Blue Mountain a journal of culture
Featuring Edgar Kunz Poetry Paul Lomax Charleene Hurtubise Jack Stewart
Fiction Sofia Romero Guinotte Wise Michael Hardin
Essays Oisin Breen
Literary Interviews Christopher Moore Tyree Daye Blood Orange Review Tim Gautreaux
Special Features Red Phone Booth Candace Schilling How Writers Write Georgia Soul Council
C ON T E N T S
Poetry Paul Lomax
Book Reviews 8
Deb Olin Unferth
Ronald J. Pelias
Christopher Moore Tyree Dayes
Rhythm & Bones Press
The Hellebore Press
Blood Orange Review
Georgia Soul Council
Sunny South Blues Band
Special Features The Red Phone Booth
The High Museum of Art
How Writers Write/Brian Murphy
SCE Member Spotlight
FACES of FAITH Katharine J. Armentrout
Peter A. Wright
I N T RODUC T ION
Moments By Marcus G. Tayor
Ever take a moment? No really. Just slowed down and let the earth spin around you. No time constraints. No answering messages quickly. A real pause. A break from what you chase and watch it move in the sun. That can be hard. We all have these goals and dreams right. But do we treat our life, our soul, with the same passion as dream we run after. How many moments have failed to see because of one more brick to lay? How many relationships have we struggled in because of one more tree to cut? Money is limited. And the time to make it while we can is limited. The same is true with moments. And some moments can never be replaced with a fistful of dollars. Moments are to be shared. Before I tell on anybody else, I have to tell on myself first. A friend of mine came to me and told me to slow down. He says to me, “You are taking it slow. Take it even slower.” I had to think about that. I run here and there. I learn a new hobby and work on it for a spell. That hobby leads to meeting these people. I run some more. Learn another a hobby. Rinse and repeat. Never taking a moment. I had to realize, when I take a moment, I can perfect things. I can perfect myself. I can perfect the relationships that I have. Take moments with the people I love. Never rush them along to get to the next thing. Never rush myself to get to the next thing. The thing is right in front of us. The people we love. The people that love us.
POET RY / Paul L oma x
Paul Lomax By Clifford Brooks
Who is Paul Lomax? What’s your philosophy on living a good life? By virtue of a sound, moral, spiritual upbringing, and deeply enriching educational degrees, I am a simple person who contends simplicity is the greatest panacea for that which ails the self. Not surprisingly, my writings tend to mirror the many journeys I’ve experienced, the various people I’ve encountered – professionally as a clinical scientist and investigator, and personal relationships – and having the opportunity to live for several years in Okinawa, Japan (US Navy). I write poetry and creative nonfiction that speaks from the deepest part of an existential self. Poetry dressed for a party not yet scheduled. I am a devoted student of Chinese philosophy some associate with the Hsing Yi Ch’uan, Ba Gua Chang, and Tai Chi Ch’uan. I have lived my life, am always mindful of an extraterrestrial truth: The ‘Universe’ is always listening, watching. I am a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania MLA program (Concentrations: African-American Literature and Psychology) and earned an EdD in Education Psychology from Duquesne University.
Pau l L oma x / POET RY
What is my favorite color? Why? Blue! Reasons include: 1) I have ‘Blue’ included in my e-mail; 2) Several of my poetry titles, including the one recently accepted by BMR, has the color blue; 3) Blue is often associated with a feeling of calmness, stability, and harmony; and 4) Blue also symbolizes water, depression and the Jazz Blues, which historically has a very powerful historicalcultural relationship with African-Americans, the South, the Church, behavior and moods, addiction, redemption, love and sex, etc. Creative fuel for every poet and writer…
Do you the man and you the poet, share the same identity? Do the man and the poet ever argue? Paul the creative artist and Paul the man are forever and a day, one and same person, living, walking and imbibing from the same glass 24-hours a day. In other words, we are constitutionally, creatively body and soul… Within my writings, embodying my life (i.e., living, existence) is the universal symbol seen as Yin and Yang. In short, we do not argue, we agree on truth and reality.
What drives you to compose, canvass, sculpt, and personify poetry? At the core of what drives my poetry, what fuels my need to invest myself in poetry, to sit upon the mountaintop of my soul, I defer to June Jordan’s beautiful “… formulations of what’s important”. Therein lies my poetic bloodline, to swim in the forever tide of truth, of a gripping, forever biopsychosocial River… Overall, my manuscripts are written with a revolutionary ‘structure’, canvassed around the postmodern notion embodying the African American ‘Presence of Absence’ phenomenon.
How much natural talent vs. class study in creativity do I believe is necessary to hone one’s craft? As a former VONA student and a student of creative writing courses at both the baccalaureate and master’s level, I see value in both. Ultimately, the writer as to decide what’s the best tool for the task at hand. This is personal, and it is a necessary process asking: Who am I? and What is MY motivation?
What is ‘Poetry’ to Paul Lomax? Poetry is utterly personal, incredibly political! To accentuate the point, I quote from one of my most respected and powerful poets, June Jordan: “Poetry is not a shopping list, a casual disquisition on the colors of the sky, a soporific daydream, or bumper sticker sloganeering. Poetry is a political action. Poetry is a political act because it involves telling the truth. In the process of telling the truth about what you feel or what you see, each of us must get in touch with himself or herself in a deep, serious way. Our culture does not encourage us to undertake that attunement. Consequently, most of us really exist at the mercy of other people’s formulations of what’s important.” I write poetry that tramples through the mud and reality of society and class and religion and psychoanalysis and selfdom and race and music and sex and you and you and even you… I delve into experimental poetry that speaks from the deepest recesses of a man dressed for a party, not yet scheduled.
POET RY / Paul L oma x
How does music play into your life?
What authors and/or poets do you cherish more folks Music – classical, classical and progressive jazz, etc. should know about?
– is a necessarily significant aspect infusing and fortifying much of my poetry, in both tone, beat, structure, and character. Basically, poetry demands a sound understanding and intonement with rhythm and rhyme.
What projects are in front of you currently? For the next couple of weeks, I will finish editing and prepare to submit my first creative nonfiction manuscript for review to the editors. Aside from this, I await the acceptance/rejection decision from several prominent journals and magazine regarding poetry and creative nonfiction manuscript submissions.
“Durn My Hide” is an unusual, firmly cultural creative piece speaking with an incredible rhythm, and to political themes. What is my motivation for writing this poem? “Durn my Hide” is a personal expression of antebellum, post-reconstructionist musings, channeled from an authentic voice and time. In this poem, there exists an underlying complexity that challenged me for years to countless number of revisions. Through it all, though, I never thought about moving away from the stylized language. In fact, it was Paul Lawrence Dunbar’s seminal craft which inspired me to excavate deeper, dispel the urge to conform to postmodern vernacular; remembering to stay in touch with the odor, sight, and sound of the minute, hour, day poetically ‘captured’… In its purest form, “Durn my Hide” is a revolutionary poem! As André Breton (1896-1966), co-founder of the Surrealist movement said, “The advantage of revolution was not that it gives mankind happiness…[but] it should purify and illuminate man’s tragic condition”.
