Congratulations to Philip Gross for his upcoming poetry collection The Thirteenth Angel, published by Bloodaxe Books. Coming November 17, 2022, Gross’s collection examines patterns in the world around us and also within ourselves. It teeters between the before and after of the pandemic years, focusing in the opening sequences on almost-aerial views of London streets and Europe’s motorways. It ultimately reveals that “if there are angels, they are nothing otherworldly, but formed by angles of incidence between real immediate things.”
Moving from island to island, continent to continent, Between the Islands is concerned with memories, with resonances throughout time, but also with emergent dangers; ecological fears and the rising islands of refuse accumulating in our oceans.
Poetry Book Society Bulletin, Spring 2020 [on Between the islands]
Philip Gross has written over twenty books of poetry and won a number of awards, including the TS Eliot Prize for his book The Water Table. To learn more about Gross, visit his website.
Great poetry is like walking on water. In this paradoxical, humane collection, Philip Gross achieves that miracle.
Congratulations to Jen Michalski for her new short story collection The Company of Strangers, coming in January 2023. Published by Braddock Avenue Books, The Company of Strangers follows members of Generation X, who are often queer and always searching for meaning and happiness in their lives. Michalski examines the themes of eroding community and family in a variety of ways: from a gay man suddenly confronted with parenthood to a lesbian having an affair with her brother’s wife.
The Company of Strangers is perfect for those searching for messy characters who are confused about what kind of lives they’ve lived and looking for ways to make meaning in them.
Fueled by love, longing, and regret, these captivating stories drop us into the lives of people we come to care deeply about. These are rich, wild, surprising romps of stories with endings that wow. What an immense pleasure to be in the company of these strangers, thanks to Jen Michalski’s brilliant storytelling.
Kathy Anderson, author of Bull and Other Stories
Jen Michalski’s work includes The Tide King, The Summer She Was Underwater, Close Encounters, and others. To learn more about her, visit her website.
A kaleidoscopic and candid exploration of the gritty corners of our desires and all that is left unsaid. By turns irreverent and deeply heartbreaking, Michalski masterfully constructs a collage of sexuality, belonging, and a search for what is possible atop strip malls, parking lots, and bowling alleys. Reminiscent, in some ways, of the genre-pushing work of Zach Doss, Etgar Keret, and Kim Chinquee, Michalski unequivocally carves out a space that is all her own—daring, deeply human, and often gut-wrenching.
Sequoia nagamatsu, author of how high we go in the dark
Congratulations to Lynn Mundell for her new chapbook Let Our Bodies Be Returned to Us. Winner of Yemassee Journal’s 2021 Fiction Chapbook Contest, Mundell’s chapbook is a vivid, visceral look at womanhood. Comprised entirely of flash fiction pieces, Mundell proves she is a master at reaching profound depths with only a few words.
Although Let Our Bodies Be Returned to Us focuses on women, there is no one type of woman Mundell writes about. Young and old, idealized and flawed—she writes with empathy about sisters, mothers, and women who simply are. No two stories are the same: Mundell writes as an unborn, reincarnated baby in her first story “Again,” and later she writes from Mona Lisa’s point of view in “Smile, Lisa.” Her final piece, “Let Our Bodies Be Returned to Us,” is a mesmerizing capstone to a brilliant chapbook. Let Our Bodies Be Returned to Us is perfect for those looking for a collection that’s short but poignant.
The wit, warmth, and skill of this writer struck me immediately. These stories are smart but not smart-alecky, quirky yet polished, broad in their emotional appeal and sharp in their resonance. Again and again, I was taken by surprise—by the originality of the prose, the ingenuity of each scenario, the impact delivered by such a small number of words. I felt for these characters—the sisters in “Cloise,” about to be split apart, the lonely boy in “Mother and Child,” the broken family in “Big Baby,” the pregnant women who refuse to dim their hopes in “Our Bright Lights On.” Though many of these stories are heart-rending, I also found myself smiling, uplifted. This collection and this writer are ready for prime time.
Mira T. Lee, author of the novel Everything Here is Beautiful
Lynn Mundell is a short story writer, publisher, and editor. She and Grant Faulkner founded 100 Word Story in 2010, and her story “Again” appeared in Issue 17 of Superstition Review. To learn more about Lynn Mundell, go to her website.
To purchase Let Our Bodies Be Returned to Us, go here.
We’re also very excited to share an interview that dives deeper into Mundell’s chapbook. This interview was conducted via email by our Blog Editor, Brennie Shoup.
Brennie Shoup: Much of your work is flash fiction. Could you talk about what draws you to this form, and how flash fiction appears in Let Our Bodies Be Returned to Us?
