Hello everyone! Today we are excited to share that past contributor Patricia Ann McNair has a new book out titled And These Are The Good Times, a collection of essays which include a couple of pieces Patricia wrote for our very own blog.
A recent Booklist review by Donna Seaman states, “McNair proves to be an irresistible personal essayist of refreshing candor, vibrant openheartedness, rueful humor, and unassuming wisdom.” Don’t miss out on this opportunity and click here to buy yourself a copy!
Read “Just Like That” by Patricia in issue 3 of Superstition Reviewhere.
Good morning, everyone! Today, we’ve got a great start to the day with some news about one our past contributors. Simone Muench, whose work was featured in the Poetry section of our 3rd issue, has recently announced that her collection of poetry “Suture,” which she co-authored with poet Dean Rader, has been selected for publication by Black Lawrence Press. You can check out Simone’s work that we featured here, and when you’re done, do yourself the favor of adding “Suture” to your bookshelf by following the link here. Congratulations, Simone!
Good afternoon, everybody! Today, we are excited to announce that past contributor Mary Sojourner, featured in the Fiction section of both our 3rd and 10th issue, will be teaching a women’s writing circle at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe this Sunday, April 2, from 1:30 pm to 3:00 pm. Details can be found here. This wonderful opportunity coincides with a reading/book signing of Mary’s new book “The Talker,” out now from Torrey House Press. The price of admission is just purchasing a copy of “The Talker,” so if you’re at the reading and want your copy signed, joining the writing circle is a breeze! Come through, hear selections from “The Talker,” and come together as part of our wonderful writing community!
The American Civil War is a favorite subject among historical fiction enthusiasts in the United States. The heartrending notion of brothers and countrymen pitted against each other lends itself to family drama, while the fight between states’ rights and human rights has been fodder for political commentary since the late nineteenth century. In her debut novel, Maria Hummel transcends the textbook accounts of the war, wrapping readers in both the viscera of the front lines and the heartbreak of the home front. Teenage cousins Laurence and Isabel “Bel” Lindsey are thrust into the war of ideals when they try to help a runaway slave escape to Canada. Laurence later enlists in the Union army, leaving his Vermont home for gray Potomac winters and deafening battlefields. Bel, who has been left behind, must unravel an uncomfortable family secret while keeping a few of her own under wraps. Maria Hummel is a gifted nonfiction writer, and her prose shines in “Wilderness Run.” Even the characters who have a purposeful vapidity were fleshed out beautifully, and the dynamic central cast of characters was even more so. The text has a way of sucking in readers; I wish had the joy of reading it all in one sitting, and reading it in a day sufficed.
Rebekah Richgels, Fiction Editor of Issue 2 and Issue 3, reflects on life in the publishing world after Superstition Review.
Oh, how naïve I was.
Superstition Review was the beginning of living my dreams. I spent two semesters with SR as one of the Fiction Editors during my junior year. It was bliss. I spent my time talking with people who loved writing and reading and even editing. I contacted hundreds (if not literally, then very close) of already published authors like I was a peer of theirs and got a great response. I loved the community of the written word that I was thrown into. I got to interview T.C. Boyle, for crying out loud!
The next year I delved further, but also expanded. I was the head Fiction editor for Lux, Arizona State University’s
Undergraduate Creative Review. That was awesome because it dealt with undergraduates and truly sought to foster the artistic creativity in students, bring it to light, and then polish it. Great fun.
I graduated in 2010 with my B.A. in Creative Writing, minor in French, and defended thesis from Barrett, the Honors College. I spent the summer in Denver at the University of Denver Publishing Institute, and that was the best thing I had ever done in my life. Ever. I met people who not just loved reading and writing, but who wanted to spend their lives making sure the world can read great stuff. I was on top of the world, as you might imagine.
Then, as is always the case, reality struck.
Publishing jobs are in New York City, mainly, with another hub in Boston and one near San Francisco. My significant other was (and is) at medical school at Stanford, which is in Northern California, so I packed up my car and braved the new wilderness of California, believing that I would be hired right off and work my way up the ladder in the publishing world.
