Issue No. 6

Craft Talk

by Martin J. Smith

Novel Excerpt

by Greg Bills


by Eileen Garvin


by Heather Altfeld


by Cai Emmons


by Grant Hier


by Shangyang Fang

Editor’s Note

by Andrew Tonkovich


Eight Things I Know About Writing

by Martin J. Smith

  1. The fantasy of fame, fortune, and public acclaim keeps most of us at the keyboard. It does not, however, have much to do with reality. Mirages are useful because they keep you moving forward, but they can disappoint in the end. So write because you enjoy it and want to tell good stories.
  2. The only thing you can control in publishing is what you put on the page. Everything else is controlled by mysterious and malicious forces that conspire to keep you obscure, unread, and broke. So focus on the writing.
  3. You and your mom are the only people who consider your book a work of rare literary genius. Despite what they say, your agent and editor are looking at it as a product destined for an unforgiving marketplace. If you are writing strictly for your own pleasure, it doesn’t matter. But if you want to be published, understand and accept that reality.
  4. Publishers are more likely to take an interest in your book if they can immediately imagine which store shelf it will sit on. Your chances of success go up significantly if you write with a specific market in mind.
  5. It takes an extraordinary writer to extract universal meaning from the mundane facts of their own life. The writer who describes her uterus as “a great inland sea” and suggests there is much to be learned about the human condition by sharing in precise detail the environmental conditions in her uterus had better be an extraordinary writer, because most people really don’t care about her uterus, even if it has many meaningful things to say. Before you embark on such a project, ask: Why would anyone care?
  6. Being a published writer does not make you more attractive. Just forget that part of it right now.
  7. Nothing is wasted. Think of all the things you learned while writing that unpublished novel in your bottom drawer. You don’t forget those lessons, and will carry them forward into the next project.
  8. If you plan to quit your day job to write full time, make sure you are independently wealthy or have married well.

Martin J. Smith is an award-winning journalist and author of five suspense novels, including the Edgar Award-nominated Straw Men and the thriller Combustion; and five nonfiction books, including The Wild Duck Chase, the essay collection Mr. Las Vegas Has a Bad Knee, and most recently, Going to Trinidad: A Doctor, a Colorado Town, and Stories from an Unlikely Gender Crossroads (Bower House, April 2021). A participant at the Community of Writers in 1992, Smith has been returning as a faculty member since 2002.



Craft Talk      Novel Excerpt     Nonfiction     Nonfiction     Nonfiction     Poetry     Poetry


“Aura” from The Opaque

by Greg Bills

One more memory of my brother.

In his last year, our grandmother had died, and our mother had started muttering about feelers she was getting from realtors on the Hollywood house. I suspected these hints were meant to push me to take care of Rik for her. He was still living at Grandma’s, as much as he could be said to be living anywhere definite. The fact that he was also hanging with a popstar, bouncing around Europe with a personal assistant, and getting disciplined by the Admiral were facts off my radar, although I had suspected some version of the last one. At the time, it seemed his tiny touchdown zone in Grandma’s house was the one sure connection that Mom and I had with him. And if we were to lose that point of contact, then what?

I had toyed reluctantly with the idea of inviting Rik to move in with me, if that was going to be the only option, and to suss him out, I asked to meet in person. Like my breakfasts with our mother, I decided to confront Rik on neutral territory, so we had arranged for a walk in Debs Park. I waited in the lot outside the Audubon Center where the path on the Arroyo Seco side of the park rose along the hillside, a dust snake wending around native black walnuts and past clumps of elderberry and toyon. It was late fall, one of those warm, clear days that make Los Angeles feel suspended above the seasonal calendar as the rest of the country locks down for winter.

