Carolina VonKampen

Editor. Reader. Writer.

Tag: fiction (page 1 of 2)

Flash Fiction Roundup: 12 Stories From 12 Lit Mags

In February, I made a concerted effort to read more lit mags. I didn’t quite reach my goal of reading a different one every day, but I did find 12 stories that resonated with me for one reason or another. Enjoy this flash fiction roundup from around the internet!

1. “Imperfect” by Sudha Balagopal in Lost Balloon

This flash fiction centers around a girl at a Catholic school who embarrassingly doesn’t have clean shirts and has to keep borrowing shirts from the rich girl, Pia. The characterization is good, and the narrative neatly arcs to a satisfying ending. I love the line “I want to learn how how to faint” because I have thought that, too.

Read it here.

2. “Shapeless” by Chloe Clark in bad pony

I love how this story took a turn pretty quickly with the line: “Your baby’s a golem.” I love being surprised! I dig the emotional potency of the piece balanced with its slightly speculative/magical realism slant.

Read it here.

3. “Water is My Favorite Color” by Anna O’Brien in Cold Creek Review

I kinda love this story. The main character is fleshed out and real; I feel like I understand her even though I’m 20 years younger. The images throughout the story—water and watercolors and her kids’ color names—are well done and effective. I love how this mysterious Lindy character’s storyline twists at the end, revealing she’s not as perfect as she seems; in the last moments of the story, she’s both pitiful and still slightly unsympathetic.

Read it here.

4. “My Sister’s Aquarium” by Jennifer Todhunter in Cease, Cows

I adore the twist we get right away when we realize that her sister is an aquarium instead of holding an aquarium. That twist is the draw for me; I enjoy the rest of the dialogue and story, and the ending delivers.

Read it here.

5. “The City of Four Million Husbands” by Gillian Ramos in Cotton Xenomorph

Come for the title, stay for the realistic and relatable character that you either are or know. This story is the embodiment of the “girl who falls in love with everyone” character; Ramos crafts a dynamic character throughout a well-paced story.

Read it here.

6. “Sick Girls” by Lauren Becker in CHEAP POP

It’s short, but this story does some interesting things with relationships with others (especially when everyone in the friend group is dying) and relationships with food and body.

Read it here.

7. “Boston” by Matt Carlin in The Sea Letter

Here we have an interesting story about mask as mask, then as metaphor, then as shocking reality. I love the ending on this one.

Read it here.

8. “Take and Give” by Lauren Becker in Jellyfish Review

I like this one for a few reasons: First, the relationship between the narrator and her sister feels real. Second, the turn in the story felt unexpected, even though it’s echoed in the title; it’s an interesting turn because it makes that sister relationship so much more real—only siblings know exactly how to drive each other crazy. I love that the title hints at this twist, but doesn’t give it away.

Read it here.

9. “Now That the Circus Has Shut Down, the Human Cannonball Looks for Work” by Meghan Phillips in Wigleaf

This flash fiction captures how many of us Millennials feel when searching for a new job or at the beginning of our careers. I love the quick, witty prose: Lines like “She works on a cover letter, but isn’t sure how to talk about herself without exclamation points” and “Quick learner—She wasn’t always the Human Cannonball” are perfect.

Read it here.

10. “The Candle Farmers” by Rebecca Harrison in Paper Darts

Not only does this story have a super interesting and metaphorically rich concept, but it’s also got a good storyline and ending. I love the imagery of candle fields, and the story feels emotionally complete.

Read it here.

11. “Insomnia” by Hannah Rahimi in Carve

This story feels so real and genuine. There are lines in here that I love, like: “Gentleness tends to make me cry because it usually means someone has detected something breakable in me that I didn’t know was there. At least the camera’s off.”

Read it here.

12. “Story of a Witch” by R.A. Matteson in The Molotov Cocktail

I love how Matteson plays with the stereotypical flat characters of “witch” and “hero” here; she subverts them in an way that speaks to the current #MeToo movement and adds to the conversation.

Read it here.

Which story (or stories) did you like the most, and why? Tell me in the comments!

