Flash Fiction: Donald Trump Rides An Elephant

Donald rides an elephant. He is the best rider. He has the best riding method with his gold stir-up boots astride the grey weathered armor of the old elephant. His yuge hands grip its ears, screaming into its cavernous eardrum that it’s fat, dumb, and ugly.

He has the best riding stance. Confident, regal like a king, like a winner. Million-dollar suit and a soviet red tie, the scalps of fallen Republicans stuffed in his breast pocket. He is charming. He is handsome. His hair is a perfect, wind-swept golden coif that flutters gracefully in the breeze, like a dead ferret on a flagpole.

Riding alongside on a donkey is Pedro the Kid, his most loyal friend (whose actually name is Miguel and he’s Ecuadorian, not Mexican as Donald insists, and he’s unsure how he ended up the riding companion of this orangutan con-man in an ill-fitted suit, but it’s a job and he doesn’t have much choice in the matter since Donald is holding onto his immigration papers for safe keeping until his 18th birthday).

Donald orders Pedro to whip the elephant into action. He feels a tremendous erotic power as the leather switch smacks its rump and excites the tired old beast into a stampede. The elephant is frantic, charging in no particular direction. Donald doesn’t even like riding the damn elephant. He rides for country. He rides for freedom. He rides to make America great again.

He tramples across the country from Ohio to Florida, gathering a pitchfork army of patriots with a folksy understanding of the world circa 1953. Leave It to Beaver and the Atom Bomb. You can tell how much they love America by their apparel. Hats, shirts, underwear in stars and stripes. Everything branded red, white, and blue.

He wraps his big mouth around the megaphone. The best mouth, the best tongue, the best words. He tells his followers that the country is bankrupt and corrupt. A dystopian hellscape of crime and poverty. It’s the fault of the liberals, the feminists, the illegals, the dangerous others. Build a wall and kick them all out.

There’s no room for freeloaders in his America, no room for any citizen who won’t pull themselves up from his bootstraps. He is proof of the American dream. He made his fortune the old fashioned way with a $10 million-dollar trust-fund from his father, carefully invested in casinos, cocaine, and gilded hotels emblazoned with his name.

Now he’s worth billions in debt. A shrewd (albeit braggadocious) businessman who makes deals and breaks deals and declares bankruptcy four times, leaving his stupid investors and his short-sighted contractors with a bill of empty promises. A self-made man. A true American.

I am what America needs, he tells Pedro. The logic is infallible. Only the most corrupt businessman in America can fight corruption in Washington. He’s like Bruce Wayne with better hair. He knows the game. Lobbyists and loopholes and corporate welfare for the rich and powerful. It’s a game he wins every time. He is the ultimate winner.

Except when he’s losing. Because he knows deep down that America is a casino and the voters are suckers pulling the slots, playing a rigged game. Once he’s declared king of these great United States, he will fix American Democracy for his faithful supporters, just like he fixed Atlantic City.

He commands Pedro to strike the elephant harder, faster, against its protests. And so Donald charges toward the windmill of Election Day. Dauntless, mendacious, and full of self-righteous pride.

Tin House Summer Writer’s Workshop

Wow, what a week. I’m still recovering from a mind-blowing experience at the Tin House Summer Writer’s Workshop. From the incredible faculty (Jonathan Dee, Rachel Kushner, Jess Walter, Sharon Olds, Jericho Brown) to the diverse community of talented writers, I’m at a loss for how to fully express my gratitude for this amazing workshop.

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Set on the Harry Potter campus of Reed College in Portland, Oregon, the Tin House Summer Writer’s Workshop is essentially a super cool summer camp for writers serious about craft and the greater conversation of contemporary literature across disciplines. Seven days of manuscript critiques in small workshop groups assigned by genre (novel, short fiction, poetry, non-fiction), faculty craft talks and lectures, nightly readings in a gorgeous natural amphitheater on the river, and… karaoke?

It’s kind of a strange social experiment to bring together over two-hundred writers from across the country and force them to interact like, say, “normal” people. Writers by nature are often not the most social animals, spending most of their time lost in imaginary worlds. So, sure it was awkward at first. But the initial first-day-at-school jitters quickly gave way to a feeling of camaraderie, thanks in part to a steady flow of alcohol at the many happy hours hosted after class. What impressed me most was how the Tin House staff created such an inclusive and collegial atmosphere. It felt like we were all peers, grateful for the experience, grateful for this unique moment in time where we were free to talk about the craft of writing and share our art with each other.

