Your favorite new anthology by and for writers of color writing flash fiction.

At our age we wield power; we exude danger.

Dr. Amina Gautier Reads "Before."

Dear Friends,

Today was one of those Indiana days where the sky stays flat gray, not oil paint cloud gray, not I-wish-I-could-match-nail-polish-to-it-gray. Flat, unyielding gray. And it misted in little annoying bursts rather than shift to snow or even rain.

If you’re having a similar day, give yourself a gift and take the time to listen to Dr. Amina Gautier read her story that will be reprinted in Forward: “Before.”

https://soundcloud.com/user-53528666/mediaio-amina-gautier-reading-before

Dr. Amina Gautier is the author of three short story collections: At-Risk, Now We Will Be Happy and The Loss of All Lost Things. At-Risk was awarded the Flannery O’Connor Award and the Eric Hoffer Legacy Award. Now We Will Be Happy was awarded the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Fiction, the International Latino Book Award, the Royal Palm Literary Award, and was a Finalist for the William Saroyan International Prize. The Loss of All Lost Things was awarded the Elixir Press Award in Fiction, the Phillis Wheatley Award, the Chicago Public Library’s 21st Century Award, and was a Finalist for the Hurston/Wright Award, the Paterson Prize, the John Gardner Award, and shortlisted for the SFC Literary Prize. Gautier has been the recipient of fellowships from the Camargo Foundation, the Chateau de Lavigny, Dora Maar House/Brown Foundation, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center, the MacDowell Colony, the Vermont Studio Center, and the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. More than one hundred of her short stories have been published, appearing in Agni, Best African American Fiction, Blackbird, Callaloo, Glimmer Train, Iowa Review, Oxford American, Pleiades, Prairie Schooner, Quarterly West, and Southern Review among other places. For her body of work she has received the PEN/MALAMUD award.

We chose this story because it was a mixture of nostalgia and danger. We chose this story because it’s about growing older and wanting to be an adult without idealizing childhood.

If you like this story, there’s more great stories to come. You can pre-order Forward for $12 and free shipping in the US until mid-January. (After that you’re going to have to pay 20% more and then eventually after that, you’ll have to pay for shipping, too)

May this story make your day a little brighter!

Megan

Meet Anuj, Meet The Cover

Pre-orders, Donations, Excitement, Q&A Between Anuj Shreshta and Bix Gabriel

Dear Forward Friends and Forward Family and Forward Fans,

Our cover art is by Anuj Shreshta. Anuj Shrestha is a cartoonist and illustrator. His comics have been listed in several editions of The Best American Comics anthology. His illustration work has appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, McSweeney's, Playboy and Wired, among others. He currently resides in Philadelphia, PA.

Beyond being immensely talented, one of the things that makes Anuj such a great fit for this edition of Forward is his work is deeply imaginative. He can simultaneously see the grotesqueness in being a person, as well as the play and fun that can come from being in a body.

Forward: 21st Century Flash Fiction is being published by Aforementioned Productions. Edited by Megan Giddings with series oversight by Carissa Halston. The cover’s design is by Jon Cameron and the interior is being designed by Paul Kwan Asta. Outreach and community efforts by Bix Gabriel.

Stories and Essays in this collection are by George Abraham, Reem Abu-Baker, María Isabel Álvarez, Patriz Biliran, Anna Cabe, Tyrese Coleman, Allison Conner, Desiree Cooper, Erica Frederick, Amina Gautier, Marcos Gonsalez, Chris Gonzalez, Marlin Jenkins, Ruth Joffre, Yalie Kamara, W. Todd Kaneko, Gene Kwak, Thirii Myint, Monterica Sade Neil, Dennis Norris II, Kristine Ong Muslim, Alvin Park, Madhvi Ramani, Alicita Rodriguez, SJ Sindu, Maggie Su, Eshani Surya, Ursula Villareal-Moura, Yun Wei, and Pam Zhang.

And it can be pre-ordered here. And if you or a friend is excited (and looking to do some cool tax-deductible giving, you can donate to Aforementioned and earmark the funds to Forward. You’ll receive a copy of the anthology, as well as be thanked in the book). Donations will help us build a fund so we can do future editions of the anthology that continue to pay the writers and artists involved.

WE’RE SO EXCITED! And if you’re someone (and you probably are) that has helped us get to this point so far, thank you, thank you, thank you. You’re great.

So! You’ve already been introduced to Anuj’s art, and now we want you to know a little more about him. Below is an interview between him and Bix Gabriel.

Bix: Tell us a little bit about how this image came about.

Anuj: Playing around with different approaches to drawing portraits, I removed certain facial features to see how the image was affected. At a certain point I removed the head entirely, save for the hair element, and the result is funny and disturbing. It also works as a metaphor for the general cynicism of the electorate and the capacity of voting to affect change within corrupt institutions.