I Read Lit Mags Most Days for a Month—Here’s What I Learned

At the beginning of February, I challenged myself to read selections from one lit mag every day for the entire month. As with most goals, I didn’t end up reading lit mags *every* day, but I did read a sampling. Here’s what I learned from this reading challenge: Continue reading

Such Small Hands by Andrés Barba

Such Small Hands by Andrés Barba is a haunting novel about a little girl, Marina, who is sent to an orphanage after her parents die in a car crash that she survived. The other girls at the orphanage, however, aren’t so welcoming. They want to love her, but cannot; Marina wants to be accepted by them, but isn’t. Barba explores the inability to communicate and the heightened reality of childhood as his characters cannot break out of their fated roles and barrel on toward inevitable tragedy. It’s a short book at 97 pages, but the prose, mood, and intense characterization gripped me long after I put it down. Continue reading

To Read or Not to Read: Un Lun Dun by China Miéville

S. Jae-Jones, a host of one of my favorite podcasts, Pub Crawl Podcast, recommended the children’s book Un Lun Dun by China Miéville for readers who love Alice in Wonderland and The Phantom Tollbooth. I do love both of those books. I’ve reread Alice in Wonderland multiple times, and I strongly considered doing a book report on The Phantom Tollbooth in fourth grade but couldn’t figure out how to obtain the refrigerator box I felt was necessary to pull it off. So, I decided to take a look at Un Lun Dun and decide: To read or not to read? Continue reading

I’m Actually Going to Read Lit Mags This Month

I have a confession to make: Since November, I’ve been regularly submitting the few pieces of my writing that are polished enough to send into the world to lit mags. But rarely, so rarely, have I actually…read…lit mags.

It’s terrible. Around 75 percent of lit mag submission guidelines suggest that writers read the magazine to get an idea of what the editors like. This makes sense. But I haven’t done it.

I have no excuses, really. I like reading, I intend to support lit mags, and I want to find the best places for my writing.

So I’ve decided that in February, it’s time to actually read lit mags. Continue reading

19 Books I Just Had to Buy in the United Kingdom

Bookstores are my weakness, and quite unfortunately, I was recently subjected to several tempting multi-level, well-stocked London bookstores. Reader, it was terrible. As I threw more and more books into my arms (and eventually into shopping baskets), I tried to think of some constraints to narrow down which books I would allow myself to buy. I decided upon a few rules to guide my British book buying:

  1. I could buy books that weren’t available in the United States yet.
  2. I could buy books that had sucky U.S. editions but fabulous U.K. editions.
  3. I could buy books that were significantly cheaper in the United Kingdom than the American Amazon prices.
  4. I was required to buy the complete volumes of Roald Dahl’s short stories, because gah.

Continue reading

10 Books I Didn’t Finish Last Year

Almost everyone says the same thing about books you don’t finish: Just move on. Read something better, read something that’s more engaging. But for some reason, I stubbornly want to finish books that I’ve started.

If I start a book, I want to finish it so I can either write a review of what I didn’t like or be pleasantly surprised when the book improves as I read. And if I’ve gone to the trouble of buying a book and spent time reading it, it seems like a waste of time and money to abandon it.

Despite good intentions, I abandoned several books in 2017. Here are 10 books I didn’t finish last year: Continue reading

To Read or Not to Read: The End We Start From

I first came across The End We Start From on a LitHub list of new releases in November. The initial description checked a lot of boxes for me: literary fiction, lots of overarching metaphors, beautiful prose. It sounded promising (and the cover looked gorgeous). When I saw it on the shelf in Barnes & Noble, I had to pick it up and decide for myself: To read or not to read? Continue reading

To Read or Not to Read: All the Dirty Parts by Daniel Handler

If you don’t know, Daniel Handler is the author of A Series of Unfortunate Events, aka Lemony Snicket. I love love LOVE A Series of Unfortunate Events, but I haven’t read anything else by Handler. His latest novel, All the Dirty Parts, was recently published by Bloomsbury, so I picked up a copy to decide: To read or not to read? Continue reading

To Read or Not to Read: Sourdough by Robin Sloan

I admit, I’m already a bit biased toward reading Robin Sloan’s second novel, Sourdough. I enjoyed Sloan’s debut novel, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, and I heard Sloan speak on an author panel at BookFest St. Louis. Naturally, he talked about this new novel, specifically about how food is such an interesting topic to write about and how he wrote his characters. I couldn’t resist picking this book up on a Barnes and Noble visit and to take a peek at the first few pages to decide: To read or not to read? Continue reading

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