A story of mine, “The Sewing Machine,” appears in the current edition of Rivanna Review. Speaking as a longtime subscriber to literary journals, I can say that RR is one of my favourites. The Editor in Chief and Publisher Robert Boucheron is an intelligent and thoughtful person—just the kind required to start up a lit journal in Charlottesville, VA after a long and distinguished career in architecture.
I am not an architect, nor do I know many of them—George Costanza of Seinfeld fame does not count—but for 16 years, they often held my fate in their hands. I owned a small manufacturing company and we did work on large commercial buildings. I found project architects to be direct, firm, and of the no-bullshit variety. Traits not uncommon in the building trade, but a regular characteristic for architects whose measure of approval is finite to two decimal points. You meet the spec or you don’t…
“The Sewing Machine” is a character study involving a man and a woman in 1931 Winnipeg who resemble my Toews Grandparents in many respects. Robert has commented that the type of writing he often finds favour with is what he calls “organic” storytelling. By this, I think he means stories that are “of the people, by the people, and for the people” to paraphrase some of Robert’s Virginia cohorts from the past.
These “organic stories” come from “the truth behind the fiction” as another friend, At Bay Press publisher, editor and author, Matt Joudrey has said. Matt’s acute observation connects to what friend and reader Edward Krahn sometimes compares to the Richard Ford school of gritty characters and circumstances. (So, I’m a purveyor of Menno Grit?)
Here are some more defining characteristics from an experienced writer-editor:
“A unique writers voice is what attracts me at first. Popular, stylistic, poetry/prose rarely captures my attention. Sometimes writing is over-learned in classes, or representative of the teacher’s or studied subject’s body of work. I like the rawness of the pure untarnished colloquial voice in the reading. Having something to say is essential to me. I’m not impressed with a great volume of rarely used words thrown together to impress the reader with the vast knowledge of the writer on command of English, tricks of writing, ancient history, or the places they’ve travelled.”—An excerpt from an interview by writer, editor, publisher Judith Lawrence in, “Six Questions For…”
My forthcoming collection of short stories is a qualifier for these definitions. In “Pinching Zwieback: Made-up stories from the Darp” (At Bay Press) I’ll present a series of 20 stories. The pieces range from the opener, an 1873 story that takes place literally in the Bazavluk River in what is now Ukraine to a present-day ball game at Nat Bailey Stadium in Vancouver. In between, there are tales from Hartplatz, MB (a place that bears a resemblance, some might say, to a Darp with the initials Steinbach). A fictional clan called the Zehen family often takes centre stage, along with a hard-nosed friend, Lenny Gerbrandt, and the earnest and determined Jantseider Diedrich Deutsch.
While “The Sewing Machine” does not appear in “Pinching Zwieback” it is similar to many of the stories in the collection. To grab a subscription to Robert Boucheron’s entertaining and eclectic print periodical (fiction, non-fiction, reviews and poetry), Rivanna Review, visit the journal’s site at https://rivannareview.com/ While there, you can also learn how to connect to Robert’s monthly television broadcast.
Just tell him Art Vandelay sent you!
Issue 1: “Sweet Caporal” by Mitchell Toews
Issue 3: “Hundred Miles an Hour” by Mitchell Toews
Issue 6: “The Sewing Machine” by Mitchell Toews