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Great First Line :: Alison Townsend

Published February 05, 2016 Posted By
alison townsendI'm a sucker for a good first line. From Under the Sun, an online journal of creative non-fiction, Alison Townsend's opener to "My Thoreau Summer" drew me in: "If, on an afternoon in midsummer, I happen to find myself near a small lake or pond, opening like earth’s blue eye before me, and then catch a whiff of the water’s clean mineral scent, overlaid with algae and mixed with the head-clearing resin of white pine, all of it intensified, cooked by sunlight, I am instantly transported to South Pond, in Marlboro, Vermont." Wow.

But it's a serious let down if the writer can't uphold the promise of such a great opener. No worries here: Townsend delivers. Her essay takes readers through her summer spent at this pond, and it is almost utterly painful when she must separate herself from the place (c'mon - no spoiler here - summers do come to an end).

How many of us know this very experience: "I was homesick for the pond for months after leaving it. I missed the silence and the stillness, nothing but the sound of owls calling at night and wind in the pines. I missed my meditative forays, alone in the canoe. I missed the sight of Grace, reading across the room. But more than anything else, I missed who I was at the pond. Or rather, I missed the way that I forgot myself in its presence. Returning to the normal world and resuming my studies was a letdown after living as elementally as I had. As time passed, I would slowly understand that, without intending to, we had in fact lived more deliberately at the pond than I realized." Double wow.

Read it. All of it.
open minds quarterly

Open Minds Quarterly is a publication of "poetry and literature of mental health recovery." The winners of their annual BrainStorm Poetry Contest for mental health consumers is divided over two publications. The first, second, and third-place poems are published in the spring issue, with honorable mentions following in the fall issue. The Honorable Mentions are "The Rain King" by Thomas Leduc, "Ophelia" by Ruthie-Marie Beckwith, "Observational" by Katy Richey, and "The 4th Floor" by Katy Richey.

Craft Essays :: GT Feb Bulletin

Published February 03, 2016 Posted By
Glimmer Train Bulletins are a free monthly resource with "essays by creative-writing teachers and other accomplished authors on craft, perspective, and the particulars of writing and getting published." I enjoy reading these brief but poignant commentaries on the writing life. Here's the lead lines for February's Bulletin #109 - see for yourself if you aren't intrigued to read at least one of these:

stephanie soileauGabe Herron: You have to forget time because it's going to take how long it takes, not one minute longer, not one minute less.
Carrie Brown: I'm interested in how shockingly difficult it is to be good. And I'm interested in our failures in that regard—exactly how we fail and why, how we console ourselves and others, how we forgive ourselves and others, how we fail to forgive.
Stephanie Soileau [pictured]: I believe in storytelling as a way to map and explore the ambiguities of human experience, and it is this belief that motivates me as a fiction writer. Stories have given me a language to express the contradictions in my own experience, and because...
George Rabasa: The fragrant mess is being constantly stirred, the recipe changing, if not hour by hour, certainly from one week to the next: memory agitates, imagination warps, new stuff is learned and enters the mixture.

WLT Celebrates 90 with New Series

Published February 02, 2016 Posted By
daniel simonWorld Literature Today celebrates 90 years of continuous publication with its January/February 2016 issue. Editor Daniel Simon [pictured] writes: "To celebrate. . . I’m pleased to announce the 2016 Puterbaugh Essay Series, a yearlong suite of review-essays that survey the twenty-first-century literary landscape. The editors have invited five writers to reflect on the contemporary scene by choosing a book or group of books, published since 2010, that have inspired their own creative and critical thinking. Bangladeshi novelist and critic K. Anis Ahmed launches the series with “Fiction: A Transgressive Art,” a compelling essay that, among other topics, focuses on the insidious forms of censorship that contemporary writers tend to internalize. Subsequent issues will include essays by Ghassan Zaqtan (Palestine), Bernice Chauly (Malaysia), Dubravka Ugrešić (former Yugoslavia), and Porochista Khakpour (Iran/US)." A good reason to start a subscription to WLT today!

