“Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; make it hot by striking.”(WB Yeats)
COMING UP: “Well, call me Ishmael and tag me with an I,” I said upon learning that “Concealment” was accepted by Me First Magazine. (June 2019)
Me First publishes stories written in the first person. Mitchell is excited to be in the company of some of his favourite writers and thankful to the editors for accepting this many-times-edited-much-blood-shed short fiction.
Good writers, at heart, ought to be as dangerous as a riled cat with thumbs and the keys to both the liquor and gun cabinet. —Leila Allison
ALL PUBLICATIONS SUMMARY: riverbabble (3), 🍁 CommuterLit (9), Fiction on the Web (6), Best of Fiction on the Web (2018) (1), Literally Stories (7), 🍁 Red Fez (1), SickLit (2), 🍁 Voices Journal (1), The Machinery (1), Storgy (1), LingoBites (2), Work Magazine (1), The MOON magazine (1), Occulum (2), 🍁 Rhubarb Magazine (1), Digging Through the Fat (2), Fictive Dream (1), 🍁 Blank Spaces (1), Cabinet of Heed (1), 🍁 Pulp Literature (1), River Poets Journal “The Immigrants” Special Theme Edition (1), Doorknobs & Bodypaint (2), Pact Press “We Refugees” (1), 🍁 Scarlet Leaf Review (1), MeFirst Magazine (1 — July 2019).
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“I respond to character-driven material, regardless of its origin. I fall in love with the characters and generally respond to stories featuring ordinary people who succeed in overcoming extraordinary challenges.”—Producer Gale Anne Hurd*
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PUBLISHED, in roughly chronological order, since June 2016:
🍁 CommuterLit.com has run nine of Mitchell’s short fictions. In June 2016 the e-zine published “The Red River Valley Trilogy“: “Encountered on the Shore” (Appeared twice: Rerun October 2017 – see below), “A Vile Insinuation”, and “Without Reason”. The linked stories concern, respectively: the aftermath of a violent encounter on a city street; a young American leaving the ball fields of North Dakota for the killing fields of Vietnam; and a devout Mennonite man grappling with cancer and faith.
“Gather By the River” ran Dec 2016. It appeared in two parts on consecutive days. “Zero to Sixty”, the lead segment, introduces the chief character and his circumstances; sparking some poignant memories of Hartplatz, his childhood home. In the second piece, “The Margin of the River”, the protagonist returns to the scene of the previous day’s incident with troubling results. January 2017, “The Rothmans Job”, a wintery, noir-comedy-caper story set in the seventies in downtown Winnipeg ran on CommuterLit.com.
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“The greatest art in the world is the art of storytelling.”—Cecil B. DeMille
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“Winter Eve in Walker Creek Park”, a flash fiction, was presented February 2017.
CommuterLit will present a reprint of “South of Oromocto Depths”, one of Mitch’s most true north stories, soon after Canada’s 150th birthday celebration.
Two more of his stories appear in Fiction on the Web: “Nothing to Lose”, a short, vivid story where the main character relives regrets and long-buried memories and “Heavy Artillery”, in which a local runs the count full on the summer streets of a small town.
“A Fisherman’s Story”, tells the story of sorrow as it visits a simple family on the shores of “pre-tourista” Puerta Vallarta in 🍁 Rhubarb Magazine Issue 39. Mitchell has since crafted two stories – a prequel and a sequel – to the original story. See below for the publication note for the trilogy, “The Bottom of the Sky”.
Rhubarb has ceased to be and Manitoba can only hope that a phoenix will rise. Best wishes to the groot people of the late, great Rhubarb!
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“For me, the material has to have a strong theme, some sort of purpose—and whether that’s to make you laugh or cry, or to be a great ride, there’s got to be some sense of connection to what it means to be human.”—Director Lesli Linka Glatter*
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Literally Stories (UK) published Mitch’s twisted yarn, “Breezy and the Six-Pack Sneaker”; as well as his nostalgic walk down a dangerous alley in 1932 Winnipeg, “The Fifty Dollar Sewing Machine”; the contemporary tale, “Frozen Tag”; and the story of teenage friendship, drink and folly, “South of Oromocto Depths”.
Feb 17, 2019: Literally Stories (UK) Re-Run of “The Fifty Dollar Sewing Machine”
LS presented Mitch’s satiric imaginings of Big Church in, “The Business of Saving Souls” January 2017. “They neither labour nor spin…”
“Our German Relative,” tells a fictionalized tale of Mennonite lore from the early days of communist Russia. This story is found on 🍁 Red Fez, a literary/art site online, where “our German Relative” became the Story of the Week and followed that distinction with the second Most Viewed Story of the Month Dec 2016 and then Most Viewed fiction in Issue 96 of Root Metz.
