Guest Blog Post, Rikki Lux: New Superstition Review Goodreads Account

GoodreadsAs an English Literature major, I’ve studied Hemingway, Nabokov, Bronte, Chaucer, Shakespeare…and the list goes on. There’s something all of these writers have in common: they aren’t living. Their voices are frozen in the past.

Can you think of any living authors that you love to read? There was a time when I couldn’t list many. On the Superstition Review intern application, our editor Patricia Murphy asks for three of your favorite living authors. When I saw that I thought, “Living? Why? All the good ones are dead!” Looking back, I can’t believe all of the authors I was missing out on reading. If you browse through the contemporary authors in Superstition Review’s Goodreads bookshelves, you’ll see these authors are writing lots of books and they are all a part of a thriving literary community. If only we would put down Faulkner, Fitzgerald, or Frost, pick up one of their books, and join the conversation. When I began to use Goodreads, the social networking site for readers, I found that Margaret Atwood, along with some of my other favorite authors, has an account there as well.

Contemporary authors are not only writing books: they’re tweeting, collaborating with a publisher on a Q & A session, or speaking to college students. Simon J. Ortiz is speaking to my Literature of Immigration and Diaspora class this semester. Michael Ondaatje came to ASU’s Tempe campus to hold a public discussion. Margaret Atwood is an activist of environmental preservation in Canada, and she uses Twitter and Goodreads to connect with her fans and promote environmental awareness. Alice Munro is the literary voice of the Canadian middle class – she is referred to as “the Canadian Chekhov” – and her new collection of stories was just published. Dickens or Dickinson can’t fulfill that kind of presence.

When I joined Twitter, I was delighted by the presence of authors, literary magazines, and book presses. It was like browsing through a virtual bookstore: I followed Margaret Atwood, Joyce Carol Oates, Michael Ondaatje, Salman Rushdie, Anne Lamott, Sherman Alexie, Roxane Gay…and that’s just the writers. Almost every university literary review is on Twitter, plus Tin House, Willow Springs, McSweeney’s, and The Paris Review. I followed The Penguin Press, Red Hen Press, Random House, and Graywolf Press. Authors, magazines, and presses are tweeting like they aren’t worried about censoring themselves or fulfilling an image of distant formality. They talk; their followers talk back.

Every time the little blue mark pops up on the bottom of my Twitter feed, it means I have connected with someone. One time, that blue mark appeared because Margaret Atwood had retweeted my tweet. It was incredible – an accomplished, famous writer who has over 300,000 Twitter followers took the time to retweet my tweet. I took a screenshot of my tweet on her profile, uploaded it to Instagram, and updated my Facebook status (it read: One of my tweets was retweeted by Margaret Atwood, one of my favorite authors. No big deal…just kidding, it is!). In my 15 minutes of Twitter fame (at least, it felt like fame to be on Margaret Atwood’s profile for, literally, 15 minutes before I was lost in her sea of tweets) I experienced how literary culture powered by social media makes writers and literary organizations accessible.

One of my projects this semester was to add to our SR Goodreads bookshelves all of the books by SR Contributors from all of our nine issues. I created bookshelves that hold fiction, nonfiction, and poetry written by Superstition Review contributors. With nine issues of Superstition Review released to date, the number of books quickly rose to well over 1,000. I became better acquainted with so many contemporary authors.

Some Superstition Review contributors have a vast list of published works, such as Sherman Alexie, T.C. Boyle, Adrian C. Louis, and Madison Smartt Bell. Other contributors have a smaller list of works on Goodreads, but their readership is growing as they use Goodreads and other social networking sites to create an online presence. The SR Goodreads account is a great way to follow their careers.

As I worked on a Goodreads project for Superstition Review, I noticed that literary magazines and presses are also using Goodreads, like other social networking sites, to extend their online presence. Goodreads’ target audience is passionate readers, so the site can be used to showcase works that magazines and presses have published while making connections with readers and other literary organizations.

Willow Springs and Featherproof Books have bookshelves titled “we published it,” The Paris Review has their blog connected to their Goodreads account, and Superstition Review includes all of their various social networking links on their Goodreads profile. The Goodreads literary community shares the goal of extending readership of their magazine, blog, and the authors they have published, while increasing traffic to their other social networking sites.

With the emergence of Goodreads, the options for following and connecting with authors, literary magazines, and presses is vast. Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, and Goodreads are all channels of communication within the literary community: which do you prefer and how do you use them?

