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Exploring the Afternoon : M.F. McAuliffe


Often I don't begin with an idea but with an increasing awareness that something is unbalancing me, some...thing in my small world is getting to me. The piece begins as a suspension of thought and a deliberate focus on an almost formless image, a state of apprehension. And then I start jotting. I write with a split mind, almost: one half still maintaining the image, the other being prompted and translating from it.


No. Not from a split mind: a tense, held-together body, one that imitates or physially replicates the split and tension in my mind, that holds the passage open between the dark and the words, the apprehension and the translation, the simultaneous comprehension and the ordering into serial sound; it’s a process parallel to stand-up improv, in some respects – a delicious apprehension of where I’m going, making it up as I go along to get there.


That’s when it’s good, and the piece is short, and I can believe in the benevolence of things. That wasn’t quite the mood of TLAOTW – but that mood was of that ilk.


In fact I rarely begin from an idea; I begin from emotion; TLAOTW began as laughter and exasperation and furtive anger. The characters in TLAOTW were people I grew up around, the women of school, home, family, parish, women overheard on the tram.


I stole the idea of the carriage/tram/enclosed journey from Patrick White, specifically from the Prologue to A Fringe of Leaves. Seeing White’s language and vision and technique (Joycean, Flaubertian, Tolstoyan) applied to “the dreary, dun-coloured” lives that seemed to lie around us, was astonishing.


But coming to understand that I could use my own mundane experience, un-Whitish, unwritten, unepic, trivial, from an utterly ignored edge of the world, to make a piece of fiction that my contemporaries would recognize as being about us – where we lived, how we lived, what we were – was a revelation.


That I could use this piece of fiction as a container for the things I’d seen and felt and wanted to say, was an even greater revelation.


Those revelations were probably a small part of the reason the story was too long. I kept thinking of things I could add; I tried to stuff too much in.


But the secret undertow was that, even though I had understood that it was possible to do this, that it was possible for me to do this, I doubted that I could truly do it. At school I had always been marked down for writing essays that were too short, or were shorter than the demanded length. So my intuitive sense of the right length for some perception  had been weakened, and so, in this story, right when I should have stopped adding, I didn’t. I was dimly aware of that while I was writing it, and after, but I didn’t have the confidence to cut it, or the clear-sightedness to know where it should have been cut.


And so I kept returning to the other-state of tension, beginning again, doubling back, making it longer.


The piece needed a new reader, whose reactions would be immediate and uncontaminated by second-guessing, to pinpoint the spots where the cuts needed go.


Working from very  unformed and unformulated states and intuitions has untoward consequences. I have no conceptual framework to justify myself (even to myself) with; I can often be persuaded that what I’m doing isn’t worth doing, or that what I’m seeing is wrong, that the way I’m going about writing is wrong, that my judgement is fatally off. It leaves me, sometimes, needing careful reading and very precise editing.

Digesting the Bits : Jeff Phillips


If I rotate the word “cohort” in my head many times, it doesn’t necessarily lose its meaning as some words do; it has an aftertaste. Cohort becomes a sort of sneaky verb. I start to think about what’s tying any group together, and it usually comes down to some sort of need in the individual and how it ping pongs against the other members’ need.


Maslowe’s hierarchy gives us many needs to consider. But still, the needs of the members of a cohort may not always be in the open. I think of secret societies, of hidden agendas. As in secret societies, agendas fascinate us all the more when we are cut off from them. 


With American Dyno Kibbles, the aspect of the story I was most interested to explore was the feeling of separation from the group that Chucker feels when he’s awake, discovering he has missed out on something big. As in science, sometimes to understand a dynamic, you must study the absence of it. Exclusion can change an equation too.


One need driving cohorts may indeed be an ego yearning for validation. Chucker was once the big gun of his militia before blacking out, his militia moving onward with its revolution. Despite the revolution being successful, this man does not feel the gleam of achievement. A third string sportsman, no matter how much he feels himself a good sport, cheering on the team, there is a lingering distance between him and the others. Those on the field or the court or the rink are doing all the work, he knows. And in some, this may make them try all the harder, so that others may pay attention.


Chucker in his murky awakening thinks he must one-up his fellows. Perhaps they weren’t thorough; there may be more out there, a counter revolution perhaps, even it is one guy.


We tend to glorify the American Revolution. Our founding fathers are like demigods. Yet with such big personalities, it may not have been all good-guy-bonding and fighting evil empire. Stories are not told of those little moments where they may have felt inferior, that they're not doing enough. A nuclear arms race of accomplishment may be what inflates the give and take and growth of a group.


In a man’s mouth there are, if he’s lucky, 28-32 teeth. When chewing, some of the teeth may be called upon to nip apart a bit. In the course of a meal, depending on the trajectory played out by a mashing tongue, some teeth may not do very much work at all. As the bit is digested, it’s gone from sight, down in the belly. Some teeth may feel their reward, if it’s a crunchy food, it may self clean the tooth. The stomach may also churn up acid that fizzes the enamel off of some of the teeth. If a tooth goes bad, gets infected, the roots of others may be at risk. If teeth had consciousness, and perhaps they do, they may not feel their act of eating and subsequent health a perfectly fair democracy. I use this as an example, since the workings of a man’s mouth, the dynamics between his incisors, is something we rarely consider.