Mitch’s writing returned to Fiction on the Web January 2017, when “The Preacher and His Wife” was published on the site. This short fiction tells the comical tale of misinformation and gives readers an inside peek into (real) pure Mennonite life, circa 1963.
The Machinery – A Literary Collection has chosen “I am Otter” March 2017 for their website and print collection. You can buy the issue containing this Otterite story of disenfranchisement, here: https://themachineryindia.com/2017/03/24/the-machinery-fauna-paperback/
The impressive ‘The Log Boom’ by mitchell_toews, a brilliant author and voice which we are proud to be bringing you!
Mitchell thinks Storgy is brilliant too.
(P.S. – All the better to C you with, Fair Folk has changed their publication name to OCCULUM, effective 6.20.17)
The MOON magazine ran the short story, “The Peacemongers” June 2017. This 4,800-word fiction was in the June 2017, “Swords into plowshares: Transitioning to a world without war,” issue and the author was—and is—is pleased to be included!
UK-based language learner literary site, Alsina Publishing will present the gritty realism flash fiction, “The Light Pool” July 2017. It is interesting to note that the publisher and the author collaborated to edit the piece to contain simple language and short sentences — the best material for new language learners to absorb on the publishers new “LingoBites” site, where stories are presented in English & Spanish; print & audio. A new three-part serial by Mitchell, “The Old Guardsmen”, will be presented to LingoBites audiences (everyone gets to read three free stories a month) Nov 2017.
“The Light Pool” was described by one reader as; “a very genuine flash fiction piece.” This story will be one of ten included in a newly-announced secondary school unit featuring LingoBites stories.
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“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. That is to say, 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…”
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riverbabble, one of three literary journals published by Pandemonium Press of Berkeley, CA, published “The Margin of the River” June 2017. A story of unintended violence. (An earlier version first appeared in CommuterLit in Dec 2016.)
Recurrent character Matt Zehen learns important life lessons about respect, honesty and the need for caution out in the wide world in, “Fairchild, McGowan and the Detective”. This short story published in WORK Literary Magazine June 2017.
Literally Stories, a UK-based literary journal dedicated to the short story, ran “So Are They All” August 2017. This story takes place in the year following the Cuban Missle Crisis of 1962 and asks questions about loyalty, mutually assured destruction (M.A.D.) and Saskatoon pie.
Fictive Dream (“…very excited about short stories in the UK & Ireland!”) published “The Seven Songs” November 2017. This story tracks a superficial relationship between two men who are less than honest with one another and themselves. We like to receive the whole truth – we just don’t often provide it to others.
Digging Through the Fat published two LINKS to prose by Toews on Fiction on the Web: “Nothing to Lose” and “Heavy Artillery”. August 2017
🍁 CommuterLit published “Encountered on the Shore” October 2017, on their Rerun Friday feature.
Written in a kind of ‘raconteurial high vernacular’, at least, that’s how Mitchell’s editor, James McKnight, has termed it…
The story recounts the unexpected complexity of a summer day within the context of “sepia-toned nostalgia”.
“Taste a foreign planet with a novelette from Kristene Perron and small-town Canada with short fiction from Mitchell Toews and Dave Beynon…” – 🍁 Pulp Literature Editor Mel Anastasiou An original drawing by Steinbach artist John Henry Friesen is featured in the magazine. JHF was and is a hometown hero of author Toews. John is still active in the creative economy today after a lifetime of sign painting, sculpting, fabricating and making magic out of old Wonder Oil bottles and rusty checkerplate and just about everything in between.
Mitchell reads, “Away Game”, on Dec 16, 2018, at the Pulp Literature fundraiser in Vancouver’s Gastown: https://youtu.be/qlxSxTxjWe0
Two CANUCK acceptances came in the week of Nov 22, 2017:
🍁 Pulp Literature said Jo to “Away Game” while 🍁 Blank Spaces followed a few days later with an affirmative for “Sweet Caporal at Dawn”. Both stories are set near the water, near the 50th parallel and in one case, nearly heaven. “Away Game” is in Pulp Literature Issue 20, Autumn 2018. “Sweet Caps” is available in Volume 2 Issue 4, June 2018, at newsstands or by subscription.
The author is once again honoured to represent his personal slice of literary heaven (just north of the 50th parallel on Jessica Lake) in riverbabble. Issue 32 follows the theme “unfolding” and Mitchell’s surreal story of birds flapping and trapper mitts slapping is in it. “In the Dim Light Beyond the Fence” February 2018.
The Cabinet of Heed, a literary journal edited by Irish writer Simon Webster has accepted this story of sacrifice and guilt, “The Doeling”, in Issue Eight, May 2018.
