The Art of Pollution

July 31st, 2015

Jonesbridge: Echoes of Hinterland

The sky is your canvas, and on a clear day, a clean cerulean slate with which to work. Every decision affects the composition of your masterpiece: a valley cut by a river, sandwiched between strip-mined hills. Smokestacks should be spread apart for maximum coverage and staggered, allowing the roiling gray clouds, each on a unique trajectory and column of air, to facilitate collisions in unexpected ways, whipping up a black dragon to swallow the sky, the setting sun an opaque disk in its throat, its tail reaching beyond the horizon carried by a breeze. This allows soot, the moss of progress, to gather from ashen rain on the leeward sides of the stacks.

Your complex must have access to a body of water, preferably a river, one with a ponderous current, almost stagnant, not diluting but churning your chemical soup, allowing it to seep into the water table, perhaps even leaving ochreous rings in the drinking water tanks. Shimmering eddies of heavy metals swirl along the shore, the stain glass on your cathedral to production, fish scales, metallic green and orange, the colors of the war machine.

Your plant must also find itself in calm, settling air, a valley perhaps where wind will not dissipate so quickly your contribution to the sky. Fog and mist rising from the warm water, air heavy with vapor and smoke, must meet in the middle, must join and fuse as though your valley cups in its hands, the fruits of production…

One for all, and ALL for Industry! In Jonesbridge, they have perfected the art of pollution. Take a deep cleansing breath of sulfur dioxide, taste the iron. Wander through the soot-cloaked streets of brick, once red, as the gargoyles of Industry peer over the factory roofs. Stroll the alleyways of war wreckage in the salvage pit where you might find a relic of the Old Age and a hint to the magic their technology wielded, and if the sky clears long enough to see the Great Gorge, stare into the horizon dreaming of the world beyond.

While the magazine is in hiatus (we would never rule out a comeback) I wanted to give a Camera Crew update. In this case M.E. Parker’s novel Jonesbridge: Echoes of Hinterland was released in July.

  • Share/Save/Bookmark

Meredith Doench Interviews Jacqueline Kolosov

October 21st, 2013

In 2006 I was nearing the end of my graduate studies at Texas Tech University and Jacqueline Kolosov was the new creative writing professor on campus. Rumor had it she published in all genres. As a prose girl myself, I couldn’t imagine publishing any of my sad, cliché-filled poetry and I was fascinated by this woman who could seemingly do it all. I quickly learned that Kolosov’s writing ability was more than a rumor—she wrote it all. And she still does. Kolosov is on her third poetry publication, Memory of Blue, as well as an impressive list of novels, chapbooks, creative fiction and nonfiction in anthologies as well as literary journals Jacqueline Kolosov

Jacqueline Kolosov

What struck me most on my first reading of “Lessons from the Master” was Kolosov’s vivid use of detail (Camera Obscura, Issue 6). It is through these descriptions that she constructs her protagonist, Leslie Oliver, a woman who has the ability not only to create life, but to sustain it. Her colorful and specific gardening descriptions captured my attention from the start: “Before leaving home, I contemplated digging up at least one of the roses, not the temperamental Bourbon but the all-flowering, hardy Centifolia, or perhaps the lush, fragrant Damask, but ultimately decided that they, too, must remain part of my past life.” Kolosov’s well-crafted prose is as precise as it is gentle.

It certainly isn’t only the descriptions of gardens that Kolosov paints so well. “Lessons from the Master” includes details regarding many other forms of art such as food, painting, and the written works of Henry James. It is the ease with which these elements are woven together that really make this first person narrator come to life—Leslie’s love of art is how the reader “learns” her.

Kolosov took some time out from her busy schedule to answer some of my questions in the hopes of obtaining a better understanding of how her story was put together.

Doench: I’m fascinated by all the references to art in “Lessons from the Master”: written works, paintings, galleries, and even the art of gardening. There are so many blooms of color in every paragraph. Was it difficult to weave in so many different types of art into this story?

