July 26, 2016

Tickles the Clown

Today I received three contributor’s copies of Grain Vol. 43.3, the issue in which my latest story appears. The story was submitted to Grain on January 27, 2016, and accepted on May 27, 2016. This may be the shortest turn around time I have ever experienced. Well done, Elizabeth Philips! In the editor’s note, Elizabeth had this to say about the current issue: Sorting through hundreds of submissions of fiction and poetry (mostly fiction; one in four submissions was prose) was a familiar labour: looking for the original, if quirky, voice, the hair-raising image, the cordite sizzle of insight. What was new, naturally, was the work itself. To my eye, there is more fear in stories these days, as there is in the culture at large, more lament for gone worlds, and uncertainty about what is to come. From the eerie dystopian world of Joe Davies’ “The Remover,” to the introspective, love-weary hotel waiter in “Currents,” to the darkly funny “jokes” of the alcoholic children’s entertainer in Oscar Martens’ “Tickles the Clown,” the prose writers are exploring the chasm following seismic cultural shifts. “Tickles the Clown” has a fairly unusual origin story. “Tickles” is actually my clown name, assigned to […]
July 12, 2016


Once upon a time, most of an editorial board rejected one of my stories because it was “too dark” for their readers. The lone holdout, my champion, was overruled. If it had been a conversation, I might have said that if they thought that story was dark, they’d be permanently scarred after reading my other stories. “New” is about a farmer in Manitoba who finds a new life form in his field. His dedication to the survival of these creatures puts his marriage and business at risk. I reread the story, hoping to the find the “dark” bits that set off the board. No one is murdered, assaulted, or raped. No one is particularly cruel. No one is much worse off than when the story began. Where’s the dark? What are they talking about? And if they don’t like dark stories, are they looking for some light reading? Surely that would be the ultimate insult to a literary journal. And if the story really were too dark for the readers, how would an editor know this? Do readers complain when a story is too dark, or did the board just make an assumption about the fragility and sensitivities of their […]