Lynn Mundell: Flash fiction enables us to tell our stories in intimate ways—a secret whispered into an ear; a tale told over a quick warm drink. We boil down the story to its essence, leaving the tea leaves or coffee grounds for later scrutiny. For me it’s been the marriage of my original writing as a poet with my lifelong love of a good story. All of the stories in my chapbook are flash. They include 100-word stories in triptychs, some using numbering and headings for short sections, traditionally plotted longer flash, and some hybrid pieces where poetry and fiction congregate. The first story in the collection is called “Again,” about a baby born over and over and over again that was inspired by a black and white photo of a happy young family. It was published in Superstition Review and remains one of my favorite stories to have told and to read to others, so thank you, Superstition Review!
BS: The original “Let Our Bodies Be Returned to Us” was published in 2018 in Booth. Could you talk about what inspired the piece and how it ended up as the title for your chapbook?
LM: “Let Our Bodies Be Returned to Us” was actually inspired by a very small airplane seat on a flight from Phoenix to Santa Fe! Where the rest of that piece came from is a mystery to me, but there must have been a lot of feelings about how women’s bodies are used and used up that fed into it. I definitely tapped into everything from being hit on when I was younger to breastfeeding my kids. I wrote it at a writing retreat hosted by Meg Tuite and Robert Vaughn that encouraged crossing the border between poetry and fiction writing. I recommend working with these writers or just any sort of a change of scenery for a way to feel freed and inspired to produce new things. I sometimes camp out in a new location for four or five days to unplug and have found my best stories come from these times where I am seeing new things while also working in total isolation. When it was time to organize my stories, “Let Our Bodies” really encapsulated the theme for the whole book, plus it made for an intriguing book title that could also provide a lot of fodder for the cover illustration.
BS: Could you discuss the main themes of your chapbook? How have these themes developed over your career? Do you find yourself writing about the same ideas over and over again?
LM: The theme of the book is women’s bodies—what they are capable of, how they are viewed and objectified, as sources of comfort and conflict, and how ultimately women own them. The book is organized from birth to end of life, and each piece is from a female point of view. The theme surprised me as I sorted through my work looking for the common thread. I have other stories I like that did not fit into the collection thematically at all, and one of the most difficult things about creating the collection was having to give these pieces the heave-ho. I have written everything from ghost stories to creative nonfiction about my early teens living in Iran. Frankly, writing wise I am all over the map.
Typically I write a piece and sort of hope that there will be something cohesive among a few years of my work, but there isn’t always—which is why it took many years for this book to come about with its theme that finally surfaced. I admire writers who can set out to write to a theme and have a collection they are purposefully working toward. I was recently trying to write connected fables about animals, but have thus far only created one I like, about a mother and baby elephant that was published in The Masters Review. I’d like to keep trying on that, but may need to expand the theme to just fables in general or even fables and fairy tales.
BS: Do you have plans for future chapbooks, short story collections, or novels?
LM: I would love to write more books. But right now I am just writing and we will see where that goes. During the pandemic I have sort of gotten off the script of life in general, and in writing toward a publishing objective of any kind, with one thing being very different from the next. This has included a long fairy tale published in Gone Long, a book review for a friend’s new collection in Necessary Fiction, a four-part piece about fishing with my father in Under the Gum Tree, a creative nonfiction about family depression written to a painting in The Ekphrastic Review, a longer mystery in collaboration with artist Merrick Adams in 7x7LA, and others that are pushing what I typically do. At the end of this year I’ll look everything over and see if there is a pattern for a new book or one thing that I like enough as a starting point for a new book. I will say that I have continued to find great joy in writing as well as reading the incredible work that is out there lately.
What I love about writing is the wonderful sense of freedom. In our daily lives we are constrained by the demands of work, family, duty, society, finances, and so forth. But in writing we can leave all of that behind to explore anything with total abandon.
Congratulations to Eric Tran for his new poetry collection Mouth, Sugar, and Smoke, published by Diode Editions. Winner of the 2021 Diode Editions Full-Length Book Prize, this collection “grieves a lover lost to addiction and also swims in the intoxication of desire.” Tran explores themes of grief, lust, and queerness using a variety of poetic forms. Although not limited to one type of poem or one specific subject, Tran’s poetry remains united to create a cohesive piece. Poems selected for the collection are visceral and candid as Tran dives into his own emotions, writing “I’m lousy and bloated / with love.” His poetry is perfect for those searching for a deep discussion of intimacy.
Wounds, here, are not ornamental. Tenderness, here, is as restless and resilient as pain. The poems refuse transformation, superficial resolutions. Instead, the language—unsparing, striking—attends to addiction and death with grace, awe. The emotional complexity is mirrored structurally: the lines waterfall and halt, a sonnet crown jolts awake the mind, sentences simmer with lyrical momentum. Eric Tran’s second book is heart-rich and deftly written—the poems will stay with you long after you finish reading it.
Eduardo c. corral, author of guillotine
Eric Tran is a queer Vietnamese writer and physician. He currently lives in Portland, Oregon. Mouth, Sugar, and Smoke is his second book of poetry, and his work has appeared in RHINO, 32 Poems, the Missouri Review, and elsewhere. To learn more about Eric Tran, go to his website.
