This info comes from S. Craig Renfroe, Jr.

You know what's cool. Novellas. They're like the flash fiction of novels. And we know flash fiction is hot right now. So where are the novellas?

Main Street Rag Publishing Company wants to do a novella series: 12 novellas, one a month for a year. And as I'm overseeing the series, I want to see the best. Better than crap like Of Mice and Men or Heart of Darkness or Animal Farm or Metamorphosis.

Here are details:

Reading Period: Right now! to August 1st. That's right, over the summer, so while all the sissy U lit mags are closed, dust off the novella and send it to us.

Length: 30,000-50,000 words

Content: Open. Your best. Better than that if possible.

Text: Regular manuscript format (double space, Times New Roman, tabs/no space between paragraphs).

Submit: In a first for Main Street Rag, we are accepting email submissions (only in this series): editor@mainstreetrag.com

Want more details, much like the ones above? Go here.

First PBoz and Now

Say it ain't so............

Shut up about it

There's this song I like by The Frames.

The song I like is called Santa Maria. It's about Egon Schiele, a painter who died of the Spanish flu in 1918. He died just three days after his pregnant wife died of the same stupid flu. Sads.

Santa Maria was a ship with the Spanish Armada that sank of the coast of Ireland leaving one survivor. I'm guessing the song is about knowing your dying. (I wrote a story about this/inspired by this..the main character gets eaten by dragonflies.)

But whatever, inner meaning, whatever.

I like the song because it starts soft and slow and pretty much lulls the listener. And then there a part where all the instruments surrounding the singer get louder and bigger and when his voice re-emerges, it's just as soft as before and his voice is almost lost in the middle of all that other sound (don't mind the drunken Irish banter before the music):

You know, that idea of voice falling away into the sound around it reminds me of this ditty by Henryk Gorecki. I'm thinking of the 1st movement of the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. (By the by, this symphony is more about knowing that the people you love are dying.) The movement is almost half an hour long. The first ten minutes, you barely know the song has started. The string basses are playing so soft and low you feel them before you hear them. And then a voice breaks through:

And that voice builds strength and volume before being swallowed by the other voices.

Kind of like this:

That's the fucking shit right there. The main voice, sings, reaches for that high note and when it hits, the rest of the orchestra swoops in and is all "you go mute now."

I don't know. I connect to that shit. The actualization of a voice speaking and being shut down.

A voice sometimes reaching, almost yelling. A voice that is just talking without any "look at me" volume. It's not that these voices are being meek or quiet. It's just that everyone else is being so damn loud about it.

My Bloody Valentine will show you what I mean:



"I parody myself every chance I get. I try to make fun of myself and let people know that I'm a human being, and these things that have happened to me are real. I'm not just some cartoon who exists and suddenly doesn't exist... I don't hurt or want for visibility, but people seem to forget pretty easily." - Gary Coleman


June 4th - KGB
June 5th - Nightingale Lounge
For more info: bgemich@yahoo.com


Here's a little something from Shome Dasgupta's site, The Laughing Yeti, where he asks writers to talk a little bit about reading and writing. Here's what I said:

"A friend of mine told me that the only way to get rid of writer's block is to read a lot of books. I call bullshit. Stop reading and analyzing and tearing apart other people's words and lives looking for flaws, imperfections to capitalize on. Read books because you love them, because the Cat in the Hat is a true friend, because you'll never experience America the way Dean and Sal did, because Huck Finn changed the world. If you want to get rid of writer's block, turn off your goddam laptop and get some fresh air."

Here's what some other people said:

Brian Evenson
Matt Bell
Scott Garson
Nick Antosca
Sean Lovelace
Amelia Gray
Adam Robinson
Mike Young

Go check out all the wise words HERE.

Bacon is tastier than children

One day (and this was before I met you) I looked down at the bacon in my Grand Slam breakfast and all I could think about was my toddling nephew: his embarrassing little boy lisp. The sticky dirt clutch of his fingers. The tiny, sad glasses strapped fast to his skull by a rainbow colored strip of elastic.

What I was thinking, specifically, was this: domesticated pigs can tell the difference between a triangle and a square. Between a circle and a rectangle. They can distinguish and match shapes with the same articulate precision of chimpanzees. These ungulate geometrists can also be trained to turn their housing lights off at night and on in the morning. Entire herds of feral pigs (taxonomically defined as Sus scofra) can outsmart hunters by reinventing themselves as nocturnal creatures.

What I was thinking: if a pig could speak, it wouldn't say "tar" instead of "car." It wouldn't ask me for help fastening its Velcro shoes. It wouldn't cut up pieces of its foam board puzzle with a pair of safety scissors. It wouldn't need a night light, and if it did, it could switch the light on and off by itself. It wouldn't have to let it kiss me in exchange for $5 an hour from its mother.

I looked at that plate of bacon and considered its history. I thought of the glial cells, of the axons and dendrites, of all of the impossible motions made possible through a miracle of synaptic firecrackers, of neurons and star-shaped proteins. I became queasy.

