.

DK: I like the expression of journeying you mentioned. It is common to think of reading as a journey. But for me, as an Indian girl in the United States who studies Italian literature, a journey also signifies the abandon of one’s own home. So I usually read every story for the experience that I cannot touch, that is lost, that is abandoned. Every story becomes more about abandoning than journeying. However, I desire to know if you, in fact, think of stories in a similar way?

DS: The story is movement. I move from the point at which I find myself, from the moment that I am living: I go back, forward, before, after. If you decide to re-invoke the world that you left behind, keep in mind that you always do it from the now, from where you find yourself. It is important, because it is here and now that you decide how you want to narrate: with nostalgia, with detachment, with a rebellious tone of clear refusal. Our stories of the past, of the lost, of the abandoned, are always planted in our present. The past travels with us, it does not let itself be abandoned.

DK: I would like to talk about movement in a sense. Because now in Italy, in Europe, in the whole world, xenophobia is a predominant force. It is a force that is opposed to movement, to the stories of movements. But how do you think these stories of different movements, of different aspects of movements from various places of the world, participate in varying political discourses? Do you think they suspend disbelief, in one way or another, of people who do not believe or underestimate the immigration crises or their burdens?

DS: The narratives of pain, fatigue, otherness, nostalgia, death on land and at sea can certainly lead to identification. I read a story and thanks to the skill of its writer I feel inside me, in my home, among the few or many comforts with which I live, the reasons that push a growing number of people to migrate to the richest areas of the planet (hunger, poverty, the ravages of war, the hope of a better life, the escape from political or religious persecution). I feel the sentiments of the migrants— despair, fear, humiliation— and I live them as if they were mine, as if they were sentiments my own body feels. A well-made story can surely change my gaze, pushing me to look at the other with other eyes. But can a book today cause walls to fall, preventing new ones from being built? No, if it remains a book. Yes, if the energy released by the story becomes a political action that fights xenophobia and racism.

DK: Certainly. I felt similarly when I read My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante for the first time. For some reason, I still feel that Ferrante has narrated my story, the story of my childhood and adolescence. Sure, it is a bit different, it is also universal, it is a story of Naples and not of Bhopal. I have seen other things, different things. But when I read Ferrante, I felt that some words, some narratives are difficult to read. I already realized, at that point, that some stories are difficult to write, to narrate or translate. But the difficulty and discomfort of reading something, for me, has proved to be more revealing. Is there a book that makes you feel similarly?

DS: The books that move us deeply are not easy to read. Since they put into words parts of our experience that we do not (yet) know to formulate, that we do not want to formulate, that we do not dare to formulate, those books strain us, they give us anxiety, they hurt us. And nevertheless we feel that we can never do without them. To me, around the age of seventeen, ‘Letter to the father’ by Franza Kafka, had such a devastating and electrifying effect.

DK: And what is the book that you find most difficult to teach? Specifically, during our course or during your time in New York, do you find that your thoughts on certain books have changed?

DS: It is difficult to teach reading. Creative writing schools, rightly, have become extremely important. But just as necessary and urgent are schools of ‘creative’ reading.  A story has its full realization only when it encounters a passionate and competent reader, a reader who is not only able to abandon oneself to a story, but is also able to take pleasure in exploring it in order to try to understand the construct. I would therefore say that there is no book that is not difficult if there is no passion for reading, if the passionate reader is not  even a competent reader. Passion is not taught, but a teacher can seek to give birth to it. Competence instead can be taught, schools are purposely made to transmit skills. 

As for my experience here, as a teacher, well, I am an old man, for me it is now difficult to change. But teaching is always a very stimulating activity, it pushes one to reread, to reflect, to confront oneself with those who are younger. It is an activity which I have always loved.

DK:  My last question is this: Do you write to answer or ask or attempt to know something that you don’t know? And when you read any book, how does it become a part of your story?

DS: I write that which I know, but the story becomes interesting only if it captures something that I don’t know or that I don’t know I know. As for books, all of us have our own story of readers, it is made of the texts that have helped us construct ourselves and orient ourselves in the world in which we have fallen. If we write, those books also become the ground on which our vocation is implanted and grows. The problem, however, is to emerge out of the circle of books that we like because they resemble us, because they give to us again and again that which we already know. We need to learn early to look for texts that provide to us what we don’t know, that show us ways of telling which we are not acquainted with. It is the confrontation with others that enriches our life story, in addition to that of readers and writers.