I enjoy reading from a cadre of revolutionary, innovative writing that deconstructs and reveals the vagaries of a postmodern political society imploding upon itself: Flannery O’Connor; Richard Wright; Ralph Waldo Emerson/Henry David Thoreau; James Baldwin; June Jordan; Lucille Clifton; Sonia Sanchez; Rita Dove; Imamu Amiri Baraka.
How can we keep up with you online? I am an active, longstanding member of the invaluable Poets & Writers magazine. I recommend any aspiring creative writer to both join and read monthly the wonderful rich information and listings and contests and writing conferences. Anyone interested in contacting me, please feel free to do so via my primary e-mail: Amygdala.Blue1050@gmail.com.
Pau l L oma x / POET RY
Sown Dry i hate boats especially Riverboats cast from the sandbar of my concern adrift i don’t like sitting upon a chunk of splintered floating along rocking & reeling with my stomach driving up & down my hull with his brainless rudder veer me from my unspeaking course wondering what i’m wondering hoping that i hope knowing that i know & what for
flat mis-erections like a rotten piece of driftwood down somebody’s stream of dreams listening to pouting waves trying to turn me around
to catch the driving gale
i don’t like ferries rising like Poseidon steadying my undertow steering me to his flow saying ‘Steady as she goes’ while evanescent clouds lick the sky as i prepare to blow i don’t like coursing along the dirge of a river where the shape of things to come have already dripped & slipped down towards the end of the beginning & why is it when i’m under way like a meandrous trickle from
he a seafaring penis
flows & sputters through portly reeds sung by none other than old man River when it was known all the while he just
keeps rolling along
POET RY / Paul L oma x
Durn My Hide It’s all a farce, – these tales they tell about the breezes sighing, and moans astir o’er field and dell, because the year is dying.
— Paul Laurence Dunbar, Merry Autumn, (1913)
Sun beatin down wit magnilyin eye, watchin me hard, like Mister. Flies be wippin in & out, smellin me wit da lash, i be durn ef dem federate mozskitoz aint skeered of my black hide. Always flyin bout my beads, always lookin down at me. i be durn ef doz hot chains aint pressin gainst my skin. Nuttin worse den tryin ta breave in skillets uv fire. Hits hell i say. Nuttin butt hell! ‘Taint much ta see sittin here on a graveyaud poach, breavin nigga air, loose boa’d air, list’nin ta rusted ol boa’ds crack & moan like whiskey mule bones loozin’ splinters. Da cott’n & wheat & grass, dey all look bout da same. Got mo color den i eber had. Yon i hyear da trees fixin ta laff. Been whisperin & laffin at me ere year. Not yet a loose boa’d, aint cut, still livin free. Butt choo wait, cum time wen da firplace be hungrey. Luk at cha, not sayin much wit dem leaves pokin hits mouf. i be durn ef i aint got butt one shew. Whear hit gone? ‘Taint much ta say wit one tung. i be durn if hit aint got tired of flappin, tired uv waitin fo me ta move & jus hop-on like Kunta. Whatcha gon do? Shew strings & woe-men. Trippin up & steppin on, aint nuttin butt da same. Yup, i reckon hits bout dat time uf da year. i can hyear tween my legs, in ma feet. Stikay words, cott’n paste toes talkin bout hot & slow dayz. Yup, i hyear ya comin up da Nile road, draggin yo big ol brogan brehsts, pullin & puffin & diggin & scatchin & lookin & wavin. is dat my shew? Durn my hide ef dat aint chew i smell. Like a rooster callin ere body ere moanin, hit ken tell time. Durn my hide ef ya aint fixin ta make us niggas grits & white sand, & what fo? ‘Taint no use tryin ta poe white sand over black eye peas. Durn my hide ef hit aint hell walkin round all dem loose boa’ds.
Pau l L oma x / POET RY
Blue Oyster Toes This osmotic smile wrinkles faceless brains I watch long horizons serve orchestral winds
I hear an-other day quietly huddled
Around blue oyster toes moon beans lacerate viscous wills shells chime Placid desires
swing across alligator sand
I dance untasted habitats reflect enjoy wet leaves gathering beneath earth’s hem still against the residue of bustling quasars olfactory senses parade while harp strings compose an-other pearl fulfilling
as a glass of mother’s warm milk
Within this lyrical lithe tides lick Noah’s park I linger under
this buoyant skirt of heaven this wet returning bassinette
basking sustenance basking grace this maternal place of I listen to
Paul Lomax: Education Psychologist. Poetry published in North American Review, African American Review, PANK, Making/Connections – Interdisciplinary Approaches to Cultural Diversity, and Ars Medica – A Journal of Medicine, the Arts, and the Humanities.
POET RY / Aar i k D aniel s e n
The Weight of Black Boys I slouch toward rest You sneak in, sliding behind me on the couch You pounce, cat-like and I feel the weight of having a black boy on my shoulders. White boys weigh less, everyone says so. I trip back through boyhood memories, trying to do the math. What did I weigh at 5, at 9, at 12? Knowing what I know now, all my memories revisionist histories. I float through each scene weightless, unburdened, unburdensome. You are slight and soft, somewhere below the 50th percentile. Yet everything I know—less than most, more than some —tells me you’ll quickly put on weight. Weighed down by white gazes, dense with double consciousness. Pockets drooping with rules and rehearsed conversations to get you out of trouble, trouble you didn’t get yourself in.
Aar i k D aniel s e n / POET RY
The water weight of your mother’s preemptive tears, the heaviness of words we’ll speak to you, words not born from experience, but paraphrased from the Internet, words about how to conduct yourself on a crowded street, in a traffic stop. Soon enough they’ll see you and say, “He filled out quick.” They said the same about Tamir. Still a boy inside, a man in the eyes of the people who pull the levers and the triggers. The people who love to throw their weight around. But for now, you perch on my shoulders and beg for a ride. I’ll carry your weight as long as you let me, as long as they let me. What I wouldn’t give to lighten your load.
Aarik Danielsen is the arts and entertainment editor at the Columbia Daily Tribune in Columbia, Missouri. He writes a weekly column, The (Dis)content, for Fathom Magazine and has been published at Image Journal, Think Christian, Christ and Pop Culture, The New Territory, the Englewood Review of Books and more. He holds a master’s degree from the University of Missouri School of Journalism, where he now serves as an instructor.
