online magazine for short, good writing

This Week in Words — February 4

by Treehouse Editors

by Rachel Bondurant

I’m not a joiner, y’all. But I love to read books, and I love to talk about books with people who also love books. So I’ve conscripted my friends into an annual book reading. That seems spare, I know, but what can I say? Life happens. This year we’re reading Lolita. Yes, yes, I hear you: How have you never read Lolita?

Better late than never.

Punxsutawny Phil declared six more weeks of winter, surprising no one. I couldn’t find anything particularly funny regarding Groundhog Day from this year, so here’s last year’s cartoon from The New Yorker. Still relevant, if you ask me.

How do you organize your books?

I have a three-tiered shelf in the hallway outside my bedroom that holds my criticisms, autobiography/memoir, academic, and poetry collections, along with some YA overflow. In my room, the nightstands are as loaded down as possible with stacks of books, while still being (barely) functional as tabletops. There are also three shelves above my beds with my signed copies and collector’s editions. But the one way all of these books aren’t organized?

Spines inward. I mean, what kind of monster do you have to be?

This Week in Words — January 27

by Treehouse Editors

by Rachel Bondurant

Lock your doors and windows, everybody. This week we’re talking about my favorite secret obsession: crime.

Fun fact: I was a criminology major before I was a lit major. So perhaps my obsession with crime is not so secret as I like to pretend.

In any case, I’ve been (possibly unhealthily) immersed in my new favorite podcast, My Favorite Murder for the last week. How have I only just discovered this magical gem of all things delightfully morbid?? The plus side of being late to the game is that I have literal years of episodes to binge. Join me on this deadly adventure, won’t you?

Everyone’s heard of the Black Dahlia, but there are several other true crime stories on this list that I hadn’t heard before. Also, you learn other fun things, like one Mr. Adolph Coors was allergic to beer.

Not to leave any medium out, there are a lot of true crime shows on the streaming services. I won’t say there are too many–can there ever be too many?–but there’s no shortage. Here’s a list of several on Netflix (full disclosure: this is from last fall, so if any of these are no longer available, please send all complaints to Netflix). The only one I’ve seen personally is The Keepers, which I can confidently say was dark and depressing and super compelling. (Sorry I haven’t watched Making a Murderer yet. I’m getting to it, I swear.)

Honorable mention to Autopsy on HBO. I promise it’s not about performing autopsies, except in the context of how crimes can be solved by doing so.

Lastly, I’m including this review of Denis Johnson’s previously mentioned collection just released…literally, just because the title of the review has the word “death” in it.

Got a favorite podcast/series/documentary/book about crime, true or otherwise? Please, for the love of all things that go bump in the night, share them with me. I cannot get enough.

This Week in Words — January 20

by Treehouse Editors

by Rachel Bondurant

When I sat down to write this new (surely long-awaited) installment of TWIW, I spent an embarrassingly long time debating whether to make a fuss over the return of Treehouse. But, alas, no words came. Instead, what arose in my mind every time I tried to start this piece was the theme song to Welcome Back, Kotter.

Just…”Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back,” with the emphasis on a different syllable every repetition.

So. Thus, I begin.

With the turn of a new year comes, inevitably, a new assortment of reading (and—behold: writing!) challenges. In 2017, I entered an arbitrary number into my Goodreads Reading Challenge: 52. Not so arbitrary, it turns out. I failed.

Ehhh, sort of. I have a habit of rereading much beloved series that I own, and I didn’t count those. So probably I blew through that 52-count finish line, but I did it by cheating.

This year, I’m taking a different approach. I own a lot of books. And almost 40 of them, I’ve never read (see: previously mentioned rereading habit). So my 2018 reading challenge is to read as many of those books as possible. Take my idea, if you want. Seems a pretty obvious challenge, I admit, but feel free to name it after me anyway.

Speaking of books to read, this month is a pretty solid one for new releases. Quite appropriately, a collection of previously unpublished Denis Johnson stories, The Largesse of the Sea Maiden, was released this week. Nearly six years ago, just after Treehouse launched (the first time), we featured a retrospective of Jesus’ Son. Nice of his work to make a reappearance just as we do. (Bonus: You can read the titular story of the new release here.)

(As an aside, I’m also stoked to read Chloe Benjamin’s The Immortalists and Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan.)

I’ve recently made the rather daunting—and more than a little reckless—switch from Person Who Writes to Professional Freelance Writer. As encouragement, a friend gifted me a book of collected blog posts from John Scalzi’s aptly titled blog, Whatever. The book, You’re Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop to a Coffee Shop, features a few handfuls of posts about the professional writing life. Some of it is advice. A lot of it is funny. All of it is useful. One would think you can find the same posts on his blog, but (speaking as someone who didn’t pay for the book) I do enjoy having the highlights handed to me in a tidy little bundle.

