David Shields: How We Got Here

Director, producer, and writer David Shields has a forthcoming film, How We Got Here. The film is now streaming on Tubi, Mometu, Cineverse, and Free Movies Plus and a companion volume of the same name will be published by Sublation Books in January 2024.

In both the book and the film How We Got Here, Shields traces the history of postmodernism and ultimately argues that Melville plus Nietzsche divided by the square root of (Allan) Bloom times Žižek (squared) equals Bannon.

Shields found inspiration for the film when attending the NonfictioNOW writers’ conference in Phoenix, Nov 1-3, 2018, just before the midterm elections. He asked fellow writers and professors in attendance questions such as: How do you know what you believe? Do you have any absolute beliefs? Is there such thing as “truth”? What is ‘nonfiction” and is it “true”? What do you think is the difference between “truth” and belief? If you have siblings, have they shown your view of the world to be flawed? Are you superstitious? Do you believe in ghosts? Why are you here and not canvassing for Stacey Abrams?

Shields found that the consensus answers: I have no absolute beliefs, though I do believe in the power of art; there are no absolute truths other than that there is no truth; my sister and I are estranged; there are no ghosts except psychic luggage; I probably should be canvassing for Abrams, but I’ve lost faith in the process.

It is from these interviews that Shields has crafted How We Got Here. The film consists of interviews with more than thirty NonfictioNOW attendees, eighteen brief 2-Truths-and-a-Lie videos, and a slideshow / TED talk (on speed) / montage / soundscape / voiceover / monologue / intellectual history of the last 170 years. The film shares diverse perspectives across the history of postmodernism from its roots in art and philosophy all the way to modern day election denial and media politicization.

The film has received great praise:

“This film should be required viewing for every Intro to Humanities course in the country. It does the seemingly impossible: reinserts some context to our mostly decontextualized lives. And, perhaps even more surprisingly, the film’s pace and structure prevent it from ever feeling even slightly boring, despite the heavy lifting it does to excavate the ideological roots beneath our country’s growing social and political turmoil.” —Michael Wheaton, Autofocus.

“A brilliant, encyclopedic film. The meanings are conveyed by how the film is edited: cutting between the history of ideas of the truth, the arrangement of quotations, the personal versions articulated by different speakers, the black-and-white live action, the colorful animation, and the intersplicing of Two Truths and a Lie.”—Susan Daitch, author of Siege of Comedians: A Novel.

“A fast-paced, exhilarating collage of voices converging on the question of how we got to birtherism and election denial.”—Jennifer Jacquet, author of The Playbook: How to Deny Science, Sell Lies, and Make a Killing in the Corporate World.

David Shields is the internationally bestselling author of twenty-five books, including Reality Hunger (which Lit Hub named one of the most important books of the past decade), The Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead (New York Times bestseller), Black Planet: Facing Race During an NBA Season (finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and PEN USA Award), Remote: Reflections on Life in the Shadow of Celebrity (PEN/Revson Award), and Other People: Takes & Mistakes (NYTBR Editors’ Choice). Shields has received a Guggenheim fellowship, two NEA fellowships, and a New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship. Shields, a senior contributing editor of Conjunctions, has published essays and stories in the New York Times Magazine, Harper’s, Esquire, Yale Review, Salon, Slate, Tin House, A Public Space, McSweeney’s, Believer, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Review of Books, and Best American Essays. His work has been translated into two dozen languages.

Shields has also written, stared, produced, and directed several films including the film adaptation of I Think You’re Totally Wrong: A Quarrel; Lynch: A History; I’ll Show You Mine; and How We Got Here.

View David Shields’ interview regarding “Keeping Up with the Speed of Light,” in issue 11 of Superstition Review.

To learn more about the film, visit the website here. View the film on Tubi here.

Superstition Review Submissions Open

Superstition Review Submissions Open

Superstition Review is open to submissions for Issue 32! Our submission window closes August 31st, 2023 at 11:59 p.m.
Our magazine is looking for art, fiction, nonfiction, and poetry submissions. Submit here.

