Join ASU’s TomorrowTalks with Jonathan Franzen Wednesday, October 5th at 6pm 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. TomorrowTalks is led 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. Franzen will be discussing his book Crossroads, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. His book is set in December of 1971, and it examines a Midwestern family in the midst of a moral crisis. With careful attention to each of the family members, he interweaves their perspectives into a tale of suspense and complexity.
Thank God for Jonathan Franzen . . . With its dazzling style and tireless attention to the machinations of a single family, Crossroads is distinctly Franzen-esque, but it represents a marked evolution . . . It’s an electrifying examination of the irreducible complexities of an ethical life. With his ever-parsing style and his relentless calculation of the fractals of consciousness, Franzen makes a good claim to being the 21st century’s Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Ron Charles, The Washington Post
Jonathan Franzen has written six novels. He has won a variety of awards: the National Book Award, the James Tait Black Memorial Award, the Heartland Prize, and others. Visit his website to read more about him.
To learn more about TomorrowTalks and register for the event, go here.
Congratulations to Lynn Mundell for her new chapbook Let Our Bodies Be Returned to Us. Winner of Yemassee Journal’s 2021 Fiction Chapbook Contest, Mundell’s chapbook is a vivid, visceral look at womanhood. Comprised entirely of flash fiction pieces, Mundell proves she is a master at reaching profound depths with only a few words.
Although Let Our Bodies Be Returned to Us focuses on women, there is no one type of woman Mundell writes about. Young and old, idealized and flawed—she writes with empathy about sisters, mothers, and women who simply are. No two stories are the same: Mundell writes as an unborn, reincarnated baby in her first story “Again,” and later she writes from Mona Lisa’s point of view in “Smile, Lisa.” Her final piece, “Let Our Bodies Be Returned to Us,” is a mesmerizing capstone to a brilliant chapbook. Let Our Bodies Be Returned to Us is perfect for those looking for a collection that’s short but poignant.
The wit, warmth, and skill of this writer struck me immediately. These stories are smart but not smart-alecky, quirky yet polished, broad in their emotional appeal and sharp in their resonance. Again and again, I was taken by surprise—by the originality of the prose, the ingenuity of each scenario, the impact delivered by such a small number of words. I felt for these characters—the sisters in “Cloise,” about to be split apart, the lonely boy in “Mother and Child,” the broken family in “Big Baby,” the pregnant women who refuse to dim their hopes in “Our Bright Lights On.” Though many of these stories are heart-rending, I also found myself smiling, uplifted. This collection and this writer are ready for prime time.
Mira T. Lee, author of the novel Everything Here is Beautiful
Lynn Mundell is a short story writer, publisher, and editor. She and Grant Faulkner founded 100 Word Story in 2010, and her story “Again” appeared in Issue 17 of Superstition Review. To learn more about Lynn Mundell, go to her website.
To purchase Let Our Bodies Be Returned to Us, go here.
We’re also very excited to share an interview that dives deeper into Mundell’s chapbook. This interview was conducted via email by our Blog Editor, Brennie Shoup.
Brennie Shoup: Much of your work is flash fiction. Could you talk about what draws you to this form, and how flash fiction appears in Let Our Bodies Be Returned to Us?
Lynn Mundell: Flash fiction enables us to tell our stories in intimate ways—a secret whispered into an ear; a tale told over a quick warm drink. We boil down the story to its essence, leaving the tea leaves or coffee grounds for later scrutiny. For me it’s been the marriage of my original writing as a poet with my lifelong love of a good story. All of the stories in my chapbook are flash. They include 100-word stories in triptychs, some using numbering and headings for short sections, traditionally plotted longer flash, and some hybrid pieces where poetry and fiction congregate. The first story in the collection is called “Again,” about a baby born over and over and over again that was inspired by a black and white photo of a happy young family. It was published in Superstition Review and remains one of my favorite stories to have told and to read to others, so thank you, Superstition Review!
BS: The original “Let Our Bodies Be Returned to Us” was published in 2018 in Booth. Could you talk about what inspired the piece and how it ended up as the title for your chapbook?
LM: “Let Our Bodies Be Returned to Us” was actually inspired by a very small airplane seat on a flight from Phoenix to Santa Fe! Where the rest of that piece came from is a mystery to me, but there must have been a lot of feelings about how women’s bodies are used and used up that fed into it. I definitely tapped into everything from being hit on when I was younger to breastfeeding my kids. I wrote it at a writing retreat hosted by Meg Tuite and Robert Vaughn that encouraged crossing the border between poetry and fiction writing. I recommend working with these writers or just any sort of a change of scenery for a way to feel freed and inspired to produce new things. I sometimes camp out in a new location for four or five days to unplug and have found my best stories come from these times where I am seeing new things while also working in total isolation. When it was time to organize my stories, “Let Our Bodies” really encapsulated the theme for the whole book, plus it made for an intriguing book title that could also provide a lot of fodder for the cover illustration.