But this piece isn’t just about pulling weight. There’s the element of digestion. A group can experience the benefits of sleeping on an idea, letting something cool off so that they really may come together on a challenge. Not all members must give every task their all. A healthy group maintains longevity, consistency, which necessitates that performers are rotated, and that some rest. Perhaps Chucker’s haste in the end is because he’s still not done digesting those kibbles, and his new situation. If he had let things sink in, he may have realized he could make himself useful in other aspects than being the finest mercenary. But digestion can happen at its own unsettling pace. He may have never even digested properly why they were preparing themselves to be able soldiers.


The idea of ego has caused me some reflection as well in working on a piece for Cohort. Anyone creating something is at risk of tending toward the pride of ownership. But in backing away from such an urge, or attempting to, and really attempting to share a work, and listen to an audience as much as they may be listening to me, digesting feedback and reactions, so that a story may evolve. So that what I’m trying to reflect on as a writer may complement what one may be reflecting on as a reader. No wonder ancient mythologies are ascribed to a whole people. And a mouth is not singled out into which teeth are the most important players.

COHORT : PROCESSES : Reader V. Writer


B. McFarland ( a reader) and M.F. McAuliffe ( a writer) engage each other in a discussion about  her COHORT submission : The Last Afternoon of the War. You can read the story right here on Red Lemonade.


I like how the absence of men is never addressed, a missing cohort. Where are the men? Was there absence by design? 

The men are mostly off at the war, which Rose and Mona are ignoring. And being encouraged to ignore.


Discuss the loudspeakers.  Is this science-fiction? What would you say to the suggestion of more loudspeaker interruptions? Why is the 2nd loudspeaker about temperatures and volcanoes?


There is a science-fictional element to this. Not hard science fiction; it’s more like absurdity rendered as SF.


I don’t want the announcements to interrupt the trip. They are where the characters (& the reader have been going) to the end of what turns out to be the last afternoon of the war. That loudspeakers in the main street would have been one of the first constructions in a state of war makes sense to me. (There are elements here of stories of World War 2, memories of Enid Blyton graphic stories for Very Young Children, an early movie version of 1984 – all sorts of apocalyptic scenarios & stylized bits of this and that, mixed and cherry-picked from.)          


The  2nd  loudspeaker : Because if the sky is falling (announcement 1) the ground will also open up. Haven’t you found this to be so?


Several of my comments on the Red Lemonade site, deal with specific choice of words and repetitive phrasing. Talk a little bit about how a writer responds to a reader who engages your story in this manner. 


It depends. Sometimes I’m irritated because I have usually been very careful about what I have done, and have probably put more thought into that particular word-choice than the reader has. Sometimes I find my naturally dreadful typing has reproduced itself despite my best effort to apply reproductive restrictions. (You think evolution isn’t the natural tendency of things? Consider the humble typo.) Sometimes the reader is very exact about what he/she is having trouble with, and why, and I can see the problem, and change the text – anything from a single word to (oh no!) a complete restructure. Sometimes as soon as someone even begins to point in the general direction of a boo-boo I see it and scream, How could I have done that?


Mona and Rose and Marguerrite, Irene, Maureen and Giselle, so many women with so much going on. The disparity and variety of names is jarring.


The fact that this isn’t an introduction to a novel actually intensifies your point. This is a short story. The reader should at least know where heesh is, or know that being kept in the dark is a deliberate strategy on the writer’s part, which will pay off in some form of… enjoyment / delight.



But most importantly, it becomes difficult to form an emotional attachment or bond with them. The women are not fleshed out. Perhaps reducing the number of characters would bridge this?


Part of the difficulty is that the story isn't about its plot - it's about a mindset. Rose and Mona and their cohorts do state and re-state the obvious, reiterate what has already been suggested, do almost feel something, kind of see something else, reduce the bloody/body to the inanimate, in order not to have to do direct battle with the limits on their lives and circumstances. 

The herky-jerkiness of the piece - Rose's and Mona's internal dialogues - embodies their mindset: nothing can be followed to its logical conclusion; there. All thoughts must be reined in before they leap the fence, as it were.

The corollary of all this careful control is to ignore the uttermost catastrophe in order to maintain efficacy in one tiny sphere. In the cases of Rose and Mona and their cohort (sociologically speaking), that sphere is the family, managing their children – particularly their daughters – into acceptable lives. Rose and Mona are both faced, actually, with Mrs. Bennett’s problem.

Reducing the number of characters by itself won’t achieve what needs to be done. We need this many characters, with their surrounding situations, to get the sense of a cohort of female function(s) in those very marital circs.

