Contributor Spotlight: Chelsea Sutton

“The Language of Crabs” by Chelsea Sutton appeared in Issue 25 and can be read here.

We’d love to hear more about this wonderful story. 

I came up with the title “The Language of Crabs” YEARS ago. It’s just been one of those things I’ve held onto, knowing that I’d eventually find the story that went with it. I took one of Kathy Fish’s flash fiction workshops (which I totally recommend) and wrote the first four paragraphs or so of the story in an exercise, thinking that maybe it would be a flash piece…but no sir. The thing that finally spurred the final draft was learning about the Tamam Shud case – a true crime unsolved mystery about a body found on a beach in Adelaide, Australia. The body was never identified and a piece from the final page of a copy of Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam was found in his pocket. What was really interesting to me was the way the community reacted to the mystery…so John Doe turned into a boy on a Northwest shore with lyrics from a fictious band and I finally found the story. 

What was the most difficult part in writing this story? 

Deciding on songs for the crabs to sing! I’m not a huge music buff so I couldn’t come up with any music that was not pop in some way. I made up the Wendigo Girls so that was easy to shape them into what I wanted – but picking the other songs was harder, and I felt very self-conscious when getting feedback.  

Recommend a book for us which was published within the last decade.

Get in Trouble by Kelly Link. How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu. Welcome to Braggsville by T. Geronimo Johnson. The Vegetarian by Han Kang. Gushot: Stories by Amelia Gray.

If you could have a drink with any living author, who would it be? Why?

Probably Margaret Atwood or Neil Gaiman. They both write things and have careers I admire, and at this moment I’m especially interested in how you build and maintain a literary life and how to keep creating. And they just seem super cool. If they aren’t available, maybe Mark Z. Danielewski so we could have a deep conversation about how he wrote House of Leaves because I loved it but it is also insane.   

What are you working on now? What’s next?

I’m working on my first novel and just finished a short story collection I’m calling Curious Monsters and am in the reaching out to agents phase (if you know anyone looking!) I’m also a playwright and screenwriter, so I have multiple scripts I’m working on as well as an audio drama + app based on Japanese ghost stories, which we hope to drop in October 2020. One of my plays, Penny’s Puppet Hour, is a semi-immersive piece. Since the pandemic canceled any in-person readings, I explored the piece with my team as an Instagram play – with the story unfolding through Instagram posts – so while I’m working on a full draft at the moment, you can explore the play a bit @pennyspuppethour.

Our thanks to Chelsea for taking the time to answer a few questions and share her work. Read Chelsea’s  short story, “The Language of Crabs,”  here:


Chelsea Sutton writes weird fiction and impossible plays and films. She was a 2016 PEN America Emerging Voices Fellow, and she has just finished her first short story collection, Curious Monsters, which was the runner-Up for the 2018 Madeline P. Plonsker Emerging Writers Residency Prize. MFA UC Riverside.