INTERVISTA CON DOMENICO STARNONE

Devanshi Khetarpal: Quando penso di linguaggio, penso spessissimo di posto, e del posto di tempo. Per me, sembra che linguaggio si sposi con tutte due cose. Nel racconto breve, specificamente, qual é l’elemento o l’affetto che é il più vicino del linguaggio, secondo te?

Domenico Starnone: Se ho capito bene la domanda, direi che nella prosa breve hai una contrazione degli spazi e dei tempi e il linguaggio punta a un effetto di densità, come quando, sul punto di metterci in viaggio con tre valigie, scopriamo che se scegliamo solo l’essenziale, se lo sistemiamo per bene, è sufficiente una valigia sola.

DK: Mi piace l’espressione di viaggiare che hai menzionato. È comune di pensare dell’azione di leggere come un viaggio. Ma per me, come una ragazza Indiana negli Stati Uniti che studia letteratura italiana, un viaggio significa anche il abbandono della casa propria. Quindi di solito leggo ogni storia per l’esperienza che non posso toccare, che è perso, che è abbandonato. Ogni storia diventa più di abbandonare che di viaggiare. Però, desidero di sapere se pensi dei racconti in modo simile affatto?

DS: Il racconto è movimento. Mi muovo dal  punto in cui mi trovo, dal  momento che sto vivendo: vado indietro, avanti, prima, dopo. Se decidi di rievocare il mondo che ti sei lasciata alle spalle, tieni conto che lo fai sempre a partire da adesso, da dove ti trovi. E’ importante, perché è qui e ora che tu decidi come vuoi raccontare: con nostalgia, con distacco, con un tono ribelle di netto rifiuto. I nostri racconti del passato, del perduto, dell’abbandonato, sono sempre piantati nel nostro presente. Il passato viaggia con noi, non si fa abbandonare.

DK: Vorrei parlare di movimento in un senso. Perché ora nell’Italia, nell’Europea, nel tutto del mondo, xenofobia è una forza predominante. È una forza che opposto a movimento, ai racconti di movimenti. Ma come pensi che questi racconti di movimenti diversi, di diversi aspetti di movimenti da diversi luoghi del mondo participano nelle vari discorsi politici? Pensi che loro sospendono incredulità,  in un modo o l’altro, di persone che non credono o sottostimano crisi immigrazione o i loro pesi?

DS: Le narrazioni dei dolori, delle fatiche, del disadattamento, delle nostalgie, della morte per terra e per mare può  indurre  certo  all’immedesimazione. Io leggo un racconto  e grazie alla bravura di chi l’ha scritto sento dentro di me, nella mia casa, tra i pochi o i molti agi con cui vivo,  le ragioni che spingono un numero crescente di persone a migrare verso le aree più ricche del pianeta (la fame, la miseria, le devastazioni della guerra, la speranza di una vita migliore, la fuga da persecuzioni politiche o religiose). Avverto i sentiment del migranti – disperazione, paura, umiliazione –  e li vivo come se fossero miei, sentimenti che prova il mio stesso corpo. Un racconto ben fatto può sicuramente cambiare il mio sguardo, spingermi a guardare l’altro con altri occhi. Ma un libro oggi può far cadere i muri,  impedire che se ne costruiscano sempre di nuovi? No, se resta un libro. Sì, se l’energia sprigionata dal racconto diventa azione politica che combatte xenofobia e razzismo.   

DK: Certamente. Sentivo similmente quando ho letto ‘L’amica geniale’ da Elena Ferrante per la prima volta. Per qualche ragione, sento ancora che Ferrante abbia raccontato mia storia, la storia della mia infanzia e adolescenza. Certo, è un po’ diverso, è universale anche, è una storia di Napoli e non di Bhopal. Ho visto altre cose, diverse cose. Ma quando ho letto Ferrante, sentivo che qualche parole, qualche narrativi è difficile di leggere. Avevo già realizzato, a quel punto, che qualche storie sono difficile di scrivere, di raccontare o tradurre. Ma la difficoltà e il disagio di leggere qualcosa, per me, ha provato di essere più rivelatore. C’è un libro che ti faccia sentire similmente?