The story does need trimming. However, it has to be trimmed exceedingly carefully if it's to retain its life and gentle humor. In terms of trimming I will look at the section you mention, just before the first loudspeaker announcement.In terms of clarifying, I think the section about dinner in the hills with Maureen and her family can smoothed into the narrative with a very small amount of explanation.



Another aspect of my comments dealt with becoming disengaged and losing interest in the story. Specifically, the extended Rose and Mona section before the loudspeaker announcements "drifts", perhaps this section could be shortened? 


I have a feeling you are right about this. The story does go slack. Not much is being added, & at some length. There is a second spot where the slack can be eliminated, and I think that will help a lot.



The variety, disquiet and multiplicity of the women characters tinges my interest to continue reading a little. From a larger perspective— what is the point of the story?  Would you want to introduce a larger cast of characters to hint at the broadness of the tale or is it better to lock in the reader with more fervent and simplistic style?



This was & is a short story with some structural problems.


The closure is that Marguerite did not seem to have what it took to be married. The story illustrates what it took to be married — i.e., at the end the sky is literally falling, the ground is opening up, and Mona is still only determined to find a way to manage her daughter.

I took the idea of the tram-ride from the prologue to a White novel. But as I said earlier, that was all I took from the White book, and I didn't even realize I'd done that until after I'd finished the story.

There are also touches of Monty Python & Edna Everidge in these characters — or, rather, these are somewhat similar characters to some of those who Eric Idle & Barry Humphries satirized. My reasons are slightly different from theirs, less sheerly jeering, more understanding, and, ultimately, more genuinely accusatory, with more real basis. (Despite the relative gentleness of the story.)


I like how Mona touches on the various ongoing life of the city, but it rambles on a bit and does not seem attached to the earlier part. I want some sense of completeness or at least interaction with the piece as a whole.


 Will trim.It’s a question of alluding to the history of the city/war without having to elucidate it – firstly, because this is a short story, a gentle satire, and the backdrop is a tissue of lies, and, secondly, because the focus of the story is the way Rose & Mona and their cohorts think.


Maybe Mona and Rose need to be flushed out more as characters?


This is gentle satire. The form and concept require them to be types. You don't need an emotional attachment to them. You just need to recognize them, smile at them being captured on paper, and then pass on.


Would you be willing to transform this opening chapter into a more cohesive and close-looped short story? And deepen the interconnections with the multiple women characters to expose more of the alliances and group-think?


Will trim.  I understand your frustration, but the story is a bubble, a souffle – it can only take so much heavy structural re-adjustment. The tone will move – and what was good will disappear altogether.


I wonder if the sections "that wander off" only just need to be tightened up?


One went to fat camp; the other to liposuction.


I think 'it feels like an intro to a novel' is my way of expressing the lack of connection I feel for the artistic argument for the expressionistic/consciousness flow of it I get..... I wonder if my sense of unconnectedness to it is purely a male thing ( I am perhaps too focused on clear-cut and rational explorations..?)


No. That reaction to that degree points to problems in the text. I suspect trimming / tightening / editing will fix the piece and allay that reaction, but the only way to find if that is true is to trim the piece and see if it works better then.

It’s hard to say until you can react to a second draft. The ideal reader in ideal circustmstances comes to a text with no expectation, competely open… But no one has the time or money for that, which is why convers and blurbs are what they are. So: if trimming the piece doesn’t remove the unclarity of its tone & take, then we might have to add one of those awful, well, subtitles you supposed they were, though Ralph always said perfection didn’t need them.


Expose the cohort more.


I suspect this is one of those cases where trimming will do what lengthening won’t. It’s odd how deceptive these problems can be. The 2 main reasons something doesn’t work are that the something is too short, or that it isn’t long enough. Often what seems to be wrong is the opposite of what is really wrong. (And sometimes the thing is just misconceived altogether. I put those away as fast as I can, and let the filing cabinet rumble shut.)

In the end I left most of the last section alone: Marguerite in the cake-shop needs her own story – she is also part of the cohort in the sense that she was expected to join, but didn’t (i.e. she never married). She is the third character who gets more than implied characterization, and that seems to me the minimum number for a cohort. And besides, the war is ending, and we need a cinemascope closeup of the show.





A COHORT of interns and volunteers

The Cohort Writing Initiative will continue to expand as we move into the new year.  Red Lemonade seeks interns and volunteers to assist with editorial tasks, content creation with writers, social media promotion and reading and engagement with independent literature.


COHORT seeks alternative literary fiction inspired by the idea and associations of the word cohort as well as the dynamic of group interactions. We are seeking stories which explore the text, speech, and language that explores the dynamic of the allegiances, commitments and alliances between a group of of people. These folks can be associated by the accident of time, the catchings of memory or the pyschological underpinnings of culture and society which make us do the things we do. Cracking open the codes and speech of a cohort of folks as they move through history while confronting time and each other.