I resent no one / the instinct to run’ writes Eric Tran in his brave and beautiful Mouth, Sugar, and Smoke. But this is a poet who never runs. In fact, he pushes deep into the raw center of desire, admitting ‘I’ve wanted your picked-at / scab, your broken voice through a / morning-night call.’ This is a book of lust and brokenness, of ‘suffering as hot / and clean as a pistol’s mouth.’
David Baker’s new book Whale Fall, published by W. W. Norton & Company, is a poetry collection that operates on both a macro and micro level. As Baker’s poetry delves into global ecosystems, it also delves into his personal life. His masterful ability to blend these themes is apparent even early on in the book. His poem “Mullein,” the second in the collection, relates the scientific names of plants to the intimate nicknames Baker’s father gave to friends and family.
Whale Fall is filled with scientific terminology. In fact, the title itself is the name of a particular phenomenon. As Baker explains in his interview with Renee Shea in World Literature Today, a whale fall is an “oceanographic term that describes three stages of [a whale’s] death and decay.” It can take years for the whale carcass to settle on the ocean floor, and its body can provide nutrients to other organisms for decades.
Baker’s poetry is known for its sense of place and environmental message, and Whale Fall follows this trend. For those looking for beautiful nature imagery grounded in environmentalism and threaded with a personal narrative, Whale Fall is the perfect poetry collection.
A virtuoso of eco-poetry and acoustics, Baker meditates on the nonpareil majesty of the planet with rigorous consideration and reverence… Baker’s careful, captivating writing sinks under the skin, summoning a long-forgotten need for stillness, wonder, and attention to the sacrosanctity of the world.
David Baker has written nineteen books, thirteen of them poetry collections. His work has been published in American Poetry Review, Antaeus, The Atlantic Monthly, and elsewhere. To learn more about Baker, visit his website.
From the shadow of the garfish to the memory of seabed in Ohio sandstone, nothing appears to be too slight or too immense for David Baker’s powers of lyric transformation. In book after eloquent book, his artistry has become more purely his own: pared down to essentials while refining its scope of generous inclusion. Baker’s method, like his subject, is the fine pulse of human encounter: here in its most distillate manifestation.
Linda Gregerson, author of prodigal: new and selected poems and magnetic north
Four Palaces Publishing is currently open to submissions for their fiction anthology contest. They are searching for short stories between 2,000 and 6,000 words long. They will also accept up to three flash fiction pieces. The theme of their anthology is “Desire to Escape.” The author of the winning story will receive $1,000 and a mentorship from guest judge Ivelisse Rodriguez, whose short story collection Love War Stories was a 2019 PEN/Faulkner finalist and a 2018 Foreword Reviews INDIES finalist.
Founded in 2021, Four Palaces’ goal is to promote and publish works by previously unpublished writers from underrepresented communities.
Frederick Tran is the executive director and publisher of Four Palaces. Emily Townsend is the managing editor, and her nonfiction piece “Consider the Honeybee” appeared in Issue 19 of Superstition Review.
Submissions close August 31, 2022! Go here to submit your story.
Congratulations to Ramona Reeves for the upcoming release of her debut book It Falls Gently All Around and Other Stories, published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Winner of the Drue Heinz Literature Prize, Reeves’ collection of eleven short stories feature Babbie and Donnie, an ex-call girl and ex-trucker looking to reforge themselves. Reeves’ book focuses on themes of race and class within the context of Mobile, Alabama, the same town Reeves herself grew up in.
The Drue Heinz Literature Prize is awarded to authors of short fiction. Winners have their books published by the University of Pittsburgh Press to make their writing available to the world. Past judges have included Margaret Atwood, Joyce Carol Oates, and Raymond Carver.
These big-hearted stories offer a kaleidoscopic vision of Mobile, Alabama, a place marked by a tangled history and no less tangled present. With insight, humor, and tenderness, Ramona Reeves renders lives as notable for their frailties and bruises as they are for their grace and grit. Like the work of Sherwood Anderson or Elizabeth Strout, these linked stories take us deep inside a community, even as they plumb the solitary, fiercely particular depths of inner life.
Elizabeth Graver, Drue Heinz Literature Prize guest judge and author of The End of the Point
Ramona Reeves’ writing has appeared in The Southampton Review, Pembroke, Bayou Magazine, New South, and elsewhere. Find out more about Reeves through her website.
Ramona Reeves has fully brought to life a cast of flawed, breaking people with bravery and resilience to spare. The book is a triumph of wise and compassionate storytelling.
kevin mcilvoy, author of one kind favor
To pre-order It Falls Gently All Around and Other Stories, you can go to the University of Pittsburgh Press’s website, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble.
Ramona Reeves’ nonfiction piece “Hope Chest” appeared in Issue 20 of Superstition Review. Read it here.
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.
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 evencloser 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.
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.
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.