Thursday, March 1, 2012

Building Up Steam

Hey Pyros,

A few announcements...

* Matchbook Story will be hosting a literary salon/issue release at Gabriella Cafe on October 2nd. I realize that this is very advance notice, but Gabriella is small and its literary salons are popular, so make your reservation now. To see the cafe's lineup of other hosts, go here.

* Matchbook Story now has a Twitter account, @matchbookstory. You will not find stupid little tweets about what I had for breakfast there. You will find useful announcements re: issue releases, distribution dates, etc. Also, it is my very serious intention to tweet each week's Pick-of-the-Week story. As matchbook stories run 300 characters and tweets are 140, the Pick-of-the-Week story will be serialized in three parts. This is a good thing as most winning stories come equipped with a beginning, middle and end, and should hold our attention throughout, right?

* I've written a letter of interest to Seven Bridges Cooperative asking them if they'd like to sponsor an issue. If they bite, I'd like to get the issue out before October. Either way, I'm always accepting submissions.

* I'm slowly making my way through the backlog of last year's submissions that languished in my inbox while I was climbing the steep curve of dad-dom. Apologies to the writers that submitted so long ago and got nothing but crickets. I know how it feels. Just last week I received a rejection letter from McSweeney's for some ditty I sent, oh, 14 months ago. I suppose it stings less once you've completely forgotten your submission in the first place.



Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Baby Here, Issue No. 4 Coming...

Hello? Anybody out there?

It's been awhile since I shot any sound waves into the ether. Nearly a year by the looks of my last post. In case you missed that one, it was all about still-warm placentas and visceral writing. I was an expectant father then. Now I'm a straight-up DAD.

Of course, it's still plenty biological around here. The placenta, my wife's: we ate it. Not all at once, but in small, measured increments. A few hours after my daughter was born, a swift and methodical woman entered our house, sanitized our entire kitchen, and placed my wife's placenta inside a large dehydrator. She came back the following day, ground up the dried placenta, encapsulated it, and split. For the next month or so, my wife took a pill in the morning and one before bed. And I took one, once. Nothing happened, except this story.

Shit. Piss. Spit-up. Snot. Whether you have kids or not, you know the deal. I won't bore you with the details, but, yes, these are the details of my life now. My oh-so-very domestic life. What I'm trying to say here is that the bar has been raised (by being lowered). The scatological is banal. You have to be a sharp, feisty, beautiful, blue-eyed baby girl to impress me now. So impress me.

That's right: Matchbook Story is back and seeking good stories. I'm currently romancing the proprietor of a very romantic cafe in downtown Santa Cruz to sponsor issue no. 4. It appears Gabriella Cafe is set to launch a Tuesday night literary salon which, when you do the math (candlelight dinner + authors reading their writing), equals Matchbook Story. So stay tuned, get writing, and make a Tuesday night reservation at Gabriella to get inspired. As usual--even if it is a year and a baby later--I'll keep you posted as things progress.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Issue No. 4 postponed

Dear Matchbook Story Writers,

First off, apologies to the writers who have recently submitted and have not received a timely response from me. This email will explain.

Issue No. 4 has been postponed. When I first started Matchbook Story over a year ago, I aimed to publish four times a year. Between selecting a story, formatting the matchbook, and planning the release party, I quickly found the quarterly pace too demanding and reduced the publishing schedule to three times a year for 2011. Then I got pregnant, or, rather, my wife got pregnant, and, alas, the publishing schedule has changed once again.

I wanted to get Issue No. 4 out sometime this month, but it just ain't gonna happen, friends. Last Wednesday night, our birthing class teacher brought a 2 hour-fresh placenta to class for show-'n-tell. She said, "I especially want the partners to see this. It tends to be a real wake-up call for you guys." Well, she was right. There's nothing like a large, meaty organ to snap you into focus (!!!!). I'll be a father soon... I mean, already.

So, you see, between work, birthing classes, and impending parenthood, Matchbook Story is taking a brief hiatus. I AM STILL ACCEPTING SUBMISSIONS, and will still do my best to respond to them in 2-3 weeks. I don't know when I'll get Issue No. 4 together. The baby is due mid-May. I'm told I won't sleep much after that. I'm thinking Fall 2011 for Issue No. 4. I hear laughter in the background. Why are you laughing?

