Announcing our Pushcart Prize Nominations for 2012

By now you probably know that Issue 2 is available for sale on our website! If not, please visit our Contributors page and purchase the issue as a PDF or pre-order the print version, which is printed in San Francisco and ships on January 5th! You can also read a sample on our reKiosk page before buying your PDF for only $2.

I am pleased to announce our Pushcart Prize nominees for 2012.

Fiction

  • “Drifting Fortunes” (which you can read in its entirety here) by Bryan Jones, an altogether original story as open-ended as it is final;
  • “Bone on Bone” (excerpted here) by Jessica Kinnison, a tantalizing piece of fiction that offers a tactile, believable reading experience rarely enjoyed today; and
  • “The General’s Dream” (excerpted here) by Soren Gauger, a masterful and evocative work of must-read fiction reminiscent of Borges.

Nonfiction

  • “Neighborhood Watch” (excerpted here) by Shane Velez, a formidable essay that examines the topics of child abduction, suburbia, and safety with none of the familiarity bias or hysteria they are usually granted.

Poetry

  • “War In The Age of Pastoral” by T.R. Hummer (about whom you can read here), for its successful union of the beautiful and halcyon occasion with the perilous momentum of reality’s uncertainty;
  • “Night Shifts” (which you can read here) by Jory Mickelson, for its expressive, Rilke-esque juxtaposition of self against the backdrop of existence.

The Skinny on Submissions

I thought it would be fun to share the details on our submission period from the day we launched at the end of February until May 1st, when submissions for Issue 1 stopped being considered.

Here’s a graphic that breaks it down by acceptance percentages and submissions by category.

Why are some submissions still “In Progress?” There’s a good reason. We received a number of submissions that we love so much but could not place in Issue 1 for space considerations. What will we be doing with them? At the end of June we will be publishing The Cossack’s first Online Supplement, featuring a selection of writing for you to enjoy on our website.

The Cossack Issue 1 Teaser

Producing the first-ever issue of The Cossack Review has been a rare pleasure for me. I feel honored to have been able to read and respond to so many fine pieces of writing, each of which constituted a glimpse into the world of a writer who was giving enough to share his or her work with our new journal.

On Friday, you’ll get to see the end result, and I think you’ll like it. We have poetry from the likes of Maureen Alsop, Oliver de la Paz, Anne Haines, Russell Jaffe, and José-Flore Tappy; we have fiction from Soren Gauger, Bryan Jones, and Kimberly Hatfield. We have nonfiction and essays from Robert Boucheron, Valery Petrovskiy, and more. In each piece we have selected for inclusion in Issue 1 of The Cossack, you’ll find a surprise: something you didn’t know about all this frenetic activity we call living. Some of it is funny, some of it heartbreaking. Much of it is absurd. So buckle up!

Thank you for the outpouring of submissions. We received hundreds of them from around the world. I wish we had room for more of them, and we’re working on a scheme to make it possible. More on that next week.

See you Friday,

Christine Gosnay

Your Favorite Writers Might Be Our Favorite Writers

What fiction writer would you love to see in The Cossack Review? Whose poetry do you want to experience? Is there someone who writes essays that captivate you and make you reevaluate your beliefs? We want to know all about them.

Refer a writer to us and you earn yourself a 1-year subscription to The Cossack Review’s print and electronic issues. It’s as simple as sending an email to editors AT thecossackreview DOT com. If you want to refer a poet, hit up cossackpoetry AT gmail DOT com.

We’re particularly interested in essays and personal and creative non-fiction that explores the human experience in strange new ways and fiction writing that reveals truths.

There are only 13 days left to submit and be considered for Issue #1. That’s less than a fortnight, if you prefer to read about the lapse of time in fancy terms! If you want to submit your own writing, head on over to our submission manager and share your favorite pieces with us right now.

