In Memoriam: La Ligua

In Memoriam is a series of posts dedicated to the words, the lines, and the books that—for one reason, one editor, or another—never saw the light of day. Below, forthcoming QFP author, Victoria Kelly, says goodbye to the opening lines of an old story.

“Ema was the first to be lost. And now her father Elias sits her image like a stuffed toy on his mantle, trying to remember who was this Ema besides a girl with green eyes and his daughter. Should he remember the way she was, or what she would have been?” 

During my third year as an undergraduate at Harvard, I spent three months in Vina del Mar, Chile, on a study abroad program. Although it was winter in Chile at the time, Vina del Mar was a beautiful city, a vacation destination—white sand beaches and blue ocean and restaurants on cliffs that overlooked the water. In the mornings I would run on the boardwalk and dozens of stray dogs would follow me.  I would buy freshly baked bread downtown from tiny shops and eat it with manjar, a popular caramel spread.

But Chile also had a darker side.  It was haunted by The Disappeared, two thousand people who had “vanished”—imprisoned, tortured and killed—during the brutal dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in the 1970s and 1980s.

Two hours by bus from Vina del Mar was a small, dusty city called La Ligua, that was famous for making the most wonderful meringue-filled pastries. Vendors dressed in white would spend the mornings on sidewalks around the town, holding wicker baskets full of these pastries. Part of my program involved living for one month, alone, in a Chilean city of my choice, and doing research for an end-of-term project. I had decided that, as an English major, I would visit La Ligua and write a collection of stories about the town, which had charmed me. The place felt like a town out of a storybook, far removed from the chaos of modern life. Not a single person in La Ligua spoke English; in the center of town was a bubbling fountain and a photographer who took pictures with an old, early-century camera. I found a small hotel near the town square and set out to write a short story about a pastry-vendor struggling with the memory of his teenage daughter, one of The Disappeared. The sentences above were the first sentences of my first story.

But after only a few days, I got violently sick from a stomach virus I had caught while visiting Argentina. I ended up so sick that I had to leave the program a month early and go back to the United States for medical care. I was never able to finish the stories I had set out to write. All I have now is that first sentence and a long collection of notes for a story that will never come to be. I feel too far removed from the place now, years later, to write about it successfully—it is the kind of story that need to be written sitting on the edge of the town fountain, in the middle of all that dust and sunlight. So I would like those first sentences to lie here, in this blog, and rest in peace.


Victoria KellyVictoria Kelly received her B.A. Summa Cum Laude from Harvard University, her M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and her M.Phil. in Creative Writing from Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, where she was a U.S. Mitchell Scholar. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in dozens of anthologies and journals including The Best American Poetry series, Alaska Quarterly Review, Southwest Review, Prairie Schooner, and North American Review, among others. Her debut novel will be published by Simon & Schuster in 2016. She lives in Virginia with her husband and daughters.

Fiction Writer and Playwright James Magruder Joins Queen’s Ferry Press

James Magruder to release a new book with Queen’s Ferry Press in 2016 

Plano, TX—January 16, 2015 Queen’s Ferry Press, an independent publisher providing a venue for fine literary fiction, announced it will publish a new book–titled Love Slaves of Helen Hadley Hall–by author James Magruder.

“James Magruder’s Let Me See It (Triquarterly Books) was among the best books I read during 2014—and the collection that haunted me as the one that got away,” says Founding Editor & Publisher, Erin McKnight. “James Magruder’s writing is as sublime as I remember, his empathy as elegant…and this one’s also funny. Really, really funny.”

“Part of me feels I can die happy knowing that Love Slaves is between two covers,” says Magruder. “I started writing it before I knew what I was doing. I love it more than my two published books.”

Love Slaves of Helen Hadley Hall will release in late spring 2016.

About the Author:

James Magruder
James Magruder

James Magruder’s adaptations of works by Molière, Marivaux, Lesage, Labiche, Gozzi, Dickens, Hofmannsthal, and Giraudoux have been staged on and off-Broadway, across the country, and in Germany and Japan. His stories have appeared in The Gettysburg Review, New England Review, Subtropics, Bloom, The Normal School, New Stories from the Midwest, and elsewhere. His début novel, Sugarless, was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award and shortlisted for the 2010 William Saroyan International Writing Prize. His collection of stories, Let Me See It, was published by TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press in 2014. He is a four-time fellow of the MacDowell Colony and his writing has also been supported by the Kenyon Playwrights Conference and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, where he was a Walter E. Dakin Fellow in Fiction. He lives in Baltimore and teaches dramaturgy at Swarthmore College.

