Now this is fun! Published out of Canada, Sterling gives us a handy (128 pages), portable (of course, most literary art is portable), and extremely enjoyable collection of poetry, fiction, plays, manuscripts, and an “interview.” The cover of the issue evokes the idea of Boy Scout merit badges, but for writers. With badges such as “First Typewriter,” “Rejection Letter,” and “Rhymed with Orange,” the cover puts forth its main badge that says, “All Stories Matter.” I like variety, and the Sterling premise is “I want to hear everyone’s stories.” Me too.
The poetry section only includes nine pieces by six authors, but that’s a nice change. Most anthologies are heavy on poetry, so this is a refreshing assortment that leads into the fiction section. The poetry opens with Teresa Del Mastro’s “New York,” a pleasant tease that transitions to the more serious and more reflective “Lon” by Tina Gagliardi: “. . . the pain / of being a woman is evenly unjust, / by way of her mirror / and of mine.” John Grey’s “His Death, the Way She Planned It” has the twist we might expect from flash fiction, and the works by Michael Casteels, Joe Massingham, and Kaye Spivey promise that we will hear more from them, because we want more from them.
The four stories that follow provide a variety of family experience, love, escape, and coming-of-age stories. Daniel Perry’s “Eyesore” prompts me to recall family differences; Armel Dagorn’s “Different Outlooks on Love” follows a set of connected youth through their expectation, fantasies, and disappointments; while Steven Mayoff’s “Money is Honey” and Channie Greenberg’s “Mail Order Bride” can remind us of many popular contemporary authors and themes. All four leave the reader looking forward to more of their work.
“Sterling Grade: Conversations with our Namesake, Part I” is brief, but commendably so. This succinct view of the author/actor/artist is as entertaining as it is informative. Usually an interview that focuses on “who did you know” doesn’t tell us much about the person being interviewed. In this instance, the “I” is clear as Sterling tells about the people who influenced him, or didn’t, as a part of his learning. Which is what we do as we listen/read about the experiences that influenced his work.
The Manuscript Club is a prompt-based workshop in Toronto.” A section of this magazine is dedicated to that workshop, and although the first suspicion is that it might be no more than the average college’s student collection, it is far from it. The writers included here provide very fine work and leave me with the hope that I will see a great deal more from each of them in the future. “The Manuscript Club”: a substantial part of this issue because that, after all, is the core source of the material. “Writers of all levels create and refine new pieces around a particular theme," say the editors. "This past session, in honor of its 10th anniversary, we took our inspiration from David Simon’s The Wire.”
Eight authors provide their entertaining results. Even if you’re not familiar with The Wire, all of the pieces will interest you, and no, I am not going to quote or paraphrase. You will enjoy them if you read them; you will not enjoy them if I provide teasers.
Plays: “Cold” by Stacy Lane. We’ve come full circle. The style reminds us of the poetry the issue started with. Throughout the collection there’s a sense of flash fiction. The entire collection consists of honestly short works; “Cold” is three pages max. It has an effect. That is the same response I had to all of the other work, whether it was to my usual taste or not. I don’t measure good by how much I like it. This collection is good, and I believe you’ll like it.