Guide for Submitters Far and Wide

We have received an outpouring of writing and generosity from submitters all around the world – over a hundred submissions in four days. While we’re busy taking time to thoughtfully review and study everything they have sent us, we thought we should share some thoughts about what kind of writing we’re interested in. This doesn’t really fit within the purview of our submission guidelines, or they’d be a few too many pages long, and after our first issue makes its appearance it will certainly be more evident what kind of aesthetic theater we’ll do our operations in. So, in the meantime, what better place for this than a blog post.

Poetry

  • If you’re rhyming, please know what you’re doing, and how to do it sparingly, in a way such that it is not the driving force for your work.
  • There are many fine places for strictly spiritual, religious, and sacred verse, but this is not going to be one of them.
  • Light verse, also, can be found elsewhere
  • Poetry about nature and nature only – paeans to it, specifically – is beautiful, but also belongs in other homes.
  • Some journals we love that espouse our artistic ideals (and have content online for you to browse) are Painted Bride Quarterly, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Crazy Horse, Jubilat, Prick of the SpindleBlackbird, Amethyst Arsenic and Threepenny Review. Others, with limited online content (but that we urge you to check out), are Gigantic Sequins, Black Warrior Review, Tin House. There are, of course, many, many others; these are just a few recommendations.

Fiction

  • Surrealist writing is fine and dandy, but it must have a point.
  • Erotic fiction and romance stories will not be for us unless they make a much broader statement.
  • Please be a good writer. Please proofread your writing.. and then, proofread it again.
  • This can’t be stressed enough: finish your story. What so often happens is that a good writer starts out with a fantastic idea or a nifty conceit and can only carry it to the halfway point before it fizzles. Think of all the stories you’ve loved: the endings were as strong as the beginnings. Pay particular attention to the last half of what you’re creating, and give it the same attention as the first. Make it, in fact, outshine the first half, and surprise your readers.

Essays

  • What makes essays engaging is difficult to put a finger on, but it centers around making good observations and using keen powers of description. It more importantly involves the ability to issue a strong, salient point while remaining subtle and open to nuanced interpretation. In other words, if your essay is about dolphins, it must also be about fish, women, men, the tides, and marinas. It must be about a whole world of things.
  • For an example of a particularly excellent essay, read George Orwell’s A Hanging. Don’t worry; few can write like Orwell. But notice how he brings quotidian particulars to the same level of importance as life’s great questions in order to answer those questions.

Thanks for sending us your writing. Keep it coming – we’re having the time of our lives reading it. Why not share what YOU think makes for a great read in the comments?

What Makes Good Fiction: Mark Slouka’s “The Crossing,” A Study In Suspense

Before you read this post, read Mark Slouka’s story “The Crossing” in the Paris Review. Come back and we’ll discuss.

Done?

Slouka manages to employ an unusual level of suspense and tenderness in this story. Admittedly, the plot and the situations of the story – a rushing river, a father eager to please his small son, a divided family – are already given to suspense and tenderness. But what is it that makes the development and the climax of the story get our hearts beating so fast? By dropping breadcrumbs in the opening paragraphs the author gives us a taste of the world outside the events of the story without revealing enough about them to sate our imaginations. He then ingratiates us into the world of the father and puts us on his side, before throwing him back into doubt. Finally, he makes us choose – the beauty of the earth or the sanctity of father and son?

The breadcrumbs that Slouka scatters in the beginning of the story make us want more, and they make us care deeply about what happens to father and son. We glimpse the son’s smallness and, indeed, his entire childhood in those “miniature jeans.” We glimpse the father’s deep depression and anhedonia in the simple sentence “and he hadn’t been happy in a while.” We know the father has a history with and love for the river valley: “nothing much had changed.” Later, we learn more about his need for “the nests of vines like something scratched out, the furred trunks, soft with rot,” but before we acquire that intimate knowledge, Slouka has already made him into an expert on the place. Of particular interest to us readers is the description of how the father picks up the boy from his regular home (with his mother). We know the boy’s parents are divorced, separated. We learn that perhaps the father has done something wrong, because of his hope that “maybe—maybe he could make this right.” We see his care for his son – care not to hit the boy’s head on the ceiling when he playfully tosses him over his shoulder. As the boy’s mother shakes her head, still in a bathrobe, we enter firmly into the father’s corner. We want him to succeed with his son and take him to the wild place by the river he loves so much. We want to know why he loves the river, and what has gone missing from his heart and his body that the river can bring back.