Rik arrived twenty minutes late in a ride sharing car. He had dressed as if for a spiritual retreat with luxe yoga pants chopped at mid-calf and a loose linen shirt open almost to his navel. The V of cloth framed at least half a dozen wooden mala bead necklaces with red thread tassels. Since I had last seen his chest, he had gotten an intricate mandala tattooed around his left nipple. His scalp was buzzed down, and his cheeks and chin coaxed up, to a uniform stubble. He’d brought sunglasses, grey lenses in bright red plastic frames, but he had them pushed up above his forehead. His eyes were wide and darting, and I suspected he was high, on what I couldn’t say. As we began our stroll up the trail, I noticed that he was stepping strangely on the outer edges of his feet. I decided he must be wearing rock climbing shoes. They looked like delicate red slippers banded with black elastic, and made me think of foot-binding.

Rik had always been handsome in the way of the highest of high-fashion models, which was to say narrow, glossy, and ethereal. The sort of male beauty so refined that it was almost not handsome at all. An unsullied quasi-adolescence in a sylvan glade, on the barely excusable side of vapid, that most people could not hang onto past twenty-two. Rik had hung on for ages beyond that sell-by date, and even though his new styling, with the buzzcut and hipster-yogi accessories, seemed designed to undermine his tender looks, the additions registered as superficial smudges on his essential self. Patches of dirt from a cosmetics brush on the cheeks of a stagebound urchin.

Or maybe, it struck me as we climbed, I was observing him as an older brother did, fixing him at a childish point along our shared timeline that he no longer held. Maybe—although he had never shown any inclination—he was fully capable of taking care of himself.

Strolling to match his awkward gait, I asked him how he was doing, what was up, what was happening, what was in the works. All those questions which hold the same intention of encouraging other people to volunteer the contents of their heads. But Rik was in one of his frequent moods when small talk became insufferable, and every tilt of his chin and puff of breath seemed to scoff. I was in no mood to monologue—my usual strategy with him—so I got to the point. “Mom is ready to sell the house. She’s getting offers. If it happens, if it gets sold before you have things figured out, you can come stay at my place for a while.”

And Rik said, “Won’t I cramp your style, with your kitty cats and your professor boyfriend?”

“I’m just making you the offer, in case you’re worried. So you have somewhere to go.”

“I’m not going to need a place much longer.” He kept his gaze fixed ahead, up the trail somewhere. “Don’t you worry.”

“I do though. You seem to think you don’t matter to me, but you do.”

“Jakko. You’re always the reason I end up staying. You and Mom. Mostly you.”

We didn’t speak for some time after that. We hooked the switchbacks at Rik’s pace all the way up, looking down over Highland Park, and out across the arroyo and the freeway to the Southwest Museum. Near the summit, we squinted south at the bright blur of downtown. I didn’t understand what he meant about staying. Or I chose not to understand.

At the top of the hill, there was a little pond, fairly grand for a suburban swimming pool but small for a lake, surrounded by pines and concrete benches. Often when I climbed up there, I would find a few people improbably fishing, usually middle-aged latino gentlemen staring fixedly at the water rippling near their lines. Their grim determination made the process seem even more fanciful, but I suppose the city stocked the pond with something, or the men hoped they had.

There was no one around when Rik and I arrived at Peanut Lake. We skirted the pond, its scrim of water plants, a few turtles becalmed in algae, and the hard-packed ground rumpled by tree roots. Rik glared at the water’s surface then out between two trunks to the surrounding neighborhoods spread below us. The world beyond the trees simmered with a slight white haze of implausibility.

Rik began, “There were two girls talking at this party. One was in the industry, and the other wasn’t. The Industry Girl was mopey. And Non-Industry Girl was trying to figure her out. Industry Girl says she hasn’t gotten anywhere. And Non-Industry Girl says she doesn’t understand why not, Industry Girl is so attractive and talented. And Industry Girl rolls her eyes and says, Pretty is Base Camp. It’s necessary to even get this far, but it’s like you’ve barely started. You need the right equipment, you need your sherpas, and even then, there’s still an icefall to climb.”

I asked, “So, you’re planning to skip town and scale Everest?”

“You’re not part of it, and you don’t get it, and that’s why I can’t talk to you. That’s what Industry Girl said to Non-Industry Girl.”

“That’s a cop-out.”