I spent nine months working for Costco and applying for all manner of entry-level publishing jobs. The economy being what it was, there weren’t many. The other aspect of California publishing is that the publishers who aren’t small independents are academics, and turnover is small in both those fields. Not to mention, the larger companies were buying up independents to use as imprints. Even Random House and Penguin were merging. All in all, my dreams were hard to make reality.
Costco wasn’t cutting it for me, so we parted ways. I began working as a nanny, independently for a freelance editor, hoping that her connections could extend to me, and I took on a transcription project that lasted two months. Then, last summer, I noticed that the Superstition Review Facebook page had posted an intern position for Weave Magazine, which was conveniently located in San Francisco. I applied. They rejoiced! Apparently I’m far more qualified, thanks to SR, than many of their applicants.
Let me just tell you all, I love it. It’s like Superstition Review in so many ways, but with even more fun interacting. I don’t get to do the solicitation, but the group conversations about the submissions are wonderful, and I love the exposure to writers.
I’m still searching for my break-in publishing job, but in the meantime I’m busying myself with office admin work at a property management company. I’ve also landed a 12-week internship with Bleacher Report, the online sports website, where I do 15 hours of copyediting a week. Since the content is mostly submitted by unpaid authors, my work is sorely needed, let me tell you.
So life hasn’t turned out like I imagined it would, but I’ve been able to adjust my expectations along the way (with some pouting moments, I’ll admit), and things are going well now. I’m not an SR success story yet, but I’ll get there. You’ll read about it, I promise.
Each Tuesday we feature audio or video of an SR Contributor reading their work. Today we’re proud to feature a podcast by Eugene Gloria.
Eugene Gloria earned his BA from San Francisco State University, his MA from Miami University of Ohio, and his MFA from the University of Oregon. He is the author of three books of poems—My Favorite Warlord (Penguin, 2012), Hoodlum Birds (Penguin, 2006), and Drivers at the Short-Time Motel (Penguin, 2000). His honors and awards include a National Poetry Series selection, an Asian American Literary Award, a Fulbright Research Grant, a San Francisco Art Commission grant, a Poetry Society of America award, and a Pushcart Prize. He teaches creative writing and English literature at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. Currently, he is the Arts and Sciences Distinguished Visiting Writer at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio.
Timothy Allen from Issues 3 and 4 gives us an update on his whereabouts.
After my time with Superstition Review, I graduated from ASU magna cum laude in 2010 and was accepted to ASU’s law school for the fall of that same year. During my first summer as a law student I was accepted to the Blackstone Fellowship – a prestigious program put on by the Alliance Defending Freedom to train young law students. As a part of that program I spent the summer in Alaska working for a law firm up there before I was successfully commissioned a Blackstone Fellow in the Fall of 2011. Now, in my third year of law school, I am desperately looking forward to graduation next spring, and working as a legal intern for an air ambulance company in North Scottsdale. I plan to work in healthcare law after graduation (if I can find work), but will not be limiting myself to Arizona employers – I also plan to look for work in Florida (Disney (of course)), Texas, and Washington state.
Danielle Kuffler, from Issue 2 and 3, talks about her perception of “work,” how that perception has changed, and what “work” she is looking forward to doing in the future.
I am a tutor at a community college writing center in south Phoenix. Since graduating from ASU two years ago, I have been a nanny, a waitress, a bartender, and a freelance copywriter, among other things. When I started college, I viewed work as something physical with immediately visible results. I thought it meant serving others, and I thought it defined who you are. After holding an internship with Superstition Review, I knew that work had more meanings. I learned work can have tangible and rewarding results over a period of time, work can involve your brain and not only your hands, and a job is not who you are.
Superstition Review was still in its early stages when I was an intern. I helped write a manual for future interns, and Trish was constantly coming up with new approaches to make the publication better. When the site finally launched at the end of the semester, I felt proud of the long hours of sometimes tedious work. I gained appreciation for working towards a long-term goal.
