Kelly Link: “Summer People”

Context: The story is about the budding friendship between two high school girls, Fran and Ophelia. Ophelia drives a Lexus, is very tender-hearted, and has been tending Fran through a bad case of the flu, since Fran’s Dad took off for a couple of weeks to attend a religious revival meeting he learned about on the internet. Before Ophelia came along, Fran was self-medicating with Nyquil liqui-gel, four a night.

“The door you slipped my envelope under,” she said, finally, “you oughtn’t ever go in there.”

Ophelia looked interested. “Like Bluebeard,” she said.

Fran said, “It’s how they come and go. Even they don’t open that door very often, I guess.” She’d peeped through the keyhole once and seen a bloody river. She bet if you passed through that door, you weren’t likely to return.

“Can I ask you another stupid question?” Ophelia said. “Where are they right now?”

“They’re here,” Fran said.

Fran suddenly tells Ophelia she has to go (Oh NOOOOOOO!!!!!)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Why Does Self Love This? Really Love This?

When you do for other people (Fran’s daddy said once upon a time when he was drunk, before he got religion) things that they could do for themselves, but they pay you to do it instead, you both will get used to it.

Sometimes they don’t even pay you, and that’s charity. At first, charity isn’t comfortable, but it gets so it is. After some while, maybe you start to feel wrong when you ain’t doing for them, just one more thing, and always one more thing after that.

— Kelly Link’s short story “Summer People” (from Get In Trouble: Stories)

“Summer People” : Story # 1 of Kelly Link’s GET IN TROUBLE: STORIES

Daddy in story wakes up his daughter (Sick in bed with the flu, she has self-medicated by taking four NyQuil the night before) by spraying her in the face with a plant mister. The girl notices her father’s packed a suitcase. By way of explanation, he says:

“I’ll be gone some time. A week or three.”

“Where you off to?” the daughter asks.

“Prayer meeting in Miami. Found it on the Internet.”

The daughter tells her Daddy, “I know you need to stay here and look after me. You’re my Daddy.”


The Daddy leaves, the daughter gets herself breakfast (“a spoon of peanut butter and dry cereal”), goes to school, where she dozes “through three classes, including calculus” and experiences a moment of high anxiety when a teacher sends her to the infirmary. Luckily, she is saved by running into an acquaintance named Ophelia Merck, who drives a Lexus.

Ophelia is “pretty, shy, spoiled, and easy to boss around.”

Naturally, painful hilarity ensues.

Dear blog readers, can you believe self heard Kelly Link read this story in a former church? Just last week in Cork, Ireland?

And when self went up to get Ms. Link’s autograph, the ensuing conversation included what it’s like to eat kosher?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Quote of The Day: Kelly Link’s Story “The Summer People” (Which Link Read at the Cork International Short Story Festival)

Self’s idol! Ever since self read her story “Stone Animals” in Best American Short Stories (2005?)

When self found out that Kelly Link was reading at the Cork International Short Story Festival, she became immensely excited and determined. So off she went to the Triskel Art Centre, and did she ever make the right choice or what? Never mind that it was cold, that she’d just had a humongous dinner, and she just wanted to veg out in her room. No, self! Get your shit together!

Even though self swore, swore she would not buy a single book (Her arms are so sore from lifting: she’s taken at least 4 trains in eight days), she did buy Kelly’s just-published Get In Trouble: Stories (blurbed by none other than Sarah Waters, who calls it, quote unquote, A brilliant, giddying read.). Kelly wrote this on self’s copy:

For Marianne: Here are some terrible ideas. Love, K D Link.


When, after the reading, self went up with the book of Kelly’s short stories encased within her trembling hands (The use of hyperbole would not be completely unwarranted in this situation), Kelly was speaking to a very enthusiastic Irish lad. Self waited patiently.

Then, before signing self’s book, Kelly asked for self’s name.

Self demurred, saying, Oh you’ve never heard of me.


Finally, Kelly managed to worm it out of self. Whereupon Kelly said, with great sincerity, “I think I’ve heard of you.”

In response to which self said, “No you’ve never heard of me. I’m so small press, I’m not even.”


Anyhoo, here’s an excerpt from “The Summer People,” the first story in Kelly Link’s collection:

  • Fran had the flu, except it was more like the flu had Fran. In consequence of this, she’d laid out of school for three days in a row. The previous night, she’d taken four NyQuil caplets and gone to sleep on the couch while a man on the TV threw knives.

Unf. Self just loves the unexpectedness of the last sentence.

Plan for tonight: meeting up with playwright Barbara Guilfoyle. Going to hear Jaime Nanci Barron sing.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Bane Chronicles: “Vampires, Scones and Edmund Herondale”

Self is so very into The Infernal Devices (as dear blog readers well know, from all her posts through the summer, leading up to her trip to London).

There are three books in The Infernal Devices trilogy, and self tore through all three while she was in Banff (Thanks much, Niece Karina!).

When she was in Banff, she saw stacks of the just publishedy The Bane Chronicles in the bookstores. The book is a collection of short stories about some of the characters in this universe, and there are three authors. Which means, not every story is by Cassandra Clare (Jury’s still out on this; Clare is a really good writer. But the stories she’s read are somewhat uneven)

Nevertheless, self read two of the stories in between trips, when she dropped by Kepler’s in Menlo Park. In Dublin, she hung out in a bookstore for a few hours and read more of the stories (She was trying hard not to add to her luggage, which is so ridiculously crammed with books, all the time)

But now, the friend she is staying with has a teen-ager who happens to own a copy of The Bane Chronicles. And now she can quote because she has the actual book in front of her!

