When I tell people I’m a writer, after all the caveats and disclaimers that go along with such a statement, I often get the question, “What kind of stuff do you write?” I’ve never been able to come up with a better response than “literary fiction,” despite that being a dissatisfying answer to anyone who doesn’t have an English degree. It lacks the clear definition of genre nomenclatures like “romance” or “sci-fi” and carries an inherent snootiness that my bare modicum of success can’t even begin to justify, as if I aspire to high art that will only be appreciated long after I’m dead.
Similarly, I kind of roll my eyes when a lit mag is asked what kind of stories they tend to accept, and only instructs its submitters to read a few issues to get an idea for the kind of stories they publish. I’m all for encouraging people to read more lit mags, but I can’t think of too many I’ve read that go beyond “literary fiction” as an overall aesthetic. That is to say, most lit mags I read seem to publish a wide variety of thematic content, voices, styles and subjects. Moreover, if I read one that doesn’t have a similar kind of story to the stuff I write, I tend to think I would be a good fit for precisely that reason.
Would that I could get everyone who asks me what kind of stuff I write to go read a few of my stories and figure it out. Because (and I suspect that many of those lit mags suffer the same problem) I’m not sure that there is a good answer to that question.
“The Vagabond,” however, is one of those stories that is very much like the kind of stuff I write. It started with a premise I found interesting, but one that didn’t necessarily suggest much of a plot–that’s where the hardest work came in. It features a character who can justify all the wrong decisions he’s ever made. He’s a character who is at a point in his life where he must wrestle with the question of what it might amount to in the end. It’s a story where the antagonist(s) also love–or at least sympathize with–the main character.
I think those are the kind of stories I write. I have no idea how to distill that down to a quick label, though.
I hope you do get a chance to read the story in issue 13 of Tahoma Literary Review. They seem to be a true writers’ journal, and they do a lot of cool things that I don’t see other journals doing. For one, they offer feedback on submissions (and had some pretty good advice for the story I submitted before they accepted “The Vagabond”). They also publish their issues in handsome hard copies (seriously, check out that cover) and reasonably-priced .pdf/EPUB/Kindle formats.
Even cooler for the writers out there, if you submit a piece to them, part of the Submittable fee includes a free digital copy of the latest issue. They re-open in January, so take advantage of that if you’re not tempted to rush out and buy a copy right away.
They also host a SoundCloud page where authors can read their work for the audiobook crowd. You can hear me read “The Vagabond” at https://soundcloud.com/tahomaliterary/steve-trumpeter-the-vagabond. I suppose being on SoundCloud means I need to go get a couple of face tattoos now, so let me know if you have any recommendations.