Leesa Cross-Smith’s Half-Blown Rose

Leesa Cross-Smith’s Half-Blown Rose

We are excited to announce that Leesa Cross-Smith’s new book Half-Blown Rose, published by Grand Central Publishing, is out today!

Travel to Paris with Vincent as she deals with the complications of the past and decides on a future filled with romance, friendship, art, and long, starry walks along the Seine. Watch her blossom as she grows into the woman she decides to become in this heartfelt book about self-discovery and love.

It is available now on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Indie Bound. Paris awaits.

We are also thrilled to share some of Leesa’s inspirations, writing process, and thoughts about the complexities of relationships. The interview was conducted by our Blog Editor, Taylor Dilger via email.

Taylor Dilger: This book is about “a woman remaking her life after her husband’s betrayal leads to a year of travel, art, and passion in Paris.” What inspired this?

Leesa Cross-Smith: I was inspired during and after my trip to Paris in 2019! Right after lockdown, I (like everyone) wanted to escape and dreaming of spending a year in Paris sounded like heaven. I love writing strong, independent women who are fully present in their lives after major life changes…who are figuring out how to move on without losing themselves completely. I put my character, Vincent, in Paris because I love Paris and wanted to see what adventures awaited her there!

TD: A review from Deesha Philyaw says, “Reading her stunning prose is a full-blown experience. Within the deeply intimate worlds she conjures, she captures love, lust, and longing with such emotional intricacy and verve.” What was your writing process for this book like?

LCS: Thank you so much to Deesha! I wrote the majority of this book during lockdown, but the process wasn’t so different from how I write all of my books. I really do just get to work in the morning and write and write and write until I get to my stopping point for the day. I write the first draft to tell the story to myself…to get to know my characters fully…then I rewrite and rewrite. I actually wrote more during quarantine lockdown than I usually do because I didn’t even have to do the ordinary, everyday things like carpool since school was cancelled, etc. I had more time to write. Looking back now, it’s a wonder I was able to focus enough to write books, but I’m glad it worked out! (And that I was blessed to be healthy during that time!) 🙂 

TD: This book is filled with “playlists, travel journal entries, and excerpts from Cillian’s novel.” Could you tell me more about the choice to use different formats?

LCS: As much as I can, I always like to try something new with every book. I loved the idea of including some of Cillian’s novel (also called Half-Blown Rose) in the book so the reader could see exactly what he had written and why Vincent reacted so strongly to it. I often thought of metafiction while I was writing and although I wouldn’t say Half-Blown Rose is exactly metafiction…it is very aware of itself and I occasionally use screenplay snippets to sort of “direct” the reader…reminding them that this is a deliberate work of art/fiction and also, sometimes that Vincent is imagining herself/her new life as if it is a film. I added the playlists because I love the ones I made and wanted to share them and I love when there are playlists in books! And the journal entries since Vincent teaches journaling classes at the modern art museum in Paris…it gave me a chance to put that to practice and for the reader to hear from her in first person since the rest of the book is written in third. It was just a device I used to bring the reader and Vincent even closer to each other.

TD: Vincent is learning to find herself again after a betrayal from her husband. Why is it important to highlight the messy complexities of relationships with ourselves and others?

LCS: This is a great question! I think it’s important because relationships are messy and complex. It’s so true! Whether we’re talking about ourselves or our relationships with others, I know how important honesty is, and faking it can only get us so far. I love writing a messy, complicated relationships because I love writing about intimacy and sometimes it’s our most intimate relationships that are the most complex. I love these things because they interest me and they interest me because I love them….relationships and human nature, in general…how we get through this life, and the big (existential, unspoken) questions without neat answers to wrap everything up in a bow. Those unspoken questions keep me writing.

TD: What does your writing space look like?

LCS: Sometimes I write at my kitchen table, sometimes my couch, sometimes my bed! I can write anywhere in my house but I have to be here at home. I can’t write out in the world because I’m too easily startled and it’s usually too noisy. When I was in college, I could write anywhere. But now, I have to be at home in the quiet with my cat and my tea and my warm, cozy things.

Superstition Review has another interview with Leesa in Issue 15 about her book Whiskey & Ribbons. Be sure to check that out along with Leesa’s website and Twitter for more updates and information on her work.

