#25: Sarah V. Schweig

Here’s the second installment in our special collection of In the Telling podcasts: stories, essays, and poetry by our 2015 Pushcart Nominees. These episodes are curated by series editor Joseph Scalora. Each episode includes an introduction by our poetry, fiction, and nonfiction editors.

This episode features Sarah V. Schweig. Poetry Editor Tom Haushalter nominated her poem, “Contingencies (II),” which appeared in Issue 16, for the 2015 Pushcart Prize.

Sarah V. Schweig is the author of the chapbook S (Dancing Girl Press). Her poetry and criticism has appeared or is forthcoming in Black Warrior Review, BOMB Magazine, Boston Review, Everyday Genius, HTML Giant, Maggy, Painted Bride Quarterly, Publishers Weekly, Tin House, Verse Daily, The Volta, Slice, West Branch, and Western Humanities Review, among others. Her prose appears regularly at The Dodo, and occasionally at The Huffington Post. A graduate of the University of Virginia and Columbia University, where her manuscript was the recipient of the David Craig Austen Memorial Award, and previously a 2012 Emerging Poet Resident at Poets House, a 2010 Tennessee Williams Scholar at Sewanee Writers Workshop, and a 2010 Ruth Lilly Fellowship finalist, she studies philosophy at The New School for Social Research and lives in Brooklyn.

Episode by Joseph Scalora

Music by Gabriel Lane & Ian McConnell

#24: Elizabeth Onusko

Hello, Bookworms,

We’re kicking off a special collection of podcasts: stories, essays, and poems by our 2015 Pushcart Nominees. Series editor Joseph Scalora designed each episode to cover the selection process and the work itself. So you’ll first hear notes from the editors, before he turns to writers reading their own work.

This first episode features Elizabeth Onusko, and poetry Editor Tom Haushalter will tell you all about why he nominated her poem, “This Close and No Further” (Issue 17), for the 2015 Pushcart Prize.



Elizabeth Onusko’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Journal, Poetry EastThe CollagistFront Porch Journal, Radar Poetry, and The Adroit Journal, among others, and has been featured on Verse Daily. She is the author of a chapbook, The Prague Winter (Finishing Line Press).

Music by Gabriel Lane & Ian McConnell

Exquisite Corpse: Lit Crawl Austin 2015

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Slice took part in Lit Crawl Austin last weekend. There was mischief. There were antics. And there were smackdowns. All with a literary spin. Plus, a generous amount of alcohol was thrown into the mix. In short, it was a blast.

We joined forces with PEN America to host an Exquisite Corpse reading. If you’ve never heard of one, here’s how it works: One person writes the first few paragraphs. We send the final line of those paragraphs to the next writer, who continues the story. Then the writers come together to read their collective tale, without knowing where it began or where it will end. The only direction we offered: Because Halloween is just around the corner, write something spooky.

Here’s that hilariously morbid tale, penned by these phenoms: Marisa Accolla Marchetto, Sarah McCoy, Keija Parssinen, Neal Pollack, and Sung J. Woo.

Neal Pollack kicked it off with this:

It was a world without restaurants. The government had banned fine dining. There were no food trucks, or carts, or stalls, or casual communal table burger joints. The grocery stores stayed open all the time, but they didn’t sell anything ready to eat. All the food was fresh and delicious and people had to cook it themselves.

Coffee bars sold coffee. Marijuana bars provided a THC fix. There was chocolate and juice and milk and cheese, sold at a premium, individually wrapped by quality purveyors. Beer and wine and spirits existed, of course. We were not animals. But going to a place, sitting down, ordering off a menu, and being brought food by a chipper young person who was “here to take care of you today” could not happen, by law. If you wanted to eat out, you had to go over to someone’s house. Invitations happened rarely, and in secret. If word got out that someone was serving a dinner for more than four, the line would stretch around the block, exactly the kind of thing the restaurant ban was trying to avoid.

People had been eating too much. They had spent all their money and had grown huge. The restaurants had fed them, and demanded too many resources. So, gradually, violently, the restaurants disappeared. This idea started in Germany.

Sarah McCoy stepped in next, with this:

This idea started in Germany—when I was working the summer at the Ritter Sport Museum. One of those work-study student exchange deals. My then-boyfriend, now- husband came over to visit, and it was every bit the Willy Wonka fantasy. Drunk on cocoa confections and seeing lederhosen-ed Oompa Loompas, we’d mused, “What if we lived here one day? What if we became expats and moved?”