POET RY / Ale xa Bo c ek
A Poet Quits No more damned metaphors! No more symbols or similes, no more signs or line breaks or devices used to hide behind. No more writing with a mask, handmade in second grade, the glue still wet and glitter getting everywhere, all so I can hide and refuse to face words I can write but not say. No more images of rivers rushing, flower petals, fingertips. No more lips. Never again. No more rhyme schemes made to distract me from the fact that the only structure in my life comes in the form of my formal poetry. I have no more ink to waste in this place, this empty plane, blank and waiting for me to scribble out something sophic or witty or wise. But by now I’m covered in papercuts. My blood dots each page and like all of the great poets and poseurs before me, with it I will leave my final mark. Period.
Alexa Bocek is an emerging writer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania whose work has appeared in The Claremont Review, Literary Heist, Mystic Blue Review, Dime Show Review, Blue Marble Review and Pulp Literary magazine (2018). She’s an editor and staff member of BatCat Press. She is also managing editor for Pulp Literary Magazine (2019) She’s been writing for several years and attends the Lincoln Park Performing Arts school as a Writing and Publishing student.
Ale xandra D ine / POET RY
UNTITLED I walked out of a blue heart. I am edging about. I hear music out my eye. I won’t look. I spasm. I’m s t r e t c h i n g my voice round the corner to come back the other way. Then I might make sense. This is hard and new and different. I’m the curve of a heart, the slung-off skin that once bound your bones. I’m the dropped-off asterisk; the lonely star. I wrub oil on my ankle and run. Lines. Lines. Lines . Line s . Line .s . Uff looks like it’s getting away from ya a lil there. I stand holding a violet-blue spazz of yarn, not sure if I’m crazy or don’t know how to be. I really don’t at all. I feel older. I feel upon foreign rocks as I move. I can zoom out forever But winding through the copper fence is my favorite thing. Speaking lines written right and licking lit matches. Fingers bruised and bent and broken. Head slanted. Hair to the floor. Feet like ballerinas’. The most alive. The energies are different. They are hurt and great intensity at the same time. On opposite railroads. And so no, I don’t think it can be maybe not for now. Because. I really tried to climb that stair. I did. There was just no landing and I couldn’t keep telling myself I understood anything or could write it out of me. I just broke open and kept my own company. Alexandra Dine is a Queens-based artist. Originally from Missouri and raised in Maryland, she came to the city and the noise lit up her world. After graduating from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, she decided to travel solo for a couple months, spanning the distance from Israel to Iceland. She now teaches visual art and classical piano at a not-forprofit school in Tribeca. In her art, spotlit on accessing the poetry between the visual and the written, she strives to dance at a new angle, to drag beauty from the mundane; to be learning always.
POET RY / Angela Gre gor y-D r ibb e n
Remember How does a girlchild learn this mistake-familiar-for-comfort? Get close-like with sounds of breaking just before grief, sound of others on shore opening Zippos, metal-on-metal, aquarius the color of harm, knees-to-broken-glass submission high on top of a watchtower beneath a teenage canopy of testosterone and pride. Beneath man moon, daughters of the sun set the lake on fire with their rage, but she still somehow forgets she was born knowing how to swim. Jump little girl. Jump.
Angela Dribben followed a family tradition of first-born attending a primarily male military high school, tried to balance it out with a woman’s college, broke all traditions by marrying six times, only divorcing five. Born to teenage parents doing their absolute best, it was good enough. A Bread Loaf alum, she was a finalist in the 2019 Bellingham Review’s 49th Parallel Poetry Contest and semifinalist in Crab Creek Review’s 2019 contest. Her poetry and essays can be found or are forthcoming in San Pedro River Review, Motherscope, Crab Creek Review, Crack the Spine, Cirque, Mudfish, New Southern Fugitive, and others. She is headed where she’s going.
Ann Glumac / POET RY
Save the Date August first. Save the date. Fix it in amber. Root into its soft, dry soil, toes plunging down in search of sweet water. Decorate the calendar square with golden rod and purple aster, butter-and-eggs, fireweed. Throw a stick into the gears; stop the measured advance toward autumn and beyond. Savor this date. Enjoy the soft, warm breeze silking around bare arms, the still-green smell lingering in the speckled shade. Stay pinned to this time, a butterfly on Styrofoam. Stop walking toward winter.
Ann Glumac lives on the banks of the St. Louis River in Duluth, Minnesota, which is south ofâ€ŚCanada. She is a writer and a poet, a trainer and a consultant. Her 2014 collection, A Skim of Ice on Still Water, was a finalist for a Northeastern Minnesota Book Award. Currently at work on her second collection, she also edits poetry manuscripts and conducts poetry workshops.
POET RY / Annet te S i s s on
Her Cosmos They built a cottage from the forestâ€™s growth, consecrated it through rituals of morning, routines of seasons, leaves dropping, budding, greeningâ€” sealed by the thick mud of their lifeâ€™s steep slog. Now at dark he lifts her from chair to bed, sees the last of her tomorrows emerge from the trees, the deer gathered, grazing in the front yard, nipping the tips of the fig trees. And he knows when they come again from the undergrowth, rising from their wild nests, come to taste whatever new has grown, she too will rise, carrying a loose bouquet of cosmos, like those she planted beside the porch, some dropping silent on grass as she retreats into mist and branches, a veil of darkening shimmer.
Annet te S i s s on / POET RY
Annette Sisson lives in Nashville, TN with her husband, dog, and a small flock of hens. She is Professor of English at Belmont University, where she loves not only to teach, but also to mentor and encourage students. In her free time, she enjoys baking, hiking, supporting local theater, watching the birds at her feeders, reading, and writing. Her publications include Zone 3 and Rockvale Review, and she has poems forthcoming in The Nashville Review and Passager literary magazines. Her chapbook, A Casting Off, was published by Finishing Line Press in June 2019. She recently won The Porch Writing Collectiveâ€™s poetry contest and was awarded honorable mention in Passagerâ€™s spring 2019 poetry contest.
POET RY / Bob Mc Afe e
Carolinian From a bed of loblolly and ashes, in the swell of my body, Alone, I wake in June sweat, wrap myself In jump suit and curdled memory, bandana’d brow, Ascending Walter’s Knob to the Douglas fir atop So high I can look down and make out, almost Hidden in the brackening mists, our forty-acred farm In my hand a telegram, the first I ever got, starts “The President of the United States regrets….” This is our final love letter, Quiet Man, From Omaha Beach in Normandy, not Nebraska I picture the landing ship, spewing you out, Gurgitating onto the sanguine beach Thousands of you, caught on barbed wire, Drowning in crossfire, I believe You thought of me at the end, you never knew, Six months ago that as this covering pine Stood guard above our leaf and needle bed You gave me my greatest gift, no frankincense, no rue.
