Letting Go Of Your Literary Influences


I organized some of my old writing notebooks yesterday, and reminisced about when I began this journey in earnest eight years ago with a shitty novel/script/thing. My writing improved by football-field lengths in six years (for comparison’s sake, the road to becoming a good writer starts in your room and ends on the moon). Hell, I’ve improved just between this time last year and now. The first short story that I posted on this website, “Broken Watch,” is dull and near unreadable to me now. Ironically, I brought that story to the blog because I thought it had an exciting and tense opening. Around the same time I wrote “Broken Watch,” I also penned “The College Station All-Male Feminist Union.” Though that story had more work done editing it than “Watch,” and that story has more drafts coming, I still like reading “Union” even to this day. And if that fact doesn’t astound you to your core, then you don’t know that many artists.

There are a lot of factors I can credit to that leap in quality. I grew as a writer when I learned to stop aping the creatives that inspired me.

Continue reading “Letting Go Of Your Literary Influences”

The New Head Image (and other updates!)

To answer your first question: yes, that is a wonderful, original, not-going-to-get-me-in-trouble-for-copyright painting serving as the welcome mat to Word Salad Spinner! The ever-talented Christ Longino drew it. You can find his portfolio at christlongino.com, and you should check out what he describes as “my dumb art blog” at chritophart.tumblr.com. Both sites boast excellent work.

See if you can find all the references!

Now that I have your attention, I’d like to discuss some other things going on with this blog. Nothing earth shattering, but some details of the various piles of rocks I call ongoing projects.

  • I was eager to finish up Glimmer Train Fall 2014 so I could submit all the articles in a MyTrendingStories contest. I might have swamped the front page a bit. I promise not to talk about Glimmer Train again until October.
  • Though it may not seem like this is the case, I have been working on the Cracked article you guys picked out for me. You should be seeing the fruits of my labors sometime around the end of 2016.
  • I make no secret of the fact that sometimes I update the blog with some of my old material because I’m crunching deadlines. I will never use that fact as an excuse to put up subpar material (or, at least, I’ll stop doing so). That said, while I like the work I’ve done on Canterbury Tales BATTLE ROYALE, I seem to be in the minority on that front. So if you do like that series, here’s your warning that I’ll only update that section on rare occasions, and may not even finish it.
  • Does anyone else think that Luke’s holding his lightsaber in a suspicious way?
“You have the ring, and I see your Schwartz is as big as mine.”

I’ve made additional changes to the blog besides the header image. Let me know what you think of the new format!

A Comprehensive Guide in a Comprehensive Place

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A while back, I uploaded, piece by piece, the ultimate character creation list. Now it’s all in one place at this article here. Also included in this article are a World Document Template and a character example of all the stuff I ramble about in the guide.

Also: if you want to follow me on MyTrendingStories, that would be most appreciated. I’ll soon be posting articles there that are exclusive to that site, and you wouldn’t want to miss out, now would you?


How to Get Accepted By Glimmer Train (as of Fall 2014)

I began reviewing Glimmer Train stories in order to find out what content they like to see in their submissions I’ve only covered one issue in detail, and have plenty more issues to read before I stop. But even so, I think I can put together a decent guide on what topics and techniques you should cover if you want a better chance of getting into this magazine. For completion’s sake, I put down below a link farm of all the stories in the Fall 2014 issue, so you can get my thoughts on what works for individual stories.

Stowaways (#7)

The X-250 (#9)

Walang Hiya, Brother (#6)

The Hate (#1)

Speak to Me (#10)

Miss Me Forever (#2)

What We Saw (#3)

Hialeah (#4)

Maghreb and the Sea (#8)

Here for Life (#11)

The Orange Parka (#5)

Without further ado, here’s the beginner’s guide of what you aspiring writers should try if you want to get accepted into Glimmer Train:

  • Talk about a non-American culture, or at least a non-mainstream one. A Middle Eastern or an Asian culture’s a plus. The more obscure from an American perspective, the better. If a story’s set in America, than it damn well better be from the perspective of an immigrant.
  • Master your metaphors. This is where the richness of Glimmer Train stories lays. It’s also the part of my writing I’ll have to work the hardest at if I want to make it here.
  • Focus on character beats and quiet moments instead of plot. I don’t recommend this for all writing, but it’s perfectly acceptable for the plot to move on while the protagonist just lets it go on. Better ye, have the impotence of the protagonist in regards to influencing the story’s direction connect to your central theme.
  • Isolated and lonely characters are great. You’ll have to have them talk to someone, of course, but even then your protagonist should be apart from the world around them in some way.
  • Bring rich descriptions to the table. Even in minimalist stories, paint a vivid picture.
  • If you must bring in the fantastical, stick to ghosts. It’s the only thing outside of normal life that I’ve seen Glimmer Train allow in their fiction. And who doesn’t love a good ghost story?
  • Do a non-linear narrative if you can. It’s hard to do, and not required, but accomplishing that will score you extra points.

I hope this guide helps you get accepted into Glimmer Train! I’ll be adding more to it with each issue I complete. Be sure to notify me if the magazine accepts you after using these tips.

Everyman’s New Story


Everyman had a sleepover;

just like you, Everyman had a mohawk

and drove his mom’s rusting minivan to Coolidge High.

His poetry assignment—

D-, see me in my office—

was now rolled and lit and served as a blunt.


The night air is outside. A horror movie,

old, plays in the background as

he and his friends sit in a circle of beds and smoke.

Their conversation is probing, serious— about Sartre,

the afterlife, the nature of choice,

what being green really means.


That’s when she says:

What is the story you want

to tell, the thing you want expressed

that no one has ever told before?

What has no one done

because they’re waiting for you to roll your dice?

Continue reading “Everyman’s New Story”

Glimmer Train Fall 2014: “The Orange Parka” by E. A. Durden


I’ve noticed a trend in certain collections where the closing story brings matters to a quieter, more contemplative state. You can argue that the most recent example of this pattern, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, does the same in a sense, despite all the time travel and action. It’s the same way for “The Orange Parka.” After stories about public hangings, ghosts, and a refugee crisis (which aren’t exactly blockbuster action movies to begin with), we end the volume with a tale about what it’s like to be an empty nester, and the loneliness that resides within a generation that’s fading away.

Continue reading “Glimmer Train Fall 2014: “The Orange Parka” by E. A. Durden”

Glimmer Train Fall 2014: “Here for Life” by Gil Filar


I try to maintain a professional tone reviewing this magazine, but… hoo boy, did this one piss me off. This story’s the worst story I’ve read in a Glimmer Train magazine, and it’s difficult to think of other short stories outside of a student workshop that induced such rage in me over how much nothing there can be in ten pages.

Continue reading “Glimmer Train Fall 2014: “Here for Life” by Gil Filar”