BS: Could you discuss the main themes of your chapbook? How have these themes developed over your career? Do you find yourself writing about the same ideas over and over again?
LM: The theme of the book is women’s bodies—what they are capable of, how they are viewed and objectified, as sources of comfort and conflict, and how ultimately women own them. The book is organized from birth to end of life, and each piece is from a female point of view. The theme surprised me as I sorted through my work looking for the common thread. I have other stories I like that did not fit into the collection thematically at all, and one of the most difficult things about creating the collection was having to give these pieces the heave-ho. I have written everything from ghost stories to creative nonfiction about my early teens living in Iran. Frankly, writing wise I am all over the map.
Typically I write a piece and sort of hope that there will be something cohesive among a few years of my work, but there isn’t always—which is why it took many years for this book to come about with its theme that finally surfaced. I admire writers who can set out to write to a theme and have a collection they are purposefully working toward. I was recently trying to write connected fables about animals, but have thus far only created one I like, about a mother and baby elephant that was published in The Masters Review. I’d like to keep trying on that, but may need to expand the theme to just fables in general or even fables and fairy tales.
BS: Do you have plans for future chapbooks, short story collections, or novels?
LM: I would love to write more books. But right now I am just writing and we will see where that goes. During the pandemic I have sort of gotten off the script of life in general, and in writing toward a publishing objective of any kind, with one thing being very different from the next. This has included a long fairy tale published in Gone Long, a book review for a friend’s new collection in Necessary Fiction, a four-part piece about fishing with my father in Under the Gum Tree, a creative nonfiction about family depression written to a painting in The Ekphrastic Review, a longer mystery in collaboration with artist Merrick Adams in 7x7LA, and others that are pushing what I typically do. At the end of this year I’ll look everything over and see if there is a pattern for a new book or one thing that I like enough as a starting point for a new book. I will say that I have continued to find great joy in writing as well as reading the incredible work that is out there lately.
What I love about writing is the wonderful sense of freedom. In our daily lives we are constrained by the demands of work, family, duty, society, finances, and so forth. But in writing we can leave all of that behind to explore anything with total abandon.
David Baker’s new book Whale Fall, published by W. W. Norton & Company, is a poetry collection that operates on both a macro and micro level. As Baker’s poetry delves into global ecosystems, it also delves into his personal life. His masterful ability to blend these themes is apparent even early on in the book. His poem “Mullein,” the second in the collection, relates the scientific names of plants to the intimate nicknames Baker’s father gave to friends and family.
Whale Fall is filled with scientific terminology. In fact, the title itself is the name of a particular phenomenon. As Baker explains in his interview with Renee Shea in World Literature Today, a whale fall is an “oceanographic term that describes three stages of [a whale’s] death and decay.” It can take years for the whale carcass to settle on the ocean floor, and its body can provide nutrients to other organisms for decades.
Baker’s poetry is known for its sense of place and environmental message, and Whale Fall follows this trend. For those looking for beautiful nature imagery grounded in environmentalism and threaded with a personal narrative, Whale Fall is the perfect poetry collection.
A virtuoso of eco-poetry and acoustics, Baker meditates on the nonpareil majesty of the planet with rigorous consideration and reverence… Baker’s careful, captivating writing sinks under the skin, summoning a long-forgotten need for stillness, wonder, and attention to the sacrosanctity of the world.
David Baker has written nineteen books, thirteen of them poetry collections. His work has been published in American Poetry Review, Antaeus, The Atlantic Monthly, and elsewhere. To learn more about Baker, visit his website.
From the shadow of the garfish to the memory of seabed in Ohio sandstone, nothing appears to be too slight or too immense for David Baker’s powers of lyric transformation. In book after eloquent book, his artistry has become more purely his own: pared down to essentials while refining its scope of generous inclusion. Baker’s method, like his subject, is the fine pulse of human encounter: here in its most distillate manifestation.
Linda Gregerson, author of prodigal: new and selected poems and magnetic north
Congratulations to Ramona Reeves for the upcoming release of her debut book It Falls Gently All Around and Other Stories, published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Winner of the Drue Heinz Literature Prize, Reeves’ collection of eleven short stories feature Babbie and Donnie, an ex-call girl and ex-trucker looking to reforge themselves. Reeves’ book focuses on themes of race and class within the context of Mobile, Alabama, the same town Reeves herself grew up in.
The Drue Heinz Literature Prize is awarded to authors of short fiction. Winners have their books published by the University of Pittsburgh Press to make their writing available to the world. Past judges have included Margaret Atwood, Joyce Carol Oates, and Raymond Carver.
