Welcome, Elizabeth Stix!

This month we are celebrating the titles that we’ve acquired over the past twelve months. These manuscripts came to us through our open reading periods. Today we bring you Elizabeth Stix, whose forthcoming book Things I Want Back from You will be published next spring. 

Have a manuscript you think we’d like? During our June Open Reading Period we are looking for poetry (chapbooks and full-length collections), short fiction (again, both chapbooks and full-length collections), novels, novellas, nonfiction (CNF, biography, cultural studies), anthology proposals, and translations from German. 


The Author

Bay Area native Elizabeth Stix writes, edits, and oversleeps in Berkeley, California. Her stories have appeared in McSweeney’sTin HouseBoulevardThe Los Angeles Times Sunday magazine, and elsewhere. She has contributed to numerous anthologies, including Best Microfiction 2019Drivel, and 642 Things About You (That I Love). Her work was performed live at the New Short Fiction Series in LA, and her story “Alice” was optioned by Sneaky Little Sister Films. In the early 2000s, she founded the vanguard lit zine The Big Ugly Review. Her stories have won the Katherine Manoogian Scholarship Prize, the Bay Guardian Fiction Prize, the Southampton Review Short-short Fiction Prize, and have been finalists or semi-finalists for the Disquiet Prize, Glimmer Train Fiction Open, Boulevard Emerging Writers Contest, Sherwood Anderson Prize, and others. Elizabeth has a BA from Brown University and an MA and MFA from San Francisco State. When she’s not writing, she can be found staying up way too late doing the NYT Spelling Bee.




On Writing Things I Want Back from You

Things I Want Back from You is a linked story collection set in the fictional California hamlet of San Encanto. San Encanto is a place where suburban angst mingles with the magical: where your oppressive husband might turn into a blimp and follow you in the sky; your little sister might need you to unwind a parasitic Guinea worm from her belly; or your nagging mother might reincarnate as a talking mole with a lot left to say.

The narrator of the story below is an earnest life coach named Spirit Rosenblatt. Spirit’s letters anchor the collection and kick off each of its three sections. Most of the characters are deeply flawed: insecure, lonely, desperately wanting to feel some human connection, but nearly always getting in their own way. Spirit is no different, but unlike the others, she remains doggedly optimistic throughout.

Some of these stories I labored over for years, while others came out more quickly. I wrote the story below in a café in about an hour and made only minor tweaks to it. It’s one of my favorite stories in the book.


“Things I Want Back from You”


Fergus —


The following items belong to me:


  1. My cell phone case. It’s blue with white sequins and I left it on the dresser by your closet. My carpal tunnel has completely flared up because it pinches my ulnar nerve to hold the phone when I walk and talk. I need the phone case back right now.


  1. My instant dog bath washcloths. Niffy is stinky and I think it is bothering her and it is definitely bothering me and I won’t have time to give her a bath until Saturday. You know she produces more oil when she is itchy, and it is flea season. The cloths are in the drawer above the dishwasher.


  1. The photos from the Gualala trip. Please put them on a thumb drive. I don’t want to have to download them so please don’t send them via email. I want them all, not just the ones I took. I was there and I want to have them all.


  1. My black backpack. It’s on the floor of your office. Please just put it aside and don’t dig through it. Please have some respect for my privacy. It’s just my papers from work but I have signed client confidentiality agreements and I would appreciate it if you would honor that, even though you didn’t honor any of our other agreements. Perhaps a legally binding agreement such as the ones I signed with my clients will mean more to you than the promises you made to me.


  1. In the bathroom: on the shelf above the sink: my eyedrops. I have to put them in every night or I wake up with scratchy eyes, and I have not been sleeping well so my eyes are even drier. I can buy more but I don’t see why I should have to when the bottle is only half used. Also on the shelf: my saline solution (please stop using it if you have been. Use your own.). My glasses case. And on the windowsill, I left a Chapstick.


  1. If you’re not going to use the exercise ball, I would like to have it. You can keep it if you are using it.


  1. My black felt pen. It’s on your desk next to the computer, or it least it was when I left. It’s my favorite pen and I can’t remember the brand so even if you think this is petty I do want it back. If you are using it, I would appreciate it if you would stop, or at least make sure that the cap is on securely when it is not in use.


  1. This is something you will probably not agree with. But I want some money for therapy. I have been talking about you for six sessions straight now, and I don’t think it’s fair that I should have to pay for it. If you had not slept with Daylene, I would not be wracking my brain trying to deal with you and all the pain you have caused me, and I could be working on much more productive things in therapy, things that benefit me, not this crap that is all about you. I have endured so much stress over this, I can’t even tell you. It has consumed my waking hours and I don’t even get any relief when I go to sleep because you visit me in my effing dreams, and I wake up and before I know it I am thinking about you again and again. I have not been able to do any work and my rent is due in three days and I don’t have the money because I have missed two deadlines – something, as you know, I have taken pride in not having done in my whole professional career. I am widely known by all my clients as someone who is trustworthy and reliable, and I take great pride in these characteristics. And you have made me break that lifelong pattern. I have let people down, and I have let myself down, and you are off with Daylene and you are not taking responsibility for the breadth of the harm you are causing. So. I anticipate that I will be over you in approximately four weeks. I already get a discounted fee of $80 from my therapist, and I am willing to pay for half of it. As I said, I have already put six weeks into this, so that is 10 weeks at $80 per hour, or $800. I would like to leave the end date open, but I would like, at least, to agree on $400 from you to start.


