Volume I and II Bonus Material Explanations

Daniela Olszewska & Carol Guess have embarked on a sweet collaborative series; here is more about the project:

“How To Enjoy Your Wedding As A Pregnant Bride” is part of a book-length series of flash fiction/short shorts/prose poems inspired by articles on the user-generated content site, WikiHow. The project, titled How To Feel Confident With Your Special Talents, contains pieces based on the articles listed below. Please note that the pieces are in no way intended to take the place of the advice of a serious/licensed/New York-based professional.

How to Do the Cha Cha
How to Cheat at Poker
How to Take Action when You Lose Sight of Your Child at an Amusement Park
How to Climb a Ladder Safely
How to Dress for an Ouija Board Session
How to Calculate the Value of Scrap Gold
How to Earn a Legitimate Living Working from Home
How to Donate Your Body to Science
How to Avoid Leaving DNA at a Scene or How to Descend a Staircase Gracefully
How to Use the Hungarian Algorithm
How to Tell the Difference Between Nerds and Geeks
How to Ensure No One Argues when Playing Princess Party Games or How to Stop Misbehaving in Public
How to Avoid Overstimulation or How to Reattach Plastic Lettering to a Jersey
How to Avoid Suspicion and Paranoia
How to Make a Meal of One Color or How to Stop Co-workers from Stealing Your Food
How to Remember a Person’s Name
How to Be a Good Neighbour
How to Make People Think You’re Immortal
How to Be Friends With a Lesbian
How to Laugh Naturally on Cue
How to Deal With People Who Insist That Something Is Bothering You when Nothing Is Really Wrong
How to Tolerate Working with Obnoxious People or How to Perform a Simple Leap Over Stairs
How to Overcome Procrastination Using Self Talk
How to Get an Egg Into a Bottle or How to Act at a Funeral
How to Draw an Accurate Mental Map of the World
How to Ride an Icelandic Horse
How to Politely Decline an Invitation to an Airport Lounge or How to Meet New People Without Being Creepy
How to Cope When Someone Disrespects a Pastime You Are Passionate About
How to Quit Smoking or How to Remove Mold Lines from Metal Miniatures
How to Apply for Unemployment in Texas
How to Avoid Making a Bad Situation Worse
How To Recognize Radiation Sickness
How to Get Rid of Bruises
How to Pretend You Have a Pet or How to Make a Secret Compartment in a Carpet
How to Ignore Pain and Feelings
How to Avoid Drama with Your Best Friend
How to Get a Job Without a GED or How to Ride a Horse with One Arm
How to Choose a Wedding Cake or How to Practice Non-Attachment
How to Reset Your Password
How to Be and Look Like A Mean Girl While in Girl Scouts or How to Make a Bullet Belt
How to Get Over Your Fear of Doing a Cartwheel or How to Give a Feedback Sandwich
How to Practice Supermarket Checkout Etiquette
How to Stop Saying the Word “Like” or How to Create a D/u/ress Code
How to Put High Heels on a Guy While He’s Asleep
How to Survive a Tornado
How to Prevent Malaria When You’re Traveling
How to Appreciate an Obese Family Member
How to Remain Unchanged by Fame
How to Stop Thinking that Accepting Help is a Sign of Weakness
How to Picnic in a Graveyard or How to Get Your Enemy to Like You Romantically
How to Regift a Present
How to Convince a Shy Person to Be Your Valentine or How to Make a Heart Shaped Pumice Candle Holder
How to Build a Remote Controlled Robot
How to Stop Being in Love With a Person You’ll Never Meet
How to Feel Confident With Your Special Talents

Due to the finite nature of our creative/professional/personal lives, we were unable to craft a piece for every single article on the WikiHow site. Below, you will find a list of article titles we would have written pieces for, if we were superhuman computers with infinite time, patience, and vocabularies. Please note, some of the articles listed are not yet in existence and/or may be in dire need of an update.

