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The Silenced Story

In a response to last week’s post about MFA vs. NYC, a commenter who goes by the avatar Joplingirl noted that, “Finding a voice is inherently about bringing to the page a silenced story.” I love that idea, and the thought has been returning to me occasionally since, no doubt because of the number of stories I’ve been reading for Tahoma Literary Review.

Submissions for the journal bring in all manner of fiction, from around the world, and from all perspectives, and I can’t tell you how excited Kelly and I are about that. But they’ve made me think a lot about the silenced story and what it means.

My first thought brought to mind the idea of the unobtrusive author, the writer who is able to remove him/herself from the text so that the characters and events tell the story. Decades ago it was common for writers to play God, to address readers directly and lecture them about the story. We have changed since then—readers prefer to interpret works for themselves. But even now many writers have trouble getting past the “Look at me, look at the words I’ve used. See how creative my writing is!” type of prose that draws attention to itself and pulls the reader away from the characters. I was one of them.

But it also occurred to me that a silenced story is also one that has been thought through, not only to a surprising, but logical conclusion, but also has had its “noisy” aspects quieted. By this I mean those passages that are never resolved to the story, that provide information we don’t need, or take us on an unnecessary tangent. I suspect this is because the writer didn’t spend enough time in the revision process, which includes letting it sit for weeks or months before approaching it fresh. In fact, a comment I make often while reading the submissions is that the story isn’t quite ready, that the author needs more time to develop its theme and flow, to distill the work down to its essentials and nothing more.

The silenced story has become my new mantra.

Morning News

03/31/14: My story, "Plunge," is live at Stoneslide Corrective. They're a cool new journal and book publisher. I used a pseudonym for this one, for future marketing considerations, as they say.

02/28/14: I'll be moderating a panel titled "Stoking the Fire," about finding the writing life that's best for you, at the annual AWP conference on Feb. 28.

10/03/13: Here come da judge! I've been named final judge for the Adult Fiction category of the Detroit Working Writers 2014 conference. I'm excited, because judging the Poetry category will be US Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey! Just being mentioned in the same sentence with her is an honor.

9/24/13: Woodward Press co-publisher Dora Badger and I will present a discussion on Self Publishing Options at the annual Rochester Writers Conference on Saturday, October 5 at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. Registration is still open for the event, so if you're in the area please join us.

8/1/13: The Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) has accepted my panel proposal for the 2014 annual conference in Seattle. "Stoking the Fire: Maintaining the Passion for Writing When Success Eludes" will feature co-presenters Kobbie Alamo, Teri Carter and Q. Lindsey Barrett.

2/8/13: Kestrel, the literary journal of Fairmont State University in West Virginia, wrote today to accept my short story, "Nixon in State." Too bad it was already accepted by Lumina (see below). I did tell them, of course, but sometimes those notes get misplaced. Still, it's nice to know the story was appreciated. The fact that it would have been Nixon's 100th birthday on Jan. 9 may have influenced these selections, but I certainly didn't write the story because of that.

1/18/13: My short story, "Nixon in State," has been accepted by Lumina, the literary magazine of the graduate writing program of Sarah Lawrence College located in Bronxville, NY.

12/19/12: A holiday present from BULL (Men's Fiction). They just emailed to say they'd like to publish my story "The Decline of the Swan." I'll post a link when it's available.

10/30/12: Two acceptances in one day! My short story, "The Killer of the Writer," has been accepted by The Lifted Brow, an excellent lit journal based in the Melbourne area of Australia. Not to brag, but here's what their fiction editor said about it: "I love this story. It's smart without being self-involved, composed without being cold, fresh without being gimmicky. There's a Bolano vibe to it that I really like, because it's such a fantastic synthesis of style and subject matter, but it never felt derivative."

10/30/12: My short story, "Every Man Unto His Family," has been accepted for Palimpsest: A Creative Journal of the Humanities, a nationally-distributed publication of the University of Colorado that includes literary fiction and poetry, film and theater scripts, creative nonfiction, and all modes of visual art.

10/5/12: My short story, "Unexplored Landscapes," has been accepted for the print issue of Prick of the Spindle, a journal published by Aqueous Books.

Tahoma Literary Review Now Open for Submissions

TLR is officially open for submissions of poetry and fiction. To find out more about this new literary journal, please visit us at Tahoma Literary Review.

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Buy My Book

The Face Maker and other stories of obsession is my collection of short stories out now from Woodward Press. Kelly Davio, author of Burn This House, says. "In stories that range effortlessly across time period and place, Joe Ponepinto delivers the kind of masculine character we crave in literary fiction; these characters wrestle with the most essential questions of morality, and they bare-knuckle box with their human frailties." Find it on Amazon in paperback and Kindle. Want a signed copy? Email me at jpon (at) thirdreader (dot) com.

For the editing and tutoring services I offer, please see my companion site at Third Reader.

I am the Book Review Editor for the Los Angeles Review, a literary journal.

For links to some published stories, go to my Publications page.


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