Eventually, I recounted my revelation to a Brazilian co-worker over a plate of mediocre oysters. She became profoundly offended. "You Americans are so Cartesian!" She spit when she said the word "Cartesian." "What does a brain have to do with anything?" I couldn't prove that she was wrong. To be on the safe side, I stopped eating clams and oysters as well.

I don't think I ever told you this story; told you why I stopped eating meat. You never asked.

I craved it. Not even a week had elapsed since the Descartian insult; I bought a whole rotisserie chicken and ate it over the course of two hours. I began taking shelter in my car, parking near the dumpster behind the grocery store, consuming five Quarter Pounders at a time, planning my dining schedule around my roommate's absences. Any remorse I may have felt, and evidence I may have stored, was vomited up with the meal. A violence undone.

I watched your eyes to be sure you were asleep. I tip-toed into the kitchen with the quietness of insects. I should have brought the turkey leg back to my room. I should have thrown it away. I should have confessed to you before you found me there.

By the time I realized you were standing in the doorway of the kitchen, watching me; by the time I lifted my own eyes to meet your steady gaze, you had already turned your back. You never mentioned what you saw. I don't know if I disappointed you or if you just didn't care.

You never asked me about anything.


I've recently quit eating meat products that cannot survive in the water. I made the final decision the day after I watched Food Inc. It was something that I'd been thinking about for a while. Sometimes when I was eating a hamburger or some chicken I would think about my cats or my 3.5 lb Chihuahua and I would feel like a murderer. It was pretty easy because I am not overly fond of meat, except for hamburgers.

Hamburgers are the only meat I miss. I've tried veggie burgers and black bean burgers and even the veggie burger that comes from Burger King. That was the most disgusting burger. It tasted like a spicy crouton sandwich.

To fulfill my needs I have been looking at this site, A Hamburger Today. The site says today is National Hamburger Day. It is a sad day.

On Certain Accursed Days, Metamorphoses, and Toast

So here I am, making French toast and thinking about beautiful women transforming into dragonflies, when I remember that it's May 28, and tomorrow is May 29, 2010, the 557th anniversary of the day when the Turks finally overran the capital of the Roman Empire.

The affective dimension of this realization is sudden but not unexpected. My eyes sting. Something seems to swell in the back of my throat, or between the base of my trachea and my lungs. My lips quiver. I smell gunpowder smoke and for an instant I think I see the city. When I think about it for too long, I start to cry. Not like a little girl, though. I weep like a man, or like Jesus in the shortest verse of the bible. (Quiz question 1: What is the name of this affective state?)

My mind replays the events of May 28 and May 29, 1453: the gathering of the Turks by drum-beat and horn, the last preparations inside the city. Here is the abbreviated form: Once everything that can be done has been done, the last Roman Emperor asks forgiveness if he has ever done wrong to anyone, and then, if the historians who survived the battle didn't lie shamelessly, he gives a short speech to prepare his men to fight to the death. At midnight, the final assault comes, and does not stop until the walls are breached. The last Emperor, Constantine Palaiologos, dies in the melee and is never found.

That's when my mind exits the memory. It identifies with Constantine, I think, so when his story finishes, I can leave. But everything else is compulsive. I enter on May 28 and leave on May 29, turning the whole thing over and over in my mind until it is finished.

It's a chronic condition, this obsession over the end of the Romans. Some of the symptoms are associated with PTSD: the flashbacks, the emotional jaggedness, a certain obsession. Some are not: the willingness to talk about it all, the fact that I did this to myself by reading too many books.

* * *

Women changing into insects and/or machines--this is a more recent fascination of mine, and I blame a certain piece of art nouveau jewelry for it ( http://bit.ly/9spAzu ).

Look at the image in the link, Lalique's Dragonfly Woman corsage ornament. It is a symbol for everything horrifying. Is it a woman transforming from the feet up into a dragonfly? Or is it a dragonfly transforming from the mouth down into a woman? Is it becoming a woman, or is it becoming a dragonfly?

Sometimes I think I see women everywhere transforming into insects. Some people dream of the zombie apocalypse, but I am more afraid of the women-into-dragonflies-and-dragonflies-into-women apocalypse. I imagine all the women I know transforming into insects. Then I imagine all the insects I know transforming into women. At times like that, the skin on my face feels tight and my throat feels tight. My neck stiffens until I can barely turn my head, and the corners of my mouth twist back. My abdominal muscles also tend to spasm slightly. (Quiz question 2: What is the name of this affective state? Quiz question 3: Which is less horrifying--insects transforming into women or women transforming into insects? And why?)

* * *

French toast. Like pancakes, if pancakes were made from bread soaked in pancake batter.

Crisp, golden, warm, buttery on the inside, a perfect vector for syrup and a perfect companion to hazelnut coffee.

Physical affect is a sense of warmth radiating out from the belly and a sensation of sweetness coating the inside of the mouth and the upper esophagus.