Red Lemonade community members, readers and writers open up the process of story creation, creative inspiration, writing tasks and other elements of the publishing process and share and engage everyone with post on the Red Lemonade blog which are promoted via the Red Lemonade platform.  Take a look on the Red Thread: Cohort: Processes:


Take a look at the early submissions here :


To join the COHORT as an intern or volunteer, please email : cohort AT







COHORT- For Your Consideration (IMAGES) by Marco Maisto













COHORT- For Your Consideration (TEXT) by Marco Maisto

X + 1 Ways of Discerning at a Cohort


(A Garland for Audience, Writer, Reader, and the Gathering Shadow Between.)


How could mad particles be produced by anything but a gigantic cyclotron?

            Deleuze & Guattari, “1914: One or Several Wolves?”


To the Reader:


The COHORT writing initiative puts an open prompt in front of the community: here’s this extremely context-dependant concept, equal parts group formation, organizing principle, and heuristic tool—now: go to work.  Let’s explore how.

I’d like to use heterogenous fragments to examine how a cohort functions as anassemblage.  In “Two Regimes of Madness,” Gilles Deleuze (discussing his work with Félix Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus) offers us a working definition of the latter concept:


But what we are saying is that the idea of assemblages can replace the idea of behavior, and thus with respect to the idea of assemblage, the nature-culture distinction no longer matters. In a certain way, behavior is still a countour. But an assemblage is first and foremost what keeps very heterogeneous elements together: e.g. a sound, a gesture, a position, etc., both natural and artificial elements. The problem is one of “consistency” or “coherence,” and it prior to the problem of behavior. How do things take on consistency? How do they cohere?Even among very different things, an intensive continuity can be found. We have borrowed the word “plateau” from Bateson precisely to designate these zones of intensive continuity.*


An abstract machine tied together by the affect of its numerous parts in a moment.  A book is an assemblage, its dialects are an assemblage, it characters, their relation to the author, his to the reader: it all depends which stratum we want to look at.  Here we are concerned with how any number of these assemblages act when they are rendered as cohorts. 

Taking from Deleuze & Guattari, I have been asking of this construct, “what is it?  What is it for?”  And then seeing how useful it is without being picky about subject matter.  This part of the autumn in New York is sort of a Caulfieldian time to walk around and not be too picky, I’ll say.  And so below are some applications of the notion of cohort-structure and behavior that start right where they seem to get interesting and stop right before they seem to sound phoney.


            [NOTE: Because has collaborative potential, I am releasing my thoughts as a “garland”: it can be added-to, worn on the wrist, around the head, slung over the mantle.  Feel free to add your bits to the strand, but don’t try to tie it off.  Just indulge the exercise and know—please!—that it gets better if the reader turns the screw and becomes a contributor.

            If you’d like to add (to) a section, make a comment and then mark with brackets the text you’d like to see added. That way everyone can see what everyone would like to say no matter what and if, the weeks to come, the editors choose to curate various versions, everyone can be credited where due.

            The editor requests that whatever the content of your submission, that an effort be made to offer writing that has a continuity of voice or tone with the following selections.  It’s an exercise in style.]


            * My thankes to Levi Bryant for this find, and his interesting notes, found onLarvalSubjects.



A Cohort as Negative Theology


COHORT: far easier to define what it is NOT, a cohort coincidentally has negativity in its make up.  In a word, a cohort is a grouping with an agnostic relationship between its parts that exists FOR something other than itself.  The moment you try to form a for-itself cohort, what you end up with is a collaborative (one extreme) or a cabal (the other).




The Greatest TV Star of All Time


John Henry’d say all sorts of stuff and then just say something about TV or something else like it.  Always it’d be a show everyone’d seen or at least since we all had cable at this point in our lives we’d’ve known what it was.  Of course by cable I mean basic anyold television, what with all sorts antennae not working for anything except disaster reports anyhow even if Margie’d say different and she always did.  Anyhow John Henry’d, say:


“The best example of a cohort I can think of is the team of doctors on HOUSE, M.D.”




“Yeah they really don’t care for one another even if they work well together which almost they don’t and the patients are always dying or having their lives wrecked.  The doctor’s skills are specialized, but aren’t complimentary really.  But they are a perfect cohort because they’re always there in the service of this madcap doctor who only ever cares if things get more complicated and interesting.  And so they complicate things and make things interesting.  That’s their skill, really.  You could say they’re the best team in a crisis, but really only if the crisis is of their own making.  They’re like full-cycle recruiters.  Not really I guess that hardly’s anything to say.

“But you might say they are terrible at what they do, unless if what they are supposed to do is be the most manipulated team in medical history.  You might say, you know, their boss (their leader) does really want everyone to live and get better, and he wants the problems to get solved or even for their not to be any problems, so he can play piano and watch TV.  But the thing of it is that Gregory House isn’t their boss or even the defining principle behind the cohort.  He just wants to chill and get dark, preferably alone. 

