Join ASU’s TomorrowTalks with Jocelyn Nicole Johnson, October 13th at 7pm AZ time. TomorrowTalks is a student-engagement initiative meant to put students in conversation with authors who explain how they use their writing to address society’s most pressing issues. It’s led by the Division of Humanities at ASU and hosted by ASU’s Department of English in partnership with Macmillan Publishers.
This event takes place over Zoom and is free, although registration is required. Johnson will be discussing her book My Monticello, published by Henry Holt and Company and winner of the Weatherford Award, the Balcones Fiction Prize, and the Lillian Smith Award. Set in the near future, her stories feature Da’Naisha—a Black descendent of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings—a university professor studying his son in secret, and a single mother grasping to purchase her first home. Johnson reckons with America’s past and present in this thrilling debut.
A badass debut by any measure—nimble, knowing, and electrifying.
Colson Whitehead, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Nickel Boys and Harlem Shuffle
Jocelyn Nicole Johnson’s work has appeared in Guernica, The Guardian, Kweli Journal, and elsewhere. To learn more about her, visit her website.
…’My Monticello’ is, quite simply, an extraordinary debut from a gifted writer with an unflinching view of history and what may come of it.
The Washington Post
To learn more about TomorrowTalks and register for the event, go here.
I have learned, through two short years of examining literature, that there are so many different stories out there and those stories are told in so many more different ways. There are even more definitions in the world on “what a story is.” As much as I would like to rattle off which definition is more right than another, I simply can’t. A story is whatever we make it. It can be shared or it can be kept for oneself. But if a story is shared, it communicates something to the readers. As Gertrude Stein says, “If the communication is perfect, the words have life, and that is all there is to good writing, putting down on the paper words which dance and weep and make love and fight and kiss and perform miracles.”
When I read fiction, I look for the raw and the real. Stories that go deeper than the stereotypes and examine life on a constructive level are the ones I remember, connect with, and share. Within the stories themselves, I want to be able to relate to the characters. I want to see what they see, hear what they hear, feel what they feel. Stories that are character driven, surrounded by sensory details and imagery, evoke emotion enough in me to keep me reading until the very end. When a writer shares something that displays the human condition in a way that makes tears form in the corner of my eyes (whether from laughter, anger, sadness, or a mixture of all three), I know that I will remember that story above all others. Combinations of words and ideas have power enough to execute a story that does “dance and weep and make love and fight…” and I look for that in the stories I read.
As a writer myself, I am inspired by every submission. The courage authors have to share their work with the world is something I admire, as mundane and every day as that may sound. Each submission leaves a lasting impression that I learn from and go back to whenever I need. This constant communication between art and people and people and art is what motivates me to keep reading. Share with me the stories that don’t just push characters over the edge, but stories that push the readers too.
Alexandra Myers is a fiction editor for issue 22 of Superstition Review. She is a senior at Arizona State University majoring in creative writing, with a minor in film. After graduation, she plans to become a volunteer for the Peace Corps and upon return to the states will continue her passion for writing by completing an MFA.
Queen’s Ferry Press announces the final book of 2016, Anthony Varallo’s collection Everyone Was There.
Plano, TX—March 18, 2015 Queen’s Ferry Press, an independent publisher providing a venue for fine literary fiction, announced it will publish Anthony Varallo’s collection, Everyone Was There.
“I’ve always admired Queen’s Ferry Press for publishing fiction that is innovative and challenging, yet still has emotional impact, resonance, and a beating heart,” said Varallo. “I hope Everyone Was There fits into that camp, and I feel very lucky to work with such an outstanding press.”
Everyone Was There will release in December, 2016.
About the Author:
Anthony Varallo is the author of This Day in History, winner of the John Simmons Short Fiction Award; Out Loud, winner of the Drue Heinz Literature Prize; and Think of Me and I’ll Know(TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press). His stories have appeared in American Short Fiction, Gettysburg Review, Epoch, New England Review, Harvard Review, and elsewhere. He earned his MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and he has received an NEA Fellowship in Literature. Currently he is an associate professor of English at the College of Charleston, where he is the fiction editor of Crazyhorse.
Founded in 2011 as an independent publisher, Queen’s Ferry Press specializes in literary fiction. The press currently releases 6–12 titles a year, many from debut authors, and is the publisher ofShadows of Men, the 2013 recipient of the TIL Steven Turner Award for Best Work of First Fiction. For book updates please contact Kevin Wehmueller, Marketing & Publicity of Queen’s Ferry Press, or visit www.queensferrypress.com.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Contact: Kevin Wehmueller, Marketing & Publicity
While this might seem like a statement, it is really a question disguised as an observation. It seems to me that one of the most destructive trends in recent “literary fiction” successes has been the devaluation of style in favor of plot and character. While ideally, all these things should work together, popular literature has always favored plot and character over style, and now it appears that even “literary” works fear too much development of style as a clear sign of a limit to the potential audience for the work, the kind of thinking that was previously more limited to genre writing, best seller attempts, and the innumerable serial novels.
