Some of my favorite stories of 2014

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One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2015 is to keep better track of the stories and essays I read online and love. That’s a warning that I didn’t do a particularly good job in 2014. Part of the problem is that there’s so much good writing! Seriously, if you’ve never checked out some of these online (and print) magazines, you should.

Here are just a few stories that really stuck out for me, keeping in mind that there are a whole lot of others I”m forgetting:

– Crepuscular by Leesa Cross-Smith at Wyvern Lit – It’s no secret that I love Leesa’s writing, and  Leesa, too. And I love Wyvern Lit, a new litmag edited by the adorable Brent Rydin. I had the great privilege to hear Leesa read “Crepuscular” at our local bookstore, Village Lights. Leesa went to one of those performing arts high schools and it shows when she reads. Let me just say that she knows how to do it right, how to tell a story. How to entertain. This is how all of us should read.

This is how all of us should write–fearlessly. There’s nothing that’s off limits. For a long time, I think I internalized the idea that “serious” writers, or literary writers, or something like that, don’t write about sex. It’s off limits. Reading Leesa’s work made me think about how stupid that is. Why not write about sex? About desire? Why not write about a woman who gets a crush on the host of a nature show and then meets him and seduces him?

– Notes for a Story  by Travis Hessman at PANK – I tend to like stories with a little edge of humor. There’s no reason to be so serious all the time. I find this story hilarious, but it may be a writer thing. “[The first line] should provide in the reader an impulse to defend the nature and structure of the empirical universe, an impulse only satisfied through further ravenous reading.” Of course it should, but it’s so much easier to describe what the first line should do then it is to write it. In fact, it’s so much easier to describe what you want the story to do than it is to write the story. That’s the joke.

I don’t know exactly how to describe the writing in PANK. I guess, experimental? I just know that when I read stories there, they make me think about new possibilities for words, and that’s a good thing.

– Concretia Dementia by Cathy Adams at A River & Sound Review – This story is how I discovered A River and Sound Review, and I’m glad I did. I like how they describe themselves–“serious literature with an unpretentious soul.” I could imagine my mom liking this story, and I think that’s a good thing. I like stories about old people. I love strong, first-person narrators. I love the simple sweetness paired with the quirky. It is just a lovely, lovely story.

– Fragmented Instructions for Half-Formed Girls by Claire Lombardo at LunaLuna Magazine – With Amanda Miska as fiction editor, the stories at LunaLuna magazine this year were pretty great. This one might have been the best. I love the way this story is both internal and external. Very much about the main character, but it also fleshes out a world at the edges. A community of people looking in and observing. That’s a difficult balance to find and Lombardo does it with grace.

carve– Three 100-Word Stories by Grant Faulkner at Carve Magazine – I love Carve Magazine. I love 100-word stories. I love Grant Faulkner, who gave us all National Novel Writing Month. I love the fact that the person who invented NaNoWriMo–a contest all about writing 50,000 words–writes some kick-ass, very, very short stories. Just listen to this first line–“Frank hadn’t bought a pair of pajamas in 23 years.”  It only gets better from there. Little novels in 100 words. Perfect.

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