The Boss is House’s addiction to Vicodin, it’s what organizes and prompts everything the team does from cure to argument to occasional sport-fuck.  And an addiction always wants drama and chaos.  That’s why it’s the greatest TV star of all time





Atom leaned back and finished his qualification by saying:


The darkest cohorts, if you ask me, are the ones that leave their members by the wayside in search of something other-than, outside-of and more sinister.  Or at least that’s a part of all cohorts.  The conditions of their ultimate fracture or dissolution are there from the start, like the noises of a slackening grandfather clock in the living room of a who of a man of a whom is having a heart attack because he forgot to wind his ticker.




It seems accurate to say that a cohort cannot have a collective unconscious.  A cohort is more of a mosaic built of chipped memories, depicting a group of friends with a shared trauma vacationing at a rented house on the shore.




A rainment of appointments fettering a crown.  (Sincerity in images, poetic function in the kinematics of qualisigns.)  The crown is there to situate disparate precious stones and imply a natural relation by their juxtaposition.  At the moment of coronation, the cohort becomes the indexical icon of the king’s relation to his court-cohort, who situate him at the head of state by serving as its proxy. 

Why is this image so compelling?





A cohort gels in much the same way as an addressee depends upon knowledge of its relationship to the speaker to understand itself.  Except that for a cohort the speaker is generally a principle or idea represented by a proxy (real or ideal) whose own motivations are by no means the same as the principle or the group.  Considered as a cohort, the chapters of If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler are addressed to the livre as a whole, torn between hunting the reader and stalking the book itself, whichever will allow them to dissolve their provisional alliance and ground their volatile charge sooner, faster, most fully.




The Genre Lesson


Someone who looked at this asked that it should please be more about writing.  It’s very understandable. 

One could write very well on the difference between literary movements and writerly cohorts.  Even more interesting, one could write an essay on how the composition of the latter influences content.




ClaireFontaine’s first book, the one that made her such an attractive member of the circle, was about how Frankenstein was conceived by an ad hoc, provisional cohort.  She went on to talk about how this was linked to the monster’s being a sort of Body without Organs, strung together from people’s contributions, as it were.  But her piece was really hot in that she went on to discuss how this process really created the conditions for something like FRANKENSTEIN; AGENT OF S.H.A.D.E, the comic where in people had to collaborate by literally drawing the monster to together in real time.  it was one of those lectures where the speaker is practically beatific, which I guess means Saint-like.  One of those where people go in their free time, half expecting to be bored, and end up giving an ovation with little tears they haven’t shown their family or their god for years forming in their pineal eyes.




I would like to claim that when writers choose to group units of their work, that these groups inevitably seem to take one the characteristics of real social formations, micropolitics, attitudes, behaviours.  Further, I think it’s a tacit acceptance on the part of a reader to permit these anthropomorphic likenesses traction at the back of the mind.  For a moment, I want to regard a collection of stories or poems as a provisional ritual driven toward the regimenting or dismantling of the cohort (the poems, stories) assembled under a single title.





Most books of poems are collections.  Some are little machines.  The really dangerous ones are cohorts in search of a reader.  Like LUNCH POEMS or CAN YOU HEAR, BIRD?, or EDIFICIO SAYONARA or ARIEL or all of Dickenson.





Some stories get put together and they break the membrane between accretion and affection.  DUBLINERS, EVERYTHING THAT RISES MUST CONVERGE do that.  With that approach you get to keep and craft voice.  A cohort without a powerful  assemblage has voice without timbre.






Those that have it- the dangerous ones- have collective enunciation.  WHAT WE TALK ABOUT WHEN WE TALK ABOUT LOVE teases at this, but RAISE HIGH THE ROOFBEAMS, CARPENTERS, SLOW LEARNER (very much so), LABRYNTHS, MY SYMPTOMS, STORIES OUT OF OMARIE (a perfect livre, if you ask me), t-Zero have it. 




Short fiction volumes are like the information-scientists answer to Bakhtinian novelistic polyphony






Hey, Meg, do you remember when we could shatter ourselves in Chicago?  When the nitrous oxide at the window and my head in Lake Michigan, when the blacksmithy of the granite dormitory back on their body?, when the flower of your hair?  Like leaving breadcrubs of ineliuctable experience to return to (even if they were imagined then, they are just as pure as any other memories now)?  You had such awful friends. 




A cohort is a microculture that is confined to its own stratum of experience in terms of ritual, linguistic and temporal efficacy.  The magic that works for the hunting party dissolves with the kill.  The Bear





(Cohort-in-Constellation: For Fans Only)


Even as DC comics attempted to tell a single story in the events leading up toFinal Crisis and Flashpoint, (and yes the whole affair is dripping with marketing prowess), by fragmenting and (post?) proto-ret-conning the entire franchise with the NEW 52, as many story arcs come in global, centripetal alignment as a slow moving invasion of uneasy for relationships.  At the level of the global graphic novel, the EARTH X trilogy has this in spades.  At the level of the graphic novel, the world of PREACHER comes to mind.  At the level of the series, all of the characters in the story-in-search-of-a-storytelling genre of SWAMP THING are a cohort to the titular character.  At the level of the team, a cohort is much more JLA and AVENGERS than it is X-MEN, even if the latter is a pure cohort at the level of story.