Laurie Stone’s New Book from Dottir Press

Laurie Stone’s New Book from Dottir Press

Preorder Laurie Stone’s new book Streaming Now: Postcards from the Thing that is Happening from Dottir Press. This collection of hybrid narratives is filled with enough love and inspiration to help readers feel less alone. The topics range from the “moral ambiguities of buying a lobster from Trump supporters or making the case to let Jeffrey Toobin’s penis off the hook.” With a combination of memoir and criticism, Laurie Stone’s essays contain truth and celebrate freedom and things lost in our world today.

Books ordered from Dottir Press will ship on or before May 10, 2022. We can’t wait!

Laurie Stone’s strange and otherworldly postcards are captivating, erudite, and moving. What is particularly startling is when you realize that the strange place she is writing from is the heart. We should all make such a trip and, thankfully, now we have this beautiful book as a guide.

Iris Smyles, author of Droll Tales

Laurie’s essay “Bird or Bat” is featured in Issue 1 of SR and she has three essays featured in Issue 10. To see more of her work, check out her website.

Gag Me by Susan Wingate

Gag Me by Susan Wingate

Congratulations to Susan Wingate for her new novel Gag Me published by Roberts Press. Fans of mystery and twists will enjoy this book about a character with Asberger’s Syndrome solving the murder of her best friend. Once you pick this book up, you won’t be able to put it down. It’s different, fun, and truly innovative. Order today from Amazon!

The perfect cozy for a rainy afternoon… Wingate’s latest GAG ME: A Friday Harbor Novel is a mystery lover’s delight with plenty of small-town charm, shocking twists, and a puzzling mystery.

The Prairies Book Review

Susan Wingate’s “The Last Maharajan” is featured in Issue 1. To see more of Susan’s work, you can check out her website and Twitter.

FreeFlow Institute Scholarship Opportunity

FreeFlow Institute Scholarship Opportunity

FreeFlow Institute is offering one $3000 scholarship to ONE emerging writer, artist, or storyteller. The Southwest Emerging Writer Scholarship is open to writers, leaders, students, educators, and artists of ALL BACKGROUNDS and ALL SKILL LEVELS. The award may be put toward a 2022 Freeflow course in Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, or Utah.

Click here to access the application and requirements. The deadline is May 1st.

Rochelle Hurt and The J Girls

Rochelle Hurt and The J Girls

Congratulations to Rochelle Hurt for her new poetry collection, The J Girls: A Reality Show, published by Indiana University Press. Meet Jocelyn, Jodie, Jennifer, Jacqui, and Joelle as they navigate growing up in the late 1990s. In this hybrid blend of poetry, screenplay, and drama, episodes capture moments of the girls’ adolescence, following them through every bad decision, poetic monologue, and campy performance where every girl experiments with who they are on and off screen.

Fierce, fresh, and playful, this book is something we’ve all been waiting for. From the descriptions of the Cast List to the End Credits featuring the “Beatitudes for Meek Girls,” the entire collection is a wild, candid ride through the highlights and critiques surrounding teenage life. The themes, much like the friendships within, transcend across every generation, unleashing the universality of self-discovery and the importance of creating a better world for girls.

Like the teenagers at its center, Rochelle Hurt’s The J Girls: A Reality Show is wild, smart, aching, and fearless. This genre-exploding book exquisitely captures the thrumming ecstasy and terror and guilt and bravado and tenderness and rage of adolescent girlhood. The J Girls understand that no girl is ever only one girl, and they claim themselves, in all of their iterations, again and again. This book is the bite-and-glitter I wish I’d had as a companion during my own high school years; I’m so grateful to have it now.

Catherine Pierce, author of Danger Days

The J Girls is available now from Indiana University Press, Bookshop, and Amazon.

We’re also very excited to share an interview that dives deeper into the collection and Rochelle’s inspirations and writing process behind it. This interview was conducted via email by our Blog Editor, Taylor Dilger.

Taylor Dilger: Could you describe some of your inspirations for this collection?

