Lit-ercise: Two Writing Exercises

Give yourself a word count.

1. Give yourself a word count, the smaller the better. Steve Moss, editor of The New York Times and flash fiction pioneer, recommends a word count of 55 words. No more and no less. Try to tell a complete story, a story with a protagonist, a conflict and a resolution. The idea is that once you start to get close to that word limit you’ll find that there are certain parts of your story that you can tell in a more efficient way, or even some parts that you don’t need.  As you write more and more of these you’ll find that you’re writing will become tighter and cleaner.

2. Pull out some stories from your favorite authors. Read their opening paragraphs and then try and imitate their style in an opening paragraph of your own. Authors tend to spend a lot of time on their opening paragraphs and as a result it is usually some of their best work. The goal here is to step a bit out of your style comfort zone, and see what it’s like to write like a published author. You may find that your own writing becomes stronger and more engaging.

 

Meet the Interns: Terrah Hancock

Nonfiction Editor Terrah Hancock is an English Literature major at Arizona State University. One of her nonfiction essays, Snobbery Tower is being published in the upcoming edition of Lux Literary Magazine. She has also finished a working draft of her memoir entitled Singing Myself To Sleep and is in the editorial phase of publication. She aspires to attend graduate school at Vermont College of Fine Arts where her Creative Writing Thesis Project will be the tangled biography of a 26º Freemason’s son.

1.  What is your position with Superstition Review and what are your responsibilities?
This is my first semester with Superstition Review. As the Nonfiction Editor my responsibilities are to review submissions from authors. I correspond with the authors and then submit my vote on which submissions I think should be featured.

2.  Why did you decide to get involved with Superstition Review?
I am usually on the submitting end of the publication process. I was curious to experience the other side, so I applied. I want to gain exposure to things like: the always dreaded and nerve wracking Query Letter and to witness how fellow writers develop and sustain relationships with literary magazines.

3.  Besides interning for Superstition Review, how do you spend your time?
I have a set of detailed and lofty academic and professional goals, so a great deal of my time is spent studying or writing in the basement of Hayden Library. Beyond striving to achieve my childhood dream of being a writer, I am the happy and playful mother of two beautiful sons.  We spend much of our time riding bikes, playing football or taking our three dogs to the dog park.

4.  What other position(s) for Superstition Review would you like to try out?
I could see myself trying the Superstition Review Blog Editor only if it doesn’t exclude me from being able to read all the incoming submissions!

5.  Describe one of your favorite literary works.
I get asked this all the time and I contend that one favorite is impossible! I have a strong three way tie for my favorite work: Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck and Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. Each of these books left me feeling immensely connected to humanity and with a deep compassion for all the things I’ll never know about other people’s lives.

6.  What are you currently reading?
After semesters full of close, analytic readings I yearn for a story that I don’t have to dissect and appraise. My very favorite story to get lost in is Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. Like the gunslinger’s repeated journey, I read this entire series once a year. I love that I don’t study the sentence structure or even acknowledge that structure exists. Right now I’m reading The Art of Time in Memoir by Sven Birkerts.

7.  Creatively, what are you currently working on?
I am working on polishing the working draft of my first book right now. I completed my first draft over a year ago and have been following a detailed plan to achieve my eventual goal.  My manuscript is with my editor now and when we are finished with this lengthy editorial process, I’ll move along to the stage of acquiring publication and literary prestige!

8.  What inspires you?
I am inspired by the people who never gave up on their dreams. In 1888, Mona Caird wrote “Every good thing that we enjoy today was once the dream of a ‘crazy enthusiast’ mad enough to believe in the power of ideas and in the power of man to have things as he wills.” Also — one of my goals is to someday be an answer to one of The Writer’s Chronicle crossword puzzle questions!

9.  What are you most proud of?
I make sure to cherish every accomplishment in my life. Every semester, every essay, every test, every publication. I’m proud of my life collectively. Most recently, I’m very proud of my first publication. A short story of mine entitled, Snobbery Tower, was published just this month in a local literary journal.

10.  Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I wrote my first book at age six, entitled The Heart and The Ant. Ten years from now, I will still be on the path that began with that book. I will still be writing and possibly in school; hopefully on the other side of the podium by then. I’ll still be happy and proud. I’ll know that I never gave up on my dreams — maybe got distracted a few times, but I never quit.

Meet the Interns: Emily Beckley

Poetry Editor Emily Beckley is entering her senior year here at Arizona State pursuing a bachelor’s degree in English Literature. Upon graduating in December, she plans to utilize her degree to get herself into graduate school to study publishing. Originally from Chicago, Emily hopes to move to the northwest after graduation to follow her dream of working in the editing/publishing field and also hopes to one day publish her own poetry for the masses. This is Emily’s premier semester at Superstition Review.

