Each Tuesday we feature audio or video of an SR Contributor reading their work. Today we’re proud to feature a podcast by Jennifer MacBain-Stephens.
Jennifer MacBain-Stephens is an emerging poet who has written three non-fiction books for young people: The Salem Witch Trials: A Primary Source History of the Witchcraft Trials in Salem, Massachusetts; Womens Suffrage; and Gertrude Elion: Nobel Prize Winner in Physiology and Medicine. She has also contributed to the Lake Arrowhead, CA poetry collection Pool of Seven. Jennifer graduated from NYU and after several moves around the United States, currently lives in Iowa City, IA and works at a science journal.
Each week we feature one of our many talented interns here at Superstition Review.
Corinne Randall is a Poetry Editor for Superstition Review for the second time. She is a junior at Arizona State University studying Creative Writing with a concentration in Poetry for her major and Communication for her minor. She is a native of Framingham, Massachusetts…an old, historical town about 20 minutes from Boston. After graduating from ASU, Corinne hopes to pursue an MFA in Creative Writing-Poetry at ASU or NYU.
Corinne has been writing for a good portion of her schooling career. It became apparent in 8th grade that she had a talent for writing poetry when she had a poem published in Celebrate! Young Poets Speak Out. Along with writing poetry, Corinne loves reading and watching movies. She has a love for the arts. If she had to read one book for the rest of her life it would be J.D. Salinger’s famous novel Catcher in the Rye. She fell in love with it when she was required to read it her sophomore year in high school, and has read it twice since.
Corinne became interested in Superstition Review while looking for internships her sophomore year in college. She had the opportunity to look at past issues of SR and decided that the wonderful works of all different kinds of art the magazine featured was something she wanted to be a part of. She believes that having to opportunity to read the poetry authors send in for submissions has enhanced her ability to write her own poetry. She has enjoyed the two semesters she has worked for the magazine and hopes to continue as an intern for the rest of her time at ASU.
Content Coordinator Ashley Carter is currently a junior studying English Literature at Arizona State University. She is also working on a minor in Media Analysis, a Writing Certificate, and an LGBT Certificate along with her degree. In her free time, Ashley reads, writes, spends time with friends, and participates in Gamma Rho Lambda activities, where she is Head of Public Relations. After graduating, she plans to move to New York, attend graduate school, and pursue a career as an editor for a publishing company. This is her first semester with Superstition Review.
1. What is your position with Superstition Review and what are your responsibilities?
I am the Content Coordinator for Superstition Review. My tasks include regularly updating the submissions spreadsheet, assign material to genre editors to read, and make sure materials get responded to in good time. I like to think of myself as the “professional organizer” for the editors of Superstition Review.
2. Why did you decide to get involved with Superstition Review?
I had an extremely encouraging professor, Judith Van. As soon as I expressed interest in a summer internship program in New York, not a day went by that she didn’t ask if I had applied to SR to jump-start my experience. It was that wonderful encouragement on top of all the good things I had heard about the online magazine that got me to finally apply.
3. How do you like to spend your free time?
Last semester, I rushed for the sorority Gamma Rho Lambda. It has been one of the best decisions of my life. I gained 18 sisters and a whole lot of responsibility as the head of Public Relations for GRL. I spend most of my free time hanging out with them, or fulfilling my sorority responsibilities. When I’m not doing that, I spend time with my roommates and my girlfriend, write, read, and dabble in photography.
4. What other position(s) for Superstition Review would you like to try out?
I’d like to try my hand at being a Fiction Editor. My future goal is to be an editor for a book-publishing house, which will entail a lot of reading and evaluating of possible books. Fiction Editor seems like the small-scale version of that.
5. Describe one of your favorite literary works.
My favorite literary work of all time is The Fionavar Tapestry series by Guy Gavriel Kay. This series has been compared to J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic The Lord of the Rings by many and with good reason. Kay is a genius, one of the best I have ever read. The way he spins stories and creates such beautiful worlds and dynamic characters cannot be matched.
6. What are you currently reading?
I am currently reading Becoming a Visible Man by Jamison Green for one of my classes. It’s an autobiographical work that describes Green’s own experiences as a transsexual man and offers a deeply insightful approach to all of the challenges transsexuals can still face today.
7. Creatively, what are you currently working on?
As of right now, I’m not working on much. My creative juices have become stagnant thanks to a little thing I like to call the world of academia. While school is in session, I like to focus all of my attention on my studies. As soon as summer break starts, I plan to revitalize some of my old stories. With a little bit of editing, they may be ready for publication. We’ll see.
8. What inspires you?
My grandmother, Sarita Mullin. She’s strong, independent, intelligent, hard working, caring, unbiased, and so many other great things. She has always been around to give me a hug or a swift kick in the butt when I needed it. She is by far one of the greatest women to ever walk the planet. If I’m half of the grandmother she has been to me, then I’ll be happy.
9. What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of how hard I work. I devote a lot of time and energy into everything I do, be it work, school, my sorority, or this internship. I refuse to give anyone sub-par work, and I think that people appreciate it.
10. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In 10 years I will have obtained my M.S. in Publishing from NYU and have a job as an editor for a book publishing company. Hopefully, at this point my girlfriend of three years (so far) and I will have gotten married and be able to adopt kids.
