Ephemera Newsletter Iss Oct.4
(Creativity and Motivation Weekly)
Welcome back to the Ephemera Newsletter, Mga kaibigan! (Filipino for “friends”)
Thank you for your presence. Our residency is still open as we’ve extended the deadline. It would mean so much to us and the literary, and excellent people of Good Contrivance if you would share with folks who may be interested. These projects help us to continue writing Ephemera, help to fund the Good Contrivance Farm, and help us fund the writers we select. Projects and offerings such as this are aimed at making this a sustainable endeavor so we can focus on our literary endeavors.
Last year we sent two people to the farm for two fully paid residencies, including supplementing travel expenses! The program did a lot to help promote Ephemera as well as the farm, which offers paid stays all year round for anyone who wants a retreat.
The deadline is now November 12. Click the artwork to go to our info page on substack for more details. Please support us and your writing by applying. We thank you for lending us your ear.
Good Contrivance Residency - Extended
Deadline extended. We will select 2 folks (i.e. 2 separate individuals) to receive a residency sponsorship (5 days at Good Contrivance Farm) and travel stipend of $200. Selectees schedule with the farm their preferred dates subject to availability. ~$1100 value. Click to learn more.
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Call For Submissions:
Reading for the December issues closes Nov 3 (Submissions are capped so remember to submit promptly). $200 honorarium + appear in 4 issues! If you are a paid subscriber to Ephemera, you can submit to poetry @ Ephemera for free as a membership perk! (We will be sending the free link by email shortly). Free subscribers and anyone else can submit, too, with the reading fee and can submit up to 10 poems. Paying the reading fee will grant you 1-month paid access to Ephemera’s full letter each week. Learn more or:
In Brief…this week’s features:
Thoughts on Bernard Herrmann orchestral score for the film Psycho.
Thoughts on the cover art of Frankenstein and the particular popularity of the monster as horror.
October’s poet, Max McDonough and his final of four poems, “Conch.”
Our weekly lists:
3 magazines with open calls
3 recent job listings for editors and writers (very end).
**Become a sponsor. Get a banner and in-body segment to promote your book, class, event or non-literary offering. Reach out to email@example.com**
check out an Interesante selection on Ghosts in Literature.
Mini-essays to start!
Support us on Bookshop - See our past book recs and others. A highly curated list.
Merci. Danke. Kiitos. 고마워 Go-ma-wo. Cảm ơn. Xiè xiè.
A few days late but not forgotten, we return with our final issue of the October quartet. We spent a lovely weekend around unions and marriages, and, in the way of deep introverts, needed a day or two to recover from the fracas, enjoyable and harmonious though it was. Bless you for your varied attention. Newsletters and literary endeavors are tough, often thinly rewarded jobs—jobs from which one must derive a private and deep satisfaction in order to persist. Such is the plight of writers, all of us, novelists, memoirists, and poets, those of us with too little positive feedback, too few instances of encouragement, too easily critiqued. That is the horror, if you will, of the creative. And let’s all try and remember that when we’re tasked with delivering feedback in a workshop or ad hoc at the behest of a new writer friend, but too when we discuss the work of others with friends and acquaintances, even online via chats and messages, it’s all too easy to tear down. It’s too easy to overlook effort. Let’s consume and enjoy horror, but perhaps, and in the spirit of fall unions, we ought to be more than careful not to perpetrate it via take-down or pile-on. Unlike the scary art we enjoy, let’s stand with and not atop our peers.
“With Herrmann's cue (the composer for Hitchcock’s Psycho—see below), you are Janet Leigh. You are feeling the absolute terror and panic and loss of control that she is feeling... And that was the thing that Herrmann did again and again, … he forced the viewer to feel what the characters on screen were feeling. He considered film music, in his phrase, the `communicating link' between the filmmaker and the viewer.”
—Film Professor Royal Brown on the composer Bernard Herrmann via NPR
Oh, but let’s frighten and delight, maybe even petrify, our readers! Certainly if that’s what the story calls for, the poem wants, the memory served up correctly needs. Tiny, screeching moments that land abruptly in a murderous frenzy, or quickening beats that inspire dread by becoming deafening, sidling up too close. Sweet sounding sentences that amplify the charm only in so far as we intend to skewer the peace, puncture the safety—of characters, of course—rupture and crush and menace and…yet maybe the killer or monster or evil thing slips away, it rampages too fast for the page to capture it, for the line to explicate, too slick for detection, able to disappear into the ether, the deep ocean, behind a costume of mother (see Psycho) where it remains menacing. Experiment with style in heightened moments. Don’t be afraid, no, don’t be afraid to build your words differently, use sound, alter structure, martial everything you can to make a moment come alive…if only to then make a character dead. Safe horror-ing to all, and to all a good scare.