You can visit our social networks here:

Blog: http://superstitionreview.asu.edu/blog/
Facebook: http://facebook.com/superstitionreview
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/SuperstitionRev
Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/111992497499045277021
iTunes U: https://itunes.apple.com/us/itunes-u/superstition-review/id552593273
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Superstition-Review-4195480
Tumblr: http://superstitionrev.tumblr.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/SuperstitionRev

Guest Post, Colleen Stinchcombe: Are Short Stories the Future of Publishing?

Enter a commercial bookstore – say, Barnes and Noble – and take a look at the display sections. Likely what you will find are different novel-length books, be it fiction, nonfiction, fantasy, or young adult. Enter the shelves and, if you search a little, you will be able to find collections of short stories by some particularly well-known authors, or maybe an entire section devoted to short-story form. For many amateur writers there is a sense that one starts writing short stories only to better understand the structure of a story, but “real writing,” successful writing, involves novels. Short stories are a way of getting one’s name known to better sell a novel later, or a way of generating ideas and themes that will eventually show up in a later novel.

This is not to say that short stories are not an often-used form, but rather that they are not marketed or praised with as much enthusiasm as novels. Book clubs, college essays, even library shelves are more likely to be promoting novels than short fiction.

Is that still true? There are thousands of literary magazines with focus on short stories across the country, and MFA Creative Writing programs are bursting at the seams with hopeful writers – most who are learning to write short stories as their primary craft. Almost three weeks ago, Junot Diaz, an author who won the Pulitzer Prize for his first novel released not another novel but a book of short stories. It is currently fifth on the New York Times Bestseller list for hardcovers. A book of short stories selling well to the general public.

Other writers are taking this risk as well. Emma Donaghue was a finalist for the Man Booker prize for her best-selling novel Room, and recently she released a collection of short stories named Astray. No longer are short stories something authors do until they can get a book deal – now the short stories are book deals in themselves.

Olive Kitteridge is a best-selling “novel in stories” by Elizabeth Strout – a marketing tool that has been popular lately. Is it a collection of short stories with a central character, or is it a novel separated into different stories? Likely, in the interest of a more mainstream readership, the publisher decided to market it as a novel.

For many readers, short stories are a form used only for convenience in classroom settings or slipped into magazines they were already reading, but this is beginning to change. The market is finding more and more value in short stories and the public is beginning to recognize and buy these collections. Is their smaller form easier to finish in our busy-bee lifestyles? Are they better suited to our oft-thought shrinking attention spans? Is it a result of a plethora of talented short story artists coming out of MFA programs? Or perhaps the many different places to find short stories – literary magazines, collections of prize-winners, e-books, online?

The makeup and background of literature is changing, from MFA programs to e-books. It will be interesting to see if novels soon become less ubiquitous and short stories more popular and accessible. In a few more years, will bookstores be selling out of popular short story collections more often than popular novels?

Guest Post, Gregory J. Wolos: Dear Story

Gregory WolosDear Story—

It’s over between us. We knew it would come to this, and the news that you’ve been accepted by a new lover is a bittersweet reminder of what we once meant to each other.

It’s with an effort, Story, that I remember our first days together: you showed up at the back doorstep of my awareness—naked, untamed, willful—dangerous! You entered my life as a vague notion, a possibility. How could I resist falling passionately and obsessively in love? For weeks I could think of nothing else but you. Friends knew—they saw it in my inwardly turned eyes, my inattention to their conversation. “Not again,” they warned, shaking their heads. They know me to be a destructive lover.

And they were right—I followed my old patterns. It wasn’t enough to cherish you as you came to me—I had to try to change you. I insisted that you look a certain way: with fierce demagoguery I controlled your language; you spent time only where I allowed; only those individuals I chose for you were permitted inside your paragraphs. Worst of all, nearly every time we met I questioned your size. Trim down, I commanded, tighten up—what will others think? Yes, my lost love, I confess, how you appeared to others was always a priority—when they appraised you, what would they be thinking of me?

Can you believe that I was only searching for your heart? Can you believe the paradox of my love—my efforts to improve you were intended to prepare you to be loved by someone else.

Then, Story, you were nearly done. How old the new looks in retrospect. The truth is, in our last moments together, even as I straightened your seams, swept your hair from your eyes, and corrected with a finger wag the last imperfection of your speech, I was already forgetting you! “Finished” is a cruel word, dear Story. I sent you away, and you didn’t object. I forgot about you, until your new lover wrote: “Is Story available? We love her and want to feature her in our pages.” And without a moment’s pause I’ve given you up. It’s a formality—our end was born in our beginning.

It will be months before I see you again, Story. Our names will be paired, but you’ll no longer belong to me. My eyes will scan your glittering new font and narrow, justified columns, but I won’t read you. I’ll have archived your heart. Acquaintances will quote you to me, and I’ll look at them, confused. “Who?” I’ll ask. “What?”

