Glimmer Train Spring 2015, Part 3: PRECARIOUS

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The middle section of stories in the Glimmer Train Spring/Summer 2015 issue all deal with an unstable situation. Topics include the frailty of human mortality, the risks of a hostile environment, and the hormones of a teenage girl. Ok, that last comment was unfair. In that story’s case, it’s the plot that drove a boat into a whirlpool and took its main character with it. As opposed to the other way around.

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Now that I’ve hinted at the third story’s insanity, it’ll be hard to interest you in the other, basically functional pieces of fiction that come before it. Well, as I said in my last Glimmer Train roundup, we can learn from any critical and emotional response a story elicits. And the soberness of “Caretaking” and “Civil Affairs” will reveal, in comparison, how exactly “Museum of Me” snorted Cocoa Puff powder stolen from a hack screenwriter. Let’s begin!

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Glimmer Train Spring 2015, Part 2: DENSITY

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During the last writing workshop I took, almost all the writers had an obsession with smooth reading. If you submitted a story, you were guaranteed a few comments about “I really had to slow down during this section,” or “I read too fast and got confused about X.” I tried to temper that type of criticism in my own feedback… mostly out of self-interest. If I get harsh in the below critiques (and I will), know that I have committed graver writing sins for far less interesting stories.

The readers in that workshop wanted fast-paced, uncomplicated prose. I like uncomplicated prose. I also like, on occasion, to take my time with a story, study the language, let my brain work a little against the hypnotism of literature instead of always submitting to it. And I got that sensation with “A Dispatch from Mt. Moriah,” “Norwegian for Troll,” and “Tunnels.”

This second cluster of stories in the Glimmer Train Spring/Summer 2015 issue require examination, patience, and more than a few trips to the dictionary. At least, for me they did. Bare in mind that complex doesn’t always mean smart… and the shorten form of “density” is “dense,” dense like that high school freshman who claimed to understand Nietzsche. Let me show you what I mean with our first story…

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Glimmer Train Spring 2015, Part 1: FOREBODING

The time has come to keep my promise.

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The first three stories in the Glimmer Train Spring/Summer 2015 issue hang on the theme of ominous portending. Each tale; “Window,” “The Bears,” and “Slaughter”; explores a different looming disaster. It may be the abandoning of family, the transformation into maturity, or just the approach of an unjust war.

If you’re going to write your own story about looming tragedy, you’ll need clarity of action and motivation. These three Glimmer Train features will show, through both good and bad examples, what I mean.

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How to Get Accepted By Glimmer Train (as of Winter 2015)

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I enjoy reading issues of Glimmer Train, and this one in particular had some great offerings. Even the stories I disliked the most had something worthwhile to provide. I can find short stories in many places, but the ones in Glimmer Train reveal the best path to a first ever publishing. Here are my previous reviews, from the worst story to the best:

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Glimmer Train Winter 2015: “Transit,” by Gillian Burnes

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We end the Winter 2015 issue of Glimmer Train as we began it— with a globe-hopping look at how every life interconnects. And, would you believe it, it’s even more plotless than “Number 41” was! That’s not all bad. Like I said, some stories move along by theme instead of plot. And in a couple of those stories, theme’s all you got. I loved “Number 41” like a comfort pillow. “Transit”’s more like bubble wrap… fun and cozy, to be sure, but not as substantial or even as appealing as such a pillow.

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Glimmer Train Winter 2015: “If She Doesn’t Answer” by David Ebenbach

On occasion, you need to reclaim your love of reading. It’s easy to get bogged down in what you’re supposed to read, or what’s good for you to read. You forget why you even bother in the first place. Unlike other, good Glimmer Train offerings, “If She Doesn’t Answer” fills me with the urge to scream and tell the world how fuckin’ great this story is. That’s hard to do when writing a reasoned critique. So imagine me typing all this with my hair on fire, my eyes bulging, and my fingers quicker than lightning, if you want to get a sense of how this short story excites me.

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Glimmer Train Winter 2015: “Dumb Down,” by Hugh Burkhart

Any writer will tell you how hard it is to make good art, but some aspects of the craft are easier than others. Let’s say you want to tell a traditional tempted-by-old-flame story, like “Dumb Down” does. How do you convince your audience that this hot lady is worth committing infidelity over? Simple: don’t describe the wife at all! Hard to get upset over the betrayal of someone you barely know. Allison, the wife of protagonist Dave, only has an arched eyebrow as a defining character trait. “There was a time when that was all she would have to do to get me to ravish her right there…” (Burkhart, 202) muses Dave. Now Dave has his eye on Kerry Pigeon, wife (former?) of college friend Hal. In our first look at Kerry, we see her “Barefoot in worn jeans and a T-shirt, blond hair tousled… she was more woman than any of the college girls I’d been with, sensual in a way they could never be,” (Burkhart, 204). Yeah, there’s no way “eyebrow not as sexy as before” can compete with that.

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