Something Publishing Happening
Former Void Editor Puts ConU Writers in Print
When Concordia’s literary magazine, The Void, held an open call for submissions in 2011, fiction editor Jack Allen received a story so full of “misogynistic, racist, and violent” content, he knew it couldn’t appear in the pages of a student publication.
“But there was something about the story that was so… striking,” he recalled. Allen became even more intrigued once he learned that Frankie Barnet, the author of the sordid story—told from the perspective of a man—is in fact a woman.
This month, Trapshot Archives, the small press headed by Allen—who graduated from Concordia’s creative writing program in June—will publish two short story collections: Something Disgusting Happening, written by Barnet, and The Plan by Gleb Wilson, another former university classmate of Allen’s and a runner-up for the 2011 Irving Layton Award for Fiction.
While still at The Void, Allen thought some of the magazine’s most talented contributors were only getting “a sliver of the attention they deserved.”
“I wanted to give them a book of their own, something they could give to their family and friends,” he said.
Copies of the three books published by Trapshot last year have been shipped to New York City, Seattle, San Francisco and as far as South Korea. Allen hopes that Barnet and Wilson’s books will follow the same trajectory.
“It’s cool getting the work of Montreal creatives out there,” he said.
He’s been using a unique means of raising money for the publication of the short story collections—through the crowdfunding website Indiegogo, which helps small entrepreneurs link up with financial backers around the world.
With two days left before the end of its campaign, Trapshot has nearly reached its goal of $800, the cost of printing and distributing the short story collections.
Apart from both being gifted writers and products of the Concordia creative writing program, Barnet and Wilson seem to have little in common. Their stories differ vastly in style and substance.
Barnet’s Something Disgusting Happening is a jarring reminder that misogyny and racism still exist in a modern and otherwise progressive society.
Set in Montreal, “Seven Eight Nine,”—the story that was thought to be too unsavoury to print in _The Void_—is the tale of an English professor who fantasizes about his ex-wife while he swaps dirty jokes with one of his male students in a bar and ogles pretty 20-somethings in high heels.
“It’s a young female writer exposing how disgusting men can be,” Allen said. “In this day and age, a lot of people walk around thinking we’ve made a lot of progress when, in reality, that’s not true about conversations behind closed doors.”
After meeting Barnet for the first time in a creative writing workshop, Allen couldn’t believe that this friendly, diminutive girl could be the author of such angry stories.
“Everybody who knows her adores her. But the people who really know her are few and far between. Reading her stuff, you wouldn’t think that such accusatory works could come out of her. She’s a very powerful writer,” he said.
“Her work is really exposing,” said Wilson, who has fond memories of a road trip to the United States with Barnet, tearing up the Jersey Shore in a red convertible and making a pit stop in Brooklyn for deli sandwiches.
“It’s visceral and embarrassing. She writes about things that people don’t feel should be discussed, things that people feel uncomfortable about.” These days, Barnet is on a post-graduation jaunt in Australia.
Wilson’s stories in The Plan focus on how even people’s best-made plans tend to go awry.
Two night watchmen in Soviet-era St. Petersburg dream about fleeing the country, of hiring prostitutes and lavishing them with diamonds and “living like capitalists!”; old friends contemplate their contrasting fortunes as actors in Hollywood; and a couple of teenagers’ plans to score bath salts from a legendary dealer by the name of Caps don’t pan out the way they’d hoped.
“The book deals at some level with the idea of being an impostor, a failure,” said Wilson.
Throughout the book, Wilson conveys the notion that seemingly trivial events in a person’s life can have lasting, often tragic, consequences.
“There can be a lot of meaning drawn from tiny interactions. Most of the time, the things that people are doing even within relationships and friendships all come down to the minutiae that won’t be remembered,” he said. “Ironically, that’s what defines our relationships with people.”
Born in Kiev, Wilson grew up in Brooklyn but then moved to Montreal in order to study creative writing at Concordia. According to Allen, Wilson learned English from watching plays.
“Horseshit! That’s really funny,” Wilson laughed upon hearing this. “My stepfather was an actor and he moved to New York from the south. He took me the theatre a lot and I grew up seeing a lot of plays.”
In fact, Wilson’s first foray into the English language was what he learned at school—that and what Sunday morning television taught him.
“In the old [Tom and Jerry] cartoons, when Jerry would steal cheese, it would be spelled with a ‘z’,” he said. “I remember missing ‘cheese’ on a spelling test because I spelled it that way, too.”
Now, on the verge of becoming a published author, Wilson says it all feels surreal.
“Getting a text from a good friend that says, ‘I just ordered your book’—the reactions from people, it’s all making it come alive.”
You can check out indiegogo.com/trapshotarchives to participate in the campaign and order copies of Barnet and Wilson’s books. Wilson will be reading at the November Pilot reading hosted by Matrix magazine at Sparrow (5322 St. Laurent Blvd.) on Nov. 25; copies of both books will be available for sale. The night kicks off at 9:00 p.m.