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‘The Body’

Guest Post by Kirpa Bajaj.

The centerpiece of The Body is an aging playwright who accepts a very tempting offer to have his mind transplanted into a younger physique. He obviously then faces the extreme consequences of his decision to chase his vanished youth.

Hanif Kureishi’s insights into the human condition are on point. This novel is very well written and carries a hint of rare warmth and humanity. Kureishi has this certain intensity and integrity of vision which makes this book ten times more impressive. This volume of fiction is a must read!

The Body by Hanif Kureishi. Scribner Book Company, April 2011.

Reviewer bio: I am Kirpa, a bibliophile and student who loves to dive in the sea of books and reviewing them for others. I also write as it’s one of my major interests. I hope I was able to help you out!

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A Tale of Two Giraffes and a Dust Bowl Boy

Guest Post by Cindy Dale.

Occasionally, you come across a book that is so unusual, so original that it stops you in your tracks. Case in point:  West with Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge. The novel was Inspired by a true event—two giraffes in transit aboard the SS Robin Goodfellow from Africa to America shipwrecked in the 1938 “Long Island Express” hurricane. The tale is narrated by 105-year-old Woodrow Wilson Nickel from his VA hospital room as, in a race against time, he records the events of a short, pivotal period from his early life.

The year is 2025 and many species of wildlife, including giraffes, are near extinction thanks to us humans. At 17 Woody was orphaned, escaped the Dust Bowl, and made it to New York City where he got wind of the plan to transport the two stranded giraffes from New York to the San Diego Zoo. The novel recounts the audacious ocean to ocean odyssey. Woody steals a bicycle and takes off after old man Riley Jones who has been hired by San Diego Zoo doyenne Belle Benchley to transport the “towering creatures of God’s pure Eden.” Also hot on the tail of Riley Jones and the giraffes is “Red,” a pin-up pretty, young redheaded Margaret Bourke-White wannabe.

Part road trip, part coming of age story, part unrequited love story, the novel is studded with meticulously researched historical references.  Woody and Riley’s journey takes them on the southern route through the Jim Crow south and across the Texas panhandle where Woody must face memories from his own tragic past. At the heart of the novel is the concept of home. As Riley says to Woody, “Home’s not the place you’re from, Woody. Home’s the place you want to be.” A wonderful, heart-warming story perfect for these dark times.

West with Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge. Lake Union Publishing, February 2021.

Reviewer bio: Cindy Dale has published over twenty short stories in literary journals and anthologies. She lives on a barrier beach off the coast of Long Island.

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The Dillydoun Review – September 2021

dillydoun review issue 8

The September 2021 issue of The Dillydoun Review is here! Short stories by Chaya Kahanovitch, Amelia Kleiber, Liam Strong, and A. Whittenberg; flash fiction by Catherine Chang, Sarah Enamorado, Bob McNeil, Marcelo Medone, Mark Putzi, Gary Reddin, and Sky Sprayberry; flash nonfiction by Wendy BooydeGraaff, Marco Etheridge, Melanie Kallai, and Maggie Walcott. Find this issue’s poetry contributors at The Dillydoun Review website.

Cutleaf – Issue 1 Volume 16

In this issue of Cutleaf, Peggy Xu remembers the joy of culinary whiplash that results when food and culture combine in “Yam’Tcha.” David B. Prather shares three poems beginning with one that takes us into the beautiful mind of “The Boy in the High School Science Room.” And Ray Trotter depicts a scene of speculation and frustration when two men wonder what’s inside a locked workshop in “Scavengers.” Learn about this issue’s images at the Cutleaf website.

An Interview with Leslie Blanco

Sometimes after reading a story, I want to know more about it—what the inspiration was and what went into writing the piece. Southern Humanities Review quenches that thirst for answers in their “Features” section on their website, providing the occasional interview with a contributor of their print journal. Right now, readers can find an interview with Leslie Blanco, whose short story “A Sane Person Doesn’t Do Something Like That” is in Volume 54 Number 2 of Southern Humanities Review. The story “examines the strain in the marriage of Yvelis and Hector during the Cuban Revolution.”

