#ArtLitPhx: Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writers Conference

The Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writers Conference is three days of craft talks, panels, workshops and presentations at Arizona State University. With more than 50 sessions from over 25 faculty members in multiple genres and fields, the goal is to provide writers with opportunities to make personal and professional connections, advance their craft, and deepen their engagement with the literary field. View the full conference schedule here.

About the conference from the host, The Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing:

“We are committed to creating an accessible and inclusive space for writers of all backgrounds, genres, and skill levels. Conference faculty and programming encompass many genres which can often go under served in the literary field, including Young Adult, Science-Fiction/Fantasy, Crime Fiction, Translation, Graphic Novels, Hybrid, and more.

Special topics like climate change, social justice, and other contemporary issues also feature prominently.

Publishing, editing, agents, and other aspects of the business of publishing are included as well.

Beyond sessions, attendees can also participate in receptions, discussion groups, after-hour socials, and other opportunities to connect with fellow conference-goers, develop relationships, and build community.”

The 2018 Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writers Conference will take place from Thursday, February 22 through Saturday, February 24. Writers of all backgrounds and experience levels are encouraged to attend. Register here.

Guest Post, Mark Lewandowski: Bikini Clad Bad Ass

Mark Lewendowski holding a panda cub.Moments after leaving the theater, my wife Katie checked Facebook and found out Carrie Fisher had died earlier in the day.

The adrenaline pumping through me after experiencing Rogue One dried up immediately.  The news wasn’t unexpected, but as all good movies do, the newest Star Wars film had kept reality at bay for nearly two and half hours.  Granted, Rogue One isn’t the most uplifting of the Star Wars entries.  Pretty much all the good guys are killed off.  But, it ends in the way I had hoped:  Princess Leia, one of cinema’s all-time great bad asses, accepting the plans to the Death Star, the very same plans she will feed into R2-D2’s databanks in the original Star Wars.

Since hearing of Carrie Fisher’s passing, I’ve spent a lot of time in my memory, hearkening back to my first meeting with Princess Leia.  I was twelve in 1977.  I saw Star Wars at the drive-in with my family, the sound squeaking through those tin speakers you had to hang from a partially closed window.  (The cheapest lap top produces a cleaner sound today.)  Like so many others in 1977, I instantly crushed on Princess Leia, but I can’t say it was sexual.  Maybe I was too young yet.  I just couldn’t remember seeing another female character like her on the screen (big or small) before.  She wasn’t cheesy like Wonder Woman or Barbarella, and didn’t look at all like Racquel Welch in One Million Years B.C., nor did she resemble the femme fatales of every James Bond flick.  Unlike Samantha in Bewitched, or Jeanie in I Dream of Jeanie, Princess Leia didn’t give up any special powers just to please the men in her life.  In my 12 year old eyes, she was completely unique.

At the beginning of Star Wars, and just moments after the end of Rogue One, Princess Leia slips the Death Star plans to R2-D2 and instructs him/it/whatever to find Obi-
Wan Kenobi.  She then turns and accepts capture at the hands of Darth Vader, stooge of the Imperial Emperor, who tortures her in an attempt to find out the location of the rebel base.  Even after seeing her home planet obliterated, she doesn’t give an inch, sacrificing herself for the cause.

Once in her holding cell, George Lucas sets up Leia as the classic damsel-in-distress; that’s certainly how Luke Skywalker and Han Solo see her.  However, Lucas subverts the archetype.  Once Luke frees her from her cell, Leia grabs a blaster, holding her own against advancing Stormtroopers.  With their only apparent path out of the prison cut off, it is Leia who engineers their escape via the giant trash compactor.

Later, as the Millennium Falcon zooms away from the Death Star, Han Solo quips, “Not a bad bit of rescuing, uh?  You know, sometimes I even amaze myself.”

“That doesn’t sound too hard,” Leia jabs back.