Kolosov: These references came very naturally. Santa Fe is a haven for artists and art lovers, and visual art is one of my abiding passions. Now that I live in the Southwest, I make several treks a year to Santa Fe and spend a good deal of time meandering through galleries and looking into windows. As for gardens, and that art form, they, too, are present in Santa Fe, though in a much subtler form given the desert climate and the necessity for water conservation. I happen to love cacti and Russian sage and the hollyhocks and other drought-resistant plants that thrive there. At the same time, gardening—creating a thriving beautiful space—seemed very natural to “Lessons from the Master” and to the main character’s challenges. So, I suppose I’m saying that gardening and visual art are both about process, patience, beauty, and attention, qualities I associate with Henry James—who stands behind the story—and qualities I associate with my main character.

Doench: It’s interesting that the protagonist, Leslie Oliver, takes on her late husband’s love of the author Henry James. There are so many references throughout “Lessons from the Master” to James and his style of writing. Did you do research into the life and works of James for this story?

During my 20s when I was finishing my masters degree in literature at the University of Chicago, and had the luxury of lots of time to read, I devoured Henry James, became obsessed with him, all thanks to Professor John Wallace, a marvelous scholar who told me to read Portrait of a Lady. I couldn’t put that novel down and proceeded to read practically every other novel by James and more than one biography over the course of the next five years. So my research was informal and already deeply integrated into my personality by the time I wrote “Lessons from the Master.” In some ways, the story is a tribute to James, though I now find him more difficult to read, perhaps because I don’t have that luxury of time now, not with a 6 year old, 3 dogs, a horse (yes!), and a full-time academic job. Like Leslie, I assume I’ll return to James later in life, to Portrait of a Lady and especially to his trilogy of late novels, among them The Golden Bowl and The Wings of the Dove. The subtle way that James does treachery is one of the qualities in his work that I most admire, and Jamesian treachery is at the heart of Leslie’s challenge in the story.

Doench: In many ways, by the end of this story Leslie and her husband are “even.” They have both had extramarital affairs and indiscretions. In the beginning of the story, Leslie seems to be keeping track of these indiscretions and comparing her level of commitment with her husband’s. After his sudden death, Leslie meets the Yusipov family and soon compares the relationship to “the beginning of a love affair.” Is this “love affair” another way for Leslie to even the score between her and her late husband? What does Leslie find in this family that she is desperately missing in her life?

Kolosov:This is a fascinating take on the story and one that I had never considered. What Leslie is allured by in the Yusipovs, at least initially, is their Old World breeding, charm, lifestyle. The art of conversation and good food, the appreciation of gardens, of art—all of these take time. They are, to some extent, luxuries in our fast-paced mass culture. Now, don’t I sound like a disciple of James! James actually anticipated some of these dangers of mass culture, most notably in his critique of the sensationalism already at work in the media during his time. So, no, I didn’t think of Leslie evening the score with her late husband by entering into the “love affair” with the family. Rather, they are—on the surface—rather like characters out of Henry James. They have “class”—at least on the surface—and they appreciate the domestic comforts and what Laurie Colwin (another fabulous writer) called domestic sensualism. Leslie is drawn to this, and of course she is drawn to the Yusipov’s daughter, Tanya, and it is the daughter who compels her the most. In James, children very often embody or bear the burden of their parents’ vices and treacheries, and the neglect in this child’s case is very much a Jamesian echo. Leslie is very clearly lonely, and the family seems to fill that vacancy. When the parents disappoint her, she turns to Tanya and tries, futilely, to hold onto her.

Doench: I was just as taken with the Yusipov family as Leslie. The level of detail used to describe Sasha, Michael, and Tanya pulled me in from the start. We soon learn, however, that it has all been smoke and mirrors and I felt just as betrayed by them as Leslie. That’s a hard turn in a short story to pull off! As the writer, were you surprised by Tanya and Michael’s behavior as well?

Kolosov: Fabulous question! I wrote this story 14 months ago, so it’s a little difficult to recall the process now. I knew that I wanted treachery and betrayal of the subtle Jamesian variety in this story, and that was, to an extent, the starting point, along with Leslie’s situation and her background—widow of a James scholar, artist. Thinking back, I always knew that Sasha would be a dangerous figure, but I think Michael’s treachery snuck up on me. THAT was unexpected. I’m glad it worked for you

Doench: I love the ending of this story; Leslie returns to her late husband, at least in spirit. She salvages the original plan to travel to Venice and plans to read her husband’s beloved James. How does this story speak to the endurance of love and the resilience of the human spirit?

