Readers, we’re excited to open the submission gates for a special themed issue arriving September 2018. We want your ghost stories, your phobia stories, your psychological creepers — basically anything about fear, whether from external or internal sources. As always, we want stories, essays, and poems that challenge the boundaries of genre and transcend their forms with stunning writing. Check out our Submittable page and submit your best scary stories today! Because we need time to assemble the issue, we’ll be reading for this issue until mid-August. We can’t wait to read what you’ve got!
Letter from the Editors
As summer comes to an end and winter fast approaches, the writers and artists featured in this issue take on what it would mean if summer never came again, or if one day, you woke up and everything about the world was different. A dystopia is defined as the dark underside of a utopia, or a world that has become a nightmare. The poems and stories in our Dystopian issue, however, reflect a sweeping definition of this word: from the personal hell of depression to life as a mechanized being once all humans have been swept from the face of the Earth, from the horror of waking up to a flooded landscape to how seeing a hanged corpse can change the way you view the world.
We are very proud to publish this collection of dystopian work. The writers and poets featured in this issue push the boundaries of form and genre, space and time. We are also excited with the incredible diversity of writers our magazine attracts. We are publishing writers who represent a range of ethnicity, gender, age and country of origin. We believe that this demonstrates the universality of writing as an art form and of the theme of this issue. Everyone can imagine a place devoid of love, warmth, shelter or security; and what is thrilling about these dark imaginings is how it illuminates our own lives, our own world.
We hope that you will enjoy reading this issue. We certainly enjoyed reading each of these dark, troubling, or enthralling submissions. Perhaps they will inspire you to create a dystopian world of your own, or to work towards utopia in the world around you.
Blair Hurley & Olivia Tandon
If we had to pick a watch-word for this issue, we’d select EXPOSURE. A young artist is ambivalent about becoming the subject of her art; boys find themselves exposed to the leery eye of a stepmother at a swimming pool; girls and boys alike put on bathing suits, exchanging their staid, ordinary lives for the lives of beach dwellers. Our talented writers are mixing it up in this issue, using mixed media such as the incorporation of photographs, and at the same time they’re peeling back the layers from their characters and themselves. We couldn’t be more excited for this very summery, very bare-it-all issue.
As for Two Cities, we’ve got our fingers in many pies these days. Our audience for the TWO CITIES REVIEW PODCAST continues to grow; check us out on iTunes for our book reviews, insights into the editorial process, and thoughts on the literary life. And please leave us a review and let us know what you think!
We’re also expanding our readership by opening all pieces of the current issue to be read online. Now you just have to visit our current issue page to access all the great poems, essays, and stories of the issue. To access back issues, you can subscribe.
Finally, we’re opening submissions this summer; they are free all summer long! Send us your best work, and follow us on Twitter @twocitiesreview to hear exclusive info about our upcoming issues. We’re especially interested in pieces with the theme of DYSTOPIA for our special fall issue.
Enjoy this sweaty, sun-soaked, and thoroughly over-exposed issue, readers.
Blair Hurley & Olivia Tandon
IN THE FIRST YEAR AND A HALF SINCE WE BECAME A MAGAZINE, we have published poems, stories, essays and artwork by over 100 different authors, featured written and audio versions of creative work on our blog and run our very first prose contest. Having lived in several different cities, we realize that every city has its ups and downs. Whether it is the weather or the public transit or just the people you spent time with there, each city has its own unique blend of wonderful and gritty, inspiring and burdensome.
For our first contest, we sought stories and essays that examined the underside of cities. We received submissions about shootings and natural disasters, inmates and family members, growing up and growing old. We are excited to share the winners and runners-up from our contest in this special “Cities Gone Wrong” edition of Two Cities Review. We have included some poetry and art that we received during the same submission period that also fit the theme.
There’s much to be excited about at Two Cities as our magazine and website continue to evolve. We want to take advantage of all the forms of art that an online issue allows, so you can expect more use of audio and a soon-to-be-announced serial project. We can’t wait to present new visions of the literary city in upcoming issues.
We hope to make our contest an annual event; thank you all for your support of our writers and our magazine.
Blair Hurley & Olivia Tandon
I am wrapping my un-chicken salad to take to work. Jean says, “You’re doing that wrong. Plus you need more pita.” A few minutes later, as I apply lipstick, she tells the mirror, “I just read on Yahoo, lipstick is bad for you.”
Jealous of these things because they touch my mouth, she is attempting to reclaim me. A silver pen bought at Tiffany’s last week meant to remind me of her generosity and ownership.
But I am not hers.
She is the one who said to me, “Come out here to live with me. You will never have to work a day in your life.”
