Bartleby Snopes Writing Blog

Becoming a Better Writer

Month: December 2015

Books To Read, Books to Give, Women Who Flash Their Lit

Looking for a book? The authors of the Women Who Flash Their Lit forum have them for you.


Masquerading FawnArt is the ultimate paradox of humanity. It constantly seeks to find kinship with the ephemeral quicksand while simultaneously pausing to contemplate over the mismatched heartbeats of each granule. Even more so, literary art, for it becomes the responsibility of 26 meager alphabets to rummage through the uneven contours of the chambers hidden by human emotions to confront them in all their masquerading complexity.

This poetry chapbook attempts to narrate the journey of human emotions to an eager language, by catching them off-guard in moments of extreme vulnerability and strength.

Shinjini Bhattacharjee OnlineBuy the Book & Kindle edition at AmazonShinjini Bhattacharjee’s Amazon Page



Rattle Of WantPublished by Pure Slush Books, Rattle of Want ranges from brilliant brief experiments (such as Abbreviated Glossary and Appendages) to a novella-in-flash (The Old Road) for the canon in that new genre. Altogether these stories mine the wants and desires in the breakups of families, rebellions of youth, and occasional ascents of the spirit. Often they beautifully, and simply, nail a place, as in Small Town (a perfect evocation of the title), report an impending explosion, as in Kindling (a quintessential flash), or capture a character (if you haven’t met Blusterfuck … do so at your own peril). Few writers can do all that Gay Degani does. ~ Robert Shapard, editor of Flash Fiction International: Very Short Stories from Around the World

Gay Degani OnlineRattle Of Want Press ReleaseBuy Book at Pure SlushBuy Kindle edition at AmazonGay Degani’s Amazon page


Every Kiss A War

Nominated for the prestigious 2014 PEN Open Book Award, the twenty-seven stories in Leesa Cross-Smith’s debut short story collection Every Kiss a War are set to the sounds of “frogs and crickets out back, steam-pulsing like a machine” and “a sad country song that hasn’t been written yet.” Men and women love and leave over cigarettes and shots of kitchen table whiskey. She takes us down Kentucky roads in the back of a pickup truck to both truculent and delicate women and rough, rambling men edged with gentleness. A finalist for the Flannery O’Connor Short Fiction Award and the Iowa Short Fiction Award, this collection is a ravishing war of characters laid bare as they look for the glow and fight to stay in the light. As affecting as they are sexy and romantic, these stories burn with sweetness like firecrackers and honey as you throw them back and holler for another round.

Leesa Cross-Smith OnlineBuy Book at Mojave River PressBuy Kindle edition at AmazonBuy Nook edition at Barnes and NobleLeesa Cross-Smith’s Amazon Page



A stunning collaboration from Robert Vaughan and Kathy Fish, two masters of flash fiction, who’ve blended their work together in a vibrant explosion that is all of these things:  evocative, heart wrenching, rare in the wild. The stories in RIFT explore the gamut of human connection and conflict, where emotions run deep beneath the surface. Divided into four sections: Fault, Breach, Tremor, and Cataclysm, writers Fish and Vaughan thread together their tales of strange encounters, mishaps, accidents, and disrepair. The world of RIFT is riven, tumultuous, and haunting. In here, danger lurks and the fallible human heart lay exposed and vulnerable. Fish and Vaughan leave their readers spellbound, mystified, and eager for the next story.”

Kathy Fish OnlineRobert Vaughn OnlineBuy Book at Unknown Everything PressBuy Kindle edition at AmazonKathy Fish’s Amazon Page


Ghost Box Evolution In Cadillac, MichiganWinner of the ninth annual Rose Metal Press short chapbook contest, judged by Pamela Painter. Forrest’s limited edition chapbook features 2-color letterpress covers and specialty end sheets. Like the self-destructive teen protagonist of its unforgettable opening story, the flash fictions in Rosie Forrest’s indelible contest-winning collection Ghost Box Evolution in Cadillac, Michigan speak with a steady focus. As solitary and enticing as the abandoned big-box megastores of the chapbook’s title story, these dark and magical stories echo with loneliness and the strangeness of human experience. Forrest’s young characters test their own limits and yearn for what’s just beyond reach. They orbit each other, searching for connection and silently passing by. With its dreamlike images and realities that twist and swerve, this collection offers a glimpse beneath the arc of becoming.

