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Anthology Philly ImageHello fellow Philadelphians! WragsInk is preparing the next anthology in our Anthology, Philly series, and it could include a story from YOU!

If you live in the Philadelphia area (including nearby New Jersey and Delaware) we are looking for submissions to the next anthology. It will include everything from poetry to short stories to flash fiction. Do you want to be a part of it? Then you have to SUBMIT.

Send your best work to phillyfictioncontest[at]gmail[dot]com. The submissions will be open until filled, so it’s best you get us your work now. For more information on what we look for, feel free to order volume one and check it out.

Please only send us 3-5 poems or 1-2 short stories. We don’t want to be overwhelmed!

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Love poetry? Love Philly? Well then here is your chance as WragsInk has put out the long anticipated Anthology Philly, Poetry Edition. Editor Dennis Finocchiaro collects the finest of new poets from the Philadelphia area and publishes them into a nice little book with an amazing cover by Colleen McCarthy. Poets include L. Haber, Veronica Bowlan, Calvin Reed and many, many more!

It’s available on Amazon and, if you’re in the area, one of the following events:

Saturday, August 25th, Infusion 4pm
7133 Germantown Ave, Phila 19119

Friday, September 7th, 1518 Bar & Grill 6pm
1518 Sansom Str, Phila 19102

Saturday, September 15th Coffee Beanery 4pm
100 West State St, Media 19063

Thursday, September 20th Bindlestiffs 6pm
45th and Baltimore, Phila 19143

Saturday, September 22nd Princeton University 4pm
**Details to come**

Tuesday, September 25th Mermaid Inn 7.30pm
7673 Germantown Ave, Phila Pa

Saturday, September 29th Mugshots Fairmount 4pm
1925 Fairmount Ave, Phila 19130

Saturday, October 6th Coffee Beanery 4pm
100 West State St, Media 19063

Saturday, October 27th Infusion 2pm
7133 Germantown Ave, Phila 19119

Saturday, November 17th Mugshots Fairmount 4pm
1925 Fairmount Ave, Phila 19130

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I really think, sometimes, a great way to break through writer’s block, besides just forcing yourself to write, is to read. But you can’t read just anything, can you? It has to be inspiring. Or at least fun.

In the past week, I have been lucky to read a pile of absolutely inspiring books, starting with Dave Eggers’ new one, A Hologram for the King. If I tried to tell you the plot of this story, you would just think to yourself Why would I want to read that? But it was an excellent read. Anything that guy writes is excellent; he has such a talent.

Neil Gaiman was next with Anansi Boys. Loved it. A few chapters in I was wondering when it would become more Gaiman-like (there was an odd lack of magi or fantasy) and then all of a sudden it appeared. It was nearly impossible to tear me from the book. Even on public transportation, I was glued to the novel.

Then I got to read a few sequels about my favorite characters, Odd Thomas (Dean Koontz) and Thursday Next (Jasper Fforde). I’m halfway through the latter.

I was surprised to find that as soon as I started reading Hologram, my writer’s block just disappeared. So maybe, for me, it’s all tied into what I’m reading.

So I guess what I’m wondering now is, what inspires other writers out there. Here is a poll to find out.

Dennis Finocchiaro is the author of such books as The Z Word, a collection of flash fiction that takes place during the zombie apocalypse, Capturing a Moment, a collection of his flash fiction typed onto vintage photographs using an antique typewriter, and Inheritance, a nonfiction memoir about his grandfather.

He also edited WragsInk‘s Anthology Philly, a collection of the best new short story authors in the Philadelphia Area.

Follow Dennis on Facebook or twitter.

Follow WragsInk Publishing on twitter.

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Inheritance, the new book by Dennis Finocchiaro, details the life of his grandfather, Rosario “Charlie” Finocchiaro, from 1920s Philadelphia to World War II, all the way up through his retirement in Havertown. I sat down with Dennis to ask him a few questions about the upcoming memoir to learn everything from his process to what his family thinks of the new project.

Many people hear the stories from their grandparents, but not many take the time to actually put the stories down on paper. What made you decide to do it?