Kolosov: Another strong question—Venice is a complex city in James, and I was striving for that echo in the novel’s close. The Wings of The Dove, like Portrait of a Lady, both incorporate Venice. It is an old European city, one of the oldest, and so its ways are difficult to comprehend, particularly for ‘naïve’ Americans. Leslie is, to a large extent, a naïve American at the start of the story. The Yusipovs have initiated her into the duplicities and treacheries that one finds in James. I suppose, in having Leslie return to Venice at the end, she is yes, returning to the city that she loved—years ago—but she is returning changed. She is more like Venice, that Dowager in Black Lace, Venice, that city of secrets and treacheries. Leslie has lost her innocence. So there’s an intentional dark note here. But the darkness is not all that abides. She does return to her husband by carrying with her the works of Henry James which she will revisit and dwell upon with a changed mind and heart.

Doench: What other writing projects are you currently working on? Is there anything you’d like to add?

Kolosov: Oh, so many! “Lessons from the Master” is part of a story collection entitled Love, The BitterSweet. Right now, I’m seeking a home for that mss, and I’m simultaneously revising a story—this one influenced by Joyce Carol Oates and set in Lubbock where I live and teach—that I will likely include in the collection. I am also working on a collection of essays focused on motherhood, art, the life cycle—and Virginia Woolf. The title is “Motherhood, and the Places Between.” The last essay in the collection explores my relationship with horses. I began the collection when I was trying to have another child (I miscarried), and in the midst of the writing one of my best friend’s died very suddenly, and I found myself in a very dark place. Horses pulled me out of that place—or they largely did. So much of my writing now is focused on them, largely in creative nonfiction though also in poetry. And yes, I’m writing poems. My third collection, Memory of Blue, is coming out in the fall, and I’m working on the fourth.

What I’d add—write what you’re passionate about and ignore “Write what you know.” Passion will be a great teacher here. And read, read, read, widely and with abandon. Don’t just read contemporary work. Go back to James, Hawthorne, Shakespeare, the metaphysical poets….

  • Share/Save/Bookmark

Meredith Doench Interviews Sarah Scoles

August 8th, 2013

I’ve read a lot of stories about love.  Actually, I’ve read a lot of stories about love gone bad.  It’s what I expect from a tale about relationships.  And the thing is, I like to read about love gone bad.  These stories speak to the catastrophic thinker in me, the one who sees some people in love as “neurochemically brainwashed suckers.”

Sarah Scoles

So it’s surprising how much I really connected with Sarah Scoles’ short story, “When the World is Covered,” ultimately a tale of love gone good.  This first person narrative is so rich with neurosis and internal conflict that I couldn’t put it down.

The narrator of “When the World is Covered” approaches love as if it’s a hair-trigger minefield.  Her past hurts so fresh it’s palpable.  She thinks that even in the “unlikely event” you end up with the person you fall in love with, “…they will betray you in one way or another.  And it will come as not only an emotional but a philosophical shock.  I don’t think anyone ever recovers from that.”  And yet… she does.  Somehow she finds the courage to navigate this minefield of love despite her past and all her fears.

Scoles is an associate editor at Astronomy Magazine and her work has appeared in many literary journals such as Alaska Quarterly Review, Whiskey Island, and DIAGRAM.  She took some time out from her busy schedule to answer a few questions.

Meredith Doench: What strikes me most about “When the World is Covered” is the voice of the first-person narrator. It’s an understatement to call her a Nervous Nellie! How did this character come about?

Sarah Scoles: I think we all, to some extent, have a neurotic person who lives inside our brains. And whether we’re conscious of all the neuronal back-and-forth that happens before we make a social move, I think some part of all of us is running at race-pace, considering all possible outcomes and consequences. Many people are able to dismiss this shadow neurotic person, but others (most writers, for instance) feel that person’s presence most of the time. The narrator gets at that two-toned nature of personhood at the end of the story, when she drinks some whiskey and feels “like another, warmer person is growing outward from a tiny seed in [her] stomach into a fully fledged person who is exactly [her] shape and lives under [her] skin. This person is less worried than [she is]…”

Maybe it’s just me projecting my own neuroticism onto everyone else, but I think we all have a part of us that’s a worrier, an overanalyzer, a person who is sure the worst will happen.