“City Lights” is in Fiction on the Web May 2018. An earlier version of the story appeared as “The Light Pool” on LingoBites in 2017. Mitchell: “I often write sympathetic characters. Not here. I’ve scraped the bottom of the pit. They are a loathsome bunch.”
🍁 CommuterLit is presenting a reprint of “I am Otter” May 2018. The story is a runner-up in their call for stories for their flash fiction feature and Editor Nancy Kay Clark decided to run it in the week following. Is that a lake or a swamp?
“I am Otter” first appeared in The Machinery – A Literary Collection You can buy a print edition containing this story of cultural Otterites, here: https://themachineryindia.com/2017/03/24/the-machinery-fauna-paperback/
riverbabble, based in the Bay Area of Northern California, is publishing a reprint of the story, “Nothing to Lose”. This story of everyday heroism, of grinding it out, is one of the author’s most heartfelt as it takes a look at characters not unlike those from his own past. The story runs from July to December 2018 and is the author’s third contribution to editor Leila Rae’s long-running literary journal.
Mitchell’s story, “Nothing to Lose” first appeared in “Fiction on the Web” and has appeared elsewhere on the web since. The story is also in print in “The Best of Fiction on the Web”, an anthology picked from over one thousand short stories that appeared from 1996-2017. (See below to purchase.)
“Groota Pieter” has been accepted by River Poets Journal. The story is part of the Special Themed Edition, “The Immigrants”, http://bit.ly/GrootaPieterRPJ and is available online and in print. July 2018.
With baseball as a touchstone, “Groota Pieter” looks at immigrant experiences at opposite ends of a man’s lifetime. It all begins with a tall tale.
See Editor/Publisher (Lilly Press) Judith Lawrence’s entertaining interview here: https://sixquestionsfor.blogspot.com/2013/07/six-questions-for-judith-lawrence.html
It’s always exciting to hear prose and poetry read aloud. Mitch’s flash fiction “Wide Winter River” is read in a podcast by writer/curator/narrator Taylor Woodlands.
Access is free to “Not Ready for Rhyme Time” and many English language stories and poems are featured in the family-friendly, one-hour+ reading.
Mitchell’s piece is the first one in the short story segment, starting at 30:37 of the “Open Submits” (5) recording.
“Wide Winter River” is an excerpt taken from the story “The Margin of the River”.
Author Mitchell Toews‘ flash fiction, “Sweet Caporal at Dawn” was chosen by editor Alanna Rusnak (author of “The Church in the Wildwoods”, **SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2018 KOBO EMERGING WRITER AWARD**) for inclusion in the Blank Spaces anthology, 🍁 “Just Words, Volume 2”.
Mitchell on “Sweet Caporal at Dawn”, which started life, many years ago in Chilliwack, BC as a long poem about fishing in Manitoba: “It is as Canadian as ‘hammer handles’ (a nickname for small Northern Pikes, or ‘jackfish’), Export “A” rolling papers and wet, cold (I mean cold, eh!) Spring days.”
Here’s a link to my READING of the story (6:49) on my Goodreads author profile. Sweet Caporal at Dawn – Mitchell Toews
In 1950s Acapulco, a fateful accident alters the course of three fishermen’s lives in Mitchell Toews’ graceful epic. Fiction on the Web’s Charlie Fish chose, “The Bottom of the Sky”, as FotW’s Pick of the Month. October 2018.
“Extraordinarily fine writing that transports the reader into a particular world. Carlos’s destiny, Jose’s fate – karma – who knows?”
🍁 “I really enjoyed it. You gave the characters a real richness and the story has action and is full of intrigue! I forwarded it to two great friends that have places in Puerto Vallarta and love going to Mismaloya.”
🍁 Scarlet Leaf Review, a fiction-poetry-CNF lit review from Toronto has published, “The Narrowing”, a tense story about mental health and the enormous impact it can have on a family, even in relatively small expressions. http://bit.ly/SLRtheNarrowing
One of Mitchell’s two-fisted Oma & Opa tales, “The Fifty-Dollar Sewing Machine”, was re-run Feb 17, 2019, on Literally Stories The author extends thanks to this great pub and nominatrix Leila Allison, who has kicked up her heels from Philo Bay to Alki Beach and knows how to handle a frisky keyboard.
The Hayward Fault Line winner for Doorknobs & Bodypaint 93 (February 2019, a triannual themed flash contest) is Mitchell’s story, “Cave on a Cul-de-sac”: http://bit.ly/CAVEhfl See “The HOOPS”, above, for the theme construct.