Well, it all started out as a graduate school project. I’ve always been a fiction writer but had to take a nonfiction class, which meant stepping out of my comfort zone (something I think everyone should do from time to time). I was having trouble coming up with something to write about when we had a family party and my grandfather told one of his famous stories. When he finished everyone was laughing and that was when the idea hit me. So I brought a camera over one day and recorded our conversation.

How did he feel about having a camera recording what he was saying? 

I thought he would feel awkward, but he acted like it was an audience. He was VERY comfortable talking in front of a camera. I was surprised.

What was the most fascinating thing you learned from this experience?

Probably some of the war stories. I never had any idea of what he’d been through. The most surprising was the story he told about an attack on a harbor and the huge explosions that took place when a tanker was hit. But I don’t want to give too much away.

Your story is written in less of a linear, chronological fashion, and more of a jump-around kind of way. Would you say this symbolizes the way we remember our own pasts? What was the inspiration behind writing in this way?

At first I tried doing it chronologically, but that ended up in the trash. It took a few tries before I figured out the best way to do it. I wrote it in the same way people tell stories. They jump around, and a story will sometimes trigger a totally unrelated story. And yes, it definitely is written in the way we remember our own histories.

Did you ever find it difficult to write so personally about someone so close to you?

Not at all. I guess as comfortable as he was in front of the camera, I was at the laptop. I asked permission on a few items that people said, of course, to make sure they didn’t mind.

I think the hard part was refraining from putting him up on a pedestal. I didn’t want him to sound like a saint, because he wasn’t. He had his negatives, just like anyone. As a matter of fact, in the first draft I turned in, the main comments were that it was too positive, too much of an “I love my grandfather” story. So I talked to a few people who would remember some of the negatives and added to it.

Has becoming so in depth with your grandfather’s past help you to understand your own life more? Have you discovered parallels?

Wow… that’s a tough question. His life was so different from what I’ve gone through. He was a contractor; I’m a professor and writer. He went to war, and we don’t really have wars that have that aura of importance like WWII, you know? But knowing his past really taught me a lot about him that I never would have known otherwise.

How do you think this story can inspire others?

I think it’s really important to sit down and get to know our elders. They are a major part of our history and everyone I talk to since the book came out says “I wish I’d done this with my grandparents.” And hell, I did it with one, and still regret not doing the same with all of them before it was too late. But if my dad and uncle learned things about him they didn’t know, then of course I think everyone should do something similar. Even if it isn’t with a camera, even if they just take them out for lunch, or tea, or whatever. Get to know them before it’s too late!

Finally, how has your family responded to the project?

They adore it. Part of the epilogue I wrote even has my uncle’s email that he wrote after reading it while he was writing my grandfather’s eulogy. As a matter of fact, the daughter of one of my grandfather’s cousins wrote my dad and said how amazing of an idea this was. Then she shared some of her own stories about her dad, so I guess it’s already inspiring some people.

Inheritance is a publication by WragsInk and is Dennis Finocchiaro’s third publication, following The Z Word and Capturing a Moment. The book can be purchased on Amazon. If you’re in the Philadelphia area, be sure to look for upcoming promotional appearances for this and other WragsInk publications.

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Okay okay, I’ll calm down, it’s only two reviews on Amazon. But hey, one gave the anthology four stars, and the other gave it five!

“I found myself hoping for full-length

novels from several of the writers.” -Lou

“A great collection of short stories by

Philly authors. Each story incorporates at

little taste of what makes [Philadelphia]

wonderful and exciting.” – Nixie

So feel free to check out the book on Amazon or if you’re in the area, let us know and we’ll let you know about the readings!

-Dennis

Editor, Anthology Philly

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Hello all! We’ve been working so hard and it’s finally here!

If you want to check out the newest fiction from up and coming Philadelphia authors, look no further! Check out Anthology Philly, available through Amazon.

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As we continue on in our Valentine’s Day series, I will pick up from where Den left off with what makes or breaks a love story with my take on looove scenes.

First, a brief history of my own looove scene writing: during a grad class, I was given the exhilarating assignment to write not just a love scene, but a full on sexxx scene. The writing was to be confined to roughly 300 words, most importantly, it was to be taken seriously. Furthermore, we had one week to complete it and on that day we were to read them aloud! Those British and their sense of humor, man.

