Publishing News: Two Stories for a World on Fire

Writing is a strange craft. You spend months or years with an idea rolling around in the dark recesses of your mind, weeks or months or years coaxing that idea out of the shadows, and months more chipping away at the rough edges before its time to shop a story around to find it a home. And then, out of nowhere, the pieces fall into place in the bizarre ways.

In September, I found out that two of my short stories were going to be published. One was a story that I’d been editing and submitting to various journals for almost three years. The other was an idea I had four or five years ago that crystallized in mid-summer and came pouring out onto the page over the course of a week. Despite their vastly different origins, they both revolve around a similar image: fire.

I love fire. My mom taught me how to build a fire when I was eight or nine years old on one of our camping trips to Zion National Park. To this day, I’m mesmerized by flickering of firelight and in awe of its power to create and destroy. Fire can forge, it can cleanse, it can make way for new life to take hold. Fire can also consume and kill. For me, fire is a metaphor for humanity. We, too, are capable of great beauty and equally terrible destruction.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that this idea should work its way into my short fiction. In “Firemaker,” fire is a symbol of humanity’s potential, as a time traveler discovers when he travels to a village on the verge of being wiped out at the dawn of the last Ice Age. “Pyrocene” embodies the other side of the coin as a character tries to save a house from burning down in a setting that could be the present day or the very near future.

I never thought of these stories as having anything to do with each other, but rereading them, the parallels are obvious. They are intertwined, each commenting on the other. I love being surprised by fiction — sometimes I even surprise myself with hidden themes I didn’t consciously incorporate. In a year when the world feels like it’s on fire (racial injustice, the presidential election, and the actual fires raging across much of the American West for a start), it’s fitting that these two stories will be published together in 2020.

“Pyrocene” will be published in Creative Colloquy’s seventh annual anthology, due out later this year. You can hear me read it at the Creative Colloquy Crawl on Saturday, October 3 at 2pm Pacific time (RSVP here to receive the Zoom link). “Firemaker” will be published in All World’s Wayfarer Issue VII, which will be available on Monday, December 21. You can preorder it for your Kindle at allworldswayfarer.com. The issue will also be free to read on their website until March 20, 2021.

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Jonny Eberle is a writer in Tacoma, WA. His writing has been featured or is forthcoming in Creative Colloquy, All Worlds Wayfarer and Grit City Magazine. Follow him on Twitter and subscribe to the mailing list today for exclusive content delivered to your inbox once a month.

Join Me for a Virtual Literary Pub Crawl

Every year, Creative Colloquy hosts a literary pub crawl in downtown Tacoma. In 2020, due to the pandemic, CC is bringing the stories to you. This year’s Creative Colloquy Crawl will be 100% online, all-ages and spread over a whole weekend of literary awesomeness, kicking off with a virtual happy hour on Friday, October 2. You can join in from anywhere to listen to stories by women of color, hear some new urban legends or tune in for our first-ever story time for kids.

If you’re interested in hearing me perform, you’re in luck. My short story “Pyrocene” was selected for inclusion in Creative Colloquy’s seventh annual print anthology. Volume 7 will be available to purchase later this year, but I’ll be reading it during the Volume Seven Sneaky Peeks event on Saturday, October 3 at 2pm Pacific alongside other authors whose work will be featured in the anthology.

Each event is free to attend, but you do need to register in advance to get access to the Zoom link. Learn more about the weekend’s shenanigans and RSVP below:

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 2

7pm | Virtual Kickoff Happy Hour

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 3

11am | Perhaps It Takes Courage to Raise Children
2pm | Volume Seven Sneaky Peeks
7pm | Listen Up! Stories from Tacoma’s Women of Color Collective and Beyond

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 4

11am | Yarning a Tale for the Youngsters
2pm | Write253 Presents
7pm | From Bigfoot to Honest Politicians: Modern Urban Legends

The Crawl is one of my favorite events of the year and while I will miss the excitement of the in-person events (and frantically running between venues to catch my favorite writers and musicians), but I also think this will be the best Crawl yet. If you couldn’t attend before because you don’t live nearby or because you can’t make it out to a bar on a weeknight or because members of your entourage are under the legal drinking age, I hope you’ll be able to make it to one or more of the virtual readings. Mark your calendar for October 2-4 — and I hope to see you there!