And, finally…please enjoy this shameless self-serving shout-out:

Treehouse’s current Brief Encounters theme is, without irony, “New Beginnings.” We’ve raised the curtain unto our own new beginning; now tell us about yours. Born again? New job? Recently awakened as a human-sized cockroach? We want to hear your story. Give it here.

Treehouse: Reloaded

by Treehouse Editors

Dear loyal fans and newcomers,

Today marks the official re-launch of Treehouse after a long hiatus and a call for submissions for our Winter 2018 issue! This grand re-opening was originally planned for October, but we ran into some problems reclaiming our website domain and reactivating our Submittable account, which is now back up and running. Our new web address is (as of right now, the old URL still redirects to this site, but this is subject to change).

We’re currently accepting submissions in all genres and plan to begin publishing within the next few weeks. We also have a new monthly prompt for Brief Encounters submissions: New Beginnings. To celebrate the new year and the rebirth of our magazine, send us pieces 400 words or less related to changes, transitions, new relationships, rebirth, the start of fantastic voyages, or however you interpret the concept of “beginning.”

In addition, we’re delighted to welcome two new editors to the Treehouse team: Joanna Davidson for Poetry, and Bella Hugo for Genre Benders and Brief Encounters. Read more about them in our updated Staff Contributors section. Lastly, thank you to everyone who has continued to express interest and support for Treehouse throughout our hiatus; your patience is greatly appreciated. We look forward to reading more good, short writing!

Laura Casteel, Managing Editor

5 Things on Encounters

by a contributor

from Sean Pravica, author of A PSA About Love:

Everyone has had them: sudden encounters with memorable strangers. Here are five of my own personal favorites. A supporting character in my novel, Stumbling out the Stable, is based on one of these people.

  1. Blonde hair, blue eyes, spoke with a wistfulness that made every word froth over with existential longing. He worked for the Forest Service in Big Sur, a place heralded for its austere and largely unadulterated beauty. He stood in a wooden kiosk at a trailhead, slowly leafing through a National Geographic, surveying pictures of the world’s beauty.

  2. He wore a patchy red and blue jumpsuit. I saw him when I was a child. The first time was from my mother’s car as he stood at a stoplight holding what looked like a child wrapped in a blue blanket. The next day in the next town over, out to breakfast with my mother, I looked up and saw him again, his face nearly messianic in its calm. Now I saw the blue bundle he cradled in his arms was empty.

  3. Some forgettable backlot in downtown Los Angeles. A kind man ambled carefully to my car, in one hand a bucket and in the other a rag, which he held outstretched like a flag designating peace to an unpredictable alien. Two dollars to wash the windshield. I accepted and received some backstory per my request. Unemployed, used to be in construction, built Staples Center, its purple glow peeking over squat buildings behind us.

  4. She was not filling up her car but parked oddly in front of a pump. She was smoking a cigarette and had the window rolled down, so passing by her on the way to the register I asked her to put her cigarette out. She took offense, called my laptop case a purse, and we exchanged words. I paid for gas, and as I came back, she invited me to get in her car and sit with her. So I did. We talked about vague things, and she was friendly but aloof. She had some kind of alcohol in a water bottle that she offered me, telling me I could use it since I was being uptight. I declined. She was looking over a paper throwaway magazine that lists the latest local arrests, complete with mugshots. She called them “knuckleheads,” and betrayed a strange connection to them as she shook her head, a familiarity unspeakable but palpable. I asked her what she did and said she was an entrepreneur, but would not elaborate. I left, and we ended our conversation in peace, and that was much more than I could say for how things started.

  5. I lived in Big Sur for a little while myself. But I did not work in a kiosk, though my job booking room reservations was tremendously unsatisfying. I feeling guilty about the prospect of leaving only a few months after being hired when I happened to meet an older woman at a concert after-party. She was a psychotherapist and we talked about goals and ambition, things owed to others versus things owned to oneself. She had a generous laugh that signaled a deep satisfaction in her own life.

A PSA About Love

by a contributor

Sean Pravica

I metamorphosed into a bat and life has become difficult. My wife doesn’t love me anymore, but I can’t see her anyway so perhaps it’s just as well. All the other bats are loud and loveless. They remind me of my in-laws. You could say though that while I’m getting the hang of it, I would give anything to be a man again.

If I were you I would kiss my wife like I was Al Gore, before he and Tipper separated, of course. You may wake up one day and suddenly everything has changed.

Sean Pravica is a writer and entrepreneur living in Southern California. He has been nominated for writing awards including Sundress Press’ Best of the Net as well as storySouth Million Writer’s Award. His first novel, “Stumbling out the Stable,” is due for release by Pelekinesis Press in November 2015.

See Sean’s list of 5 Things in our ongoing contributors’ series later this week.

5 Six Word Stories

by a contributor

from Erik Doughty, author of  Moon Men:

  1. Missed bus.  Her too.  We walk.
  2. After prom, his corsage still boxed.
  3. Insurance claim: shoebox under bed.  Denied.
  4. “Love U2.”  “I love you!”  “Um.”
  5. We grew up, old, apart, overnight.