Mirrors and Doors with Patricia Ann McNair

An Authors Talk

Patricia Ann McNair

“Reading to relate is like looking in a mirror; I want to walk through a door.”

In this insightful Authors Talk, Patricia Ann McNair delves into the idea — and issue — of readers and writers only finding value in work they can relate to.

Many times she has heard the phrase, “I can’t relate,” from students and peers in regards to stories. As readers, it can be easy for us to become uncomfortable when confronted with stories that we cannot relate to and we cannot understand, but Patricia argues that it is exactly these stories we need to be reading.

When we read only stories we can understand, we are simply looking in a mirror; but, when we read stories that do not resemble our own, we are shown through an open door into a world we never would have encountered before.

“Write what you don’t know….”

Listen to her full Authors Talk below.

Check out Patricia’s newest work, Responsible Adults, coming out in December of 2020 (Cornerstone Press).

Learn more about Patricia here.

Turning Out, An Authors talk with K.K. Fox and Hananah Zaheer

Joining us for this week’s Authors Talk are writers and editors at LA Review, K.K. Fox and Hananah Zaheer.

K.K. discusses her story, “Mile Marker 232” featured in Issue 18 of S[r]—a piece based off a car accident she experienced in her childhood that has now become a story collection.

She also discusses the journey of her story and book throughout their creation and shares an excerpt from her latest story, “The One Who Hurts.”

Be sure to keep an eye out for K.K.’s forthcoming story collection, “Mile Marker 232.”



Want to learn more about K.K. and her work? Follow her on Twitter.

Want to learn more about Hananah and her work? Check out her Twitter.

Jami Attenberg, A Contributor Update

Jami Attenberg

Join us in congratulating past contributor Jami Attenberg on the release of her newest novel, All This Could Be Yours.

The author of 7 books, Jami has been praised for her incredible works by NPR, USA Today, The New York Times, and Kirkus Reviews among many others. Her novel, All This Could Be Yours, was listed in People magazine’s “Best of Fall” list.

In addition to her newest novel, Jami also has a fortchoming memoir from Ecco Press. Congratulations Jami, we cannot wait to read your forthcoming work!


Check out Jami’s interview, “Plenty of Light,” from Issue 20 of S[r] here.

Learn more about Jami and her work at her website.

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.

#ArtLitPhx: Great Books Discussion

Stop by the library for a discussion with fellow book lovers. The Great Books Foundation promotes reading, thinking and sharing of ideas. Kathy and Don Dietz will lead discussions on the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays from 6-8 p.m. in the Connections Café at Tempe Public Library.

Be sure to pick up a copy of Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser before the book discussion at 6 p.m.

EVENT INFORMATION

Date: Wednesday, August 28

Time 6–8 p.m.

Location: Tempe Public Library, 3500 S. Rural Rd.

For more information, click here.

Contributor Update, Hannah Brown: ‘Look After Her’

Today we are happy to announce the news of past SR fiction contributor Hannah Brown. Hannah’s debut novel, Look After Her, published by Inanna Publications, is now available for preorder. The novel takes place in the 1930s and follows two young Jewish sisters through the betrayal of a family friend, captivity, addiction, and danger. 

“With the background of anti-Semitism and exploitation, of sex and love and art and dramatic ruses, all during the terrifying rise of fascism in Austria and Italy, Look After Her reveals this truth: no matter how close we are to another human being, even a beloved sister, that’s what we are: close—we all have our own secrets to keep.” 

Next year, in September 2020, Inanna Publications will also publish a collection of her interlinked short stories, including “On Any Windy Day,” which appeared in SR’s Issue 15.

More information about Hannah and her forthcoming novel can be found here. You can find her fiction piece, “On Any Windy Day,” from Issue 15 here.

Congratulations, Hannah!

#ArtLitPhx: Long and Short of It

Long and Short of It Book Club is a new bimonthly club that explores one book and one story collection connected by a theme.

Tonight the group discusses The Gone Dead and The Man Who Shot My Eye Out is Dead, both by Chanelle Benz. The Gone Dead is a debut novel about a young woman who returns to her childhood home in the American South and uncovers secrets about her father’s life and death. The Man Who Shot My Eye Out is Dead is a debut collection about lives across history marked by violence and longing.

Stop by Changing Hands Phoenix or Tempe (or order online by clicking “add to cart” below) to get your copies of The Gone Dead for 20% OFF and The Man Who Shot My Eye Out is Dead for 10% OFF.

Then meet fellow book lovers at First Draft Book Bar to discuss the pick.

FREE PARKING / LIGHT RAIL

  • Don’t want to drive? Take the Light Rail! It lets off at the Central Avenue/Camelback Park-and-Ride, which has hundreds of free parking spaces across the street from Changing Hands.


About The Gone Dead:
Billie James’ inheritance isn’t much: a little money and a shack in the Mississippi Delta. The house once belonged to her father, a renowned black poet who died unexpectedly when Billie was four years old. Though Billie was there when the accident happened, she has no memory of that day—and she hasn’t been back to the South since.