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Jonny Eberle is a writer, photographer, filmmaker in Tacoma, WA. His writing has been featured or is forthcoming in Creative Colloquy and Grit City Magazine. Follow him on Twitter and subscribe to the mailing list today for exclusive content delivered to your inbox once a month.

Best Spots for Urban Kayaking in Tacoma

Kayaker under bridge.

When you picture the ideal spot for kayaking, what comes to mind? An isolated river or lake in the woods? Or on an urban waterway surrounded by bridges and skyscrapers? When we got our kayaks last winter, I couldn’t wait to try them out somewhere totally new — my own backyard.

Tacoma is a peninsula, surrounded on three sides by the waters of Puget Sound. Much of that water is easily accessible from one of the city’s waterfront parks. Many times, I’ve walked along the shore and wondered what the city must look like from out there. This summer, I got to find out. Kayaking is an excellent way to get outside for fresh air and exercise as you practice social distancing. It’s also a sure-fire way to beat cabin fever and reminded me of why it’s so important that we preserve ecosystems like the Salish Sea.

Now, without further ado, here are three of my favorite spots to kayak around Tacoma:

Ruston Way

Two-mile scenic waterfront dotted with parks and beaches in Tacoma’s North End

Ruston Way was the first place we tried kayaking and it’s still our favorite spot. Ruston Way’s many parks and gently sloping beaches provide plenty of opportunities to launch. Parking is tight, meaning you’ll probably wind up carrying your kayaks across a busy road or down the sidewalk a ways, but generally, you don’t have to park too far from the water. Both Dickman Mill Park and Cummings Park offer great spots to put in. The water here is generally calm with some wakes from passing boats, but we had plenty of room to paddle just off shore. Within a few minutes, it felt like we were miles away from the bustle of the city.

Ruston Way’s industrial history means there’s a lot to explore. The remains of 38 piers are scattered along the shoreline. Once the home of Tacoma’s lumber mills, warehouses and copper smelters, these pilings and concrete ruins are now home to seagulls, loons and cormorants while seals play in the surf.

Thea Foss Waterway

1.5-mile inlet between downtown and the Port of Tacoma

Between the sight of the Murray-Morgan Bridge towering 60 feet above you, sailboats and yachts coming in and out of the marina, and the downtown Tacoma skyline, the Thea Foss Waterway is full of spectacular sights. We put in at Thea’s Park, located on Dock Street. There’s very limited parking, but there is a public dock here, making this the easiest place on the list to launch from (we didn’t even get our feet wet!). Because of the boat traffic, Thea Foss is a less leisurely place to paddle, but if you’re aware of your surroundings and steer clear of the larger vessels passing through the marina, there’s a lot to see and explore.

Titlow Beach

Scenic views of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Tacoma’s West End

Titlow Beach was by far our most challenging kayak trip, but it was well worth the effort. While there’s plenty of parking at the park, you’ll need to carry your kayaks and gear across the train tracks and down a flight of stairs to reach the beach, which can be slippery at low tide. Unlike the more serene waters of Commencement Bay, the Tacoma Narrows are known for strong currents and can be dangerous if you stray too far from shore. The day we came was especially windy, which meant we had to contend with some pretty significant swells. Sticking close to the beach, we paddled north until we reached a point where we could see the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in the distance. We also enjoyed beautiful views of Gig Harbor and Fox Island. On a clear day, I suspect you could also spot the Olympic Mountains.

We got soaked paddling at Titlow Beach. It was cold and windy, but it was also a stunning reminder of how lucky we are to live in the Pacific Northwest, where we’re all just minutes away from nature.