The backlash to this exists in “innovative” fiction and some small press releases, but the gap between the two has been increasing. In poetry, there is an equivalent polarization between experimental and traditional although the reasons seem to have much less to do with the potential popularity of the work.
Fortunately, there are always writers more interested in the most unique and complete experience of the writing regardless of popularity trends, which are usually not really trends at all but disguised returns to more direct explanation in the fiction. “Show us, don’t tell us,” often becomes give us the experience and then tell us what it should mean.
Popular fiction has always been good at stealing the thunder from literary art by adapting its successes to more mundane purposes. One of the latest victims of this is flash fiction, which has in many quarters been increasingly less experimental and wide-ranging in its structures, approaches and particularly its style. Some publishers of flash fiction are now drawing a stricter line between the prose poem and flash fiction. Theoretically interesting perhaps, but isn’t that defeating one of the reasons the form developed?
I began writing shorter prose works first as a poet trying on foreign hats, finding so much more of interest in the form in translated works from countries where the distinction between poetry and fiction was not so clearly drawn, places like Russia, for example, where poetry is actually popular and sometimes sells well. I felt a freshness that caught and held my attention more fully in the form, and one of the reasons was that I could come to it with fewer preconceptions of what it should be.
As I worked in shorter prose forms, I found it veering into essay, autobiography and satire as well as mixing fiction and poetry, and the range of possibilities excited me. There are rhythms and voices that function better in a confined space. There are different kinds of condensation and pacing. There is a different kind of tension created by knowing the experience will end sooner.
As I explored the range of possibilities, I found several of the resulting works rejected by a poetry magazine for being “fiction” and the same work rejected by a fiction magazine for being “poetry” without either of them having actually considered the work beyond their assumptions of its genre. I started sending the work without labeling it or designating which department it should go to and had pieces accepted by both fiction and poetry editors assuming it was meant for them, and even labeled with just as much certainty as “essay,” an assertion I had not considered, but which, once it had been pointed out to me, seemed equally valid.
Now that the idea of fiction completing itself in a much shorter space has been more widely accepted, the attempts to restrain it to more definable dimensions are returning, and the reactions against this are also occurring, making the questions such work raises once again more polarized. Is this healthy disagreement, or merely two equally restricting forms of boxing up creativity?
Many literary magazines and online sites claim to want “experimental” and “hybrid” work, but is this really what they want and publish, or have too many of them narrowed the definitions, and has the label “experimental” become merely an excuse for focusing on a single dimension of the work, just as popular fiction does with a different single dimension?
Here’s what Superstition Review interns are currently reading.
Corinne Randall, Poetry Editor: Right now I am currently reading my FAVORITE Shakespeare plays, Othello. Like all good Shakespeare tragedies it has a sad ending but it’s powerful through and through.
Samantha Allen, Art Editor: Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. It’s a blend of literary fiction and sci-fi, a character-driven story about “Snowman” — formerly Jimmy — who appears to be the last man on Earth. Through Snowman’s flashbacks, the reader sees a near-future image of a North American city segregated into the slummy ‘pleeblands’ and the enclosed communities owned by corporations engaged in research on genetic modification. Though Atwood includes some seemingly-fantastical elements in her novel, her research is so thorough and impeccable that through her narrator’s detailed explanations, the outlandish feels entirely realistic. Her emotionally intense prose and air of scientific authority make Oryx and Crake a very compelling read.
Ljubo Popovich, Poetry Editor: I just got into Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño. I recommend his long novels: The Savage Detectives and 2666. Also his collections of short stories are excellent. The one I read was Last Evenings on Earth. He writes about lives of writers in South America and Europe. He founded the poetry movement InfraRealism in South America and is considered the heir to Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s literary triumphs. I also read Masuji Ibuse’s collection of short stories, Salamander and other stories. This Japanese writer is [rather] unknown in the United States. But his historical novel Black Rain, about the events leading up to and following the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki is considered one of the greatest novels to come out of Post-War Japan. His prose is very easy to read and very beautifully rendered, even in translation.
Jake Adler, Art Editor: Guyland by Michael Kimmel. It’s a sociological study about how today’s boys in college are failing to grow up, thrusting themselves deep in frat life and “guy code.”
Tana Ingram, Fiction Editor: Train Dreams by Denis Johnson. It’s about a day laborer, Robert Grainier, in the American West at the start of the twentieth century. The book follows Robert through difficult trials of his own set against the changes taking place in the country as “progress” sweeps the nation. Johnson does a good job of transporting the reader back to this turbulent time and place in America’s history.
Marie Lazaro, Interview Editor: Just Kids by Patti Smith. So far the way it is written is beautiful and the story is easily captivating. It explores a new side of Patti Smith, gives insight to the personal relationships she had with her family during her childhood and gives a look into her bond with Robert Mapplethorpe.
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