DS: I libri che ci colpiscono in profondità non sono facili da leggere. Poiché mettono in parole  cose della nostra esperienza che noi non sappiamo (ancora) formulare, non vogliamo formulare, non osiamo formulare, quei libri ci affaticano, ci mettono ansia, ci fanno male. E tuttavia sentiamo che non ne potremo mai più fare a meno. A me, intorno ai diciassette anni, fece un effetto tanto devastante quanto elettrizzante ‘Lettera al padre’ di Franz Kafka.

DK: E qual è il libro che trovi il più difficile di insegnare? Specificamente, durante il nostro corso o il tuo tempo a Nuovo York, trovi che i tuoi pensieri di libri specifici hanno cambiato?

DS: E’ difficile insegnare a leggere. Sono diventate importantissime, giustamente, le scuole di scrittura creativa. Ma altrettanto necessarie e urgenti sono le scuole di lettura ‘creativa’. Un racconto ha la sua piena realizzazione solo quando incontra un lettore appassionato e  competente, un lettore che sia in grado non solo di abbandonarsi a una storia, ma di provare piacere a esplorarla per cercare di capirne il congegno. Direi quindi che non c’è libro che non sia difficile, se non c’è passione per la lettura, se il lettore appassionato non è anche un lettore competente. La passione non si insegna, ma un insegnante può cercare di farla nascere. La competenza invece la si può insegnare, le scuole sono fatte apposta per trasmettere competenze.

Quanto alla mia esperienza qui, come docente, mah, sono un uomo anziano, per me ormai è difficile cambiare. Ma insegnare è sempre un’attività molto stimolante, spinge a rileggere, a riflettere, a confrontarsi con i più giovani. E’ un’attività che ho sempre amato.

DK: La mia ultima domanda è questo: Scrivi a rispondere o chiedere o provare di sapere qualcosa che non sai? E quando leggi qualsiasi libro, come lo diventa una parte della tua storia?

DS: Scrivo quello che so, ma il racconto diventa interessante solo se cattura qualcosa che non so o che non so di sapere. Quanto ai libri, abbiamo tutti una nostra storia di lettori, è fatta dei testi che ci hanno aiutato a costruire noi stessi e a orientarci nel mondo in cui siamo precipitati. Se po scriviamo, quei libri diventano anche il terreno su cui si impianta e cresce la nostra vocazione. Il problema però è uscire poi fuori dal cerchio dei libri che ci piacciono perché ci assomigliano, perché ci danno ancora e ancora ciò che già sappiamo. Bisogna imparare presto  a cercare testi che ci diano ciò che non sappiamo, che ci mostrino modi di raccontare che non conosciamo. E’ il confronto con gli altri che arricchisce la nostra storia di vita, oltre che di lettori e scrittori.


155876879487664518.gifDOMENICO STARNONE is an Italian writer, journalist and screenwriter, His books, Tie(Europa Editions, 2017) and Trick (Europa Editions, 2018), were translated into English by Jhumpa Lahiri. Trick was a finalist for the 2018 National Book Award in Translated Literature. Starnone’s book, Via Gemito, won the Strega, Italy’s most prestigious literary award, in 2001. He was born in Naples and lives in Rome.

Staff Recommendations: Short Stories

If you happen to be looking for some good reads to browse through as the days lengthen, perhaps on your porch or at the beach, look no further. The Inklette team has compiled a list of beloved short stories and short story collections for you to peruse at your leisure.

  1. Jagannath (Karin Tidbeck)

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This collection of short stories, covering narratives from people falling in love with machines to a girl following vittra in the woods, explores how disorienting, beautiful, and downright absurd our reality is when observed through different lenses. I’d recommend this collection to anyone interested in science fiction and fantasy with an intimate streak of psychological realism.  

–Joanna Cleary, Blog Editor  

 

  1. The Dead Go to Seattle (Vivian Faith Prescott)

511wRxVnmzL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_This collection is made up of 43 linked stories that take place in Wrangell, Alaska and are told by a young woman named Tova. Through the stories Tove tells, she reveals elements of herself, her hometown, the people with whom she grew up, the history and even the myths from her small town. I’d recommend this collection to anyone who loves stories centered around place and how place shapes identity, and to anyone who loves cultural mythology.   