These big-hearted stories offer a kaleidoscopic vision of Mobile, Alabama, a place marked by a tangled history and no less tangled present. With insight, humor, and tenderness, Ramona Reeves renders lives as notable for their frailties and bruises as they are for their grace and grit. Like the work of Sherwood Anderson or Elizabeth Strout, these linked stories take us deep inside a community, even as they plumb the solitary, fiercely particular depths of inner life.
Elizabeth Graver, Drue Heinz Literature Prize guest judge and author of The End of the Point
Ramona Reeves’ writing has appeared in The Southampton Review, Pembroke, Bayou Magazine, New South, and elsewhere. Find out more about Reeves through her website.
Ramona Reeves has fully brought to life a cast of flawed, breaking people with bravery and resilience to spare. The book is a triumph of wise and compassionate storytelling.
kevin mcilvoy, author of one kind favor
To pre-order It Falls Gently All Around and Other Stories, you can go to the University of Pittsburgh Press’s website, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble.
Ramona Reeves’ nonfiction piece “Hope Chest” appeared in Issue 20 of Superstition Review. Read it here.
A Calm & Normal Heart is Chelsea T. Hicks’ first book, a collection of short stories depicting the complicated desires of young Native people. Some stories, like “Tsexope,” take place in our modern world, blending history with current culture; others, like “A Fresh Start,” dive into the past. Each story is united by its incorporation of poems in Wazhazhe ie, the Osage language.
Hicks is an enrolled member of the Osage Nation. She currently lives in Oklahoma, where she offers creative writing workshops to writers using Indigenous languages. Her writing has appeared in LA Review of Books, The Paris Review, McSweeney’s, the Believer, The Audacity, Yellow Medicine Review, Indian Country Today, and elsewhere.
Register here to join the Labriola Center Book Club’s discussion of A Calm & Normal Heart. This event is free and takes place online from 10am – 12pm on Sunday, August 28. The Labriola National American Indian Data Center focuses on both current and historical Indigenous authors across the globe.
We’re so excited to share that past contributor Paul Luikart has published a new book! The Museum of Heartache, a short story collection, debuted this week from Pski’s Porch Publishing.
Paul Luikart earns his spot on the shortlist of writers who can sink you right into the skin of a character in only a few lines. This collection of stories, some almost poetry, captures moments in his characters’ lives when they aren’t just down and out but squeezed in the vice of their circumstances, whether peculiar or mundane. In their shoes, you’ll grapple with what it means to be fully human and come out the other side changed.
Audrey Keown, Author of the Ivy Nichols Mysteries
The book includes Paul’s story “Blessed Assurance,” originally published by Superstition Review in Issue 22. That story touches on the reality of things we may never expect to encounter, framed by the binaries of heaven and hell, alive and dead. It’s an honest and intense glimpse into a life the narrator wanted to escape. Yet we leave the story hopeful. To read “Blessed Assurance,” click here.
The Museum of Heartache is available on Amazon and more information can be found on the Pski’s Porch website. Check out Paul on Twitter.
We are excited to announce the date of our official virtual launch party for Issue 27. Join us April 21 at 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM PST to hear a reading from our contributor Sally Ball. We look forward to seeing you there!
Don’t miss this week’s installment of the Fire Hydrant Reading Series! It will feature readings from past Superstition Review Contributor, Thomas Legendre, and Fire Hydrant Reading Series co-creator, Kristi Carter.
This free and virtual event will take place this Wednesday, August 13th at 12pm Central Time and will last about 30 minutes. It will take place over Zoom at this link or Meeting ID 972 9633 0154. The event passcode is 081320.
Read more about Thomas Legendre here and watch past installments of the Fire Hydrant Reading Series here.
The Morgan Lucas Schuldt Memorial Reading features emerging and innovative poets. This event is presented annually as part of the Poetry Center’s Reading and Lecture Series, and is named after poet and publisher Morgan Lucas Schuldt (2/11/1978–1/30/2012).
This year, the University of Arizona Poetry Center is proud to present Erika L. Sánchez and sam sax, who will read from their work. After the reading, there will be a short Q&A and a book signing.
Erika L. Sánchez’s debut poetry collection, Lessons on Expulsion, was published by Graywolf in July 2017, and was a finalist for the PEN America Open Book Award. Her debut young adult novel, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, published in October 2017 by Knopf Books for Young Readers, is a New York Times Bestseller and a National Book Awards finalist. She is currently a 2017-2019 Princeton Arts Fellow.
sam sax is a queer, Jewish, writer and educator. He is the author of Madness (Penguin, 2017) winner of The National Poetry Series selected by Terrance Hayes & ‘Bury It’ (Wesleyan University Press, 2018) winner of the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets. sam has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Poetry Foundation, Lambda Literary, & the MacDowell Colony.
Location: University of Arizona Poetry Center, 1508 E. Helen St., Tucson