How to Become the Head Cheerleader
How to Use Directory Assistance (Australia)
How to Plant a Rock Garden
How to Make a Remote Control Car Toy Spin Like a Tornado
How to Make a Dress Out of a Skirt
How to Photograph Small Things
How to Help a Pregnant Guinea Pig
How to Make Someone Feel Like A String Is Being Pulled From Their Hand
How to Swallow a Pill
How to Chop Onions With Only a Knife
How to Stop Letting Ignorant People Bother You
How to Make a Square from Rectangular Paper
How to Act Like You’re Good-Looking
How to Eat a Pretzel
How to Break Up With Someone Who Lives in Philadelphia
How to Puke on Airplane Without Drawing Too Much Attention To Yourself
How to Negotiate Your Way Out of a Hostage Situation
How to Spell Out Dirty Words on a Graphing Calculator
How to Build a Noah’s Ark
How to Hula Hoop In The Middle of a Busy Intersection and Not Get Yelled At
How to Genetically Engineer a Mouse To Glow-in-the-Dark
How to Help Your Adult Child Become a Reality TV Superstar
How to Accept A Date From An Off-Duty Police Officer
How to Avoid Paying Your Student Loans
How to Eat a Cactus
How to Get Out of Gym Class When You’re On Your Period
How to make emoticons work for you
How to Play Lacrosse With Fruit
How to Stage a Home for Sale Using Thrift Store Furniture
How to Uninvite Someone to Your Party
How to Appreciate the Music of Your Homeland
How to Play Naughty Nurse If You Are Over 18
How to Give Back To Your Community Without Lifting a Finger
How to Top From The Bottom
How to Mow the Lawn With a Pushmower
How to Put a Condom on a Banana
How to Dress Like a Republican’s Mistress
How to Compost a Cereal Box
How to Walk a Dog Past a Cat
How to Stay Indie in the Face of Corporate Temptation
How to Draft a Pre-Nup
How to Brew Coffee In a Sock
How to Make Emoticons Work for You


Matt Bell explains his story from Stoked Volume I.

“El Camino Education,” reprinted in this first issue of Stoked Journal, was the first story I ever published, back in 2004. It was published in the Drexel Online Journal, edited by Albert DiBartolomeo, which has been out of print for at least three or for years now—I had to use the Wayback Machine to capture the above screen image.

I wrote this story when I was twenty-three or twenty-four, had either just got married, or was just about to. (Probably the latter.) At the time, I’d been writing fiction seriously for two or three years, and had—at the suggestion of my community college writing professor—signed up for a writing conference at a university in Detroit. I’d never been to something like that before, but I was desperate—desperate!—to be taken seriously as a writer, even though there wasn’t any reason for anyone to do so yet, and wouldn’t be for many, many years still. On the hour drive to the conference, I got stuck in traffic behind an El Camino, much like the one in the story, with a bed full of boxed junk, its contents all spilling, the occasional light object flying out. Unable to pass, I drove behind the vehicle most of the way there, and so it was on my mind when I arrived at the university.

I was early for the conference, and like a guy who remembers how to brush his teeth right before a visit to the dentist, I was suddenly a dedicated writer, an observer of life who couldn’t wait to make some fiction of what he’d seen. I pulled out my notebook—something I would never do at home, being a computer-only kind of writer—and got a whole first draft done in the window of time available. Then, feeling overly satisfied with myself, I went into the conference, chest-puffed and got my confidence shattered by a particularly pompous workshop leader, who asked me who my favorite writer was, then dismissed my choice at great length in front of the other participants, while telling me I couldn’t be a writer because I hadn’t read this book or this book or this book. (Months later, he would email me in the middle of the night about my workshop story—which would later be one of my first print publications, in Barrelhouse—and suggested that what it really needed was for the brother/sister duo in the story to have an incestuous relationship at the end of the story. I did not take his advice.)

So that’s the story around the story, and of course most of it’s probably only interesting to me. Looking back at the fiction itself now, there’s a few things that jump out at me: I was rereading Denis Johnson’s novels over and over at the time, and his influence is all over the story, although my want to mimic was certainly higher than my ability to, or even my understanding of what it is that he actually does. Still, that ending is straight of the Jesus’ Son playbook. There’s also the dialogue, which—as spare as it is—is more realistically conversational than dialogue I would write now, and there’s more of it: I don’t know if I’ve written a story since that hinges so clearly upon a conversation, although it’s still more stylized than realistic, which is a direction I’ve kept going in.

More than anything, what I remember about having this story published then was that it provided a greatly-needed bit of affirmation that what I was doing was worthwhile to someone, that there would be someone who wanted to read what I wrote. That wasn’t yet apparent then, and it didn’t necessarily feel like it ever would be. I’m not sure my self-identification as a writer or desire to be one meant much to anyone in my life then. No one actively discouraged me, but I didn’t have many practicing writer friends, my family didn’t really understand, and I didn’t know exactly what I was doing, was just starting to meet online the first people who would help show me the way. I was a college dropout working a job I didn’t particularly like, but that I still had years and years of ahead of me, before I would go back for the schooling I needed to get out of it. In truth, I wasn’t really a writer then, didn’t exhibit many of the qualities I now take to define myself: I didn’t yet even know what that would mean, the work it would end up taking to get me from that story in 2004, to where I am now, seven years later, this place that I know is really just another kind of beginning, despite all the good that has happened to me. It was too early for me to be sending out stories—that’s obvious now, despite what good there is in this piece, and I think I knew then too—but that early publication meant everything at the time, gave me the confidence that there would be more good to come of my work, and surely that little bit of confidence kept me going during those harder days, when there was less proof that my efforts would ever amount to anything. So thank you to Albert DiBartolomeo, for being the first person to publish me, long before anyone else would: Probably more than that story ever meant to anyone else reading it in 2004, it for a time meant nearly everything to me.


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