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Published July 24, 2009
*NOTE: Reposting with links to Conclave full-text. Thanks Valya.*

I ran across a couple of great editorials in the most recent issues of American Short Fiction and Conclave. Both speak the the nature of character in writing as well as, for Conclave, in photography. Below are some excerpted portions which create a kind of conversation between them.

From Editor Stacey Swann of American Short Fiction (44, Summer 2009):

Like most writers, I grew up reading books—loving the characters and their stories. But I also loved learning about the world. While I understood that Narnia was not a real place or Tom Sawyer a real person, I still invested a great deal of authority in authors: the way they viewed the world was correct on a fundamental level. This explains why studying John Keats's "Ode on a Grecian Urn" in high school remains a vivid memory for me. It was the first time I strongly disagreed with what an author was espousing. No matter what Keats thought, no matter what my English teacher echoed, I was certain that beauty was not truth and truth was not beauty. It wasn't just that many fundamental truths about the world were ugly; beauty wasn't important enough to equate with truth.

It turns out that I was not alone in my distrust of this ode. In one of his critical essays, T. S. Eliot wrote that those last two lines were "a serious blemish on a beautiful poem, and the reason must be either that I fail to understand it, or that it is a statement which is untrue." Eliot continued: "And I suppose that Keats meant something by it, however remote his truth and his beauty may have been from these words in ordinary use."

In high school, I equated beauty with nothing more than an excessive prettiness. Beauty was something to be applied to objects, not actions. I recently realized that I had readjusted my definition of beauty, and I might now understand Keats's meaning a little better. As I get older I see beauty in so many unexpected things. And when I think about short stories, it seems to me that most depict moments of beauty. While novels generally are about characters and large portions of their lives, short stories must value something else due to their compactness. So often, they are illuminations of an action with inherent beauty. The beauty may be sad or painful or wasted, but it is nonetheless beautiful.

Conclave, a new lit on the block, focuses on “character-driven writing and photography.” Founding Editor Valya Dudycz Lupescu discusses the selection process for their inaugural issue:

As we reviewed and narrowed the pool, the editors discussed what made the pieces character-focused. There was no rubric or list of points. Beyond obvious assessment of craftsmanship, so much of this process is subjective. How can one quantify the literature that compels us to read it?

William Faulkner once said, "It begins with a character, usually, and once he stands up on his feet and begins to move, all I can do is trot along behind him with a paper and pencil trying to keep up Tong enough to put down what he says and does."

In a good character-driven story, the reader should be swept up into the lives of the characters, willing to trot alongside them as they tell their stories. In an excellent character-driven story, the reader is compelled to follow the characters anywhere, outside his or her comfort zone, into alien territory, or into new emotional depths. We willingly suspend all disbelief to immerse ourselves in their reality. These unforgettable characters are timeless. They reveal something about human nature that is archetypical and personal at the same time. [Full text here.]

Conclave Managing Editor Scott Markwell adds these comments to the consideration of character:

As we observe character, we also see how it changes, how people grow, stay static, or regress. . . . Character reveals the brightest and darkest places of who we are. Characters come alive when they reveal a truth, when they hold a mirror up to each of us. . . . Character comes in other interesting forms. We personify. The inanimate become real, become human, express features we see in others. We find character in metaphor and in the literalness of life’s events. We see the wisdom and ravages of age. . . . Character will change, but we hope the truth of the human experience will not. [Full text here.]

Which echoes Swann’s closing line:

Finally, returning to Keats, if these stories are about moments of beauty, there is something inextricably true about them as well. It is their truth that makes them beautiful.