Bob Mc Afe e / POET RY
Old Joe’s Dying Chord Now the harrowed time when death denied Can only haunch and hunker still as mud, biding Track walking at two a.m. no train in sight singing Yes it’s me and I’m in love again, ain’t had no loving since… Old Joe Brown, skunk-drunk, hollers once, Cascades down the swale, thudding and a-grabbing Mason jar decants, xylophoning against willow roots, Shatterglasses versus (against) a granite formation Ford truck rut-rattling down the fen road, thunders by, Loose tailpipe clanging like a cowbell orchestra Don’t see nothing, keeps motoring, Locomotive whistle-scuds along the track at swale-top A score of feet above Old Joe, chugging his blues Cow catcher leading the engine through the fog on the slow Blue tick hound coming round searching out his master Sniffing and a-snorting follows the rail toward Miss Billie’s Skitters down the swale where Joe is stewing, stove and bent, Cussing low and moanful, don’t know what he is saying That dog settles in, waiting for the old man to move, Keeping death sucking smoke at least until tomorrow.
POET RY / Brad John s on
I Think I’m Dumb Hearing Millennials use the expression OK, Boomer as pejorative, irritating Baby Boomers more than we, their kids, ever could, stirs anarchist joy in the flannel-lined black hole of every Gen Xer’s soul. The biting sarcasm intended in our whatevers was mostly lost on Boomers. We blame them too for Trump, Venice becoming un-walkable and sort or admire Millennial optimism, thinking they can save the rainforest and keep guns out of elementary schools. Good luck. There were never enough Gen Xers to ever get Boomers to listen. The Greatest Generation was even less interested in our perspective. What was the point if nobody cared? Now our kids blame us. These little Gen Zers whose data and phone bills we pay for, call us Karen, tell us to shut up, like we’re all whiney, privileged, suburban white women caricatured in Reality Bites or Mean Girls. Probably Mean Girls. Most Gen Zers can’t name two of The Beatles much less early nineties cult film titles. They’ve access to answers to every question but Google themselves. It’s dumb to expect Boomers or Gen Zers not to accept as sacrosanct everything they read online but there’s two Gen X generations: one that square danced without irony to Achy Breaky Heart and those blasting Smells Like Teen Spirit outside our high schools. We hated those people. They always rejected us.
Brad Johnson’s second book Smuggling Elephants Through Airport Security (Michigan State University Press) was selected by Carolyn Forche for the 2018 Wheelbarrow Books Poetry Prize. Work of his has also been accepted by Carolina Quarterly, Hayden’s Ferry Review, J Journal, Meridian, Poet Lore, Tar River Poetry and others.
C harle e n Hur t ubi s e / POET RY
Charleen is a Dublin-based writer originally from Michigan. Her work has appeared in The Corridor, The 3288 Review, Eastern Echo and Blushings Anthology. Her poem, â€˜The Museum,â€™ features in the Poetry Jukebox on-street installation at EPIC museum in Dublin. In previous years, Charleen was longlisted for the Fish short story prize and received support from the Arts Council of Ireland. She holds an MFA Creative Writing from University College Dublin (UCD) where she also taught creative writing. Her writing focuses on identity, dislocation and the way in which unresolved traumas map onto new generations.
POET RY / C hlo e L e i s ure
Nightjars and Allies There’s an island on a river where babies hang from branches. All night they smile and blink and in the morning long-lost parents float by on flower boats eating matchsticks and mangoes. There’s a creek in the woods full of copper sand and six-haloed waterbugs. Once there was a pistol. Once there was a ghost. Chipmunks and tragedy, cousins and ferns. Nightjars, allies. We all get lost along the way—on the way to the store to get ice for someone’s dad, on the way to cry under a porch, at the back door of punishment for not drinking our milk. There’s a drawer for everything: milk thieving butterflies, the Berlin Wall, moon rocks, arrowheads, tarot cards. Embryos, Jane Does, junk. There’s a branch for every one of us too, and roots—roots that can lift houses, feed weevils, turn a river brown, make a dog fly. Roots that guide us back to an original heart. We’ve wandered this long road of moon before. In another tongue exists the word for this wobbly ladder of light. May we taste it and soon.
Chloé Leisure is a poet and creative writing teacher in the schools and at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. Her poetry has appeared in The Colorado Review, Matter, PANK, Permafrost, and The Tenderness Project among others. She was the 2014 Fort Collins Poet Laureate and is the author of the chapbook, The End of the World Again (Finishing Line Press).
C ynthia Mar t in / POET RY
Pour L’ amour de Notre Dame The Mother nurtures, cares Many come to her with great pain. Others too, with great passion. None go unnoticed by her. Her arms, always open, Waiting upon the need. Her heart, full of the rarest beauty, Is timeless, one for the ages. She watches over the masses, Yet sees the face of each in their own accord. She hears the voices of all who seek her. She offers solace and respite in kind. The eternal love she holds is sublime And irrevocable. The hope she bestows On all who come unto her, fathomless. Therefore, it must be considered, Of what would become us all Were she unable to? Though she suffers, yet remains All she possesses. Love, Hope, Sanctuary, all Stand within her shadows. The Mother has foresaken none. Although momentarily obscured, Her joie de vivre is yet apparent To all the world! In this day of darkness, call on Humanity, ” Bring forth the light!”
POET RY / C ynthia Mar t in
Give to the mother as she has Given to all. Love for her sake Prayer for her healing
Bio: Cynthia Martin was born in the N. Georgia mountains and is the daughter of a guitar picking Pentecostal preacher and the greatest mama who ever lived. Growing up in rural areas of Georgia, she developed a love of books and words early and began writing Gospel songs at the age of 6. Cynthia has been blessed to live a life of great adventure, living in many exotic locale, meeting amazing characters who have brought color to her writing and joyful fullness to her heart. Her most favored pastimes are writing and searching for, finding and singing obscure blues music that she performs for her cat and meeting new sisters and brothers in this our family of humanity.
D ianna Raab / POET RY
Southern Blues In America’s bottom crevice where my children were taken from my purity, and moments after their first breath, I slipped into deep depression as they nursed empty bottles of southern hospitality, pineapples, undecipherable accents and welcomes. Living in the belt where churches frame vacant corners and spread overnight like cancer, I yearn to hang on foreign clotheslines where misery lurks behind empty glasses of wine. The east and west have learned how to nurture souls where churches sleep in hidden alleys and not like monuments on neighborhood nightstands. Let me die on the Pacific overlooking freedom’s ridges—the place to live without constraints and restraints from preaching paternal types and a cacophony of organisms who have no idea of inherent purposes.
Diana Raab, PhD, is an award-winning poet, memoirist, blogger, speaker, and author of 10 books and over 1000 articles and poems. She’s also editor of two anthologies, “Writers on the Edge: 22 Writers Speak About Addiction and Dependency,” and “Writers and Their Notebooks.” Raab’s two memoirs are “Regina’s Closet: Finding My Grandmother’s Secret Journal,” and “Healing With Words: A Writer’s Cancer Journey.” She’s blogs for Psychology Today, Thrive Global, and PsychCentral and is frequently a guest blogger for various other sites. Her two latest books are, “Writing for Bliss: A Seven- Step Plan for Telling Your Story and Transforming Your Life,” and “Writing for Bliss: A Companion Journal” Visit: www.dianaraab.com.