Tips for Urban Kayakers

  • You don’t have to buy a kayak right away — there are plenty of places to rent kayaks to get a feel for the sport before you invest in your own gear.
  • Get an early start, especially on weekends and holidays, to find a good place to load and unload your gear and be prepared to fall back on Plan B if your first choice location is too busy.
  • Always wear a personal flotation device and be sure it fits properly.
  • Check the weather conditions and tide tables before you go. You don’t want to come back after a long afternoon of kayaking to discover that the beach where you put in is now underwater or find yourself battling the elements when a small craft advisory is in effect. Knowing the current weather conditions can also help you plan your route, so you can take advantage of a tailwind on the return trip.
  • Busy waterways can be hazardous and larger vessels may not be able to see you or change course to avoid a collision. Stay away from ferry routes and shipping lanes and always keep an eye out for approaching vessels.
  • Stay at least 300 yards from orcas and 100 yards from seal pups, if you encounter them on your excursions.

Are there other kayaking spots around the Tacoma area that I missed? Let me know what areas I should check out in the comments. Thanks for reading!

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Jonny Eberle is a writer, photographer, filmmaker and paddling hobbyist in Tacoma, WA. His writing has been featured in Creative Colloquy and Grit City Magazine. Follow him on Twitter and subscribe to the mailing list today.

New Short Story: Bad Air and Bitter Herbs

Sometime in late April, I fell down a rabbit hole of links learning about the history of the plague in Europe. It was a dark impulse in the middle of a modern-day pandemic, but I became fascinated by the plague doctor costume, a head-to-toe covering designed to protect the physician from infected patients. Through my research, I learned that the costume itself may not have been widely used, but those who adopted it reflected a new wave of understanding infectious disease in the West — the personal protective equipment of the day.

The mask, while turning the wearer into an ominous looking bird, was meant to filter out contaminated air (“miasma”) with strong-smelling herbs and spices. The gloves and robes prevented the doctor from physically touching their patients and the staff may have allowed them to give direction from a safe distance.

Over the years, as our understanding of disease prevention and treatment evolved, so did the protective garb employed by doctors and nurses to mitigate infection. Gradually, the plague doctor uniform disappeared…

…but what if it didn’t? That was the starting point for the short story that been published this month by Creative Colloquy. In this story, I update the plague doctor for today’s COVID-19 pandemic. Now, I know we’re all awash in coronavirus anxiety, so I promise this will be my only pandemic-themed fiction for a while. But, I hope you enjoy my twist.

You can read the short story, “Bad Air and Bitter Herbs” here.

Please let me know what you think in the comments, thanks for reading, and please wear a mask and wash your hands. Thanks!

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Jonny Eberle lives in Tacoma, WA with his wife, three typewriters, and a puppy. His fiction has been featured or is forthcoming in Creative Colloquy and Grit City Magazine. Follow him on Twitter and subscribe to the monthly newsletter for exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.

C’est la pandémie

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It’s been 38 days since the COVID-19 pandemic became real for me. That was the day I started working from home, the day most businesses in Washington closed their doors, the day my knuckles started to crack from the sheer amount of handwashing I was doing, and the day that the numbers of the sick and dying starting to skyrocket across the country. It was the day that I realized this was not an isolated, regional outbreak. This was going to change our lives.

A week later, when we ventured out to pick up a pint of local ice cream, we walked by a string of empty businesses with boarded-up windows. It was a Friday night and yet no one was out. It was surreal, like a scene from an apocalyptic story; the kind I usually enjoy reading and writing about.

Rarely do we actually have the awareness that we’re living through history as its unfolding around us. But this is different. For over a month, I’ve lived with the heightened awareness that these days will come to define this chapter of my life; that someday, our homemade face masks will be in museums to teach children about the great pandemic of 2020. I thought, early on, that I would take copious notes during this time and I might even be able to write about the epidemic in real-time, producing a defining work of fiction based on true events.

That’s not what happened.

It’s been 38 days since I’ve been able to write coherently about anything. Instead of tapping into an endless fountain of inspiration unleashed by the chaos around me, the well has run dry. I’ve barely been able to answer my emails and text messages. I’m not even close to being in a space where I can write something insightful about the current situation.