Tutoring recreates this feeling in miniature. Each session is an opportunity for growth and learning, and at the end, I try to impart to students what change took place in even just 10 minutes. I want them to be proud of their work and look forward to making it even better. Tutoring takes patience and foresight. For each session with a student, I first assess what the student should take away from our meeting, and then set up a structure in my mind that will best utilize our time. Sometimes we will spend 30 minutes talking about sentence structure or verbs, and other times we create an outline for a long research paper.
As solicitations coordinator at Superstition Review, I honed my planning skills. I quickly learned that without attention to detail and structured use of time, I would lose control of the solicitations process. Equally important was clear and quick email communication with artists and fellow interns. Being able to get to the point and communicate clearly has served me well as a tutor working with a diverse student body.
I’ve struggled with committing to a career, but it helps to remember that a job is not who you are, even when you care deeply about what you’re doing. Being part of Superstition Review prepared me to pursue a career I feel something for. Nothing excites me more than diagramming a sentence with a student. Superstition Review challenged me to discover things not only about publishing, but also about myself. Taking all sorts of jobs and internships allowed me to see different ways of living, and I’ve slowly built confidence in and appreciation for my talents and skills. I plan on pursuing a master’s degree in linguistics in the near future, and I know my time at Superstition Review will continue to be a source of pride and motivation to grow, change, and do good work.
Eric Hawkins from Issues 2 and 3 is in the process of applying to graduate programs. He shares with us these words:
When I graduated three years ago, I was unsure of what the future would hold for me professionally and academically. A degree in English carries with it few obvious career paths, especially for someone like me whose focus was in poetry. All I knew for sure was that I wanted to be involved with literature as much as possible. I sought advice from one of my professors, who recommended I take at least a year before enrolling in graduate school to explore possible career paths and see if anything spoke to me.
My overwhelmingly-positive experience with Superstition Review led me to the world of publishing. I moved to New York City and set about applying at publishing houses, magazines, and advertising agencies. I eventually landed an internship with a literary agency, where my job was reading and evaluating manuscripts from writers seeking representation. It was enjoyable and interesting work, but it was temporary (not to mention unpaid) so before long I had to move on.
It is no secret that the job market is tough across the board, but print media has been hit especially hard. I had no illusions that finding a great job in the hyper-competitive environment of New York would be easy, but I was still stunned at just how grueling the process was.
Ultimately I came to the realization that I was going to have to fight very hard to build any kind of career that would satisfy my passions, and I decided that a job in publishing was not something I wanted badly enough to justify the struggle. With that in mind, I left New York to further develop my poetry and determine my priorities. Since then I have been writing extensively, and have even had a few poems published.
When I think back to my favorite parts of studying English at Arizona State, the thing that stands out the most are the poetry workshops. I love discussing the thematic and technical complexities of poems, and those sessions really helped me overcome my shyness with regards to my own work. These fond memories led me to realize that I wanted to be a teacher, and toward that end I have decided to go for my Master’s degree.
Even though I find myself now in the same position as if I had gone straight from ASU to grad school, I will always be grateful to that professor who advised me to wait. Would I give the same advice to someone else in my former situation? That would depend on how clear of an idea they had about their future. Coming out of college I had only vague notions and scattered ambitions, and these past three years outside of an academic environment have taught me a lot about myself as a person and a writer. Most importantly I now have complete confidence that teaching is what I am meant to do, and it is worth the struggle.
The new form of “Twitter fiction” goes by many different names – novels, stories, flash fictions, micro fictions – but in reality, stories constrained to under 140 characters are unique. Part of the reason there are so many names for these stories is that we’re all still trying to figure out this new form. Already, there are quite a few literary journals that have started to specialize in Twitter fictions, most publishing onto Twitter itself, a few with their own sites. Even so, as writers and readers both, there are some key characteristics unique to the Twitter fiction.