I packed my small life of books and treasured belongings and moved east to be with her, hooked by her promise. Each month, when my bills came, she paid them, but not before making it plain who was to be at her elbow, assisting always, a whore without reprieve, a colorful, dangling object.
When there was work to do for her, she stood behind me while I worked on my laptop, smoothing my hair, bringing me special coffees, holding my hand until the job was done, then abandoned me for her whims—her long hours drinking with male friends, members of a boys’ club she thought she could seduce merely by doing up her magnificent hair, adding perfume and laughing, but who only provided a screen for her illusion of participating in their debauchery.
Had I been treated like someone worthy of my own volition, I might have kept twisting myself around her needs and assumptions…. Eventually, recognition quelled desire, my own urge to be there, and I began to let go, dream differently.
In those dreams, the elegant façade, her compliments to me before people, still tickled, swaying me a little, but there was my growing angst for time, and hunger for a lost self with which her lies could not compare. Even as I hung there, satchel and box in hand, she said to me, “You don’t understand, some people love by refusing. I wanted to tease you by doing the opposite of what you wanted.” As if explaining herself could turn me around at the final moment. I said, “You’re crazy,” and let the door slip shut behind me.
We are just finishing the final proofreading of issue 4, and we’re very excited about the dark, wintry themes populating the pages. Stand by for issue 4’s appearance in just a few days; and be sure to learn more about our fiction and nonfiction contest. We’ve got some intense, thought-provoking, and surprising pieces coming at you this season. Some pieces you’ll want to cozy up with next to the fire, and some pieces will be delightfully unsettling. Which kind of writing do you prefer? We’ll have a little of winter’s cold and its beauty in issue number 4.
Today’s post title comes from Cormac McCarthy. In his incendiary novel The Road, his main character, an unnamed boy, keeps reminding his father that they’re “carrying the fire.” It’s an unexplained refrain with unmistakable spiritual overtones; the idea that they are keeping something of humanity alight within them. This is an old connection that many religions make between human beings and fire. We are the only species to keep and use fire, after all, and so we see it as our sacred duty to maintain it, to keep it alive. The Bible tells us not to keep our light under a bushel, and the Buddha tells us that all our lives, we are on fire, burning as if consumed by desire, and our bodies are the fuel.
There are many spiritual meanings for fire; it purifies, it protects, and it is a central metaphor for what makes us human. But in many cultures, fire is also a symbol of creativity. This quality, too, is fundamentally human, and yet it’s the only thing (or one of the few things) that elevates us beyond the plane of simple humanity. It expands the possibilities of what we can be. So in Greek mythology, Prometheus steals fire from the Gods; fire, and creativity, is a semi-divine thing, one that we nevertheless have the audacity to steal.
All this is my way of thinking about creativity as a kind of flame held within the glass case of our lives. Nowadays, creativity is one slender candle flame amid a teeming electric switchboard of lights; so many demands and worries and constraints and expectations compete with that light. It is very vulnerable as a result. So I’m wondering about the ways that you carry the fire of creativity within you.
What are the greatest threats to your fire? Is it lack of time, or family obligations? Is it exhaustion? Is it entertainment temptations, like television or the internet? Does it come from within? Perhaps your own doubts and anxieties pose the greatest threat to your little candle. If you’re going to keep the flame alive, the first step is to identify what threatens it.
Next, I want to hear about what you do to carry the fire — and what you intend to do in the future. Though sorely overtaxed this semester with my usual teaching load, I’m making efforts to find time for myself and my writing in between classes and before I get home from work.
I find that when I get home from a full day of teaching, my mind is ready to quit for the day; I drop my bag to the floor and want dinner and entertainment, not work. But if I stay in a cafe or a comfortable lounge area in the office for an extra hour before I go home, then I can write. I also find that in the long gap between classes on some days, I usually waste the time, goofing off on the internet or reading articles (not terrible, but not the only thing I want to do). I’m making an effort to use that time more wisely, by reading or writing, or using that time to grade papers so I’ll have more weekend time to myself. And finally, if I’ve used those slices of inbetween time well, then I have more weekend time to go to the library or a cafe, and think about my writing.
I don’t accomplish all of these things in one week. Some weeks the papers have come in for grading, or there’s a weekend event. But if I do some of these things, then it means I’m getting a little creative work done. The candle burns another week.
So how do you carry the fire? What advice can you give, and will you try finding slivers of your time to work?
Today is my birthday and I have plans to be out of town. Thus I feel guilty that I will not be attending the People’s Climate March, so I make up for it by asking all of you, our readers, to attend if you are able. Consider it a birthday present to me.