–Lisa Stice, Poetry Editor

 

  1. Her Body and Other Parties (Carmen Maria Machado)

41N7lsvNg2L._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_Women begin to physically fade away during the Great Recession. Bodies respond to weight loss attempts in a terrifying manner. In this collection, readers will find stories that combine horror, fairy tales, queer love, and all manner of darkness and light. Machado’s writing defies categorization, and her deft exploration of the meaning of women’s bodies through gorgeous prose will appeal to fans of Neil Gaiman and Helen Oyeyemi.

–Sophie Panzer, Prose Editor

 

  1. Dove mi trovo (Jhumpa Lahiri)

411j4O8mOvL._SX312_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgThis might seem like a strange choice. Lahiri’s second book written in Italian is a romanzo, a novel. But every chapter of the books reads like a short story, a very short story story, and some chapters even read like microfiction. Although only available in Italian currently, the book is extremely different from anything Lahiri has ever written. There is something dialogic about her work– the way the narrator speaks with isolation, the isolation of places around her and the isolation of time. Everything is fused closely within the scope of her minute, razor-edged words, and yet everything seems dispersed. The close of every chapter leaves you with a gasp. Instead of folding close, every chapter folds in on itself as most endings in the form of the short story do.

–Devanshi Khetarpal, Editor-in-Chief

 

  1. Dreaming of Ramadi in Detroit (Aisha Sabatini Sloan)

513CkfAho0L._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_Race, sexuality, youth, memory, family, art, violence, pop culture and more all intersect in Sloan’s collection of essays. All twelve pieces read as separate stories within the continuum of her life. Sloan plays with form, teaching the reader how to read the page which shape-shifts throughout each story. Somehow we find intimacy in the moments of ambiguity and concern in her profound critique over what it means to be a living, breathing, complex human of right now.

–Maria Prudente, Blog Editor

 

  1. Thirteen Ways of Looking (Colum McCann)

51jkI9h7e1L._SX336_BO1,204,203,200_McCann’s novella-length piece, the first narrative in his eponymous collection of tales about empathy, is, at heart, an experimental inspection of male aging. Peter Mendelssohn’s story of growing old is elegantly woven into a detective frame and contemplates the many losses that old age provokes. It’s an angry piece that reeks of bodily inabilities and slow decay—but reads as a poetic exploration of words, language, and life. McCann’s story is thus a painful read with some unexpected twists and turns, but more importantly, one that cautions us to be patient with each other.

-Stela Dujakovic, Prose Editor

To view staff bios, please visit our Masthead page.

Interview with Cow Tipping Press

To me, Inklette has always seemed a truly cosmopolitan online writing community. A quick glance at our staff page shows an international group of writers, and in my time as a prose editor, I’ve encountered submissions from middle schoolers to seasoned professional writers, and from all six inhabited continents (I’m still holding out for a submission from Antartica). It wasn’t until this summer that I noticed that there was one community that none of the writing in our seven issues had focused on: people with disabilities. I probably wasn’t the only one to forget about this group; they are often ignored in diversity initiatives, at least in part because it is hard to fit them under the argument of “We are all the same on the inside” when, by definition, they have minds and bodies that work differently from neurotypical people. Different, however, does not mean deficient, as I learned this summer working as a volunteer at Cow Tipping Press, an organization that cultivates and publishes the writing of adults with disabilities. I was amazed in my teaching at the new perspectives that the students in my creative writing class offered, using their neurological differences that have so often been deemed a disability to offer a unique perspective on so many topics. I’d love to delve into my ideas about how and why disabled adults offer these perspectives. But, in keeping with the Cow Tipping Press rule that disabled adults should always have the opportunity to tell their own story, I’ll shut up and let the students and teachers of Cow Tipping Press take it from here.

– JOHN S. OSLER III, Prose Editor



NICK COCCHIARELLA (Volunteer and Student)

 

This Way

 

Your hand is not a helping one

It’s dirty, clammy, feels weird on my skin—

Don’t touch me! Go away!

 

“Stay with us,” you plead, your voice an ill-disguised command

“Let us lure you in with proactive promises you know we won’t keep.”

“No,” I silently scream, “Pictures of hands don’t help.”

 

“This way – no, sir, this way! That way!”

Here, hang on, let me—

“No!” I shout with body language. “Don’t do that! Don’t touch me!”

 

“Hi, how’s it going? I’m Jim, what’s your name?”

“I’m Nick,” My voice is a mockery of a mumble.