New Lit on the Block :: The 3288 Review

Published February 02, 2016 Posted By
michigan logoMichigan-based The 3288 Review is a new print and ebook quarterly publishing short fiction, nonfiction (essays and creative non-fiction), poetry of all forms and formats, reviews, photography, and artwork, with an ongoing interview series on their website.

What’s with 3288? Purely a Michigan thing, as Editor-in-Chief John Winkelman tells me: “We wanted a name which reflected something about Michigan. Based on a survey done in 2000, Michigan has a total of 3,288 miles of coastline (including islands). However, with the rise in water levels over recent years, we may need to revisit this.”

A project of Caffeinated Press, established in 2014 as an independent publisher serving the authors and readers of the West Michigan community, The 3288 Review is dedicated to finding and showcasing literary and artistic talent with a particular focus on West Michigan. Winkelman explains the publication’s philosophy, “Literary journals provide a good point of entry for new writers, and can be more narrowly focused than can publishing companies as a whole. We feel that West Michigan talent is under-represented in the larger literary world, and we want to do something about that.”

Working alongside the editor-in-chief are Jason Gillikin (fiction editor), Elyse Wild (nonfiction editor), and Leigh Jajuga (poetry editor) who read all submissions blind, providing input and feedback. Accepted submissions are then “curated" for individual issues.

The 3288 Review readers can expect to find finely crafted arts and letters, with that particular focus on talent from West Michigan. Some recent contributors include Lisa Gundry, Jennifer Clark, Mary Buchinger, Z.G. Tomaszewski, Robert Knox, J.M. Leija, Elyse Wild, and Matthew Olson-Roy. The 3288 Review also just nominated two of their published writers for the Pushcart Prize: J.M. Leija, for her essay "Tacet" from issue 1.1, and Matthew Olson-Roy, for his short story "Our Monstrous Family" from issue 1.2.

Winkelman tells me that future plans for 2016 include a broader scope to include regional journalism and long-form interviews.

Submissions are accepted through the publication’s website on a rolling basis with deadlines for inclusion in each issue - roughly a month before the publication date.

2015 Willam Van Dyke Prize Winners

Published February 01, 2016 Posted By
ruminate winter 2015The Winter 2015 issue of Ruminate features the first and second place winners and honorable mention of the 2015 William Van Dyke Short Story Prize as selected by Judge Amy Lowe:

FIRST PLACE: Doug Cornett, “Maybelline in the Tower"
SECOND PLACE: Will Jones, “The Shed”
HONORABLE MENTION: Elizabeth Kaye Cook, “The Body in Silence”

See a full list of finalists here.

Lit Mag Covers Picks of the Week

Published February 01, 2016 Posted By
2beloit poetry journalThe Winter 2015/2016 cover of Beloit Poetry Journal features Alexis Lago's "Tree of Indulgences," watercolor on paper, 2009. Lago is a Cuban visual artist now living and working between Toronto and Florida. See more of his works here:
massachusetts reviewThe Massachusetts Review Winter 2015 includes two outstanding art features: Selections from Chuck Close Photographs which were on exhibit Sept. - Dec. 2015 at the University of Massachusetts Amherst Museum of Contemporary Art and Selections from Women's Work: Feminist Art from the Smith College Museum Art Collection which were on exhibit Sept. 2015 - Jan. 2016. The cover features Bill T. Jones (2008) by Chuck Close.
writing disorder2It would appear that human faces have captured my attention for this week's picks. The Writing Disorder online lit mag features the illustrative art Alina Zamanova on its homepage as well as with a selection of her works in this quarter's issue.