Only Leia knows the rescue was too easy, and that a homing beacon was likely planted in the ship.  Her own “escape” will lead the Imperial Forces to the rebel base she kept hidden under torture.  The future of the rebellion rests entirely on her hope that the plans R2 has hidden in his databanks will prove useful.  In Joseph Campbell’s analysis of a typical Hero’s Journey, the protagonist initially shows reluctance to accept his task.  Han Solo shows his reluctance throughout the film.  Even Luke must be pushed by Ben Kenobi to leave the “ordinary world” of his home planet.  Leia?  Never.  Of this triumvirate of heroes at the heart of Star Wars, she is the strongest, the most steadfast of them all.

. . .

Some years ago Hallmark released a Christmas ornament of Princess Leia dressed in the infamous bikini from The Return of the Jedi.  My eight-year old nephew had recently discovered Star Wars, so I bought it for him.  His mother wasn’t amused.  Like so many others, she views Leia’s get up as some kind of sexual exploitation.  Is it?  I’m not sure if I see it that way, and when I gave my nephew the ornament, I wasn’t playing the clichéd role of the perverted uncle.  Even now, when I rewatch The Return of the Jedi, I don’t see a sexed up, exploitative version of Princess Leia; I just see another manifestation of her heroic strength.

At the end of The Empire Strikes Back, Han Solo is frozen in carbonite.  At the beginning of the third movie, he’s nothing more than a wall decoration for the mobster, Jabba the Hut. Leia enters Jabba the Hut’s fortress disguised as a bounty hunter, with Chewbacca as bait.  We realize Leia is part of an elaborate ruse, along with the droids, Luke and Lando Calrissian, to free Han Solo.  Arguably, Leia has the most dangerous task.  She ends up playing chicken with Jabba the Hut when she activates a thermal detonator to illustrate her ferocity.  If Jabba doesn’t give in, she’d blow herself up, as well has everyone else in the room.  While the ruse works initially, Leia is ultimately discovered.  Jabba dresses her in that bikini (giving new meaning to the concept of going “undercover”), and chains her up, replacing another bikini clad female who had earlier been fed to the planet Tatooine’s twisted version of a Bumble, which lives in a cave below the throne room.

Luke Skywalker eventually arrives to save the day, but once again, Leia doesn’t play the role of damsel-in-distress.  With the boys messing about with light sabers and laser blasters out in the desert, Leia steps up and wraps the chain around Jabba’s enormous neck, choking him to death with the very thing that had tethered them together.  It’s the very last time we see Leia in a bikini.

Leia ends up doing all kinds of other cool things in The Return of the Jedi, like killing off a lot of Stormtroopers and zipping around the forest on a hovercycle.  (It’s a shame she’s never allowed to train as a Jedi Knight, but she does achieve the rank of General.  That’s not too shabby.)  Without Leia’s heroics in the original Star Wars trilogy, we might never have become acquainted with Daisy Ridley’s Rey, or Felicity Jones’ Jyn Erso, let alone Buffy Summers, or Xena the Warrior Princess, or River Tam, or any number of past, present and future female heroes.

Thank you, Carrie Fisher

Guest Post, Ashley Caveda: The Everyday Tragedy

When I wake up, at first I don’t remember—still in the fog of some delicious dream. But when I stretch my arms, there is no equivalent stretching of legs or toes; rather, I must lift my paralyzed limbs with my hands, placing my heels firmly on the footplate of my wheelchair, reminded once again that I am disabled.

This is a reality I cannot escape as I roll into the kitchen, propelling myself in this wheeled contraption that permits me some semblance of a normal existence. There awaits my cat, a creature so nimble he is able to hop on top of the fridge in two successive leaps, while I merely watch. Sitting. Always sitting.

My God, I think, I can’t walk.

I am forced to realize this again and again, as though I were in a real-life version of Groundhog Day or that one episode of every science fiction show that ever existed—you know the one. And as the new day’s sun reveals the tragic truth of my tragic situation, my only (admittedly still tragic) consolation is what a big damn hero I am.


I’m having fun with you. The truth is, dear reader, my disability is probably much more dramatic to you than it is to me. Perhaps you were even sucked in by the first paragraph, believing that’s really how I wake up each morning.