Rochelle Hurt: This book is a reflection of my own adolescence that is both fictionalized and deeply personal. It was heavily influenced by my own girlhood: the rust belt, Catholic school, church festivals, the wet n wild makeup section at Rite-Aid, girls’ bathrooms, single parents, Avon, hot dogs, belly-button rings, skunk highlights, Salt-N-Pepa, The Craft, But I’m a Cheerleader, Survivor, MTV, Jerry Springer, Ricki Lake, the Spice Girls, and PJ Harvey–as processed through some later influences: Reality Hunger, RuPaul’s Drag Race, Lana Del Rey, Baroque paintings, the Gurlesque, burlesque, Gwendolyn Brooks, Anne Sexton, Dolly Parton, Sylvia Plath, Sharon Olds, Harryette Mullen, Judith Butler, and just feeling out of place in academia. I wanted to write all the delicious trashy things that sophisticated culture tells me to hide.

TD: You combine poetry, screenplay, and drama together in a unique hybrid blend. Could you tell me more about this choice and why you decided to fit this piece in this particular form? 

RH: While I was writing this book, I was also studying in a Ph.D. program and reading a lot of gender and queer theory on performance as a means of subversion. In a dramatic performance, one can control her own image and manipulate the audience’s gaze, sometimes by parodying the stereotypes that have been placed on her and exposing the scripts she’s been given as bogus. I knew that performance and camp had to be a part of these poems, so I thought about the ways that teen girls perform their identities in groups in order to understand and empower themselves. In the late 90s, when this book is set, reality TV was really taking off, and the ways in which reality so often seems “scripted” came into focus–the roles we’re supposed to play based on gender, class, race, sexuality. It was a toxic culture in many ways, and direct critique was just not available to many young women. So I wanted to give the teens in this book another way to process, perform, and parody their own reality as working-class girls while still allowing them to have fun and gain some agency.

TD: In “The Birth of Anger at the Roller-Skating Rink” you write, “Even my first kiss came / like an accidental slap from a strange man, who, / on his way across this very room to the arcade / or concession stand, tripped over me like a dropped / candy box and decided he wanted a piece, so took it.” Many of these poems cover women’s sexuality and identity. Could you elaborate on the importance of talking about these topics in our society today? 

RH: Writing about the lives of women and girls is a form of resistance for me. American culture remains toxic in many ways, and while attitudes toward sexuality and women’s bodies have improved, we still see direct assaults on reproductive rights and LGBTQ rights in our political system, which is deeply racist, misogynistic, homophobic, and classist. We still live in a culture that objectifies and sexualizes women and girls while demonizing them for expressing their sexualities–particularly if they are working-class or women of color. We live in a culture that punishes women seeking abortions but gives second chances to rapists if they’re white and educated. I live in a state (Florida) that is currently trying to ban abortion after 15 weeks and to ban discussion of sexuality and gender identity in schools. They have already banned trans girls from playing sports in school. We haven’t made nearly enough progress in the last 50 years, and now it seems we may be going backward politically. Somebody once told me my poems were full of rage, and they were right. 

Rochelle has four poems featured in Issue 11 and five poems Issue 25 in collaboration with Carol Guess. You can also check out her website, Twitter, and Instagram for more.

Undergraduate Submissions Needed for Equatorial Literary Magazine

Undergraduate Submissions Needed for Equatorial Literary Magazine

Equatorial Literary Magazine is launching its inaugural issue and is seeking poetry, art, and fiction submissions from undergraduates around the world. This magazine values artistic self-expression and appreciates the many different approaches to storytelling and the unique ways people see the world. If you want an opportunity to raise your voice and express yourself in ways you never have before, go ahead and submit!

The submission period for this Spring issue is from April 1st to May 31st.

To see the specific guidelines for each category, check out their submissions page. For fiction, submit short stories between five to fifteen pages; for poetry, submit up to five poems; and for art, submit up to five images. Once everything is good to go, simply send your submission to equatorial.mag@gmail.com.

Happy submitting!

An Interview with Soojin Kim

Soojin J. Kim is a multidisciplinary artist who works and lives in Korea and the U.S. Her interest in food as a subject started from the memory of her father and has begun to transcend into the investigation of social and cultural meaning embedded. American sweets during Korean War in the 1950s are her most researched subject. For her, it is the indication of the loss of her father and a signal of the disappearance of traditional values in Korea due to the spreading of pop culture influenced by the United States.

This interview was conducted by our Art Editor Ashley Gaskin via email. Keep reading to learn more about Soojin’s history and how she incorporates it into her art. To see more of her work, check out her website and Instagram!

Cracked Oreo No.1114
2×66, Conte Crayon on Paper, 2021

Ashley Gaskin: In your bio, you said that your memory of your father and his Korean War experience fueled your affinity for American sweets. Can you talk a little more about that?

