All posts by Meakin Armstrong

Fiction writer, fiction editor, journalist, and copywriter.

Peter Stamm on Guernica

I’m quite drunk at this point. I’m thinking he could do anything to me, and then straightaway I’m ashamed of the thought. He’s so young I could be his mother. I’d like to run my hand through his hair, press myself against him, and protect him in some way.

Peter Stamm has been getting a lot of acclaim lately. A couple of weeks ago, he was in The New Yorker.

And this week, he’s in Guernica. Read “Expectations,” and you’ll see why Stamm is so lauded: the stories tend to be deeply ordinary, about ordinary things, but they’re closely observed. It’s not the plot, but the form.

I wanted “Expectations” because the woman narrating it tells you so much about herself, her loneliness, without ever directly addressing it.

I’m thinking it might be one of the best stories we’ve ever run.

Ghost-Blogging, Twice a Day, Every Day

While also working for other clients, I’ve been blogging for a [confidential] client, twice a day, every weekday, for the last 4 months. Given that I was doing this while blogging for The Atlantic on sustainability—and working for other clients, too—I couldn’t do much else, sometimes not even the laundry.

The project is ending in a few days. I love having work and I love the client. But I also love being able to have the time to work on my novel.

My novel! It’ll be good to return to working on it intensely, for hours on end.

AWP in Chicago

If I met you, I’m glad. I met a lot of fiction writers and liked them all (a first for me).

If I didn’t—well, next time. I liked Chicago, especially The Art Institute, the Magnificent Mile, and the Chicago Tribune building.

The streets are wider and grander than in New York. The buildings, many of them, are more interesting, more ambitious. It also still has what Manhattan tore down: an elevated train wending through the downtown avenues, neon lights, and not-so-special bars that cater to just-so folk. A lot was gone, though—there were vacant lots surrounding around my hotel, an area where Capone once had his office—but it felt like more of the past was present than in Manhattan.

It has history: countless labor riots; Prohibition-era gangs; police and mayoral corruption; Chicago ’68. It feels like a city once inhabited by giants.

But the cold! The wind! Never going to move there.


Start Your Own Magazine: What do You Need to Know?

It’s going to be a lot like an AWP panel (but without your having to fly to Chicago, fight the crowds, and eat bad hotel food). Find out how to start a literary magazine of your own—and how to make it last—at this presentation/reading/Q&A.

Details from the Guernica site:

Guernica Inside & Out: A Talk at Fordham University-Lincoln Center

February 15th, 7 pm
Fordham University-Lincoln Center
113 W. 60th Street (at Columbus)

When writer William Saroyan told H.L. Mencken he wanted to be an editor, Mencken sent this letter to Saroyan:

“I note what you say about your aspiration to edit a magazine. I am sending you by this mail a six-chambered revolver. Load it and fire every one into your head. You will thank me after you get to hell and learn from other editors there how dreadful their job was on earth.”

But if you insist, we’ll help. Writer Matt Bell (also an editor at Dzanc and The Collagist) will read and participate. Guernica Daily Editor Rebecca Bates will read nonfiction selections from the magazine and talk about editing the stories.

Other editors—Fiction Editor Meakin Armstrong, and Founding Editors Michael Archer and Joel Whitney—will be in attendance.

If you happen to be in New York City, we hope to see you there!

Breyten Breytenbach in Guernica

Breytenbach is a South African poet, novelist,  and human rights activist who spent seven years in jail for fighting apartheid.The selections in Guernicawhich read like flash fiction, but are a part of a novel—are astoundingly beautiful, but searing, too. I think it’s some of the best stuff I’ve ever edited. He also provided the illustration.

Here are the first few lines:

It was the evening before Xmas. White. Even the beards of trees were white. Wind walks sniffing over the snow. A thin wind. The trees shake their frozen arms the snow falls ploof in the snow. A rind of ice covers the Danube. Continue reading Breyten Breytenbach in Guernica

Blogging About Sustainability

I’ve been hired to blog about sustainability issues for The Atlantic. It’s a lot of work, of course. And complicated. I’m posting twice a week until the end of the year. I’m also “vlogging” (god, I hate that word) twice a week.

I’ve learned that my footprint is already low—I ride a bike everywhere and otherwise use public transport. But I’ve been finding out there are so many small ways that we can change things—and how difficult and complex the issues are. Like the Jevons Paradox: saving energy might make us use more of it.

I Interview Craig Thompson of “Blankets” and “Habibi”

I spoke with Craig Thompson for Guernica, and I asked him about his new graphic novel, Habibi, and why he chose to set it in the Middle East.

I didn’t mention it in the piece, but during the interview, I was inundated by the sounds of an ice cream truck right outside my door. “Sounds like a circus!” Thompson said. It kind of was.

Here’s how the interview is described in the deck for the piece:

“The author of the lauded graphic novel Blankets discusses the influences behind his new book, the effect of 9/11 on his work, and the decline of the superhero in comics.”

We also ran an eleven-page except from Habibi



Chinua Achebe, excerpted on Guernica

You probably had to read him in college—Chinua Achebe, the author of Things Fall Apart.

I certainly did and I remember not looking forward to it. I didn’t like the book cover, which was a confusion of yellows, browns, and burnt orange. It was exhausting just to read the title. Yes, I judged a book by its cover.

I was also lazy: I didn’t want to read yet another assigned book. I grumbled and moaned and put off reading it.

But I loved it.

In fact, it blew me away.

I’m so proud that he’s now in Guernica. How did we get him? Because at Guernica, we often feature African writing. We’ve won awards for it. And why? Because we came to love African writing through Achebe.