I’ll be listening for the backdoor laughter of a new lover.

So, Story, adieu—forgive my fickleness—even the brief flirtation I’ve shared with this letter has cooled. It’s all part of the game.

Your Author,
Gregory J. Wolos

Guest Blog post, Matthew Brennan: Writing the Literary “Twitter Novel”

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.

Meet the Review Crew: Corinne Randall

My name is Corinne Randall and I am a Creative Writing (poetry concentration) major and Communication minor. This is my third semester working as an editor at Superstition Review. In the past, I worked as a poetry editor and I not only enjoyed the experience immensely, I grew from it as well. I learned about what it means to be an editor for a literary magazine and that is knowledge I will take with my throughout the rest of my career. I am now a nonfiction editor and am enjoying the different type of content I get to read every week.

Some of my favorite pieces of literature are William Shakespeare’s plays. I have always found them very interesting and I have taken a few classes on the subject. In addition, I enjoy reading books of poetry not only for my own personal enjoyment, but to further increase my writing skills within the genre. I have a goal to one day publish a book of poetry and I believe the best way to do so is to learn from those who have already done so.

Since this is my final semester here at ASU, I am thinking about what to do with my future after I graduate in December. As of now, pursuing an MA in Literature seems to be my main focus, with hopes to eventually teach writing or literature classes.

I look forward to Issue 10 of SR and I am honored to be a part of the process.

Meet the Review Crew: Jamie Acevedo

Jamie Acevedo is an Interview Editor at Superstition Review, and a senior in his final semester working towards a bachelors degree in English focused on Literature with a minor in Religious Studies. After graduation he aspires to attend an MFA program in a new part of the country, maybe the southeast or west coast, and work on his goal becoming an accomplished writer of fiction.

Jamie moved to Tempe from New York to attend Arizona State University to pursue his goal of studying literature and has found life in the southwest to be an enlightening experience. Originally focused on critical theory and literary criticism he discovered a passion for writing short stories in his freshman year and has recently started working on creative nonfiction and biographies. He loves reading literary magazines, which he was introduced to after taking a course on pursuing publication taught by Superstition Review‘s founding editor Patricia Colleen Murphy. This internship has provided him with an opportunity as an Interview Editor to work with authors he has been reading and studying in creative writing classes and really admires.

His personal definition of art is that it is a tool that allows human beings to communicate abstract concepts and complicated emotions with each other. The writers who have had the biggest influence on him are those who seem to have made unique insights into the human condition. These include the short stories of Jhumpa Lahiri, Flannery O’ Connor, Stephen Crane and James Joyce and the novels of Robert Stone and Thomas Pynchon. He also enjoys novels that tackle religious and ideological themes like those of Fyodor Dostoyevsky and George Orwell. In addition to works of fiction he also enjoys reading essays on literary criticism, especially those on postcolonialism and reader response criticism.

Outside of literature and writing Jamie enjoys sports, hiking, cycling and travel. After this semester he plans to spend time in Puerto Rico to visit family.

Fall Submissions Period September and October

The editors and I met this week to discuss the reading process for fall and we’re all very excited to start viewing submissions. You can send Art, Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry to our Submittable account at http://superstitionreview.submittable.com/submit

I’d also like to tell you about the exciting changes this year at Superstition Review.

First of all, my job at ASU has changed so that my focus is on the magazine. All of those semesters of teaching two creative writing classes on top of being managing editor? Gone. I now work full time managing the editorial process of the magazine and mentoring 40 students a semester.

Another change is that we’ve made the internship a 1-year commitment. Students will be required to take a 300 level 3 credit hour training class that will make them eligible to take the 400 level 3 credit hour internship. I’m most excited about this change since it will give me the opportunity to show students all of the details of the editorial process. They will be better prepared and will gain valuable skills in literary publishing.

And the changes continue. We have a new iTunes U Channel where each Tuesday we will be posting podcasts of SR contributors reading their work. You can subscribe to it here, and enjoy our first three podcasts of the series: http://itunes.apple.com/us/itunes-u/superstition-review-online/id552593273 Many thanks to John Martinson, who initiated the Channel as his summer project.

We also have expanded our presence on social networks. We’ll be blogging every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, and we will update content daily across our other networks. We have a cool new Tumblr page built by our nonfiction editor Harrison Gearns.

Blog: http://superstitionreview.asu.edu/blog/
Facebook: http://facebook.com/superstitionreview
Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/111992497499045277021/about
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Superstition-Review-4195480/about
Tumblr: http://superstitionrev.tumblr.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/SuperstitionRev

And finally, to celebrate our 5th Anniversary, we are doing a total redesign of the magazine for Issue 10. We’re giving the site a fresh, modern look and we’re migrating all of the content to Drupal. We’re happy to access all of the robust navigation tools that will make it easier for our readers to browse through our 500+ contributor pages.