Founded in 2011 as an independent publisher, Queen’s Ferry Press specializes in literary fiction. The press currently releases 6–12 titles a year, many from debut authors, and is the publisher of Shadows of Men, the 2013 recipient of the TIL Steven Turner Award for Best Work of First Fiction. For book updates please contact Kevin Wehmueller, Marketing & Publicity of Queen’s Ferry Press, or visit www.queensferrypress.com.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media Contact: Kevin Wehmueller, Marketing & Publicity

kwehmueller@queensferrypress.com

The Best Small Fictions: Update

This Friday marks the international nominations deadline for The Best Small Fictions of 2015.

The Best Small Fictions NominationsOver 100 nominations have been received to date, though we expect a great deal more before the final, US deadline, January 23rd.

International nominations have come in from Japan, Australia, Cyprus, The Netherlands, India, Canada and the UK.

We’re very pleased with the response from editors so far, but please submit your nominations and–if you haven’t yet–announce them to your readers! Show your support for this long overdue compilation the best of the smallest fiction available!

 

Where the Wind Can Find It

Our first post of 2015 comes from Ben Nickol, author of the forthcoming title Where the Wind Can Find It, releasing in November.

The ten stories in my book each arrived there by a different avenue. Some unspooled out of small observations, such as “Contra,” which began when some friends dragged me to a Contra dance. For the first hour, my only goal was not to sweat on strangers or dance like an asshole, but failing at that I relaxed and began noticing the room around me. In particular, I noticed that most of the dance’s movements were about arresting movement in other directions, and knowing that the dance’s origins were vaguely Puritanical, I wondered if there weren’t some connection. In other words, was the “intent” of Contra to deflect our more feral urges? I decided it was (why not?), and that became a story about a young woman hoping a regimen of old-fashioned living, including but not limited to Contra dancing, might restrain her boyfriend’s promiscuity.

Another of the stories, “As if Any Moment,” began at a blackjack table, when I noticed that the turning of cards, hand after hand, activated something in me—call it optimism or resilience—that under most circumstances would’ve been an admirable characteristic, but that in this context, if I weren’t careful, would divide me swiftly from every dollar I could lay hands to. That taught me something I’d never quite understood, and that I found moving and scary: virtues can ruin us just as easily as vices, especially when what we call a vice might actually be virtue misdirected. Scarier still was the question of how that affected relationships, and so I created a character who loves her husband for the precise qualities that doom him, and in fact doom them both, which (maybe scariest of all) makes a vice of her love and fidelity.

Stories appear unexpectedly. They aren’t, or oughtn’t be, like oil changes, where any time you want one you go back to your trusted garage. If internal pressure finds external expression, that’s a story. They can begin, as my story “Knotted” did, with a round of golf, or with the beard you’ve grown that causes you to worry, suddenly, that you’ll die and have the beard displayed in your coffin, before your family is aware you’ve grown it, adding confusion to their anguish (“At Your Side,” began this way, though by the time it was finished, of course, beards had nothing to do with it). Of the stories in this collection, however, I like best the development of the last story, “Flamingo Motel.” This piece began in my early twenties, as a novel manuscript, but at the end of the day no one (its author included) wanted to chase an egomaniacal investment banker through 250 pages of masturbating in ex-girlfriends’ windows. But what if we only chased him for 30 pages? That was fun to write, it turned out, and I’m hoping it’s fun to read.

bennickolBen Nickol’s stories and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Fugue, Hunger Mountain, The Los Angeles Review, MonkeybicycleCanoe & Kayak, Nowhere Magazine, and elsewhere. He is the recipient of an Individual Artist Fellowship from the Arkansas Arts Council and the Baucum-Fulkerson Award in Fiction from the University of Arkansas. He lives in Montana and teaches at Helena College.