POET RY / Gre gor y L os ell
For My Former Student Marilyn, at the Moment of Her Death She must have looked impossibly asleep: head back, her mouth agape, hands in her lap. Perhaps, her foot slipped from the brake, she crept ahead into the intersection, dead. I wasn’t there. I hadn’t seen her since she last presented lessons to my class— a teacher from an all-girls’ school—so prim, soft-voiced and warm that I exclaimed when she was finished how I’d gladly watch, a student in her class, what she could teach. We talk about a good death—who’s to say her final lesson wasn’t on display when, driving home from school, all traffic cleared and left her there, midway along, revealed?
Gregory Loselle has won four Hopwood Awards at The University of Michigan, where he earned an MFA. He has won The Academy of American Poets Prize, the William van Wert Fiction Award from Hidden River Arts, and The Ruby Lloyd Apsey Award for Playwriting. He was the winner of the 2009 Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition, The Robert Frost Award of The Robert Frost Foundation, and the Rita Dove Prize for poetry (where he won both First Prize and an Honorable Mention) at Salem College. He has won multiple awards in the Poetry Society of Michigan’s Annual Awards Competition. His first chapbook, Phantom Limb, was published in 2008, and another, Our Parents Dancing, in 2010, both from Pudding House Press. Two more, The Whole of Him Collected, and About the House, were published by Finishing Line Press in 2012 and 2013 respectively. His short fiction has been featured in the Wordstock and Robert Olen Butler Competition anthologies, as well as in The Saturday Evening Post, and The Metro Times of Detroit, and his poetry has appeared in The Ledge, Oberon, The Comstock Review, Rattle, The Georgetown Review, River Styx, The Spoon River Poetry Review, The Pinch, Alehouse, Poetry Nook, Sow’s Ear, and online in The Ambassador Poetry Project, among others.
Iain Tw iddy / POET RY
A Trickle Thin causeways crumbling into ditches. The clutch and scowl of the clay soil. A sting of frost at the plough blades: metal petals. And always, the wind ripping in, stitchless flapping sore thinning the willows, punching headlands, picking over the ragged furrows. Here I could inherit white spines of stubble, a thin skin of ice at the ditchwater, and almost like a trickle of thaw, a skylark here and there, sowing echo notes.
Iain Twiddy studied literature at university and lived for several years in northern Japan. His poetry has appeared in Harvard Review, Salamander, Poetry Ireland Review and elsewhere.
POET RY / Ilar i Pa s s
Lies of The Might Have Been: Part I an observation of William Carlos Williams’ Landscape with the Fall of Icarus Complacency and hubris destroyed Icarus, responsible for human suffering, his father’s advice fell through the small holes of his head the boy drowns leaving him in exile with the rest of us, we are space that surrounds the suffering ironical toward mankind and nature, he fell from the sky contrast between spring and fell, the might have been is supposing spring to be pleasure and new birth, the might have been is a farmer ploughing his field—the whole pageantry—seemingly to be far from selfishness and individual interest might have support Icarus and keep him alive unlike the rest of us, the farmer became one of us, even when everything was in favor of life a tragedy to one person will be a matter of complete indifference to the rest of the world unnoticed and concerned with itself white legs disappear into the green the sun half-set on the horizon
Originally from Maplewood, NJ, Ilari Pass is a retired maintenance worker of the United States Postal Service. She holds a BA in English from Guilford College in Greensboro, NC, and an MA in English, with a concentration in literature, from Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, NC. She was awarded the Broad River Review Editors’ Prize in Poetry Award for 2016 and 2017, and a Ron Rash Award in Poetry finalist for 2019.
Jac k Ste war t / POET RY
Saint Hieronymus and the Brown Egg You canâ€™t write and peel a boiled egg At the same time. The bits of shell Look like flakes from a fresco, maybe the elbow Of a saint. What would he have said About food and about speech, putting Together a meal of syllables, Which is what prayer was to him, to fill His mouth and the belly of his lungs? But Maybe he also boiled an egg, in rainwater, Two chickens pecking in the dust While he fed the small flame With a fist of mold-spotted leaves. The last curve of shell lifts free. If The saint had lived on a coast, He could have sprinkled a little seawater On it, a faint dust of salt when it dried. He would have said God Allows an egg. The firm white Resists the knife or teeth at first, just as The soul resists the blade of the Word. The white has little taste. I use my knuckle on another. The force crazes the shell, The lines spread out the width Of the saintâ€™s plaster eye. What do you bless most, The hunger or the food? Flakes of shell on a plate, A vision in pieces. A blessing whispered Like words being erased.
POET RY / Jac k Ste war t
Penmanship As if written on a tray table During a flight with turbulence— My mother’s handwriting at 89 Might easily convince That all of her complaints that Penmanship is no longer Taught are from a fairly-tale History’s hunger For an eloquence or style that never Really existed. Yet I can Remember her alphabet, The letters that slanted As casually as teenagers Leaning against a building That now fold into each other In still-born Cyrillic, And with the expertise and precision Of knowing what words are likely, I can still translate much. As her vision Has weakened, so her desire for a record Has increased, the pen pressed hard Into the paper, the need of the elderly To be properly heard. A computer would be wrong, the fonts phony. She wants to show the decades’ deterioration Is weaker than her love is strong. Her hooded M’s hobble. Vowels flatten. Ink is a liquid, though. As is blood.
Jac k Ste war t / POET RY
The Dead Man I remember the shoe, an olive New Balance With brown laces, about fifteen feet away, On its side as if it had been kicked off Before bed. The pavement was wet but not puddled, And the police didnâ€™t really need the plastic ponchos They wore. Both of his feet were bare. The sheet Was too short, and theyâ€™d had to choose between Covering his face or his feet. Traffic was being Directed onto the grass, which was slick from the rain And torn from all of the vehicles. Was it sadder Because there was no blood? The ambulance Would take him straight to the morgue. The clouds were mountainous, and it would be Tomorrow before the clay would be hard again. The pavement took up its humming to pass the time. The pines along the side of the road were so dark, Even a stronger wind would not move them.
I was educated at the University of Alabama and Emory University. From 1992-95 I was a Britain Fellow at The Georgia Institute of Technology. My work has appeared in Poetry, The American Literary Review, The Dark Horse Review, The Southern Humanities Review, and other journals and anthologies, most recently in New Welsh Reader and Image. I live in Coconut Creek, Florida. I hope you will look upon my work favorably.