Ensure you read all guidelines before submitting. Do not submit previously published work. Simultaneous submissions are permitted, but please alert Superstition Review to a piece’s potential publication elsewhere. Submissions are able to be withdrawn and part of a submission can be withdrawn if a note is added in Submittable.

View Issue 31 of Superstition Review to understand the type of work our literary magazine publishes.

Letter Review Prize Launches for July-August

Letter Review has launched their bimonthly Short Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry and Manuscript Prize for July-August. The contest has a total prize pool of $3800, and includes publication for the winners.

In each of the four categories, there are three winners who are published, promoted across social media channels, and split the prize pool.

Letter Review Prize for Short Fiction
Three winners are announced who are published, accompanied by an attractive original commissioned artwork. Winners share in the $1000 total prize pool. Twenty writers are longlisted and ten writers are shortlisted. All entries are considered for publication, and for submission to the Pushcart Prize and other anthologies.
Entry Fee: $20 for one submission, $35 for two submissions ($5 in savings), and $45 to enter three ($15 in savings).
Dates: Open now, closing August 31 11:59 p.m. ET.
Word Length: 0 – 5000 words.
Details: Open to anyone in the world. There are no genre or theme restrictions.

Letter Review Prize for Nonfiction
Three winners are announced who are published, accompanied by an attractive original commissioned artwork. Winners share in the $1000 total prize pool. Twenty writers are longlisted and ten are shortlisted. All entries are considered for publication, and for submission to the Pushcart Prize and other anthologies.
Entry Fee: $20 for one submission, $35 for two submissions ($5 in savings), and $45 to enter three ($15 in savings).
Dates: Open now, closing August 31 11:59 p.m. ET.
Words: 0 – 5000 words.
Details: Open to anyone in the world. All forms of nonfiction are welcomed including: Memoir, journalism, essay (including personal essay), fictocriticism, creative nonfiction, travel, nature, opinion and many other permutations.

Letter Review Prize for Poetry
Three winners are announced who are published, accompanied by an attractive original commissioned artwork. Winners share in the $800 total prize pool. Twenty writers are longlisted and ten are shortlisted. All entries considered for publication, and for submission to the Pushcart Prize and other anthologies.
Entry Fee: $15 to enter one poem, $27 to enter two (save $3), and $35 to enter three (save $10).
Dates: Open now, closing August 31 11:59 p.m. ET.
Lines: 70 lines max per poem.  
Details: Open to anyone in the world. There are no style or subject restrictions.

Letter Review Prize for Manuscripts
Three winners are announced who have a brief extract published, receive a letter of recommendation from the judges for publishers, and share in the $1000 total prize pool. Twenty writers are longlisted and ten are shortlisted.
Entry Fee: $25 to enter one submission, $45 to enter two (save $5), and $60 to enter three (save $15). 
Dates: Open now, closing August 31 11:59 p.m. ET.
Words: Please submit the first 5000 words of your manuscript, whether it be prose or poetry.
Details: Open to anyone in the world. The entry must not have been traditionally published. All varieties of novels, short story collections, nonfiction and poetry collections are welcomed. Manuscripts which are unpublished, self published, and some which are indie published will be accepted. Review full entry guidelines for further details. 

The judges will be Ol James and Kita Das.

All entries are marked blindly to ensure fairness for all writers. All contest entries are considered for publication, and for submission to the Pushcart Prize and other anthologies. Read some previous submissions here.

Entry is open to anyone. To enter, visit https://letterreview.com/information/.

The contest closes August 31 11:59 p.m. ET.

Letter Review is a literary magazine with a mission to publish new work, foster a supportive creative community, and help writers with all matters related to being published, performed and produced. Letter Review promises to pay writers professional rates and seeks submissions from writers across the globe. Letter Review is a proud member of CLMP and adheres to the CLMP Contest Code of Ethics. Letter Review features interviews with professional writers, publishes helpful information, runs competitions with monetary prizes, and remains open to unsolicited submission of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

On the Gaze: Dubai and its New Cosmopolitanisms by Adrianne Kalfopoulou

Congratulations to SR Contributor Adrianne Kalfopoulou, who recently published On the Gaze: Dubai and its New Cosmopolitanisms, a book-length essay that explores the meaning of Dubai as a nation-state at the crossroads of the world. The book explores the history of Dubai’s development through a philosophical lens and a historical perspective, analyzing its evolution into a member state of the United Arab Emirates. It presents a completely new narrative on Dubai through multiple gazes.