A lot has been made about the fact that Shakespeare wrote some of his finest plays while in quarantine. But Shakespeare lived in a very different world. The plague was a fact of life, an illness that recurred every few years in Elizabethan England. It may have been disruptive, but it was also a part of everyday life in a way that the coronavirus is not in our world.

Far from an excuse for downtime that’s conducive to creative output, COVID-19 is putting us through trauma as a slow-motion disaster rips its way through our fragile society. Psychologically, most of us (myself very much included) are dealing with grief — and it’s hard to focus on anything else.

So, as I’ve sat safely in my house, in a good neighborhood where I feel safe walking around, with a fast internet connection and streaming services at my fingertips, with the luxury of going to the grocery store every other week and having food delivered when it’s too much to cook after a long day of telecommuting, I’m still processing. I think I’ll be processing for a while. While I’m processing, I’ll waver between hope, despair and exhaustion.

Only once I’m done processing do I expect to have the capacity to write the way I used to. I hope the day comes soon when we’ll be able to step out of the shadow of grief and into whatever comes next.

Stay home.
Stay safe.
Wash your hands.

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Jonny Eberle is a writer, photographer and filmmaker in Tacoma, WA. He lives with his wife and three typewriters in a 110-year-old house. Follow his quarantine thoughts on Twitter and sign up for the newsletter for exclusive content.

The Birthday Resolutions Take Flight

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Earlier this week, on the eve of my thirtieth birthday, I was flipping through a stack of old National Geographic magazines, looking for something to symbolize my goals for the new year. A friend was hosting a vision board party at a bar in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood. Now, I’m not entirely sure I understand what a vision board is, so I’m sure I was doing it wrong, but as a former elementary school student, I felt pretty confident when I saw the magazines, scissors and glue sticks spread out on the table.

I didn’t have a plan. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, just words and images that inspired me. I slowly amassed an admirably random pile of clippings. Grabbing a poster board and a glue stick, I realized there was an unintentional, perhaps subconscious, theme in the images I’d chosen. From an advertisement, I’d lifted a man in a jet pack. An article on the redwoods yielded two scientists scaling a monolithic tree too tall to fit on the page. A feature on birds of prey offered up the image of a screaming hawk, its tawny wings spread wide.

Liftoff.

Reaching new heights.

Flight.

For most, if not all, of human history, we’ve yearned to emulate birds and soar among the clouds. However, despite our lofty aspirations, but it wasn’t until one hundred years ago that the Wright Brothers built a flying machine that could actually sustain flight. Reaching a difficult goal takes determination, repeated failure, and time. Orville and Wilbur Wright could never have achieved the world’s first powered flight without their fair share of crash landings. I think life is a lot like that.

Which brings me to my yearly tradition of making birthday resolutions instead of new year’s resolutions. No, I’m not getting my pilot’s license or going skydiving. Last year, I was not able to realize most of my resolutions. It wasn’t for lack of trying, but life took a couple of unexpected turns, as life has a tendency to do. As I set out on this new year, this new decade, and my thirtieth year of life, I’m aware that failure is the best teacher. I’ve learned a lot from what I tried and was unable to accomplish last year, and I have better ideas for how to improve my process in 2020.

This year, for my birthday resolutions, I have my sights set on taking flight — metaphorically, of course — while also taking to heart the lessons of failure. So, without further ado, here’s what I have my sights set on this year:

1. Pursue a Healthy Balance

Last year, I set myself a challenge of running a 5K. It didn’t happen. This year, I’m still focused on taking better care of myself, but I’m not limiting myself to running. I want to go for long walks, hike through the woods, kayak around Puget Sound, break a sweat working on our ongoing remodel and exercise on a regular schedule. If I do some running along the way, that would be excellent. Overall, though, I’m more interested in striking a healthier balance in my life — more physical activity, less laying on the couch — in whatever way works for me.

2. Write and Publish

Three years ago, I declared I would complete a draft of a novel by the time I turned thirty. Well, I’m thirty now and the novel isn’t done; however, I am halfway through and the story is starting to take wing. I didn’t make my arbitrary deadline, but that’s okay. I’m not giving up and will continue to chip away at my manuscript until it’s ready for its debut.