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Poetry by Max McDonough
Bright against the tiki bar’s
dark wood, a tiny ocean
sloshes inside. Technically
a summation of all sounds
perpetrated in the bar
scrambles to a wash of echoes
intimating waves—a wide lonely
pressed to one’s ear, the finely furred
tunnel twisting into the brain.
Among the stuff the conch hears
and, by hearing, erases:
I bet you still on
Mommy’s credit card, the man
says to him. Sucklin’ them fat teats.
Can’t even help yourself
she taste so good…
Compartments. Rooms inside rooms. Inside
his chest thrums
the dumbest song. The song is
tequila. He was feeling on edge.
He was drinking not
because of what the man
makes him remember—
a basement bedroom. He is lying in bed. It’s dark except for the blacklight in which glows, tacked to the wall, a felt poster of a black panther, yellow eyes, open jaw. Bamboo beads for a door trickle like rain as they split. His mother, wasted, her nightgown halfway down her shoulders, her chest. Her nipple, the shape, the dim color in the doorway, the beads behind. She does not come closer. She says something he can’t decipher. He stares at the panther’s teeth. She speaks.
The world gets trapped inside.
In the bar he smashes the conch across the man’s unbearable mouth.
Prizes/Awards/Stipends Fall ‘23
W.S. Porter Prize awards $1,000 and publication by Regal House Publishing for a collection of stories. The publisher hosts other opportunities throughout the year. $1k + Pub. $25 fee. DEADLINE DECEMBER 1
Slipstream Annual Poetry Chapbook Prize awards $1,000 & publication with 50 author copies for a chapbook of poetry. The chapbook series has published some great writers early in their careers. $1k + pub + 50 copies. $20 fee. DEADLINE DEC 1
The Griffin Poetry Prize is given annually for a book of poetry written in, or translated into English. The winner receives C$30,000 and four shortlisted books will receive C$10,000. Entry is free. DEADLINE DECEMBER 31
Music: Bernard Herrmann (Psycho)
You’ll first want to know that the iconic, unforgettable, and harrowing string moment that corresponds to the shower knife-slashes begins at 5:52. Sorry to be so scary first thing…but it is (or was) Halloween and Hitchcock’s Psycho is a tremendous film, quite famous, and certainly not the least important aspect of the film is the score, composed by Bernard Herrmann, a veteran composer who linked up with Hitchcock for several well-known films (Vertigo, North by Northwest, and The Wrong Man to name a few). Herrmann, of Russian descent via Ukraine, was born in 1911 and raised in the Bronx by his Jewish immigrant family. He attended public school and later went to Juilliard. Right away, he was recognized for his talent and hired by CBS where he soon became the head conductor of the CBS Orchestra. From there he linked up with Orson Welles and was hired to compose the score for what many list as the number 1 movie of all time, Citizen Kane. With his foot in the door in Hollywood, and a diverse and far-ranging ear, Herrmann became a prominent conductor for film, composing over 40 scores for a wide variety of films before his death soon after completing the score for Taxi Driver.
It has been said of Herrmann’s style that he was prone to use ostinati, which is a term that addresses the use and re-use of short repeating patterns. This type of skill likely lends itself to scoring TV and film. It also sounds great for characterization; we immediately think of Tchaikovsky (Swan Lake and The Nutcracker) and Prokofiev (Peter and the Wolf). In any case, Herrmann’s style intrigued us, particularly since, when you read more about him and his thinking on music, you begin to see the types of deliberations that you might in a writer: thoughts on craft, sound, character, and even philosophies on being. Listen to the score. If you’ve ever seen Psycho, you’ll be immediately transported to the film, the early images of the lead, Janet Leigh—shots of her face while she drives, in shadow in the early going as cast by the blinds, a sort of premonition of the slashes.
R.S.B.: You’ve also said that, ideally, film music should be based on phrases no longer than a second or two.
B.H.: I think a short phrase has got certain advantages. Because I don’t like the leitmotif system. The short phrase is easier to follow for an audience, who listen with only half an ear. Don’t forget that the best they do is half an ear. You know, the reason I don’t like this tune business is that a tune has to have eight or sixteen bars, which limits you as a composer. Once you start, you’ve got to finish-eight or sixteen bars. Otherwise, the audience doesn’t know what the hell it’s all about. It’s putting handcuffs on yourself.
We’re fixated on how the sounds lead to an indelible association with image and emotion. The slashing sequence of off-putting, screeching strings, followed by the darker, more somber lower register as the early protagonist bleeds out in the shower. The gore is tasteful as gore goes, though that is not the enthralling component. How does the music lend itself to that moment, we wonder? And can we as writers introduce sounds in the way of poetry to enhance mood, emotional register, or, apropos our theme for the month, horror or fear? This is rhetorical, but it’s a useful method to get us thinking. Listen to the short, shrillness of the notes during the stabbing. The more emergent the moment, perhaps the shorter the note, the higher pitched the sound—maybe too the quicker the pace. As we’re left to reflect on the drain, we’re delivered with a low resonant set of notes, followed by quiet, ending in a punctuative yet sustained low set of notes. Let’s listen to our words and make sure the sounds build with the words, at least in moments of heightened import, particularly in thrillers, in noir, in horror or horror-filled sequences. Definitely listen to Herrmann’s score and, as needed, endeavor to scare and irk your reader by use of sound.