Bix: You often draw images of people, but like in this piece, face-less, or with faces made up of other elements/materials like rocks and plants. Why?

Anuj: Beyond an illustration of specific identity it’s interesting to use the face as a platform for expressing concepts, whether metaphorical or literal. Thus rubble speaks of refugee experiences or fungal growth can illustrate alienation, corruption, or general metaphysical dissonance.

Bix: In writing, most of us tend to have to make several revisions. What about in your artwork?

Anuj: I’m loath to constantly rework a drawing, so I typically create a loose outline in pencil and use the inking stage to finalize and often explore the final illustration.

Bix: What are some challenges and/or delights you’ve encountered as an illustrator of color?

Anuj: Though much of my work contains personal and political themes, I often find it a challenge to create compelling images that are thought provoking without being pedantic. There is definitely a power and urgency to overtly political and even propagandistic works, but in my own illustrations, I try to create some space for ambiguity. And it’s always a thrill to interact with other illustrators of color and see how they grapple with social issues in their own art.

Bix: What advice would you give an emerging illustrator who is a person of color? What should they know about the art industry?

It always depends which area of illustration the artist wants to pursue, whether it’s comics, self-published zines, children’s books, or an editorial platform. I would encourage young illustrators to always consume other work and allow it to affect their sensibilities. It will inform the work they ultimately create on their own. Also they should always be cautious of sinister schemes such as work “on spec”, dubious pitch ideas, or projects that cannot pay anything up front.

Thanks for reading!

Megan

The Softest Yarn That Is The Perfect Mix Of Autumn Colors

Alvin Park's Guide to Fall, Taking Care of Others and Yourself

Dear Subscribers,

Before I turn you over to the capable and kind hands of our guest writer, Alvin Park, I wanted to say a few things. This week has been in many many ways horrific. I don’t feel like I need to recount everything, but I did think it would feel strange for us not to say anything. If you’re feeling scared, furious, anxious, we’re here with you. (And you can always respond to this message if you need someone to talk to!) Personally for me, when I feel lost, the only way to feel remotely like the world is going to be OK is for me to help others, to rededicate myself to kindness. If I have extra money, I give to different charities (this week and every week, it’s a great time to donate to the Transgender Law Center, the ACLU, The Anti-Defamation League, among many others) or try to find ways to help the people in my communities or my friends and family. It sounds so simple and childish typing it out, but I think the only way the world can stay livable is if we keep doing small things to make the world the way it should be.

I do also firmly believe that you need to take care of yourselves too! Be kind and patient with yourselves today and in the coming weeks.

<3 Megan

AND NOW: Let’s escape for a little while into a land of really getting into the autumn spirit. The list below is by Alvin Park, whose short story “Dobson Unit” is going to be published in Forward. Alvin’s work is highly imaginative, set in a world different than our own and he balances these new worlds with heartfelt emotions and complex situations.

(artist rendering of Alvin Park by @milkbarista)

In his words: Alvin Park (@chipmnk) lives and writes in Portland. He’s associate fiction editor at Little Fiction. His work has been featured in The Rumpus, The Mojave River Review, Wyvern Lit, Synaesthesia Magazine, Wildness, and more. His parents are Korean. He has a long way to go.

I feel like I’ve only recently been more of an “autumn person,” which I blame mostly on growing up in a generally season-less SoCal. Anyway, here are ten things that help me get into the fall mood, and I hope they’ll work for you, too!

1. A warm scarf

Comically large so that you can wrap it around your neck and head and hide as much of yourself as you want. Preferably one knit by your mother or someone else who loves you enough to find the softest yarn that is the perfect mix of autumn colors: yellow, orange, rust. You won’t know how to wash it or if you’re supposed to wash it, but it always smells nice and feels good.

2. Over the Garden Wall

This one-off miniseries from Cartoon Network is truly something special. Over the Garden Wall is filled with autumn vibes, from the forest of the Unknown to the ghosts and general eeriness, along with so many visual references to classic cartoons. It has so many good goofs, including bassoon-loving frogs, and the music throughout is so damn charming and catchy. That all culminates in this really beautiful, sweet story about siblings, family, and growing up as a real dork.

3. Warm drinks

‘Tis the season for apple cider! My tummy can’t handle much of it myself, which I thought was a Consequence of Turning 30, but I’m realizing my body always had a little trouble with apples in liquid form even when I was little.

But that’s okay! There’s so much more warm stuff to drink in the fall! My go-to is a nice cup of coffee, black, no sugar or cream (though I’ve also recently been ordering more decaf Americanos). If coffee isn’t your thing, there’s all kinds of tea. Have the dang pumpkin spice latte and don’t apologize for it! Who am I to judge? Sip your drink, sit by a window, and watch the rain or the leaves or the people walking by and try not to think about all your past heartaches.