In addition to my novel, I have an itch to write more short fiction, which has taken a back seat recently. I love short stories and flash fiction and I have several ideas burning a hole in my notebook that I can’t wait to get to work on.

Finally, I’m refocusing on getting more of my work published in 2020. I have an opportunity in the next couple of months to submit to a local publication I really admire, and I hope it’s the start of getting more of my words into print (or pixels) for the world to see.

3. Indulge My Curiosity

Last fall, I embarked on a journey I could not have foreseen when I started an online program to earn a certificate in strategic communication and public relations. Going back to school, even in an incredibly limited fashion, reminded me that I don’t miss homework, but I do enjoy learning. The program is short (I’ll be finished in March), but I plan to continue stretching my brain, seeking out books, articles, podcasts, and documentaries to help me widen my worldview and challenge my preconceived ideas. The world is huge and complex and there is so much to know. As I enter my third decade, it’s obvious to me that I’m just scratching the surface.

Will I spread my wings and take flight this year? Only time will tell, and I’ll be sure to share highlights here on the blog. Thanks for reading!

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Jonny Eberle is a writer, storyteller, and hawk fledgling nesting in Tacoma, WA. You can follow him on Twitter and join the mailing list to get exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox each month.

For Auld Lang Syne

close up photography of a cocktail drinks
Photo from Pexels.com

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne.

A few weeks ago, as I was driving home from the grocery store, I passed the apartment I lived in when I first moved to Tacoma. More than six years ago, I arrived in the City of Destiny without a job or a plan for what I was going to do with my life. That first apartment was awful — cold, mouse-infested, and dingy. As I drove on toward the house I now own, in my new-ish car filled with groceries purchased thanks to a good job with a steady paycheck, I got to thinking about how far I’ve come in the last 10 years.

There is something about the turning of a decade that feels like the end of a chapter. The fact that we break up years into groups of ten is, of course, completely arbitrary. But even so, history has layered previous decades with meaning and symbolism. We’ve even given some of them nicknames, like the Roaring Twenties. And so, I can’t help but want to mark this decade and leave my stamp on it, just as surely as it has left its stamp on me.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp!
And surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

This decade turned my life upside down over and over again. I graduated from college, fell in love, moved to the Pacific Northwest, found gainful employment, got married, became a published writer, saw the world, bought a house, challenged myself to write a novel. I’ve experienced the happiest days of my life so far, but also some of the darkest.

We twa hae run about the braes
And pu’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary foot
Sin auld lang syne.

There is a tendency to romanticize the past; to blur out the pain and struggle; to sanitize our memories like a social media feed. There’s nothing wrong with that. I certainly don’t want to linger on past hardships, but I can’t deny that those moments are a part of the story, too.

So, this New Year’s Day, I want to reflect on how far I’ve come and all that I’ve achieved and be grateful, but I also want to acknowledge that it’s been a rocky road to get here. There are always two sides to any story and no matter what the 2020s have in store, I’ll always carry my memories and experiences from this decade with me. As a kind, old Doctor once said, “We’re all stories in the end, just make it a good one, eh?”

We twa hae paidl’d i’ the burn,
Frae mornin’ sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
Sin auld lang syne.

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Jonny Eberle is a writer and storyteller in Tacoma, WA. You can read his short fiction in Creative Colloquy and Grit City Magazine or follow him on Twitter. While you’re here, please join the mailing list!

P.S. – If you’re interested in learning more about the history of the Scottish poem turned global New Year’s Eve anthem, give a listen to John Green’s review of Auld Lang Syne in the latest episode of his excellent podcast, The Anthropocene Reviewed.

Top 10 Reads of the 2010s

The end of a decade is a time for reflection and, even more importantly, it’s a time for top 10 lists from your favorite blogs. Over the last 10 years, I’ve done a lot of reading, so as 2019 winds down, I thought I would look back at my favorite books of the 2010s:

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10. The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries by Marilyn Johnson

Yes, you read that right. I really did enjoy a book about obituaries. I loved every page of this darkly funny, deeply human exploration of the underappreciated art form of commemorating our lives in the pages of a newspaper (remember those?).