This event of historic proportions may be a turning point in the nation’s discussion of climate change. Perhaps politicians will finally acknowledge that there are many people who genuinely care about this issue and want to work to solve it. As a science teacher, I work hard to show my students that there is no scientific debate about this issue. The globe is warming and this warming is due to human carbon emissions, plain and simple. Why, then, is there still no action? This is the question I pose to them and one I hope you, too, will try to answer. What does it take for us to get this point across and translate it into action?
Perhaps this march will be the beginning.
Visit http://peoplesclimate.org/ for more information.
It’s that time of year again – back to school. I have been nervous, barely sleeping, anticipating the new year and the terror of standing in front of a room full of teenagers who I don’t know and who don’t know me. I have to learn names and personalities and set boundaries, all while trying to make my class fun and interesting. Plus there is that learning piece. With all this buzzing around in my head, it is easy to forget about that other part of my life, the part that helps keep me sane. Here are some ways I keep my writing life fresh while balancing it with the rest of my life:
1. Set deadlines – there is nothing so good for helping me write as having a concrete deadline. I like to find competitions or themed calls a month or two in advance so I have a goal to work towards and some pressure to finish or polish a piece.
2. Find a writing group – having even a monthly group to report to keeps the idea of writing at the forefront of my mind. Knowing that others are counting on me to read their work and submit something new and worthwhile is a great way to keep things from sitting on the back burner too long.
3. Read for pleasure – this is one I struggle with when things get busy. It’s one of the reasons I love taking the subway to work. It is my quiet reading time and I make sure to keep it sacred. I don’t lesson plan or grade papers unless I am really desperate, preferring to use the time to disappear into another world.
4. Go to local readings – there is nothing so inspiring as hearing a newly published author read from his or her work and getting to talk with them afterwards about the writing life. Moving in literary circles keeps my literary juices flowing.
5. Set aside a time for writing – I find that if I don’t set aside specific time for writing, it doesn’t happen. I start checking email, lesson planning, surfing the web. Pretty soon it is time to cook dinner or get to that stack of lab reports I need to grade. Even if it is just once a week on a Sunday morning, it helps to have blocked out time and not allow yourself to do anything else. Sometimes I sit there and write 10 words in a whole hour, but at least my mental activity is focused on my writing project.
Do you have other ways of keeping writing alive even during busy times of the year? If so, comment below and share them with us.
The new fall issue of Two Cities Review is here! Visit our Current Issue page and check it out right this minute, and be sure to spread the word. We’re proud of this stellar collection of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Here’s a bit from our letter from the editors to whet your appetite:
Letter from the Editors
We are becoming a magazine. From the initial whirlwind of Kickstarter and launching the first issue to the grind and doubt of publishing Issue 2, we felt like we were going through the process of giving life to something totally new. Would we succeed? Would we get enough great submissions to fill out issue after issue? Would anyone want to read the magazine? With Issue 3 now under our belts and Issue 4 well in the making, we are confident that our fledgling project is finally taking wing.
Fall is the season of change. It’s these times of transition that the cities of New England and the East Coast truly shine; the mugginess and sweat of August fades, the school year begins, and the trees trumpet their colors. It makes us stop and think; it makes us nostalgic for falls, for Halloweens and pumpkins and school years of the past. The process of change, as you’ll see in this issue’s crop of outstanding poems and stories, is always a fraught one, filled with both hope and fear.
We city-dwellers are uniquely adapted for the pressures and stresses of change. Nearly every year, New Yorkers pack their things into garbage bags to do the apartment shuffle; in Boston, we’re on the move as well, as the year’s fresh crop of college students arrive on curbs with parents and pillows tucked under their arms, hopeful to make this city their own. Every year, we Boston regulars get older, but the students stay the same age, adding a little element of the Twilight Zone to each September.
We have been blessed with a flood of submissions, from spy thrillers to poignant memoirs, from cats to shooting stars. The stories, poems, and essays of our third issue tackle the realities of urban living and urban decay. Homeless inhabitants of traffic islands and frustrated apartment neighbors are rubbing shoulders; New Yorkers travel by rattling subway to visit the 9/11 memorial. The other theme you’ll notice bumping up against all this is that of childhood. In many of the poems of issue 3, children wonder and puzzle, love and question and grow. Childhood in particular is the constant experience of change, and we think you’ll see yourself somewhere in this kaleidoscope of the season.
We hope you enjoy reading Issue 3 as much as we enjoyed putting it together. As always, please comment online and let us know what made you laugh, what made you cry and what made you keep turning the pages.
Blair Hurley & Olivia Tandon