[Swann's full editorial available here.]
Published July 10, 2009
Starting in August, Ascent Magazine will be moving from print to online. It would seem they have suspended their full website until then, but information about the journal and contact information can still be found on their NewPages sponsored listing. No explanation as yet for this move.
Published July 09, 2009
For the month of July, Indiana Review is giving away free copies of their newest issue (31.1 Summer 2009). Every Wednesday IR will post a question on their blog and the first correct response emailed to us will receive a free copy!
Published July 01, 2009
Yet another great literary publication through which global cultures and perspectives can be explored is Obsidian: Literature of the African Diasporas. The most recent issue (v8 i2 - don't let the 2007 date throw you; it just came out) focuses on Ghana - "Honoring the Legacy and Literature of Independent Africa, 1957-2007."

Editor Sheila Smith McKoy introduces the issue: "As the first sub-Saharan African country to gain its independence from its 'colonizer,' Ghana set the stage for the domino effect of freedom across the African continent...In this issue, Obsidian celebrates the legacies of Independent Africa, her literature, her cultures, and their impact across Africa, her Diaspora and our world."

Poets in this issue include Kofie Anyidoho, Makuchi, Shane Book, and Sheila Smith McKoy - "all offer riffs on the issues that contextualize the experiences of African and Diasporan identity." M. Genevieve West interviews Makuchi, several essays "provide diverse perspectives on Ghana and her legacy," and Kim Coleman Foote contributes to the fiction.
Published June 09, 2009
This is indeed sad news for me, since it was only after reading Isotope that I believed English and science could really get along in the same mind of appreciation and learning. Something countless years of education failed to convince me of.

From the blog, posted by Simmons B. Butin:

Worst Event/Activity

I have very sad news to share -- news I learned yesterday but wasn't prepared to share until today (and I do have permission). As many of you know, Christopher Cokinos founded and has served as the editor of the outstanding journal Isotope: A Journal of Literary Nature and Science Writing for more than a decade now. Many of you also know that state university funding has been drastically cut nearly everywhere. Combine those two, and we learn that Utah State University will no longer be publishing Isotope.

Folks, Isotope is one of the three or four best environmental literary journals, and its closure is a huge blow not only to the good folks working on the journal at USU, but to environmental and science literature readers and writers everywhere. But what to do? We need to find a large endowment to sustain the journal, under Chris's excellent editorial skills, and find it now. So ante up!

There is a possibility that Isotope will move to another university or other editing team, but unless it stays at USU, as far as I know Chris will no longer be the editor. That is sad, indeed.
Published June 05, 2009
Alimentum: The Literature of Food has a special offer for new and renewing subscribers: "Tell us your Secret Food and receive one free issue! Your Secret Food is the food you love but tell no one about. Tell us and we'll not only gift you an extra issue but broadcast your Secret Food on our website this Fall. Your chance for Food Fame!"

All you have to do is place a regular subscription order online (or by mail) then send Alimentum an email with your secret to secretfood[at]alimentumjournal[dot]com. You'll get three issues for the price of two.
Published May 30, 2009
The most recent issue of The Missouri Review (v32n1) includes the winners of the Jeffrey E. Smith Editors' Prize:

First Place Fiction: Roy Kesey, "Double Fish"
First Place Essay: Deborah Thompson, "What's the Matter with Houdini?"
First Place Poetry: Frannie Lindsay (seven elegies)
Published May 29, 2009
The newest issue of Merdian (22/May 09) includes the winners of the Editor's Prize 2009:

Fiction Winner Helen Phillips, "The Eyes of Cecile"
Fiction Finalist Nahal Suzanne Jamir, "In the Middle of Many Mountains"
Poetry Winner: Angus A. Bennett, "Muted with a Line from Someone Else's Memory"

Also announced in this issue are next year's editors: Jazzy Danziger, head editor; Jasmine Bailey, poetry editor; Kevin Allardice and Memory Peebles, fiction editors.
Published May 22, 2009
Celebrating 20 years of publishing Free Lunch: A Poetry Miscellany, Editor Ron Offen and his staff look forward to many more years to come, as do their readers. Congrats!
Published May 21, 2009
The Massachusetts Review celebrates its 50th year of publishing, surviving, and thriving. Congrats MR!

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