Read some of the book’s reviews below:

“Adrianne Kalfopoulou has created a conceptual and reflective astrolabe of Dubai that could well become the new intellectual way of entering its space. Her narrative slides effortlessly on the chronological map crossing the gaze of time with the tactility of experience—hers and those of many others who have found themselves in this place of futurity in the hopes of escaping the vicissitudes of their individual presents. Transnational fluidities, Kalfopoulou tells us, rest on narratives of a future that has already become another mirage. Infrastructure indexes forms of modernity, and on this conceptual map we see fixed points that sculpt the modernities of the Gulf States—the hospital, the airport, the bank, the gaze from above, and the vision to the future, in a narrative that is as detached as a surgeon’s scalpel and as intimate as the literary account of a pedicure.”  – Neni Panourgiá, author of Dangerous Citizens: The Greek Left and the Terror of the State

“In a personal narration that reads like a reflective literary diary, Adrianne Kalfopoulou’s On the Gaze chronicles the situational everydayness of her lifeworld in Dubai. The optics encapsulate manifold perspectives interwoven with anecdotes from the fabric of the city’s recent history, and oriented by analytic leitmotifs with Baudrillardian attunements. She depicts the intercultural arabesque of the cosmopolitanisms of a maritime megalopolis that rose in its architectonic edifices from the purity of the Arabian desert dunes. Dubai appears through her gazes as experiential labyrinthine lessons of inhabiting the locales of a global landmark of urbanity that reflect the neo-aesthetics of our hyperreal paradoxical age.”  – Nader El-Bizri, author of The Phenomenological Quest between Avicenna and Heidegger 

“Adrianne Kalfopoulou’s On the Gaze is a book-length essay on her immersive experience upon entering, and living in, a world far from her own cultural roots. We follow her multiple gazes—temporal, abstract, theoretical, and personal—and journey with her from Dubai’s humble beginnings as a port village to its evolution as a global city of the digital age. The book abounds in honest and vivid portraits of people and places written in beautifully crafted prose. A very welcome addition to the growing body of anglophone literature on the Arabian Gulf.” – Yahya Haidar, editor and translator, Al-Din: A Prolegomenon to the Study of the History of Religions 

Adrianne Kalfopoulou is based in Athens, Greece where she has taught in higher education for many years. She is a poet, essayist, and scholar, authoring three poetry collections. She has served as a poetry and nonfiction faculty mentor in the low residency Mile-High MFA program at Regis University, and was the McGee Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at Davidson College for 2020-2021.

View Adrianne’s essays in issue 24, issue 16, and issue 9 of Superstition Review.

The book is available for preorder here. Learn more about Adrianne and her works here.

Catherine Broadwall’s Fulgurite

Congratulations to SR Contributor Catherine Broadwall, who recently published the poetry collection Fulgurite through Cornerstone Press. The book’s title takes its name from the crystalline structures that can form underground when lightning strikes sand or soil. It is used as an extended metaphor for jolting events—global and personal—that leave traces in their wake. Poems center on fairy tales, gender, coming of age, and the natural world. Many work in the tradition of domestic fabulism, blending the real with the fantastical. The cover was designed by Julia Kaufman. 

The book has received generous praise:

“These ethereal poems exist within the mysterious, magical realm of fairytale. Fluid and porous, they have a witchy, spellbound nature. These pieces float.” — Allison Titus, author of High Lonesome

“Here is a poet who understands metaphor as deep transformation, whose lines strike like lightning and fuse to startle us into truth at once spiritual and politically vital.” — Chen Chen, author of When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities

“We are fortunate to have Kyle’s many-faceted constructions in the world.” Jennifer Militello, author of The Pact

“Fulgurite walks beside us, a ‘star-specked’ companion, into the radiant thicket. Beware, be there, be where the lightning touches.” Emily Corwin, author of Sensorium

“Through masterfully painted imagery, Kyle offers hope by showing that a woman can find her power in a world where ‘men prowl the streets with enormous polished guns.’” Reverie Koniecki, author of to the god of sore feet and bad backs

“A soulful and often stunning poetry collection.” Kirkus Reviews

Catherine, formerly known as Catherine Kyle, married and changed her last name to Broadwall shortly after the book came out. Broadwall is a name created in collaboration with her husband and their families. She published Fulgurite under the name Catherine Kyle because it reflects that past chapter of her life. She sees it as one way to honor that time. 