And thus begins another day as a disabled person…le sigh.

For me, the entire thing is a farce. Spending nearly 25 years in a wheelchair has given the concept some time to grow on me. I wake up, not regretting the shocking reality of my disability so much as regretting the shocking reality that it’s already time to get up for work.

In graduate school, I wrote a humorous essay about the perks of being disabled (sweet parking, no wait for roller coasters, being carried up and down stairs by strapping young gentlemen—you get the idea). But when my classmates read this piece, many mentioned its powerful, underlying pain. Another peer even told me of a friend whose mother committed suicide, and how her friend tried to make jokes to cover up the pain of such a tragedy and although she was no therapist, mightn’t I be doing the same thing?

When I reflected on these comments, I realized I wasn’t the one typecasting disability as painful. As a writer, though, this simple fact of my person is one that comes with a lot of baggage. The words ‘disability’ or ‘wheelchair’ or ‘car accident’ seem necessarily to imply ‘tragedy’ to many readers. Certainly, there are moments of my life that have felt tragic—that I have openly characterized as such—but I’ve found tragedy to be fairly unsustainable for long periods of time. It is not the whole, ongoing, or even most important truth of my life.

Being paralyzed is also enlightening and hilarious and, for me, completely normal. And yet, too often, my normal days and my normal life are read as tragic days and as a tragic life because it’s too hard to fathom that a differently functioning body isn’t also an inherently worse body.

I’m still learning when and how to divulge my disability in writing. I know that such a revelation may color everything else I say, preoccupying my readers with what happened and when, wondering if I’ve recovered psychologically, wondering if they themselves would even be able to get out of bed in the morning if it happened to them. Or maybe just wondering whether or not my arms ever get tired. The simple truth is that disability has affected many aspects of my life, but often not in the ways you would think. And so I’m trying to learn how to communicate the different facets of disability that have nothing to do with tragedy. Or to show that sometimes, my wheelchair is merely a footnote to another story I’m trying to tell, as pertinent as my blue eyes or my long brown hair.

Oh, and for the record, until my consciousness is transplanted into a robot dragon’s body and I become Mecha-Ashley, my arms do get tired.

Tragically tired 😉

Meet the Review Crew: Ofure Ikharebha

Ofure Ikharebha is a social networking intern pursuing a degree in Linguistics with a concentration in English, and a certificate in TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other languages). Upon graduating, she hopes to either attend graduate school for a master’s degree or jump into a career in publishing, editing, or localization.

Ofure was born on the West Coast, but Phoenix is where she has spent the majority of her time growing up. As a child, she was always an avid reader and developed a burgeoning interest in literature and language; Ofure believes that this is all due in part to her parents having used “Hooked on Phonics” and an interactive alphabet desk. Oh, to be a child of the ’90s…

While many might find the “classics” boring, they are Ofure’s literature of choice. This interest was first cultivated in middle school after reading various works by John Steinbeck, George Orwell, and Ray Bradbury. (You’d actually be hard-pressed to find her admitting her deep appreciation for old school sci-fi.) Aside from reading, she also enjoys embarking on creative projects, studying languages, watching a wide variety of television shows (from Asian dramas to Breaking Bad), and blogging.

Ofure applied to SR out of necessity and curiosity; while the extrinsic values of gaining more internship experience within a desired field are important, she is most excited about working with a team to organize a literary magazine issue and the publishing process. With her internship at Superstition Review, she hopes to help develop and maintain an active social media presence and put her years of extensive social networking use to good work.

One of Ofure’s favorite poems is John Gillespie Magee, Jr’s “High Flight”:

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air….

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
Where never lark, or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
– Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

What We’re Reading

Here’s what Superstition Review interns are currently reading.

Corinne Randall, Poetry Editor: Right now I am currently reading my FAVORITE Shakespeare plays, Othello. Like all good Shakespeare tragedies it has a sad ending but it’s powerful through and through.