Blanco and interviewer Caitlin Rae Taylor discuss the motivations behind the actions of the story’s characters, and the research that went into writing this piece. Here’s what she says about her attitude toward research:

The truth is, I love research. I love the melodrama of history and the magic of stepping mentally into another time, so I did a ton of research. Even as I type the answers to these questions, a vast “sensory” landscape covers one wall of my office, representing research for a novel set just after the revolution. It is a map of Havana with pushpins in all intersections of significant historical moments, surrounded by photos depicting the everyday people swept up in those events, complete with their glorious beehives or their iconic beards.

The interview finishes in a more general area. Taylor asks Blanco what she’s currently reading, what current projects she’s working on, and what advice she’d give to writers “who want to write fiction set against historically significant events,” making this interview an interesting read even for those who have yet to take in “A Sane Person Doesn’t Do Something Like That.”

The Adroit Journal – Issue 38

Issue 38 of The Adroit Journal is out! Poetry by David Hernandez, Mark Doty, Patricia Liu, Margaret Ray, Chris Santiago, Maja Lukic, Rachel Long, Mai Der Vang, Rebecca Morton, Rita Dove, and more; prose by Tucker Leighty-Phillips, Raye Hendrix, Krystle DiCristofalo, and Perry Lopez; and interviews with Rachel Yoder, Forrest Gander, Brandon Taylor, and Shangyang Fang. Read more info at The Androit Journal website.

No One Is Safe in Sager’s New Page Turner

Guest Post by Lauren Mead.

Survive the Night by Riley Sager is a twisted psychological thriller that will leave readers biting their nails right up until the end. It’s your classic girl-meets-boy story, but with serial killers and revenge. Awesome. When Charlie accepts a ride home from Josh Baxter, she is nervous, but no way could he be anything other than a nice guy. But as they journey farther towards their final destination, Charlie begins to discover that Josh isn’t who he says he is. She starts to think that he is the serial killer who murdered her roommate two months ago. Now she’s trapped in a car, in the middle of nowhere with a murderer and she’s got a suspicion that she’s next. In Riley Sager’s new page turner, no one is who they appear to be and, certainly, no one is safe.

Riley Sager’s books are all gripping, but Survive the Night turns up the heat as the reader tries to guess who the serial killer might be. It’s an insightful look into the idea of safety. Who can we trust? What does a “safe person” look like? This is a particularly resonant discussion given the current #metoo reveals. As a reader, inhabiting the mind of a terrified girl trapped in the car with a maybe serial killer made me think hard about the ways that women learn not to trust their instincts even when they feel like a situation is bad. At every turn, Charlie was terrified, but second guessed herself. In Survive the Night, Sager asks the question: If not yourself, who can you trust?

Survive the Night by Riley Sager. Dutton Books, June 2021.

Reviewer bio: Lauren Mead has been published in The Danforth Review, The MacGuffin, Soliloquies and Forest for the Trees. She also writes for her blog, www.novelshrink.com.

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Nimrod – Spring Summer 2021

Endings & Beginnings. Fiction by Sruthi Narayanan, Titus Chalk, Michael Nye, and others; creative nonfiction by Katie Culligan and Kirsten L. Parkinson; and poetry by Chelsea Wagenaar, Richard K. Kent, Grant Clauser, John A. Nieves, Chelsea Bayouth, Emma Aylor, Suzie Eckl, Magpie Miller, Christen Noel Kauffman, Carol Guess & Rochelle Hurt, and more. See more contributors at the Nimrod website.

The Main Street Rag – Summer 2021

In this issue: fiction by Kristi Humphrey Davis, Brett Dixon, Ankur Razdan, Babak Movahed, Douglas K. Currier, and David Sapp; poetry by Michael S. Glaser, Buffy Aakaash, Ellen Austin-Li, Rachel Barton, Anthony Butts, Ted Clausen, Richard Cole, John Cullen, Holly Day, John Philip Drury, Susan Entsminger, Craig Evenson, Ken Fifer, Kasha Martin Gauthier, Carol Hamilton, Ken Holland, William Snyder, Jr., William R. Stoddart, Maryfrances Wagner, Kari Wergeland, Nicole Walker, Richard Widerkehr, Beth Oast Williams, and more. See who else you can find in this issue at The Main Street Rag website.