POET RY / Jan We sle y
“I saw the whole piece immediately before my eyes and only needed to write it down, as though it were being dictated to me.” ~ Gustav Mahler
[referring to his symphony #8]
My father made me listen to Mahler. I was ten and he was eternally in love with classical composers, especially the ones who wrote as if every concerto or symphony would be their last, might even save the world. An uncle in the Navy – electronics wizard married to my mother’s sister and always silent about what he did – built my father a mono record player and speakers that today could blast hip-hop and Led Zeppelin like the best equipment designed to whirl us through space. When my mother was out of the house shopping, perhaps finding liquor or selling her cameras to buy it – surreptitiously and with grief in her heart – my father would put on jazz or Mahler and crank up the volume until the whole neighborhood resounded like a concert hall. I loved how different he was from other parents, Eisenhower voters and war boosters even in the Vietnam years when 3000 Pennsylvania boys died with ears ringing from Howitzer fire and grenades. On occasion my father would play Rachmaninoff for herculean complexity and speed, remembrance of visceral passages of Concerto #2 when his own father took him to see Rachmaninoff play Rachmaninoff at Carnegie Hall. And sometimes I wish I’d been with my father before I was born – for the music – for magnificence, for Ella, Art Tatum, Gillespie and Monk. Tonight I sit in a seat so high above the music center stage I’m afraid I could pitch over the railing but I don’t. Instead both movements of Mahler’s 8th symphony overwhelm my body with 200 voices, concentric layers of strings, timpani, tubas and the rising up of solo voices and horns, crescendos so grand I boil over with what magnitude can do, with what we can do when we are guided by another person’s hand, when we listen and surrender, when we love this life enough.
Jan Wesley has a full-length poetry book, Living in Freefall, published by Main Street Rag in Charlotte, North Carolina, and has three published chapbooks. Her poems have appeared in Iowa Review, Rattle, Spillway, Pool, Solo, Yalobusha Review, and Psychological Perspectives, among others, and her reviews of poetry collections appeared in Poetry International. She received a Pushcart nomination and a Ruth Lily award nomination, and received an MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College. She was a feature film and television editor, taught writing in college, and mentors high school students for their college entrance essays.
John C o ggin / POET RY
A Fish Porter at Billingsgate Sir Michael Caine: Dad may not have been educated, but he was one of the most brilliant men I’ve ever known. A fish porter like his father and grandfather, always ready at the opening bell at Billingsgate market, ready to lift heavy crates with arms like crowbars; he started a family during the Great Depression. Awake before dawn, crossing Southwark Bridge, then feeding London’s daily appetites for sole, squid, cod, and monkfish— the bottom-dwelling little monster whose tail meat eats like lobster. A fish porter, with a loving wife and two sons, lucky to work eight hours with cold blood and guts, then gamble on horses, have a ruckus at the pub, and sleep awhile before the bell at Billingsgate. On Sundays he’d take his eldest to market, and show him how to pry open a nailed fish box, load it with fresh ice, and snap it shut in ten seconds. The British Army called him to service in World War II. He survived Dunkirk, fought at El Alamein against field marshal Rommel, and liberated Rome. After four years abroad he was back with his family, and back at Billingsgate.
POET RY / John C o ggin
He never spoke a word of the war. He died at fifty-six, in hospital, sick and small enough that his eldest had carried him to the ambulance. Three shillings and eight pence he left for his wife and sons, a rosary from the Pope for the liberation of Rome, and a vacant fish stall at Billingsgate. Just before he died, he told his eldest: good luck.
John Dos Passos Coggin is an author based in Alexandria, Virginia. He writes fiction and nonfiction. His first book, an authorized biography of Florida statesman Lawton Chiles, entitled Walkinâ€™ Lawton, was published in 2012 by Florida Historical Society. He co-manages the John Dos Passos Literary Estate and serves on the advisory board of the John Dos Passos Society.
Li sb eth W hite / POET RY
Awakening of Stones: An Outline Diane Seuss & For Lakeith Smith, who, in 2015 at 16 years old, was sentenced to 65 years in prison as the Accomplice Liability Laws of Alabama found him liable for the death of his friend, shot & killed by police during a robbery. I. The question has been who called you here A. to this life
1. to this birth in this body in this place in this time
2. to this city between rivers sobbing tears into your body even as you
were born B. which ancestors C. what earth
II. When you enter the market of this court, you must enter alone A. you are to leave your grandmothers & grandfathers at the gate B. how else will you feel lonely enough to believe something other than
2. your own long spine trunking you from earth to heaven
3. the stones already speaking to you beneath your feet
C. some do not know stones as bones of ancestors-become-earth
1. that stones will remember you
III. The stones themselves want us to know they are not all the same A. elegant, communal
1. some willing to hold form: pyramid or simple company in the hand
B. some let themselves be made
1. grit grievance, collected
a. packed into the soft organs b. the pain of another labor
C. they say itâ€™s just like giving birth, passing our own flint into the world
1. it is true the first weapon we grasp is our own hardness a. you werenâ€™t born obsidian, sharp-edged and brow cutting, but here now you are black enough to split skin, set free the bodyâ€™s own salty minerals
POET RY / Li sb eth W hite
IV. Your laughter ricochets off the courtroom walls like water flung against river rock A. *To be included in endnotes: I have always found beauty in cascade, both the word and the action. The way it pushes from the mouth without force. Simple propulsion then falling after itself. Water in free fall, for just a moment, suspended on air B. Witnesses in the room feel the laugh an assault 1. except for those who are stone
2. except those bent by suffer and memory
a. the sound of weariness crimping the joints of bodies i. always meant to be broken
ii. always meant to be broken
iii. always meant to be broken
V. Throw the stones A. go ahead B. all of them C. knock out the lights as you throw D. throw them E. throw them in the dark VI. Known by the tread of your walk on the first drum of earth, unique as a fingerprint. Both ancestor and earth called you: A. beloved
1. the sweet pressure of your soles, almost fast enough
Lisbeth White is a poet, editor and Expressive Arts Therapist. A 2016 Pushcart prize nominee, Lisbeth is also an alumna of VONA, The Watering Hole, Tin House and Callaloo Creative Writing workshops. Her work has been published in Visitant Lit, Winter Tangerine, Obsidian: Literature & Arts in the African Diaspora, The Rumpus, Kweli and the anthology Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California. In both her creative and healing work, she explores and celebrates the poignant and potent relationships between women of color and the natural world.
L or i Alle n / POET RY
Sitting, a Work in Process I start the timer’s enso— a never closing circle breathe, breathe an ant crawls on the floor looking for whatever ants look for rather than consider what matters to ants I rise, kill, restart the timer
The room is dark, circular, lined with holograms of people breathing in unison, sounds of their breathing amplified—Buddha by Disney, I think and almost leave but there’s a bench and it’s been one of those days, so I sit and start to breathe my normal way, sipping the air as if it’s too hot or too cold or laden with allergens not knowing I’m hooked until the relentless breathers force me to slip off my shoes
A carpenter bee clings to the window left cracked despite the frost warning. Curled in my chair wrapped in a shawl I watch the bee not move. I know little of bees have no wish to learn more
POET RY / L or i Alle n yellow is my least favorite color but I wonder what will the bee do when it awakens or if it never wakes when will it stop clinging?
