Guest Post, Chelsea Dingman: On Writing During Ongoing Crisis

I’ve been thinking about the world we will leave our children. In the wake of what is happening with the COVID-19 pandemic, there are many people mourning the inability to return to a world as we knew it, yet this may be the only world that today’s youth will have any memory of.

Memory: fault line; fissure; an inability to reason with the past.

The instinct of a new writer might be to create drama in a piece—at least that was what I found when teaching. Some teachers I had forbid us to kill anyone in a poem or story because we felt the need to create stakes by doing so. To make people care. A professor of mine once said that all poems must have conflict, but that conflict might be as subtle as the way the light falls across the road. I want to believe him, to value that, to be able to sit still, but, when I am called to write, the ghosts ascend, the sky falls, and I can only see what is down the dark tunnel in my mind.

I’ve always written from a place of risk: what do I need to say? Why is that? Is the dramatic situation complicated in an interesting way? Do I recognize the difference between melodrama and drama? Why am I attracted to poems where the stakes are high? Must every poem be about death, somehow, some way?

What I learned through this crisis is that I have trouble writing a quietly complicated moment because I have not had time to appreciate those moments in my life in a great while. Right now, I swing between the inability to get out of bed (inertia) and being overly productive as my two coping mechanisms. I’m not sure which is less effective. Yet, crises have come in waves over the last few years, whether in the form of catastrophic weather (hurricanes on the Gulf coast where I was living), or gun control, or money problems, or health issues, or the deaths of loved ones. How can anyone be expected to write about the light falling across the road when all around us worlds are falling? On the other hand, I read Tranströmer, for example, and understand that both are possible at once.

[The site of resistance as the body]—

My father died when I was nine. I’ve written about that incident a lot. I’ve resisted calling it trauma. Yet, right now, children are experiencing trauma in a new way that feels much like that event: something that they won’t realize is traumatic until years from now. I’m trying to stay hopeful that the lives children dream of will one day be possible. I worry that, much like many of our ancestors, there will not be a place beyond struggle to reach for—which brings me back to my question: what world will we leave our children?

Contributor Update, Jesse Goolsby

Join us in congratulating Jesse Goolsby on his new collection, Acceleration Hours, which is available from University of Nevada Press and Amazon!

Acceleration Hours is a haunting collection of narratives about families, life, and loss during America’s twenty-first-century forever wars. Set across the mountain west of the United States, these fierce, original, and compelling stories illuminate the personal search for human connection and intimacy. From a stepfather’s grief to an AWOL soldier and her journey of reconciliation to a meditation on children, violence, and hope, Acceleration Hours is an intense and necessary portrayal of the many voices living in a time of perpetual war.

To learn more about Jesse and his work you can visit his website. You can also check out one of the stories in Acceleration Hours which was featured in Superstition Review:

“Benevolence” featured in Issue 10.

Congratulations Jesse!

Guest Post, Fiction Editor Lucas Selby

Being isolated in our homes gives us writers that sweet time we always crave to actually get some writing done. Personally, I’ve been reading through my old work, sprucing it up and sending it in to some of my favorite magazines. I might as well while I have the time, right?

One of the most helpful parts of being the Fiction Editor for Superstition Review this year has been learning what editors look for in writing. And since it’s been helpful for me, I thought it might be helpful for you! Here’s an insider’s look on the selection process here at Superstition Review.

The first thing I did as Fiction Editor was make a mistake. I linked my editor’s account on Submittable to my personal submissions account. That means, every time I opened Submittable to review submissions, the first thing I saw was all of my rejections for stories I’ve submitted over the years. For the first hundred stories, I felt like I owed it to every author to at least read their story all the way through, because that’s what I want for all of my stories. Soon enough, I was weeks behind on deadlines and extremely tired of reading every page of the stories that I didn’t enjoy. Thus, I learned my first lesson.

Lesson 1: It’s the first page or two that makes or breaks a story. If I’m bored early on, I will not read the rest. Make that first page captivating enough to make me read the second page, then make that page captivating enough to make me read the rest of the story. Otherwise, I do not have the time.