You extend a hand; we shake; and yet, I can’t help it

 

Your kindness is suspicious, Your friendliness belittling – why can’t I trust you?

Oh yeah, right… Y. The chromosome.

I shake your hand, but I can’t help it.

Just go away, I sigh in my scrambled egg mind. I can’t be saved.

 

Note: Nick Cocchiarella said that his poem is about his experience as “a person who is blind and autistic trying to figure out how to deal with people being helpful to the point of sometimes being invasive.”


Interview with NICK COCCHIARELLA

John: Was this poem based on any personal experience?

Nick: Yes. Particularly walking out in public. I have to walk around a lot if I want to travel and don’t want to expend exorbitant amounts of money on ubers and lyfts, and the amount of well- meaning “helpful Henrys” who “only want to help” tend to jump in and steer me around are staggering. And when that happens, I lock up. I can’t speak. I either let them do it or pull away, and I look rude. Also there is a line that refers me from coming home from a training program and my parents were trying to talk me into staying at home for a while until I save money, and all I could think while they were trying to convince me – that they’d actually build me an apartment downstairs, that they’d get me set up with a system to organize my stuff etc – is that they have been making my siblings and I similar promises since we were kids, and nothing ever came of them.

And because of all that, it’s hard to have conversations with people in public sometimes, and doubly so with guys.

John: Why did you choose to write the poem with the Helpful Henrys in second person?

Nick: I honestly didn’t think about it too much. It was just the tense that sounded right to me as I wrote it.



THOMAS ROBINSON (student)

 

Advice to Daughter

Be nice to people. Don’t be mean to people. Be nice to your elders. Be nice to people with disabilities. Be an advocate for yourself. Always be on time. Sometimes be late. Always hold your hand when you cross the street. Don’t jaywalk. Don’t hurt other people. Don’t hurt yourself. Be positive. Don’t let the evil beast destroy you.


INTERVIEW WITH THOMAS ROBINSON

John: This seems like very helpful advice for everyone, so why did you choose to write it to your daughter in particular?

Thomas: I wrote this poem to teach people about what how to treat people with different values and views.

John: Who or what do you mean by “the evil beast”?

Thomas: The beast is the a thing I dreamt about long time. The beast is the evil in everybody’s life that you should not do bad things. The beast looks like things with wings and stuff.



Shinoa Kaprice Makinen (student)

 

Love One at Heart

I have a friend who loved to hangout play with kids, I have a friend who loved us all so much it hurts our family how he served this country he loved and gave up to fight the ones who attacked our United States who sacrificed his life to serve for peace on this earth

I have a friend who took care of our family when not sick

I have a friend who would do it all over again if he didn’t pass unexpected fish, camp and sleep in our camper beds

I have a friend who took care of me like a dad when young

I have a friend my mom who’s in tears a lot wish never ended soon

You might think I have many friends but I have one this is called a loved one at heart

I have a friend who’s going to welcome our family when we get to where we’re going there someday to have happy tears no pain or struggles anymore those who love him don’t cry for him up there he is resting in his place where soldiers are at peace and angels sing amazing grace he is happy you let him free no trying to wake him from his sleep

I have a friend who loves the green grass and trees and works his life until it was over he loved to ride his corvette back and forth I call the country living life he lived

I have a friend who’s waiting to say welcome you home to the family when it’s our end but for now he’s waiting at the heaven’s doors when it’s my turn I be laying my body to the ground and be back to ash and dust again

I have a friend who be missed by all but glad he’s in lord’s hands now and have angel wings

I have a friend who loved his pet’s brows and ford

I have a friend who would be happy if he had seen how deep I write so much I can’t finish my poem until it’s done he would say thank you for the love you gave me when I was here

I have a friend who we all should tribute for his passing and give his wish where he wanted to lay to rest but sad he won’t be back to camp and fish over and over again but glad he served his life he lived back in the days he served for peace

I have a friend a loved one country living kind hunting fishing life I am going to miss but for now we are taking care of his pets until it’s their end

I have a friend who loved his friend Bev next door neighbor who she called him hugging friend and had coffee and breakfast sometimes

I have a friend a loved one who lived on the dirt road the countryside he took me every summer to spend some fun with him

I have a friend who cooked for family when we visit Menahga, MN up north breakfast lunch and dinner and baked as well

I have a friend who came to every event I did choir concerts and holiday traditions like Christmas or Thanksgiving and or birthday parties, funerals and wedding he was in

You might think this special someone might be a friend, son, husband, nephew, or dad or cousin but this friend a loved one we all knew is gone this love one I am referring to is grandpa Roland.