2015 Guy Owen Poetry Award Winner

Published January 28, 2016 Posted By
southern poetry reviewSouthern Poetry Review 53:2 features the winner of the 2015 Guy Own Poetry Award. Philip Dacey was the final judge, selecting Ron Watson's “View from Where the Grass Is Always Greener.” In addition to publication, the Guy Owen Award winner receives $1000. Other poets featured in the issue include Charles Atkinson, Anna Lena Phillips Bell, Jody Bolz, Beverly Burch, John Crutchfield, Caroline DuBois, Heather Hamilton, Gordon Johnston, Lynne Knight, Nick McRae, James Najarian, Daniel Joseph Polikoff, J. Stephen Rhodes, Maura Stanton, Ed Taylor, Will Walker, and Charles Harper Web.

Books :: Whiting Award for Poetry

Published January 27, 2016 Posted By
black maria aracelis grimayIn April 2016, Aracelis Girmay’s The Black Maria will start hitting bookshelves. Winner of a 2015 Whiting Award for Poetry, The Black Maria “investigates African diasporic histories, the consequences of racism within American culture, and the question of human identity.”

The Whiting Award Selection Committee says the collection is “always in service of a moral vision, a deep concern for who we are, who we have been.”

Copies of The Black Maria can be pre-ordered from BOA Editions LTD website.

[quotes from BOA Editions LTD website] 

Books :: Elixir Press Award in Fiction

Published January 27, 2016 Posted By
loss of all lost things amina gautierDue out at the beginning of February is the winner of the Elixir Press Award in Fiction, The Loss of All Lost Things by Amina Gautier.

The collection explores moments of loss and yearning in its fifteen short stories that, according to contest judge Phong Nguyen, “have you by the throat [ . . . ].”

Readers can have a small peek inside The Loss of All Lost Things and order a copy at the SPD website.

IR Undergrad Lit Mag Online

Published January 27, 2016 Posted By
IR Online Issue 1Issue 1 of Indiana Review Online: An Undergraduate Project is now available. The editors write that IRO was started "to give voice to writers we don’t often see in literary journals. In the hyper-competitive world of literary publishing, emerging, undergraduate writers do not always have the opportunity to gain their first footholds. We wanted to help change that." And indeed they have, receiving hundreds of submission from around the world, the first issue was whittled down to top picks in poetry and fiction. Featured writers include Amzie Augusta Dunekacke, Ellen Goff, Katie Harrs, Robert Julius, Tiwaladeoluwa Adekunle, W. S. Brewbaker, John M. Brown, Isabella Escalante, Kacey Fang, Shyanne Marquette, Carly Jo Olszewski, Meritt Rey Salathe, and Sage Yockelson.
gabe herronGlimmer Train has just chosen the winning stories for their November Short Story Award for New Writers. This competition is held three times a year and is open to all writers whose fiction has not appeared in a print publication with a circulation greater than 5000. The next Short Story Award competition is open now: Short Story Award for New Writers. Glimmer Train’s monthly submission calendar may be viewed here.

1st place goes to Gabe Herron [pictured] of Scappoose, OR, who wins $1500 for “Suzette.” His story will be published in Issue 99 of Glimmer Train Stories.

2nd place goes to Sam Miller Khaikin of Brooklyn, NY. She wins $500 for “A Working Theory of Stellar Collapse.”

3rd place goes to Cady Vishniac of Columbus, OH. She wins $300 for “Move.”

A PDF of the Top 25 winners can be found here.

Books :: Lindquist & Vennum Prize for Poetry

Published January 27, 2016 Posted By
beautiful zero jennifer willoughbyThe winner of Milkweed Editions’s 2015 Lindquist & Vennum Prize for Poetry, Beautiful Zero by Jennifer Willoughby, is now available. Chosen by Dana Levin, this debut collection is filled with wit and humor and promises relief from the seriousness of real life. Levin likens the collection to “a buoy in the sea at bottom, a life preserver, a raft.”

Those needing a pick-me-up in the middle of these dark winter months can find copies of Beautiful Zero at the Milkweed Editions website.