I started catching up, but I was still behind. Submissions poured in faster than I could read them. Our Founding Editor called me and gave me some new helpful advice. We are a magazine that does not read blind. That means we read your bio and cover letter before we read your story. Trust me, the bio and cover letter are more important than you may think.

Lesson 2: Don’t waste your editor’s time with your bio and cover letter. By all means, include a bio and cover letter, but this is a brief blurb about who you are, your degree if applicable, any major awards you’ve earned for your writing, and maybe where else you’re published. This is not your resume, your life story, or a list of your Boy Scout merit badges.

Finally, I had all my favorite stories picked out. I met with our Founding Editor and the Senior Fiction Editor, and we compared notes. Unsurprisingly, all three of us have different tastes in fiction, but none of us caved to the others. We fought for the fiction we liked, and, in the end, we all left happy. This lesson is a stretch, but bare with me.

Lesson 3: Your story doesn’t have to be universal. I feel I have to address this because lots of literature is praised for being universal. There are plenty of good niche stories out there, and they are all the better because they aren’t forced to appeal to everyone. We all fought for the stories we felt the strongest about, and we all had our absolute favorites published.

I’m really proud of the upcoming fiction section in Superstition Review. The authors who wrote the stories we’re publishing should be proud as well. The authors of the stories that didn’t make the cut but were counted among our favorites should be proud. Everyone who submitted should be proud that they put their work out there.

Lesson 4: Keep writing, keep submitting, keep aiming for publication in your favorite magazines. Every time I logged on to Submittable to review new fiction submissions, I saw all of my rejections from over the years. Honestly, I was proud of them. That’s how many times I’ve put myself out there with stories I was proud of.

Keep up the good work! And thanks for a fantastic submission season.

Contributor Update, Mathew Michael Hodges

Join us in congratulating Mathew Michael Hodges on his book, The Way Rain Falls, which releases on May 1st from Whiskey Tit Press.

The Way Rain Falls centers around Jim Diffin, a college sophomore struggling to gain the affection of his perfect girl while also dealing with his mother’s hardships and his friend’s dubious advice.

Pre-order The Way Rain Falls from Whiskey Tit Press!

To learn more about Mathew and his work you can visit his website. You can also view his previous work featured in Superstition Review:

A Sound Man featured in Issue 18

Congratulations Mathew!

Guest Post, Federico Federici: Short abstract in computational algebra

«bones that are my bones
numbers that are my numbers
words that are my words:

the bone of my bones
the number of my numbers
the word of my words»

I do not know much about numbers. In my life, I have just had the chance to count to four or ten or twenty several times, but this has not taught me much about them.
I do not really know what they mean, when I do not count. Whether they are still somewhere, alive or dead, or where they sprout from when I need. Whether a huge box keeps them all within, a box full of ones and twos and threes, a heap of all numbers in all shapes and sizes. For people might need to count many bits of things all at once and one must never be short of numbers.
Some say they altogether match the overall things to count and that they stay as words with meanings do.
To be true, I do not believe that way either.
No one counts the numbers for the numbers’ sake. For new numbers would be required to count the old ones and some trick should finally be devised to prove the existence of the new ones and that they do work. This procedure would actually be endless and pointless, a stiff chain of hopeless chances, of loops trapped into one another.
Numbers stick out of a stack of algebra, figures and unknowns, a poor slang of fingers in a few hands, whether sand grains or red giants.
There is no competition among numbers – this I have observed.
It is like in a perfect, steady queue: each stands its own place and never tries to pass over that coming after or before, just for the sake of being the one, the first, the last at once.
A murmur of conversation always rises as I count.
They seem to be polished to the touch, polite, somehow glancing up as well, as I call the roll.
The whole world gets a strange feeling as I count.
The imprecision of feelings is rounded down to fingers.
Big things crackle and crumble like frozen snow under feet.
Again, in spite of that, the whole world is worth being counted – two ones from the same pair, for fear of loss and despair.

Intern Update: Rosie Huf

Today’s Intern Update features Rosie Huf, the Interview Editor of Issue 14 of Superstition Review.

With a BA in English Language and Literature, and a MA in Liberal Studies, Nonfiction, Publishing, and Technical Communication, Rosie now works as a UX Writer for State Farm where she aids in customer communication.