August 2021 eLitPak :: Terrain.org 12th Annual Contests in Poetry, Nonfiction, and Fiction

Screenshot of Terrain.org's flier for the NewPages August 2021 eLitPak
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More than $3,500 in prizes, with a $1,000 grand prize in each genre and $100 to the finalists. Judges: Poetry: Ellen Bass; Nonfiction: Aimee Nezhukumatathil; Fiction: Maurice Carlos Ruffin. Deadline: Labor Day, September 6, 2021. $20 entry fee per set of 3-5 poems (or a single long poem), story, essay or article. See full guidelines and submit online.

View the full NewPages August 2021 eLitPak newsletter.

A Fresh Look on Historical Events

Guest Post by Stephanie Renee dos Santos.

Eleonora and Joseph by Julieta Ameida Rodrigues elucidates the fascinating connections between eighteenth century Portugal, Italy, and the United States, exploring revolutionary voices, supporters, and contributors to the European Enlightenment movement. The characters, former United States President Thomas Jefferson, Portuguese priest and scientist Joseph Correia da Serra, and Portugal descendant aristocratic poet and royal librarian Eleonora Fonseca Pimentel, bring to life this tumultuous and radical time of conflict and change. Each of these plays a different and distinct role in this Revolutionary era on both sides of the Atlantic.

Through these three characters, Rodrigues fleshes out a unique story, revealing the international complexities and connections in Europe and in the United States. This book allows the reader into the inner workings of this radical time where many opposing ideals were fought and died for. This is an original historical novel highlighting Eleonora, whose life story connects all three protagonists in surprising ways. Courageous Eleonora, who risked her life for the ideals of equality and freedom for all. In addition, the author recreates the historically celebrated and controversial male characters, President Thomas Jefferson and botanist Joseph Correia da Serra, whom she skillfully shows their inner motives and drives that propel the novel forward in complicated and tragic ways.

It is refreshing as a lover of historical fiction to read an original story like Eleonora and Joseph that brings to life important historical characters and events from a fresh new angle and lens.

Eleonora and Joseph by Julieta Almeida Rodrigues. New Academia Publishing, July 2020.

Reviewer bio: Stephanie Renee dos Santos is author of Cut From The Earth, a Semi-Finalist for the Chanticleer International Book Reviews Chaucer Book Awards. To learn more: www.stephaniereneedossantos.com.

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Clarence Major’s Lurking Place Found

Guest Post by Susan Kay Anderson.

The newly published novel by Clarence Major is a straightforward narrative from the point of view of its protagonist, James Eric Lowell, a studious young poet of the 1960s. As I read this plain spoken and gentle portrait of the Love Era and how Beats and Bohemians morphed into the hippy movement with its profound activism for civil rights, I noticed how I felt right at home with the sensibilities and customs of that world. Why? Because The Lurking Place portrays exactly the lifestyle of many iconic writers and artists. While cultural eras cannot be broken up into neat decades, at the same time I find that The Lurking Place shows us the early beginnings of academic programs in a way that is organic and appealing.

Now here we were, the bohemians, the artists, and the poets—the new tenants—taking up residence in these dilapidated apartments.

Many “whys” get attention in The Lurking Place:

Why? Because we were not rich, and they were affordable. Being here together also gave us a community, one held together by the idea of creativity and intellectual pursuit.

In mid-June, I was invited up to Harlem to read my poems to a group that turned out to be composed mostly of young militant black 17 men and women who were, like me, aspiring poets.

What is stark in this is how poets and artists run around with their good intentions and before the world of digital instantaneousness, running around was physical and included a lot of exploration of the world in a physical way and of course interaction with other people. This, the world of writing via pen, paper, envelopes, typewriters, is represented by objects of solid weight instead of being “typed by thumbs, ugh” and we can read about that world here.