Generally, in real life, people appear calm and collected and “normal” on the outside, but there’s often much more, much less calm stuff going on beneath the surface. I’m interested in the differences between what happens in our heads and the small part of that internal monologue, dialogue, and debate that actually manifests itself in the outside world. In most of our casual day-to-day interactions, we have no idea what’s going on in others’ lives and brains. I think about it a lot at airports. People get on planes for all kinds of reasons. There are the vacations, of course, the business trips. But then there are the funerals. Chances are, someone on your flight is headed to a funeral, but generally you wouldn’t be able to pick out who they are.

Doench: The protagonist’s anxiety leads to so much catastrophic thinking about what might happen to Laura, the woman she’s falling in love with. It’s ironic that both the protagonist and Laura are faced with true catastrophes: a blizzard that sharply turns into a flood. How do both her real and imagined catastrophes highlight her feelings regarding falling in love?

Scoles: Her real and imagined catastrophes have one big thing in common—they’re both based on the narrator’s fear that she will lose Laura. Like she says in the beginning, “Nothing, except knowing someone who dies, makes you think about dying more than falling in love. The way you want them around so much makes you so afraid that they are going to die that you become fairly sure that they are constantly about to die.” But the fear of someone else’s death is mostly the fear of not having them in your life anymore. The narrator is afraid that Laura will meet someone more charming at a book club, and then Laura will be gone. The narrator is afraid that someone has bashed Laura’s head in with a can of tamales, and then Laura will be gone. These are, fundamentally, the same fear.

When you fall in love with someone, you are at the mercy of forces beyond your control. Another person’s will and feelings, for instance. As the narrator says, “You give your whole self to that person and trust them with it.” Physical catastrophes—like floods and mobs of people wielding canned goods—are similarly outside the sphere of influence.

Doench: I’m fascinated by the juxtaposition between the protagonist’s imagined catastrophes and the reality of what faces her and Laura. For instance, in the beginning of the story, she imagines what might happen to Laura when she goes to the store and tells her not to die. Then we find out Laura almost did die the night before. There’s such a dance between these two elements—real and imagined. As the writer, was it difficult to “ground” this protagonist? How does Laura work to ground her?

Scoles: The reader comes to know the narrator primarily by her internal monologue. Long stretches of the story are entirely imagined. But “the world” is taking place around the narrator while she is imagining these scenarios and going on philosophical flights. The world hasn’t stopped moving, and the scene hasn’t stopped just because the narrator is lost in a reverie. It was important to me that the reader go on these neurotic journeys with the narrator, but also that the reader then be snapped back into “reality” the same way the narrator is. The narrator’s interactions with Laura function that way. For instance, during the flood, the narrator is thinking about islands and sunburns and volcanic eruptions, but then she abruptly leaves the world of her mind and goes back into the real world, because she realizes she needs to get them both out of the inundated house. She speaks to Laura, commands her to put on ski pants (logically).

The only time the narrator is not wrapped up in her own head is when she’s interacting with Laura. Laura draws her back into the speaking, touching, physical world, which is slower and calmer than her thoughts, even when she’s standing in the middle of a flood zone.

Doench:I love what this story has to say about the endurance of love, how every obstacle is overcome. The protagonist recognizes it as a boundary that she crosses toward the end of the story: “…it seemed impossible that just by stepping a few feet up a slope, we could be standing completely above what would later be declared a disaster area.” Yet she chooses to take that step over the boundary. How does this story speak to the power of love and fear in the human condition?

Scoles: Toward the beginning of the story, the narrator and Laura have a conversation about how “first love” is different from any other love you fall into, because, on average, your heart gets horribly broken and your idea that you will grow old with your senior prom date (or that person from your Psych 201 class, if you’re a late bloomer) turns out to be misinformed. When humans fall into their first mutual love, they often strip away more layers (both of clothing and of emotional walls) than they ever have before. And, as the narrator says of the beloved, “The fact that they could hurt you so much is the same reason you believe that they couldn’t possibly.”