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🍁 “So Are They All” won second place in the Adult Fiction category of the 2016 “Write on the Lake” writing contest and appears in the Lake Winnipeg Writers’ Group’s semi-annual journal, Voices, Volume 16, No. 2. Mitchell presented excerpts from the story during the Voices launch at McNally Robinson Book Sellers in Winnipeg, on November 20, 2016.
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“Fall from Grace” received an honourable mention (not published) in The Writers’ Workshop of Asheville Memoirs Contest, 2016. TWWOA has been active in the North Carolina literary scene since 1985. A young boy’s fears come to life – danger hides in plain sight on a quiet, small-town day.
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🍁 Mitchell’s offbeat (!) story, “The Phage Match” was one of 16 finalists in Deathmatch 2017 – a writing contest for independent creative fiction in Canada, from the special people at Broken Pencil mega-zine.
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The story “Nothing to Lose”, which is part memoir-part imagination about Chuck Toews, as a young man in Steinbach, MB (“Hartplatz”) has been chosen for a print anthology in England. Writer/Editor/Scrabble Genius Charlie Fish of London has published the online literary zine, Fiction on the Web, since 1996. In that time he has published more than one thousand short stories by writers from around the world. Charlie is publishing a print collection of his favourite stories from FotW‘s 21-year history. The proceeds of this literary collection’s sale will go to a London hospital charity: Guy’s & St Thomas’ Foundation Trust. The book will be available for purchase in the new year (2018).
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🍁 Mitchell’s Canadiana flash fiction, “Sweet Caporal at Dawn”, earned a place in Blank Spaces second literary collection, “Just Words Volume 2”. (Mitch: “Read the story and then tell me that picture by John Henry is not a masterpiece! It is!”)
“Sweet Caporal at Dawn” has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize XLIII by Blanks Spaces Magazine.
“lovely and evocative local colour,”—Dr Emma Larking (lead editor for the Pact Press anthology, We Refugees)
Mitchell’s story of immigration, social stigma, and longing, “Groota Pieter”, will appear in the Pact Press anthology, “We Refugees”. The story first appeared in print and online in the Lilly Press publication “The Immigrants”, by The River Poets Journal.
Pact Press publishes short stories, poetry, and literary fiction that speak to our particular themes of social justice, racism, discrimination, gender equality, LGBTQ concerns, immigration, poverty, and homelessness. A Regal House imprint.
*Both of these quotes make me sit up and take notice in a “That’s what I wish I had said,” kind of way. They come from an article by JOHN ROBERT MARLOW, found here: http://makeyourbookamovie.com/make-your-book-a-movie-adapting-your-book-or-story-for-hollywood/121/
I have some kind of misbegotten and far-fetched idea that one of my stories, a trilogy called, “The Bottom of the Sky”, could be adapted into a screenplay. Marlow makes the point that an adaptable story must meet certain criterion and beyond my questionable “gut feeling”, the story scores high on Marlow’s list of must-haves. I recommend the article if this kind of thing appeals to you! Some of the criteria:
- A classic three-part story structure;
- appealing story and characters;
- a 10-second logline that concisely-but-fully describes the story;
- a relatable character (someone to cheer for, as my daughters have both stressed to me);
- visual excitement;
- two-hours max;
- a realistic budget (cast size, locations, special effects, etc.);
- four-quadrant appeal (demographic segments); and last –
- merchandising potential.
“The Bottom of the Sky” is a winner in all of these tell-tales except the last one. (No gadgets, guns, cute robots, vampires, zombies or animated critters.) In addition, the story is one that has key echoes of personal experience at its core. I see this as a positive factor because it enables me to recall feelings, not imagine them.
If you like the story, don’t tell me – tell a great screenwriter looking to collaborate on an adaptation! My wildest dream? Something the approaches the stark honesty of “Roma”, by Mexican director Alonso Cuarón.
You see… In real life, I was the tourist in the boat with the handline fisherman and I was also the one who handed the pliers to the marlin boat skipper. Violeta, Jose, Carlos, and Avelino are real to me.”—Mitchell Toews
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“Storytellers broaden our minds: engage, provoke, inspire, and ultimately, connect us.”—Robert Redford
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MANY more short stories & flash pieces are ready for the slush pile.
A novel, “Mulholland & Hardbar”, is well on the way! The first draft of 110,000 words is complete. Editor McKnight has been minding the compass as we follow a winding boreal trail along the 50th parallel – now we’re ready to chip away at it and reduce it to its true fighting weight.
“A back-country road trip into the secret, lethal places in the Canadian boreal forest, covering all four seasons: friendship, loss, guilt, and violence.”
As I tell editor James, I have leapt from the burning building and I am tying the bedsheets together as I fall.