Editorial Preferences in Nonfiction: Jaime Faulkner

When I’m reading nonfiction, I’m looking for strong sensory detail and a solid voice from the speaker. The best kinds of essays are the ones that start with a high level of specific detail and open up to the reader, allowing them to reflect back on their own experiences. This occurs through developing the setting with concrete imagery. Whether it is focused on just one striking event or transverses months or years, sensory details are essential to understanding how the characters are shaped by their surroundings — and to ground the audience in those moments.

Consider Hamartia: The Failure to Recognize, Rachel Toliver’s essay in Issue 151 of TriQuarterly. The essay is highly personal, lush with detail, and uses location to stunning effect: The street is empty except for a little boy who wears only shorts and stands solemn in his black body. He takes up the middle of the pavement and he stays there, face quiet in the midst of concrete curbs and locked car doors. I can sense, looking at him, the translucent column of his personhood there, patient inside his chest. The scene suspends the boy in the moment, and Toliver allows the reader to rest in that image with her. In just a paragraph, it develops space and setting very quickly with details that provoke thoughts about politicizing black bodies, childhood, and observing the inner world of other people.

I am looking for deeply personal essays — because I’m reading to learn from the speaker, develop my own empathy and try think about the world in new ways. It can be tempting to overgeneralize; as Mary Karr says in The Art of Memoir, “I’ve said it’s hard. Here’s how hard: everybody I know who wades deep enough into memory’s waters drowns a little.” However, when speakers shy away from the gritty details, the story suffers. Vulnerability and thoughtfulness are exactly what I’m looking for in nonfiction. Not every piece needs to be sentimental or overwrought, but I want the speaker to really dig into the memories they choose to share and to clearly show readers why these thoughts matter.

I believe the best literature encourages readers and writers to reach out and learn from each other, and that’s where nonfiction shines. By grounding a story in rich sensory detail and honest reflection, the speaker is allowing us to live, briefly suspended in their moment.

Jaime FaulknerBio: Jaime Faulkner is a junior at Arizona State University majoring in Communication. She is currently the Nonfiction Editor for Superstition Review, as well as a volunteer editor with Four Chambers Press. Upon graduation, she hopes to work in publishing as an editor and author.

 

Guest Post, Ashley Caveda: My Body Is Not A Metaphor

A photo of the author.Paralysis is so often a metaphor. A simile to express shock or fear. It is a word you use, but you probably don’t mean it the way that I mean it. I mean to say my spinal column was damaged after my six-year-old body jackknifed during an automobile accident and that was the last moment I felt the skin below my chest or moved my legs of my own volition. Unless you count feeling my skin with my fingers and lifting my legs with my arms to move them where I would have them go. I do count this. Do not discount this.

I liked to write as a child. My words took me everywhere my body could not. I lived lifetimes amongst the stars. I visited the depths of the oceans and made my home in Scottish castles. I am the first person to set foot on Mars. I was a writer, my family told me.

My high school guidance counselor asked my mother if perhaps I would consider a career in radio. No one would have to see me. No one would have to know. The failures of my body would not matter. I could transcend my physical form through language. And in the beginning were my words and my words were with me but they were not me. They were only a part of me.

I fell twice this year exiting the shower. I almost didn’t call for help. My words failed me. My legs were twisted, my strength dwindling, my abdomen sore. My body threatened to break if I lost the half-grip I maintained on my chair, suspended. I couldn’t pull up. I couldn’t fall down. Instead I called out. My friend came. She raised my naked body from this in-between to its proper place again, seated. I never touched the floor. I don’t know if my tears did. You can’t understand. But let me try to explain myself to you.

I hold fast to the arms of my friends so I do not lose my balance. I read the news and I imagine the end of the world. I know my body has no place in it.

Mine is not one of those paralyzed bodies that found a way to do all things, extending itself beyond its limit. My rotator cuffs are worn and they ache. My legs spasm, seemingly without cause and without remedy. My fingers grasp and stretch and feel, even if what they feel is pain.

Paralyzed in the same manner, in the same second as I, my brother James’ body fails him too. He told me about a game he played with his friends. Everyone in the room was to select the person whose life they would never want. They all pointed at my brother. They pointed at the body that would ruin them. It was supposed to be a joke.

I’ve hated my body more than you’ve hated my body. But I need you to know something. My body is not an anchor or a prison. My body is not a metaphor. You don’t get to call it a metaphor. I am the only one who gets to do that.