Soojin Kim: During the Korean War (1950-1953), most Koreans including my father’s family became refugees. The country was really poor even before the war and the war made it worse. The U.S. was the biggest portion of the UN Army that helped South Koreans fight against North Korea, China, and Russia during the Korean war. When the war was over, my father was about 5 years old, enough to remember during and the post-war hunger.

 One of his favorite stories to tell me (He told me more than thousands of times) was how he was good at running after and speaking in English to G.I.s to get American candies. Each time he didn’t forget to mention that American candies are the best. 

For as long as I remember, he always carried candies and chocolates in his shirt pocket every day. It’s a bit funny and sad at the same time for me to say that when my father died, he didn’t have any of his own teeth left. I can’t think of my father without American sweets.

AG: You also mention that you studied electrical engineering before switching to art, has the idea of pursuing art always been something in the back of your mind, or did you have an experience that pushed you toward pursuing art?

SK: My father was really good at drawing cartoons. My mom said that she fell in love with him because of his love letters filled with cartoons. When I was young, I spent a lot of time with my father drawing and painting together. Both my father and I didn’t think of pursuing it as a career but art was always with us.

AG: I saw on your website that you are very involved in your community. There are many pictures of you leading kids’ to make art related to food and other instances where you brought people together through art and food.  Can you describe what your community means to you and how you became involved in it?

SK: When I came to the U.S., diversity became a substantial issue in my life for the first time, since South Korea was an extremely homogeneous country. Since then I always thought it would have been nicer to experience different cultures earlier. 

So, as a Korean artist who resides in the U.S, I thought maybe it’s my role to provide a bit different cultural experience to the community. I enjoy working with children talking about art and food and learning from each other the way how American sweets came across to my father’s heart.

AG: I noticed that you draw Oreos primarily. What is your drawing process like?

SK: I break Oreos first. Hammering and taking pictures of them is the ritual before I start the drawings. I have a photo library of hundreds of cracked Oreo images. I make compositions by picking cracked Oreos from my image library. I seek balance, harmony, and contrast between black and white like in Asian ink drawings. The rest of it is rendering an image using a Conte crayon on heavy texture paper. Paper texture is essential to creating a cookie illusion.

Cracked Oreos No.5
42×60 Conte Crayon on Paper, 2017

AG: Are there any projects that you are working on or plan to work on that you would like to discuss?

SK: I am working on the artist’s books and media installations to present the historical narratives behind my work. Like the stories of my father can become an illustrated book at some point.  I also looking into my memories with other family members. Some mysteries got solved just because I am old enough or because I learned the cultural & historical background like my father’s obsession with American sweets. Those are my interest, and I would like to make a visual presentation of them. 

AG: What advice do you have for aspiring artists?

SK: There are many different ways to be an artist. For me, listening to my true voice and to express is my ultimate goal as an artist. I can suggest the same thing to aspiring artists if they are interested in my kinds of art. Listen to your voice and find the right medium that you enjoy working with will do the job.

An Interview with Bianca Rivetti Burattini

An Interview with Bianca Rivetti Burattini

São Paulo based artist, Bianca Rivetti Burattini, has been developing her art for several years through a span of different mediums, from traditional to digital art. Originally an Architect, Rivetti has incorporated different facets of color and composition knowledge within her craft.

Through fine art and illustration, Rivetti focuses on creating bold, colorful works that are heavily inspired by Brazilian culture, biodiversity, the female form and an overall feeling of wonder towards the world through a blend of pop art and fantasy.

This interview was conducted by Ashley Gaskin, our Art Editor for Issue 29 via email. We’re so excited to share Bianca’s work and the inspirations behind it! We highly recommend checking out more of Bianca’s beautiful work on her website, Instagram, and TikTok!

Perdida no Mar / Lost at Sea by Bianca Rivettia Burattini

Ashley Gaskin: In your artist statement, you mention that you were originally an architect. Can you describe how architecture has influenced your art?

Bianca Rivetti Burattini: Of course! I started architecture school when I turned 17 and, I think like everyone at that age, I didn’t have a good sense of what I wanted for my life and was very immature when it came to dealing with clients and whatnot. I began working the next year and it helped me better understand the compromises necessary to create a good creative project and how to process and adapt to feedback!