The enso snakes around the screen. Six bells chime, their echoes stepping on each other’s shadows like children playing Ghost Tag. Not echoes, reverberations—echoes are bounces, reverberations rise from the source. So little I do comes from myself, goes from myself, that I fear all I’ll leave at my enso’s close will be stolen echoes, random scribbled circles. Monkey mind. Monkey mind.
Random birds sing in harmony so close the only instruments my ear can separate are crow cymbals and mourning dove flutes when morning breaks if mourning ever breaks I may hear melody
L or i Alle n / POET RY but for now I must make do with metered sound.
The wren surveys the gray squirrelâ€™s nest perhaps hoping for kernels. The squirrel returns clutching a feather. I stop marking breaths to weave them a story of stealth and desire knowing even this may be Attachment.
POET RY / Lynne Pot t s
DREAM HOUSE Before the sea begins a gargle
fiddler crabs of skiffs
speckled dove in cameo
on the harbor-master’s house
turning the mind to a house of cards in free fall
no fiddlers then
I’m vagrant in time to catch
of a dove as the tide turns the world
First a dream will make a house then a house becomes a discarded shell of itself fragile as morning moving on becoming day then decades: what becomes us becomes us you make
a bed to die down
and before you know
in shoals— become
Lynne Potts has three books of poetry, two published by the National Poetry Review Press and one by Glass Lyre Press. Her work has appeared in The Southern Review, Paris Review, The Literary Review, Yale Review, American Letters, Backwards City Review, California Quarterly, Carolina Quarterly, Cincinnati Review, Commentary, Confrontation, Crab Orchard Review, Crazyhorse, Denver Quarterly, Georgetown Review, Meridian, New American Writing, New Millennium Writing, Seneca Review, Southern Humanities Review, Southern Poetry Review, Tampa Review, Texas Review, Third Coast, Water Stone Review among others. Lynne is Poetry Editor at AGNI at Boston University and conducts a weekly workshop at Boston University. She lives in Boston and New York.
M. S. Ro one y / POET RY
Pumpkin Soup, November An errant seed, plump, slippery, skids to the rim of the drain, and I swipe it up, bend towards the trash. No time to roast the seeds today. Do I really mean that? Just a little oil, a little salt, a lot of heat. And then I swear I hear it speak in a clipped and foreign tongue my own tongue unspools as Benediction! What you are given! So while the pumpkin flesh simmers with sherry, cinnamon, cloves and cream, I scoop the seeds onto a cookie sheet, add oil and salt, slide them in the oven still hot from roasting the aging jack-oâ€™-lantern for the soup, can almost taste the dusky satisfaction we will have tonight of crisp, salty seeds on creamy, spiced soup. M.S. Rooney lives in Sonoma, California with poet Dan Noreen. Her work appears in journals, including Bluestem, Illuminations, Leaping Clear and Naugatuck River Review, and anthologies, including American Society: What Poets See (FutureCycle Press), edited by David Chorlton and Robert S. King, and Ice Cream Poems (World Enough Writers), edited by Patricia Fargnoli. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
POET RY / Nic k Re ading
Your Hand is a Basin A hand as a basin as it fills as a sieve might catch all that is worth keeping. So a well as a mouth rises full as a glass of water in the morning. The windowsills need cleaning. Panes sill wear last nightâ€™s rain like a day washes our faces and our pallor looks good. Like you coming through the door better for the wear we gather. Our hands look better together. Our grasp is a childâ€™s rattle. A bunch of rings. Fingernail and blood. A moon, nest, and everything else.
Nick Reading is the author of Love & Sundries (Split Lip Press) and The Party In Question, winner of the Burnside Review Chapbook Contest. His work has appeared in many journals including Barrow Street, Cincinnati Review, Gulf Coast, Painted Bride Quarterly and jubilat. For more, visit nickreading.com
P r i s c illa Atk in s / POET RY
The Pill Diaries Jiggling a single lavender moon down the chute, this old saw comes knocking: “Get that ice or else no dice.” Rattle of Ambien always puts me in earshot of Las Vegas. Monte Carlo. Yahtzee. 11:11 Looking over at the clock hoping for something special— doesn’t get much better. Have I already taken a pink, tonight? A pink tonight. Hee-hee. (Oblong yellow, first thing tomorrow.) Some pills are meant to be bitten in half: half for now, half for later. Repeat as necessary. The device that draws the little line in the middle of each Xanax must get very, very sleepy. Your mother had pills. Mike’s mother had pills. Everybody’s mothers had pills.
POET RY / P r i s c illa Atk in
The Kennedys swallowed pills and glittered into the night. Honestly, we only tried Mike’s mom’s Elavils once. Big orange groovy triangles (early 70s!). A hundred mg each. The thing is, if something doesn’t happen fast, Mike pops a second one. Later, his parents home, Mike quietly pooped his pants (nothing huge, still . . . ). Also, on the sly, Mike sampled one of his dad’s Librium. On my end, my mother gave me one of her Valium. I didn’t even have to ask. When Mike’s mom took her first (and last) orange Elavil, she trotted off to her job at IGA but had to come home because checking out folks’ groceries she collapsed in loopy laughter. (Hence, plenty of little triangles stashed in the cupboard for inquiring minds.) Imagine pills announced like dogs in the show ring: “And this is PEACH&YELLOW! oblong shaped tablet, imprinted with logo on the front and ‘10MG’ on the back. PEACH&YELLOW originally hails from a French pharmaceutical.” Thirty years later, Mike surely took pills. Because he had stage IV cancer the police said they wouldn’t require an autopsy. (Thank you. I guess.)
P r i s c illa Atk in s / POET RY
Magic words at my small-town pharmacy: I’ll be traveling…. “Well, that’s different; we can give you extra.” 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8. And exactly eight days till the full moon. Phew. Someone tried to sell me a capsule instead of vegetables this is better, they said, this is just as good I’m telling you my dream I’m saying no thank you. Burner phone: poppy seed bagels and pills, that’s it. May cause drowsiness. Alcohol may intensify this effect. (Well, what are we waiting for?) Two tiny tablets clicking in the bottom of the bottle: come on you two, have sex—reproduce, make things easy. I love that Mokichi Saito tucked pills into his tanka: “That the dead are gone forever, my lament, and I take these for sleep.” For every book its reader; every ceremony, its pill.
POET RY / P r i s c illa Atk in
Jackie Kennedy had a pink hat. I, a pink pillbox. The seamless screw lid. Something regal. Cool, but approachable. Something hat. I really lost something when I lost that.
