Suspend Your Disbelief

Forrest Anderson

Contributing Editor

Forrest Anderson’s stories have appeared most recently in BULL: Men’s Fiction, Blackbird, The Louisville Review, and The South Carolina Review, and his essays have appeared in The Southeast Review and Pembroke Magazine. A graduate of the doctoral creative writing program at Florida State University, where he worked for two years as an archivist and assistant for Robert Olen Butler, he also holds a Master of Fine Arts from the University of South Carolina. Currently, he lives in Salisbury, NC and is an assistant professor of English at Catawba College.


Essays |

The Enduring Magic of Stephanie Vaughn’s Sweet Talk

From the Archives: In 1990, Stephanie Vaughn published her debut collection of short fiction, Sweet Talk. Critical reception was overwhelmingly positive. A reviewer for Mother Jones Magazine wrote, “There is not a weak story in Sweet Talk and few are less than spectacular … Hers is a wise, touching, extraordinary voice—the sort rarely achieved at the end of a gifted career, let alone at the beginning.” To date, Vaughn’s first book has also been the only one her adoring fans have seen.

Shop Talk |

YA We Love: Are You There God? It's me, Forrest.

Summers, my dad took his two weeks’ vacation from the bank and drove our family southeast through corn and tobacco fields to Emerald Isle, North Carolina. We stayed on the sound-side of the island, in a small cottage on stilts, and each morning we hauled our chairs, coolers, and my mom’s heavy beach bag through a vacant lot, spiked with sandspurs, to the ocean. While dad unfolded our chairs and cracked open his day’s first beer, mom rummaged through her bag and passed out library books she’d picked for the family. I remember entire vacations spent reading, moving only with […]

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Stories We Love: "Show and Tell"

Back when I worked for The Southeast Review, we ran an online feature called, “The Cult of George Singleton,” where we asked writers to weigh-in on his larger than life personality. Katie Burgess, his old student from the Greenville Fine Arts Center, told one of my favorite stories, “One day George… hit a snake with his truck. He… put it in a duffel bag, and took it… to a faculty meeting… A few minutes into the meeting, he opened it up and started yelling, ‘Snake! Sweet Jesus!’ until he cleared the room.” Don’t try it. Unless you’re a short story […]

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Stories We Love: "Irish Girl"

I don’t mind admitting that I get stuck as a writer—occasionally. Well, pretty often. Okay, I mean constantly. And I’m not talking about jamming up over a flowery paragraph or a pivotal scene. I’m saying that I’ll be four pages into a new story (on what I’ve come to imagine on my worst days as the road to hell, thanks to a willful misinterpretation of Ron Carlson Writes a Story) and I’ll not only forget how to write a sentence, but I’ll lose sight of how a short story should even look. I used to feel ashamed about my lapse […]

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Under the Influence… of Robert Olen Butler

Three years into the doctoral program at Florida State University, my wife and I had tired of living like graduate students—the hard studying, hard partying, and hard poverty of it all. I thought I’d found a way out when I was offered a job and a place to live at a boarding school in western North Carolina. I called my dissertation director, Robert Olen Butler, to share my plans. “Is it money?” Bob asked. “Do you need money?” “You think it’s a bad idea? I’ll have time to write in the afternoons.” “If you fart on the squash court,” he […]

Essays |

The Sorrow and Grace of My People’s Waltz, by Dale Ray Phillips

Forrest Anderson on the semester he “caught fire as a writer,” when Ron Rash handed him a life-changing copy of Dale Ray Phillips’s debut, My People’s Waltz. Anderson describes the exquisite moments of grace in the collection when “all of the bad things to come are brewing on the horizon but haven’t yet managed to fully snag the family.”

Shop Talk |

Stories that Scare: "The Diver"

I have a big heart when it comes to short stories. There is a handful that I press onto friends with the pimply-faced intensity I had as a seventh-grader for Appetite for Destruction—as in, like this story as much and in the same way as I do or risk ending our friendship. There’s another handful that I love, dozens more that I adore, and bushels for which I have warm feelings. I can only think of three, though, that scare the living daylights out of me. The first is “The Paperhanger” by William Gay. The opening sentence does it to […]