Infestation

bedroom

Lying in bed on Saturday night, her eyes closed in the imperfect darkness of the room, her limbs cooling from the day’s chores, Marcie felt a crawling sensation on her right arm, the one outside the blanket. Something crept from her shoulder down to her wrist and then jumped to her belly.

Marcie was lying on her left side, hugging the body pillow in a way that felt comfortable in the thirty-second week of pregnancy. The squash-sized creature inside her belly was still asleep, but the longer she stayed horizontal, the sooner it would be waking up. Marcie needed to get her sleep as efficiently as possible.

The sheet, covering her belly, moved. ….

read the rest of the story in World Literature Today’s January issue.

New Short Stories 9: Awards and Launch

Copying the post by the Willesden Herald:

Katy Darby announces the overall winner and runners-up in the Willesden Herald international short story competition 2016, and shares her responses to each of the stories. In the audience were all but one of the writers whose stories were short-listed, including some who travelled from as far away as Italy, France and America.

Towards the end of the video, it becomes clear which story has taken first prize, and we proceed to the presentation and a charming acceptance speech.

And the winner is…

First prize and the one-off mug, inscribed “Willesden Short Story Prize 2016”, and Champagne goes to Love and Hair by Olga Zilberbourg.

Katy also announced equal runners-up, receiving consolation prizes:
The Mayes County Christmas Gun Festival by David Lewis
Undercurrents by Gina Challen

In accordance with the rules, the prize fund of £750 was divided equally among the finalists, who also received two copies each of the anthology.

Here is Miranda Harrison, reading from the opening of Love and Hair by Olga Zilberbourg.

To find out who really sent the text, and what happens in the end, you will have to read Willesden Herald: New Short Stories 9. Available from Amazon.co.uk (for UK, Ireland and Europe) and Amazon.com (US and rest of the world) and other online booksellers.

The ten best short stories of 2016, are presented in the random sequence in which they were originally read, as good a system as any!, and together present a pleasing selection of contemporary fiction.

Winning Stories: Undercurrents by Gina Challen; Twisted by Tracy Fells; Looking for Nathalie by Susan Haigh; All That Remains by Rob Hawke; The Volcano by Anna Lewis; The Mayes County Christmas Gun Festival by David Lewis; The Cliffs of Bandiagara by Catherine McNamara; Supersum by Barbara Robinson; Last Call at the Rialto by Daniel Waugh; Love and Hair by Olga Zilberbourg

Love and Hair

I’m delighted to report that my story “Love and Hair” won Willesden Herald’s International short story competition. The award ceremony took place in London this week, and I took home the coveted prize: a large mug and a bottle of campaign. The story appears in an anthology, New Short Stories 9, together with nine other short-listed stories. I’ve been reading the anthology, and I’m so impressed with the competition.

Here’s the snippet from my story. The print anthology is available on Amazon US and Amazon UK.

The stage crew had been drinking since The Wizard of Oz Singalong the night before and now the director, suffering from a sinus infection, was losing her voice, pleading over the phone with actors calling in sick. This was a radical departure from the spirit of fun and camaraderie I’d expected when I volunteered to perform in an amateur production of The Vagina Monologues. During our final run-through just hours before opening night curtain, we were three actors short and had to find substitutes. I’d recruited half a dozen of my friends to buy tickets—and what if any of them actually showed up? The lack of professionalism embarrassed me.

As the rehearsal finally got underway, my phone buzzed. The house manager turned to me and hissed, animal-like, “What’s that?” She’d been getting on my nerves all afternoon, having berated me for bringing a burrito into the theatre and for daring to eat it while she talked to us about emergency exits. I ignored her and looked at my phone.

A text message: “I’m in San Francisco.” My new phone failed to decode the number, but I had a good feeling the text came from this girl Hana, an Israeli who lived in Portland.

“Great,” I texted back, “I’ll see you after the show.”

On the first night I’d met her, Hana put her hand on my shoulder, gripping firmly, and said, “You look so Russian, Yelena. I’d love to seduce you.” Then she toasted me with whiskey and walked away.