Billie James’ inheritance isn’t much: a little money and a shack in the Mississippi Delta. The house once belonged to her father, a renowned black poet who died unexpectedly when Billie was four years old. Though Billie was there when the accident happened, she has no memory of that day—and she hasn’t been back to the South since.

Thirty years later, Billie returns but her father’s home is unnervingly secluded: her only neighbors are the McGees, the family whose history has been entangled with hers since the days of slavery. As Billie encounters the locals, she hears a strange rumor: that she herself went missing on the day her father died. As the mystery intensifies, she finds out that this forgotten piece of her past could put her in danger.

Inventive, gritty, and openhearted, The Gone Dead is an astonishing debut novel about race, justice, and memory that lays bare the long-concealed wounds of a family and a country.


About The Man Who Shot Out My Eye Is Dead:
A brother and sister turn outlaw in a wild and brutal landscape. The daughter of a diplomat disappears and resurfaces across the world as a deadly woman of many names. A young Philadelphia boy struggles with the contradictions of privilege, violence, and the sway of an incarcerated father. A monk in sixteenth century England suffers the dissolution of his monastery and the loss of all that he held sacred.

The characters in The Man Who Shot Out My Eye Is Dead, Benz’s wildly imaginative debut, are as varied as any in recent literature, but they share a thirst for adventure which sends them rushing full-tilt toward the moral crossroads, becoming victims and perpetrators along the way. Riveting, visceral, and heartbreaking, Benz’s stories of identity, abandonment, and fierce love come together in a daring, arresting vision.

EVENT INFORMATION

Location: Changing Hands Bookstore, 300 W. Camelback Rd., Phoenix 

Date: Tuesday, August 20

Time: 7 p.m.

For more information about the event, click here.

Contributor Update, Caitlin Horrocks: ‘The Vexations’

Join us in congratulating SR interview contributor Caitlin Horrocks. Caitlin’s debut novel, The Vexations, published by Little, Brown and Company, is available for purchase. Caitlin has been named “wildly entertaining” (San Fransisco Chronicle), “startlingly ingenious (Boston Globe), and “impressively sharp” (New York Times Book Review).

The book follows the life of eccentric composer Erik Satie, who dives into the Parisian art scene after the early death of his mother and his father’s breakdown. As time passes, Erik finds himself lashing out against his close friends and alienating himself, an artist who strived for greatness but only achieved notoriety. It’s up to Erik’s siblings—Louise and Conrad—to hold the family together and maintain faith in their brother’s talent.

To read more about Caitlin and her novel, click here. You can find her interview from SR’s Issue 9 here.

Congratulations, Caitlin!

Guest Post, Kathryn Kulpa: More Than You Think You Know

“You are better than you think. A-one, a-two, a-three.” 

—Kurt Vonnegut

Remember that old chestnut of writing advice that gets lobbed at all of us—particularly young writers, particularly new writers—write what you know? I ran across it first in my teens. Rather a dispiriting command for those of us whose real lives, the lives we knew, consisted of going to boring school every day in our boring town, and maybe, if we were lucky, going to the mall. My own trips to the mall invariably ended at the bookstore, where I sought escape in reading about other lives, other worlds that were nothing like the world I knew. 

Not necessarily better worlds. I favored dystopias and disasters, perilous quests and amorphous monsters, the merest glimpse of which could blast your sanity and leave you a gibbering mindless hulk, not unlike how I felt at the end of double biology class. 

My heart is in Middle Earth
My heart is not here
My heart is in Middle Earth
Trembling with fear …

I wrote in first-period algebra, when I compared Frodo’s quest to destroy the One Ring to the search for the square root of a quadratic equation, and the search for the equation didn’t come off too well. (Nor did my math grades, but that’s another story.) 

I read, and re-read, Tolkien and Lovecraft and Poe and Stephen King. My high school library had volumes of the best science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories, going back to at least 1970. I studied them like scripture. But my own attempts to write in those genres always felt like flat imitation. At the same time, I obsessively chronicled the ordinary details of my own life in notebooks: who wore the yellow dress that made her look like “a squeezed-out lemon,” who wrote “I LOVE KENNY” on the desk I shared in third period English, prompting me to question: “Does he love you?”; which teacher made the whole class stay after school because a few kids were acting up, spurring me to add a new dictionary definition under the word “shit.” Impromptu songs and poems and comics, but I didn’t consider any of it “real” writing, just throwaway stuff. 

Only I didn’t throw it away. A quiet voice inside told me not to. I would learn to listen to that voice. 

What I remember from my first “real” writing workshop were the yellow sheets the instructor gave us with comments on our stories, comments so detailed it felt as if each story had already been published and was worthy of critical attention. I only remember one piece of general writing advice, but it stuck in my mind as a corollary to write what you know: “You know more than you think you know.” 

I can’t explain the sense of freedom and relief that advice gave me. How many times I’d discarded story ideas, telling myself I couldn’t write about X because I’d never been to Y and didn’t know enough about Z. 

