New Bridge for February

February 3rd, 2010


For your consideration – Elaine Chiew’s bridge crossing Brother Heart .

Bridge the Gap attempts to narrow the divide between two photographs, between writer and photographer, between the writer and the reader, to deliver, artfully, a story born when the two images meet, or a story so intertwined in the division of the images that it cannot be unraveled, and do so in fewer than 1000 words. Elaine’s story is even more ambitious in the worlds she brings together, as though she has choosen to cross the gorge at its deepest point on nothing more than a cedar plank.

M.E. Parker, Editor

  • Share/Save/Bookmark

Tim Horvath, meet Nani Power

January 25th, 2010


You know that Padgett Powell book that’s nothing but questions? That’s what I was hunting for in the Portsmouth Library when I stumbled onto Nani Power’s Crawling at Night. I’m not sure what exactly caught my attention about it—a cover design that looked like some lost Smashing Pumpkins album, accolades from some Names, the Atlantic Monthly Press (didn’t know they had one)—but I lingered on it. She also had several other novels. Now, by no means am I so well-read that I don’t find new authors all the time, but taking up such shelf space at the local library, she somehow seemed like someone I should know. In her jacket photo she resembled Charlotte Bacon, a former mentor of mine, but I was pretty certain it wasn’t Charlotte in disguise. The book, I could see, was about sushi, and Nani Power had worked in a sushi kitchen for a while, and that drew me in a little further. Are motives always so noble and intellectual? I was hungry, and here was some kind of sustenance.

Still, it was by no means a sure thing that I would continue to read—every second a trial. One page explained that the phrase “crawling at night” came from the Japanese “yobai,” which stems from a tradition of hosting travelling guests on futons, whereby a male guest could anonymously slip into a female’s futon and stay if accepted, slip away discretely if rejected. I kept going. By no means was the book the radical stylistic plunge that I’d been hoping for in Powell’s Interrogative Mood, but it had menus for chapter headings and lists and the opening sentence was “Lists are life.” Hey, yeah. No but yes. Lists of “dead things wrenched from the ocean floor, arriving daily in their iced beds. His needs.” All at once, the orderliness of lists, the squishy glisten of sushi, the discipline of making, the violence in it, the need. Hunger.

And language, sentences. In the end, it came down to the sentences.

“How he judges tuna for its fat content with a flashlight in the dawn fish   market alongside the haiku image on a barren branch. All thoughts whirling like flimsy scales flashing in a sink’s wetness, yet they get sieved along the way.”

Need I tell you that I checked it out?

Fast forward a couple of weeks. By some inexplicable collision of the universe’s pulp, Camera Obscura receives a story from none other than Nani Power. At first I can’t believe it; it seems too serendipitous. But the sentences in her “214″ make it unmistakable that it’s one and the same author:

“She made his stomach turn like frogs, in her new clothes, smelling like stores.”
“Her name was a bag of broken sounds.”
“You see a cat ass tear through some place; he’s like this one.”

To top it off, her story is about elements in collision; it is made out of the cloth of disparity, held together by its propulsive voices and energy, violence and need and something soft lurking beneath. I think it a very fine story in its own right, the coincidence hovering around it for me serving merely as an added pleasure, an unexpected spatter of roe in the midst of apiece of sushi that you’d assumed was solid through and through. I’m grateful to have made the acquaintance of Nani Power for the second time in a few weeks, and to acquaint—or reacquaint—you with her.

Nani Power is the author of Crawling at Night (Grove/Atlantic Monthly, 2001),a New York Times Notable Book of The Year and a finalist for The Los Angeles Times Book Award as well as the British Orange Award. It has been translated into seven languages. Her second novel, The Good Remains (Grove/Atlantic Monthly, 2002), was also a New York Times Notable Book of The Year, and a finalist for The Virginia Library Award. The Sea of Tears, her third novel, was  published in January 2005 by Counterpoint Press. Her newest book, a food memoir, Feed The Hungry, was published by Simon and Schuster in April 2008.

Her stories have been published in numerous literary magazines including The Paris Review, Salon, Gargoyle and

Tim Horvath is a prose editor for the Camera Obscura. More about Tim at The Darkroom

  • Share/Save/Bookmark

Tofu Hotdogs and a Contortionist

January 12th, 2010


For those of you who have experienced life-changing revelations in the deli meat aisle of the grocery store, this excerpt from Thea Swanson’s story Freeway Striper will immediately ring true. For everyone else, her vivid prose will be your revelatory guide.

The newest story to join the first issue of the Camera Obscura Journal is Freeway Striper by Thea Swanson, which begins:

“Terrence had what he considered a mystical experience between the tofu dogs and the mechanically separated chicken-and-beef kind. Truth be told, the dogs were five aisles apart from each other, but that was the thing: he spent forty-five minutes in Albertson’s darting back and forth between the two, putting links down and picking them up again, until finally, he squatted in a neutral location, knees touching ketchup bottles, sixteen dogs propped on relish jars. On a bun package, in slippery blue ink, he wrote his new hypothesis: a man can only go as far as what he puts inside himself. This he decided he would tinker with a bit—word wise—but the truth of the statement was gold.”