Rosie Forrest OnlineBuy Book at Rose Metal PressBuy Book at Amazon


The Way Home

Ashley Inguanta’s first collection, The Way Home is a book and part of Inguanta’s, which seeks to “reinvent, revisit, and learn to understand home all over again through art.” The collection features both text by Inguanta and images by Karen Prosen.

Ashley Inguanta OnlineThe Way Home ProjectBuy the Book at DulcetBuy the Kindle edition at AmazonAshley Inguanta’s Amazon Page





Suitable For GivingWhether she’s talking about loss of privacy in the Internet age, “Gone are the days when people only knew things about me that I wanted them to know. Now I can be Googled – and without benefit of lubrication,” or growing up Catholic, “Sticking a symbol of a brutally murdered dead guy over the bed of an impressionable young child and telling her ‘He died for your sins’ kind of messes with a kid for life,” Jayne Martin’s debut book of humor essays will have you laughing out loud from page one. A sharp observer of a world changing faster than new versions of the iPhone, Martin has gleaned this collection from over two years of posts on her popular blog aptly titled “injaynesworld… where nothing is sacred,” where she takes on everything from private parts to politics. With a voice that is both unique and accessible, Martin has crafted a body of work that will appeal to readers of all ages. A funny, fresh, often outrageous compilation, this book is most definitely “Suitable For Giving.”

Jayne Martin OnlineBuy the Book & the Kindle edition at AmazonJayne Martin’s Amazon Page


Vixen Scream

Hilarious, irreverent, twisted, bawdy, brilliant – these short shorts by Nancy Stohlman feel like a series of off-kilter encounters with the strangest characters you swear you’ve met before in a previous, more interesting lifetime. With sly humor and daring, Stohlman weaves tiny tales reminiscent of Etgar Keret, but with her own inimitable stamp. The Vixen Scream and other Bible Stories is an amazing collection. Do not deny yourself the pleasure of reading it. – Kathy Fish, author of ‘Together We Can Bury It’ The Vixen Scream is a collection of compelling and strikingly original stories – an imagination functioning at full throttle. Nancy Stohlman is a word-alchemist, and here is her book of wonders! – Robert Scotellaro, author of ‘Measuring the Distance.’

Nancy Stohlman OnlineBuy the Book & Kindle edition at AmazonNancy Stohlman’s Amazon Page


Lined Up Like Scars

Sassy and incisive, tender yet scalpel-sharp, the ten short tales inLined Up Like Scars cut to the quick of modern life, dissecting the dysfunctional dynamics of an American family with a tragic secret at its heart. Meg Tuite traces girlhood, young womanhood, and the jealous loyalties of sisterhood through a series of ‘magpie moments’ that are often darkly funny – featuring inedible meatloaf, sloughed skin, mysterious boy-bodies, insurgent underwear, speed-dating with attitude, the street-stomping antics of a wannabe band, and an unnerving collector of American Girl dolls. But the comic coping strategies of children (licking walls, ingesting gym socks, humping stuffed animals) have chronic counterparts in those of adults (alcoholism, prescription drugs). And in the final story, an ageing father reveals a truth that his daughters will forever conceal behind Facebook façades.

Meg Tuite OnlineBuy the BookMeg Tuite’s Amazon Page




Building a House of Stars with Tawnysha Greene (Contributor Series Interview Series #9)

Back in 2012, we published Tawnysha Greene’s 275-word story “Wilderness.” It was a wonderful piece that said so much in those few words. Three years later, Greene’s debut novel, which features the same family from “Wilderness,” is receiving rave reviews. And rightfully so. We were lucky enough to get the chance to chat with Tawnysha about the novel. Here’s what she had to say:

A House Made of Stars is a beautiful title. Tell us about the inspiration. 

Thank you! The title came from research I did on the constellations my narrator would look to in the sky. I was intrigued by the Greek mythology behind these constellations and the stories I found ended up being an excellent parallel for the novel. A House Made of Stars Cover

One of the constellations my narrator looks to often is Cepheus, named after a king who chained his daughter to the sea. It also resembles a tilted house, and I imagined this image to be illustrative of the narrator’s own family. Her family is like that house: headed by a powerful father, but also broken and askew.

