Ecotone

“Happiness” in this year’s O. Henry Prize Stories

-1The O. Henry Prize Stories 2016 was released this week, and we’re thrilled that Ron Carlson’s story “Happiness” is included. And we were even, ahem, happier to see the attention the story got in editor Laura Furman’s introduction.

“This year, as always, when the reading got under way for The O. Henry Prize Stories 2016, the stories in the just-published 2015 collection whispered in my ear that this would be the year when I wouldn’t find another twenty worthy of succeeding them. The haunting prediction held for a while, and then the first right one appeared. This year, Ron Carlson’s “Happiness” reassured me that once again there were more wonderful stories to discover.”

She goes on, we gleefully note, for several paragraphs about the story, including this one:

“The unhurried pace of the narration speaks of happiness as the narrator luxuriates in his modest way. He isn’t about to rush anything, not his descriptions of the weather, land, trees, water, trout, or deer. Even the cabin’s copper Levelor blinds have their moment. Happiness might glow and inspire, in memory and in its presence, but it doesn’t last, a truth here not stated but implied.”

We’re also proud to congratulate other Ecotone contributors for their inclusion: Charles Haverty for his story “Storm Windows” from One Story, Adrienne Celt for her story “Temples” from Epoch, and Wendell Berry for his story “Dismemberment” from The Threepenny Review.

What’s Your Ecotone?: The Porous Border

This What’s Your Ecotone comes from Karen Linehan, winner of this year’s Rose Post essay contest from the North Carolina Writers Network. It describes the ecotone around her home in Carolina Beach, NC.

An ecotone surrounds my one-story brick house. It’s a porous border where the indoors and outdoors converge—more structural than ecological. Throughout the year, I share this space with a variety of animal residents. Mud daubers create earthen nurseries under the eaves. Green anoles scamper across the screened porch. Cockroaches cruise the kitchen and millipedes ramble the bathroom tiles. Chimney swift nestlings chitter inside the chimney. Squirrel tree frogs rasp from the gutters.

Earlier this spring, a queen paper wasp discovered a hole in an exterior window screen. Between the screen and the glass panes of a bedroom window, the wasp began constructing her nest. By the time I noticed the small funnel hanging by a stalk in the window, she had already fashioned the first hexagonal cells. Using flakes of bark she had chewed and softened with saliva, the wasp had sculpted wavy layers of gray and beige. In the base of each cell, she had deposited a single egg, like a miniature white sausage.

Through the early weeks of May, I watched the wasp at her nest. She fed her developing larvae a gooey mixture of nectar and the chewed parts of caterpillars she had harvested from my yard. In about a month’s time, the larvae transformed from pupae into sterile female workers. Soon the nest began to look more like an upside down umbrella pocked with dozens of cells.

Sometimes I pressed my face against the glass. On the other side of the window, the wasps raised their smoky black wings in a threat display. My simple eyes gazed into the wasps’ compound eyes. There was nothing between us except the narrow pane of glass.
Now it is late August. Soon reproductive male and female wasps will mate and depart the nest. Only the fertilized queens will survive the winter months. They’ll hibernate beneath loose bark or inside the wooden walls of my old shed, waiting for the warmth of spring.

The ecotone around my home changes through the seasons. As the nights become cooler, black rats will move from the nearby woods into my attic. The chimney swifts will depart for Peru. As for me, I’ll remain in my habitat through the winter, stoking the fire and reading Tinbergen’s The Animal in its World.

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Karen Smith Linehan is a lifelong naturalist with a deep love for the flora and fauna of North Carolina. She teaches first and second grade at Friends School of Wilmington where she shares her love of nature with her students. Karen is currently pursuing an MFA in creative nonfiction through Chatham University’s low residency program. She plays guitar and sings with her father in the Raleigh-based band, Bloomsbury. Karen and her husband, Terry, live in Carolina Beach. They have two grown daughters, Kelsey and Dylan.

Jason Bradford: Poet, Editor, Friend

We at Ecotone are mourning the loss and celebrating the life of our coeditor for poetry, Jason Bradford. In addition to being a keen and perceptive editor, Jason was an incredibly talented poet. Here is a selection of his work, which we will update as new publications appear. We hope you will be as moved by his words as we continue to be.

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“Approaching Limits at Carolina Beach” in Rogue Agent Journal

“A Poem for My Mom” in Fruita Pulp

“Altern/native” in Jubilat

The new issue of Dialogist is dedicated to Jason, and includes one of his poems.

Jason also has poems forthcoming in the Laurel Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, and Gulf Coast.

His chapbook, The Inhabitants, is available through Final Thursday Press.

And we’re grateful to the Kenyon Review for this incredibly thoughtful memorial.

If you have the means, there is a memorial fund set up for Jason here. The site will be available for donations through February 29, 2016.

From the site: “Our goal is to ensure that the costs associated with his passing do not have a catastrophic effect on his family. If we exceed this goal, we plan to establish scholarships (both to UNCW’s Creative Writing Program and to Camp Courageous in Iowa) in his name.”

Our love and thoughts are with Shirley Niedermann, Jason’s mother, and with all his friends and family at UNC Wilmington, the University of Northern Iowa, and beyond.