On November 8th the Superstition Review Reading Series will feature Melissa Pritchard at Arizona State University’s Tempe Campus. Her reading will take place at 7 p.m. in the Memorial Union’s Pima Auditorium. Pritchard has published several books such as Phoenix: A Novel, Late Bloomer and Devotedly, Virginia: The Life of Virginia Galvin Piper. She has also published her essays Finding Ashton and A Woman’s Garden, Sown in Blood in O, The Oprah Magazine, and The Collagist 4, respectively. I had the opportunity to discuss the upcoming reading and Pritchard’s latest novel The Odditorium.
Superstition Review: How is The Odditorium different from your other works?
Melissa Pritchard: The Odditorium is a collection of seven stories and a novella. Most are based on unusual or enigmatic historical figures, all look at the ways architecture exerts subtle or unsubtle pressures on human consciousness. So they are different in those ways from most of my previous stories. More than half of them do not approach narrative in a traditional or conventional way. I experiment in one story, “Watanya Cicilia,” with a pastiche of historical documents, songs, research and fiction, contrasting the Wild West Show and the real, genocidal story of the West. “The Hauser Variations,” based on the life of Kaspar Hauser, a German boy kept in an underground dungeon throughout his childhood and then mysteriously released into a second tragic fate, is based, in terms of narrative strategy, on Bach’s Goldberg Variations. In another story, “Patricide,” two sisters meet in a haunted hotel in Richmond, Virginia, its courtyard said to be a place where Edgar Allen Poe once played as a child. In this hotel, one of the sisters goes mad. So I was less interested in the traditional structure of plot and expected emotional release than in ethics, history, architecture and the effects of these upon both historically based and purely imagined characters.
SR: What has in been like working with Bellevue Literary Press?
MP: We are in the earliest phases; I accepted their offer to publish The Odditorium in January, 2012, and had a lengthy phone conversation with the publisher, Erika Goldman. I was so impressed with her aesthetic understanding of the collection, her excitement over the departures I had taken in terms of subject and form, I became convinced this was the proper home for these pieces. The BLP website is terrific, too, as is their history with Bellevue Hospital and New York University’s Medical Center. They publish elegant books at the nexus of art, science and medicine, and only publish two fiction titles a year. One of this year’s fiction titles, Tinkers, by Paul Harding, won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize, resulting in a flurry of attention for the press, with articles and interviews in The New York Times, NPR, The Wall Street Journal, and other media venues. It’s a tiny press operating out of Bellevue Hospital, and they do terrific work. I come from a family of surgeons, doctors and nurses, and have always been fascinated by science, medicine and the history of medicine, so this could not be a better place for this book, as a number of the stories deal with medical histories, issues and questions.
SR: How has your time at ASU influenced your writing?
MP: Because my time to write is limited, I have to be disciplined. Sometimes I find it quite difficult, having time and energy to both write and teach. A fragile balance at best. On the other hand, teaching keeps me awake to current trends in literature, to remaining relevant to students year after year, and I am blessed to work with some incredibly gifted students, both graduates and undergraduates. I always say my students teach me in equal proportion to what I teach them. At least I feel that. Also, ASU has always been tremendously supportive of my outside work–traveling for research, traveling to conferences, traveling for reportage or for humanitarian work, which I also do. I am extremely grateful for the university’s support.
SR: What are you most looking forward to as the Superstition Review reading draws near?
MP: I have a background in theater, in acting, so I always love reading my work aloud in a public setting…for me, it is as close to performance as I come these days. I love an audience and I love hearing the piece I’ve chosen come alive in the room, seeing the reactions of the listeners, answering questions afterwards. It is truly a wonderful exchange. This past summer at The Glen, a writing workshop in Santa Fe, New Mexico, part of Seattle Pacific University’s MFA Program, I read my collection’s title story, “The Odditorium,” to a full house. It is a comic piece about Robert Ripley of Believe It or Not fame, and other audiences have responded with laughter and lively commentary afterwards. This audience was dead silent. The room was dark, I couldn’t see anyone. I kept reading, on and on, by the little glow from the podium light. Afterwards, no one even asked questions! I was horrified, sure I had failed, sure the story had been a failure…I wanted to crawl under a carpet had there been one. What I found out later, was that the story had gone over so well, people couldn’t react, they went silent–stunned. I won’t repeat the praises I later heard, but then I became overwhelmed the other direction–was my story really that good? So one never knows, and one always doubts. Also, I’m always a little nervous before a reading, hoping it goes well, that I don’t disappoint people who made the time and effort to come to my reading when there are dozens of other things for them to do….I am also always scared no one will show up, and thrilled to pieces when they do. Finally, I’m looking forward to meeting all the staff and interns at Superstition Review. They’ve even managed to arrange to have copies of A Public Space #11 mailed from New York to be available for sale on the night of the reading. (I’ll be reading a story, “Ecorche, The Flayed Man,” from that issue.)
SR: What are you currently working on creatively?
MP: I’m in between three pieces right now…a non-fiction piece about my miniature dachshund, Simon, a speech about Sr. Airman Ashton Goodman and the Afghan Women’s Writing Project that I will be giving at the Air Force Institute of Technology in December, and a novella set in 19th century Florence, Italy.
SR: What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
MP: Read voraciously. Read the best work you can find. Read what interests you. Be observant. Practice empathy and compassion. Know that what you write ultimately reflects who you are. Write every day, even if only for an hour and be humble in your practice while aspiring to greatness. Be gentle with yourself, and always reward yourself in some small way after a writing session. Leave the writing at a place where you are eager to return the next day.