Interview with Shinoa Kaprice Makinen

John: You talk about your friend as if he were still alive (saying “I have a friend” rather than “I had a friend”). Is this because you feel like your grandpa Roland is still with you, or another reason?

Shinoa: Yes.

John: How did you feel to write this story?

Shinoa: I felt sad.

John: Is there anything else you would like others to know about you?

Shinoa: I would like to to write that I am also a songwriter.



Kelly McNamara (student)

 

Story of My Life

Dear Kelly,

I wish I had a boyfriend when I was younger. I wish I had dated AJ. I wish I was his wife when I was younger because he is cute. I wish I could ride limos all the time. They are awesome and feel like I was rich. I used to be in choir. I enjoyed it. It was in school. AJ was in the choir. I loved school. I know I’m not going to be part of AJ’s life. He has a wife and kids. I feel bad that I won’t be married to him as an adult.

Love, Kelly


INTERVIEW WITH Kelly McNamara

John: In your writing, you talk about both AJ and limos. Is there a connection between the feeling of being with AJ and riding in a limo.

Kelly: Well, I was going to go to a Backstreet Boys concert, but I never had a chance to. So I never got a chance to ride in limos and get spoiled by him and, um, AJ was a big part of my life before God took him away from me and I was really sad and lonely and depressed.

Mary (Kelly’s caregiver): AJ is a signer from the Backstreet Boys that she likes. She never really knew him as a person.

John: Why did you choose to write this as a letter to yourself?

Kelly: Um, it just reminded me of AJ and I felt right writing this story about myself because I would never see AJ in real life and it’s making me sad and lonely because every day he gets to ride in limos with his wife and his kids and every day he gets to ride on a private plane and go places, but I’m just very sad…and that’s my way to say goodbye to AJ.



Sarah Debbins (student)

 

I would like to give some advice to my guardians, my house staff, and to Lifeworks staff. I have problems with stealing or lying, especially telling the truth given advice from my therapists and counselors, to help me and the answer my questions about my own problems on my meds throughout my depressions and let my anger out with my OCD and Down Syndrome to really cut down on paxil meds, because my body usually gave me headache, dizzy spells and nerves breakdown, but I need more help giving more advice, it really help me in God’s prayer for hope turned it around to have faith in me to be strong and very last. “I can do it, just do it.”


Interview with Sarah Debbins (conducted by Miranda Cross)

Miranda: Why do you like writing stories? How does writing/ telling stories help you?

Sarah: It is a lot of fun for me to write stories, and I think I am good at it. It also helps me share experiences that I have in my life.

Miranda: What do you like to write about?

Sarah: The weather, stories about myself.

Miranda: What about yourself do you like to write?

Sarah: I like to write about my health, the disabilities I have, and experiences that I have had (jobs, vacations, memories).



Interview with Miriam Tibbets (teacher)

John: Has working at Cow Tipping Press affected the way you think about writing or your own writing?

Miriam: Absolutely it has. Working at Cow Tipping has remoulded the thinking patterns I have created when editing writing. Working with my students (who often write in impulsive, uncalculated ways) has shown me that the raw stuff— tapping into one’s own stream of consciousness— is just as valuable as a good edit. When I write and edit, I no longer sift out everything and reconstruct something completely new. I look at the essence of what I have written, and consider its value before tweaking and chopping.

John: You only had two students in your class this year. How was it teaching such a small class?

Miriam: At first I was very worried about teaching a small class. Quite honestly, I felt even more pressure to make the class perfect for Vince and Nick. However, this pressure was beneficial— having two students made it so that I could get to know and understand the both of them perfectly. In this way, I could customize lessons to appeal to their interests, while simultaneously pushing them to their healthy limits. Knowing Nick and Vince so well made the class tight-knit, created a safe space for all voices, and indulged all three of us with a slow pace and equal amounts of sharing. I loved being able to hear both Vince’s and Nick’s voices after each writing session (something that might not have been possible with a larger class), and was so grateful that I could give both of them individual attention when they needed it most. It was really a wonderful experience.