Though I will continue to use the phrase “Twitter fiction” to describe these stories, and up until recently i had called them “micro fictions,” I like thinking of them as Tweeted novels. It’s a distinction that helps to remind us that, regardless of length, these are still complete stories. That’s what makes them difficult, and a real art to write well. Like poetry, Twitter stories are fairly quick to draft, but can take some significant effort to revise. Not only do we have a very specific – and tight – word limit, we still have to cram plot, character, and turn, beginning, middle, and end, into 140 characters. When I’m writing or reading Twitter fictions, I still aim for or want to see an arc, a change, a turn in the story, just as if I was reading a longer work.
This point is key: just because they’re short, Twitter fictions still must have all the features of a short story or novel. How is that possible when you only have a fraction of the space? Ironically, since I advise the opposite for students of longer fiction, in 140 characters you don’t have enough space to achieve any real kind of scene or action. Unless absolutely necessary, avoid dialogue. The quotation marks and dialogue tags are a waste of characters. Instead of scene and action, aim for emotion that will resonate with your reader, and let your character’s change be the climax or arc of the story. As with longer work, do not aim for a twist, a trick, or a pun. No “and then I woke up.” Such tricks are deceptive and not grounded in character. Aim for emotion instead.
Your reader has to feel more than you ever say and be allowed to imagine the scene in which the story takes place. The setting of these stories only has space to be implied. This is a different kind of showing, where you show a vast amount by the little you do tell. To use a common metaphor, Twitter fictions are icebergs, where the full novel takes place beneath the surface, hinted at and shown to exist only by the little that’s seen. This effect is exactly what Hemingway achieved so well and famously in his 6-word micro-fiction: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” This story never describes its characters, and yet we know these parents and the conflict of their loss, we see them taking this step past grieving to put their lost infant’s collected but unused belongings up for sale. There’s pain, there’s growth, there’s a decision: character, plot, arc, climax.
This is a Twitter fiction of mine called “Care Package” (published December 13, 2011 on OneFortyFiction.com): “When donated Christmas boxes came, she gave all the little gifts in hers to the younger orphans. All except the doll. She’d never had one.”
First, setting: we know it’s Christmas time, we know this is an orphanage, possibly in a developing country. None of this is described as setting.
Second, character: because of the comparative word “younger,” we know that she is an orphan, who has been at this orphanage for a while. In this role, we see her behaving in a maternal way to the younger orphans, taking on the giving role of her own benefactor to the others.
This bring us to, third, plot: the action shows her giving away her gifts, caring in the same way for her sisters and brothers. But she makes a decision to withhold one item from her package, a doll, which gives us a plot turn, a decision. But there’s one more element here, emotional resonance: the character turn. The fact that she has never had a doll before spins us back to the characterization of her limited childhood, and the meaning of her doll, clung to, shows us that despite the maturity of her actions, she still longs for a childhood she never had.
A few tips for revision and hitting that 140 character mark. Don’t name your characters without specific purpose: “he” and “she” are shorter. Or chose a name like Al, Rob, Mac, etc. Further, if you use a first-person narrator, “I” is even shorter! Be flexible with gender when reasonable; male words – he, man, boy, son – tend to be shorter in English than female: she, woman, girl, daughter. Within reason, punctuation can be flexible: that comma that you cringe to leave out in typical prose can often be implied. Use contractions. Use long sentences so you don’t have to spend characters and words setting up a new noun-verb system. (You’ll get 1-3, maybe 4, sentences; 20-30 words.) Begin the story with a clause – “When …” – this will help you kick-start the piece faster.
There are many venues now when you’re looking to publish your Twitter fictions. Review their guidelines before you finalize your revision: some of them require you to Tweet your Twitter handle (@____) along with the piece, so if your handle takes 12 characters, you’re down to 128 for the story.
The true art of a literary Twitter fiction is in the depth that you achieve beneath the 140 characters. If you get the characters and their emotions right with the words you do write, the rest that you don’t write your reader will be able to feel.
To enter the Superstition Review Twitter Fiction contest, tweet a “novel” to @SuperstitionRev by Nov 11. Winners will appear in our newsletter.