online magazine for short, good writing

Mixtape: Marie-Helene Bertino

by a contributor

Marie-Helene Bertino’s collection of short stories Safe as Houses received the 2012 Iowa Short Fiction Award, judged by Jim Shepard, and was published in Fall of 2012. Among other things, the stories are about Bob Dylan coming to Thanksgiving dinner, a girl winning a free ham, dating the idea of your ex-boyfriend, being an alien with opinions on human heartbreak, how your college pals are magic, and dancing with nuns. She is finishing a novel about Philadelphia and magic and music.

Buy the book here. For a list of where to read all of the stories, go here.

Say Goodbye to Your Father

by Marie-Helene Bertino

I found a starfish on the beach and jogged the half-mile back to the house. I hoped my mother would make a fuss over it and she did. We pretended it was a monacle, using it to block out the sun. We pretended it was a brooch. We lay it on the counter to dry and reported its progress to one another throughout the day. It’s still drying, it’s almost dry.

We had come to the house because my father was one month dead and we hoped the sea would do the thing the sea does when it makes you think only of the sea.

That night my mother and I were roused from our bedrooms by clanging in the kitchen. Beams of light shot out of the starfish and morphed into a glowing woman. I am here to give you every earthly desire, she said. Chests of emeralds. Season tickets. Revenge on people who suck. Riches out the kazoo. What do you want first?

My mother made the sound that meant she was pretending to consider something.

Say goodbye to the starfish, she said the next day before hurling it back to the water. When I was little she used this phrase to teach me manners and temper loss. Say goodbye to the mailman, say goodbye to your Aunt Barbara, say goodbye to the sea.

Riches, she scoffed as we walked back to solid land. Life isn’t hard enough.


photo of Marie-Helene BertinoMarie-Helene Bertino has been a diner waitress, a muralist, and a singer in a band. Her stories have appeared in The Pushcart Prize Anthology XXXIII, North American ReviewMississippi ReviewInkwellThe Indiana ReviewAmerican Short Fiction, and West Branch. She has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize three times, receiving the award in 2007 and a Special Mention in 2011. She hails from Philadelphia and lives in Brooklyn, where for six years she was the Associate Editor of One Story. She has taught for The Gotham Writer’s Workshop and One Story’s Emerging Writer’s Workshop and has received fellowships from Hedgebrook Residency and NYC’s Center for Fiction, where she is a current fellow. Her collection of short stories SAFE AS HOUSES received The 2012 Iowa Short Fiction Award, judged by Jim Shepard, and will be published in fall of 2012.

See Marie’s list of 5 Things You Should Read in our ongoing contributors’ series. Also check out her short story at FiveChapters.

Mixtape (Volume 1)

by Treehouse Editors

Johannes Lichtman

Last March, after about six months of planning, a handful of my former students and I finally opened our literary treehouse to you all. In the past nine months, we’ve had the privilege to publish more great writers than we could ever have hoped for—and not only that, but a dozen or so of these great writers have books out. Books that you should read!

Over the next week, we’re going to be spinning the Treehouse Mixtape (Volume 1), featuring some of the best stuff we’ve published over this first year, along with little tastes of why you should read the books these great writers have written. With those post-holiday Amazon gift cards burning a hole through your pocket, it seems like the perfect time to buy them (or, in some cases, download the books for free).

Along with the seven writers we’ll be featuring over the course of the week—Matt Bell, Marie-Helene Bertino, Gabriel Blackwell, David Galef, Ravi Mangla, Thomas Mundt, and Ariana Nadia Nash—we’d also like to congratulate these Treehousers who have also recently put out books, have books coming out soon, or have recently been featured in major anthologies:

Eugene Cross Fires of Our Choosing: a short story collection from Dzanc Books, which we liked so much that we reviewed it here at Treehouse, and I included it in my personal top 10 of 2012. But don’t just take our word for it—The Huffington Post said of Cross’ characters: “They are who they are, and if dignity has been denied them by the rest of us, including us story-tellers, it is restored by this collection.”

Roxane Gay’s short story “North Country” was picked as one of the twenty Best American Short Stories of 2012 by editor Tom Perrotta.

Kyle Minor Praying Drunk: a short story collection from Sarabande Books scheduled for release in early 2014, of which Daniel Handler (aka “Lemony Snicket”) said, “I finished this book with my heart pounding and grateful, my coffee cold and my smile wide and crying like a baby.”

Patrick Somerville This Bright River: a novel from Reagan Arthur (an imprint of Little, Brown), which the Chicago Tribune called “A remarkable achievement.”

Matthew Specktor American Dream Machine: a novel from Tin House Books forthcoming in April 2013, which David Shields called “the definitive new Hollywood novel.”

Brandi Wells poisonhorse: a chapbook from Nephew (an imprint of Mud Luscious Press), which featured was on CNN.