But, usually, they do. Or maybe you’re the one who hurts them (how could you?).

Either way, the next time you fall in love, you know that you could confess all your secrets about how you peed in your pants in sixth grade and really just want to quit grad school and be a rodeo cowboy, and then the person you confessed to could leave and take those secrets with them. But we continue to fall in love anyway. So I guess what this story says about “the power of love and fear in the human condition” is that humans are or should be afraid of love, but not quite afraid enough to stop falling into it. Which I think is a good thing, a very good thing.

There are thousands of quote from famous people saying what I’m trying to say. Machiavelli (everyone’s role model): “Never was anything great achieved without danger.” Tennyson: “‘Tis better to have loved and lost // than never to have loved at all.” William Burroughs: “There is no intensity of love or feeling that does not involve the risk of crippling hurt. It is a duty to take this risk, to love and feel without defense or reserve.” I side, and my narrator sides, with the famous people.

Doench:What other writing projects are you working on?

Scoles: Right now, I’m working on polishing a collection of short stories, all of which have narrators who are neurotic to one degree or another (though usually to a lesser degree than this narrator), a novel about an astronomer who studies “cosmic aloneness,” and a new, barely started set of short stories based on narratives and concepts stolen (borrowed?) from Radiolab, with which I am obsessed. I also have a blog with a biologist friend, Brooke Napier, called Smaller Questions (, where we write about cool science—for non-scientists—that’s not receiving press coverage.

  • Share/Save/Bookmark

Bridge the Gap Co-Winners

May 9th, 2013

For the first time since the inception of Bridge the Gap, we have two winners. Two images, two distinct interpretations, two compelling stories. Have a look through the Bridge the Gap gallery (the top two stories in the upper left of the gallery at the bottom of the page). Dee Pratt’s “The Price of a Fine Coat” and Anna-Marie McLemore “The Maquila Queen”

The next bridge is currently open.


  • Share/Save/Bookmark

Camera Obscura Number 6 Takes Form

March 27th, 2013


With the photography competition deadline looming April 1, I’ll offer a peek at some of the stories slated to appear in the next issue starting with Sarah Scoles’ “When the World is Covered,” which begins:

“Nothing, except knowing someone who dies, makes you think about dying more than falling in love. When they are five minutes late, you are sure that they’ve crashed their car and been attacked by hordes of giant spiders. When they go out on a walk, you are sure that they will fall victim to armed robbery, or be taken captive by an evangelical cult. The way you want them around so much makes you so afraid that they are going to die that you become fairly sure that they are constantly about to die. That’s why I say, “Don’t die,” when Laura goes out after the flood to buy more nonperishables.

“I won’t,” she says, pushing her wallet into her back pocket. “I’m not really a die-er.”

“I know,” I say. “Thank you for that.”

Sarah Scoles is an associate editor at Astronomy magazine. She enjoys noticing details, stealing acquaintances’ anecdotes, running really far on woodland trails, talking to her dog, reading everything that’s fit to be read, and contemplating the universe’s expansion. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in the Alaska Quarterly Review, LIT, Whiskey Island, Upstreet, DIAGRAM, Eastown Fiction, LIT, Fringe, and Booth.

This issue will also include Ricardo Nuila’s “Tunk.”

“Or the guy who, when I asked if there was a history of head trauma, said, “Couple of barstools. Not really.”

Boston was his name. We rounded on him first each morning.

What Boston wanted was to teach me how to play Tunk. Tunk’s something they play on the streets. It’s an easy rummy.

The deal was, when he got out of here, we’d find a game beneath one of the overpasses. I’d pay in all well-dressed, using big words nobody understood—get them to think I just gave money away—then clean up: my book smarts, his street smarts kind of thing. Split everything down the middle. Our plan became so intricate, I forgot about the liver study.

Ricardo Nuila is an assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. He teaches internal medicine and medical humanities and works as a hospitalist. His stories have appeared in McSweeney’s, Ninth Letter, The Indiana Review, and Best American Short Stories, and his essays have appeared in The New England Journal of Medicine.