Thea Swanson holds an MFA in fiction from Pacific University in Oregon. Her work appears in Crab Creek Review, Image, Our Stories and The Write Mother. Though she grew up within the curbs and grids of Buffalo, New York, she now tries to locate herself within the paths and trees of Washington State where she writes and teaches at West Sound Academy.

Also, recently added is a lean piece of writing doing a lot of work with very few words just to live up to the title. Big Top Photographic Exhibit – November 2009: Georgette the Contortionist through the Years, by Cynthia Litz.

Cynthia Litz is a physician whose fiction and poetry have appeared or are forthcoming in Night Train, NANO Fiction, NOÖJournal, and The Annals of Internal Medicine. She organizes writing workshops at an adventure in Dallas called the Highland Park Literary Festival.

More to come…

M.E. Parker, Editor
Camera Obscura Journal

  • Share/Save/Bookmark

Water over the Bridge

January 5th, 2010


The proverbial ‘they’ has insisted for quite some time that a picture is worth a thousand words, and in doing so they have short-changed both the picture and the human mind. Regardless of the arbitrarily imposed limit of one thousand words, the point is well taken that the mind immediately conjures a story upon viewing a picture. Though there is often an obvious story, each is as unique and personal as the course a daydream takes as it pinballs through the mind.

If the story is not obvious, if the picture is abstract or unrecognizable, the mind is nonetheless stimulated into storytelling of one variety or the other, either with interest or with disdain (though the two are not mutually-exclusive), imagining perhaps the story of the person who would create such an image, the person who would appreciate such an image, or even the janitor who has to clean around said image on a daily basis (if it hangs in a museum) and how fortunate, or unfortunate, this janitor is that his fate as landed him in the daily vicinity of such an image.

broken bridge“Bridge the Gap” is not intended as a writing exercise or some sort of party game (although, given the right images and the appropriate beverages, I can imagine that it could liven many parties I have attended recently). Rather, its purpose to take the reader on an unexpected journey. The pictures are the ingress and egress of a story born when the two images meet, celebrating the synergy of words and images.

 Though no one satisfactorily bridged the gap the first time around, this is in no way an indictment on the intrepid writers who attempted it. Standards are high, expectations are murky and stakes are low. Each time a bridge fails, the previous $50 is added to the last. The next bridge, currently posted, will be worth $100. Happy Writing.

 M.E. Parker, Editor
Camera Obscura Journal

  • Share/Save/Bookmark

Fiction in Creative Nonfiction Clothing

December 15th, 2009


Sometimes we find our art in faces, distorted in pain or joy, other times in the geometry of a rugged landscape or even in the contours of what we have chosen to discard, its worth hidden from view until it is revealed by the artist. And sometimes this art is only called such because of whose hand has produced it. We will, of course, know this art when we see it, won’t we?

Robert McGowan, a skillful writer, who is as well, an accomplished artist, joins a growing list of writers included in the first issue of the Camera Obscura Journal. “The McCaig Photographs,” excerpted below, is part of a recently completed story collection called Happy Again at Last: Stories from the Art World.

“Surely no class of object more mundane could be brought to the attention, there being, one might suggest, no good reason to think of them at all. Horizontal slots set in the curbs of city streets for the purpose of relieving the streets of rainwater. Everyone has seen these things, but almost no one notices them. They’re in fact so unnoticed that it would be difficult for many people even to call to mind’s eye an image of one, or for that matter to know for sure what a storm drain is, unless one be pointed out to them.”

“It seemed however that Andrew McCaig had known storm drains uncommonly well. It would be no exaggeration to assert he knew storm drains intimately,  having been very cozy with them for some time, precisely when or for exactly how long no one knew.”

Robert McGowan’s fiction and essays are published in, among many others, Chautauqua Literary Journal, Connecticut Review, Crucible, The Dos Passos Review, Etchings (Australia), The Savage Kick (UK), South Dakota Review, and have been anthologized. His work as an artist is in numerous collections internationally, including Bank of America, Bank of Korea, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM), Smithsonian Institution. He lives in Memphis.

More updates as they become available.
Happy Holidays,
M.E. Parker, Editor
Camera Obscura Journal

  • Share/Save/Bookmark

A visit to Otherwhere

December 4th, 2009


The most recent addition to the inaugural lineup of the Camera Obscura Journal is the latest unpublished selections from Otherwhere by Claire Bateman. Previous selections have appeared in Harper’s, Mississippi Review, and Blackbird. Her vivid prose and magical descriptions of a place that exists, perhaps, in the aether of a fractal dimension, or somewhere near Sonoma, make me wish I could traverse the byways of Otherwhere as a tourist with a camera, freezing snippets in time and tucking those moments away until their secrets are exposed, only later, in the faces of the inhabitants of this amazing place. Here is an excerpt:

“In this realm, all the people walk around in flowing reflective garb, beholding along the contours of each others’ bodies every change of their own expressions, as if all the tailors had one day decided to eschew textiles in order to work instead with liquid glass.”