The Lurking Place by Clarence Major. Manic D Press, 2021.

Reviewer bio: Susan Kay Anderson is the author of Please Plant This Book Coast To Coast, Virginia Brautigan Aste’s memoir, and Mezzanine (poems) both by Finishing Line Press.  She has poems forthcoming in Barrow Street Journal, Heron Tree, and Wild Roof Journal.

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Return to 221B Baker Street

Guest Post by Joyce Bou Charaa.

Robert J. Harris reintroduces the famous detective fictional character, Sherlock Holmes, in a new murder mystery story that takes place in 20th century London. In this novel, Sherlock Holmes is facing a murder case that takes him back to the shadows of the Victorian period of England.

A Study In Crimson narrates the murder of two young women found by the Scotland Yard police in the streets of London. Near their dead bodies, the killer leaves his name: “Crimson Jack.” Both Holmes and his close friend, Dr. Watson, are in search of the killer’s identity. The two believe he is impersonating the infamous serial killer Jack the Ripper, who marked the year 1888 with his terrible deeds by attacking young women in the most savage way and strangling them to death. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, along with Inspector Lestrade and other inspectors from Scotland Yard, go through a wide range of investigations filled with suspense, hidden secrets, and new discoveries. Continue reading “Return to 221B Baker Street”

Willow Springs – Fall 2021

Find Willow Springs Fall 2021 is out. New poetry by Roy Bentley, John Blair, Bruce Bond, Kathryn Hunt, Melissa Kwasny, Sandra McPherson, Melanie Tafejian, Lyuba Yakimchuk, and more; fiction by Robert Long Foreman, Amanda Marbais, and Wendy Elizabeth Wallace; and nonfiction by Andrew Farkas, Jeremy Alves da Silva Klemin, and Holly Spencer. Plus closing the issue: an interview with Kevin McIlvoy. Read more at the Willow Springs website.

128 Words: Review of Work from Flash Frog June 2021

Magazine Review by Katy Haas.

128 words. That’s what Cathy Ulrich gives us in “I Do Not Want to Live Without You.” Just 128 words. And somehow that’s exactly enough.

We’re introduced to characters in a motel and the motel’s swimming pool, a quick snapshot but a vivid one. The narrator says, “maybe later there will be consequences and police cars, maybe later it will be like our parents said,” and this is the perfect amount of information to allow readers to put together a backstory for this snapshot.

Is it the backstory Ulrich imagined when writing this piece of flash? Is the backstory you assign it the same as mine? Maybe or maybe not. And that’s what I love about it. There’s beauty in the language used and beauty in what’s kept from us.

I Do Not Want to Live Without You” by Cathy Ulrich. Flash Frog, June 2021.

The Real Housewives of Namibia

Guest Post by Cindy Dale.

First, a confession. I had to look Namibia up on the map. That’s where Katie Crouch’s fourth novel, Embassy Wife, is set. This funny, insightful, thought-provoking romp will entertain you, inform you, and get you thinking about things you might not normally think about.

The novel follows three women—newly arrived former Silicon Valley COO Amanda Evans; Persephone, the tipsy former southern belle queen bee of the Expat crowd; and Mila, the statuesque, ebony skinned wife of the Minister of Transportation. All are what’s called “trailing spouses.” Add to the mix their respective husbands, children, and household staffs, and you’ve got quite a cast of characters. Not surprisingly, their lives intersect in surprising ways both in the present and the past.

There’s a lot of commentary on everything from the legacy of Colonialism to marriage to genocide and gem smuggling embedded in the story. One key driver of the plot: animal poaching, one rhino and one stake-out in particular. The story is told from the third person omniscient point of view, allowing the author to deftly dance between the characters.

Part satire. Part Expat story. Always surprising. You will laugh out loud at some of the references (“the Great Orange Oompa Loompa”) and find yourself quoting many of the lines, including the acronym FIGJAM (read the book to find out).

