Posts Categorized: Fiction

Interview with 2013 Fiction Prize Judge: Claire Messud

Time is running out to submit to the 2013 Fiction Prize! With only three weeks left, we encourage everyone to dive in and submit their stories for a chance to win. In order to make the seemingly daunting task a little easier, we asked this year’s judge, Claire Messud, to offer some advice to aspiring fiction writers.

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Claire Messud‘s novels include The Emperor’s Children, which was a New York Times Best Book of the Year in 2006 and long-listed for the Man Booker Prize. Messud most recently wrote The Woman Upstairs and teaches in the MFA program at Hunter College (CUNY).

She graciously took the time to answer a few of our questions about what makes a story memorable and how to write resonance in “a world of toothpaste and candy bars.”

IR: What catches your attention most in the first paragraph of a story?

It’s hard to pinpoint what, exactly, catches attention. But as a reader, you want to be swept into a world. You don’t need to know everything about that world straight away, but you need to believe in it from the first paragraph. There are lots of ways for a writer to accomplish that — through voice, through detail, through style, through setting. I think it also always helps for a reader to feel that the prose is conveying a lot, is working on different levels, right from the beginning.

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From the Fiction Desk: What Makes a Story Stand Out

Our editor soaking up your submissions in his favorite spot.

Our editor soaking up your submissions in his favorite spot.

Each year Indiana Review receives thousands of story submissions, including hundreds to our annual fiction prize (now open!).  And while there is a range of quality, what surprises me most is the high volume of finely crafted prose. To me, this is evidence of hard work. It is proof that writers are rolling up their sleeves, reading great writing, studying craft, and putting ink to the page. In this field of highly competent entries, what differentiates the stories that make it from submission to publication?

​            In “Three Stories Unlikely to Make it Beyond the Slush,” former Indiana Review Fiction Editor Joe Hiland outlines several attributes that earn stories easy rejections, and he goes on to offer three “types” of stories that often feel too familiar to transcend the slush pile. In “What Editors Want; A Must-Read for Writers Submitting to Literary Magazines” from the The Review Review, Lynne Barrett provides an insider breakdown for anyone interested in submitting to literary journals. Yet even though both articles should be considered essential reading for any fiction writer submitting to Indiana Review, they do little to address what makes a story stand out.

Read more after the jump!

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Interview with Half-K Prize Judge Dinty Moore

Only two weeks remain to submit to Indiana Review’s Half-K Prize Contest! But before you succumb to a series of massive panic attacks that leaves you sitting paralyzed in front of a blank Word document, take a second to gain some insight from this year’s judge, Dinty Moore.

Moore is the author of numerous books including the Grub Street Nonfiction Book Prize Winner Between Panic & Desire, and the editor of Brevity, an online magazine that accepts brief submissions of less than 750 words (sound familiar?).

He answered some of our questions about what makes a compressed story powerful and gripping—like a “cup of coffee five times stronger than the usual.”

Click here to read the entire interview with Moore!
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Interview with 1/2K Prize Winner: Lindsay Tigue

Michigan_central_station_from_ron_gross_2In selecting Lindsay Tigue’s piece “Michigan Central Station Has Been Closed Since 1988,” as the winner of the 2012 Half-K Prize, final judge Michael Martone had this to say:

I love trains, and I also adore ruins. I admire this piece for its content of irresistible decay and how its form replicates the unstoppable rot. This is a story that consumes itself, composts as it confounds. It is rich with stuff, with detail, with nominative junk. It names names, chock-a-block, only to have it all melt and fade away. There is no better drama in such a condensed and pressured space. To have a lump of coal transformed into diamond and then, beyond that rock, into the elemental idea of crystalline and holy loss.

The parameters of our annual Half-K Prize can be confusing and challenging because of its limited word count (500 words) and unlimited genre constraints (fiction, nonfiction, poetry, short-shorts, prose-poetry, flash-whatever). We asked Tigue to tell us more about her prizewinning piece, focusing particularly on her process of determining its length and form.

We hope this helps, all of you current and prospective Half-K authors!

(Click here to read more!)

Interview with 1/2K Finalist: J. Bowers

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“And for a holy moment you are soaring…”

When our editors were reading through submissions to last year’s Half-K Prize, it was J. Bowers’ depiction of the “holy moment” that captured our editors’ attention and held it tight. In her “Two on a Horse” series, Bowers focuses on a fleeting physical experience – the Steeplechase ride at Coney Island around the turn of the century – and uses it to explore complex themes of gender and class without ever slowing the momentum of language and story.

The parameters of our annual Half-K Prize can be confusing and challenging because of its limited word count (500 words) and unlimited genre constraints (fiction, nonfiction, poetry, short-shorts, prose-poetry, flash-whatever). We asked Bowers to tell us more about her pieces that were finalists of the 2012 Half-K Prize, focusing particularly on her process of determining its length and form.

We hope this helps, all of you current and prospective Half-K authors!

(Click here to read more!)