Content Tagged ‘chantel acevedo’

House Guest with Chantel Acevedo: Growing up Cuban, or How to Make a Writer

In House Guest, we invite Ecotone and Lookout authors and cover artists, as well as editors from peer presses and magazines, to tell us what they’re working on, to discuss themes in their writing or unique publishing challenges, to answer the burning questions they always hoped a reader would ask.

Chantel Acevedo’s story “Strange and Lovely,” a Notable story in this year’s Best American Short Stories, appears in Ecotone 17.


There are certain personal characteristics that seem essential for writers to cultivate—Persistence, A Sense of the Dramatic, and A Tough Skin. I’ve always thought that a Cuban-American childhood is the perfect crucible in which to practice these traits.

1) Persistence: As any published writer will tell you, talent is only part of what it takes to be a writer. A kind of doggedness has to accompany the task. After all, writing a novel or a collection of poems is a marathon, not a sprint. We Cuban Americans who grew up in the 70s and 80s understood this in a different way. We practiced persistence at an early age, especially since we often lived with abuela and abuelo, mami and papi, and all of them were stricter than Sister Maria Francisca at the Catholic School down the street. To get what we wanted, we Cuban-American kids had to be persistent enough to wear down the adults in our lives. Want to shave past your knees sometime before your fifteenth birthday? Better if you start asking permission on the eve of your thirteenth birthday. It will take them at least two years to cave. And if you’ve ever found yourself waiting for a literary agent to respond, or a literary magazine to publish your poem, you know what that waiting can feel like.

2) A Sense of the Dramatic: Stories are built around conflict. Conflict is what people mean when they say “Raise the stakes” in the stories we write. Cuban-American kids understand drama. We were fed on a sense of the dramatic. I vividly recall riding my bike back and forth down a stretch of sidewalk no longer than fifty feet, up and down, up and down, under the gaze of my abuela who watched me from the porch. If I went farther, she argued, someone would probably SNATCH ME. There was the perpetual fear of snatching, of lightning strikes, of sharks and sand bars with which to contend. The drama even followed us inside our very homes, where the nightly sh-sh-sh of the pressure cooker working its magic on black beans was a warning to every child in the house to stay out of the kitchen. That sucker could explode. Drama was everywhere, and for a burgeoning writer, that perpetual feeling of impending spectacle is a turbo boost to the imagination.

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News Roundup

It’s been a notably rainy week here in Wilmington, turning our thoughts toward fall at last. You know fall is coming when you scroll down your Facebook feed, and no less than four friends have posted links to this oldie but a goodie from McSweeney’s.

9780544569621_p0_v2_s192x300In other notable news, we’ve got our list of stories and essays that were honored in the Best American series! Best American Stories 2015 NOTABLES include Matthew Neill Null (for issue 17’s ‘The Island in the Gorge of the Great River”) and Chantel Acevedo (for 17’s “Strange and Lovely”). Several of our essayists earn NOTABLE mentions in Best American Essays 2015: Belle Boggs (for issue 17’s “Imaginary Children”), Camas Davis (for 18’s “Human Principles”), Joni Tevis (for 17’s “What Looks Like Mad Disorder”), and Toni Tipton-Martin (for 18’s “Breaking the Jemima Code”)! We’re so happy for our talented contributors!

Notable reviews abound: Lee Upton’s Bottle the Bottles the Bottles the Bottles gets a glowing review in The Literary Review, Claire Vaye Watkins’s new novel got a great review in Slant Magazine, and Ana Maria Spagna’s new book Reclaimers got this review in the Seattle Times. Last but not least: Chantel Acevedo, Edith Pearlman, and Jim Shepard—all Ecotone contributors—were longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction.


We were notably excited to meet so many booksellers at the Southern Independent Bookseller Alliance (SIBA) conference last weekend. We had a great time at the panels, signings, and exhibitor show, where we talked up Honey from the Lion. The South is filled with so many great bookstores, and we love getting to know the people behind them. Check out the Seven Questions section of our blog, where we interview writers and, yes, booksellers! We already have some amazing interviews, including ones with Hub City, Quail Ridge, and Parnassus. If you’re a bookseller and are interested in participating in this blog series, let us know.

Matthew Neill Null’s Carolina tour, supported in part by the great folks at South Arts, culminated with his appearance at SIBA, and it was a resounding success (even Leopold Bloom the dog thought so!) If you missed him in North Carolina, catch him in Nashville, Tennessee on October 10 at the Southern Festival of Books. He’ll be giving a talk with Glenn Taylor titled “Whiskey-Bent and Gallows-Bound: Novels of Turn-of-the-Century West Virginia.” And big thanks to Tennessee’s Chapter 16 for giving him this great review in advance of his visit!
The weekend is here, and we hope it’s filled for you with many notables. (Naps are in order here, friends.) Have a great one!

Lit News Roundup

We’re back from a fantastic week in Minneapolis for the Association of Writers & Writing Programs annual conference. Thanks to everyone who took our books home with you and subscribed to Ecotone. We especially enjoyed meeting readers at our Thursday evening mingle and talking with you during the panel discussions throughout the conference.



Now that all 12,000+ of us have dispersed, we’re excited to continue the conversations virtually, and the Literary Hub, launched April 8, is the perfect gathering place. The featured daily content includes interviews with authors and cover designers, among others; and this week Ecotone 15 contributor Megan Mayhew Bergman and Musings editor Mary Laura Philpott discuss Southerners with a dark(ish) hearts, work ethic, and the fertile ground for storytelling between history and literature.

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