Willesden Herald New Short Story Prize

The most pressing news of this month is that my short story Love & Hair has been shortlisted in the Willesden Herald award, and I’m heading to London to the award ceremony and the reading! This award will be co-presented by Katy Darby and Liars’ League, which means the readings will be performed by professional actors. This event will take place on Thursday, December 8. The details are here. Print anthology of the short-listed stories is already available on Amazon. Please buy, read, and review!

Хлоп-страна

Осенью 2016 года в издательстве «Время» вышел новый сборник рассказов Ольги Гренец Хлоп-страна. Сборник доступен в продаже в магазинах сети Лабиринт, с доставкой в США и страны Европы. grezez-cov_1st_sm

Ольга Гренец — современная американская писательница родом из Санкт-Петербурга, мастер короткой психологической прозы. Герои её рассказов, живя в России, Америке, других странах, сталкиваются с необходимостью соотнесения и совмещения разных миров, но главное для автора — показать их отношения, порой осложнённые проблемой конфликта поколений, а также проследить традиционную для современной прозы линию «поисков себя». В оригинальных сюжетах Ольга Гренец предлагает читателю увлекательный калейдоскоп эпизодов повседневной жизни людей из разных слоев общества.

Ольга Гренец — мастер рассказа, самого сложного из всех прозаических жанров, где неверное слово, неверный сюжетный поворот могут всё разрушить. Она обладает удивительным умением соединять в своих текстах американскую и русскую новеллистические традиции, две культуры, и работать в их пограничье. Её прозу отличает бережное отношение к мельчайшим деталям, а умение фиксировать повседневный мир в его многообразии сочетается с поразительным пониманием нюансов психологии современного человека.
Андрей Аствацатуров

Opera at the Ballpark in Santa Monica Review, Fall 2016

My story Opera at the Ballpark appears in the current issue of Santa Monica Review. I wrote the first draft of this story in March 2010, after volunteering at a simulcast–an opera performance, broadcast from the live show at the San Francisco Opera to a screen at the AT&T Ballpark. Walking home after the show, I passed the opera house. The performance had long ended, and the homeless people were canvassing the house stairs.  I struggled to make sense of opera’s place in the social order of the New World. Of the hundreds of people who’d come to see the simulcast at the ballpark, many told me they’d never been to the opera house. The company was financially insolvent. In the aftermath of the financial crisis, a sense of doom was in the air. The simulcast was one idea to reach out to larger audiences and to give opera mass appeal. The opera they had chosen was traditional, and staged as though to mimic a 19th Century production. To me, this was fairly familiar territory and I was bored by it, but I was in the minority. Most of the simulcast attendees seemed to have had an amazing time.

The story came out of these disparate threads of thought.

Here’s the first paragraph I wrote in 2010,

After the soprano finishes her dying aria on the giant screen above the third base, and the audience sitting in the stalls (word choice?) and on the grass of the baseball diamond scorched their throats with shouts “Go, Tosca!” and clapped so loud as if they wished to be heard back in the opera house two and a half miles away (distance?), the screen went black and the baseball stadium emptied quickly. A warm breeze filled the air with the fragrance of the cherry trees blooming all over the city, lavish romantic music made us sentimental, its heroic overtones urged us to commit ubiquitous acts of kindness,—and conversation flowed freely. Several trains came to pick up the passengers and left overcrowded, while more people continued to shuffle onto the platform. We decided against taking the train, and slowly made our way downtown along the dark waters of the bay.

Seventeen revisions later, the first paragraph of the story published in Santa Monica Review’s Fall 2016 issue looks like this,

The final sounds of the soprano’s aria soar over the baseball diamond as Tosca collapses on stage projected onto the giant screen above second base. The audience sitting in the bleachers and on the grass explodes with shouts “Go, Tosca!” and applause almost loud enough to be heard back at the opera house two miles away. The screen goes black and everyone stands up, emptying the plastic cups of the last drops of beer and pushing cartons with the remains of cheese fries deeper under the seats. The simulcast is over. On the field, families pack up their picnic baskets and fold blankets.

Thank you, Andrew Tonkovich, for publishing this story and for helping me with the title. You can buy the issue and subscribe to the magazine on Santa Monica Review’s website here.