Kenyon Review Short Fiction Winners

Published January 26, 2016 Posted By
shasta grantThe newest issue of Kenyon Review features the winners of their eighth annual Short Fiction Contest:

First Prize: Shasta Grant [pictured], “Most Likely To”
Runner-up: Rob Howell, “Mars or Elsewhere”
Runner-up: Courtney Sender, “Black Harness”

Judge Ann Patchett writes:
In “Most Likely To,” Shasta Grant delivers a full narrative arc in four pages. Her characters experienced loss and were changed by it, a pretty remarkable feat to pull off in such a small space. Perfectly chosen details made both the characters and the setting memorable. This was the story that stayed with me.
Robert Howell gives us a completely delightful flight of imagination in “Mars or Elsewhere”. In dealing with a lover’s fantasy of what could happen were the couple to run off together, he creates a wild and atmospheric riff on possibility that read like jazz.
Courtney Sender matches the light topic of youthful lost love with the extreme heft of the Holocaust in “Black Harness” and comes up with a miraculous balance between the personal and the universal. I never could have imagined where this story was going and I was pleased by the surprise.
The winner and runners-up can also be read online here.

Lit Mag Covers Picks of the Week

Published January 25, 2016 Posted By
georgia review
I'm only selecting one cover this week because it is so profound. This cover image for The Georgia Review Winter 2015 is Mavis in the Back Seat by Cynthia Henebry, one of the photographers featured in The Do Good Fund: Southern Poverty Initiative. The Do Good Fund, a public charity based in Columbus, Georgia, is focused on building a museum-quality collection of contemporary Southern photography. Do Good's mission is to make its collection broadly accessible through regional museums, nonprofit galleries and nontraditional venues, and to encourage complimentary, community-based programming to accompany each exhibition. (Text excerpted from Do Good's website.)

Baltimore Review Winter 2016 Contest Winners

Published January 22, 2016 Posted By
baltimore review contest blog postBaltimore Review announces the winners of the Baltimore Review Winter 2016 Contest. The theme for this contest was "Health," and the final judge was Joanna Pearson, MD.

First Place
Heidi Czerwiec, “Nervous Systems”

Second Place
Christine Stewart-Nuñez, “Art of the Body”

Third Place
Raquel Fontanilla, “Souvenir from Where You’ve Been”

Work by the winners is included in the Winter 2016 issue, available at the Baltimore Review website, and submissions for the journal re-open February 1.

Wallace Stevens and Cognitive Poetics

Published January 21, 2016 Posted By
The Fall 2015 (v39 n2) of The Wallace Stevens Journal is a special issue: "Stevens and the Cognitive Turn in Literary Studies" edited, with an introduction, by Natalie Gerber and Nicholas Myklebust. In addition to original poetry and reviews by contributors, the journal provides excerpts of each of the following essays on its website:
  • “Bergamo on a Postcard”; or, A Critical History of Cognitive Poetics by Nicholas Myklebust
  • Aesthetics and Impossible Embodiment: Stevens, Imagery, and Disorientation by G. Gabrielle Starr
  • A Mirror on the Mind: Stevens, Chiasmus, and Autism Spectrum Disorder by Mark J. Bruhn
  • “The Eye’s Plain Version”: Visual Anatomy and Theories of Perception in Stevens by Deric Corlew
  • Acoustic Confusion and Medleyed Sound: Stevens’ Recurrent Pairings by Roi Tartakovsky
Publishing since 1977, The Wallace Stevens Journal is devoted to all aspects of the poetry and life of American modernist poet Wallace Stevens through scholarly articles, poems, book reviews, news, and bibliographies.

