Short Story #1: First Day

In honor of National Short Story Month, we will be posting some of the stories from the first Along the River anthology.

Up first is “First Day” by Daniel Tyx, which won second prize.

The panic began creeping into my body from the moment I pulled into the gravel parking lot at Josephina Aguilar Elementary School.  Mr. Hernández, the head janitor, was out in a reflective orange vest directing the swarm of pick-ups and 70’s-era gas-guzzlers, herding the students into the gym that served as a holding pen until the day officially began.  The school buses pulled around back, discharging dozens more students.  As I waded through the crush of students into the still-empty hallways, I felt a tension branch up through my chest cavity, into my deltoids and neck, spreading outward until it had reached my hands, which I held clenched to try and make the shaking go away.

I waited, cocooned in the safety of my classroom, for 7:45 to arrive.  I set out the name tents that I’d labored to write in my best cursive; I hadn’t written in cursive since junior high school, but I wanted to set a good example.  When that was done, I adjusted and readjusted the desks to make sure the horseshoe was perfectly symmetrical.  I was so occupied by keeping myself busy that I showed up a minute-and-a-half late to the gym.  The other classes were already walking single-file down the hallway in my direction in total silence.  Every student had their hands locked behind their backs like shackled inmates; later I would learn they were trained to walk that way since kindergarten to keep them from pushing and shoving in line.

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VAO Publishing’s Pushcart Prize Nomination

Each year, small presses and literary magazines across the country get to nominate up to 6 of the pieces they’ve published for the Pushcart Prize.

We are proud to announce the nomination of “The Time about the Dog” by Álvaro Rodríguez from Along the River.

You can read Álvaro’s story here: The Time about the Dog

Call for Submissions for Border Noir

VAO Publishing is accepting submissions for its upcoming title Border Noir: Hard-Boiled Fiction from the Southwest, edited by Álvaro Rodríguez, co-author of the recent film Machete. The anthology will be available in May 2012 in trade paperback and eBook form.

If you are interested in being part of this exciting project, you should submit your work through our submission form. Submission deadline is March 1, 2012.

Content Guidelines:
The simplest definition of noir is fiction that focuses on mostly amoral characters, that typically involves crime or misdeeds, and that evinces a bleak or fatalistic view of the universe. However, noir doesn’t have to be overly depressing or serious; in fact, black humor is often a secondary characteristic. And though noir usually features stripped-down, utilitarian prose, it doesn’t have to; a complex, dense and subtle style can also be used to create stories in this genre.

See this article for a very clear (and amusing) discussion of the common traits of noir fiction.

What we’re looking for in Border Noir are stories set in the US Southwest (or with origins in/implications for the area) that explore the darker, tougher and grittier underbelly of life in this region. We are interested in everything: straight-up hard-boiled detective fiction, procedural police stories, tales of ordinary losers trapped by the consequences of their own actions, gothic pieces, and even edgy magical realism that borders on the horrific or phantasmagorical.

We are especially looking for authors from south Texas or the Southwest, but we are also interested in compelling work by writers from elsewhere who are able to capture something essential about this region.

Authors will be paid an initial $25 upon acceptance, plus a 2% royalty on the first 600 copies sold.

For further information, call us at 956.246.0353 or drop us an e-mail at

About the Editor
Álvaro Rodríguez has been writing since childhood and, in fact, did his best work when he was 11. With filmmaker Robert Rodriguez, he is the co-writer of the wishing-rock children’s movie SHORTS (2009), and MACHETE (2010) starring Danny Trejo and Robert DeNiro, and is the screenwriter of the vampire western FROM DUSK TILL DAWN: THE HANGMAN’S DAUGHTER (2000). His short stories (including a Pushcart Prize nominee) have appeared in The Mesquite Review, flashquake, BorderSenses and Popcorn Fiction.

An Evening of Poetry

The Donna Hooks Fletcher Museum has invited VAO Publishing to promote this year’s anthology and organize poetry readings as part of their monthly promotion of the arts.

The event will take place on June 24th from 7-9 pm. Many contributors will be in attendance to read their pieces for the audience. There will be light snacks and free margaritas, so come out and join us if you’re in the Valley that weekend.

Awards for Along the River

At the reception for VAO Publishing’s 2011 anthology, the following awards were presented:

Álvaro Rodríguez–First Place Prose for “The Time About the Dog”
Daniel Tyx–Second Place Prose for “First Day”
Evangelina Ayon–Third Place Prose for “The Pulga”
Robert Brown–Fourth Place Prose for “The Strange Case of Hugo Rose”
Alfredo Ortiz–Fifth Place Prose for “What Hides in the Closet…”

Richard D. Givens–First Place Poetry for “McAllen Morning”
Verónica Sandoval–Second Place Poetry for “No, Trovador”
Yaresy Salinas–Third Place Poetry for “Bohemia, aquí sentada”
Kristin Michelle Keith–Fourth Place Poetry for “In My Dreams”
Edwin Sandoval–Fifth Place Poetry for “¿Tenemos?”

Congratulations to the award recipients and all the other very talented writers who contributed to the volume.

Prizes sponsored by Dr. Michael Flores, Josefina González, Maritza Park, Emily Anderson, Javier Villanueva, Luie Solís, Carol Concha, Roberto F. Loredo, Elizabeth Cásares, Betancourt Taxes, José Valdez, Abel Muñoz, Velma Rangel, and Debbie S. Rodríguez

Launch and Reception for 2011 Anthology

On May 21, VAO Publishing held the reception/book launch for Along the River at 7:30 pm in the Douglas Clark Studio on 700 N. Main Street, McAllen. Despite the stifling heat and humidity, a large number of people attended, showing their support for the writers included in the anthology and for Valley Artistic Outreach, the parent organization of VAO Publishing. After about a half hour of mingling and refreshments (including Angélica Maldonado’s legendary margaritas), several of the poets who’d contributed to the anthology did readings. Afterward, the recipients of the three poetry and three prose prizes were announced. Copies of the anthology were on sale for $10, and they were snatched up pretty quickly.

VAO Publishing is thrilled to have had the opportunity to get the work of these worthy writers before the public eye. Along the River: An Anthology of Voices from the Río Grande Valley is VAO Publishing’s first annual collection of local authors. It features poetry and prose by a host of local talent, including the short story “The Time About the Dog” by Álvaro Rodríguez, co-screenwriter of the recent films Shorts and Machete.

Prizes were sponsored by Dr. Michael Flores, Josefina González, Maritza Park, Emily Anderson, Javier Villanueva, Luie Solís, Carol Concha, Roberto F. Loredo, Elizabeth Cásares, Betancourt Taxes, José Valdez, Abel Muñoz, Velma Rangel, and Debbie S. Rodríguez.

Refreshments were available due to the generosity of HEB.