Truth is, I still haven't found the story for Issue No. 4. yet. Some strong submissions have landed on my desk, but nothing has floored me, uncapped my head, or made me whisper, "Hot damn." I've hung my nose over a still-warm placenta, folks. There is no more goofing around.

Of course, I'll let you all know when Issue No. 4 is published, when and where the release party will be, and any other pertinent info. I'm sorry if this message has been too "pertinent" for your taste. I felt it important to provide an explanation, however personal and detailed, so you knew that Matchbook Story was still around. Again, keep submitting, give me only the best, and stay tuned for Issue No. 4.

Your committed editor,

Monday, February 21, 2011

Pick of the Week - January 2011

A Waterfall

A waterfall, radiant, pulsing with light, heavenly. I want to step through the frame and dive in. "Bottoms up." My aged friend breaks the spell. "Next round's you." The smell - ashtrays, beer, urinal mints - brings me fully back. I see my own face, among bottles, in the mirror behind the bar.

--John Peck, Oakland, CA



There is something compelling about my beard. My fiancee scratches at it like the whiskers on a feline. “Why don’t we get a cat?” I say to her. “I’m allergic,” she says. Now I have a rash on my neck from her overstimulating of the follicles. “Let me see,” she says. “Are you allergic to something?”

--Justin J. Murphy, Topanga, CA



Three miles from her house is a dairy. In the morning the smell wakes her. After breakfast she is sick. By lunch, accustomed. By dinner, sore. After days, she goes to watch the cows, their bulging udders. How they produce again and again. How they keep going back for more. How she will not manage.

--Marcus Corder, Spokane, WA


Things His Wife Did Not Know

His grandchildren taught him to use a cell phone and internet. He wanted to hear her voice and arrange bingo dates at the senior center, where they had met. Email to write passionate letters during the afternoons that his wife napped. He was 84. He had given up on marriage, but not on love.

--Lindsey Morrone, San Jose, CA

Monday, January 31, 2011

Less is More

This blog is not a platform for my own writing. That said, and in the interest of championing the 300-character short story form, I'm proud to announce that I recently won a fiction-to-film contest with my matchbook story, One Way Out.

The contest was hosted by the Storymatic, a writing prompt/teaching tool/parlor game/toy that provides two sets of cards--one Characters, the other Situations--with which to generate stories. Submissions were judged by Chochkey Productions, an indie film company out of Bethlehem, PA, making movies, commercials and webcasts for the last handful of years. The rules were simple: use the Storymatic to write some sort of narrative (short story, script, novel excerpt, whatever), and the winning story will be made into a film. I submitted three matchbook stories. One Way Out won.

For the last year-plus, I've been using the Storymatic to write matchbook stories--lots of them!--to explore the limits, nay, the possibilities of 300-character narratives. On my own, I am grossly inept at generating new people and predicaments for each and every tale, but with the Storymatic, the characters and situations are endless. I always "play the hand I am dealt," blindly drawing two Character cards and two Situation cards to direct my story. Some stories come out flat, others cryptic or too reaching. But occasionally I hit pay dirt: the pieces click together, and, viola! a story. No matter the outcome, I love the challenge of "fitting" the Character/Situation cards into 300 little boxes (I use graph paper to compose my ditties). I now have nearly a 100 matchbook stories under my belt, one of which is presently being made into a movie (WTF?!).

When Eric Leadbetter, mastermind of Chochkey Productions, called to tell me that I'd won, I hooted 'n hollered and then asked, "Are you serious?" In a fiction-to-film contest, I didn't think my 300'ers stood a chance against a short story or a script or any other form that would likely provide more imagery than 300 characters could muster. I told him so, but Eric disagreed: "We think there's a real gem here. You've told a story while suggesting an entire world behind it. We like that. It gives us some license to fill in the blanks." Ah-ha, I thought. The super-short, very-suggestive story form worked to my advantage. Eric confirmed: "We got a lot of submissions: short stories, vignettes, full-length scripts, treatments, novel excerpts... We like yours because it tells a story, but it doesn't tell us how it should look. We think we'd have a lot of fun fleshing out the bones of this story." "Sounds good to me!" I said. What's more, with a $25o prize, I became the most highly paid writer ever at nearly $1 per character! Who says you can't make it at this game?