Rik leaned forward, tapping a shoulder against one of the trees. He wrapped his arms around the trunk, and his face disappeared around the curve of the bark. “Eternity’s calling, Jakko.” He pushed off from the tree and rocked onto the heels of his bondage slippers. “Look!” He pointed out, off the hill.

I came around to the far side of the tree and stared down. In the flatland at the mouth of the arroyo, between the clustered skyscrapers and the spot where we stood, the sun had latched onto a reflective surface—car window or the glass face of a building or some glossy metallic trim—and a ray bounced and coruscated up to us. Into my eyes.

I had migraines all through college until they departed in my mid-twenties as abruptly as they had arrived. I remember how they all began. I’d see dotty floaters in the sky. Or worse, fractal scratches across my field of vision. Like the real world was dissolving into pixels from the center out. If I didn’t go to ground in darkness and silence (back then it was into my bedroom in a triplex dorm; I had to buy blackout curtains to replace the thin strips of nothing the school provided), the pain would come next, like an ice cream scoop digging out my eyes forever. And there it was again at the top of Debs Park, scintillating in my head after I turned away from that strip of sun. The aura.

By the time I had been seared by light and turned away towards the pond, Rik had raced off. It was juvenile of him, but I don’t believe he meant to hurt me by coaxing me to look. It was half a goof and half an escape plan he grasped for. And it wasn’t very successful. I could still spot him tearing around the far curve of the pond towards the trail. But my depth of vision was fucked. Far away and near battled on my optic nerve. I held up my hand, and it seemed smaller and further off than Rik, flailing his own arms like a cartoon, disappearing downhill.

Greg Bills has served on the fiction staff of the Community of Writers—and is an alum of the conference as well. He is the author of the novels Consider This Home and Fearful Symmetry, and he is a Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Redlands. He lives in Northeast Los Angeles.





Craft Talk      Novel Excerpt     Nonfiction     Nonfiction     Nonfiction     Poetry     Poetry


Tending the Hive

by Eileen Garvin

Spring begins with an autopsy.

I stand in the weak March sunshine before the silent shell of my beehive. An eight-frame Langstroth, it stands two brood boxes high and is sadly empty of the industry that should be humming within. A typical hive of this size has about 60,000 members in full summer. A fraction of that number usually survives the winter having clustered together around their queen. They should be rebuilding by now, the oldest bees tending larvae and the newly hatched, teaching them to clean, store nectar and water, and one day even forage. Foragers should be visible on a spring day like this. Instead I watched their numbers dwindle and now the hive is quiet.

I separate the brood boxes to take stock. The interiors are dry. I know the bees had enough food because I slipped in extra sustenance over the winter. There’s no sign of disease or invasion. My best guess is that the queen died. Was it last year’s terrible wildfire season? Was it varroa mites? Was she just not hardy enough? I’ll never know.

Honeybee corpses lie on the hive floor in a litter of orange and gold pollen. Their forms are beautiful even in death. I can’t distinguish the queen’s shape among them, though hers would be longer, tapered, and perhaps still marked with the breeder’s dot. There’s nothing more to do but take notes, clean up the debris, and make a plan for the future.

Thrive or die

Honeybees are not native to North America. They originated in Africa and migrated over time into Europe. Of the more than twenty thousand known species of bees, they are one of a few that make honey. Humans have been collecting wild honey for millennia, with the evidence of first formal beekeeping in Egypt around 3100 BC. Immigrant German orchardists brought bees to America in the early seventeenth century. And in 1851, American clergyman and apiarist Lorenzo Langstroth invented the removable frame hive that so many hobby beekeepers use. Practices have evolved to support these non-natives. There’s scientific research to back up what works and why, but the efforts can only encourage, not guarantee, survival.

In many ways writing is like beekeeping. Some established practices can lead to success. Anyone who writes knows what they are: read widely, write regularly, sustain that practice against distraction, revise, rewrite and keep at it. And at the end of all that, the thing you’ve labored over might die anyway.