In addition to Fulgurite, Catherine is the author of Shelter in Place (Spuyten Duyvil, 2019), which received an honorable mention for the 2019 Idaho Book of the Year Award. Her writing has appeared in Bellingham Review, Colorado Review, Mid-American Review, and other journals. She was the winner of the 2019-2020 COG Poetry Award and a finalist for the 2021 Mississippi Review Prize in poetry. She is an assistant professor at DigiPen Institute of Technology, where she teaches creative writing and literature.

View Catherine Kyle’s Abandoned Mall in issue 31 of Superstition Review.

To listen to a playlist of songs that helped inspire and share themes with the book, click here. To purchase Fulgurite, click here. To learn more about Broadwall, visit her website here.

Rachel Cantor’s Half-Life of a Stolen Sister

Rachel Cantor

Rachel Cantor has recently published Half-Life of a Stolen Sister. The imaginative novel follows the lives of the Brontë siblings—Charlotte, Emily, Anne, and brother Branwell—retelling their story from the beginning in their precocious childhoods, to the writing of their renowned novels, to their early deaths. The work is a form-shattering novel written by an author praised as “laugh-out-loud hilarious and thought-provokingly philosophical” (Boston Globe).

The novel-by-stories book beautifully brings together diaries, letters, home movies, television and radio interviews, deathbed monologues and fragments from the sprawling invented worlds of the siblings’ childhood. The writing explores how the three sisters were able to produce literary landmarks that have withstood the ages and how their lives and circumstances brought the children together in greatness. Rachel Cantor is able to meld known biographical facts with storytelling to depict the family’s genius, their bonds of love and duty, impassioned creativity, and the ongoing tolls of illness, isolation, and loss.

Marie Myung-Ok Lee, author of The Evening Hero, praised Cantor’s reimagining of the Brontë family, “With humor and heart, Rachel Cantor paints a vivid, multi-voiced picture of the Brontës via a shape-shifting, time-bending tapestry of unforgettable characters and situations. Whether you’re a fan of this literary family or not, this book is a must-read for anyone looking for a truly innovative, tender, and humorous take on genius, the creative process, family, and life.”

Read some of the book’s other reviews below:
“Cantor pulls out all the stops to make this a unique and unforgettable reading experience that is as difficult to describe as it is to set down . . . Clever without straining, true to the basic facts of the Brontë family history, and emotionally compelling as the children grow while continuously facing new obstacles, Cantor’s unusual tale can be read and reread for endless diversion.”

“Cantor spins a free-ranging and intriguing tale of a literary family inspired by the Brontës that incorporates a mix of forms and anachronistic details . . . Cantor’s frisky and time-collapsing blend of forms elevates the experiment above run-of-the-mill Brontë fodder . . . For Brontë fans, this is a jolt of fresh air.”
Publishers Weekly

“[Cantor’s] take on [the Brontës’] lives plays fair with their limited life spans and general relationships to each other and the world while throwing them into a setting replete with bagels, McMansions, subways, television, and soy milk. The structure of the novel is playful . . . with a few surprising insights.”

Kirkus Reviews

“Innovative . . . Cantor spins the known biographies of the Brontë siblings into a surrealist, eccentric story where modernity blends with the archaic … Retells the story of the Brontë family with flair.”