It was an honor to be included in the 2016 class of Tin House Summer Workshop writers. Thank you, Tin House!

Everything You Know is True

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If you happen to find yourself in Maine (and you should… it’s beautiful this time of year), this is the final week for the Everything You Know is True at the Engine, a exhibit of the illustrations and artwork by Portland’s very own Kimberly Convery.

Kimberly is an amazingly talented illustrator full of whimsy and wonder, living in a hot-air balloon of her imagination far above us boring landlubbers, drawing wild landscapes of the mind. She’s an old friend and one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. An honest heart, as they say. A true believer in art.

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Artist Kimberly Convery with her family (and dog). Photos by instagram @enginebiddeford

Anyway, I’ll let the artist statement for Everything You Know is True speak for itself:

Artist Statement

The drawings are mixing soft subtle skies with glass buildings and implied landscapes. Interrupting this dream like world gems or sharp shapes shift through with no explanation. The incorporation of all of these subtle symbols blend together to create a familiar comfortable space, which isn’t necessarily questioned. The new combination of this time and space becomes a new truth. The comparison of color, unexplained spatial relations and objects that are adored create new truths when placed in a narrative that is left to be discovered. The combination of things can be organized in the brain by lots of different learned behaviors, tastes and categories that were taught over the years. This accumulation and assimilation into image making makes all of these things that I’ve assumed to be true a new truth. Even things that I know to be a lie or not real are also a truth, the very concept of knowing something creates a path of truth. The enjoyment of the thought “Everything You Know is True” has inspired me to extend this conversation and invite artists that I find extremely respectable and insightful in their own work to respond in a short writing about their understanding or argument against this phrase. As I am not the first to question this, I hope this show provokes a sort of new perspective on trusting your inquisitive reaction to making and viewing and noticing the new truth that is being mixed into your own truths. – Kimberly Convery

 

As part of the exhibit, Kimberly invited several artists to write a short dialogue on their artistic process and what the phrase “Everything Know You is True” means to them personally.

I wrote a short piece. I had no idea it was in the exhibit until she found me in a coffeeshop and handed over a framed copy. That’s how sweet she is.

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My favorite drawing of Kim’s is still the incredible balloon illustration that she let us use for the cover of Exit Strata: PRINT! No. 1. Stop by the exhibit at Engine, or check out more of her illustrations at kimberlyconvery.com.

NYC Literary Scene: Atlas Review

A couple years ago, I ran this short-lived series about the NYC Literary Scene for Exit Strata. Basically it was a way to get me out of the house and be social instead of spending all my time at my typewriter/computer in my own little happy fiction cloud.

And well, since I quit my job in advertising and I find myself back in the freelance life again, I’m going to start this series up again and do it right this time.

Ahem, ok, let’s get to it.

The NYC Literary Scene is really just a bunch of reading series run by small literary magazines trying to build an audience and support emerging writers. Besides this scrappy bunch of true believers in prose & poetry, Barnes & Noble holds the big author readings, the Moth hosts its monthly storyteller events, NYC LITCrawl does its round-robin night of readings and merriment in September, and the New Yorker has its annual star-studded festival in October.

So Atlas Review. I first heard about Atlas Review from this shaggy-haired writer named Dolan Morgan (he’s one of their editors, he has a new book of short stories out right now called That’s When the Knives Come Down). I was attending a reading at the independent library / reading room / best place ever called Mellow Pages (temporarily closed, books in storage, the sadness remains, supposedly Matt and Jacob are on the lamb and possibly fishing some place with stars in the sky instead of trapped in this dystopian city state we call New York). Dolan mentioned Atlas at the reading. I looked them up three months later.

Anyway, Atlas Review is a literary journal that’s darkly absurd, thought-provoking, and leaning toward the experimental side of prose (more MFA experimental than classic storytelling on the fiction side… for poetry don’t ever trust what I have to say about poetry, I’m clueless. But CAConrad was in their last issue, who is like Allen Ginsberg reborn as a new-age guru of somatic transcendence).

Last week, Atlas Review hosted a reading series at Local 61 in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn that featured several writers from VIDA (a non-profit literary advocacy group for critical attention to contemporary women’s writing).