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9. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

I first picked up Ernest Hemingway when I was in high school. I was instantly captivated by his terse, staccato style of writing and exciting themes. His early work is all about war and manly, suppressed emotions, but The Old Man and the Sea, Hemingway’s last major work before his death, is his most mature work. In this short fable, he immerses the reader into the timeless struggle between humanity and nature.

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8. To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918 by Adam Hochschild

This unique history of the Great War contrasts pacificists and soldiers on both sides of the conflict to detail the moral complexity of the war that shattered Europe. Hochschild’s research and use of journal entries and personal letters serve to illustrate the conflict in strikingly human terms and make the issues of a hundred years ago feel as urgent as if it was happening today.

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7. Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett

In this mile-a-minute pageturner, Follett takes a known historical event — WWII’s D-Day landings —  and imbues it with suspense. This novel revolves around a strong cast of characters, each with their own secrets, struggling against their personal demons and each other, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance.

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6. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven is a rare post-apocalyptic novel that gives me hope for the future. Despite the loss of life and leads to the collapse of modern society, the characters in St. John Mandel’s vision of a future years after a catastrophic plague find purpose in beauty, art, and human connection.

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5. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

This short novel about censorship and losing touch with both our past and each other foreshadows so much of our present-day issues. It’s a book I find myself coming back to every few years and one that continues to remind me of the power of science fiction to warn us away from our darkest impulses as a species.

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4. All the Old Knives by Olen Steinhauer

All the Old Knives is a slow burn, told primarily in flashbacks as two spies circle each other in a deadly game of cat and mouse in the idyllic setting of a sleepy Northern California town. Steinhauer is masterful in continually raising the stakes. It’s as tense as dinner with an old friend could possibly be and it’s wonderful.

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3. Lost City Radio by Daniel Alarcón

Alarcón is one of my favorite writers I’ve discovered over the past decade. I highly recommend his short story collections, but Lost City Radio is a beautiful introduction to his incredible sense of place. In Lost City Radio, individual tragedies are set against the backdrop of an endless war in a nameless country that feels so real it hurts.

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2. Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg

As a writer, I’m a sucker for books about writing, but this one is not your average writing book. Unlike the more popular choices like Bird by Bird or On Writing (which are both excellent), Klinkenborg examines the building blocks of all writing — sentences themselves — and deconstructs the process of writing in a stream of consciousness style which makes it hard to put down and really changed my thinking about my own process.

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1. The Broken Earth Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin

Okay, it’s technically cheating to have my last pick be three books, but the Broken Earth series blew my mind. Jemisin is a game-changing voice in science fiction today and to say anything more about her epic three-part story about converging factions in the land of the Stillness would be giving away too much. Close your browser and read it now. It’s amazing.

In the 2020s, I hope to make more time for amazing books like these. I also hope to add new voices to my bookshelf and more diverse voices in the coming years. What are your favorite books from the past 10 years? I’d love to hear your recommendations in the comments!

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Jonny Eberle is a writer in Tacoma, WA. He’s (slowly) working on a novel manuscript and seeking publication for a pretty cool time travel short story. His previous fiction has appeared in the pages of Creative Colloquy and Grit City Magazine.

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Motivated By Rejection

firemaker-rejection-11_2019

This week, I got a rejection from a prominent science fiction journal. Rejections are common when you’re a writer trying to publish short fiction. The competition is fierce and editors can only publish so many stories. They have to draw the line somewhere, so the vast majority of responses you get when shopping around a story is: “No thanks” or “This isn’t what we’re looking for.”

I’ve received my fair share of rejections since I first started sending out my short stories. The first ten or twenty really hurt. It felt personal, even though I knew it was a professional judgment on whether the story fit a particular editor’s needs, but it always felt like a condemnation of my dream of being a writer. Each rejection that piled up felt like an argument that I wasn’t any good; that I should give up.

I don’t feel that way anymore.

Maybe I grew a thicker skin to criticism or perhaps I’ve learned to distance myself emotionally from the process. But for whatever reason, I’ve come to see rejections as motivating rather than discouraging.