A band of plots of land.  (Of prose articulations, author-gardener, story-sun)  BLOCKS OF BECOMING.





Speaking of cohorts we speaking not only of human groupness, but of groupings of molar identities, of knowledge, of objects, design, orders of signs, and literary items of numerous logical types, we can talk about perception, memory and becoming.  Or, for the purposes of this discussion,writing.




Addressees of a shared moment in time.  (Iconic indexical symbol, Groupness a posteriori, photophilia in plants) RHIZOME





Nora-tuk picked up the card, it depicted a fuzzy black cloud falling off the edge of a cliff or a margin (it was hard to tell), and racing for the spot where her thumb rested on the rounded corner.  At the top it read:




And on the reverse,


or, the uncanny valley between we, they, us, here, and there—.


Her doppelganger’s boyfriend went on.


“…from the perspective of the swarm it is always there, what is next.  there is no backchanneling, and feedback holds the group together, but as a mechanism is only immanent in the next exteriority.  the next thing.  the next there, that, than. . .”


Faster and faster now.


“. . . a swarm writes itself, it is written in the second person, enduringly at the edge of speaking, but more often just moving.  the swarm is a singularity and in it the individual is not subsumed or erased, nor does the individual confuse the power of its utterance with that of the whole that utters it.  rather, the utterance the individual articulates is always the same- contingently- with that of the whole.  THE ADDRESSEE OF ALL SWARMS OPPOSED TO THAT OF COHORTS IS THE REMAINDER OF THE SWARM’S RAID, ITS FEEDING, ITS MIGRATION, HOME-INVASION OR FORTIFICATION.  IT IS A CORPSE, THE LAMENTATION OF WOMEN, THE EARTH AFTER THE FIRST AND MOST RECENT MARATHON, IT IS NOT THE QUEEN, BUT THE BEEHIVE.  It’s Kerouac’s roll of paper, not as it was but as it is in his telling and as it can only be behind glass at an exhibit at the New York library when I saw it when I was in high school, when I was dating not Sainte-Claire, but her white eyes, the ones that were the last two-way mirror separating the one standing in my shoes from the one brave enough to get naked, or even—close enough—to greenlight that handjob at the back of the empty planetarium in the dead of winter. 


“. . .On the other hand for the cohort there is a we but only in relation to the he.  the we is always provisional and nominal, like an empty chair left at the table to remember us now to us then that we were in love and had something really, really special.”




Adele was turning over tables when she thought of how she wanted to reply to Atom’s letter.


In this last sense, the surrealists cannot be considered a cohort, the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets may (?).  For all of Pounds little words the Imagists cannot, but I feel like the Objectivists can.  Along with a certain selection of1970s minimalist sculpture (not sculptors).  Poets and fiction writers who are sort of baptized by National Public Radio are.  Perhaps one of the greatest pitfalls of MFA programs is de facto/indeterminate nature of the cohorts that come out and about because of them.


As a writer, audience, and reader, I believe that the most interesting literary cohorts tend to consist of writers, visual artists, and conceptual artists.  These don’t so much have a name for them, but the New York School is one of those more-than-a-style, less-than-a-movement, more-than-a-state-of-mind/less-than-a-taxonomy affective assemblages.




The Body, Stand By Me, River’s Edge, The Narcotics Anonymous Step Working Guide, Brightest Day, The Dangerous Summer, 13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, 13 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei, the Song of Songs, Barthes par Barthes, and the melancholy world of A.A. Milne.




“Always-emergent and rigidifying language ideologies are the basis of membership in a human cohort.  A cohort is singular insofar as the feedback loops that include and exclude new meanings are themselves proxies for agency at the group level.  When learning occurs in a cohort, it is generally a sign that the existing force alignments are unsuitable for an inevitable circumstance.” 






The more I think about it, the Stephen King of the 1980s is horror’s contribution to cohort-storytelling.  It might explain why his endings seem more like dissolutions.





A rosary is a cohort.  Farmer’s daughters are a cohort.  Jokes about farmer’s daughters are a cohort.  Heliophiliac stalks on the giant clover plant that survived the cat.





Marco Maisto is a writer and creative director of Threshold Text Ecology NYC, a nonprofit environment for writer’s working in radical collaboration.  Fragments from a novel in partial public development can be found at andposthumandesign.wordpress.comand short fiction here on  In collaboration with Caroline DeVane, his new poetry can be found in the forthcoming issue of Drunken Boat (#16) at, folio edited by Kristin Prevallet.

COHORT- Processes : Sketches of Inspiration


Sometimes I like to be able to step back from the words on the page and doodle the characters drunkenly on cocktail napkins. This is not necessarily to lay down the specifics of say, their clothes, but to hash out an overall energy to them, like a caricature. Though it may seem to simplify them at first, it serves as a jumping off point for me to dig deeper into who they are, once a basic personality is interesting enough to make me want to actually save the cocktail napkin.