It doesn't make up for the fall of the Roman Empire and it doesn't protect women from the coming dragonfly apocalypse. But it's good enough.

The Ends Of Things

Last Sunday night six years of my life ended while I sat on my couch, wearing pajamas, completely captivated. Funny, because that’s exactly the same way those six years had begun.

Lost is over.

Six years is a long time to be committed to anything; jobs, relationships, pets, and here I was wrapped up in a completely imaginary world with pretend TV people. Lost had me hooked from the get go. It was a show that didn’t hand you everything on a silver platter. There weren’t little bows tied on top of every episode and, heck, maybe there were never any bows. But that’s what many of us liked about Lost, the thinking, the questioning, the theorizing, the morning after water cooler discussions and the multitudes of WTF moments. Like the island, it pulled so many different people together through one common denominator.

The characters became something more; so varied, so interesting, some mysterious, some sexy. We lived, loved and were lost along with them for six years.

And now they are gone.

It would be an understatement to say I wasn’t moved during the finale. I think I cried a total of five times. “It’s only a TV show,” you say. “Lame,” you say. Yes, I know. But how can you go six years being emotionally invested in the plight of these characters and not find yourself attached to their outcome?

I couldn’t.

These characters had been in my life when I was six years younger. My job was different. My house was different. There were people in my life six years ago that are not here now. There are teenagers now where there were children before. College graduates where there were only highschoolers.

On “Finale Eve” I was excited and sad. Excited because I couldn’t wait to see what the finale had in store, sad because, well, it was the end.

It was the same feeling I had when I got my copy of the final book in Stephen King’s, “The Dark Tower” series.

My journey with the Dark Tower series started in 1982 with the first book, “The Gunslinger.” My journey wouldn’t end until 22 years later; but I didn’t know that then.

Talk about commitment.

Book two, “The Drawing of the Three” didn’t come out until five years later in 1987. I had to take out Gunslinger and read it again to refresh my memory. “Wastelands” came out in 1991; I re-read Drawing and so on, and so forth, so basically, by the end of the TWENTY TWO YEARS I had basically read the series twice over.

I had been with Roland on his journey since I was a teenager, through getting jobs that became careers and relationships and births and deaths and moves and marriages and divorces and and and… Twenty-two years later I sat finishing book seven, “The Dark Tower” with tears rolling down my cheeks.

It was over.

What long-term journeys have you been on? How did you feel when they were over? When they ended had you ever wished they never started?

I need a new journey.

Hold me.


this from Marc Schuster...


Saturday, June 5, 3 pm
Dan’s Papers Front Lawn
2221 Montauk Highway
Bridgehampton, NY 11932

There is a time and place for everything, and it’s high time to turn the spotlight on book reviewers in this age of shrinking review space. Instead of alerting readers to significant ideas in new works of fiction and non-fiction, reviews are increasingly about popular culture and celebrity authors. It’s time that critics face criticism themselves.

To this end we’ve created The Donkey Award (Equus Asinus). An engraved plaque will be awarded for the Best Abuse Of Space For The Least Deserving Book; in short for the most asinine review of the year.

Hundreds of reviews could be cited, and one might argue about the worst of them. But we’ve narrowed our list to five finalists, which all appeared in The New York Times:.
Caught and Never Look Away, by Janet Maslin
John Lennon, by Nellie McKay
Star (Warren Beatty), by Janet Maslin
Going Rogue, by Stanley Fish
Solar, by Walter Kirn

The Donkey Award jurists are:
Joan Baum, author, print and National Public Radio book critic (Baum on Books on WSHU-FM)
Bill Henderson, editor, author and publisher of The Pushcart Press
Daniel Klein, novelist, playwright, and Best Selling non-fiction author of Plato And A Platypus Walked Into A Bar: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes
Dan Rattiner, author, satirist, and founder of Dan's Papers
Marc Schuster, novelist and critic (Small Press Reviews)
Martin Shepard, co-publisher of The Permanent Press and author of 11 books

The award ceremony will feature various asinine reviews, which will be distributed to the press to illustrate our point, along with statements from the judges, most of whom will be in attendance. A donkey will also be present, if he is not too embarrassed to attend.

For further information contact Martin Shepard, by email, phone, or cell phone at

The Permanent Press
4170 Noyac Road
Sag Harbor, NY 11963
phone: 631-725-1101/fax: 631-725-8215
View my Blog at



for Barry G.

"Food is any substance, usually composed of carbohydrates, fats, proteins and water, that can be eaten or drunk by an animal, including humans, for nutrition."


teach me how to fish by voice
to keep trumpets for the day I drown
past this bread and water life

to savor the clouds like inviolable
children, to pencil in my own lightning
when the ocean forgets I need

salt on my hands and knees
to season my erosion, to push through
the old sunken minefield I call

home when I'm asleep, to remember
the heart's navy can rescue me from
any evil I imagine