Fast forward ten years and the doompety-da idea had taken root. My husband’s IT company had an office in Freiburg. “Why not?” we asked ourselves. We saw it every night on House Hunters International. It was a 30-minute TV show, not even a full 60. How hard could it be if people were doing it in half an hour, right? We DVR-ed the marathons and studied until we’d convinced ourselves that it was now or never. “We don’t have kids so this is the time. We must go, ja?”

So we put in for the transfer, ended our lease, bought plane tickets, and before we could say Auf Wiedersehen to the mailman, we were standing at the edge of the Black Forest with our German relator. House-hunting! Just as we dreamed.

“Ist over here,” she said.

We’d asked for a home with character, charisma, true German spirit, and stainless steel appliances, of course. We weren’t medieval.

She led us under the forest canopy down a narrow wooded lane. The home was too large to be a cottage, too small to be a manor. Its dark timbers held up a thatched reed roof where I couldn’t help noticing a buzzard perched, cawing and flapping his wings madly at our approach.

“Ist ein Heidenhaus, a farmhouse.” The realtor grinned too cheerfully for the setting. “Owned by ein family for nearly hundert years.”

“A family farmhouse, how lovely,” I said in my best House Hunters show voice. I could tell from my husband’s silence that he was not embracing the wanderlust spirit. “What kind of crops did they grow?” The woods were dark and the soil boggish. Potatoes, maybe. Turnips?

“Schweine,” said the realtor. “Pigs for der Metzger—the butcher.” The buzzard continued incessantly overhead as we reached the door. “A slaughterhouse,” said my husband. “How cozy.”

Sung J. Woo was next in line:

“A slaughterhouse,” said my husband. “How cozy.”

I took a seat on the bench by the door, crossed my legs, placed my purse on my lap, and turned away from him.  I sighed, loud enough and long enough for him to hear.

He leaned our rolling suitcase against the white-tiled wall.  “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry,” I said.  “Just be happy.  Or if you can’t manage that, just not be miserable.”

He walked up to the four-poster bed in the center of the room.  Spiked onto each post was the head of an animal: cow, pig, lamb, deer.  They looked real because they were, crafted by expert taxidermists who’d created art out of flesh.  Not surprising, as I was paying six hundred a night for our Slaughterhouse Suite.  It wasn’t the most expensive room at the bed and breakfast – that honor belonged to the Manson Mansion, the honeymoon cottage by the lake.

“Good mattress,” he said, pressing down on it with his hands.

I got on it from the right side, and he on the left, our default positions.

On the ceiling was a single light dangling off a meat hook, an old fashioned bulb made of clear glass and filament that gave off a warm, zigzagged glow.

“Happy birthday,” I said.

“Thank you.”

I didn’t want to say it, but I had to.

“Except you don’t sound thankful.”

“What would you like for me to sound like?” he asked.

“Jesus Christ.”

“Why don’t you tell me, my dear beloved wife, exactly how I should say these words, so they’ll match up exactly to your specifications?” he said.

Then Keija Parssinen stepped in:

“Why don’t you tell me, my dear beloved wife, exactly how I should say these words, so they’ll match up exactly to your specifications?” he said.

They continued in this fashion, the barbs so familiar they no longer broke the skin. In fact—and he hated to admit this—their bickering had gone beyond hurt and taken on a romantic sheen, had become a Tarantella of sorts, equal parts courtship and death-throes theatrics, so that, whereas he used to plead for peace, he had now started to relish the routine. He had only to match his steps to hers, to offer a counterpoint to her pointed point, and they could continue like this for decades, thrilling at the friction produced by their incompatibility, using it to mount towards the ecstasy that usually eluded long-married couples like them.

But she had something else in mind, entirely. The goading and ridicule she heaped on him was meant to produce a schism, and eventually, a break. She didn’t have the nerve to end things, so she tried to make herself cruel enough to be left. Yet here they were, another day begun with hearts thrumming from conflict, and he seemed to almost enjoy it. Oh, dear god, she thought. She’d prefer to be married to a Sadist, someone who at least took a stand on something, even if that something was the small of your back.

Marisa Acocella Marchetto wrapped it up:

She’d prefer to be married to a Sadist, someone who at least took a stand on something, even if that something was the small of your back.  

But she didn’t marry just any Sadist. She was much too stylish for that. She married a fashion forward Sadist with a Shoe Fetish. Her beautiful, elegant cross-dressing husband had a preference for only the very best, most exquisite footwear. How they loved to play dress up in their matching Louboutins!