Here's my point: matchbook stories are stories: you can, and should, submit them anywhere. Of course, you should submit them first to Matchbook Story where they'll be understood and cherished more than anywhere else. There is room in the world for 300 characters. God knows more have been used for much less. For what it's worth, here's that story:

One Way Out

The hunter fell down the mine shaft. The miner found him. The hunter yelled up, "Help! I broke my leg!" The miner called down, "What's your name, boy?" It was his son's lover, JT. "Listen, JT. I have one condition. If you want out, you come out. What do you say?" The shot briefly lit the boy's face.


Sunday, December 26, 2010


The hottest stories from 2010...

To Light a Cigarette

They watch the BIC swirl down the icy creek, a stab of yellow bobbing with luminous truth. “Matches?” Sam asks, last farewell cigarette dangling, ready. Holt digs his pockets. “No.” Plan was to wrestle nic demons in the wilderness like Jesus. “How many miles back that liquor store?”

--Bruce Willey, Big Pine, CA


The Last Cigarette

As he finally caught a first dim glimpse of the cave's fabled wonders, Roger thought he'd earned a smoke for his travails. As he greedily put a cigarette to his lips, he tried to recall Evans' warning about the place. Too late, he realized it might have had something to do with matches.

--Seana Graham, Santa Cruz, CA


A Matchbook Memoir

The casino lighting was unkind. I tore a single match to light the cigarette that dangled from her mouth. Tiny words inside the matchbook cover caught my eye, and stayed with me as we stumbled inside her musty trailer. The story of a lonely man revealed in a matchbook. I hate people who smoke.

--Kathleen Parvizi, Scotts Valley, CA


These Are My Prayers

Lady Summit, balanced a cigarette at the edge of her crusted mouth. She had no idea how to regard the news the post had left earlier that morning. "I am your son" the letter read. She repeated it several times. Her lips barly tracing the words. Smoke filled the air as a match was struck. A whisper.

--Carter Quick, Los Angeles, CA


Almost Like Dad

Robert fires a needle. The splinter stings, but Ava’s fear is worse. “It doesn’t hurt. I’ll keep it,” she begs, lakes pooling in her eyes. He blows on the needle and anchors into her finger. Ava yelps. “It’s out, love,” he soothes. She soaks his shirt with tears. Her enemy and her hero.

--Lindsey Morrone, San Jose, CA


Make a Wish

The fire started with one match, dropped casually, almost on accident. It took an hour for anyone to notice, and thirty minutes more for the fire engine to arrive. By then it was too late. You love fire. Happy birthday.

--Katie Sparrow, Santa Cruz, CA


Woman’s Revenge

"Got a light?" joked the spelunker, as sudden dark embraced them both. The teen he was guiding said, "One match," though she had two. She'd light one for him to fix his hardhat headlamp by. Then she'd shoot him, put it on her own head, and have a smoke. She said aloud in the dark, "I like that hat."

--T.C. Marshall, Felton, CA


A Tight Space

Planks above, dirt below. Elbows chaffed raw. Nails gone. I'd scratch with bone if I thought it'd help. Screaming for rescue, I can taste blood in my phlegm. There's barely room to move and it's dark but for the light of one match. Yes, oxygen dwindles, but as long as the flame's alive so am I.

--Josh Barlas, Santa Cruz, CA


Non de Fume

Books and fire don't mix with kids now that the smoking age has been turned to eleven. Skip had a short wait the fourth time around, sweating with his box of sulfur and dirty stories, full of anticipation that maybe, just maybe this may be the resolution to the whole darn saga. He went next to the bar.

--Daren Commons, Portland, OR


Little Girls’ Room

Coughing noises will make up for the lack of pissing sounds coming from your stall. Pull the spoon and syringe from your panties and the matches from you bra, toss the cotton ball when you’re done, return the cap to syringe, flush, and keep your eyes open while washing beside the fat-ankled lady.

--Teesha Garfield, Topanga, CA


There’s Always Arson

The house was blown apart. Sir Bill and Lady Gloria were now domestic terrorists. Arson the salve of the divorce—see!: flaming panties and ignited Dodgers box scores dancing in the dusk like fireflies. Adultery. “Well?” said Gloria. Bill kissed her one last time before the flames finished it all.

--Joseph Mattson, Los Angeles, CA

Monday, November 8, 2010

Matchbook Story Issue No. 3

Susan McCloskey works at Bookshop Santa Cruz and is close to completing the licensing process for becoming a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. She studied literature and creative writing at UCSC, before turning toward psychology. She believes in story, and says, "Matchbook Story was a welcomed reentry back to my own creative process."