Embassy Wife by Katie Crouch. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, July 2021.

Reviewer bio: Cindy Dale has published over twenty short stories in literary journals and anthologies. She lives on a barrier beach off the coast of Long Island.

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The Best “New” Writer You Haven’t Heard Of

Guest Post by Cindy Dale.

I love discovering a new writer, especially one who, IMHO, has been overlooked. Introducing Derek B. Miller.

Miller’s first novel, Norwegian by Night, introduced Sheldon Horowitz, an 82-year-old former Marine who served in the Korean War. Still crippled by the death of his only son in Vietnam, Sheldon sets off to track down a young boy who has been kidnapped by the Serbians. This is an excellent, fast-paced mystery set in—you guessed it—Norway. (Miller is American married to a Norwegian).

This was followed by The Girl in Green. Spanning two decades, this is an ambitious, thought-provoking commentary on the Gulf War. At the center of the story: a war-weary British journalist named Thomas Benton and an aimless American private named Arwood Hobbes. A quick Google search reveals that Miller’s CV makes him eminently qualified to write about the complexities of war. You will at times think Catch-22 and will be haunted by how little the world has changed.

Miller next returned to the realm of crime with American by Day, an excellent mystery packed with a lot of social commentary. Main character Sigrid Odegard (introduced in Norwegian by Night) leaves Norway and heads to up-upstate New York to track down her missing, long absent brother Marcus. Miller nicely juxtaposes Norwegian society and policing tactics with our own.

Miller’s newest, How to Find Your Way in the Dark (not yet read by this reviewer), will be released July 27 and is a prequel to Norwegian by Night. Perhaps this is the book that will bring attention to this under-the-radar author who deserves to be more widely read. While reading Miller, I was reminded of Ward Just, another writer whose work crisscrossed the globe, who wrestled with the consequences of war, and who never quite got the acclaim he deserved.

Norwegian by Night by Derek B. Miller. Scribe, 2012.

The Girl in Green by Derek B. Miller. Mariner Books, January 2017

How to Find Your Way in the Dark by Derek B. Miller. Mariner Books, July 2021.

Reviewer bio: Cindy Dale has published over twenty short stories in literary journals and anthologies. She lives on a barrier beach off the coast of Long Island.

upstreet – 2021

upstreet 2021 is out. New fiction by Sam Fletcher, David Hammond, Emily Lackey, Sarah Mollie Silberman, and more; nonfiction by Gail Hosking, Beth Kephart, Allen Price, Nadya Semenova, and others; and poetry by Katharine Coles, Jennifer Franklin, Jessica Greenbaum, Rachel Hadas, Richard Jones, Sydney Lea, D. Nurkse, Yehoshua November, Nicholas Samaras, Jason Schneiderman, Sean Singer, Mervyn Taylor, Anton Yakovlev, and more. Read more info at the upstreet website.

A Slow Burn ‘By the Creeks of Wyoming’

Magazine Review by Katy Haas.

Shoshana Akabas begins “By the Creeks of Wyoming” with just a hint of what’s happening: “Aspen leans over and says, ‘You know, Natalie’s telling everyone about your brother,’ [ . . . ].” Who is Natalie and what’s going on with the narrator’s brother? Akabas hooks us into the story and then reels slowly, the answers appearing one by one, so brief they could almost be overlooked.

While the story of what happened to the narrator’s brother becomes distorted through the gossip of Natalie, the narrator’s friend who is slowly drifting in a different direction now that they’re in high school, it becomes clearer for the readers each time the narrator responds to the classmates who have heard the gossip. I loved this slow burn, the piecing together of the puzzle until the full picture is revealed.

The narrator’s brother plays a large role in the story, but Akabas chooses never to actually place him in the story. He’s always on the other side of the door or wall, an unreachable and almost legendary figure.

Melancholy and rife with the emotional ups and downs of high school, “By the Creeks of Wyoming,” is a quick yet beautiful read.

By the Creeks of Wyoming” by Shoshana Akabas. AGNI, 2021.