She has also previously worked at Cleaver Magazine as an Intern Manager and Senior Editor.

We are so proud of you Rosie!

If you’d like to learn more, you can visit Rosie’s LinkedIn here.

Contributor Update, Catherine Lacey

Join us in congratulating Catherine Lacey on her book, Pew, which is available to pre-order from Granta Books or Farrar Straus & Giroux!

Pew begins with the strange appearance of a perfectly neutral, genderless and racially ambiguous person who refuses to speak. Appearing at the pew of a church in a town in the American South, the townsfolk each spend time taking care of this person as tensions and suspicions rise within the community.

To learn more about Catherine and her work you can visit her website. You can also check out an interview with her featured in Superstition Review:

“A Narrative Impulse” featured in Issue 15.

Congratulations Catherine!

Guest Post, Angie Macri: Superstition

Two Aprils ago, my guest post for this blog held hope for my children. Now we’re in a pandemic, all of us in one house trying to teach and learn still.

I’ve always struggled with superstition. When I was a child, if I saw a cardinal in the underbrush on the way to school, it would be a good day. If I didn’t, then maybe I had but didn’t realize. Or maybe I didn’t say it as a charm under my breath, so a bad day wasn’t coming after all.

My life wasn’t bad, not as bad as other people’s. I told myself that over and over, scorning myself for being sensitive. Addiction, mental illness, accidents, violence, poisons in our environment and diseases that followed–forget how you feel. It doesn’t matter. Be glad it’s not worse and get on living.

No need to suffer heartbreaks if you figured out the game and played to win. Yet success could be lost anytime, either by having too much confidence (pride goeth before a fall) or too little thankfulness (taking it for granted). In other words, if something went wrong, I had only myself to blame.

We didn’t talk about bad things happening to good people, except maybe Job, and even he failed the test. We didn’t confront flaws in the systems. Life was a vale of tears. Only fools expected otherwise. Know your place.

As an adult, as a parent, it’s endless, all the ways I can keep failing. I realize now the adults around me as a child felt that way, too. Even before COVID-19, this was the case.

Everyone wants everything to be back to the way it used to be. Except for me.

My uncle, my mother’s brother, died last Thanksgiving. The Air Force emblem with its bald eagle was part of the ceremony to honor his service. Growing up in southern Illinois, I never saw eagles. But there, after his memorial, I saw one fly over towards the river. Since then, more times than I can count, I’ve seen an eagle flying overhead where I live now, hundreds of miles away.

The last time I saw my uncle, at his daughter’s service, I asked him, although it was more like a statement, how do we survive this, how can we go on.

And he held me and said, because we do.

Superstition: a widely held but unjustified belief in supernatural causation leading to certain consequences of an action or event, or a practice based on such a belief.

Middle English: from Old French, or from Latin superstitio(n- ), from super- ‘over’ + stare ‘to stand’ (perhaps from the notion of ‘standing over’ something in awe).

What does it mean to stand over something? Does the awe come from how things turned out? Or from the surprise that you’re still standing despite what happened? Is it like understanding, meaning you try to make sense of events by looking for what controls them? Or does overstanding mean surviving despite realizing you don’t control everything?

If I can’t protect my children, then what does it matter what I wrote for this blog last time, my father’s room of books, my mother’s lifework teaching, anything I’ve ever written, what I write now?

It’s easy for me to fall back into that kind of fatalism. But when I give myself space to feel, I return to what I sensed despite myself from the beginning: it matters. Just like the memory my uncle shared of riding in a motorboat on the river as a little boy with his little brother. The Mississippi was flooding. His brother had brought a toy he loved, a stuffed bunny. He held it in front of him so its ears flapped back in the wind as they went forward. My uncle was joyful in this memory. But in all the stories he ever told me, he didn’t share this one until a few years before he died. It must not have been long after this ride that he lost his brother in an accident.

On what turned out to be our last day in the physical classroom this semester, my students and I read E.E. Cummings’ “anyone lived in a pretty how town”:

children guessed (but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew….

stars rain sun moon

(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)

Here’s to raising each other to remember.