What are the causes? Did you lose faith or just lose interest? Was it weak from the beginning but you failed to acknowledge it? Were your expectations too high? Were you thinking of the honey of publication and not the living, throbbing story? Science can’t help us here, and I hope it never will; I don’t want to depend on an algorithm to tell me what will make a story thrive or die.

Nurturing the new

Spring moves toward summer and it’s time to restart the bee colony. I purchase a nucleus hive from a beekeeper in Portland, repaint the brood boxes and pull reserved honey out of the freezer to feed the new arrivals. But when the nuc comes, it contains a fraction of the bees and stores it should. A new adventure: returning the honeybees to the seller. That means transferring them back into the box, putting them in my car, and driving them sixty miles to Portland. I’m rewarded with a new nucleus that’s bursting with fat Russian honeybees. Doubling down, I buy a second nucleus of Italians. And with a gift of another hive from a friend, I’m ready for a swarm, should it appear.

Maybe that weak nucleus would have made it, but I made the decision to let it go. Sometimes we have to do that with our writing—give up on a draft that’s not quite working. In our guts we know it’s going to die despite our best efforts. Best give it back to the bubbling broth of the writing heart and let it boil down to become stock for something else. That story about the two sisters in high desert seems to turn to dust on the page. And the essay about the death of a beloved dog now wilts under the collective grief of the world. Give it all back, let it go, and move on to nurture something new. Like working more than one beehive, encouraging many stories means one might survive.

Hive mind

Summer is here and I return to the weekly practice of beekeeping. When the sun reaches its afternoon apex, I’ll begin anew. I’ll pull on my veil and gloves and take my toolbox out to the hives. I’ll light my smoker, crack the top of the Russians’ home, and pump a puff of smoke inside. I’ll remove the frames one at a time to evaluate honey stores, gestating brood, and the physical health of the workers. I’ll look for drone bees—those big-eyed males who are a sure sign of extra resources and a healthy hive. I’ll do the same with the Italian hive, making notes as I go.

Before this, in the cool morning, I’ll return to the hive of my writing mind. I’ll spend the early hours laboring over the new story that’s trying to emerge. I’ll build out the structure, like a creamy wax honeycomb, seemingly out of nothing. I’ll lay the egg of a character and slowly nudge her to life. I’ll cache sustenance to pull in later—setting, mood, theme, imagery, plot. And in the same kind of alchemy that happens inside the darkness of the beehive, I’ll let it grow, wish it to life, hope that it builds upon itself, layer upon layer like sweet-scented white wax filled to bursting with honey. I’ll dream it into being, a story that came from somewhere else, ferried to my mind one word at a time until it’s got wings of its own and takes flight.

Eileen Garvin’s debut novel, The Music of Bees, was named a Good Morning America Pick, a Good Housekeeping Pick, a People Magazine Pick, a Christian Science Monitor Pick, an IndieNext Pick, and a Library Reads Pick. Her memoir, How to Be a Sister, was named an IndieNext Pick, a Target Book of the Month and a Kindle Book of the Month. Eileen lives in Oregon with her husband, a fierce calico cat, a devoted Baja dog, four chickens, and about 120,000 honeybees. You can read more of her work at



Craft Talk      Novel Excerpt     Nonfiction     Nonfiction     Nonfiction     Poetry     Poetry



Honeymoon, Akko

by Heather Altfeld


The last place we are to visit is decided for us when the car smokes and putters and the final wisps of gas leave the engine to marry the air. Now, untethered from those intimate quarters, unpeeled from the seats sticky with the nonsense of July, we head for the ancient and only noise of the sea, roaring its strange and monstrous roars, its waves of foam and light unbarrelled from the heavens, reminding us that the flight we are meant to catch, the children waiting tens of thousands of miles away at home, are mere abstractions, posters for elsewhere in the windows of a travel agency. Here, just behind the sea-wall lies a network of fortified tunnels discovered by a plumber digging a sewer line in the 1990’s. The tunnels were dug by the Templars at the order of the papal bull as a secret place to hoard the words of god and earthly treasures of coins and gold. Three women are testing their powers by laundering their bare ankles in the water. One turns toward us, watching, her black hijab coated with a dry brine of salt. We are dismissed. Centuries ago they modeled for a painter as the sirens sent to lure Ulysses, his ego worn thin as a sheet.