Kenyon Review – July/August 2021

The July/August issue of the Kenyon Review features work by two poets who piercingly explore race and historical memory at a time when these issues seem more urgent than ever before. The noted writer Paisley Rekdal offers three poems from the online project “West: A Translation.” The issue also includes two poems by Bryan Byrdlong, whose work interrogates the figure of the zombie as it relates to Blackness and Black precarity in the face of white supremacy, and as a general symbol for those struggling with marginalization. Plus work by Betsy Boyd, Perry Lopez, Christopher Blackman, Kelsey Norris, Austyn Gaffney, and more. Read more at the Kenyon Review website.

Kaleidoscope – Summer 2021

In this summer issue of Kaleidoscope, we have personal essays, poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, a book review, a dance feature, and information regarding the release of the documentary film Fierce Love and Art. Featured essay by Kimberly Roblin. Featured art by Diane Reid. Additional work by Mariana Abeid-McDougall, Dyland Ward, Carrie Jade Williams, and more. See a further list of contributors at the Kaleidoscope website.

Cutleaf – Issue 1 Volume 13

In this issue, Jesse Graves delves into that complicated space where family connects with history and place in three poems that begin with “An Exile.” Ace Boggess tells the story of the winding road the carries eight men to a West Virginia penitentiary in “Welcome to Rock Haul.” Amy Wright remembers the summer after her brother died from cancer, and the line of communication that opened, in “Life After Death,” an excerpt from her forthcoming book Paper Concert: A Conversation in the Round. Read more at the Cutleaf website.

Suspense, Twists, and Heartache

Guest Post by Allison Kaminski.

The Wife’s House by Arianne Richmonde is a psychological thriller full of suspense, twists, and heartache. A widow lives alone on the edge of the Big Sur cliff tops, home to her modern glass refuge Cliffside. Little does she know, her lavish paradise is going to become her worst nightmare.

Triplets. A psycho ex-wife. Creepy notes. A dead husband. What could possibly go wrong?

Richmonde does a fantastic job of conveying suspense while building a main character who learns how to find confidence and strength in order to overcome the obstacles in her life.

Personally, I haven’t read a thriller quite like this. Its uniqueness in plot and suspicious characters had me hooked from the very beginning. I loved not knowing what characters I could or couldn’t trust. And let’s not forget the ending. Wow!

Overall, if you’re looking for an unputdownable thriller that will send you through a hurricane of emotions, The Wife’s House is the perfect read for you!

The Wife’s House by Arianne Richmonde. Bookouture, August 2020.

Reviewer bio: Allison Kaminski is a YA author who writes gripping mysteries and romance stories. She spends her days working to achieve a Bachelor in English with an emphasis in creative writing. When she’s not writing, she can be found reading and watching old movies. Connect with me on social media: https://www.instagram.com/author_allisonk.

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The Meadow – 2021

This year’s issue of The Meadow features nonfiction by Shaun T. Griffin and John Ballantine; fiction by A.M. Potter, Saramanda Swigart, Karly Campbell, Oreoluwa Oladimeji, Alex Moore, Mark Wagstaff, Meredith Kay, Thomas Christopher, and Eileen Bordy; and poetry by Joseph Fasano, Lisa Zimmerman, Doris Ferleger, Nancy White, Savannah Cooper, and more. See more contributors at The Meadow website.

A Labyrinth of a Novel

Book Review by Katy Haas.

Adam McOmber’s Jesus and John takes place in the days following Jesus’ crucifixion. Jesus returns from the dead as a shell of himself, unable to speak and seemingly unable to stop walking in a specific direction as if being pulled by a magnet. The man who was his lover, John, is assigned the duty of protecting Jesus as he walks. This brings them to Rome, to a mysterious house called the “Gray Palace.” Once inside the palace, John’s journey becomes much more than he bargained for.

The deeper John travels into the labyrinth of a house, the looser the definition of reality becomes. John has no idea what lies around the next corner, and readers are kept just as unaware, constantly discovering new details. Each question answered unearths another question. I stayed up reading for hours, completely unable to set down this thriller/fantasy/horror/something-else-entirely novel.