About Cow Tipping Press

Welcome to Cow Tipping Press! We create writing by people with developmental disabilities, giving audiences a new way to think about this rich form of human diversity.”

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“Cow Tipping Press applies lean startup principles to create just that—an opportunity to relish assets rather than pity deficits of our peers with disabilities through the unique lens of creative writing.

We teach inclusive writing classes for adults with developmental disabilities (over 400 alums and counting), a radical chance to speak for themselves in a medium usually used to speak about them. Students then share these distinct voices with audiences across time and place, in person and in print. 85% of audiences cite that Cow Tipping authors change their fundamental perspective on disability. That’s even true of our pool of college-aged teachers, a number of whom we’ve pipelined into full-time work in this important field.

Cow Tipping Press has won awards from Grinnell College, Teach For America, and 4.0 Schools. Our books have been used as diversity education tools in classrooms across the country. And our authors have parlayed their skills into blogging and public speaking opportunities, a scholarship to the Aspen Ideas Festival, inclusion in national publications, a spinoff podcast, and teaching and leadership roles within our program (nothing about us without us!).

You can take on a part of this important work by referring a partner organization or individual to Cow Tipping Press or making a donation of any amount. Even better, take a minute to consider the dynamism and assets of that neighbor, coworker, or classmate with a developmental disability. In the words of one advocate, “So much of the battle with inclusion involves rethinking what is possible.””

Source: Website- Cow Tipping Press



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JOHN S. OSLER III is a sophomore at Grinnell College. He attended both the Iowa Young Writer’s Studio and the New York Writer’s Institute. In middle school and high school he wrote over two hundred satirical articles for The Southern View. His short stories have been published in Sprout Magazine, The Phosphene Journal, Random Sample Review, Zephyrus, and The Grinnell Underground Magazine.

 

The Evolution of Wings

Years ago, when we got bored during study hall and Googled “Thayer Stokes,” we discovered his dad was a rich-ass tech entrepreneur with his own Wikipedia page. We all found that to be varying degrees of completely hilarious, since Thayer made the local news in ninth grade for getting high as a kite and crashing Daddy’s BMW into a stoplight. I let him cheat off me in Geometry because his hands were big enough to cleave me in half. When, one night, he slipped Xanax into a girl’s cheap beer, the rumors ricocheted into our collective consciousness and lodged somewhere between our knife-thin ribs. Our entire grade held our breaths, waiting for the cops to show up with handcuffs so shiny and stiff they’d hurt our teeth.

So when Thayer disappeared for days, we thought he’d for sure gotten his ass hauled to the Rosendale Youth Center, a pretty name for juvie. All of us except one agreed. Sammy Holwell, whom we called “dumbass” affectionately, swore that he one-hundred-percent-for-sure saw Thayer turn into a bird. We just laughed at him and figured he must’ve been tripping too hard.

****

 A few weeks after Thayer’s disappearance, Charlotte Beryl’s cluster of church choir friends came in all frantic with dangling tongues and mascara oozing down their cheeks. Their voices dovetailed into one story: they’d been eating lunch on the front lawn when Charlotte’s face twisted in a way faces shouldn’t. She fell to the ground as her hair sizzled into wreaths of rose-gold smoke. Brown mottled feathers julienned her skin into shreds.

The one stupid thing they couldn’t agree upon was the goddamn species. One girl thought sparrow. Another insisted finch. Maybe wren, someone else said.

Afterwards, I couldn’t get this grotesque image of Charlotte out of my head. I kept thinking of feathers unfurling from her eye sockets. Her painted lips puckering and pulling into a beak. A mesh of honey-blonde corkscrew curls, ripping out by the roots. Her French manicure calcifying, claw-like. An eternal scream of horror caught in her throat, languageless.

****

This is what I remember most about Charlotte Beryl: In seventh grade, Charlotte came over because we had to write a report on the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and since I still spoke with misplaced emphases and thickened syllables, nostalgia for home as a slipstream of wine-red silk, she decided I was yellow enough to be her essay partner.

When we finished, we were about half a page too short, so I showed her how to Ctrl+H to replace all of the size-twelve punctuation with size-fourteen. “You are such a supergenius,” she kept repeating, and even though I shrugged my shoulders in modesty, her words made me feel like I was a Pretty Big Deal.

