Contributor Update: Katie Flynn

The warmest of wishes to Katie M. Flynn, a previous s[r] contributor, on the recent publication of her short story collection, Island Rule! The book was published with Scout Press, and is available for purchase now wherever books are sold.

We were delighted to her that an expanded version of the story “Bury the Bird,” which was published in Superstition Review Issue 17, appears in her collection as “Disaster Kids.”

In twelve interconnected stories, Katie M. Flynn weaves the myth and pathos of contemporary America, bringing her imaginative foresight to a world in which people, places, and even animals are not always what they seem. From the seismic wealth gaps of California to the potential jeopardy of a Minnesota mortuary-turned-playground, Island Rule is about the mysterious ways we’re connected without suspecting it, about growth following decay, and about how we are shaped by and shape the world we live in – a world where humans behave like animals, and animals make their presence known. Pygmy rabbits, whales, rats, and birds change the course of the lives of libidinous college students, self-righteous joggers, and fighting sisters.

Island Rule has already received glowing reviews:

“This short-story collection mixes the mundane and the bizarre with an authority stemming from its concrete sense of place . . . the overall effect is appealingly weird, as if the uncanny valley took literary form. A compelling exercise in worldbuilding and genre blending that toggles among the recent past, present, and near future.”

Kirkus Reviews

“A wonderfully eerie collection, Island Rule haunts and delights. Flynn’s writing is taut and teeming, making a world of bone mounds and monsters as alarmingly real as teenage angst and midlife crises . . .  Island Rule revels in exploring darkness at the edges of our world, and what happens when we invite it in.”

Erika Swyler, author of The Light from Other Stars

“Flynn has been compared to the likes of Jennifer Egan and Karen Russell, but her voice is unmistakably original.”

Nob Hill Gazette

Katie M. Flynn is a writer, editor, and educator based in San Francisco. Her short fiction has appeared in the San Francisco ChronicleTin House, and, among other publications. She has been awarded Colorado Review’s Nelligan Prize for Short Fiction, a fellowship from the San Francisco Writers Grotto, and the Steinbeck Fellowship in Creative Writing. Katie holds an MFA from the University of San Francisco and an MA in Geography from UCLA. Her first novel, The Companions, was published in March 2020, and her interconnected collection of short stories, Island Rule, came out March 2024 with Scout Press/Gallery Books.  You can find out more about Katie at


Guest Post, Mark Jacobs: Routine, Ritual, Poetry

Before I could write this post I had to read a poem. Reaching to the bookshelf, I arbitrarily picked Wallace Stevens’ “Asides on the Oboe.” A hard poem. A hard poet, who has been sleeping in my ear for years, repeating his lines when I least expect them. Reading “Oboe” cleared the way through the daily thicket to the protected space where I work. Getting there, keeping the space clear, is a survivalist exercise. Routine is part of it. Over time, the small strategies of the day become a ritual. The thing about ritual is how it binds you.

I wrote big chunks of a novel (A Handful of Kings, Simon & Schuster) on the Virginia Railway Express, commuting to work in Washington, D.C. A forty-minute ride that demanded such strict adherence to my routine that it too became a ritual. The train pulls up. If there’s a quiet car, go for it. If not, the main thing is to get a seat, any seat. (I never figured out how to write standing up.) Sit. Open a pad of paper. The pad has to have a stiff cardboard back, in place of a desk. Open. Write, leaving every other line blank so that you have white space to go back and make changes. Tune out the distractions of fellow riders. Tune out, especially, that guy with the aggrieved voice on his phone conducting a banking transaction that really no one in the car wants to be hearing. Write. Tune out. Be conscious, in the most minimal way possible, of the stations so that you don’t miss L’Enfant Plaza. Write.

VREI no longer ride the V.R.E. I don’t miss it. I don’t write in the waiting rooms of doctors as often as I once did. I do still require a routine, though. Writing longhand is part of it. I am increasingly resistant to writing with a word processor. Fiction rises or sinks on sentences. Mine come out sturdier, they are more likely to stand, if they begin at the moving intersection of lead and paper. I’m not sure why that is the case, but sitting down with a stiff-backed pad of paper is, for me, a luxurious need.

Then there is poetry. Robert Ready, one of America’s great readers, says that the poets are the best of us. Because I write fiction, it’s hard for me to go along with him. But I do. I tend to find a poet and read her obsessively. Lately it has been Wistawa Szymborska. Morning after morning, she takes my breath away. Why is that? How does reading a poem usefully provoke a writer? Any number of readers will have any number of explanations. But for purposes of firing the imagination, startling juxtapositions are one reason poems do what they do. The adjective fixed to a noun in whose neighborhood you never dreamed of coming across it. A diction hammered to such evocative precision that you can practically see the writer’s hands bloody from the making. Turnings, swervings, roundabouts where you thought the road must go on straight to a predictable horizon. As Ready says, the best of us.

Much as I love, say, the stories of Joseph Conrad, the work of few fiction writers causes the indispensable jolt to the system that a strong poem does. It’s a matter of taste. What works for one will not do for another. For me, the stories of Chekhov, the novels of Machado de Assis, have that awakening effect. I read them for the pleasures of electric shock. But they are the exception to the rule of poetry. Fascination follows fascination as I find new poets and go back to the ones I read a long time ago. Meantime, my poetry shelves fill up. Routine hardens into ritual. Tomorrow, when I sit to work, it will start with reading a poem. Next year, when I sit to work, it will start with a poem.