Another thing that I feel architecture gave me is a greater notion of space and distribution, which I apply to my pieces. I believe that in order to break rules of composition, you need to know how to work with them, and architecture school really helped me strategize and develop my ideas in a more organized and based way. Since my “natural” art process is very chaotic and messy I used to lose things along the way, now I have more purpose when creating.

AG: When did you realize that you wanted to pursue art and can you talk about your art journey a little more? Did you always know what kind of art you wanted to create?

BRB: Well, I learned how to draw with my mom who used to draw for me when I was a baby, while we ate. Since I can remember, art is the way that I am able to better express myself and has helped me deal with my anxiety from a very young age. Essentially, I believe art is a tool to better understand myself and express different ideas.

However, I never thought that art could be something to make a living out of, which is why I went on to study architecture. I graduated a week before the first pandemic shut down here in Brazil and had to go to two surgeries that left me unable to move very much for around eight months to a year. So, the world was in shambles and I couldn’t do anything out of bed essentially, and a friend of mine asked why I never posted my art before. I couldn’t think of a decent enough reason other than it stressed me out (haha!) so I started posting and people started asking me if I sold art or did commissions, so I began doing those and researching how art could potentially be a bigger part of my income. I’m still at the beginning of this process but have learned a lot during the last year and a half.

As for the type of art I wanted to create, it changes A LOT depending on my mood or what I’m in the mood for. I love experimenting with different materials and aesthetics and have been this way my entire life. Pop culture and surrealism are things that I’m very drawn to, as well as a more fantastic vibe I believe? So, these references reflect themselves in my art. Another thing I’ve never thought would be so big in my work is the use of color, which began during college. The power of color is incredible to me and is something I had never experimented with before.

AG: Also in your artist statement, you say that your, “Brazilian culture and its biodiversity” has greatly influenced your art, in what ways has your culture come through in your art?

BRB: God, I don’t think I can pinpoint that super specifically. It’s everywhere in my work, either in clearer ways such as our plants and animals or in more abstract lenses using folklore, our cities, poems and music as inspiration!

I also believe that, since I’m Brazilian and currently live here, everything around me is an influence, and our customs and day-to-day life also come through in my work. I hope that made sense. It’s difficult to explain what our culture means to me when I’m so immersed in it all of the time!

AG: I noticed that many of your artworks have a hint of the ocean in them, for example, your work “Lost at Sea” has the subject enwrapped in a scarf of fish. What has influenced these kinds of compositions?

BRB: Yes! I’m so glad you noticed it and it is connected with your last question, actually! I live very close to the ocean and growing up we were always either at the beach for competitive swimming or exploring coral reefs, etc. I even wanted to be a marine biologist for many years from a very young age and always researched the sea. It’s a big part of who I am and a big part of my memories.

Another way the ocean may appear in my work, or art in general, is through the influence of other media. For example, the poem “Ismália” is a Brazilian poem about a woman who became herself through death, once she accepted her madness and threw herself at the sea to be one with the moon. It’s a heavy poem but one that brought me a lot of comfort when I was younger and struggling and it still shows up in my work from time to time.

AG: You said in your artist’s statement that your subject matter is a “mix of pop culture and fantasy”. What led you to create art in these styles?

BRB: Well, like I said, to myself, art is the main way in which I explore my feelings and emotions, and from a very young age cinema and animation were very comforting to me. I think that sense of wonder and exploration that art can bring you is very difficult to replicate and once a work speaks to you, at least for me, you end up searching for all those little details and building a narrative inside your mind. I think it can even be a form of escapism. So I think the thing that led me toward this style is that little kid inside my head, that has a very creative imagination!

AG: What other artists have influenced or inspired you?

BRB: Gosh, so many! The first artist I really connected with was Van Gogh ( I know, cliché haha) because of how his brushwork attracted my attention when I was very young. Another one that has a very similar effect on me is Hieronymus Bosch, I could stare at his interpretation of the deadly sins for days on end and not get tired. I also believe that visual art doesn’t have to be inspired directly by visual art. Fernando Pessoa and Alphonsus Guimaraens are strong sources of inspiration, lots of animation studios (like Cartoon Saloon, Studio Ghibli, Disney, Laika, Ponoc, Filme de Papel, etc), series, cinema, etc! Even my friends who are writers and artists greatly inspire me.