Foreword Reviews, Starred Review

Rachel Cantor is the author of the novels Half-Life of a Stolen Sister (Soho Press 2023), Good on Paper (Melville House 2016), and A Highly Unlikely Scenario (Melville House 2014). Two dozen of her stories have been published in the Paris Review, One Story, Ninth Letter, Kenyon Review, New England Review, and elsewhere, and she has written about fiction for National Public Radio, the Guardian, Publishers Weekly, and other publications. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she is writing a series of middle grade and young adult books set in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. 

Rachel Cantor was interviewed in Issue 17 of Superstition Review. View it here.

Half-Life of a Stolen Sister is available for purchase here. Read more from Rachel Cantor at her website or find her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Success for L.I. Henley

Congratulations to L.I. Henley for the success of her recent projects. L.I. Henley won the 2023 Robert and Adele Schiff Award in CNF through The Cincinnati Review, chosen by Jerald Walker for her essay. She was also chosen as runner-up for the Southeast Review’s Ned Stuckey French award in CNF with forthcoming essays in The Southeast Review and The Southern Humanities Review. Henley is offering two summer writing workshops that will help writers to generate new material and offer feedback.

Courtesy of L.I. Henley

The workshops include mini lessons on craft, weekly advice, tips, reading published works, engaging dialogue, guided questions to deepen engagement, unique prompts for creating and improving work, writing warm-ups, oral feedback from Henley and other writers, personalized reading suggestions and suggestions for publishing opportunities. Through writing-focused sessions, attendees will learn how to generate new material alongside a community of excited writers.

Through these personal essay workshops, attendees should be able to draft a solid longer piece but also work on multiple “seedling” pieces that can grow after the series has ended, helping to start long-term writing.

Sessions will be held on Zoom. Offerings include “Show Me the Moment: An Online Generative Workshop on the Personal Essay for Beginners,” “Behind the Door is Another Door: An Online Generative Workshop on the Personal Essay,” and “Writing the Unruly Body: An Online Generative Workshop on CNF and Poetry about Pain, Pleasure, Injury and Everything in Between.” Dates are varied, with workshops starting between July and December, depending on the course you select.

Throughout all her work, she continues to create installments of her series, Paper Dolls & Books, which you can view here.

Henley brings extensive teaching and workshop experience to her coursework, as well as a breadth of publishing experience to help emerging writers in their journeys. She is an interdisciplinary artist, as a writer and paper artist, authoring numerous books that have appeared in Adroit, Brevity, Ninth Letter, The Indianapolis Review, Calyx, The Bellingham Review, The Los Angeles Review. Her personal essays have been awarded the Arts & Letters/Susan Atefat Prize and the Robert and Adele Schiff Award. She is also the creator of Paper Dolls & Books. Follow her work and upcoming projects on Instagram @lilhenleyart.

View her poems in issue 24 of Superstition Review.

Learn more about Henley’s writing workshops here. To register for sessions, email li.henley@hotmail.com or visit her contact page.

Natalie Young’s All of This Was Once Under Water

Natalie Padilla Young

Congratulations to Natalie Young for the release of her first book, titled All of This Was Once Under Water, published by Quarter Press. The collection is “part of a manuscript that mixes factual scenery and history with speculative fiction, in order to explore peculiarities in human nature, culture, identity, and environment.”

The book’s cover art and illustration were done by Maximiliane Spieß. Maxi is from western Germany where she works as an illustrator and writes novels in her free time. The Limited Edition hardcover book includes 8+ illustrations by Maxi in offset printing on matte pages. The book is printed in full color and comes with a blue vellum dust jacket.

All of This Was Once Under Water by Natalie Padilla Young (Published by Quarter Press)

The book has received many reviews regarding the beautiful narrative it establishes and the themes it is able to intertwine across each poem. Read them below:

All of This Was Once Under Water is entrancing, beguiling, disquieting—a collection of poetic dispatches from a terrain of lost faith and ecological decline. A genderless alien from another world, a philosophical monster residing in the Great Salt Lake, and a human “She” with a long-buried trauma: these are just some of the dramatis personae in this compendious collection that make the familiar strange again. Interspersed fragments of history about the birth of the Mormon Church comment ironically on our current state. The tone isn’t elegiac. There is hope in these searching poems, in their sensuous encounter with nature—not to mention a love affair between alien and human. The wondrous attention, the wry melancholy, and the sly humor of these poems will allow readers to glimpse their own lives with new eyes.” —Dan O’Brien.