4. Trick ‘R Treat

Trick ‘R Treat is a horror anthology movie comprising four stories that all take place in one small town during Halloween night. It’s one of my favorites in the genre because it is just so purely fun. It’s not without its tense moment, some creeps, some scares, but it is so full of heart and humor and never heavy or dour. It mixes genres within its own structure, pulling from slashers, ghost stories, and zombie flicks. The stories interconnect in such a satisfying way, and the characters are so rich. You have Anna Paquin playing a girl trying to find the right guy, veteran character actor Dylan Baker playing a sadistic school principal, and Brian Cox as a surly, get-off-my-lawn neighbor, among many others. I highly recommend it, even if you’re not a horror fan. Especially if you’re not a horror fan.

5. The Early November – “Ever So Sweet”

Look, I’ve been running with this inside joke for a few years now (Twitter can apparently only go back so far), and by “inside joke,” I mean I’m the only one on the inside and that it’s not a particularly good or even subtle joke. But hey, there’s no better way to ring in early November like listening to The Early November’s “Ever So Sweet”. And now that you know, you’re all on the inside, too.

Also, I really don’t know why there’s an acoustic version of a song that is already acoustic. Please don’t @ me.

6. Ddeokk (rice cakes)

Chuseok is the mid-autumn holiday in Korean culture (essentially Korean Thanksgiving). There are all kinds of foods served. Ddeok just refers to rice cakes in general. It is just ubiquitous in Korea and not really relegated to any single season, but in my head, there’s something about it that makes me feel cozy and autumnal.

The main one for Chuseok is songpyeon, which has regional variations of its own, but they all tend to comprise a sticky rice cake with some sort of sweet filling in the center. I’m most used to songpyeon that is green, white, or pink and filled with red bean, sesame and honey, and some kind of sweet yellow filling that has the consistency of an overdone yolk in a hard-boiled egg. As I write this, I’m realizing I don’t know what that last filling is, and I never bothered to ask my mom, but I promise it’s all great.

7. Pajeon

I get that “green onion pancake” is not the most appealing phrase to some people, to which I respond, “Please open your heart and mind.” I’m not sure if this is a seasonal food in Korea, but I feel like it was more common during the colder seasons in my household. In its simplest form, it’s just green onions (which I learned are the same thing as scallions because regional terms exist) and batter, fried crisp and flat. Some soy sauce on the side for dipping and you’re basically set. You can find other versions with seafood or other things in it, but I like to keep it simple.

8. Hotteok

This I know for sure is an autumn-specific Korean food (though enjoyed all year-round). It’s a sweet rice flour pancake with a syrup filling. Basically, your traditional Western pancake but inside-out. I have only ever had it piping hot, such that it’s nearly impossible to hold and the filling is nuclear.

You can find them frozen in Korean grocery stores, and these are…fine? Satisfactory? The better option: Maangchi has a really great, really easy recipe for hotteok that uses ingredients that you should already have in your pantry.

9. Basketball

Look, the NBA is the best television drama around. We’re only a couple weeks into the season and every game has been unbelievably fun and wild. It’s honestly the easiest and best time to get into basketball. Just choose a team and have a game on in the background.

10. tree rot

I don’t really have any stories actually set in fall, but I think this one gets pretty close. The vibe is very much my experience of a Southern California autumn. The way that the trees and leaves turn to dust.

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Thanks for reading! In the coming weeks we’re going to feature more of our awesome contributors, reveal our cover, and drop some pre-order links! Stay well!

Hi! And Meet Desiree!

"The Choice", Call For Volunteers

Thanks again for signing up for Forward’s newsletter! Over the coming months we’re going to introduce you to some of the people behind Forward or who will be included in its pages, invite you to events, and give you early information about the next edition of this anthology.

Today, we’d like to introduce you to Desiree Cooper! Desiree Cooper is a 2015 Kresge Artist Fellow, Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist and author of the award-winning, debut collection of flash fiction, Know the Mother (Wayne State University Press, 2016). “The Choice” (her story that will be reprinted in Forward) is now a short film, available free online at http://www.descooper.com.

We chose Desiree’s story “The Choice” because we thought it was an incredible balancing act. Throughout the story Desiree writes in the first personal plural and weaves in several different characters, telling us their lives in one moment, often in a phrase or two. She takes a topic, abortion, that in many writers’ hands becomes more of a rant in one direction and gives it a nuanced perspective. Desiree makes it what it should be, a personal choice.

Her short film based on the story is moving, effective, and beautiful in its stillness. You can watch it here.

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If you’re reading this and you or a friend want to be involved in Forward, e-mail us! You can respond to this message or if you prefer: forwardflashfictionanthology@gmail.com. We’re looking for someone to help us interview some of the different people involved in this anthology to feature in this newsletter (and on the aforementioned website).

Thanks for reading and watching!

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