GETTY WAS AN OCTOPUS BY JIN AN HIRST 34THPARALLEL MAGAZINE ISSUE 52
He took out his lunch bag from the boot and ate sitting in the car with the window down. It was quiet in the alley with a breeze coming through the wind channel. Adam no longer bothered going home on the outskirts of LA. This saved gas.
He browsed some news on his mobile phone as he ate. His favourite was the technology section which he went to first. He started a video clip of an interview with Amov Khalid, trillionaire Californian native technology entrepreneur, announcing his long-anticipated transport project using self-driving electronic vehicles called GoPods. He had that blasé way of speaking that lots of people in LA had: slow, laid back, and confident.
“OK, imagine if all the roads and the streets in LA were completely empty.”
RICAS PAPAS FRITAS BY NICOLAS POYNTER 34THPARALLEL MAGAZINE ISSUE 52
JIN AN HIRST
I’m constantly thinking about “the right way to live” and why we are here. I see the divisions in society and the conflicts they create, and hope that we as human beings will eventually elevate ourselves to a bigger purpose and embrace love.
My inspirations come from old wisdom, the likes of Tolstoy and Emerson, and I believe we learn from the past as humanity ties us all together despite how much media and politics try to make us think otherwise.
I try to bring poetic qualities into my stories so certain paragraphs or sentences are crafted to create a particular feeling or resonance.
I’m also interested in technology and how it affects our language and connection with each other so my stories play on technological gadgetry that are actual or imagined and I dabble in science fiction at times.
LAWRENCE F FARRAR
After 30 years as an American Foreign Service officer, I was more than familiar with expository writing: political analysis, speech drafts, policy recommendations, and the like. And there was a wealth of experience to draw on from a career with multiple postings in Japan and Washington, DC, tours of duty in Germany and Norway, and short-term assignments that took me to 35 countries. But I had never tried my hand at creative writing.
Deciding it was never too late, I enrolled in a short-story class at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. With that class as a launching pad, I have since published more than 70 stories and I am shopping a novel set in 1930s Japan.
There was plenty of material to draw on: coping with terrorist threats in Germany and Japan, traveling to Iran in the days before the embassy takeover, dealing with a variety of military base issues, supporting a Rhodesian peace conference in Tanzania (guys on the elevators all carried guns), accompanying Brzezinski to China for normalization talks (shaking hands with Deng Xiaoping while there), escorting Kissinger, helicoptering into the DMZ (North Koreans were an unfriendly bunch), handling overseas presidential visits (including the Bush Sr trip to Japan when Bush threw up on the Japanese Prime Minister), assisting Americans in foreign jails, and much more.
My stories often involve a protagonist encountering the customs of a foreign society. My story The Girl with No Name in Issue 17 of the 34thParallel Magazine was just such a story.
Other stories of mine have been published in Tampa Review Online, Green Hills Literary Lantern, Curbside Splendor, Blue Lake Review, Big Muddy, Straylight, O-Dark-Thirty, Flyleaf, Eastlit, Streetlight, Hawaii Pacific Review, The MacGuffin, Jelly Bucket, Zone 3, Cheat River Review, Smoky Blue, South 85, Newfound, and Pamplemousse.
Drawing on my venture into the vineyards of writing fiction, I seek to encourage others who have come late to creative writing. With that purpose in mind, I published a short essay in A View from the Loft entitled, Writing Across the Age Divide.
I have a Dartmouth BA and while a Stanford grad student spent a year at the Inter-University Center for Japanese Language Study in Tokyo.
MARY KAY WULF
My writing is no doubt a direct consequence of reading. Books are a passion in my life, provoking curiosity and providing company. Over the years, I’ve grown hideously picky about what I read. Gorgeous prose is usually the first criterion, after which I’ll reach for character-driven fiction. If I like one book by an author I’ll very likely read most of what that author has written. I spent 1994 reading Anthony Trollope.
Humor is something I look for when I read. I think most readers recognize and appreciate humor for its universality. Muriel Spark and Vladimir Nabokov are masters of the comic and bizarre; The Finishing School by Spark, and Pale Fire by Nabokov are fine examples of just going nuts.