And Jacqueline Kolosov’s “Lessons from the Master”

“You would not have known me a year ago. A year ago I had a distinguished husband and a satisfying part-time job teaching painting and figure drawing at the university where he had tenure. A year ago I still awoke in the house where we had raised our daughter. Every morning from May until late September, I’d open the bedroom window onto the garden and look out at what I had created. In the shade were the well-established hostas, ferns, and columbine. The fence enclosing the garden was trellised with the decades’ old dowager roses—Bourbon, Damask, Floribunda, Sempervirens—I had admired since first visiting the Borghese Gardens during the early years of my marriage.

Jacqueline Kolosov’s creative prose and poetry have recently appeared in Cimarron Review,, and Literature & Belief.. An essay from her collection-in-progress, Motherhood and the Places Between, won Bellevue Literary Review’s 2012 nonfiction award. Her third poetry collection, Memory of Blue, is forthcoming from Salmon Poetry in May 2013.

More updates soon…

  • Share/Save/Bookmark

The Autumnal Issue – 2012

July 6th, 2012


The Autumnal 2012 issue of Camera Obscura Journal of Literature & Photography has now been curated and will include stories by Tamas Dobozy, David Ellis Dickerson, Anne Valente, Nathan Alling Long, Emily Koon, Omolola Ijeoma Ogunyemi, Jennifer Spiegel, and Keith Rosson. This fifth installment is due in late August, the perfect time for one of those great American summer road trips, and, if you pick up a copy, you will find yourself in the Orca Motor Inn of Wisconsin Dells where Keith Rosson’s intricate story “Hospitality” unravels:

“The orca is a monolith crafted in plaster. It rises from the roof of the motel, twenty-seven feet from base to snout, its flesh ridged and bumped, flaking paint to show its psoriatic underpinnings. Spattered in birdshit new and old, it has become the physical embodiment of all of Sam’s worries and loathing. It is as if the Orca Motor Inn were some sea that the beast was dissatisfied with. Its once-white belly is now yellowed and cracked, its fins sun bleached gray, it looks less majestic – what his father had presumably been hoping for when he’d built the motel forty years ago – than Mesozoic, something ancient and wrath-like and more than a little scary…”

There are 24 rooms in the Orca, most of which are now unoccupied, but Anne Valente’s archivist has probably catalogued everything that has ever happened in each one of them. “The Archivist” begins:

“Julie Powell: 587,436,974 breaths, from the first choking, light-filled gasp to the last exhalation, a dimmed sigh in the darkened oncology corridor of Lincoln Memorial.  91,467 kisses, a low number, her husband a man who shunned her affections, though Julie made up for this on the side with their part-time maid, a secret she kept until the moment of her death, alongside 44 others: that she’d cheated on a chemistry test in the eleventh grade, glancing over Eugene Harrold’s shoulder, that she hated her mother’s famous lemon cookies, that her husband only made her orgasm twice, though she pretended in shrieking climax more times than she’d been able to count (956 on file)…”

 The issue will also include the powerful work of over eighteen photographers to be mentioned in a week or so.

More updates soon…


  • Share/Save/Bookmark

Volume 5 Takes Shape

May 14th, 2012


We are hard at work with the difficult task of narrowing down the photography entries to the finalists, which will be announced soon. As usual, we received many striking images to consider and the competition is stiff. Many thanks for your patience. We will announce the finalists in the next week or two.

While you wait on the results of the photography competition, here’s a peek at the fifth installment of Camera Obscua Journal as it begins to take shape with the addition of Jennifer Spiegel’s “Killing Castro,” a story in her forthcoming collection THE FREAK CHRONICLES form Dzanc Books.
It begins:

“By the time she got to Havana, she didn’t care anymore.
But, in Cuba, Erin held her breath and exhaled slowly. She watched the black-skinned people speaking Spanish; she stepped back to let girls in short-shorts and garish make-up walk in front of her on cobblestone streets; she shied away from striking men with heartbreaking eyes who looked like bullfighters, artists, or paupers; and she marveled at prehistoric taxi cabs squeezing through dense traffic like bumper cars. When her eyes traveled the depth and breadth of the eroding colonial architecture—ready to wash into a salty tropical sea that flushed against the island in slow, steady rhythms—Erin caught her breath the way one would as if a rumble in the earth’s underbelly rippled underfoot. She heard music, and words came into her head that maybe didn’t fit: calypso, fusion, flamenco, mariachi. The music was everywhere, and it was Latin, African, Caribbean. Listening, her eyes wide, her face sedate, Erin felt as if she were on the precipice of apocalypse. Cuba felt like the end.
By the time Erin got to Cuba, though, killing Castro wasn’t her mission.”