Four Poets on Teaching Writing

Published January 20, 2016 Posted By
hampden sydney poetry reviewIn every issue, The Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review includes "4x4" - four of the issue's contributors answering the same four questions. The winter 2015 issue (#41) features Lesley Wheeler, Linwood Rumney, Chris Dombrowski, and Marianne Boruch. The questions all focus on teaching poetry:

1) Can poetry be taught?
2) Is there any value to students having a foundation in traditional prosody (meter, rhyme, fixed form, what have you)? Or should free-verse be the starting place? Or something else?
3) What poets have been the most useful to you in your teaching endeavors and why?
4) [After a "summary of a boilerplate class"] Can you imagine a radical revision of the way we teach poetry in the creative writing classroom? What would it look like? No workshop? No teacher? What more, or better, could we do?

Great questions with thoughtful and thought-provoking answers - which you have to get the issue to read - but also some great conversation starters for the teachers among us. How would you answer these?

Happy 5th Anniversary Gold Man

Published January 19, 2016 Posted By
gold man"We can't believe it has already been five years since Gold Man Review was born," writes founding editor Heather Cuthbertson and her colleagues, Managing Editor Darren Howard, Project Editor Nicklas Roetto, Executive Editor Marilyn Ebbs, and Associate Editor Michelle Modesto. "When we started Issue 1, we weren't thinking about where we'd be in the future - only that we wanted to be an outlet for work that hadn't an outlet and put authors and poets into print who hadn't had the chance before. Since then, we've had the opportunity to publish award-winning authors, seasoned writers, and even the poet laureate of Oregon, but we've also had the pleasure to publish brand new voices and then watch those authors grow and develop their writing careers."

NewPages can certainly believe you have done all that in five years. Like your readers, we appreciate every page, and we look forward to seeing many more years and pages! Happy Anniversary Gold Man Review!

Lit Mag Covers Picks of the Week

Published January 18, 2016 Posted By
still point arts quarterly
If I had my druthers, Still Point Arts Quarterly would be featured here for every issue, along with just about every page of their publication. Each issue is a true meditation of art an literature. The Winter 2015 issue #20 features Square (XIII) by Susan Breen.

lalitamba 2015
Lalitamba "is a journal of international writings for liberation." This 2015 cover gets my pick because, in the dead of winter, this says SUMMER to me and definitely liberates my mind from the cold and ice. [No credit given for the photo/model.]

fourteen hills
"Equal," acrylic on canvas by Amy Guidry, graces the cover of Fourteen Hills (22.1: 2016), keeping with the publication's tradition for catchy, sometimes bordering on (good) bizarre images.

Monstrous Kickstarter

Published January 18, 2016 Posted By
Monstrous PR1What do you get when you mashup the mythos of Frankenstein with steampunk robotics? Toss in "True Grit" meets "Three Men and a Baby" anti-heroes and some strong, clever, resourceful, female characters “just as likely to jump into bar fights as their male counterparts,” and you’ve got Monstrous. No doubt about it.

Comic scriptwriter Greg Wright and artist Ken Lamug are the creators of Monstrous, a four-comic series that “tells the tales of everyday monsters, robots, and townspeople caught up in the changes sweeping Europe in the wake of Dr. Frankenstein’s mad science. But even in this twisted landscape, our unconventional heroes—giant rabbit monsters, steam-powered cyborgs, and babysitting bank robbers—all try to live by their own code of honor.”

Source Point Press has optioned the series and will be releasing them as a book in addition to readers being able to get the series delivered one issue per month starting in February. Source Point Press says they are using Kickstarter as a way to better interact with their readers and offer up some great incentives – like SIGNED COPIES! My favorite!

Indiana Review 2015 Prize Winners

Published January 14, 2016 Posted By
Winners and select finalists and runner-up of the Indiana Review Poetry and (inaugural) Nonfiction Prizes  are published in the most recent issue (Vol 37 No 2):

indiana reviewPoetry Judge Eduardo Corral

Caitlin Scarano, “Between the Bloodhounds and My Shrinking Mouth”

Runner Up
Jennifer Givhan, “Town of Foolish Things”

LA Johnson, “Split-Level”
Caitlin Scarano, “To the City With Her Skull Wind”

A complete list of finalists can be found here.

