A headshot of Cavar.

Pride Community Project Episode Two: Claire van Doren Interviews Cavar


Superstition Review is excited to share a podcast project planned and produced by SR intern Claire van Doren. In this four-episode audio series, Claire will be talking with SR’s queer contributors. In today’s episode, Claire interviews Cavar. [sarah] Cavar (they/them) is a PhD student and writer of transMad things. They are editor-in-chief of Stone of Madness and swallow::tale presses, and their writing can be found in CRAFT Literary, Split Lip Magazine, Electric Lit, and elsewhere. Their debut novel, Failure to Comply, is forthcoming with featherproof books (2024). To learn more, visit their website, follow them @cavarsarah on twitter, and at librarycard.substack.com



The following transcript has been edited for clarity. Credit goes to FreeSound.org for the sound effects.

Claire van Doren: Hi! My name’s Claire van Doren, and you’re listening to the Superstition Review Pride Community Project. Today, we’ll be hearing from Cavar. They’ll be discussing their experiences with the queer community and how it impacts their work. This is one of four Pride Community specials. Stick around to hear from more of Superstition Review’s queer contributors.

[Phone ringing]

Cavar: I’m Cavar. I use they/them pronouns. I’m a PhD student in Cultural Studies at UC Davis, and also run around, put my little raccoon hands in a bunch of different writing and editing kinds of projects. I usually describe my work as—not really bridging the creative and the scholarly—but rather, sort of, undoing the binary between them. I hope to write things where dividing them into creative work and academic work doesn’t really make sense anymore. I’m also interested in doing work that really confounds sense-making, as a goal—mad works, quite frankly, which is a theme that comes up again and again.

I think that surrealism, in a lot of ways, is a way that writers approach—and tap on the shoulder—of madness, even if they don’t quite feel comfortable with the terminology of madness specifically. I think that the idea of the surreal—this idea that you’re able to cross from this reality to into a slightly bent or modified reality… It’s something that’s so in line with this “mad politic,” where multiple realities are accepted and celebrated. Instincts that one person might see , might not be the things that you see. And using surrealism to really get into those spaces—I think it’s a really incredibly valuable, mad tool.

It also frees me up to write things that feel a lot truer to me. I feel like I often experience these feelings, thoughts, experiences that go beyond what realism has to offer. And, to be freed up to use the language of the surreal, paradoxically, even though it’s supposedly “fake,” actually allows me to be a lot more honest. So growing up, I actually didn’t write fantasy or science-fiction very much. I think it’s because I associated all of it with—either like the hard sci-fi, where it’s hard to understand it. Or, like, A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy, with the maps and the names and the seven hundred pages. And so I thought that that was completely not for me. And I was right, but there’s a lot more to fantasy and science-fiction than that.

And so I gradually dipped my toes in later and got more enthusiastic about fantasy and science fiction. And I was really compelled by the way the authors used the languages of the future to address those realities and contemporary problems. And I was really impressed by the way that systems of magic and sorcery can be used to articulate everyday forms of violence and strife that we were dealing with now. And from there, I passed from a more grounded sense of fantasy and science fiction, to people beginning to recognize it—folks like Samuel R. Delany, who is taking fantasy and science fiction—being like, “Okay, but what if we challenge the structure of realism itself? What if we didn’t simply imbue future politics or wizards or witches into a kind of present-day logic? What if we up-ended logic?” And I think that both discovering the surreal that way—and also beginning to read my first collections of poetry when I was in college—it really made me realize that I was allowed to write things that didn’t only not exist, but didn’t really make sense in any universe.

One of my favorite authors is actually a literary young-adult author named Neal Shusterman. He writes mostly speculative fiction-slash-dystopian kind of books, for the broad category of reluctant readers. And I was skeptical because I feel like reluctant readers books are often stereotyped as “boy books” and books that don’t really have a lot of interest for people who are already drawn to a bunch of different genres and to writing. But I began reading Shusterman’s books when I was in middle-school. And I physically cannot put those books down—and I still can’t. And I think that that’s a testament to the fact that good work is good work, and it’s going to draw people from all different backgrounds and all different spaces.

I would really like to focus more on forms of writing that right now I simply don’t have the tools or knowledge to do. I talked to a couple of colleagues who are into boardgames, and they’re like, “Oh my God, what if I made a novel that was a game?” Or thinking about multi-modal approaches to writing. Things that involve QR codes and music and videos and all kinds of weird shit.

One of the great things about using mixed media is that it draws in people who are into music and into graphic novels and into computer games and into board games. I would love to work on something where visual art was the central component to it. I would love to work more on “found” documents and work more on archives. Really, just using as many forms and technologies and methods as possible—because so far, my expansion beyond just writing prose on a page has just gotten more fun the more weird stuff I do.

[Phone hangs up]

CVD: Thanks for joining us! Be sure to check out our YouTube page for more audio and video content, as well as our official Superstition Review blog.