Claire Bateman’s books are:
*The Bicycle Slow Race *(Wesleyan, 1991);
*Friction* (Eighth Mountain, 1998);
*At the Funeral of the Ether * (Ninety-SixPress, 1998); 
*Clumsy* (New Issues Poetry & Prose, 2003); *Leap*   (New Issues, 2005);
*Coronology and Other Poems* (Etruscan Press, forthcoming). The title poem from Coronology is also an e-chapbook of the same name  produced by World Voices at:,

and is forthcoming as a print chapbook from Serving House Press.  She has received grants and fellowships from the NEA, the Tennessee Arts Commission, and the Surdna Foundation.  She lives in Greenville, S.C.

More journal updates soon…

M.E. Parker, Editor
Camera Obscura Journal

  • Share/Save/Bookmark

A glass of literary Port

November 19th, 2009


Port is often referred to as the wine of philosophy, most likely because it is traditionally served after dinner, usually with a cigar, and this has historically led to much conversation, some of which might fall into the realm of philosophical.

The inaugural issue of the Camera Obscura Journal takes more shape with the addition of Kane X. Faucher’s remarkable Borgesian tale of intrigue, “Sanscript,” which is, in my estimation, the short story equivalent of a having a glass of Port and a fine cigar. Below is an excerpt:

“…It is an undeniable truism that any number divided against itself will always result in that single digit unity, just as any number subtracted from itself will result in the authority of null. It is into this binary silence I have read, and have since regretted it; and to this style of seeing and reading I have had to forcibly turn from. A one and a zero, a white space and a black one: this is the Manicheanism of reading, but of a hidden variety that was revealed to me at too unripe an age, in Lisbon.”

Kane X. Faucher is an assistant professor at the University of Western Ontario. He is the author of 10 books and has published over 1000 poems, articles, short fiction, and reviews internationally. He currently lives and works in London, Canada. He is a recent recipient of the &Now Aware for Best Innovative Writing.

On the photography front, the competition is wide open. We are adding a select few sponsors to the journal. Check back in the next couple of weeks for details.

More updates as they are available.
M.E. Parker, Editor
Camera Obscura Journal

  • Share/Save/Bookmark

Table of Contents Grows

November 7th, 2009

As is the case with any burgeoning literary journal, before the first issue is presented to the world, it is almost impossible to divine what aesthetic shape it will take. For that reason, I will occasionally post the progress as the inaugural issue of the Camera Obscura Journal builds. Recently Camera Obscura accepted a short story by René Georg Vasicek, the beautifully rendered “Borsig’s Machine Factory,” which begins:

“Like the drunkard I am stumbling towards the null and void. And I really am drunk…the drunken ecstasy of having failed at life so miserably. It is only when a man approaches absolute zero that life begins to make sense.

I recently turned forty. There is no turning back: the death march to nowhere a certainty. Years spent watching a city destroyed by sameness…the rise of concrete block towers, the demolition of history, the erasure of the human face.

My name is unimportant. It’s enough to know that I am not you. . .”

René Georg Vasicek is a 2009 fellow in Nonfiction Literature from the New York Foundation for the Arts. His writing has appeared in The Delinquent (UK), Divide, High Times, Minnetonka Review, Post Road, The Prague Revue, Sunday Salon, and elsewhere. He teaches at Hofstra University and Lehman College of the City University of New York. René lives in Astoria, Queens with his wife and son.

Many more updates to come.
M.E. Parker, Editor
Camera Obscura Journal

  • Share/Save/Bookmark

Camera Obscura Journal – Open for Submissions

October 19th, 2009

typewriterWords and images often serve the same master – the story. They reveal something about the world, not only about what it means to be human, what it means to exist. The inaugural print issue of Camera Obscura is slated for Spring 2010, anchored by equal measures of the best literature and photography we can obtain. Though the photographs will not necessarily relate to the stories specifically, their presence in the journal will not be incidental to the stories but inseparable from them.

 Along the way to the first issue, we will post some work, select writing and photography that will also appear in the print issue, on the website, and this blog will serve as an outlet for the editors, photography judges and contributors to the Camera Obscura. The $1000 writer honorarium will be selected from those stories we have chosen from publication and announced just prior to the release of the first issue.

camera 1890The photography competition officially opens November 1, 2009 with $1500 in prizes at stake. The theme: “bond.” Bonds exist in countless forms. There are bonds between people, animals, atoms, plants, mountains. There is even the monetary variety. All forms and interpretations both creative and literal are welcome with the following caveat: any interpretations of the theme that relate in any way to a British secret service agent with an assistant named Moneypenny will receive additional, and quite possibly harsh, scrutiny. The professional category is open to everyone. The non-professional category is reserved for those who earn no more than 25% of their income from photography.  We have lined up a highly decorated board of photography judges for this competition.

 Thanks for your interest. More updates coming soon.

  • Share/Save/Bookmark