Nonfiction Judge Kiese Laymon

John Murillo III, “Black (in) Time”

A complete list of finalists can be found here.

[Cover art: "Desire Is the Root of All Suffering" by Deedee Cheriel]

Books :: Hemingway Trio

Published January 13, 2016 Posted By
Three new titles for Hemingway lovers from The Kent State University Press:

hemingways spainHemingway's Spain: Imagining the Spanish World - a collection of thirteen essays edited by Carl P. Eby and Mark Cirino. The collection explores "Hemingway’s writing about Spain and his relationship to Spanish culture and ask us in a myriad of ways to rethink how Hemingway imagined Spain—whether through a modernist mythologization of the Spanish soil, his fascination with the bullfight, his interrogation of the relationship between travel and tourism, his involvement with Spanish politics, his dialog with Spanish writers, or his appreciation of the subtleties of Spanish values. . . a particular strength of Hemingway’s Spain is its consideration of neglected works, such as Hemingway’s Spanish Civil War stories and The Dangerous Summer."

hemingway warTeaching Hemingway and War edited by Alex Vernon - fifteen original essays on such topics as:

The Violence of Story: Teaching In Our Time and Narrative Rhetoric
Hemingway’s Maturing View of the Spanish Civil War
Robert Jordan’s Philosophy of War in For Whom the Bell Tolls
Hemingway, PTSD, and Clinical Depression
Perceptions of Pain in The Sun Also Rises
Across the River and into the Trees as Trauma Literature

The final section provides three undergraduate essays examples.

hemingway modernismTeaching Hemingway and Modernism edited by Joseph Fruscione presents "concrete, intertextual models for using Hemingway’s work effectively in various classroom settings, so students can understand the pertinent works, definitions, and types of avant-gardism that inflected his art. The fifteen teacher-scholars whose essays are included in the volume offer approaches that combine a focused individual treatment of Hemingway’s writing with clear links to the modernist era and offer meaningful assignments, prompts, and teaching tools."
last words of the holy ghost matt cashionIn November 2015, the winners of the Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction and the 2014 Noemi Press Book Award for Fiction were published.

Last Words of the Holy Ghost by Matt Cashion placed first in the Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction through the University of North Texas Press. Chosen by Lee K. Abbott, the collection of 12 Southern Gothic short stories was released November 15. This is Cashion’s first short story collection.

Nate Liederbach’s short story collection Beasts You’ll Never See, winner of the 2014 Noemi Press Book Award for Fiction, “seeks to unearth the inevitable paradoxes of comedy and tragedy lurking under the skin of every human relationship, and it does so while also challenging its reader to question the emotional mechanisms that underpin conventional narratives.”

[Quote from SPD website.]


MQR Tribute to Charles Baxter

Published January 12, 2016 Posted By
 Fall 2015 Michigan Quarterly Review includes a special Tribute to Charles Baxter with an introduction by Jonathan Freedman and features:

michigan quarterly review"Charles Baxter and MQR" by Laurence Goldstein
"What We Owe Each Other: An Interview with Charles Baxter" by Jeremiah Chamberlin
"A Tribute to Charles Baxter" by Matt Burgess
"Notes Toward a Baxterian Taxonomy" by Michael Byers
"Charles Baxter's Tuneful Bewilderment" by Matthew Pitt
"Darkness Outside the Door: Charles Baxter and the Meaning of Melodrama" by Joan Silber
"Minnesota Nice: The Depths and Limits of Charles Baxter's Good Behavior" by Valerie Laken

This issue of Michigan Quarterly Review is available to purchase by subscription as well as single copy print or PDF here.

[Cover art note: "Fog uner the High Bridge; photography by Sue Vruno. Our over, with its bridge over the Mississippi at St. Paul, celebrates the many bridges, both actual and metaphorical, that appear in the novels and short stories of Minnesota native Charles Baxter..." MQR]

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