                               -   Jeff Phillips
























COHORT- Processes : A Walk Around the Food Bowl: The Making of American Dyno Kibbles by Jeff Phillips


Short story ideas tend to come to me as titles first. A phrase may pop into my head. It bobs and hovers, trying to find itself, and I feel inspired to figure out what that story would be. It serves as a jumping off point, and helps my brain organize the exploration of the story experience, by assigning an encompassing nomenclature to house the mesh of other ideas that whir and tap.

For American Dyno Kibbles the title first bumped in 2006. I had just received my first laptop as a college graduation present. In its original form it was more of a monster piece, kind of a fucked up Clifford the Dog, where his dog food makes him grow out of control, and sickly, with scaly skin and a heart condition. Soon after the first draft my apartment got burgled and my laptop was a goner. I hadn’t backed up the file. Years later, the title American Dyno Kibbles still rattled in the recesses of my mind and I wanted to do something with it.

Over this past 4th of July weekend I was in Lexington, MI watching the small town fireworks. Every 4th of July, I get partially sentimental and think about what the original onset of Independence must have felt like, to see a celebration that truly rang with a glee for future freedom and freshness. My cousin was holding her newborn baby. The baby was asleep. My whole family was amazed that he could sleep through the fireworks! They were damn loud. He awoke during the grand finale. And I started to think about that feeling of being part of the revolution that must have brought about such joy for new liberty, and what if someone had slept through the final fight, missed out on the culmination of this comraderie, and had to enjoy its fruits while groggy and disheartened.

The central character in this is me, it is also you. We’ve all had those moments we’ve worked hard, but perhaps not efficiently, and we’ve dropped the ball in a bigger context to our duties and job descriptions. We may work long hours, but we may work ourselves into oblivion, a sort of waking coma. Years ago, I worked as an Operations Manager for an event photography company, and experienced such a trend. I thought myself the poster boy for work ethic and dedication. I aimed to rise upon the rungs of the corporate ladder, and I did! And like the central character, Chucker, I pushed myself a little too far, lost my balance so to speak, I started to “screw the pooch” on some projects, but there still existed in me the desire to be better, to serve the whole, to dust myself off and take more on my plate because I felt the company needed me to contribute. Chucker is the American worker, driven, with a propensity to feel guilt when not displaying that drive, so they dive into the workflow, however reckless, without always considering how to make that work flow. As much as my story has taken a different course than its very first draft years ago, the theme still lingers. A big dog grows bigger and deteriorates, so does a hard hitting man who drills himself to the point of sitting on the sidelines.

I know when I awake from a deep slumber, I need a good breakfast to get me going again and shake off the murky nerve receptors. American Dyno Kibbles re-emerged as a sort of super food, perhaps used by said sleepy soldier to come to terms with the guilt of his malaise and perk him up to summon at least some sort of productive gusto. My cat eats his dry food first thing in the morning and proceeds to run around the apartment, a burst of energy, from this little bite of a veterinary cereal, compact with all the nutrients to power a healthy animal.

There was a period of my life, high school, when I was engaged in competitive running and Nordic skiing, where I was obsessed with protein. I wanted my efforts to pay off in the form of sharp snapping sinews, so I’d pay attention to the protein count, and load up. And this extended to carbohydrates of course, for every runner revels in the act of carbo-loading. We’d get together the night before Meets and throw spaghetti dinners. Like dogs on an even social plane when shoving faces into food bowls beside one another, mealtime is a beautiful time for anyone wishing to get to know another person. Like Chucker, I’d get injuries, and the protein I thought important for me to consume to feed the healing process. But equally important for the healing of the wound was being part of the team. And ho! How similar this is to the writing process for me, loading up on life experience, ideas, and throwing down tales to share with others. Any inner scabs that get scraped in applying them to world creation can be soothed by the community reading it and saying, yeah, I’ve done that before too.

The idea of a cohort can seep from sociological connotations, to psychological cohesions of different aspects of one personality, a personal cohort within a bigger community cohort. We can look at the first step in creating a story as throwing down fragments of the writer’s own psyche. And as I eat my morning cereal and load up protein rich eggs, I seek to move this story forward so that each of these characters may see the growth of their own inner cohort of talents and flaws.


You can read Jeff's story here :

The words they use : A personal exploration of COHORT


A group of Red Lemonaders and myself, via email, chat and telephone conversations, had a lengthy discussion about a new theme for the writers, readers and members of our online publishing community.  The Hybrid Beasts manuscripts generated many comments and resulted in great interaction, editing and commenting between the readers and writers themselves. It was fantastic to have our guest editor, Molly Gaudry, review the works at the end of process, select a favorite and provide feedback on the stories. All of us wanted to have the editorial process more transparent and clear from the very beginning to provide more direct interaction and engagment.  Certainly, for COHORT, all reader and writers are highly encouraged to  interact and comment on the stories. Their suggestions, review and editorial suggestions will work in conjunction with several Red Lemonade community members who will dedicate time to reviewing and commenting on the uploaded stories.