The thick walls of the old city tried to keep it spare of invaders. Today we pass through as soldiers patrol the perimeter, their various powers strapped to waist and ankle and slung from their shoulders as though they had been shaped and baked this way from the beginning. For most of them blood is an abstraction, a wine mixed with apples and nuts, mortar for the slaves. The winding streets lead in one direction to the green mosque, in the other, to the synagogue, the way Janus turned to face what has passed and what will come.

The innards of the synagogue are rubbled. Only the eternal lamp swings pendulous from the ceiling, bared of its light. The workmen are outside, smoking. One flicks a stub at the calico cat who lies in the sun, her legs wide as a whore, licking herself. The green lid of the mosque is closed like a sack so that the prayers cannot evaporate. Like anything pertaining to the gods it hides from the inquisition of the sun. From the loudspeaker, the noonday prayer collides with the quiet that had, just then, descended. Somewhere just beyond these walls the sea swallows the pleas of the men. It is said that bits of the synagogue are buried beneath this mosque and that a sultan once ordered the city razed to the ground, so that it could never be used by Christians again.

In the market, death without drama continues as usual. Slit fish lie on their own gills in trollies of ice, their eyes poked by passing women just like they prod the arms of young girls to see if they are suitable meat for marriage. A little girl carries a tiny wren in her hand; a baby fallen from its nest, its feathers wetted by her sweat. She holds it tighter, squeezes its middle. It is her prize. The brown birds eye stares unblinking and unflinchingly aware of the collapse of its fragile bones, the same unblinking eyes our cat used to stare out at the world that was leaving him when the vet slid blue venom into his vein.

Back at the Esso station the mechanic sleeps beneath the shade of a jacked-up car. It is his sky now, his rooftop, a ceiling of springs and belts and grease, the temple of which he is priest. Beneath him, beneath the asphalt and the fuel beds and the shelf of limestone, water trickles down into the eons ago where the true entrances remain protected from excavation by a pair of gilded lions. The cache of gold is still here too, but even the greedy know that opening a hole in the can of the earth disturbs and angers the squadrons of the dead. Whenever I am somewhere old and full of bones, I see the skin they once wore. The pocks of breath that wet the walls of the tunnel. Today they are more real than the little messages that appear on the screen of the phone in my pocket that read So when are you coming home Mom. Mom?

Heather Altfeld is a poet and essayist.  Her two books of poetry are Post-Mortem (April, 2021) and The Disappearing Theatre (2016).  Her work is featured or forthcoming in the 2019 Best American Essays, Orion Magazine, Aeon Magazine, Conjunctions, Narrative Magazine, and others. She was the 2017 recipient of the Robert H. Winner Award with the Poetry Society of America and the 2015 recipient of the Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry.  She teaches in the Department of Comparative Religion and Humanities and the Honors Program at CSU Chico.

Craft Talk      Novel Excerpt     Nonfiction     Nonfiction     Nonfiction     Poetry     Poetry


Finding a (New) Voice

by Cai Emmons

As writers, many of us spend years obsessing over our “voices” as they appear on the page. Initially, we experiment and imitate other writers we admire, tweaking our work to match theirs. Eventually, we settle into a voice that seems to be natively ours, a byproduct of the way we absorb and process the world.

While I have given a lot of thought to my writing voice, I never paid much attention to my speaking voice until my speech began to change. I have always reveled in speaking: talking to friends, speaking in public, reading my fiction aloud. A long time ago I enjoyed the nuanced speech of acting. In other words, talking in all its manifestations has always been one of my greatest life pleasures. Speaking is a natural, effortless activity, especially compared to the discipline of writing. Then, a little over a year ago, my voice and speech began playing tricks on me. My voice became hoarse, my speech garbled and monotone, inflection and prosody no longer under my control. For an ardent talker, this was dismaying, especially when speaking began to be an activity as taxing as vigorous exercise. Eventually bulbar-onset ALS was diagnosed (the kind of ALS that attacks the speaking apparatus before it attacks the limbs), and it became clear that my former voice would not be coming back.

