Top Ten in Fiction

by Frances Badgett

LimboKiki Petrosino, Allegory

• When you get Dante and God into the same room, you get Kiki. We’ve published a few installments in her Allegory series, and each shines like a jewel, wild and beautiful.

Steve Mitchell, Above the Rooftop

I remember the day I read this story. I remember the weather, I remember what I had for lunch. Sometimes I feel as if a story is just sitting there waiting for me. The thing I remember most was that this was the last story in the last batch for the issue, and I opened the file with tremendous hope—I still had a slot left for something magical, personal, gigantic in a few strokes. And here it is.

Cynthia Newberry Martin, The Empty Armchair

One of the few Contrary stories that has brought me to tears, this beautiful piece is still with me. There isn’t a sentence in this story I don’t love. Cynthia served as our phenomenal reviews editor for a while.

Laura Elizabeth Woollett, Vaucluse

Editors rarely get fan mail because, let’s face it, the authors do the work. But I got fan mail because of this story. It’s a tone poem, a deep meditation on love and longing, just a flat-out pitch-perfect story. The spaces sprinkled throughout give the story breath and let in the light. If I’m ever influenced by those I have the honor of publishing, this story is definitely an influence on me.

Corey Mesler, The World Went Away

“The hardy rye.” I read this story aloud over-and-over, hearing the music in Corey’s sentences, the dance of his words. We know him mostly as a poet at Contrary, but it is through this story I really fell in love with his words.

Jenn Givhan, Cattle Call Leaves, A Ghost Story

The words flew out at me from my screen one day. I was reading along, submission-after-submission, and this story arrested me and took me hostage. It is one of those stories that you grab, and grab quickly, hoping it’s still available. Everything I’ve read by Jenn is vivid, heartbreaking, and shot through with resilience.

Edward Mc Whinney

If I go an entire season without a story from Edward McWhinney, I feel bereft. If I could, I would canonize him Contrary’s patron saint of fiction. I remember the first story—Advice: Get the Farewell Right. It opens: “It was supposed to be the happiest day of the year.” And then quiet, gentle Ed of Cork dismantles you. And he does again, and again, and again.

Amy Reed, How You Remember Her

An extraordinary story, a coming-of-age, coming-into-being, coming-into-identity story and a love story in so few words. For a long time, I would stare at the submissions and want all of them to be Amy Reed. I learned to love others, I grew up. But once you read this, you will forgive me.

Donna Vitucci, Devoted

I had met Donna at Squaw Valley. When she appeared in my inbox, the name was familiar, the way the tea my aunt served in summer was familiar, the way sparklers remind me of the Julys of my childhood. Donna and I met at Squaw Valley. But even then I didn’t know her words. Now I do, as do you. Thank goodness.

Tania Hershman, My Flickering Self

Her collection “My Mother Was an Upright Piano” is one of my favorite short story collections out there, and My Flickering Self is one of my favorite short stories quite possibly ever.

 

Frances Badgett is Contrary’s fiction editor.