And yet, there was a pair he had closeted away that she knew nothing of. A pair of size 14 heels that were actually fashioned with 7-inch stiletto blades. Shoes that were not made to walk on any kind of hard surface. He saved them for a special occasion, and tonight was the night.

Using their 600-thread count black Frette silk bedsheets that he had previously cut into ribbons, he blindfolded his wife, and then tied up her petite hands and feet to their four-poster Poltrona Frau Volare bed. He paused, looked back at her flawless porcelain body, and then vengefully, purposefully, step by step, walked all over her. Stilettos on skin. Defiling her. Piercing her perfect flesh as her screams went unheard. What was a study in crisp black and white a la his favorite artist, Jean Désiré Gustave Courbet, the French realist painter who rejected Romanticism, was now splattered with red, so very Jasper Johns.

Off the bed now. He slips off his stilettos. Eyes on her. Transfixed. A smile cracks his face. His masterpiece. Such an exquisite, exquisite corpse. 

Photo Credit: Trish Johnson

Marisa Acocella Marchetto is a cartoonist for The New Yorker whose work has appeared in The New York Times; Glamour; and O, The Oprah Magazine, among other publications. She is the author of The New York Times bestselling graphic novel Ann Tenna (Knopf), Cancer Vixen (Knopf), and Just Who the Hell Is She Anyway? (Crown). Her graphic memoir Cancer Vixen was named one of Time’s top ten graphic memoirs, and a finalist for the National Cartoonists Society Graphic Novel of the Year. A founder and chair of the Marisa Acocella Marchetto Foundation at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Dubin Breast Center at Mount Sinai, she lives in New York City.

Sarah McCoy is the New York Times, USA Today, and international bestselling author of The Mapmaker’s Children; The Baker’s Daughter, a 2012 Goodreads Choice Award Best Historical Fiction nominee; the novella “The Branch of Hazel” in Grand Central; and The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico. Her work has been featured in Real Simple, The Millions, Your Health Monthly, Huffington Post and other publications. She has taught English writing at Old Dominion University and at the University of Texas at El Paso. She calls Virginia home but presently lives with her husband, an Army physician, and their dog, Gilly, in El Paso, Texas. Connect with Sarah on Twitter at @SarahMMcCoy, on her Facebook Fan Page, Goodreads, or via her website, www.sarahmccoy.com.

Keija Parssinen is the author of The Unraveling of Mercy Louis and The Ruins of Us, a Michener-Copernicus award-winning novel. Raised in Saudi Arabia and Texas, she is a graduate of Princeton University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she was a Truman Capote fellow. Currently, Parssinen is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Tulsa. She lives in Oklahoma with her husband and son.

Neal Pollack has published nine semi-bestselling books of fiction and nonfiction, including the memoirs Alternadad and Stretch, the cult classic Neal Pollack Anthology Of American Literature, and the novels Jewball, Repeat, and Downward-Facing Death. His tenth book, a science-fiction action comedy about space gentrification called Keep Mars Weird, will be published by Amazon’s 47 North imprint later this month. He lives in Austin, seemingly against his will.

Sung J. Woo‘s short stories and essays have appeared in The New York Times, PEN/Guernica, and KoreAm Journal. His debut novel, Everything Asian (2009), has received praises from The Christian Science Monitor, Kirkus Reviews (starred review), the Chicago Sun-Times, and won the 2010 Asian Pacific American Librarians Association Literature Award (Youth category). In 2014, Everything Asian was chosen for Coming Together in Skokie and Niles Township. A graduate of Cornell University with an MFA from New York University, he lives in Washington, New Jersey.

Cowboys and Poets, by C.K. Williams

In 2007 Maria Gagliano and I reached out to C.K. Williams for an interview. It was for our second issue of Slice. When he heard that the theme of the issue would be “heroes,” he suggested we publish a little piece he’d written that had been waiting for a home for some time. In honor of C. K. Williams, we wanted to share that piece with you this week.

-Celia Johnson, Creative Director, Slice
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#77: Behind the Slice Literary Writers’ Conference: An Interview with Rob Spillman, by Liz Mathews

The 5th annual Slice Literary Writers’ Conference is in two days, and we’re so excited about the amazing community of writers and publishing professionals that is about to crowd into our corner of downtown Brooklyn. As we count down, we chatted with Tin House editor Rob Spillman about his work in both magazine and indie book publishing. We’ll hear more from Rob on Saturday at our panel Where They’re Looking for You: Literary Magazines and Indie Presses. You can see the full panel schedule here.

At Tin House, what are you looking for when reading unsolicited submissions? Do you just get a feeling when you know something is top notch?