If a story idea feels right, if it feels emotionally true, then write it. Researching the details can come later. In that workshop I wrote a first draft of my story “The Night Copernicus Died,” about a nuclear scientist haunted by regret. I am not now, nor have I ever been, a nuclear physicist. My only “research” for the story was a book I’d once read about the making of the atomic bomb and a manga written by a survivor of Hiroshima. 

But I’d been born into a world shadowed by the threat of nuclear annihilation. I’d never known a time when that shadow didn’t haunt my dreams. As a teen and young adult, I’d wake in the middle of the night with my heart pounding, sure the world was going to end that night. I’d lie awake, making lists of all the things that made the world worth saving, fireflies and forsythia and golden retriever puppies, even though the people in it were so stupid. 

Years later, I met someone who’d been in the army during the Reagan years. “You don’t know how close we got, a couple of times,” he told me. But on some level I did know. And that feeling—that inner knowledge—was what drove the story. 

It was published in a science fiction magazine. I worried that, because its readers probably included a higher-than-average proportion of MIT grads, someone would question the science. 

No one said a word about the science. But I was forwarded a letter by one reader who wanted me to know that, while I had described the 1950s as a time when “gas was five cents a gallon,” it was, in fact, closer to 25 cents per gallon for much of that decade. 

Duly noted. 

In a more recent story, “Skater Girl at Rest,” I wrote in the voice of a former teen-movie star now sentenced to home confinement: 

Anna had always imagined an ankle bracelet would look like an actual bracelet, like the cylindrical copper coil she’d bought one year at Burning Man.

But it didn’t. It was bulky and oddly medical, with a thick black attachment that reminded Anna of a garage door opener or an old-school drug dealer beeper. It chafed her ankle and banged against her other leg when she slept and made wardrobe choices so much harder than they had to be. 

That voice just came to me, like taking dictation from a friendly ghost, yet having written it I started to worry that I’d got ankle bracelets all wrong; maybe they were discreet and delicate little bands, and what did I know about ankle bracelets anyway? 

I consulted the Google (The Google is your friend! Just not in the first draft) and found that they were, in fact pretty much exactly as I’d described them. 

You know more than you think you know. 

But what could I know about being dead? I would never claim that I know what it’s like to be dead, unless I happened to be singing a song written by John Lennon, but a while ago I became possessed by the need to write a story from the point of view of a dead person. Not a ghost, or an angel, or a spirit trapped in some interdimensional bardo. Just a regular dead person, who was dead but in some way still there, still a part of the physical world. 

I had been doing some strange reading, as I’m apt to do, about body farms and unusual disposition of human remains, and some of it was fascinating and some of it was horrifying, and the question I kept asking myself was why? Why would someone choose to have their body thrown down an elevator shaft, strapped into a crashing car, torn to pieces by animals, or left to rot in an open field? 

The voice of my narrator, a calm and reasonable voice, started speaking to me. She started telling me her story. And so I had to listen. 

They say we’ll get our bodies back whole after the rapture, but I’m pretty much done with mine—like when you’ve got an old nightgown so worn and full of holes that you’re just as happy when it rips, so you can tear it up for rags. 

The story, “A Key Into the Language of the Dead,” was published in Superstition Review‘s Issue 23. The characters and what they talk about and think about are made up. What happens to the bodies is real. 

What happens to the pumpkin is also real. It grew in my front yard. 

So yes, write what you know. That can be good advice, but don’t let it limit you to a narrow definition of what you think you know. You’ve seen things you didn’t realize you saw. You’ve heard things you don’t remember you heard. You know more than you think you know. Trust what you know. Tell the stories that beckon you, the ones that trouble you, even if they seem difficult or strange. 

And always Google the gas prices.

#ArtLitPhx: Scene-Setting with Writer Betty Webb

Attend a workshop from current Library Writer-in-Residence mystery author Betty Webb to learn new skills in the craft of writing and publishing. All experience levels are welcome.

The Writers-in-Residence program promotes writing in communities by connecting local, professional authors to serve as Writers-in-Residence at local libraries. Writers-in-Residence spend time at the library during their residency composing new works and providing education for community members. 

2019 Writer-in-Residence: Betty Webb, May–July 2019

Betty Webb is the author of the nationally best-selling Lena Jones mystery series (Desert Vengeance, Desert Rage, Desert Wives, Desert Noir, Desert Wind, etc.) and the humorous Gunn Zoo mysteries (The Otter of Death, The Llama of Death, The Puffin of Death, etc.). Before beginning to write full time, Betty worked as a journalist, interviewing everyone from U.S. presidents, astronauts who walked on the moon, Nobel Prize-winners, and polygamy runaways. She has taught creative writing classes and workshops at Arizona State University and Phoenix College, has been a nationally-syndicated literary critic for 30 years, and is currently reviewing for Mystery Scene Magazine. In addition to other organizations, Betty is a member of the National Federation of Press Women, Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters in Crime.

EVENT INFORMATION

Location: Tempe Public Library’s BRiC Training Room, 3500 S. Rural Rd.

Date: June 15

Time: 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.

Ages: 18+

To read more about this event, click here.