A photo of the author.Look at me. My life is not a ruined life. My brother’s life is not a ruined life, even though you don’t want it. My flesh is numb, but it is still here. I am beautiful even when you don’t believe it. Even when I don’t believe it. I may be the person you carry from the burning building, down flight after flight before the walls crumble in on us. You may want to discount me. But I am alive. My lungs fill with air and my chest expands and my palms press into the tread of my tires and I keep pushing. My body propels me forward in ways my words alone cannot.

My whole diaphragm shook with laughter until tears fell the day my father and I staged pet robots for a scavenger hunt photo op. In 7th grade, my arms wrestled the boys and won, pinning their wrists to the desk. My mouth savored sweet cherry after sweet cherry until my stomach churned, overfull. My knuckles grazed the walls of the Colosseum in Rome, making me a part of its history. My head was covered with prayers and hands anointed me with oil before a surgeon spread my back open like a book. My body hurtled through the heavens in the corkscrew curl of a rollercoaster and all I remember thinking is This is delightful. My face was kissed by Conan O’Brien at a taping of his show, beloved by me since I was girl. He told me I looked really beautiful and I believed him. My older siblings carried my body in my bathing suit across the sand and I floated in the ocean, waves rolling over my shoulders. At Epcot, the Mission: Space centrifuge spun, compressing me, simulating a force of gravity two-and-a-half times beyond that of our Earth, holding me down until the pressure relented and I was not sick like my cousins were; my body was well. It understood how to break free from the atmosphere even while their able bodies did not.

I am not nothing. I am more than the words you are reading. I am somebody, not nobody. A body. My body. The only body I have. It needs so much care but has given me so much in return. Inconvenient and alive. I hate it and I love it and I wish I were just my words but I am not and I am so grateful to be more.

#ArtLitPhx: Rachel Egboro “Telling the Whole Story”

Rachel Egboro bio photoOn Saturday, August 12th Rachel Egboro will be conducting a two-hour introductory storytelling workshop. Rachel is the co-founder of thestoryline.org, a Phoenix storytelling collective. During the workshop, Rachel will give some simple steps to begin and develop a story for an audience. The workshop costs $25 and will be at the Changing Hands Phoenix location. You can find more information and buy tickets here.

Authors Talk: Steven Faulkner

Steven FaulknerToday we are pleased to feature author Steven Faulkner as our Authors Talk series contributor. Steven’s podcast is a unique treat: he has recorded his nonfiction piece from Issue 14 with guitar accompaniment. Steven’s voice blends with the lull of the guitar to create a truly moving work of art. His essay reflects on the life of his youngest child, Alex, as he grows up. Steven begins by describing Alex’s birth and ends when Alex “is 22 years old” and “[h]is father and mother have little influence,” with many anecdotes to fill the time in between.

Steven Faulkner is the author and reader. John Hogge is the guitarist, and John Holloway is the audio engineer.

As you listen to Steven’s essay, “Photo Album on a Westbound Train,” you can also read along in Issue 14 of Superstition Review.

Contributor Update: Emily Matyas and SEE magazine

SEE Magazine recently began their series, “The Importance of Being Churro: The Sheep at the Heart of Navajo Culture.” The magazine was co-founded by previous contributor Emily Matyas, who provides photographs for the article. In part one, Colleen Oakes provides a broad introduction to the contemporary struggles facing Navajo traditions that starts with raising Churro sheep. The article is accompanied by powerful interviews and stunning photography. Emily Matyas Headshot

You can check out Emily’s work for Superstition Review in Issue 14 here.

Authors Talk: William J. Cobb

William J. CobbToday we are pleased to feature author William J. Cobb as our Authors Talk series contributor. William talks about his essay “The Altered States of Stuffed Animals” which was inspired by his daughter’s collection of stuffed animals. He goes on to say that he has a complicated relationship with stuffed animals one that is, “usually dismissive, [and] begrudgingly sentimental.”

 

You can read William’s piece, “The Altered States of Stuffed Animals,” in Issue 17 of Superstition Review.

 

Contributor Update: Laura Esther Wolfson

Bio Photo Laura Esther WolfsonWe have some great news from past contributor Laura Esther Wolfson. Laura’s essay collection, Proust at Rush Hour, has won the 2017 Iowa Prize in Literary Nonfiction. The book is forthcoming from the University of Iowa Press in the spring of 2018.
In addition her essay, “Losing the Nobel,” has been shortlisted for the Notting Hill Editions Essay Prize. The winner and finalists will be announced in late June at an award ceremony in London that will double as a book launch for the volume containing the winner’s and finalists’ contest submissions.
You can read Laura’s essay “For Single Mothers Working As Train Conductors” in issue 14 of Superstition Review here. Laura has also contributed multiple times to the Superstition Review blog. You can find those posts here.
Congratulations and good luck Laura!