My simple answer is that I am looking to miss my subway stop. I want the work—fiction, poetry, nonfiction, haiku, whatever it is—to be all that can possibly exist for the time I am reading it, to be so authoritative that only that writer could have written it.


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An Interview with Katherine Fawcett, by Liz Mathews

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In the opening of his NPR book review of Katherine Fawcett’s The Little Washer of Sorrows, Jason Heller writes that the book  “is not what it seems.” Halfway through the third page of the first story of the collection the reader gets a heavy sense of this, and even though the tale clearly breaks from any reality you or I might recognize, you just have to know what’s going to happen next. This is true of pretty much every piece in the collection, including a short one called “Cannonball,” from the perspective of a kid whose mom is giving him some bad news. Have you ever bothered to consider bad news from an eleven-year-old’s point of view, since you were eleven? Afraid to go down that path? Indulge yourself.

That’s what Fawcett has opted to do—at least as far as her writing goes. She started her career in sports reporting, moved toward freelance journalism and commercial writing, and by motherhood/age forty decided to give those fiction voices in her head a chance. I was able to ask her about what it was like to prepare stories for a collection, how her previous writing experiences aided her when it came to working on a book, and how she can take something so basic as an elderly couple on vacation and make them both more real than you’d ever considered and more real than you’d ever want to consider. Meet Katherine Fawcett.

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#76: Behind the Slice Literary Writers’ Conference: An Interview with Little, Brown Deputy Marketing Director Miriam Parker, by Liz Mathews

Marketing: an incredibly important department in the publishing world. But what, exactly, does the marketing department do for a title? Or for the author of that title? And what can you do for the marketing department when it comes to your book?

We spoke with Miriam Parker, the Deputy Marketing Director at Little, Brown, to get some insight on how she approaches her marketing work, and what she hopes you’re willing to do to help her help you get your book out into the world of readers and bookstores.

And for more from Miriam, check out the Don’t Be Creepy panel at the Slice Literary Writers’ Conference in Brooklyn on September 12. You can find the full panel lineup here.

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An Interview with Author Helen Phillips and Editor Sarah Bowlin, by Celia Johnson

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With the publication of her debut novel, The Beautiful Bureaucrat, Helen Phillips has been compared to a host of literary masters: Kafka, Davis, Calvino, Atwood, Saramago, Borges, and more. Take note of the breadth of that list. Clearly, by evoking so many great writers and not just one, Phillips has created a work very much her own. The Beautiful Bureaucrat is at once surreal and familiar. It is the story of Josephine, a young woman who moves to a city with her husband. Josephine finds work at The Database, which seems, at first, as mundane as it sounds. But she soon discovers that she has become part of something more sinister than she could ever imagine. I spoke with Phillips and her editor, Sarah Bowlin, about memorable characters, the creative process, unsung heroes in the publishing industry, and more. For more from Phillips and Bowlin, check out our upcoming writers’ conference. They are both lined up to take part in panels.

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#75: Behind the Slice Literary Writers’ Conference: An Interview with editor Adina Talve-Goodman, by Liz Mathews

As we continue to prepare for the Slice Literary Writers’ Conference happening in Downtown Brooklyn on September 12 and 13, we’re thrilled to give you an advance introduction to another one of our panelists.

Adina Talve-Goodman is the managing editor at One Story, a fellow lit mag that we at Slice have long admired and love to have as part of our conference year after year. With One Story, that’s what you get every three to four weeks: one really great story, packaged in one tastefully designed and easily transportable issue. No author gets published twice with One Story, and no reader gets let down by the content. As a transplant to the New York lit world from St Louis, MO, Adina is still pleased with her decision and delighted by the writers she works with. She’ll be on our Where They’re Looking for You: Literary Magazines and Indie Presses panel on Saturday, September 12.

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#74: Behind the Slice Literary Writers’ Conference: An Interview with literary agent Erin Harris by Liz Mathews

Erin HarrisAsk any two literary agents how they spend their day, and you’ll get wildly different answers. But even if they go about their work differently, they’re all rooting for the same outcome: to discover incredible new writers in their submissions. We spoke with Erin Harris, literary agent at Folio Literary Management, about how she approaches the imperfect art of finding new talent. Writers, if you’ve ever submitted your work to Erin, know that she reviewed it with a hopeful eye. Erin will share more about her quest for great new writers on our A Day in the Life panel at the Slice Literary Writers’ Conference in Brooklyn on September 12. You can find the full panel lineup here.

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