Reader roll call: Amy King, Metta Sama, Lynn Melnick, Camille Rankine

The event was hosted by Natalie Eilbert, the founder of Atlas Review. The readings were all poetry with beautiful lines like “I died young and I was so pretty” from Camille (whose new book is coming out from Copper Cannon) or “There’s no such thing as fate, only the story of fate” from Lynn Melnick. But I was most captivated by Amy King because of her humor and electrifying presence.

She read with passion, joy, humor, and biting sarcasm at the political/socioeconomic clusterfuck of our society. Hell, I read anything she publishes out in the world (btw, I think her newest book is I Want to Make You Safe).

All in all, the Atlas Review reading with VIDA was great. An amazing showcase of talented female poets and a wonderful, receptive, and warm audience. I look forward to their next event.

Flash Fiction: Welcome to the Postmodern World

Names. Names are important. Maybe you’re name is Jill or Jim or Debbie or Gustav. Remember your name. Other things that are important: hygiene, alarm clocks, speaking (not necessary but recommended), how trees breathe, the latter-day history of the Roman Empire, the daily motions of survival (eating, drinking, sleeping, fighting off deadly viruses with a mouthful of vitamin C tablets and mental fortitude).
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These will all be explained in full, later, in Appendix A-5: Hierarchy of Important Stuff for Important People.

Shower. This is part of hygiene. Wash in order: face, behind your ears, the nape of the neck, shoulders, that mole on your chest, belly button, nether-erotics, legs, between your toes, the whole buttock. But feel no need to explain what you do or do not wash. What happens in the shower is between you and God (Concept of Supernatural Higher Powers That May Smite You to be discussed, later, in the Index of Reasons for Living/Dying).

Dress. This is part of alarm clocks. Underwear, shirt (no, not that one… yes, neutral colors), pants*, a gold-studded leather belt with your astrological sign, grey socks, brown boat shoes for that nautical aristocratic touch. Human society values pants* above all else. When animals start wearing trousers, we’ll have to rethink our identity. Pants* conceal your nether-erotics and allow for storage of house keys, wallet, pack of mint chewing gum, short list of famous quotations from Groucho Marx and/or actual Marxists, cellphone, spare coins from countries you’d like to visit. A pat check for these essentials should be performed before you exit into the world outside.

Welcome to the Postmodern World.

That glowing ball of fire in the sky is the sun, rises and then falls at day’s end, hits a trampoline behind the horizon line and bounces up again in the morning. There are shops where you buy things, restaurants where you eat with people or eat alone, and bars where you meet people for drinks or drink alone. There are offices where you work, usually divided into smaller offices and cubicles with up to but no more than three desks.

You will be assigned a desk. Here you will work. Desks are organized surface for thought. This has something to do with the mystical power of rectangles. Any other shaped desk is confusing and may affect your work. It’s scientifically proven.

Time at your desk = money. Money is the currency for survival, exchanged for edible foodstuffs, clothes, entertainment (flashing electro-images, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll). Keep paper money in your wallet with no less than $5 and no more than $100 at all times. Unless you’re really rich, in which case you should carry a platinum billfold brimming with hundred-dollar bills, freshly soaked in formaldehyde. According to Robert’s Rules of Affluence, you should always laugh maniacally like a super villain when handing over money, smell the bills suspiciously when you receive your change.

When encountering people you know, make eye contact and say “hello!” Otherwise avoid eye contact. When introducing yourself to people you don’t know, say “hello, I am…” followed by your name. If you have trouble remembering your name, say “excuse me,” run quickly home, lock the door, weep in the potted petunias by the windowsill for your failures, and practice this interaction in the mirror before another trial run out into the postmodern world. Forgetting your name can be cause for public embarrassment.

Other public embarrassments: pouring things on yourself, getting stuck in revolving doors, losing your pants*.

If you enjoy the personal interaction, smile and continue eye contact. If you don’t, make a displeased face and refuse to look the person in the eye again. If you are touched, reciprocate. Be careful with this. This may spiral out of control and get you arrested and/or fired from your desk. Without your organized surface for thought, you will most certainly go mad and ended up a raving loon on the destitute streets of endless hunger. A simple rectangular sidewalk tile should suffice to reorient yourself, so that you can return to the good graces of functioning society.

Things you want: sex, money, power… prestige.

– Douglas A. Wright

Artwork by Andrew Breitenberg, originally published in Exit Strata: Print! No.1.