McOmber writes John’s inner thoughts and feelings so vividly, a reader can’t help experiencing these feelings along with him: his love, his uncertainties, his growing fear and desperation. It’s been a long time since a novel has kept me so entranced and I welcomed getting lost in this fantastical world and queer storyline.

Jesus and John by Adam McOmber. Lethe Press, June 2020.

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2021 Dogwood Literary Award Winners

The Spring 2021 issue of Dogwood features the 2021 Dogwood Literary Award Winners in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

“My Hundred Years of Solitude” by Marcos Villatoro

“Ten-Foot Drop” by Maria Zoccola

“Little Black Dress” by Roberta Gates

This year’s contest judges were Sejal Shah (nonfiction), Lauren K. Alleyne (poetry), and James Tate Hill (fiction). Visit Dogwood’s website for a celebration of each of the winners with words from the judges and bios for the winning writers.

A Beautiful Mess

Guest Post by Natalie Hess.

The concept of Erin Morgenstern’s The Starless Sea is so unique and different. It follows Zachary Ezra Rawlins who discovers some strange books and a mysterious painted door. He must protect the books and learn about them, while also fulfilling his destiny in the strange place beyond the door. Beyond that, it’s honestly difficult to even figure out what else went on in this story. There are so many layers, and stories within the story that are all connected in some way. It is mind-blowing and so much fun.

The fact that this story is really confusing is part of what makes it so enjoyable. Nothing makes sense about the world beyond the painted door, but whatever is going on is absolutely beautiful. None of the characters seeming to know what’s going on just makes it even better.

This is certainly a roller coaster of a story. If you like to know what’s going on in a book, then I don’t think you would enjoy this. But if you like being left with more questions than answers, and reading about a beautiful mess of fantastical elements, this is definitely the book for you!

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern. Anchor Books, August 2020.

Reviewer bio: I’m Natalie Hess and I’m simply a high school student who LOVES reading everything from scifi to romance to nonfiction and everything in between. I also love sharing my thoughts and I hope you enjoy!

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Sky Island Journal – No 17

Sky Island Journal’s stunning 17th issue features poetry, flash fiction, and creative nonfiction from contributors around the globe. Accomplished, well-established authors are published—side by side—with fresh, emerging voices. Readers are provided with a powerful, focused literary experience that transports them: one that challenges them intellectually and moves them emotionally. Always free to access, and always free from advertising, discover what over 90,000 readers in 145 countries already know; the finest new writing is here, at your fingertips.

Ruminate – Summer 2021

Our summer issue includes many examples of lives forged by experience. The characters in these poems and stories are shaped and revealed by what they endure. There is heat and pressure in Alex Pickens’ “Derecho.” Shamarang Silas’s poem “The Weight of Trains,” inquires, “What is worship if not the desire to offer yourself to the fire / & everything you have ever loved?” Find out more at the Ruminate website.

New England Review – Vol 42 No 2

New fiction and essays range across the US—driving, riverboating, skateboarding—and reckon with both the tragic and the mundane. This issue also brings a distinct Slavic and post-Soviet presence, both through works in translation and original writing by contemporary Anglophones. Poetry by Kaveh Akbar, Ellen Bass, Christopher DeWeese, Marilyn Hacker, Rachel Hadas, Dana Levin, Ada Limón, Wayne Miller, Eric Pankey, G. C. Waldrep, and more. See even more contributors at the New England Review website.

The Courtship of Winds – Summer 2021

This is a large issue, which seems fitting as we climb out of the Covid existence we’ve all been living—hopefully. So let the number, variety, and breadth of voices here signal a steady return to health, here at home and abroad. We continue to publish both young writers, just starting out—as young as 16 in this issue! — as well as well-established writers/creative artists with impressive resumes.