Jennifer Spiegel has an MA in Politics from New York University, and an MFA in Creative Writing (Fiction) from Arizona State. She teaches college classes. “Killing Castro” is included in her collection, THE FREAK CHRONICLES (Dzanc Books 2012). LOVE SLAVE, a novel, is forthcoming from Unbridled Books (September 2012). She lives with her husband and two kids in Arizona. Please visit her at

more updates soon…

  • Share/Save/Bookmark

A Primordial Feminine Language

September 30th, 2011


As the fourth iteration of Camera Obscura Journal begins to take shape, it is only fitting in our celebration of language and imagery that we will showcase, in Winter 2011, Angela Woodward’s inventive story,  “Erehu,” which is worthy of multiple reads and includes the emergence of what the author calls a primordial feminine language. It begins:

“Because she was one sister among six brothers, or because she’d had a powerful vision in her sleep, she woke with the conviction that every word she uttered had been crafted for her by men. Men had invented words without consulting her or her ancestress, Eve. Like stuffing dirt in her mouth, they had forced her to utter their own grimy constructions, for which she held the utmost contempt. For them, [rock], [kneecap], were the necessary ones, while what was important to her was the ache that came from kneeling on the cold chapel floor. In her own, feminine tongue, [andrador] was what signified that bone-bruise, or [dornadro]—she would decide at her leisure.”

Angela Woodward is the author of the fiction collection The Human Mind (Ravenna Press, 2007) and the novella End of the Fire Cult (Ravenna Press, 2010).

We are also happy to include Abby Geni’s story, “The Girls of Apache Bryn Mawr,” of an unforgettable summer at camp and the arrival of womanhood.

“There were eight of us in the cabin, all Jews from the north side of Chicago. A few girls had been to Camp Reeds before and spoke knowingly and loftily about what the rest could expect, the campfire songs, canoe races and marathon games of Capture the Flag. There was the usual scuffle over who would get the bunks closest to the window and the counselor’s room. One or two girls had never been to sleep-away camp at all and were full of anxious questions about the latrines.”

Abby Geni’s stories have received first place in the Glimmer Train Fiction Open and the Chautauqua Contest. Additionally, her pieces have appeared or are forthcoming in Glimmer Train, Chautauqua, The Indiana Review, New Stories from the Midwest, and Confrontation, among others. In the most recent Best American Short Stories, her work was mentioned in the “Other Distinguished Stories” section. As a student at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she was awarded the Iowa Fellowship.

More updates as they develop.

  • Share/Save/Bookmark

Coming Soon – Summer 2011

April 6th, 2011


Though it sometimes seems as if the scattershot diversions of the digital world have minced our attention span into nothing more than an assortment of interest spasms, that short stories are growing ever shorter, leaner, so much so that minimalism is now a blank page, the longer story is still alive and well. Since great stories, as the characters that inhabit them, come in all sizes from the microscopic to the gigantic, they are all welcome here. In its third issue, Camera Obscura is delighted to include a few stories, mentioned below, on the longer end of the scale, including Vincent Czyz’s bare-fisted novelette “The Nameless Saint,” which begins:

“It was the hour when the lamplighter, toting a ladder over his shoulder, made his tedious rounds; when workers slogged through the streets as though souls on their way to purgatory; when bones turning to dust in graveyards unexpectedly shifted like a heap of logs burning on the grate. This was not the quarter of Samirska lit by theaters and cafes, cabarets and fine restaurants—a quarter smiling like a crescent moon in the dusk—here the restaurants had bare wooden floors and for a drima offered a bowl of cabbage soup or, for a few more, greasy stew and a slice of black village bread. Here, mounted gendarmes patrolled the streets in pairs or not at all.”

