Today we are happy to announce that Natalie Sypolt’s new book, The Sound of Holding Your Breath, is upcoming this November, 2018 from WVU Press. The Sound of Holding Your Breath centers around residents of the twenty-first-century Appalachia, “each struggling with secrets and losses, entrenched in navigating the complex requirements of family in all its forms.” Silas House, author of Southernmost, has to say the following about Natalie’s debut collection: “A bold and important debut that announces a major new voice. It’s also the best story collection I’ve read in a long while.” The Sound of Holding Your Breath is available for purchase through West Virginia University Press here.
Natalie’s short story, “Fractured,” can be read in Issue 10 of Superstition Review.
In the past few months or so my perception on literature has shifted. My reading has become more active and aware, but even with this new-found sight I find it hard to be terse with literary fiction. I empathize easily, become lost in a good story, but I am also aware of the nuances of the genre.
Stories have to take me somewhere, whether it’s from the subway to the ocean or from one dream to the next. Even thoughts flow, and if I am locked within a character’s mind and privy to their hopes and fears then let me see how their nightmare fades in the light of realization, or how their past has come to shape their future. That being said, the theme and plot can be cast aside in the light of a strong character. When the characters feel organic I am their willing audience. They can guide me through their worlds, but we must take that first step.
Every good character needs a stage, and what I look for in a story is its description. When done well it elevates everything in a narrative, creating a rich and vibrant scape that entices the readers to continue to the next page. On that vein, something that I can truly appreciate as a reader are stories that challenge convention, but I admit that it, like all things, comes with a caveat. Stephen King says a writer can play around with any trick of the trade… so long as they do it well. I think the same applies for challenging conventional writing. I love stories that aren’t afraid to try something new and color outside the lines, but it’s a delicate dance to perform. When someone does it well, especially in literary fiction, I am often left sitting at the end of the final sentence turning the story over in my mind, feeling like I just got to experience something entirely new that no one else has witnessed before.
Writing is a balancing act, and an author should take care not to throw in a surprise format or twist the narrative only for shock and awe. Everything in a story should work in tandem, each aspect keeping in tone with the rest until the narrative rings a single note, signaling to the reader that it is time to delve into the story.
Brynn Kowalski is a fiction editor for Issue 22. She is pursuing her BA in Creative writing with a minor in French. Passionate about literature of all types, Brynn is working to become an editor and publish YA novels. She is currently an active member of several online writing communities and regularly publishes real-time interactive narratives on her media platform.
I have learned, through two short years of examining literature, that there are so many different stories out there and those stories are told in so many more different ways. There are even more definitions in the world on “what a story is.” As much as I would like to rattle off which definition is more right than another, I simply can’t. A story is whatever we make it. It can be shared or it can be kept for oneself. But if a story is shared, it communicates something to the readers. As Gertrude Stein says, “If the communication is perfect, the words have life, and that is all there is to good writing, putting down on the paper words which dance and weep and make love and fight and kiss and perform miracles.”
When I read fiction, I look for the raw and the real. Stories that go deeper than the stereotypes and examine life on a constructive level are the ones I remember, connect with, and share. Within the stories themselves, I want to be able to relate to the characters. I want to see what they see, hear what they hear, feel what they feel. Stories that are character driven, surrounded by sensory details and imagery, evoke emotion enough in me to keep me reading until the very end. When a writer shares something that displays the human condition in a way that makes tears form in the corner of my eyes (whether from laughter, anger, sadness, or a mixture of all three), I know that I will remember that story above all others. Combinations of words and ideas have power enough to execute a story that does “dance and weep and make love and fight…” and I look for that in the stories I read.
As a writer myself, I am inspired by every submission. The courage authors have to share their work with the world is something I admire, as mundane and every day as that may sound. Each submission leaves a lasting impression that I learn from and go back to whenever I need. This constant communication between art and people and people and art is what motivates me to keep reading. Share with me the stories that don’t just push characters over the edge, but stories that push the readers too.
Alexandra Myers is a fiction editor for issue 22 of Superstition Review. She is a senior at Arizona State University majoring in creative writing, with a minor in film. After graduation, she plans to become a volunteer for the Peace Corps and upon return to the states will continue her passion for writing by completing an MFA.
Today we are pleased to feature author Kaylee Sue Duff as our Authors Talk series contributor. In the podcast, Kaylee discusses the creative process behind two of her flash fiction pieces, “Nothing” and “The Deer,” and the intertwined nature of the stories themselves.
Kaylee states that “Nothing” is one of her favorite pieces that she has written, for it “takes ownership of those feelings that… are terrible and impossible to deal with, and turns them into something that other people can experience as well, something that is really beautiful.” She highlights that the inspiration for “Nothing” stemmed from her own feelings of loneliness and isolation upon moving away to college, which led to her “figuring out a lot about myself and my identity.” She goes on to express that the piece is “more like poetry than I would ever care to admit,” and that, “by writing what… I felt was right, I was able to tap into something that I would never have been able to otherwise.”
You can read Kaylee’s story, “Nothing,” in Issue 20 of Superstition Review.
Today we are pleased to feature author John Clayton as our Authors Talk series contributor. In the podcast, John discusses the subjectivity of memory and the dynamic nature of family as seen in his short story, “Memory Loss.” “Memory Loss” describes the journey of a son to understand the truth of his own experience in the midst of family members attempting to “rewrite the narrative” of their own history. Thus the question is, as John states: “Who is truly distorting the past? Whose memory has gotten ‘lost?'”
John notes that we “don’t remember our lives by means of a clear, objective lens,” and that everything in our lives is seen through the prism of our own subjectivity. He states that “observation is filtered by memory, and memory is always distorted.” However, he concludes by saying that, when authors make the choice to share these distorted and sometimes-painful memories, the memories are “given shape, sweetened, and made tender. The author stands apart from them, and the pain is temporarily assuaged.”
You can read John’s story, “Memory Loss,” in Issue 21 of Superstition Review.
Today we are pleased to feature Jen Knox as our Authors Talk series contributor. Jen talks about her contributions to Superstition Review and what she, as a reader, looks for in a strong short story. Jen also says that the why and how she writes ultimately boils down to character and her desire to understand the human condition from different purviews. She ends her talk by offering advice to burgeoning fiction writers.
“Disengaged” by Jen Knox can be read in Issue 4 of Superstition Review, as well as “West on N Road” in Issue 14.
Join local author Jennifer Spiegel (Bell) for a free community creative writing workshop every Monday at Phoenix College! The class will take place in room B-126.
The focus will be on getting down the basics and hitting the hot topics. Jennifer will lead prospective writers of every skill level through a different topic each week.
List of topics:
3/26 Taking the community pulse: Fiction or nonfiction, writing goals, and basic principles.
4/2 Character and Point of View
4/9 Show don’t tell
4/16 Descriptive language
4/30 Beginnings and ends
5/7 Hot topics, publishing, writing in the age of #metoo, and the writing life.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to RSVP or to ask any questions!
Jennifer Spiegel is mostly a fiction writer with two books and a miscellany of short publications, though she also teaches English and creative writing. She is part of Snotty Literati, a book-reviewing gig, with Lara Smith. She lives with her family in Arizona.