The ‘Burnt Tongues’ anthology comes out this August (but you know that because you’ve already pre-ordered it, right?) And the good people who rolled the dice on publishing this collection, Medallion Press, reached out to the contributing authors to ask us all a straightforward question:

“What was your favorite memory of contributing to Burnt Tongues?”

Being that there are 20 contributors on this deal, they asked us to please be brief in our responses – my answer:

“Receiving a really gracious critique from Mr. Palahniuk – after that I felt emboldened to quit my job, grow a beard and write a novel defining me as the voice of my generation (voice-of-a-generation-novel still underway).”

I’m expecting to see 20 variations on this same answer (minus the beard bit) , because it was a mutual love of Chuck Palahniuk that drew us all together in the first place.  It’s an odd way to be introduced to somebody, really. Quietly uploading a word document you’ve obsessed over for months into an online workshop forum of like-minded readers, turned critics.  Potential trolls with all the glorious anonymity the internet allows, who could make infinite posts crucifying your little story for it’s every misspelling, grammatical screw-up or underdeveloped character.

But that’s not what happened.

Remember, this was a workshop centered around fans of ‘transgressive’ fiction, writers posting graphic stories about self-mutilation, abhorrent sexual trespasses and unrepentant immorality.  All writers who turned out to be just super-nice folks. I found my story met with very thoughtful critiques. My word document reposted to me with margins full of polite notes and insightful suggestions. It was the civilized side of the internet I’d only heard rumors of, like the Loch Ness Monster, or Jesus Christ – people believed it existed, but there was never any proof.  Verbal barbs or “this was retarded” comments were intermittent, and completely drowned out by the constructive voices – the writers who wanted to help you improve your writing and hopefully you’d do the same for them.

If you could bed down your ego and implement the feedback you knew had merit, your story got better – it was that simple.  The workshop got into your blood. You’d read other submissions and do your damnedest to devise thoughtful comments for that writer, because you’d been paid the same courtesy.  It’s an environment I’ve struggled to recreate elsewhere since it was dissolved, with only some success.

‘Live This Down’ being included in ‘Burnt Tongues’ is a huge honor for me and I want to thank all of the writers from the old ‘Cult’ workshop for helping me buff out the rough edges of that story. Now if somebody would kindly put that whole workshop back together….

-NK