Somehow, I got it in my dumbass head that we were friends after this, so the next Monday lunch, I walked over to her table, a cluster of white girls with matching sparkly barrettes, and summoned up the bravery to ask, “Can I sit here?”

A few of Charlotte’s friends eyed me and giggled. Their laughter jangled and clinked.

Charlotte couldn’t, wouldn’t look at my face; just dipped her fork into ranch dressing and shoved iceberg lettuce into her mouth.

Nobody said anything. I wanted to leave except I couldn’t. Couldn’t do anything except stand there, wishing to puncture and deflate like an abandoned balloon. I felt less real than these girls who had mothers and church on Sundays and last names that teachers could pronounce. I was a silkscreen silhouette with an accent I couldn’t unhook from my teeth.

“Ummm,” Charlotte finally said, which was somehow worse than saying nothing at all.

I laughed with my eyes wide open and said never mind.

****

In Mama’s urn, I store all my Beijing memories. A lightning storm with teeth. Afterwards, the sky wrung itself out, dripped peroxide. The Communist Youth League named me a Youth Pioneer so I wore my honglingjin, red scarf, to school daily. Sticker advertisements enameled over whitewashed apartment walls. Knotty sidewalks, knottier fruit. Mama’s lullabies until her throat ripped out of her voice. In the ocean-belly of summer, the cicadas sang instead, in oscillating chirps. Mosquito kisses. Shards of afternoon light winnowing through Mama’s jade pendant when she died. Later, Baba walked in on me blue and spasming, my honglingjin cradling my neck too tightly.

****

Afterwards, I dreamed of funeral pyres, a heaven I didn’t believe in. Sometimes rosary beads strangled me instead. Even when I was awake, swirling angels and paper corpses drifted past my eyes like mirages. I stopped wearing my honglingjin to school and got kicked out of the Young Pioneer battalion. Whatever–they were smarmy boot-licking motherfuckers, anyways.

In the days before Baba and I left for the United States, I spent hours practicing English, searching for the words to describe a longing for beak-faced boys with zits, or skies that swung open like switchblades, or myths where everything incinerated to bone. Anything to preserve the laws of gravity.

****

After Charlotte Beryl’s metamorphosis, the inevitable exodus swept through and left only  air so quiet it choked on its own silence. Shop owners boarded up their windows and skipped town without retrieving their security deposits. Before they sped off, our neighbors gave me their daughter’s pink Barbie bike, even though I was about a decade too old for such a thing.

Only children and adolescents turned into birds. Half of my history class was gone by spring break. In the early mornings, the sky a milky rose, mothers tiptoed in the lonely streets, desperately searching for the children they’d lost to the skies and the trees.

Finally, we reached a consensus on the breed: song sparrow.

During gym class, Sammy Holwell collapsed on the basketball court, spine convulsing into a question mark. Someone muttered “fucking dumbass” and usually that’d be a riot, but this time nobody could muster a chuckle.

An entire sixth grade class went on a field trip and never came back. Our schools slowly emptied until they shut down altogether.

I held my breath for years, waiting, always waiting, but never felt bright crackling underneath my skin, never woke up with a mouth filled with feathers. Our town became a suburban conglomerate of guano and fading memories. I couldn’t remember if I wore a fire-embroidered cheongsam on my twelfth birthday. Eventually, I could no longer hum the melodies of Mama’s lullabies, the jasmine-tea songs that made me yearn for places I’d never been and people I’d never met. Even Mandarin bled off my tongue. When I said home in English, I felt the word reverberate on my lips, but it clattered like all hollow things do.

Every so often, I would see a bird soar over a sprawling orchard or plunge through the foaming twilight sky, and I was almost certain it had Thayer Stokes’s stocky body, or Sammy Holwell’s nervous twitch.

I wondered if the sparrows had forgotten their names, their families, their past lives. I wondered if they still remembered how to speak in their first languages, or if those words had been etched away by the incessant chirping and cawing. I wondered if they still searched for home, a light smudged on the endless horizon.


RONA WANG is an eighteen-year-old freshman at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, studying mathematics with computer science. She has won five Scholastic national medals and was published in The Best Teen Writing of 2016 and 2014. Her writing has also been recognized by the Sierra Nevada Review, the Claremont Review, and the Adroit Prizes. When not writing, she is involved with activism and the art of cat video appreciation. She is originally from Portland, Oregon.