1.   What is your position with Superstition Review and what are your responsibilities?

I am a poetry editor for Superstition Review. I handle poetry submissions along with my fellow poetry editor, April Stolarz. This process involves reading submissions and giving my personal feedback in terms of quality and vision as it pertains to the finished product of the upcoming issue of Superstition Review. Outside of content editing, I participate in spreading the word about Superstition Review and increasing awareness for future writers who wish to submit.

2.   Why did you decide to get involved with Superstition Review?

I am graduating in December, and I am really trying to get myself some real world experience in the field in which I intend to seek employment. I want to work in the publishing industry; this internship will definitely give me the advantage when seeking a job. Also, I will be applying for graduate school and any internship will set me apart from other applicants.

3.   How do you like to spend your free time?

I like to spend my free time reading and writing poetry. Being a literature major, I tend to always be reading something that is assigned to me. So, I cherish the times I have to read works of my own choosing. I also love seeing shows around the valley with friends or taking day trips around the state on the weekend. I am also a thrift shopping addict, yikes!

4.   What other position(s) for Superstition Review would you like to try out?

If I were to have another position, I think being an art editor would be really exciting. I don’t have any experience with art, other than my own personal interests. But, handling submissions of people’s artwork would be really exciting and interesting.

5.   Describe one of your favorite literary works.

My favorite poet of all time would have to be Gary Snyder. All of his work speaks to me on a very personal level; the calm that ensues from reading his poetry lifts my mood instantly! “Rip Rap” is by far my favorite poem of his. I think I have learned a lot from his writing, and have carried a bit of Snyder into my own style.

6.   What are you currently reading?

Currently, I am reading Shopgirl by Steve Martin and Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë.

7.   Creatively, what are you currently working on?

I try to fit in as much time as I can every week to allow myself to write freely. I love writing poetry; it’s a very cathartic experience for me. I keep a portfolio of my work and try to update it every month with some solid pieces that I think will be worth someone’s time in the future when I explore writing as a career.

8.   What inspires you?

I feel that every day holds moments of beauty and poetry. I challenge myself to notice these moments and treasure them. Often, I write lyric poems praising small and seemingly insignificant occurrences or objects, even images and realizations that I think will bring a smile to my face one day going back and reading my own work. I also tend to write a lot of confessional style poetry. It can feel very cleansing when experiencing struggles in life.

9.   What are you most proud of?

I am proud of my positive attitude and appreciation for life. Not everyone can say that they are truly happy, and I take pride in knowing that I have taken the right steps to be just where I want and need to be in life.

10.   Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In 10 years I hope to be working in the publishing industry and have published some of my own poetry. I would love it if I had the opportunity to share my work with the public and make a career out of something I am so passionate about.

Meet the Interns: Madeline Beach, Solicitations Coordinator

Madeline Beach earned a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from ASU in 2003. She has since returned to ASU, and is now a senior studying English Literature.

Superstition Review: What is your position with Superstition Review and what are your responsibilities?

Madeline Beach: I am currently serving as the Solicitations Coordinator. My major responsibilities include reaching out to writers and artists who have been selected to be solicited to submit previously unpublished work and then I make the received solicited submissions available to the respective editor for review. I also contact bookstores and writing organizations to request that they notify their customers and members of our open submission period.

SR: How did you hear about Superstition Review and what made you decide to get involved?

MB: I first learned about Superstition Review when I took a course led by the journal’s Managing Editor Trish Murphy. She informed the class that there would be an opportunity to participate in the creation of the spring issue and I felt it would be a great chance for me to gain invaluable experience in the publishing field.

SR: What are you hoping to take away from your Superstition Review experience?

MB: I am hoping to gain some of the skills necessary to working as a professional editor. I am in school because I have decided to change careers and I hope that this internship will provide some of the experience I need to be a successful editor.

SR: Describe one of your favorite literary or artistic works.

MB: An author who I recently discovered whose story I felt was very well written is Tammy Delatorre. Her story titled Gifts from my Mother is a cynical coming of age tale that describes the “gifts” a young girl receives from her mother. At night the narrator’s mother leaves her young daughter in the car while she frequents the local bar. The mother brings her daughter the parasols and olives from her drinks at the bar, which the daughter sarcastically remarks as being so thoughtful. I like the feel of the story because it is dark and poignant, telling the short story of a young girl’s experience of her mother.

SR: What are you currently reading?

MB: Unfortunately between working full-time and going to school full-time I don’t have time for any leisure reading.

SR: What other position(s) for Superstition Review would you like to try out?