The rejection I received this week felt good. It’s been a busy year and quality writing time is scarce these days. This was my first rejection is over a year for the simple fact that I hadn’t submitted anything to a literary journal in so long.

So, when I got this rejection, it felt like I’d earned it. I had risked something and taken the bold step of sending a story that I’d been polishing for years out into the world. I had accomplished something and that felt good.

Rejection is never fun, but look closer. The story I sent wasn’t what this editor was looking to publish — but they still liked it — and they invited me to submit again if I write something else. As far as rejections go, this one gave me hope that I am a decent writer after all and that my work is enjoyable to read.

The same day I got that rejection, I submitted to the next journal on my list of favorite places to read contemporary scifi. They also turned it down, but I still feel like I’m back in the running and I’m more determined than ever to find this piece a home.

Rejection can feel like defeat. Or it can feel like a nudge in the right direction. It’s up to you.

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Jonny Eberle is a writer in Tacoma, WA who dabbles in filmmaking and photography. He’s (slowly) working on a novel manuscript and seeking publication for a pretty cool time travel short story. His previous fiction has appeared in the pages of Creative Colloquy and Grit City Magazine.

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King of the Open Road

jonny and the pilot 2019

Last week, I handed over the keys to my 2005 Honda Pilot to my younger sister. It was an emotional moment, because my baby sister is now old enough to drive. It was also emotional for me because I was saying farewell to an old friend. Call me sentimental, but I have a tendency to get attached to inanimate objects, and it was hard to say goodbye to my trusty companion.

The Lone Ranger had Silver. Thor had his hammer. I had my Honda Pilot EX-L.

My Pilot was the first car I ever bought on my own. It was the car I drove to college, the car that I used to help numerous friends move, the car that defied gravity on a steep and ill-advised passing maneuver on a one-lane desert road. It was the car I took down to Oak Creek in the summer and the car I packed with friends for a drive to the Grand Canyon at 4 a.m. to watch the sunrise.

It was the ultimate road trip machine, including recent trips to Canada and the Oregon Coast. I loved that you could fill the back with camping gear and escape into the wilderness at a moment’s notice. It was perfect for our week-long, 1,800+ mile trip to Yellowstone with American Gods playing on CD.

It had the world’s loudest and least effective windshield wipers (which wasn’t an issue until we moved to Washington) and it was old enough to come with a cassette tape deck, which was only used once to play the Complete James Bond Theme Songs.

My Pilot was reliable. It never got stuck, never broke down, and never failed to start whether it was -13 degrees or 113 degrees (except for that one time at a fancy hotel when the battery and alternator died simultaneously and the valet had to jump it to get it to the parking lot…that was embarrassing).

From the faded pirate bobble head on the dashboard to the NAU decal in the back window to the mysterious scratch on the back bumper that I still can’t explain, it was and is a great little SUV.

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It’s strange how a metal box on wheels can exert such a pull on the human heart, but it’s undeniable. My Pilot is a testament to the power of good design and engineering to build a thing that not only serves its intended purpose — to get people from point A to point B — but to feel almost like a living thing. Everything about it, from the rev of the engine to the feel of the steering wheel imbued it with personality.

Perhaps that’s why cars have held a special place in the American psyche for over a hundred years. We care for them, we collect them, we fill them with memories. We spend so much time with them that it’s hard not to feel a connection with our favorite machines.

And while it’s sad to think I won’t be climbing behind the wheel every day, I’m glad to pass it on to someone who will appreciate it. Because at the end of the day, the best thing a machine can be is useful. It’s time for it to retire to warmer climes. There’s a poetry to the fact that in the process, it will complete a 100,000-mile round trip to the city and state where I first test drove it 10 years ago. Now it can help make memories for my sisters.

The road is long, but I have the feeling its journey is just beginning.

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Jonny Eberle is a writer, photographer, and filmmaker in Tacoma, WA and is currently in the market for a new chariot of mythic proportions to fill with memories. You can read his short fiction on Creative Colloquy and follow him on Twitter.