We teamed up with the fine people of Quick Fiction at the AWP Conference in Atlanta and had a good time talking to readers, writers, and various other literary types. In addition to the usual conference going-ons , we all collaborated on an on-site project. Since we are putting together the 50 States Project and Quick Fiction focuses on the short-short, we asked the attendees of the conference to write stories about each state on a Post-It note, which we then placed on the map pictured to the left. Here's some of what we received:
Montana, Sarah Miles
"Well maybe we can't live together," he retorted as he maneuvered our pick up down the Route 90 exit ramp just outside of Missoula. I thought of our tiny home beside the Blackfoot River, my long fights with out wood-stove, the snow clinging to the ridge that shaded our house from the sun for three months, and I knew he was right.
New Mexico, Paulette Licitra
Hacienda on the turquoise trail where meteors showered at midnight. We each took a bench in the backyard next to the railroad tracks and stretched out on our backs to catch stars in our eyes, until the hacienda man came to tell us stories about sleeping with his guests. So we went inside, locking the door to sleep in our room in the dark.
California sends sunshine to the rest of America. Earthquakes and fires plague. Mountains, rivers and clouds play in tune with smiles. Come visit but return to your homes.
Colorado, Leslee Becker
Yes, there's a green sign on I-25 outside of Colorado Springs announcing the presence of The Center for Family Values. Beyond this is the Motorcycle Hall of Fame. I don't stop for nothing, but I slowed down outside of Colorado Springs.
Wyoming, Victoria Hudson
Day Two: Woke early, lukewarm breakfast then back on the road. Highway 80 seems forever and not even halfway. Dreamy gray sky, fog, fucking cold. Why aren't I warm, home, my own bed? What was I thinking driving alone cross country. Great, snow, hail, big as my fist. Cripes! No radio here in oblivion podunk nowhere. My God! So majestic, so massive! I've never seen an elk so close! Wow, so wonderful here.
On the first day at my new Utah junior high school, my shirt too tight, my shorts too short. the boys stared and brushed past me too close, the girls, bleached blonds with coordinating socks acted like I wasn't even there. Somehow during those first few months I forgot how to do math
Nevada, Christopher Arigo
He stares off into the desert glittering with broken bottles and empty rifle casings. Dust devils rise spontaneously with a sound like the snap of a wet towel, making him start every time. Except for his presence the desert trembles almost noticeably with life: ants and wasps swarm a dead lizard mummified by the sun. He can smell the heat as it singes his nostrils: it smells like dust and flame, his eyes feel like dust--he can taste the dust, tainted with iron, tasting of blood.
Arizona, Amelia Gray
When Jim brought the potted cactus home, it was so complimented that Jim said he would bring it with him everywhere. It was a barrel cactus, about a foot tall in its pot, and we laughed, but he built a special harness that allowed him to strap it to his chest. We saw him with the cactus at the theater. The cactus had its own seat.
Alaska, Brian Evans
They sleep at night here. Elves in the snow. Penguins on roaring vivid snowmobiles. In summer the ice cracks and oil gushes out black and viscous over the white snowscape.
Alaska, Sherry Simpson and Jo-Ann Mapson
Sevent Truths About Alaska: There are no penguins in Alaska. There are no elves. Soon there will be no snow. Night is just a good idea. Snow is only white until November. Then the dogs have peed all over it. Oil gushes from all the broken down trucks. Everything else we just make up.
Kansas, Colin Raffgris
You know what? We hate "The Wizard of Oz." We hate the wizard, we hate Oz, we hate the Cowardly Lion. We really hate "Over the Rainbow," which is essentially a song about wishing how you weren't in Kansas. And don't even say to us "You're not in Kansas anymore." We're a state with low self-esteem and tons of insecurities, and it shows.
Wisconsin, J. Russ
To be one with the cows, the zen of grass, the mantra of milking, wearing cheese, and the beer, oh the beers. When you step into the grassy morning, sing the song of the viaducts. Here is where my heart still lives among Cream City bricks.
Wisconsin, Michelle Menting
After college--all six years a the University of Wisconsin--Elsie got on her Trek 14 speed, packed her worn, gravy-hued backpack with granola, a map, matches, and sweater, and set off to follow the Wisconsin River to the Northwoods. Her only plan was to reach the Minnesota-Wisconsin state line before the first surge of summer tourists. A week into her ride (she was lucky; the weather was clear and more like that of Colorado than Wisconsin), she stopped off at the Point Brewery, took the tour, and that same day, took a job as a tour guide (having been so impressed with the hops). She's still there. She's busiest during the cusp of summer, when the surge of tourists head north.
Something inside him had died and been reborn. Under the flat winter clouds he lay on the snow and felt the cold bite his bones. He thought this was the closest he'd been to being alive. The second time had been at the late hour of a Tuesday night when he heard the ghost of his little brother, Jonas, playing with his toys.
Oklahoma, Nicole Hefner
In the street the little boy told the rain to go away. In the street the little girl was the rain. This is what you don't remember seeing: the bird in the tree, someone's mother pulling her skirt over her head. If you're quiet enough the clouds will move out before you even notice. If you're quiet enough the rain might sing you a birthday song. Hush, mama said, the storm's already passed.
Michigan, Georgia A. Banks-Martin
Beneath the house below my room is something trying to pick its way inside. Tick, tick,then clang. It has help. Troll maybe. Mass murderer more likely. Its midnight and he must take one before morning. If I cover my head with my freshly washed sheet he will not see me, but I yell "mother" instead, who says its only the noise of the salt miners.
Texas, Sam Snoek-Brown
At 10:30 I crave dipcones, and I drive to the outskirts of Denton, the old Dairy Queen there brittle with florescents and linoleum. Through the plate glass, I spot a small girl cavorting in a red dress like the chihuahua the lives next door. The girls mother beats time on the red table top, unaware that outside my engine rattles a counterbeat, and the girl is dancing in step, instead, with me.
Louisiana, Emilie Staat
I caught my first fish in the biggest man-made lake near Zoelle, LA. I named him Jethro and tossed him back. It was my favorite moment in a hellacious first visit. I now live in Baton Rouge and enjoy every minute.
Missouri, Erin Tobias
Southern Missouri: The highways cut through the lime-stone bluffs here, as they follow the rolling hills up and down, up and down, more than anywhere else in the state. I like the train better.
South Dakota, Leslie
Willa pushed more than pulled the door closed behind her as she entered the church. She had stopped on her way west, not for confession or blessing, but to find a clean bathroom. From her place in the front of the heavy red doors, Willa stood directly opposite Christ, painted on the sanctuary wall behind the alter. This portrait she had not seen before; blood ran over the dark skin and folded eyes of a Lakota Christ. Not until after she had merged back onto the interstate and driven within a half-hour of her grandmother's house did she think about her grandmother's people, the Germans who had moved the rocks to uncover the fertile earth--had burned dung because they didn't have trees to burn. Where was their God?
North Dakota, Anonymous
Young and Kathy got into their 1974 Plymouth Fury and took off down the highway out of Grand Forks. It was January, there were white out conditions. Kathy, in her bedazzled jacket, screamed as Young, who was driving, bent down to pick up the cigarette he had dropped. They both screamed as the car flipped.
To read stories from other states head on over to Quick Fiction.