After overcoming the fear of reading something as personal as a sex scene aloud to a group of relative strangers, I discovered that a well-written love scene could do wonders to a story. Now I include love scenes in all of my writing! Outing at the zoo? Love scene. Political rally? Love scene. Dinner with boss? Love scene. (I’m lying.)

But while it’s easy to write a love scene, the difficulty comes in writing a good love scene. This, on the other hand, requires a balance of subtlety (but not too subtle!) and openness (but not too open!) and please, for all of our sake, free from metaphor. (I can only read one line of “her eyes were constellations” before putting the book down.) So, after writing and reading more love scenes, I have decided to browse my book collection to give you a brief list of what I find to be the things that work and don’t work. Here we go:

First, the good.

Evelyn Waugh, Vile Bodies (1930)

Key passage:

Adam undressed very quickly and got into bed; Nina more slowly arranged her clothes on the chair and fingering the ornaments on the chimney-piece with less than her usual self-possession. At last she put out the light.

            “Do you know,” she said, trembling slightly as she got into bed, “this is the first time this has happened to me?”

            “It’s great fun,” said Adam, “I promise you.”

            […]

            “Anyway, you’ve had some fun out of it, haven’t you… or haven’t you?” [said Adam]

            “Haven’t you?”

            “My dear, I never hated anything so much in my life… still, as long as you enjoyed it that’s something.”

Why it’s so good: Manages to show the typically hormone-driven anticipation of Adam in complete juxtaposition to the pure ennui Nina is feeling in preparation for the task. Furthermore, it’s compounded by her no-holds-bar admission that the entire act was repugnant. It is real and comical and perfect.

Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar (1963)

Key passage:

There is something demoralizing about watching two people get more and more crazy about each other, especially when you are the only extra person in the room. […] I noticed, in the routine way you notice the color of somebody’s eyes, that Doreen’s breasts had popped out of her dress and were swinging out slightly like full brown melons as she circled belly-down on Lenny’s shoulder, thrashing her legs in the air and screeching, and then they both started to laugh and slow up, and Lenny was trying to bite Doreen’s hip through her skirt when I let myself out of the door before anything more could happen […]

Why it’s so good: The pure grit of a falsified, alcohol-induced potential lovemaking (or love flailing, for that matter) through the eyes of the observer, who happens to be the only observer. Oh, can you feel the awkwardness?

Jonathan Franzen, Freedom (2010)

Key passage: (Eh, this one’s a bit more explicit. Children, cover your eyes!)

[Patty is married to Walter but finds herself helplessly in love with his best friend, Richard]

Her new plan called for her to try very hard to forget the night before and pretend it hadn’t happened.

            One thing the new plan can safely be said not to have included was leaving lunch half-eaten on the table and then finding her jeans on the floor and the crotch of her bathing suit wedged painfully to one side while he banged her into ecstasy against the innocently papered wall of Dorothy’s old living room, in full daylight and as wide awake as a human could be. […] This seemed to her, in any case, the first time in her life she’d properly had sex. A real eye-opener, as it were. She was henceforth done for, though it took some time to know this.

Why it’s so good: I’m a huge fan of some real, honest to goodness writing. Anywhere an author can say “banged her into ecstasy” instead of some evasive, wishy-washy, did-they-or-didn’t-they metaphor makes for much, much better writing in my book.

Jennifer Egan, A Visit From The Goon Squad (2010)

Key passage:

Afterward, they lay on the rug for a long time. The candles started to sputter. Sasha saw the prickly shape of the bonsai silhouetted against the window near her head. All her excitement had seeped way, leaving behind a terrible sadness, an emptiness that felt violent, as if she’d been gouged. She tottered to her feet, hoping Alex would leave soon. He still had his shirt on.

Why it’s so good: Oooh, the sting of the devastating after-ness of it all. Egan is amazing at her characterizations, and this passage is a perfect example. The reader can feel the emotion of Sasha, can be enveloped in the banality of her experience. Furthermore, ending the section on “He still had his shirt on” is, to me, the only way to end. How casual! How blatantly unromantic! How true-to-life depressing!

Now, the bad.

It should be noted that while I’ve read the following books, I have since given them away (I like to donate books that I know I will never in my lifetime read again), so I’m doing this on memory.