Samantha Allen, Art Editor: Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. It’s a blend of literary fiction and sci-fi, a character-driven story about “Snowman” — formerly Jimmy — who appears to be the last man on Earth. Through Snowman’s flashbacks, the reader sees a near-future image of a North American city segregated into the slummy ‘pleeblands’ and the enclosed communities owned by corporations engaged in research on genetic modification. Though Atwood includes some seemingly-fantastical elements in her novel, her research is so thorough and impeccable that through her narrator’s detailed explanations, the outlandish feels entirely realistic. Her emotionally intense prose and air of scientific authority make Oryx and Crake a very compelling read.

Ljubo Popovich, Poetry Editor: I just got into Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño. I recommend his long novels: The Savage Detectives and 2666. Also his collections of short stories are excellent. The one I read was Last Evenings on Earth. He writes about lives of writers in South America and Europe. He founded the poetry movement InfraRealism in South America and is considered the heir to Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s literary triumphs. I also read Masuji Ibuse’s collection of short stories, Salamander and other stories. This Japanese writer is [rather] unknown in the United States. But his historical novel Black Rain, about the events leading up to and following the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki is considered one of the greatest novels to come out of Post-War Japan. His prose is very easy to read and very beautifully rendered, even in translation.

Jake Adler, Art Editor: Guyland by Michael Kimmel. It’s a sociological study about how today’s boys in college are failing to grow up, thrusting themselves deep in frat life and “guy code.”

Tana Ingram, Fiction Editor: Train Dreams by Denis Johnson. It’s about a day laborer, Robert Grainier, in the American West at the start of the twentieth century. The book follows Robert through difficult trials of his own set against the changes taking place in the country as “progress” sweeps the nation. Johnson does a good job of transporting the reader back to this turbulent time and place in America’s history.

Marie Lazaro, Interview Editor: Just Kids by Patti Smith. So far the way it is written is beautiful and the story is easily captivating. It explores a new side of Patti Smith, gives insight to the personal relationships she had with her family during her childhood and gives a look into her bond with Robert Mapplethorpe.


Meet the Interns: Tyler Hughes

Advertising Coordinator Tyler Hughes is a senior at Arizona State University. He will be graduating in 2011 with a degree in English Literature. After graduation he would like to be able to apply his skills and experiences learned at ASU and interning for Superstition Review into a career in publishing and editing. He also has a passion for writing fiction and hopes to be able to find a home for his writings. This is his first year working for Superstition Review.

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

My position at Superstition Review is Advertising Coordinator. I am in charge of the Superstition Review Blog. Some of my responsibilities include managing the blog, writing posts, and editing the posts that our editors write for the blog.

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

My interests include writing, both creatively and for an audience, and along with that I am interested in pursuing a career in the publishing field. I thought that Superstition Review would provide some great hands-on experience.

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

In my free time I enjoy reading and writing, spending time with my friends and family and hiking with my dog.

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

I would love to try out the position of Fiction Editor. They get to do a lot of fun stuff like review submissions and read pieces from great authors.

5. Describe one of your favorite literary works.

This is a hard question as there are so many great stories out there. One of the stories that I have always loved is Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. Ender’s Game is a science fiction story about a boy named Ender who is sent to a military run space station to train in tactical warfare in preparation for an alien encounter. It has some great characters and writing and the premise is pretty unique. It is hard to pick just one but Ender’s Game is definitely in my top five.

6. What are you currently reading?

I am currently re-reading World War Z by Max Brooks. It is an account of the zombie apocalypse through interviews with people from around the world. It is all treated very seriously, but not too seriously, and is a really fun read.

7. Creatively, what are you currently working on?

I have been a little bit swamped recently so I haven’t really had time to work on anything. However, I am in the early stages of brainstorming a short story project as well as editing some old stories.

8. What inspires you?

I am inspired by stories about people. People and their experiences are fascinating and I never get tired of hearing people’s stories.

9. What are you most proud of?

Right now, I am very proud of my accomplishments in school and being so close to earning my bachelor’s degree in English Literature.

10. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In 10 years I hope to be working in a job that I enjoy, hopefully something in publishing or editing.