Self must confess, she never bothered to read all the stories in the collection, just the ones that concern her favorite Shadowhunter family: the Herondales!

Which brings us to the first paragraph of the story “Vampires, Scones and Edmund Herondale,” which is co-authored by Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan. And here’s the opening:

London, 1857

Ever since the unfortunate events of the French Revolution, Magnus had nursed a slight prejudice against vampires. The undead were always killing one’s servants and endangering one pet’s monkey. The vampire clan in Paris was still sending Magnus rude messages about their small misunderstanding. Vampires bore a grudge longer than any technically living creatures, and whenever they were in a bad temper, they expressed themselves through murder. Magnus generally washed his companions to be somewhat less — no pun intended — bloodthirsty.


Edmund is the father of her all-time favorite character in The Infernal Devices: of course, that’s Will Herondale. Do you even need to ask.

Self was in London in June when Cassandra Clare announced that it was the anniversary of Will Herondale’s passing and it was almost too much, the torrent of feelz she unleashed with that announcement. (Self wanted to ask Ms. Clare why it is necessary to remind readers that Will Herondale is dead, dead, deader than a doorpost. Aaaargh!)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

“The Great Emptying of the Three Triangles” (The Writing Disorder, Winter 2010)

Self re-discovering some of her first speculative fiction.

There’s this story, published by The Writing Disorder in 2010, “The Great Emptying of the Three Triangles.”

She began with “a presentation by Brian Siy” as a joke, but the editor asked her if her piece was nonfiction. Delighted to say no.

The present condition of the area known as The Three Triangles is desert. The desertification occurred around 1511. Several decades later, the first instances of human migration to the coast began.

Our first clue to what may have occurred came the discovery of the Aurora Trench. By closely monitoring its striations, I have ascertained that the area had, for a period of over 500 years, suffered from intense precipitation, unusual wind strength, and heat.

Dear blog readers, hope you enjoy this little snippet.

Check out The Writing Disorder.

Stay tuned.

The Story by Danielle McLaughlin: The New Yorker, 7 September 2015

Just self’s luck. The first New Yorker story she reads in a long, long time, and it’s about


(Trigger Warning: Read the rest of this entry »

“Essence of Spain,” 699 Words, Eunoia Review

This piece appeared in Eunoia Review (one of her favorite on-line lit mags) She is re-visiting her stories from several years ago, for some reason (because fun?).

This one’s about a Manhattan office worker who tries to spice up her dreary cubicle life by imagining herself traveling around Spain.

I decided I would use only “usted” when addressing others, even if the other was someone obviously younger than myself.

I learned that in Spain they cared greatly about appearance. I read this in the Travel section of The New York Times, which I bought at least once a week, to keep myself informed not only about Spanish customs, but about life in Europe in general.

I imagined myself threading through calle after calle after calle.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

More From Self’s Story of The New Ice Age, “The Freeze” (Bluestem, Spring 2015)

Self has no idea what the 2016 AWP in Los Angeles will be like, but the one in Minneapolis in April was a tidal wave moment.

She hadn’t even planned to go, but Luisa Igloria asked if she were interested in sharing a room. On the last day of the AWP Book Fair, self determined to walk around and see whether she saw anyone she knew.

On that last day of the AWP Book Fair, she met the following:

  • Crab Orchard Review Editor Allison Joseph
  • Bluestem Editor Charlotte Pence (who looked soooo fabulous in a pink tweed get-up!

It was a great moment of validation for self, as she realized she’d been published by a lot of the literary magazines on site. Like Juked. Like Witness. Like the New Orleans Review.

All she could think was:  I AM HOOOOME!

She snagged her two author copies of the Bluestem Spring issue. She is so gratified that when Bluestem published “The Freeze,” they kept the formatting — lots of white space, making the story look more like a poem on the printed page.

The band of intrepid San Francisco survivors head south on Highway 1 and begin (of course) to argue:

Someone said we had passed Big Sur. No, it’s impossible, someone said. Big Sur is still up ahead.

I thought, Why argue? What’s the use? We will come to it when we come to it. If we have strength left to come to it.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

“Crackers” (Crab Orchard Review, Vol. 19 No. 2: Summer/Fall 2014) — We’re on a Panel at AWP 2016!

This was a story self started writing two years ago, which Crab Orchard Review picked up fairly quickly (Definitely NOT the norm!): “Crackers.”

It’s a somewhat comic take on Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. An American man goes “native” in the Philippines:

They made me register at the Palo Alto VA for a psychiatric evaluation. The attendant asked my age, and though I had not thought about it for many years, I replied that I might be 41 or 42.

My mother, God rest her soul, was a saint. She passed away when I was still in grade school. My father was the kind of man whose idea of spoiling us was to give us Happy Meals, every single day. While I was “away,” my father died, my sister inherited all his money, and there was nothing left for me.

My first night back in America, I couldn’t sleep. The quiet made me jumpy. People don’t realize how noisy the jungle is. When you know what to listen for, you can tell who is next to you, who is a few feet away, who is just on the other side of that bamboo thicket. Night is for hunting. It’s an active time. Here, though, the night is so quiet, it’s like being dead.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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