A Letter from the Publisher/Introducing Jazz Fiction writer Arya Jenkins

September 12th, 2013

Introducing Jazz Fiction Writer Arya Jenkins

aryajenkins

    For 11 years, Jerry Jazz Musician has sponsored 33 Short Fiction Contests resulting in 30 different contest winners. During that time, I estimate that I have read and considered over 3,000 short stories.

    The stories vary in content and quality, of course, and it has been my goal to publish the best story regardless of its theme. This has at times led to confusion by some writers over the years who believe that, since Jerry Jazz Musician‘s focus is on jazz history – and in particular within the confines and culture of mid-20th Century America – the winning story should always be about jazz or a character within that setting.

    Unfortunately, while I and the panel of readers and judges have chosen several stories with “jazz” or “jazz culture” within its boundaries, most often the best stories are those not written about the narrow subject of jazz and the “culture of 20th Century America.” So, because they are frequently the best submitted, stories about human relationships, adventure, history, and the complexity of race will on occasion be selected as the winning entrant.

    It is my opinion that jazz is a difficult art to portray in fiction. I have a very critical eye and seek an aesthetic in jazz fiction that is not unlike what I seek in jazz music itself – original, elegant, provocative, artful, and timeless. Many stories aim to meet those criteria but go unpublished because they don’t measure up to the high artistic bar set by great jazz artists. At the same time, I want to stress the importance of encouraging contest entrants to continue to submit their jazz-themed stories, because when an excellent story crosses my desk – and it does happen – it is like hearing a great tenor player for the first time. It can be incredibly rewarding for the reader, as it has been for me.

    Recently, Arya Jenkins, a relatively new entrant to our contest, demonstrated the ability to consistently combine the aesthetics I wrote of above with a skilled and accessible writing style that I believe deserves the attention of our readers, and of the jazz community at large. Her July, 2012 entry, “So What” – a story about an adolescent girl who attempts to connect to her absent father through his jazz record collection – was chosen as the 30th winner of our Short Fiction Contest. When she followed that up with another quality entry with jazz music at its core, I reached out to her and we discussed her work, her passion for writing jazz fiction, and how she could potentially contribute to Jerry Jazz Musician on a more regular basis – because I feel there needs to be a place for jazz fiction.

    I am pleased to report that the September 15, 2013 publication of “Soliloquy” is the first of three jazz short stories I have commissioned Arya to write exclusively for this blog, and they will be published within the next 12 months. Her stated goal is to write about jazz in a “highly personalized fashion as a way of celebrating and mining my own diversity, as well as exploring the genre.” I encourage you to read her work with your own critical eye, and hope you come to the same conclusion I have – that she is a gifted writer who utilizes jazz in her stories with an aesthetic sense worthy of the music and culture we respect, admire and cherish.

Thanks,

Joe Maita

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A Letter From the Publisher

An appeal for contributions to support the ongoing publishing efforts of Jerry Jazz Musician

In This Issue

The Modern Jazz Quintet by Everett Spruill
A Collection of Jazz Poetry — Summer, 2023 Edition

A wide range of topics are found in this collection. Tributes are paid to Tony Bennett and Ahmad Jamal and to the abstract worlds of musicians like Ornette Coleman and Pharoah Sanders; the complex lives of Chet Baker and Nina Simone are considered; devotions to Ellington and Basie are revealed; and personal solace is found in the music of Tommy Flanagan and Quartet West. These are poems of peace, reflection, time, venue and humor – all with jazz at their core. (Featuring the art of Everett Spruill)

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“Mirabella,” by Samuel Lind
“Queen” by Emily Jon Tobias

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In a Place of Dreams: Connie Johnson’s album of jazz poetry, music, and life stories...A collection of the remarkable poet's work is woven among her audio readings, a personal narrative of her journey and music she considers significant to it, providing readers the chance to experience the full value of her gifts.

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Nominations for the Pushcart Prize XLVIII

Interview

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"Jazz Diva" by Marsha Hammel
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Six poets, six poems on Bill Evans...A poetic appreciation for the work of the legendary pianist

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Joel Lewis
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"The Dancer" by Elaine Croce Happnie
“The Dancer” – a poem by Zoya Gargova

Playlist

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
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Short Fiction

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Short Fiction Contest-winning story #63 — “Company” by Anastasia Jill...Twenty-year-old Priscilla Habel lives with her wannabe flapper mother who remains stuck in the jazz age 40 years later. Life is monotonous and sad until Cil meets Willie Flasterstain, a beatnik lesbian who offers an escape from her mother's ever-imposing shadow.

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Book Excerpt

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Coming Soon

An interview with Judith Tick, author of Becoming Ella Fitzgerald: The Jazz Singer Who Transformed American Song;...An interview with Gary Carner, author of Pepper Adams: Saxophone Trailblazer; A new collection of jazz poetry; a collection of jazz haiku; a new Jazz History Quiz; short fiction; poetry; photography; interviews; playlists; and lots more in the works…

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Click to view the complete 22 year archive of Jerry Jazz Musician interviews, including those recently published with Richard Carlin and Ken Bloom on Eubie Blake (pictured); Richard Brent Turner on jazz and Islam; Alyn Shipton on the art of jazz; Shawn Levy on the original queens of standup comedy; Travis Atria on the expatriate trumpeter Arthur Briggs; Kitt Shapiro on her life with her mother, Eartha Kitt; Will Friedwald on Nat King Cole; Wayne Enstice on the drummer Dottie Dodgion; the drummer Joe La Barbera on Bill Evans; Philip Clark on Dave Brubeck; Nicholas Buccola on James Baldwin and William F. Buckley; Ricky Riccardi on Louis Armstrong; Dan Morgenstern and Christian Sands on Erroll Garner; Maria Golia on Ornette Coleman.

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