Vince Czyz is the author of the short story collection Adrift in a Vanishing City. He was the recipient of the 1994 Faulkner Prize for Short Fiction (the honorable Allan Gurganus judging) and two fellowships from the NJ Council on the Arts (1991 and 1994). His writing has appeared in Shenandoah, AGNI, the Massachusetts Review, Louisiana Literature, the Southern Indiana Review, and the Boston Review. His fiction has also appeared in Turkish translation. He is the 2011 Truman Capote Fellow at Rutgers, Newark.

We are also excited to add to the Summer issue, the work of Adam Peterson. His story entitled “It Goes Without Saying” is excerpted below:

“He was nothing if not the consummate local. If a people were boorish he was boorish, if courteous then courteous. In Beijing he was anonymous, in Tokyo he was serious, and in Doolin he was a baritone. And, heavy and drunk at a picnic table in Munich, he was in a state of permanent appetite. A fly sentried the golden, salty chicken from which he tore a leg as the Germans around him licked the grease from their fingers and dried them on their shorts. So he too let the juices run down his chin then chased them with cetacean gulps of beer until his face shone and his pants looked as if he’d passed the afternoon crying rather than drinking stein after stein of the helles to hunt his thirst.”

Adam Peterson is the co-editor of The Cupboard, a quarterly prose chapbook series. His fiction has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Alaska Quarterly Review, Cincinnati Review, The Southern Review, and elsewhere. He is currently at work on a novel.

We have also add Gerri Brightwell to the table of contents for the summer issue with her story “A Long and Distinguished Career,” which begins:

“On the very day the father promised he’d take the boy out a storm blew in on a furious prairie wind. Dense clouds blotted out the afternoon, rain scattered off the windows, and the young trees fencing in the front yard bent close to snapping. The wind pushed at the door and the father had to hold onto it as he stepped outside. Already the doormat was sodden. He hadn’t bothered with shoes, and in a few moments the soles of his socks were wet and cold. He stood there anyway while rain rushed at the ground, breathing in the smells of wet, bruised vegetation and the chemical taint of molecules rent apart. There’d be no going out this afternoon.”

Gerri Brightwell is a British writer who lives in Alaska with her husband, fantasy writer Ian C. Esslemont, and their three sons. She teaches in the M.F.A. program at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks and has two published novels: Cold Country (Duckworth, 2003) and The Dark Lantern (Crown 2008).

Here is a recent review of the previous issue, Winter 2010, in The Review Review

More to come soon as the issue comes together. The Summer Issue is slated for release in June 2011.

  • Share/Save/Bookmark

A Preview of the Upcoming Summer Issue

March 4th, 2011


After getting the Winter issue out the door with a hearty reception at AWP this year, our next issue is finally starting to take shape with the addition of J. Caleb Winter’s story “Faith and Burning.” In an intricately rendered world, a familiar, rural America, Winters veers off the main road for peek behind the the cultural woodshed.

“Days after I graduated, Lee Creek spilled from its banks and overran the hollow.  It must have poured all of the rain somewhere on a ridge, because I stood under a cloudless sky and burning sun, and I watched the creek that then looked like some giant rising lake, sweep hay wagons and trailers downstream and snap them against trees.  Water rose up the tiny knoll our home was built on but never touched the foundation, and as my mother wept while the creek receded, it seemed a miracle our house was spared.”

J. Caleb Winters is Humanities Professor at West Virginia University. He earned his MFA in Fiction from Boise State University, and worked as Assistant Editor on The Idaho Review. “Faith and Burning” will be his first published story. His work has been nominated for Best New American Voices and received Honorable Mention for the National Society of Arts and Letters Fiction Prize.

Also scheduled for Camera Obscura’s Summer issue is Leslie  Pietrzyk’s “Ghost, 1899” excerpted below:

“The dead pass through the living the way sunlight passes through a window.
You think you heard someone say that once, and now it makes no sense.  That’s not what it’s like, not at all.  What it’s like can’t be explained.  That dampness in your bones.  That’s close.”

Leslie  Pietrzyk is the author of the novels Pears on a Willow Tree (Avon) and A Year and a Day (William Morrow).



  • Share/Save/Bookmark