News Roundup

We’re finishing up the first full week of school at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, the home of Lookout and Ecotone, and are gearing up for a semester of literary action! We’re just a little over a week away from the release of Lookout’s debut novel, and we’ve got news and events aplenty:

Honey from the Lion makes the Literary Hub’s Great Booksellers Fall Review along with books by Jonathan Franzen, Ron Rash, Joy Williams, Lauren Groff, Claire Vaye Watkins, and Marilynne Robinson! Thanks to Mary Laura Philpott of Parnassus Books for the pick. She says, “Lookout Books publishes just one or two books a year, so it’s always interesting to see what they choose to put their faith in next. Matthew Neill Null’s debut novel Honey from the Lion demands your attention from the first page and keeps it until the last, with beautiful prose conjuring an atmosphere that’s rugged and desperate. I could see this being turned into a dark HBO miniseries.”

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A proper library has more than just books! Find out what Matthew Neill Null deposits on his bookshelves, what book he’d rescue from a burning building, and a few forgotten books he thinks deserve a revival over at The Quivering Pen’s My Library series.

Want a free copy of Honey from the Lion? The Goodreads Giveaway ends this Sunday, Aug. 30. Head on over and get in the running!

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House Guest with Ben Stroud: Wrestling with History

In House Guest, we invite Ecotone and Lookout authors, cover artists, and editors from peer presses and magazines to tell us what they’re working on, to discuss themes in their writing or unique publishing challenges, to answer the burning questions they always hoped a reader would ask.

Ben Stroud’s story “Traitor of Zion,” is reprinted in Astoria to Zion: Twenty-Six Stories of Risk and Abandon from Ecotone’s First Decade.

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One of the great difficulties in writing fiction that deals with history is figuring out where to depart from the historical record in favor of invention. In some ways, this can be the biggest problem in such a story. I had this struggle with “Traitor of Zion.” I can’t remember when I first heard about the branch of Mormons that settled on Bear Island in the far north of Lake Michigan. But once I did, I tucked it away as an idea for a story. I was drawn to the distance of the place, and the audacity of the enterprise: to build a new settlement in this remote, incredibly difficult-to-get-to island. In my writing I’m often driven by a sense of adventure. I want the story to be a journey for the reader, but also for me. This seemed like solid material.

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Shawn Vestal Video

We continue our video series featuring three Astoria to Zion authors with Shawn Vestal, author of Godforsaken Idaho, a collection of short stories. Last week, we heard from Rebecca Makkai and the origin of her story: bog mummies! In this video, Shawn Vestal discusses place and risk in his writing, as well as what it means to write about his Mormon upbringing and family. Check out his story “Winter Elders” in Astoria to Zion: Twenty-Six Stories of Risk and Abandon from Ecotone’s First Decade.

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House Guest with Douglas Watson: Why I Make Fun of Philosophers

In House Guest, we invite Ecotone and Lookout authors, cover artists, and editors from peer presses and magazines to tell us what they’re working on, to discuss themes in their writing or unique publishing challenges, to answer the burning questions they always hoped a reader would ask.

Douglas Watson’s story “New Animal” is reprinted in Astoria to Zion: Twenty-Six Stories of Risk and Abandon from Ecotone’s First Decade.

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I don’t know that much about philosophy, but that doesn’t stop me from poking fun at philosophers in my fiction. Really, though, it’s my younger self I’m making fun of. In 1990 I went off to college figuring I would major in philosophy. What could be better than staying up half the night thinking in a rigorous way about the most important questions? Wasn’t time spent doing anything else—like getting a haircut—ultimately just wasted time? In high school I’d been taken with Plato and the kind of existentialism found in Herman Hesse novels. Throw in a bit of Thoreau and maybe spin “All You Need Is Love” on the turntable and you’ve got the picture.

But a funny thing happened in Philosophy 101, a thing that probably happens to a lot of freshmen who think they’re going to be philosophy majors: I fell out of love with philosophy. Philosophy, it turned out, was difficult and rather dry and quite possibly beside the point. Sure, my new college friends and I stayed up all night talking about the meaning of life, but we weren’t talking about Aristotle. Life, we decided, took place in the world, not just inside our skulls, and the world needed our help right now! The Gulf War was brewing, global warming was happening, and whole societal systems needed to be restructured ASAP if there was to be any chance of something-or-other. Trading the romantic image of myself in a scholar’s study for the romantic image of myself on a barricade, I began skipping classes and protesting the war and listening to the Doors. What I wanted was peace, and when I wanted it was right then.

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House Guest with Bill Roorbach: Electronic Promises

In House Guest, we invite Ecotone and Lookout authors, cover artists, and editors from peer presses and magazines to tell us what they’re working on, to discuss themes in their writing or unique publishing challenges, to answer the burning questions they always hoped a reader would ask. Bill Roorbach’s stories have twice appeared in the pages of Ecotone. In this post, he recounts the origin of his story “Broadax Inc.,” reprinted in Astoria to Zion: Twenty-Six Stories of Risk and Abandon from Ecotone’s First Decade.

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“Broadax Inc.” came about because of a ten-day power failure here in western Maine a few years ago, one that had nothing to do with weather (which would be the usual case), but with a technical break somewhere in the grid that caused cascading outages as switches and transformers and other bits and pieces no one of us knows enough about to fix overloaded and burned up—real flames.

I was in the grocery store at the time, waiting in line with my full cart in the glow of some battery-powered emergency lights. The poor woman at the one open cash register had no idea what to do. The cash drawer wouldn’t open without power, so she had no change, and no accounting system. The night manager scratched her head too. I suggested they write down what people had bought and we’d come pay later (I had no cash), but they didn’t even know what anything cost because all that was reported through the laser system. You could write it down item by item, I suggested.

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“The Junction” by David Means on Recommended Reading

“The Junction” by David Means on Recommended Reading