“In All of This Was Once Under Water, Natalie Padilla Young conjures a physical and metaphysical universe in which the history of the Great Salt Lake and the struggles of her Mormon ancestors intertwine. Narratives of suffering, phantasmagorical legend, environmental threat, science, faith, love, and gender fluidity unspool in language as pristine and biting as salt. A great imagination is at work in these poems as Young probes the enmeshed lives of an alien, a lone human She, and a mythic monster in startling diction and syntax and haunting imagery.”  – Teresa Cader, History of Hurricanes, The Paper Wasp, Guests.

Natalie Young is a founding and managing editor of Sugar House Review, a poetry magazine. She also works as an art director for an ad agency based in Salt Lake City. Her poems from this series have been published in Green Mountains Review, The Midwest Quarterly, Rattle, South Dakota Review, Terrain.org, Drunken Boat, Pilgrimage, and elsewhere.

View her poem “Notes on Earth Life” in issue 18 of Superstition Review.

The limited edition is currently in preorder. Only 250 copies have been printed. Order yours today here.

Eileen Cunniffe’s Mischief and Metaphors: Essaying a Life

Eileen Cunniffe’s Mischief and Metaphors: Essaying a Life

Congratulations to Eileen Cunniffe for her collection of essays titled Mischief & Metaphors: Essaying a Life, published by Shanti Arts. Its cover art and illustrations accompanying the essays were created by Cunniffe’s mother, Rosie Cunniffe. The collected essays are introspective, exploring the underlying patterns of memories through characters spanning “family members, friends, and co-workers; but also butter, baseball, birds, and assorted articles of clothing.” Cunniffe has created a Spotify playlist to pair with Mischief and Metaphor and can be previewed here.

Eileen celebrated the book’s launch on April 23rd in-person with her mother and community. See photos from the launch on her site here.

Eileen Cunniffe with her mother Rosie Cunniffe

Eileen Cunniffe writes nonfiction that explores identity and experiences through the lens of travel, family, and work. She is known to write prose poetry on occasion. She was a regular contributor to Nonprofit Quarterly from 2013 to 2021, covering arts and culture. Her writing has appeared in literary journals and anthologies. Four of her essays have been recognized with Travelers’ Tales Solas Awards and another received the Emrys Journal 2013 Linda Julian Creative Nonfiction Award. Her nonfiction piece Consignments was published in issue 9.

Mischief and Metaphor: Essaying Life can be purchased here or from Bookshop. To learn more about Cunniffe, visit her website.

The Queering: An Interview with Brooke Skipstone

The Queering: An Interview with Brooke Skipstone

The Queering is a novel written by Brooke Skipstone and published January 2023 through her own company, Skipstone Publishing. Set in Clear, Alaska, the novel follows a 70-year-old grandmother exploring her hidden passion for writing Lesbian romance novels until her secret is made public. Skipstone explores self-acceptance, identity, sexuality, and the way these interact with the LGBTQ+ community at large.

A moving and compelling tale of a journey toward truth and personal liberation. Over the course of this novel, Skipstone’s prose is propulsive, moving a rousing story from past to present at a fast clip. The characters are developed well, and their vivid personalities make them feel like real people. The author’s firm grasp of LGBTQ+ issues and of the queer community’s fight for equality is effectively amplified. As an antagonist, Levi comes across as appropriately frenzied and hateful, while Grace will strike readers as appealingly defiant. Overall, it’s an impressive story that packs a punch.

