Welcome, Rebecca Meacham!

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 Rebecca Meacham, whose forthcoming book Feather Rousing 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

Rebecca Meacham’s short story collection, Let’s Do, won UNT Press’s Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Fiction, and her flash fiction collection, Morbid Curiosities, won the New Delta Review chapbook prize. Her work has appeared most recently in Best Microfiction 2021, Wigleaf, Had, and Gigantic Sequins, and her prose has been set to music, translated into Polish, and carved into woodblocks and letter-pressed by steamroller. She is a professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, where she directs The Teaching Press and chairs the BFA in Writing and Applied Arts program. Her chapbook, Feather Rousing, is forthcoming with BLP in spring 2024.


On Writing Feather Rousing

The pieces in Feather Rousing originated during another writing project, a novel set against the backdrop of the 1871 Peshtigo (Wisconsin) fire. In researching the Paris Exposition, or infant care, certain discoveries stuck— like babies on exhibit at Coney Island. Intrigued, I began cheating on my novel with historical flash fiction.

At the same time, my children were growing up, learning school shooting protocols, and entering a world made of risks—then retreating from that world during Covid-19 lockdown. I had a lot to process. Flash memoir offered me a way express my worries, but not too much, and not too directly. I am a Midwesterner, after all. 

In writing the chapbook’s title piece, “Feather Rousing,” I realized that historical fiction could speak (and listen) to memoir. This kind of exchange organizes my chapbook. Like an aviary, the book is a “hybridiary” of fiction and nonfiction centered on motherhood and caretaking, hatching and fledging, predation and vulnerability, rote survival and delight—at once darkly feathered and brightly pitched. 


Selection from Feather Rousing


Dreamland: Coney Island, 1904


             Small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, Ladies and Gentlemen!

             Peas in pods! Living dolls!

             The stork was early but we’re open late!

             Don’t pass the babies by!


The babies know nothing of their advertising, of course. All they know of life is heat. They’ve already forgotten their mothers’ skin. They’ve never grabbed their fathers’ thumbs, never suckled breast or bottle. The babies have no idea what they’re missing. How could they? They have neither wish nor reflex; they haven’t grown appetites. The babies sleep in the Bavarian farmhouse on the midway with its watchful plaster stork, lined up in gleaming incubators, defying all expectation. They are frail cherubs; they are mites of humanity. They are 10 cents a ticket.

Their births: a sudden soak of surprise. Their mothers’ ankles puddled with dread, boots washed in unspent weight. The mothers tried to keep them home. They fretted the failed fashioning of wombs: stove-side boxes, hot-water bottles, flannel, hay. They worried the babies’ weary eyes and oddly wrinkled foreheads. They are less newborns than dying old men, thought one, a mother of triplets. Now, she kisses their raw, red skin and lets the babies go. Their father, like all the babies’ fathers, marvels at how light and spindly they are to lift, like birds’ nests—like something, perhaps, blown away before the hatch of open mouths.

So go the babies, box to box. Down the fairway full of foods the father can’t afford, past the breezy bridge where skirts fly high and couples clutch, locked-legged, breast to chest. The father finds the Bavarian farmhouse, a plaster stork perched on the roof. He hands the box to a white-capped nurse; Nurse lifts the lid and summons Doctor. Together—a man, a woman, three babies between them, and none of them in love— they disappear into the back. The father taps his taskless toes. Before him, boxed in glass, are babies, seven in a row. Crowds press forward— somehow the father hadn’t noticed forty people warming the air with whispers. Then Nurse wheels three new glass boxes into place. People cheer. Name cards are affixed: Clara, Cora, Cate.

The father makes it to Midget City before he takes a breath. Tiny men drive tiny fire engines to put out tiny fires. The father waits to feel unburdened. Nothing is as he expects. What is he doing on this bench, watching the world move in garish miniature? 

Down the fairway, babies sleep. They sleep as Nurse tips a narrow spoon of breast milk— defatted, calibrated— into their nostrils. They sleep as black-veiled women watch and dab their cheeks with lace. They sleep as men crunch peanuts and boys bump girls and old ladies gossip: which one has grown the most? Each day at noon, Nurse removes her giant diamond ring, lifts a baby’s arm and slides it on his wrist: That’s right, Ladies and Gentlemen, a diamond ring around his wrist!

The babies make no protest. Even with their eyelids open, they look asleep, suspended in the state of making, focused on becoming.

Soon, a woman passes through. Her hat is red— chosen for its clarity. She is too shy to part the crowd. She saves her pennies for returns. She’s trying to learn what everyone knows is simple human instinct. Sometimes when Nurse lifts a baby to face the crowd, the woman in the red hat feels a stirring— it might be called concern. But what does she know of motherhood? A silly hat? A weekly visit? This row of bright machines?

The woman in the red hat returns in daylight. She returns in sleep. She dreams the babies fat and smooth; she dreams them roly-poly. She dreams one baby takes Nurse’s diamond ring and cuts a perfect circle. Pop! The baby breaks the glass. She hears the babies crying, laughing, babbling their first words.

Go home, they’re saying. Go home.

Are the babies scolding? Blaming? Pleading? What is she to do? Thousands interpret their cries each day; she should have learned by now. But the fairway is deserted, no one watching but the plaster stork. She can walk away, leave forever. Or she can step right up.

The babies have passed from nurse to nurse. They’ve spent their lives as numbers: science in a box. The woman in the red hat just wants to see the faces of her daughters. Hers. Her Clara, Cora, Cate.

Her daughters cry: Go home?  It’s the hardest, simplest thing to answer. But just like that, she gathers them— a wondrous weight that shifts her endless wait to ballast. No one parts a curtain, calling, Touch their dimples! Hold them close and kiss their heads! The space within her arms is theirs: quiet, beyond measure. Something rises in their hearts. Something is taking wing.