Who are you without a voice, without the apparatus to chat and joke and offer your opinions on the state of the world? Stripped of a voice, parts of the personality go missing. Most animals—chickens and whales and wolves and numerous others—have distinct ways of speaking to each other, for mating and announcing danger, yes, but often simply to announce: I’m here! When I speak these days I hear myself on two levels. I hear the meaning of my words, but I also hear the gruff monotone of my utterances, part crone, part very young child. When I encounter strangers, their looks are unmistakable: They feel sorry for me, sizing me up as mentally compromised.

A couple of days ago, my new voice, Peewee, arrived in the mail. She is a highly evolved computer with text-to-voice and eye gaze capabilities, designed especially for people with incoherent—or nonexistent—voices. I will type on this device for as long as my fingers cooperate, then eventually, I will use eye gaze (like blue tooth for the retina) to conduct my conversations. The voice embedded in this device, the one that will soon be “me,” is the synthesized voice of my younger sister, Patty, who we nicknamed Peewee.

When my sisters and I were in college and we would call home, our parents would often mistake us for one another, our voices similar enough that the phone made us indistinguishable. We saw some humor in this, but we also chafed against it at a time when we were breaking away from family and trying to establish ourselves as individuals. Over the decades we have become distinct from one another—even our voices have been shaped differently—but if you were to see us together, the family resemblance would be unmistakable.

Patty recorded hundreds of sentences that included all the phonemes of English. Hamsters like to eat lettuce and other greens. If you own a cat, you must have a box for kitty litter. Dogs need to be walked daily. From those recordings a voice was synthesized. While the computer phraseology is not perfect, the voice sounds exactly like her—it sounds like the person who is about to be me. I am having a voice transplant. A voice is not exactly like a vital organ, but it is a vital conduit for personality. Now Patty’s personality will be conflated with—or annexed to—mine, a DNA remix. She relished doing this for me, and I could not be more grateful. We have long passed the point where we need to prove our differences—now we’re celebrating our fortuitous similarities.

I’m also grateful I can still write—that, too, enables self and personality to emerge. In my early days as a writer, I worried about making my voice unique enough. I wanted to set myself apart from the clamor of other voices out there, not be easily interchangeable with any other writer. My diagnosis has razed that striving. What was I trying to prove? For whom? I no longer have the time nor interest in proving myself as anything other than me. My aim has become much more direct: I want to address, from my particular perch, the commonality among us, to provide readers with an accessible window into another human psyche and soul.

Cai Emmons is the author of five books of fiction, most recently the novel Sinking Islands, forthcoming in September 2021.




Craft Talk      Novel Excerpt     Nonfiction     Nonfiction     Nonfiction     Poetry     Poetry


Solace in Repose

by Grant Hier


The house I grew up in has slowly faded.
Dull image on the back side of a coin
I can no longer see—has gradually become
something other. Softened features. Flattened
monument whose meaning has been lost.
Long steps now just suggestions. If I tried
to climb them now I would go nowhere,
find nothing other than a shallow relief.

I am talking about me, of course (as everyone
routes the world through themselves, first).
The great song traveler passing through
taught of how the sky is anthem, how beauty
is. How everywhere we look, all. Lost body
of motion, of metaphor found. How a house
is a body. How the body is a house. How talk
of one is also talk of another. You, for instance.

The house I grew up in is the flesh of my youth.
Do you see now? I shouldn’t say more, yet I do.
My youth is the back side of a coin. Lost steps.
I can no longer remember what used to fill my head
on restless nights. My life will be a monument to
something forgotten. How we reached. How we
loved among ruins. That was all. The touch of this life
wears away. On the other side, a great song. Listen.