Ernest Hemingway, For Whom The Bell Tolls (1940)

Why it sucks: My experience with this book was that on the whole I didn’t dig it, but the love scenes were particularly bad. They followed the rules of precisely the things I don’t like: most particularly, evasiveness. JUST GET TO THE POINT. The passage that sticks out in my mind the most is this moment when Robert Jordan and the young fling, Maria, find themselves in a sleeping bag outside of the cave/compound/thing. They are freezing (because it’s snowing, and they are lying in it) so Robert Jordan gets this girl to snuggle with him (probably nakey), thought nothing is really said of what they are doing, more or less implied. This is even more frustrating because of Robert Jordan’s incessant gloating of his sexual prowess throughout most of the initial pages (initial being the first 300 pages; this is Hemingway, after all). Points for getting the girl into your sleeping bag in a snowstorm instead of the much dryer, much more practical cave, Robert Jordan, you devil.

How it can be improved: Less dancey-dance, more to the point. Just tell us what’s going on. We’re all adults here.

Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre (1847)

(I know I’ll get some shit for this, let me say that I didn’t hate the novel, and I see where the feminist principles in it lie and yes it was ahead of its time etc., etc.)

Why it sucks: The scene I recall for this purpose is directly after Mr. Rochester throws himself into a state of marriage proposal to Jane, despite having just told her of his betrothed status to a one Blache Ingram. My issue is the language used in the scene and directly after, where while we as the reader are sure that nothing actually happens between the two, Brontë uses language as a tool for seduction. I would find this more effective if the obvious thing actually had occurred. Observe the following key lines as examples. Emphasis made on the most euphemistic. They are all taken from the same scene:

“Come to me—come to me entirely now,” said he; and added, in his deepest tone, speaking in my ear as his cheek was laid on mine, “Make my happiness—I will make yours.”

And if I had loved him less I should have thought his accent and look of exultation savage; but, sitting by him, roused from the nightmare of parting— called to the paradise of union—I thought only of the bliss given me to drink in so abundant a flow. Again and again he said, “Are you happy, Jane?” And again and again I answered, “Yes.”

But what had befallen the night? The moon was not yet set, and we were all inshadow: I could scarcely see my master’s face, near as I was. And what ailed the chestnut tree? It writhed and groaned; while wind roared in the laurel walk, and came sweeping over us.

“Hasten to take off your wet things,” said he; “and before you go, good-night—good-night, my darling!”

Mr. Rochester came thrice to my door in the course of it, to ask if I was safe and tranquil: and that was comfort, that was strength for anything.

How it can be improved: Either tantalize me with words and have some sort of actual love scene, or don’t do it at all. Plus, it’s borderline metaphorical / symbolic. How you lead me on, Ms. Brontë!

Stephanie Meyer, Twilight: Breaking Dawn (2008)

Why it sucks: My frustration with this has nothing to do with Bella falling for a vampire (I encourage dating outside of one’s race!) and everything to do with Meyer’s frustrating insistence that Bella and Edward mustn’t have “relations” before they’re married, so much so that when it finally does happen, the author uses blatant agenda pushing themes at how beyond wonderful the whole thing is.

How it can be improved: Make it a bit more realistic? If the two are going to wait until marriage, fine, but at least let’s discuss the overall awkwardness and their more than likely incompatible sexual chemistry, instead of impossibly over-the-top metaphors. I realize this is a vampire story, but sex is still sex.

Every Romance Novel Ever Created

Why it sucks: This goes without saying based on what I’ve already mentioned I hate about bad love scenes. Metaphorical? Check. Symbolism? Check. Fabio-type of man dressed as a Native American set to pose as the sex symbol meant to get our loins warm? Check, check, check, and check.

How it can be improved: I offer no reasonable suggestion. People love this stuff.

If you’ve stuck with me until the end of this, I thank you. My opinions are in no way concrete facts nor should they be the way you choose to write your own love scenes. If you agree with me, however, you’re a gem.

Alisha, a.k.a. HettieJones, is a writer living in Philadelphia, PA. Look for her short story, “The Letter,” in the upcoming Anthology Philly. You can follow her @alishakathryn. All reasons as to why she was wrong in the above post can be left below in the comment section.

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