Change Seven – Summer 2021

It’s our hope this issue of Change Seven will offer readers solace. In addition to the wonderful essays, stories, and poems you’ve come to expect from the magazine, this issue features a sparkling conversation with Deesha Philyaw and Crystal Wilkinson, and stunning visual art from Boon LEE, Shelby McIntosh and george l stein. Fiction by Christopher Acker, Lauren Dennis, Mike Herndon, Kerry Langan, and more.

Oddly Normal

Magazine Review by Katy Haas.

Visiting trampset‘s website, I had a problem. A good problem. I suddenly had five tabs of fiction open the moment I got there, unable to decide where to start. I wanted to read everything! I blew through the short fiction, enjoying each one, especially Kyle Seibel’s “The Two Women.”

This story is told as if the narrator is writing a letter to their ex-partner, Liz. There is an urgency to connect with Liz and get down the details of a strange day, a fever dream of a day with odd details that also somehow seem incredibly real in their zaniness. The narrator is approached by two women, one offering help and one asking for help. These women and the narrator’s neighbor all appear as odd characters, and the story is told with a humorous voice, but is still filled with heart. The silliness gives the narrator a realization: “[ . . . ] my brain is buzzing because I’m starting to feel like the rest of my life, the life I’m living without you, will be a series of events that make less and less sense until I will be completely untethered from the planet.” With this, the strangeness becomes normal—who hasn’t felt lost and untethered after a big loss?

There is no shortage of good reads at trampset, but if you’re unsure of where to start, give “The Two Women” a try.

The Two Women” by Kyle Seibel. trampset, June 2021.

‘Ancient Promises’

Guest Post by Neelima K E.

Jaishree Misra’s Ancient Promises can easily serve as a beginner’s guide to arranged marriages in India. The patrilocal toxicity of Indian domestic framework permeates the novel’s narrative and can be nauseating. Janu, the protagonist is a survivor and in a way the novel is her coming of age story. She makes mistakes, gets out, and finds purpose and will to live again all along the course of the narrative.

The Malayalam phrase ‘manam pole mangalyam’ frames the myth of an ideal marriage where love and affection dance to the tunes of matchmaking aunties and uncles from every nook and corner. The novel attempts to place familial loyalty, affection, and virtue in this mire of duty and stifling morality. Every action has its consequence and Janu learns to fight for her share of happiness in this world of do’s and do not’s.

Within the complicated narrative, the novel conceives a string of unanswered questions. Fate and predestiny elude the protagonist as she struggles to find her place moving against the tide in unforeseen circumstances. Is it wrong to covet pleasure and love outside a frigid marriage? What is it that connects two hitherto strange individuals in a supposedly sacred ritual? The fine lines between love, affection, and commitment makes for an interesting read.

The reader will be moved to tears, choking in helpless agony time and again as the protagonist is loved and betrayed repeatedly. The light at the end of the tunnel couldn’t have come sooner for Janaki and the novel remains a gaping wound for many a day forward, reminding the reader to never give in.

Ancient Promises by Jaishree Misra. Penguin Books, January 2000.

Reviewer bio: I am an Indian girl in love with words. People and life in general fascinate me and I look forward to publishing my books someday.

Southern Humanities Review – 54.2

The latest issue of Southern Humanities features poetry by Hala Alyan, Anne Barngrover, Jordan Escobar, Rhienna Renée Guedry, Sjohnna Mccray, Immanuel Mifsud, Anna Newman, Kimberly Ramos, Karen Rigby, Brett Shaw, Travis Tate, and Ruth Ward; fiction by Ser Álida, Leslie Blanco, Benjamin Murray, and Glen Pourciau; and nonfiction by Myronn Hardy and Ian Spangler. Find more info at the Southern Humanities Review website.

Jewish Fiction . net – Summer 2020

Thrilled to announce the new summer issue of Jewish Fiction .net! A gift to imbibe this summer along with your favourite cool drink: 10 beautiful stories, originally written in Hebrew, Yiddish, and English. We invite you also to join Jewish Fiction .net on July 13 for an online program in celebration of our 10th anniversary year: “Jewish Fiction Written in 16 Languages: Stories as Reflections of Jewish Life Across Time and Place.”