Writers Submit: 3 Magazines
The nonprofit online and print magazine publishes quarterly, and they are reading work in all genres. Accepted work receives copies of the magazine and publication, and they have other opportunities throughout the year. DEADLINE ROLLING
AGNI is “known for publishing important new writers early in their careers,” and “listens for dynamic voices that address our common reality.” Housed at Boston University they’ve been publishing for 50 years. DEADLINE DECEMBER 15
The print and online literary journal is reading for “conversations, critiques, and reviews.” They are also reading performance work. They have other publication opportunities throughout each year. DEADLINE FEBRUARY 16
Weekly Artist: Frankenstein as Artistic Idea
We’re focusing on Frankenstein as an artistic idea. Well, to be particular, the historic monster that became an archetype across nearly 300 editions and reprints of the classic horror novel, as well as over 80 film renditions many of which focus mightily on the short sequence in the text when Dr. Victor Frankenstein animates his morbid project. The continuity, the influence across centuries is something to marvel at, author Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley having published the work in 1818. Two hundred years of horrific inspiration. The immensity of Shelley’s effects on literature and storytelling, on the imaginations of all of us westerners are too numerous to delve into here, though the immensity is owed some acknowledgement. Let’s notice, in addition to the aforementioned editions and films, Shelley’s work, and her monster, have been remade and adapted in uncountable ways, from magazine covers, comic books, trading cards, television characters, fan fiction, artist depictions and onward.
This year's Pulitzer Prize co-winner in Fiction, Heran Diaz, wrote about the monster for The Paris Review in 2018. He wrote, “Still, there is a good reason why this mad scientist and his many clones have remained a productive figure for centuries. At any given historical moment, this character offers a glimpse into the anxieties and hopes conjured up by knowledge and technology.” We are in agreement, and would move further to not only discuss anxieties about technology, fully recognizing that we’re at and perhaps already passing beyond the threshold of A.I., a rather akin piecemeal monstrosity it now occurs to us. Frankenstein’s monster is an assemblage. Pieces of the dead and recently deceased, pieces, too, perhaps, of the living via (hopefully) tranquilizer and (eerily) scalpel. Animal parts, too, “The dissecting room and the slaughter-house furnished many of my materials…,” raising the spectre of a deeply held human anxiety: the chimera. Think about all the part-man part-beast depictions in our history running back to animal-headed gods of the dynastic Egyptians and, we’ve discovered, animal-human hybrid cave art renditions. This dark fear goes beyond technological anxiety, and likely deals with the unavoidable human self-awareness, that we are meat, blood, and flesh beings nearly, just barely different—in many ways weaker, less-adapted physically—than the animals abundantly surrounding us.
And so we nurture this existential form of dread via horror story, via spin-off, so many versions of Shelley’s, of Frankenstein’s monster taking on the form of our fear because it is so useful, so perfectly imagined. The monster is a biological assemblage animated by unhinged technology onto whom anyone can project the morbidity of their imagination or the angst of their being. We’ve already seen A.I. horrors depicted, such as Hal 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and more recently in films such as I Am Mother—these remind us of Frankenstein’s monster, perhaps are a newly imagine depiction of that core fear we’ve discussed infused with a more up-to-date technological dread. Zombie apocalypses are another form of chimeric evil. Donning our prediction hats, we haven’t seen the last of monsters in the vein of Shelley’s, and there are likely to be updates as our scientists and their out of site experiments begin to become known, as the future unravels in front of us full of bodily augmentation, whether fleshly upgrades and modifications or human-technology integrations.
Beware. But be aware, too, of how the Monster is, how monsters are useful to our writing, to understanding our thinking and hybrid selves.
Interesante: Ghosts in Literature
— (8 min read/14 min study)
“The ghost story shape-shifts because ghosts themselves are so protean — they emanate from specific cultural fears and fantasies.”
Super apropos. A brief rundown of ghosts in literature with some quippy asides and plenty of historical mentions. Ghost literatute, rest assured, is still quite readily available, with several recent releases using ghosts and the like in some form or another. And why not? Not only is there a rife history, Hamlet to Lincoln in the Bardo, but, in the case of the latter, they’re capable of garnering some of the highest distinctions in literature. Read to know. Read to prepare yourself for ghosts in your own writing. —Read the article.
Bookstore: Guides, Gifts & Classics
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Frankenstein. A classic Must Have:
Literary Horror — House of Leaves:
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Poetry at Ephemera:
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