The second key device that Slouka uses to endear us to the world of the story is even more important; he subverts the father’s authority. As we go into the river country with father and son, we are greeted with Queen Anne’s Lace, the promise of a campfire, and elk – with beauty and hope. After fording the river all this will be possible, and more. The river flows slowly over rocks. But suddenly, “he felt a small shock, as if he were looking at a house he’d grown up in but now barely recognized. The river was bigger than he remembered it, stronger; it moved like a swiftly flowing field.” He considers turning back. Anxiety defines him. And yet all he says to his son is “‘Well, there she is.’”

The reader has entered a position of knowledge and distrust; we now fear for both father and son and feel an even stronger affection for the boy than we did before. We feel as determined to cross the river with them as ever, but we have lost the ability to trust the father’s skill or his understanding of the wildness to which he is trying to return.

When father and son successfully cross the river, and arrive at the barn, we have further bonded with each of them. Suddenly, Dad is an expert again, and the world is a beautiful and enchanting place. The “barn was just where he remembered it, standing against the trees like a rib cage.” As we observe him making preparations for the night ahead, we feel safer, warmer, as does his son. Slouka describes them deftly: the son’s question “‘Do the elk have to sleep in the rain?’”and the father’s putting “his arm around him—that tiny shoulder, tight as a nest” tell us more about this boy and this man than anything else could.

All this, against the backdrop of careful images seeded in a scattered but deliberate pattern – the “white noise” of the river, the “stars through the missing places in the roof” of the barn, “car-sized boulders nudged together like eggs,” the “hollow tock of the stones knocking against each other in the deeper water” – prepares us for the second fording of the river. This heartbreaking painting of scenes and descriptions makes us appreciate the intractable world for its beauty as much as we love father and son for their need and vulnerability. And when they cross the river the second time, our hearts go into our throats – for them, for their failure, for the father’s burning love for his son, for the boy’s tiny existence, and for the wildness that can’t help but be what it is.

Announcing The Cossack

The CossackWhen asked why she started The Cossack, founding editor Christine Gosnay replied, “Actually, no one has asked me why I did such a crazy thing yet, but I’d be glad to tell you.” Her answer was quite succinct: to publish good writing.

The Cossack is born of a desire to showcase writing from authors both new and established, with the single and solitary goal of bringing exceptional pieces of poetry, fiction, and essay writing to light. Its editors desire to read, share, and publicize writing that neither panders to a specific audience or style nor stands on the shoulders of its author’s “credentials;” that is, we don’t mind if you went to a very important school, but we don’t necessarily care if you did, either. We don’t mind if you’ve been published, and if you have, we’re ecstatically happy for you, but we don’t necessarily care if you have been, either. Education and notoriety do not prequalify good writing; talent and dedication do.

Fond of imagery, rich meaning and deep psychological and emotional understanding, our “mascot,” the Cossack, symbolizes our love of poetry, fiction, and thought processes that are proud, independent, capable, and complicated.

With the aim to publish an issue three times per year, our inaugural issue will début on June 1st, 2012. We are very excited to read your work and hope you’ll submit something special to us today. Submissions will be accepted on a rolling basis, so there is no deadline to submit, but to be considered for the inaugural issue please show your work before May 1st of 2012. The Cossack Review will be published online and as a Kindle Edition. A print edition is planned for 2013

Submit to The Cossack Review

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