When I begin to write I choose a POV and then take the shape or essence of people I know and plunge them into odd, exaggerated, or desperate circumstances.
They naturally evolve into characters. Once a writer is well acquainted with his or her characters writing them becomes instinctual and consistent. I spent years acting, and it’s similar in that once you’ve inhabited a role every word and gesture is right whether it has been rehearsed or not.
A little more than a year ago I completed an MFA in Creative Writing at Antioch University LA. My professors were brilliant and taught me how much I didn’t know about the craft of writing fiction. I’m now a guest lecturer at Antioch.
I’ve written one novel and I’m working on a second. My stories and essays have been published in Lunch Ticket, Annotation Nation, Drunk Monkeys, and The Piedmont Journal of Poetry and Fiction.
I wrote this poem after my mother told me a story in which she and my father missed each other entirely while eating dinner in the same restaurant. Something about the image of the two of them dining simultaneously, but apart, seemed to me both tragic and comic. I loved that they had ordered for each other. I was haunted by the thought of them staring across separate tables at emptiness.
My books include The Owl Question (May Swenson Award), Orpheus, Turning (Dogfish Poetry Prize), and Darwin’s Daughter (SFA University Press).
Just before I dropped out of high school, an English teacher asked me to stay after class for a talk even though I had never spoken to her before. What had happened was that the class had been given a writing assignment and she simply wanted to tell me that she had liked my story. I can’t remember exactly what she said but I know what it felt like: You ain’t got much kid. But you got this! Kid, you are a giant mess, but you got this one thing going for you! God bless her for that.
I have kept it, the thing, with me all this time, even during a 10-year span when I didn’t write at all, I always thought about writing. I graduated from the Red Earth MFA program in 2014 and my work has steadily improved. I have had stories accepted in more than two dozen publications including North American Review, Citron Review, Eleven-Eleven, Mary: A Journal of New Writing, Literary Orphans, Cortland Review and So It Goes, the journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library. My story Loma Prieta Blues won the 2013 Vuong Prize (MLA).
In 2016, I left the States to teach physics in Peru (my undergraduate degrees are in science). My mother is from Peru and I still have a great deal of family there so the idea was to start again from zero and forget all about my turbulent past, but of course there was more turbulence and in fact I suffered more that year than I can ever remember suffering and was practically homeless for several months, jumping from boarding room to cheap hotel.
I somehow ended up in Mexico City teaching at the American school there. The school was a perfect fit for me and I really thought I had it there for a moment—happiness.
But there was an earthquake. A giant wall fell onto my apartment and destroyed it while I was at the school. I lost all the money I had saved and was again scrambling for a place to live, which precipitated a complete unraveling because my life is fragile like that and once things start going bad, I don’t know how to stop the momentum. It broke my heart. I spent my last days in Mexico City walking through the city with my camera, taking photographs and writing “Ricas Papas Fritas.”
As I say all this now, I am returning to Peru. I am going to the mountains to write my book. I don’t have a job this time, or health insurance, or very much money, but I still have this one thing.
PHILIP L BODDY JR
Eng.183 Intro to Fiction with Laura was one of the happiest classes for me. Ages of the students ranged from 17 to 73. The primary rule: “Write what you know and feel.”
My crazy third-grade year in Lincoln Park, Chicago, hustling pocket change while attending a posh private school with millionaires’ offspring came to me as a full color movie in my head screaming to be put on paper.
Rule #2: Take your fav memories, change a few things to protect the guilty (Chicago style), and “voila!” one has a lively fiction to share.
The rough draft was just under 12,000 words! Hey, it was my first time. The limit for a fiction in class was 3000
Laura and some classmates took on the role of mentors, teachers, drill sergeants, and the “Miss Betty” (quite real) in the story. Laura also challenged the class with an “A” if any fiction pieces were published in GCC’s annual student-run art magazine, Traveler.
When my word count dropped just under 3000, Laura ordered me to self-edit, don’t TOUCH anything, and submit it.
The last day of class she announced while walking around, “Oh, and Nut-Bar over here popped a third place for the 2005 Traveler this Spring!”
Since then this story has had about eight complete revisions using skills and ideas from other writing classes up to now.