Kirkus Reviews

Brooke Skipstone is a multi-award-winning author who lives in Alaska where she watches the mountains change colors with the seasons from her balcony. Where she feels the constant rush toward winter as the sunlight wanes for six months of the year, seven minutes each day, bringing crushing cold that lingers even as the sun climbs again. Where the burst of life during summer is urgent under twenty-four-hour daylight, lush and decadent. Where fish swim hundreds of miles up rivers past bear claws and nets and wheels and lines of rubber-clad combat fishers, arriving humped and ragged, dying as they spawn. Where danger from the land and its animals exhilarates the senses, forcing her to appreciate the difference between life and death. Where the edge between is sometimes too alluring. Learn more about her by visiting her website. She can also be reached by email at brookeskipstone@icloud.com

A riveting novel . . . A seventy-year-old closeted lesbian writer faces her past in Brooke Skipstone’s intense, decades-spanning LGBTQ+ novel The Queering—a book about love, courage, and solidarity. . . [T]he book’s pace is consistent, increasing in speed and intensity as events move Taylor toward an inevitable, terrifying confrontation.

5 star Clarion review

To purchase The Queering, go here.

We have the pleasure of sharing an interview with Brooke Skipstone. This interview was conducted via e-mail by Superstition Review’s content coordinator, Anna Miller. She would like to offer gratitude to Brooke Skipstone for taking the time to answer her questions and writing novels that showcase real people of all backgrounds. Reading Skipstone’s newest novel The Queering, made her feel so alive and happy and renewed her love for reading. She hopes that you find Skipstone’s answers as fascinating and insightful as she did, as they discuss publishing, Skipstone’s novels, and LGBT fiction.

Anna Miller: The Queering is the most original story that I’ve read in a long time. The main character is an older queer woman dealing with problems that are usually surrounding the younger generation, in a story full of mystery and suspense. A few of your novels are even mentioned in the story and one of your characters is even named after yourself! I would love to know how you come up with your book ideas.

Brooke Skipstone: I’m a pantser, so when I start to write a book, I’m not entirely sure where the story will lead. And not entirely sure where the germ of a story originates. My last book (The Moonstone Girls) portrayed a beautiful, loving relationship between a brother and sister. In The Queering, I wanted to explore the opposite. In this case, Taylor’s brother, rather than being gay, struggles with his own loathing for gays. In other words, struggles with his own homosexual inclinations. Taylor and her best friend graduate with theatre degrees and hope to continue to live together, not as lovers, but as friends. However, her brother’s murder of a drag queen and insistence on accompanying the girls as they drive across the West forces Taylor and Brooke to worry that they will lose each other before they can express their true feelings. The idea of a post-college trip in a VW van with two girls and a man would seem full of fun and laughter. So twisting this trope into a harrowing, intensely dangerous event was key to the book.

Additionally, the book’s first line came to me in a flash: NO ONE in the world is actually named Brooke Skipstone. What fun? Adding my own name to the mix intensified the intrigue. What if a young woman lost her girlfriend and because of the times felt she couldn’t pursue another lesbian relationship? How many women have married and had children because they were afraid to face their true identity? Taylor did the same but found herself lonely and purposeless late in life until she decided to write lesbian romances. At least her secret life could be significant even as her real life with a cheating, possessive husband devolved into lonely indifference. But when her brother is released from prison, seeking revenge, Taylor must make a choice whether to fight back and expose herself or hide until she is killed.

AM: I love the design of your book cover and the little details that you’ve added, especially the Volkswagen bus in the bottom corner. I recently read an academic paper on queer young adult fiction and it read:

“Not long ago, the cover images for lesbian fiction for young adults all featured what journalist and book reviewer Tirzah Price called the “lesbian hands” trope (“Cover Talk”). This was, essentially, a publishing trend in which every young adult novel with a lesbian protagonist featured a cover image of someone’s hands (Price, “Cover Talk”). Beginning in about 2016, this trend has changed and those books now feature more typical romance covers with the two primary characters depicted in some romantic pose (Price, “Out and Proud”). However, this comes with its own host of problems, because now these books are visibly, obviously queer (Seville, The Wonder of a Target Audience: On the Growth of Queer Young Adult Literature)”

AM: What do you think about the “lesbian hands” trope and the recent shift to more typical romance cover? How do you think this will affect sapphic literature and its demand?

BS: Until reading this question, I had never heard about the “lesbian hands” trope. My covers are designed by Cherie Chapman. I send her links to books similar to mine, descriptions of key scenes, a synopsis, and thematic ideas. For this book, duality and contrast are key ideas: love and hate, truth and lies, past and present, and an author within an author. Plus, the parallels between Taylor and Brooke (in college), Tracy and Shannon at seventy, Grace and Maddi, and Laura and Paige. So I think Cherie’s design was heavily influenced by the duality idea. Thus the hands and the light and dark pink triangles form the background of the cover.