Life in a Box – The Offbeat

Life in a Box, a short story about the claustrophobia of cubicle life, was published last month in The Offbeat Literary Magazine. Unfortunately, The Offbeat is strictly a print magazine so there’s no online link. But I did perform an early version of the short story back in the day at Goodbye Blue Mondays with friend/jazz guitarist Chris Conly and his ever-changing trio. Amazing group of musicians. I just walked into the studio, riffed off the theme that was in my head while writing the story, and the band immediately started playing the tune on the spot.

Here’s the audio link to live performance of Life in a Box.

Photo Credit: Matchbox by Allard Architecture

Flash Fiction: The History of All Things

Hello blog-o-sphere,

It’s been a long while since I’ve contributed to this writer’s blog, so hello again! The kind folks at Apocrypha & Abstractions published this weird little flash fiction of mine among some great writers in their August issue and I’ve just gotten around to posting it.

“We belong to the history of all things,” he said and then he put down the hammer, the grooves in the steel deep and narrow, a clockwork of concentric rings spiraling to the black tooth, how we marveled at the craft, the magic of it, so effortless with fire tongs and burning blade in such old wise hands, we the blood refugees of a forgotten time, we the slaves of the shadow glass, nameless orphans in the iron belly of the great machine…”

Read More at:
http://apocryphaandabstractions.wordpress.com/2014/08/11/the-history-of-all-things-by-d-a-wright/

Cool online magazine of all things flash, definitely worth checking out.

Happy Fall!

Douglas A. Wright

addendum: please note my restraint for not posting a picture of a gourd here… it’s incredibly tempting after writing ‘Happy Fall’ as anyone who’s ever written phrase out loud, online, saying it sing-song in their head can tell you… after seeing the bright orange and fire red and crisp golden leaves loft and tumble every day from the old elm trees outside my new apartment in beautiful brownstone Brooklyn. It’s getting colder and the beast of winter is almost upon us. Prepare, brave New Englanders. Ah, autumn… so terribly maudlin. 

Screw it. Here’s a basket of gourds: 

 

Exit Strata est Morte… Long live Exit Strata

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Thank you to all the poets, fictionists, artists, musicians, and financial backers that made Exit Strata possible. It was a wild ride and we are forever grateful for your support.

The Exit Strata Editorial Corps has moved onto other ventures.

D.A. Wright & Jonathan Rose are working on solo fiction & film endeavors.

Lynne DeSilva-Johnson & Benjamin Wiessner have begun a new creative community project known as The Operating System.

For the original site and back issues of the magazine, please visit ExitStrata.com.

If you are looking for the Awesome Creators, 30/30/30 Poetry Month, [RE-CON]VERSATIONS, or Field Notes series, these web archives and other content have been moved to The Operating System: www.theoperatingsystem.org/category/community_content

9780985518004WHAT WAS EXIT STRATA?

Exit Strata was born out of our desire to produce an art/lit magazine — one that’s a Post-Modern take on the traditional literary magazine, presented like a revolving-door gallery on the page.

In our print issues, we strived to give equal attention to art and literature, often merging the two through collaboration between artists and writers… and also in recognizing the ultimately fuzzy boundaries between these (and all) creative “disciplines.”

Print!: Vol. 1 was published in Spring 2012. Print!: Vol. 2 was published in Winter 2013.

In April 2012, the web portal ExitStrata.com was launched as the online home for exclusive content from emerging artists, filmmakers, musicians, performers, and writers across a wide range of disciplines. Our managing editor/web master Lynne DeSilva-Johnson did fantastic job building a wonderful community of online contributors and producing weekly content and series such Awesome Creators, Field Notes, [RE-CON]VERSATIONS, and much more.

Thank you to everyone who came along with us on this amazing journey. We are forever grateful.

Sincerely,

Douglas A. Wright – Founding Editor / Print Editor for Exit Strata

PRINT! : Exit Strata Launch Party (Video)

Missed the Exit Strata: Print! No. #1 launch in May? Fear not, here’s a a glimpse of what went down during our Readings/Performance segment of the festivities, courtesy of poet and friend Bill Considine.

Video features music by singer/song writer Billy Libby on acoustic guitar (and Kallie Ciechomski on viola) and readings by Bill Considine, Benjamin Wiessner, and Peter Milne Greiner.

Looking to get your hands on a copy of our first print issue? The magazine is now available for purchase online through Barnes & Noble and for sale at local bookstores such as St. Marks and Left Bank in NYC, as well as Green Hand, Yes Books, and Longfellow Bookstore in Portland, Maine (see full list here!).