Grant Hier was the first Poet Laureate of Anaheim, California (2018-2020). His awards include Prize Americana and the Kick Prize. His books include Untended Garden, The Difference Between, Similitude, and California Continuum Vol. One. A new book of poetry and instruction, PRACTICE: 394 Poems in 365 Days, is forthcoming October 1, 2021. He penned the liner notes for the new Los Lobos and WAR albums (both forthcoming in July), was entered for two Grammy Awards (for Best Album Notes and Best Producer), and is a voice actor on the “Audiobook of the Year” recording of Lincoln in the Bardo. He’s a Full Professor at LCAD, poetry editor for Chiron Review, and was a Community of Writers workshop participant for Poetry ’91, Fiction ’93, Art of the Wild ’95 and Poetry ’98.




by Shangyang Fang

Aria of an Ebbing Scene

Four o’clock in the afternoon, Ignacio Sánchez
Mejías starts to trim his nails.
In the way Bernini carves the laurel buds
from a marble’s edge, or Canova|
uses the material of death to shape lust. Flesh
is a fleeting skiff, emptied to be
sustained on the stream, or is a Chinese porcelain
aging in its perpetual patterns.
Look, how the almond turns bitter in the wind,
the way evenings hollow out a man
who lowers his chin to drink from expired feeling.
His pale hands interlock
like two boys drowning in inchoate language.
The mechanism of the pendulum
is a perennial instant, but the clock is not the time.
At midnight, the snow blade
of waves whittles out a bronze horse.
We can’t stop the vanished
beings from turning into a string of muted wind-bells.
Waking, we say the cemetery
is a large summer house or a leaving train, loaded
with too many unredeemed doings.
But friend, think twice—is it not cruel
to talk about wintery ice
to midsummer mayflies?


Incoherent Funeral March

Imagine you are a violinist, a true maestro,
beside a peopleless piano, perpetually
fiddling Bach’s solo. Now imagine you are
the violin—without the hand, a broken thing.
Imagine you are the hollowness inside
the instrument as the fiddler wrestles
to assemble notes. Imagine in this fermata,
your eyes, a thigh-deep pond, where a star-
stabbed stallion—whose hank of thick
tail is yet to be mended into the bow hair—
neighing, neighs for a departure he didn’t bid.

Shangyang Fang comes from Chengdu, China. A Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, he is author of the upcoming poetry collection Burying the Mountain (Copper Canyon Press, 2021). 





Craft Talk      Novel Excerpt     Nonfiction     Nonfiction     Nonfiction     Poetry     Poetry

A Letter from the Editor

andrew tonkovich

Welcome to issue #6, our second installment of this year’s online Omnium Gatherum Quarterly.  This one offers a little of quite a lot: craft talk, short essays, poetry and nonfiction.  We hope you’ll further explore the work of our featured authors, whether staff, alums or participant writers with recently published books.  Quick survey: Martin J. “Marty” Smith offers a hilarious if perversely instructive and sincere craft talk checklist.  Eileen Garvin explains apiary science by way of writing, or perhaps the other way around.  Cai Emmons finds continued creative expression and a new “voice” via a nifty machine-friend.  Poets Grant Hier, Shangyan Fang and Heather Altfeld mix it up, gorgeously, with poetry and nonfiction.  Finally, novelist Greg Bills shares an excerpt from his novel-in-progress, with a short chapter about a difficult reunion set on a hiking trail in the hills of Los Angeles. My descriptions are rushed and lacking.  The writing in this issue is deliberate, elegant, full, and fully satisfying.

Andrew Tonkovich

Editor, OGQ


Omnium Gatherum Quarterly (OGQ) is an invitational online quarterly magazine of prose and poetry, founded in 2019 as part of the 50th Anniversary of the Community of Writers. OGQ seeks to feature works first written in, found during, or inspired by the week in the valley. Only work selected from our alums and teaching staff will appear here. Conceived and edited by Andrew Tonkovich. Submissions will not be considered.