  1. I know that I can’t ask you to move, even though I don’t think I should have to bump into you and Daylene. Even if I don’t see you, or one of your pseudo-intellectual, pretentious, underemployed “friends,” I shouldn’t have to stress out about it and worry and look around. I would like you to try to consolidate your errands so I can at least organize my day in a peaceful way. And if you want to leave for a while, I think that it would be generous of you, to give me a break. I know that you are not a generous person, although you can be when you choose to, and I would ask that you look into your core and try to remember when you used to care for me and be nice to me and try to remember what those feelings felt like, and tap into those feelings, and think about leaving town for a while.


  1. I will be in downtown San Encanto on Wednesday at three p.m., with Niffy, for a Reiki appointment. I would like to pick up my stuff from you then, and I would appreciate it if you would be there to help me load my car. Part of me does not want to see you and I know that it will upset me to see you and have things be so different between us, and I know that it is in my best interest to stay away from you completely, but I don’t think that I should have to load everything into my car by myself, especially if you are going to let me have the exercise ball. It is not heavy but it is cumbersome, and since I will have the dog, it will take some arranging in the car. I would appreciate it, and I know this goes without saying but I will say it anyway, and that is that I would appreciate it if Daylene was not there. I do not need to see her smug face, especially during this painful time. She is not a sensitive person. I don’t know what you see in her. Obviously she has certain gifts that are obvious to the outsider, but I mean in terms of what kind of person she is, I don’t think she is a good person and I don’t respect her values. I know you don’t care what I think. But anyone who does not respect the boundaries of another person’s relationship has a moral structure that I think is questionable and frankly, I think you should question it. If she screws me, so to speak, she will probably screw you later. She will hurt you and even though we are not in a relationship anymore, I still care about you and I would not feel comfortable if I did not warn you about her.


  1. I will have been at the Reiki appointment for a good part of the morning and Niffy will be a bit stir crazy and I will need to walk her before I drive home, so if you want to take a walk when I get there to talk about things, I would be open to that. I will need to take a walk then anyway. You are welcome to come.


  1. You have left some things at my house as well. I will bring them. There is your anorak jacket, which I’m sure you have been wanting. I hung it up, though you left it on the floor, and I can bring it over on Wednesday. I also have: your Radiohead CD, your chili cookbook, and your white t-shirt that you gave me to sleep in. I would like to keep the t-shirt. It is a light cotton and I have gotten used to sleeping with that weight. I will give it back to you if you want. I also have the stuffed Shamu that you won at SeaWorld. I assume that he was a gift for me, but I am learning, slowly, that I can’t make any assumptions with you. Please let me know if you want Shamu back or if he is mine to keep.


  1. If Wednesday is not convenient for you, it is fine with me if you bring my things over to my house. We can do a hand-off and you can pick up your things here and drop mine off. I will be at work during the day, of course, but if you want to come by in the evening, that is fine. I have plans for various nights, but let me know what evening works for you and I will let you know if I am here, or can arrange to be so. I would like to work this out in a peaceful way, so I am willing to be flexible.


  1. If it will smooth things over for me to say it, then all right, I’m sorry for “hitting” Daylene with the car. I barely made contact with her and honestly I’m not sure the car even touched her. The whole “falling down” thing was totally over the top on her part. We both know that I was just trying to get her to move so I could leave with some degree of dignity intact. But I am willing to meet you halfway, so if it helps for me to say it then I will say it (to you, not to her): I’m sorry.


  1. When you stop by with my things, I would appreciate it if you would block out some time to talk to me. I think that if you just came here and dropped off my stuff it would be very upsetting and I would like to process it a little with you before you just leave to go be with Daylene again. I am not asking for a marriage proposal, so please don’t take it that way. Believe me, that is the last thing that I want from you. I want to move on. But I would like to talk with you, calmly, and I think that it would help me to process what you did to me and perhaps shorten the amount of time that I have to spend processing it in therapy, so if you look at it from a financial standpoint, it would be the most cost-effective approach for both of us. I am free on Thursday after 8 or Friday after 7. I would like to see you and talk to you and I know that it is over between us and I am fine with that, I am glad about that, but we had something that was very important to me and I believe that it was important to you, too, even though you threw it away. Please let me know what you would like to do.


– Spirit