So we hope you’ll: submit your Art, Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry; subscribe to this blog where we’ll post editorial updates and literary news; and subscribe to our podcasts on iTunes U. We’re looking forward to an exciting fall and we sure hope you’ll join us.

Behind the Scenes of Issue 9: Fiction

sarahmurray

Our Issue 9 Fiction Editor Sarah Murray shared these thoughts about the editorial process.

What was your favorite piece? 

“The Ruins” by Elizabeth Rollins. The details in her story were so vivid and poetic. I saw a vast humanity in her desert imagery. 

Where there any submissions that you would have liked to include but you weren’t able to? 

There were several. There was one about a little girl, set in India, that really left an impression on me. I think it was her agency that attracted me.

How do the editors choose which submissions to publish? 

Submissions were honed through a voting process, and after we had figured out which ones got the most responses from our editorial staff (Fiction had 4), we would have a round-table discussion about each one. We really do pay a lot of attention to each submission.

Were there times that you just knew that a piece was perfect for SR?

Yes. Those are the pieces that, when you read, you can’t shake them for days afterwards.

What were some of the common pitfalls of the submissions that were not selected?

That’s actually a really hard question to answer, because a lot of the submissions we received were very different from each other. We did receive quite a few pieces that we did not feel were fully developed yet, and at that point it’s really easy to decide that it’s not the right time to publish, both for Superstition Review and the author.

What was the strangest submission you read/reviewed?

In the realm of fiction, there isn’t really a lot that I would consider strange, because it’s an arena where anything goes. Otherwise, it’s not art.

Please sum up what you’ve gained from your internship this semester. Do you feel like you have a better grasp on editing? Literary magazines? Why?

This internship was my first experience with literary magazines from the inside. I know what it’s like to submit to one, but it’s comforting to now know what goes on behind the scenes. You learn how to navigate your audience better, working for one. It was definitely a great experience.

How has editing impacted your own writing?

Reading always affects writing, and I’ve read more literary fiction through this internship than I had before.

What were some of the obstacles you faced in preparing for Issue 9?

Mostly it was just the decisions on which stories to publish and which ones you had to say “no” to. Those were really, really difficult decisions.

Meet the Review Crew: Caitlin Demo

Each week we will be featuring one of our many talented interns here at Superstition Review.

Caitlin Demo is a Nonfiction editor at Superstition Review and a senior at Arizona State University. She will be graduating in May with a major in Creative Writing (with a specialization in Fiction) and two minors in French and Political Science. She is hoping to be accepted into the MFA program at Arizona State and then to escape the heat of Arizona summers.

Caitlin has lived most of her life in Arizona, but the allure of big city life has been calling her name. Living in the beautiful San Francisco bay or the bustling streets of New York City has been a constant dream of hers. After school, Caitlin is packing her bags and plans to become a well-seasoned traveler, especially abroad.

Caitlin’s intimacy with literary magazines and the world of short fiction has been instructed both at Arizona State and particularly at Superstition Review. She has limited knowledge about individual magazines, but through these two avenues she has come to realize that it is a wide and ever-expanding field. Her interest in writing is mainly focused around prose, but in reading she is drawn to flash fiction and poetry.

If she had to live the rest of her life with only a handful of books, she would need Augusten Burroughs’ memoirs, Jane Austen’s collected works, Hemingway’s short stories, Fitzgerald’s novels and Allen Ginsberg’s poetry.

This is her first semester with Superstition Review, but she looks forward to plunging further into the literary publishing world. She’ll be the girl in high heels.

Give to Copper Canyon Press May 2

Here’s an excellent opportunity to support one of the nation’s most important publishers of poetry. We’re going to give tomorrow. We hope you will too.

Copper Canyon Press: A nonprofit publisher dedicated to poetrySupport Us on MAY 2. GiveBIG!

You can make a big impact on Copper Canyon Press tomorrow.
Thank you for considering a gift to Copper Canyon Press. Tomorrow’s Give BIG day is a great time to give, because:

Your contribution to Copper Canyon Press will be stretched by the Seattle Foundation and then doubled by the Lannan Foundation.

The easiest way to give: Please Bookmark our Seattle Foundation profile and donate there tomorrow.

All gifts will be matched 100% by the Lannan Foundation in support of the W.S. Merwin Legacy Fund. Your gift will help us fund W.S. Merwin’s next six books and keep his life’s work in print.

With Gratitude,

Michael Wiegers
Executive Editor
Copper Canyon Press