MB: I would like to try to be a Fiction or Nonfiction Editor. My goal after graduation is to obtain a career as an editor of written work, so I feel that I would gain experience that closely matched my aspirations.

SR: Do you prefer reading literary magazines online or in print?

MB: I prefer reading literary magazines online because of the availability and accessibility. I have found it is easier to read the work of several different authors when I browse journals that publish online.

SR: Do you write or create art? What are you currently working on?

MB: I am currently writing a series of essays based on the lives of women who have overcome tumultuous family situations in childhood to lead successful lives. The stories are based in reality on people I have known who have life stories that are so extreme they almost seem fictional, which is why I feel they should be told.

SR: What is your favorite mode of relaxation?

MB: My favorite mode of relaxation is somewhat juvenile; I enjoy watching cartoons. In fact, I have never stopped watching cartoons on Saturday mornings because I like the break from conscious thought. I try to keep my love of cartoons a secret because when people find out I generally get teased.

SR: Where do you see yourself in ten years?

MB: I see myself on the East Coast working as an editor. I feel that it is a big dream, but it is what I have in my sights and would like to achieve. I believe if I put in the needed effort I will be able to obtain the career I want.

Meet the Interns: Carrie Grant, Blogger

It’s a new semester at ASU, which means a new team of student interns is gearing up to work on Superstition Review Issue 5. We have 18 interns this semester, and you’ll be getting to know us one at a time as the weeks progress.

As the person bringing you the interviews with our interns and keeping you up-to-date on everything happening with Superstition Review, I figure I should introduce myself first. I’m Carrie Grant, a sophomore majoring in English Literature and Sociology.

Superstition Review: What is your position with Superstition Review and what are your responsibilities?

Carrie Grant: I’m the Blogger, which means I post updates on the SR staff’s progress toward publication, interviews with our interns, and other Superstition Review topics of interest to our WordPress blog, Twitter account, and Facebook fan page.

SR: How did you hear about Superstition Review and what made you decide to get involved?

CG: I heard about Superstition Review through an email listserv last semester. I had been throwing around the idea of a future in publishing for a while, and this seemed like the perfect way to get a taste of how publishing works and to better determine whether I could actually see myself working in publishing.

SR: What are you hoping to take away from your Superstition Review experience?

CG: I want to gain an understanding of how the work done by each intern contributes to the overall process of publishing a literary magazine. I also want to become more confident in my ability to work independently.

SR: Describe one of your favorite literary or artistic works.

CG: I’m in love with The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. The recent film adaptation doesn’t do this intricate science fiction/love story justice at all. Actually, I think the film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button conveys the feeling of The Time Traveler’s Wife much more accurately.

SR: What are you currently reading?

CG: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which I’m enjoying so much that I can’t believe I haven’t read it before now. I started David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest at the end of winter break, and I’m trying to find time to get back to it.

SR: Who would be the Superstition Review contributor of your dreams?

CG: Margaret Atwood. She’s basically my literary idol of both poetry and fiction, and it would be amazing to be a part of publishing her work.

SR: What other position(s) for Superstition Review would you like to try out?

CG: I would like to be Content or Submissions Coordinator, or a Fiction Editor.

SR: Do you prefer reading literary magazines online or in print?

CG: Online. I don’t have much time to read for pleasure, so I like the ease with which I can take a break from, say, writing a Superstition Review blog post, and read a new poem or short story.

SR: Besides interning for Superstition Review, how do you spend your time?

CG: Day-to-day I can be found reading for classes in the Barrett study room, watching indie movies in bed or at the local indie theater, patrolling the halls of Hassayampa with my fellow Community Assistants (known as RAs basically everywhere but at ASU), and editing for the student-run Barrett Honors College magazine, The Barrett Chronicle.

SR: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

CG: I hope to be working in publishing, possibly as a literary agent or an editor. Ideally, 10 years from now I’ll be married, living in a well-decorated Manhattan apartment, and the owner of a dream library and wardrobe.

Academics and Ambitions: Superstition Review, Spring 2009

1109777_sister_studyingWe here at Superstition Review are put in a unique position in the literary world. As student interns, we are at the forefront of shaping the future of literacy. To work on a national literary publication such as this is a unique opportunity. By publishing and producing a body of work, we contribute both directly and indirectly to current literature–while still safely in the cradle of the University.

Therefore, your continued support of our publication not only helps Arizona State University, but also the literary and career world as a whole. As for myself, I am returning to school as a full-time Creative Writing student, part-time freelance editor, and lifelong devotee to writing. I look forward to blogging and putting together our next issue of the Superstition Review–and I hope you look forward to this too.

Welcome back, readers. What are your ambitions for Spring 2009?