A headshot of EJ Levy. Credit: Desiree Suchy

Pride Community Project Episode One: Claire van Doren Interviews EJ Levy


Superstition Review is excited to share a podcast project planned and produced by SR intern Claire van Doren. In this four-episode audio series, Claire will be talking with SR’s queer contributors. In today’s episode, Claire interviews EJ Levy, whose work has been published in The Best American Essays, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Nation and The Paris Review. Her writing has received a Pushcart Prize, as well as many other awards. She holds a degree in History from Yale and an MFA from Ohio State University. To learn more, visit her website.



The following transcript has been edited for clarity. Credit goes to FreeSound.org for the sound effects.

Claire van Doren: Hi! My name is Claire van Doren, and you’re listening to the Superstition Review Pride Community Project. Today we’ll be hearing from EJ Levy. She’ll be discussing her experiences with the queer community and how it impacts her work. This is one of four pride community specials. Stick around to hear from more of Superstition Review’s queer contributors.

[Phone ringing]

EJ Levy: I’m EJ Levy. I’m a lesbian, non-binary writer of fiction and nonfiction. I’m the author of The Cape Doctor, which came out from Little Brown. The book was a New York Times’ book review editor’s choice, and a Barnes & Noble Book of Summer pick. Prior to that, my story collection More than Theory won the Flannery O’Conner Award, among other prizes, and was the finalist for the Land of Literary and Edmond White awards. My anthology Tasting Life Twice: Literary Lesbian Fiction by New American Writers was published by Harper Perennial and won a Lambda Award. And I finally also have an obscure feminist eco-memoir titled Amazons: A Love Story that I allow almost no one to read.

Before I got up the courage to write, I worked as an independent film and home magazine editor in New York City. I edited an LGBTQ newspaper in New Mexico and was an environmental activist. I’m currently faculty in the MFA program at Colorado State University, having previously been on the MFA faculty at American University in DC, and the PhD program in literature and creative writing at the University of Missouri Colombia.

As a young, aspiring writer, I found my way, honestly, to my life—and to the page—through the work of brilliant writers who walked that path. And among them, Audre Lorde, Edmund White, Gertrude Stein, Christopher Ishwerood, Adrienne Rich, David Leavitt, Jeanette Winterson, Toni Morrison, Leslie Marmon Silko—to name a few.

I got to say that when I was in college, I studied Latin American studies and economics. And then I drifted toward a degree in History after a pretty disastrous year in the Brazilian Amazons. I wanted to write, but I didn’t want to write fiction because I didn’t think fiction told a true story. It always seemed to me that stories in books were too shapely, too crafted. That they were a lie against our experience. And after I finished college, a roommate had a copy of Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. And I had moved towns and having trouble coming out… And I read To the Lighthouse, and I thought it was a vision of why—it was so awake, even if what it’s portraying is often very simple: a dinner, an effort to paint a picture, a trip to a lighthouse. But I thought, “This is what it is to be awake and to be alive.” And so that book literally saved my life and also brought me to fiction. It made me want to write fiction. And I became a bit of a completist and read everything of Woolf’s. I read a few books about Woolf and was really pleased when one scholar told me that I could be a Woolfian, that I knew so much about the obscure, that she considered me a Woolfian.

But I would really recommend that practice. To let ourselves fall deeply in love with writers, artists, and musicians, and to the whole of their work. Partly because I think it teaches us that when we’re making stuff, sometimes we achieve it pretty fully—and sometimes not so much. I’ve always found a brilliant mind really attractive in friends and in partners. But I’ve also known and loved a lot of people sexually or in my family who were very smart, or inept, at love. So I think that it can be hard to trust the body and its desires and be vulnerable, especially if you live in your head a lot, and especially if you grow up queer in a heteronormative culture—as we do. It’s easy to second guess oneself, and to think too much of love and desire and maybe talk your way out of it—as I often d0. And maybe go astray, instead of trusting your heart.

So writing these stories in my collection—when I was an MFA student—which considers relationships through the lens of a scholarly theory of a kind, whether it’s economic theory or political science. Writing each of the stories was a way of finding my way back to a love story that I could believe in. I kind of—I could trust as I wrestled with questions of desire and monogamy—what it is to be faithful, what it is to be honorable in love. It was also about the fact that in my early thirties, I learned—as my mother did—that my father had been cheating for forty years. It explained a lot, but for me it was also an ambivalent discovery—because I felt, “Thank God,” that there was more authentic desire happening somewhere in the landscape. Even as I thought and understood that he’d made a lie of the relationship with my mom. So I was trying to wrestle through what it is to be faithful. It was a way of finding my way back to a love that I could believe in.

And maybe not surprisingly, after that, I finally was able to settle down.

[Phone hangs up]

CVD: Thanks for joining us! Be sure to check out our YouTube page for more audio and video content, as well as our official Superstition Review blog.

Tune in next Wednesday for the second episode of the Pride Community Project!