Hybrid Beasts certainly revealed that a way to make the whole process clearer and more focused is to have a theme to provide a starting off point for a large number and wide variety of people, to work as a writing prompt, and inspire creativity and engagement moving towards a final publication. Several suggestions were discussed and the group made a final decision on COHORT.  See the previous Cohort Post which explores the etymology of the word, outlines how we plan to engage the community and our request for submissions here :

As a member of the Cohort Team, I wanted to explore my personal take on the cohort theme. This explanation serves to convey the theme from my personal biases and expectations for submissions. The hope is to elucidate one aspect of the theme,since I am dedicated to commenting on the uploaded manuscripts, This essay will make my understanding and editorial  perspective more transparent from the beginning. Other team members will also share their thoughts as well in the future.

I was reading an article about venture capitalists in Ireland and Europe who were confronted with business difficulties that were different than American entrepeneurs. While the exaact situations were very different, much of the same ideas and behaviors expressed and words used were very familar. I am fascinated in the ways that language seeps across borders and allies people to gather. The ways words work to bind people and how allegiances form and transmute over time. In particular, how a newcomer comes to learn and adapt to the mores of a group of people via their particular language use and the stories they tell amongst themselves. In Tom Wolfe's Electric Kool Aid Acid Test, the phrase ' you are either on the bus or off the bus' starts as an offhand comment, becomes a guideline for behavior, morphs into a slightly authoritarian dictate and colors and defines the whole unique journey. In Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, Tyrone Slothrop travels across the Zone and confronts individuals who are agents of particular military, rocket fetishist  and intelligence organizations. Each of which promote their worldview and causes with unique and varied agendas with unique words, songs, scientific jargon and mythic stories as they seek comprehension and control. In Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, the newborn child is immediately engaged with language (moocow) in ways unique to his environment and historical place. Simple symbols like the color of roses are starting expressions of entrenched, volatile historical conflicts mired in theology and history. They are part of the very first words he experiences and learns!  The ways in which words are used to bend and meld our awareness and reveal the intentions of allegiances of groups of people is my personal fascination with COHORT.

In the future, other Cohort Team members will share their take on the theme. Together we will work on commenting, editing and selection. An important part of the selection process will be the feedback from readers and writers from the whole community. I would like to see stories that explore the cohort theme more deeply while exposing the underpinning that lie within the interactions of several people. The Roman military unit provides a starting off point, but the word traverses enclosed garden spaces, scientific studies, allies moving through history and into criminal activity. While I seek to experience stories which touch on my understanding of the theme, turning it around in surprising ways is always a delight. At its core, for me, COHORT is about groups using language to define themselves and capture newcomers to their purposes. There are stories there.


Brian McFarland

Cohort Team Member











COHORT #5 : Submission Request


RED LEMONADE is seeking submissions for its first community curated anthology COHORT.   The anthology will be based on a more transparent editorial model, where the unique features of Red Lemonade’s manuscript submission and on page community feedback system will be used to open up the process of selection from slush to publication.

 We are looking for short fiction submissions, with a word count around 5,000 or less, that relate to the etymology of the word COHORTin some way.  The only other requirement is that the work fits under our umbrella term Alternative Literature.  Please refer to the five Red Lemonade published books out in the word, including a PEN/Robert Bingham Prize winner, and the HYBRID BEAST ePub, as the starting point for our definition of Alternative Literature but by no means limit yourself to just these examples.  

Manuscripts can be uploaded to Red Lemonade via the home page by creating a user account and then clicking the Write Now tab and requesting author access for submission rights.   All submissions for the anthology will be publicly available for review, commenting and editing by the community members immediately upon upload, please include (COHORT) in your submission title.  The drop dead date for submissions is early 2013.  Then the real work begins.

The goal of the COHORT anthology is to create, destroy and recreate a process for editorial feedback that empowers community members to champion the voices they admire—while providing the opportunity to discuss why one piece makes the cut and another doesn’t.  Once the deadline for submissions passes, the selection process for the anthology begins as directed by the comments, enthusiasm and author response for the submitted manuscripts.   Manuscripts that seem to drive the conversation regarding alternative literature and that work on a instinctual level will be put forward to the community for possible inclusion in the anthology.  The final editorial critiques and suggestions will be presented to the author via the open comments feature of the site and the community as a whole will take stock of submissions on the “short list”.  All community members will be encouraged to openly support or question the choices for the anthology, and make the case for the inclusion of one author’s submission over another.  We ask that all comments be mindful of the goal of Red Lemonade to foster a home for adventurous, earnest, spiteful, offensive, enlightening, uncanny, and profoundly brilliant alternative literature.

Simultaneous submissions are accepted and encouraged, please cast a wide net for all your submissions, but do keep track and let us know the good news if your piece is accepted somewhere else.

For more insight into what we’re looking for please examine, parse and re-interpret our postings here, here, hereand thereconcerning COHORT.