What did you find most challenging about telling this story through a young narrator?  

One of the most difficult things was knowing how much emotion to allow my character to feel. With the severity of the abuse and her young age, it would have been easy to make her very emotional throughout the book, but I was afraid that this would damage her ability to tell this story. So I eliminated as much emotion from her as possible. The lack of emotion would also be telling, because it would show that these occurrences of violence were not out of the ordinary for her.

However, there were some scenes in which I made her too stoic, so in some of the later revisions, I added more hints of emotion for her–fear, anger, and happiness–to better humanize her and allow her to connect with readers. I hope that I found a good medium.

This is a fantastic book, but it’s not an easy read. How do you handle writing such difficult subject matter?

With topics like poverty, mental illness, and abuse, it is easy to tiptoe around these subjects, because it would be simpler to just sweep them under the rug, but we need to talk about these issues.

My narrator’s mother does this often in A House Made of Stars. She lies to cover up their money struggles and her children’s abuse. She teaches her children to do the same to protect the narrator’s father. However, in doing so, she keeps the family trapped in this cycle of struggle that continues until someone has the courage to break it. These issues and the stigma surrounding them silence far too many families, because they are afraid to speak up.

I owed it to my narrator to speak up. So I wrote about poverty, mental illness, and abuse in the opposite way her mother would have described them. I wrote about them honestly. I wrote about them with a sense of rawness that could only be described by a child. I wanted these scenes to be hard to read so that even if you wanted to turn away from them, you couldn’t. Because we shouldn’t turn away from these things. We need to see them, we need to hear these voices, and we need to know when to speak up ourselves.

Although most of the reviews for A House Made of Stars have been overwhelmingly positive, you did get a 2-star review on Goodreads that said, “I liked this book but it was sad and hopeless.” What do you say to a reader who views this story as sad and hopeless? And how does a review like this fuel you as a writer? 

The book is sad and conveys some hopeless things, so I don’t disagree with this reader there. However, the book is also one about hope, strength, courage, and resilience, and I couldn’t have conveyed these things without the sadness and devastation that came before it. Triumph cannot be fully acknowledged without also acknowledging the struggles it took it get there.

I try not to pay attention to ratings, because I know that it is impossible to please everyone. Readers all have different expectations, but even so, I am grateful to this reader for the two stars and the review. At least this reader gave the book a chance in reading it, and I appreciate that.

I first became familiar with your work through your submissions to Bartleby Snopes. How do lit mags play a role in your career as a novelist? What do you think is the value in lit mags as a whole right now? 

Literary magazines are an invaluable asset to writers, because they allow one to make connections in the literary world and gain a readership.

I could not have written and published A House Made of Stars if not for the generosity of the editors who published pieces of the novel beforehand. Often, my work still needed revision when I submitted these excerpts to literary journals, and many of these editors had some wonderful ideas for making the narrative better and the characters more vivid, so I am very grateful for the lessons they have taught me.

These editors have alTawnysha Greene Author Photoso been extraordinarily kind and generous in promoting the work of their former contributors, too. Several of them have published reviews of the book and posted interviews as well as promoted the book on their social media. The literary community is a wonderful family, and I am so appreciative their support.

Bartleby Snopes is no exception. You have given me so much help in your editorial feedback, and your generosity in writing and publishing this interview is so humbling. Thank you.

What’s next for Tawnysha Greene? I’ve heard you’re working on a new novel. Any spoilers?

I am working on a new novel, a sequel that takes place twenty years after A House Made of Stars has ended. As an adult survivor of abuse, the narrator grapples with issues such as healing, forgiveness, and hope, and this is a difficult journey for her. I am in the first draft stage of the novel and am still figuring out how her story will end, but I am looking forward to learning from this book and everything my narrator still has to teach me.

Tawnysha, thank you for chatting with us. Congratulations on the success of A House Made of Stars, and good luck on the next book. 

Tawnysha Greene teaches creative writing at the University of Tennessee. Her work has appeared in PANK, Bellingham Review, and Weave Magazine. Her first novel, A House Made of Stars, was released by Burlesque Press in 2015. Find out more about her her: