Academic Program Director Frank Montesonti wrote to NewPages about the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Program at National University to share the interesting stories of some of National University’s military students/alumni. He notes, "About a fifth of our MFA program is active or former military, and some students have even taken our program while deployed overseas. I thought it would be nice to tell a couple of their stories while highlighting how military friendly our program is."
This second in a three-part series was written by current National University’s MFA creative writing program student Fabricio Correa. Read the first story here.
Weston Ochse '09
Weston Ochse spent thirty years in the military. The first five years was as a communications specialist who carried the combat radio. Then he transferred to intelligence where he stayed for the remainder of his career. He performed humanitarian operations in Bangladesh, was deployed in Afghanistan, and near cannibalized in Papua New Guinea. His intense military experience helped him carve indelible characters.
Weston has been praised for his positive depiction of soldiers with PTSD, both at peace and at war. Weston writes, “Too often a PTSD sufferer is the crazy in the grocery store or the sniper on the tower. Such negative depictions do little to further the cause of PTSD. Those examples are extreme and represent what can happen if society fails a person. I’d rather write about a PTSD sufferer and describe how they got PTSD and what they are doing to deal with it. There’s a lot we can learn from such things.”
In Papua New Guinea, Weston lived one of the most challenging experiences. “It was me and six rascals. They all had machetes and hungry looks. All I had was a smile. I managed to talk them out of killing and eating me by talking about American television. They liked our TV. It’s probably what saved me.”
Weston attended an MFA program at National University. A writer of more than 26 books in multiple genres, he has won the Bram Stoker Award for his first novel, Scarecrow Gods, was nominated for the Pushcart Prize for his collection of short stories, Appalachian Galapagos, as well as won multiple New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards.
Weston says of war stories, “too often, those who write military fiction glorify the violence, creating nothing more than gun porn for the mouth-breathing crowd. The best ones write about the architecture of the human soul, and how war changes it, both for good and bad.” Weston delves deep into his stories to reveal what is under the surface. “It’s important to understand that each soldier, sailor, airman, or marine is someone’s mother, sister, brother, father, son, etc. They are not one-dimensional characters. They are all too real, and it’s important to relate how war changes them to those who haven’t experienced war.”
Just what fans of Jane Austen need: Our own society of Austen lovers!
Started by Henry G. Burke, J. David Grey, and Joan Austen-Leigh, the great-great grand niece of Jane, the Jane Austen Society of North America "is dedicated to the appreciation of Jane Austen and her writing. Join us in celebrating her life, her works, and her genius."
JASNA hosts a three-day conference each fall that includes lectures by Austen scholars and JASNA members, exhibits, workshops, and a banquet and Regency ball. Yes, a ball! Each year, the conference is themed with a reading list provided in advance.
The 2019 conference (200 Years of Northanger Abby: "Real Solemn History") will be held in Colonial Williamsburg in Williamsburg, Virginia on October 4-6, and the 2020 conference (Jane Austen's Juvenilia: Reason, Romanticism, and Revolution) will be in Cleveland, Ohio, October 9-11.
In addition to the conference, JASNA publishes peer reviewed journals, a newsletter, book reviews, and holds an annual student essay contest. JASNA also has an International Visitor Support Program which provides a $3,250 fellowship to assist with travel and research expenses.
For more information, visit the JASNA website.
Issue 8 2018 of the West Coast Gold Man Review
This is a guest post from National University’s MFA creative writing program student Fabricio Correa:
Military stories have engrossed readers and viewers worldwide, ranging from iconic films like A Thin Red Line to visceral books such as Black Hawk Down. Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, screenwriting – no matter the genre – we are shaken by the grit of reality and the hero’s quests for victory or survival.
A powerful tool in shaping the thoughts of a military fiction writer is a creative writing workshop. It provides a means to hone their writing craft and become part of a writing community.
Active-duty military and veterans can take advantage of many benefits in applying for a MFA program. National University accepts the GI Bill, the Fry Scholarship, the Spouse and Dependents Education Assistance, and the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program, and offers tuition reduction for active-duty military members. The MFA program has rolling admissions and is entirely online. This flexibility allows veterans as well as active duty service members to pursue a graduate degree.
Over the next several weeks, NewPages will feature three alumni who share their experiences in the military and at National University’s MFA in creative writing, a military-friendly MFA program entirely online.
Susan Caswell has been in the Army for twenty years, eighteen and a half on active duty. She was a direct commission as a chaplain. Most of her work is of a non-religious nature. She provides counseling to deal with combat and financial stress, relationship and medical issues, among other sensitive cases. Most of the service members are between the ages of 18-24, extremely young and away from the safety of their homes.
Susan is a writer of non-fiction. She says, “I write essays about experiences that haunt me. I feel some release when the experience is honored by putting it to paper.” Her short story “Three Hours and Forty-Nine Minutes” encapsulates the vulnerability of extreme situations. The story was featured in the GNU 2016 Summer Edition. “The feedback from my peers is invaluable. They help me understand what they can connect with, and what needs to be elaborated.”
The intensity of her experience can be felt in the nail-biting excerpt “A memory surfaces from my third deployment. I was in a chapel service in Kandahar, Afghanistan in 2012. The sirens sounded just as the sermon started. Without missing a beat, Chaplain Vaughan reminded the congregation, ‘Lie down on the floor and protect your head with your hands.’”
As for the military writer being a powerful contributor to our society, Susan says, “I think my writing provides a window into the war. I write about the experiences that may not be reported in the press. People tell me that they have new insight into the war after reading my work.”
Judged by Joshua Ferris
"Rules of Engagement" by Mi-Kyung Shin [pictured]
Judged by Chen Chen
“Church Board Interrogations” by Josh Tvrdy
Judged by Lacy M. Johnson
"Blessed Be the Longing that Brought You Here" by Jessie van Eerden
For a full list of honorable mentions in each category and judges' comments, click here.
The Fall/Winter 2018 issue of The Chattahoochee Review is themed on "Lost & Found." Editor Anna Schachner [pictured] writes in the editorial: "In many ways, this issue's special focus of 'Lost and Found' is an homage to the writing process itself - the many slivers of ourselves we concede when we write and the inevitable discovery via writing. That emphatic 'and' is important because it suggests an organic progression: that to lose something is to also create space to find something else, not just in writing, but in our thoughts, our expectations, our relationships. So many of the submissions we received seemed to concur, as did so many of the pieces ultimately chosen and featured herein."
Contributors include Cooper Casale, Margaret Diehl, John Hart, Lindsay Stuart Hill, Raina Joines, Timothy Krcmarik, David Rock, Sophia Stid, Brian Phillip Whalen, Jennifer Wheelock, Erica S. Arkin, John Brandon, Kieran Wray Kramer, Michele Ruby, Kevin Wilson, Ginger Eager, Jennifer Key, Caitlin McGill, Marilyn F. Moriarty, Raul Palma, and Rachel H. Palmer.
An online journal "dedicated to short fiction," Fiction Southeast features a monthly series of articles under the label of "Suggestions & Advice for Writers." Recent essays include "On Writing" by Devin Matthews, "Death of the Short Story" by G. D. McFegridge, "I Denigrate Myself" by Evan Dunsky, "A Time for Fantasy" by Abagail Becastro [pictured], and "On The Artistic Temperament and a Writer's Need for Privacy" by Pamelyn Casto.
Fiction Southeast essays/articles section also includes Writers Talking About Writing, which features author interviews, "The Story Behind the Story" and "Why I Write." Other sections are Conference/Residency Spotlight, Developing a Writing Life, Editing/Publishing, Fiction & Culture, Reading Lists, Reviews, and the most unique essay grouping: Storytelling in Contemporary Video Games.
A lot going on for writers in this publication!
Again with the Concho River Review (Fall/Winter 2018) because, again, the cover image is gorgeous, while at the same time, a reminder of the dangerous power of nature. Tim L. Vasquez of Untamed Photography is becoming the most regularly featured artist for this column, and rightly so.
Based on Editor Victor David Sandiego's intro commentary, it sounds like the Winter 2018 issue of Subprimal will be its last: ". . . this is the final issue of Subprimal Poetry Art/Music, at least for a while. I have decided to take a hiatus from publishing Subprimal for 2019, and – with truth to be told – perhaps forever. It’s been a lot of fun during the last five years connecting with so many wonderful authors and artists, but I want to spend more time concentrating on my own work."
If you've not given this publication a look, do it now while you can. The time and effort put into visual and audio is astonishing. Not only do authors read their own works, but Sandiego creates musical compositions to accompany them. It's one of the most unique publications I've experienced in my time with NewPages. While I'm sorry to see Subprimal cease, I wish Victor the best and look forward to seeing where his creative energies lead him!
In addition to the print annual, Mom Egg Review, offering "the best literary writing about mothers and motherhood," also offers readers MER VOX, an online quarterly of creative writing, interviews, craft essays and more that focus on "motherhood and on the life experiences of women." The December 2018 installment, Silver Linings, is one I think we can all appreciate, as Editors Jennifer Martelli and Cindy Veach introduce it:
"Since the 2016 election, the news has been mostly terrible. Both online and offline we have been barraged 24/7 by an overwhelming level of toxicity. We’d like to offer our readers a respite, however brief. For our December folio, we’re featuring poems that celebrate silver linings wherever they may be found: in those we love, in nature, in literature, in sisterhood, in memory."
Featured poets include: Maria Mazziotti Gillan, Jen Karetnick, Allia Abdullah-Matta, Catherine Esposito Prescott, Radhiyah Ayobami, Julia Lisella, and Keisha Molby-Baez.
The Winter 2019 issue of Solstice: A Magazine of Diverse Voices online is dedicated to reviews and interviews, from authors of a wide range of genres. Included in the issue are interviews with Ana Jelnikar, Genia Blum, Serina Gousby, Tenzin Dickie, Jennifer Martelli, and Adriana Páramo, and reviews of Then Again by Ben Berman, Bad Harvest by Dzvinia Orlowsky, Rewilding by January Gill O’Neil, The Raincoat Colors by Helena Minton.
Cover photography, in addition to a portfolio inside this issue, by Keith Flynn, which documents "the effects of the Great Recession on the individual lives of people living in Appalachia, within a 75 mile radius of Asheville, North Carolina."
About Place Journal Editors Lauren Camp and Melissa Tuckey write in their introduction to the October 2018 issue themed "Root and Resistance":
"As artists and writers, part of our task is to pay attention to and distill what is happening around us. In witnessing, we’re called to both lift what is beautiful and name what is unjust, to reclaim language from the powerful and give it back its humanity. For this issue, we were interested in works that get at the root of our current political disaster. We also wanted work that explored and reveled in our sources of support, interconnection, solace, and strength. We wanted work that could be useful to those of us engaged in this challenge who, on many days, feel exhausted, overwhelmed and disheartened. We wanted work that would challenge us to learn from perspectives outside of our own, that would help us understand history and how we arrived at this moment."
Ultimately, they write, "The work we have received reminds us that we all need to nurture ourselves as much as we need to resist the threats to our culture. We need to hold to our strong communities, and also build new ones. Part of our efforts must be a turning back to ancestry and history, to see the germ of a struggle and the start of our futures. We need to look to the past to find the roots of the efforts to amend the present."
A good way to start the new year.
The Nov-Dec 2018 issue of Ragazine.CC online features Mariana Yampolsky's "Caress," a photo from the TIME OF CHANGE November exhibit at Throckmorton Fine Art. Ragazine.CC published the essay from the show guide along with several photos and an interview with Gallerist and Collector Spencer Throckmorton by Graciela Kartofel. See it all here.
Art Editor Andrew Marshall is the photographer who captured this chilly but beautiful image on the cover of the December 2018 online issue of Junto Magazine.
"Alabama for Beginners," Jean Ryan's featured essay in a recent issue of bioStories caught my attention; as the editor describes it, "a love letter to her new home and the unexpected welcome she has found there."
Ryan moved from San Francisco to Lilian, Alabama where she hopes her "modest savings will last longer" and she and her wife will "unearth the gay community—there must be one, some brave little enclave waiting for reinforcements." But then, "On deeper reflection," she continues, "maybe there is no enclave here, no separate community at all. Maybe these pockets are going the way of gay bars, no longer needed in this age of sexual fluidity, borders and labels all slipping away—now there’s a happy thought." (I'm hoping those happy thoughts with you!)
As I age, I also consider other places to resettle, and for anyone who is contemplating a move, this essay of discovering a new place - especially one so different in so many ways - was a nudge of encouragement. Learning the people, the places, the flora and the fauna, and, most essentially, the rediscovery of your own being amid a new environment:
"Each morning my wife and I have coffee on the back patio and watch the sun come up through the pines. As we often come out before dawn, I sweep a flashlight beam across the cement, making sure we don’t step on something that, like us, is not looking for any trouble, just a place to call home. The other day I saw a black wasp fly out of a small hole in the frame of my deck chair, reminding me of the swallows next door that made a nest in the open sewer pipe of the home under construction. You can find at least three wide-eyed frogs perched inside my hose reel box any time you lift the lid. Not for a minute does even the smallest crevice go to waste. There is panic in the air, the hum of a million creatures trying to stay alive."
bioStories is an online pubiication of nonfiction that publishes a new feature every week then collects them into two semiannual issues.
The Greensboro Review Editor Terry L. Kennedy writes in his introduction to issue #104 about trying to determine what makes "a good story" and the idea of creating a checklist for submissions:
"A checklist for 'a good story' might make my editorial deliberations easier, but it wouldn't be good for my staff or for the magazine. And I'm not so sure readers really want exact restrictions on a story, not anymore. What if a story has a memorable setting but there's no plot, nothing happens? A la Seinfeld. Where does that leave us? There are too many intangible aspects with which to blur the lines. . . I guess what I'm working my way around to is this: it's not that I'm incapable of creating a checklist as that I don't really believe, in my editorial heart of hearts, that I should. In the end, the best stories might just be the ones that do the things we thing a short story writer shouldn't attempt. But by doing them well, they win our hearts and make us shout, 'This one; this is the one!'"
After twenty-six years as editor-in-chief of Salamander, Suffolk University's literary journal, Jennifer Barber has announced she is "stepping down to pursue other projects."
"The magazine will continue to be housed in and nourished by the Suffolk University English Department," she assures readers. The spring/summer 2019 issue will be guest edited, and any further information about future issues will be announced in the fall issue.
Our best wishes to Jennifer as she embarks on her new live adventures!
Regular readers know I'm a sucker for signed broadsides, and these are no exception. They are gorgeous, quality prints on solid stock and carefully packaged for secure shipping. I own every one in this series and FULL DISCLOSURE: I have paid for every one. This is NOT an ad, but an honest "I LOVE THESE and want to share this with you" post.
"Narcissus on the Hunt" by Rachel Bullis can be read here (Issue 6, Winter 2018), and was particularly striking to me as a teacher of mythology. I will definitely be sharing this one with my students.
The journal is free to read online; the broadsides cost $10 each or 3 for $25 with proceeds going to support Under a Warm Green Linden's Green Mission reforestation efforts. To date, the publication has "planted 205 trees in collaboration with the Arbor Day Foundation and the National Forest Foundation."
With each new quarterly issue, Asymptote online publication of poetry, fiction, drama, nonfiction, interviews, and translations offers "an educator’s guide for those wanting to teach pieces from that issue. Each guide offers a thematic breakdown of that issue’s content, relevant information about the context of various pieces, and possible discussion questions and exercises."
The guides offer lesson plans on topics which incorporate the pieces from the issue, indicating appropriate learner level (middle school, high school, upper-level high school, college/undergraduate, etc.) as well as discipline when applicable (such as AP History, Beginner French Students).
Asymptote also invites educators to "Lend a Hand" assisting with pedagogy and feedback on the lessons provided.
It was a bit shocking to see a 2019 dated publication already, but it's true: We're there.
2nd River View offers a selection of poetry online, some with author-recorded readings, as well as a current and full archive of their chapbook series. These chapbooks can be read online, downloaded in full-page PDF, or "Chap the Book," which opens as a PDF in booklet form (for printing and saddle stitch fold/staple). What a great (FREE) resource for teachers! Things Impossible to Swallow by Pamela Garvey is their latest chapbook.
Here's a sampling of some of the works from their Winter 2019 issue:
I want to stay in the house all day
and read poetry from a time
when people rowed out in little boats.
From "Accident" by Nancy Takacs
January sleek gray sky, the clouds diffuse
the sun to one dull eye, & my body quiet
with goat milk skin, makes a slim seed
in thin sheets and cotton bedspread.
From "On Sunday Morning, Church Bells" by J.J. Starr
. . . I wonder if
the evening stars will be
missing behind the clouds.
I want to tell the clouds
to be gone or to get out of the way.
I want to wrap my hands
around them so badly
without hurting them.
From "Behind the Clouds" by Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal
[pictured: portrait by Karen J. Harlow]
Harris receives $10,000 in addition to publication. Ten finalists are also included in the issue, and subscribers to the publication can vote on who receives the $2000 Readers' Choice Award.
Finalists include: Katie Bickham, Destiny Birdsong, Debra Bishop, McKenzie Chinn, Steve Henn, Courtney Kampa, Michael Lavers, Darren Morris, Loueva Smith, and Mike White.
In her editorial to The Fiddlehead's Autumn 2018 issue, "Whatever We Need It To Be," Creative Nonfiction Editor Alicia Elliott opens the publication's first "all creative nonfiction issue" with a story about presenting on a panel with three other CNF writers. Asked the opening question: What is Creative Nonfiction?, "All four of us exchanged a look. I laughed nervously, as I tend to do when I’m not sure how to answer a question. The seconds passed."
It's not that they weren't prepared for the question, Elliott explains, or hadn't joked about the challenge of defining the form. "Unfortunately," she tells readers, "I still don’t have a very good definition."
But, like so many of us, she goes on to share, "Ever since I fell into Creative Nonfiction a few years ago, I’ve been enthralled by the genre’s possibility, its malleability, the way it requires you to push beyond what’s in front of you and see what’s hidden underneath."
This all-CNF issue, with works chosen from over 600 submissions should indeed provide us all with a broadened understanding of CNF, as Elliott hopes, but at the same time, "ironically, will probably make defining CNF as gloriously fuzzy for you as it is for me. That's okay, though. It's part of the genre's charm."
Read the full essay here.
In collaboration with Louisville Literary Arts, the Fall 2018 (#84) issue of The Louisville Review features the winner of the 2018 Writer's Block Prize in Poetry: "Nine Minutes in June" by Carolyn Oliver.
This contest is held in conjunction with the Louisville Literary Arts Writer's Block Festival held in November at Spalding University.
Issue 204 of The Malahat Review features the Far Horizons Award for Poetry winner "Venn diagrams" by Emily Osborne as selected by Carolyn Smart.
Read an interview with the winner here: "Using the Rubrics: Rose Morris in Conversation with Emily Osborne."
In addition to publication, the winner receives $1000. See full guidelines for this annual contest here.