I just looked at the top 100 LGBTQ+ Romance YA books on Amazon. Only three use a photographic representation of a couple. The rest use illustrations/cartoon figures. Of course, this is in the YA category. But even in the Lesbian Fiction category, many of the covers still use illustrations. More use photographs of women, but many that do show one woman only. So there is still a gap between queer romance covers and straight romance covers.

It’s obvious that there is more of a demand for sapphic literature; however, now that many states are banning books and targeting the LGBTQ+ community, I would imagine covers to be less obvious about their content.

AM: The Queering as a whole did not seem to lean into any cliches. What do you think of cliches in queer novels, romance novels, or in general?

BS: I think some of my readers would disagree about my use of cliches or tropes. They are hard to avoid. The trick is to add something unique. Taylor and Brooke go from friends to lovers, but their path in the book is unique. Plus I have two 70-year-old grandmothers go from friends to lovers, but their age and circumstances make their story unique.

Additionally, my characters live in rural Alaska, which is a unique setting and will turn any trope or cliché into something new.

AM: I absolutely loved your most recent novel, and can’t wait to read your previous publications including Crystal’s House of Queers and The Moonstone Girls. Can you tell me if you have any other novels in the works that we can look forward to in the next few years?

BS: I am working on a new story set in Alaska a couple of years in the future when artificial intelligence apps have advanced and significantly affected our lives. The characters are gradually forming in my head where they will live for the next many months. As I get to know them, I will tell their stories as best I can.

AM: You’ve started your own publishing company, Skipstone Publishing, and have published your five novels through it. What made you decide to start your own publishing company? Has it always been a dream of yours or did you attempt to sell your novels to agents and publishers prior to the founding of your company? If so, what did this process look like?

BS: My first novel was an altered version of Crystal’s House of Queers. I did try to query agents with no success. Actually, I became frustrated with the game of querying and stopped too soon. Many authors will take a year or more to find an agent. I had no patience and decided to form my own company so I could deduct business expenses. I formed an LLC using a template from Legal Zoom, applied for a business license in Alaska, and applied for my IRS tax ID.

Basically, I learned how to do everything myself, including making and designing ebooks, securing copywrites and ISBN numbers, finding beta readers and editors, and more.

AM: Skipstone Publishing is named after you. I’m curious if you plan on only publishing your own novels or do you plan to expand to other authors in the future? If so, will you be limiting accepted works to ones that focus around LGBTQ+ and queer characters?

BS: My plans don’t include publishing other authors at this time.

AM: When it comes to marketing your novels how do you get the word out to potential readers? And how do you market to booksellers who will ultimately sell your novel to these potential readers?

BS: I secure editorial reviews then post my book on NetGalley to secure Goodreads reviews. I encourage positive reviewers to post on Amazon once my book is available. I’ve also used LGBTQ+ book tours to spread the word and entered my books in various contests.

I use IngramSpark to make my print books available worldwide and have recently used Draft2Digital to make my ebooks available worldwide.

Frankly, I should make more of an effort to market my books, but I’m more interested in writing new ones.

AM: The banning of books is the most common type of censorship in the United States (Webb, Book Banning) and in the last handful of years its frequency has gone up exponentially, from 566 in 2019, to 1858 in 2021, to 2500 in 2022
(Italie, Book ban attempts reach record high in 2022). Do you have any fears about what will happen to your published novels and any of your writing in the future?

BS: I would welcome the banning of any of my books because that would indicate that the books are widely read and considered a threat. The book banners seem to have no idea that anyone with a phone or computer can read the first several chapters of any book online. By condemning certain books, they ensure they will be read one way or another. I’ve never understood how adults think banning a book keeps their children “safe.” Their children have phones and Netflix and HBO, YouTube, Amazon Prime, etc. Do they not realize what their kids can access on these outlets? Banning books is an absolute sham and publicity stunt.