Priscilla Atkins is the author of The Café of Our Departure (Sibling Rivalry Press) and when she’s not riding a bike to nowhere, she’s in classrooms and libraries. Her poems have appeared in Shenandoah, Tar River Poetry, The Los Angeles Review and Poetry London.
Ronald J. Pelia s / POET RY
With Age The body accepts the heavy work it must do to keep itself intact: those extra minutes to get itself bathed and dressed, to make itself presentable, to climb in bed, to be its own burden, to keep its dreams. The body accepts its limitations: what it no longer can lift or reach, what it no longer can see or hear, what its patience will no longer hold, what its anger will no longer drop, what its words can contain. The body accepts its reasons: the old stories it still needs to tell, the given promises broken and kept, the final list of what it canâ€™t forget, the sudden storms that came and went, the assessments, measured by regrets. The body accepts its loneliness: A silent hulk, gathering stares and public scorn, sinking into a quiet despair, sitting before the constant TV, alone, except for those who never answer back, dozing, finding no one there.
Ronald J. Pelias has spent most of his career writing books (e.g., Performance: An Alphabet of Performative Writing (Routledge), If the Truth Be Told (Sense Publications), and The Creative Qualitative Researcher (Routledge), that call upon the literary as a research strategy. Now he just let poems lead him where they want to go.
POET RY / S aret te D anae
These Days My mind is an old bingo cage Spinning slowly, thoughts tumbling Until one separates Clattering in its trap Waiting to be called forth.
I am a teacher of classical literature as well as a writer of poetry and fiction. As an emerging artist, I have been honored to see my work published in journals such as Confluence and Pony Express(ions) and to be selected by the Texas Association of Creative Writing Teachers as the recipient of their 2018 Best in Poetry award.
S hane C he rgosk y / POET RY
Archive Some times, I am floating atop a lake the color of iodine and hog’s blood— others, everything light has a mind to pry open seals shut. A roof buckles and a five-gallon bucket overflows with the moon. There is wind. There are chimes. Piano keys inside the plumbing. Water pushing past a tooth, a wedding ring. I want that feeling — to submit to a future so clear dread and certainty forge an inextricable braid of glass. I lay my idols down before the censure of starlight. Night takes sweet time with the inquisition.
Shane Chergosky was born in Minnesota where he was raised on stuffed cabbage and heavy metal. His work has appeared in Arcturus, Frontier Poetry, Four Chambers Press, and others. He is an MFA candidate at George Mason University.
F IC T ION / Pete r A . Wr ight
Hole in the Fabric By Peter A. Wright
The blood had run from beneath the garage door. It found a crack in the pavement which funneled it to the center of the driveway. The garage held three cars but two were parked end to end on the house side, effectively blocking the majority of the driveway from the back deck. This was little comfort to Rain as she sat on the patio. Just because she couldn’t see the jagged stripe didn’t mean she could forget the image. She tried focusing on her backyard garden but with only a sliver of moon she could barely make out the rows of her flowers. They seemed to huddle in mourning, keeping their scents to themselves. Her garden was a living replacement when their son, Cole, had gone away to college last year. The rows weren’t perfect. Here and there were patches she couldn’t get to grow no matter what she tried. Norm, her husband, honed in on these errant areas when discussing her efforts. Those devoted hours had paid off with a mostly spectacular layout combining various flowers and colors into a unified, tiered whole. She’d designed the garden like a family quilt with names planted in different strains of dianthus flowers in each ‘panel.’ Zing Roses filled one section with their rich red or soft purple petals formed like a carnation only flatter. Inside the roses, she’d planted Chomley Farran dianthus flowers with their marbled pink lavender petals to spell the name ‘Norman,’ but it looked more like ‘Normal.’ Both strains were about two feet tall and his name was a little less than four feet wide. Another section was filled with shorter dianthus gratianopolitanus with their deep blue petals. Set amidst these spreading flowers she’d chosen Sweet William whose petals boasted vibrant purple centers edged with white bloom. These bold flowers spelled out the name ‘Cole.’ A third section was filled with Arctic Fire which were frilly white flowers with bright red eyes. These, too, smelled like carnations. She’d planted her own name, Rain, in Velvet And Lace. Each petal had an almost crimson heart in the middle of it and was fringed with what looked like white lace. Their lush colors had thrilled her by day but dimmed into blacks, grays, and dull whites in the midnight gloom. She sat on a deck chair in her pajamas with her feet tucked beneath her to avoid the cold wood.
Pete r A . Wr ight / F IC T ION She stopped biting her fingernails and reached for the crystal wine glass on the table. Strands of graying hair fell over one eye in the slight breeze. The huge home’s sliding glass door hadn’t opened smoothly since Cole slammed it shut after the last argument with his father. Now it scraped open behind her. She wanted to be alone, but said nothing. This was Norm’s home, too. He had as much right as she to sit at the table and face the darkness. She tightened the frayed robe around her thinning waist in search of her mother’s embrace. The tatty cloth couldn’t ward off the midnight chill; yet the threads of motherly love woven into the soft, pink fabric comforted her still. She stole a look at her husband’s pallid face, his thin wrist when he forced his way through the door. Scotch spilled from his glass onto the deck. A chair scraped on the boards when he pulled it over to sit across from her. When they’d married, Norm had towered over people. Years of analysis and number-crunching had earned him the title of Chief Financial Officer. Loathing every minute of it had reduced him to a man merely taller than those around him. He’d appeared especially gaunt since the funeral. His tongue, however, remained sharp. “Nice night,” he slurred. “Quiet.” “Cold.” “Do you want a blanket?” “No.” He sipped his drink. She poured more wine. “You should slow down,” he said. The wine, blacker than dried blood, splashed into her chipped glass. It was one of a pair she’d purchased to celebrate their twenty-year anniversary, three months away. “What does it matter? I awake in the morning wishing the day won’t start, and I go to bed praying the night won’t end,” she said. Red rose bushes darkened by midnight’s brush clung to the trellis on the side of the garage as
F IC T ION / Pete r A . Wr ight if trying to stretch around and cover the closed garage door. Needle-sharp thorns dotted the green leaf-splattered vines. The moon struck the landscape’s flagstones with cliff shadows over paths of roughedged lava rocks. “I can’t believe you’re drinking,” she said, sipping her glass. “You’re drinking.” “This is different.” “How?” “I know how to focus my anger.” Her fingers trembled when she set her glass on the table. She wrapped her robe’s fraying belt around her wrist. Wine couldn’t erase the memories of her husband laughing at their son in Norm’s home office. Cole’s blood flowing beneath the garage door. The acrid smell of burnt gunpowder. Her son’s body sprawled in the garage, his hand gripping the gun, his finger curved around the trigger. She stumbled into the grass, her feet leaving prints in the dew. He followed. “Get away from me.” “Don’t run from me.” She stopped on the far side of the lawn. Her flowers spread out before her in patterned elegance. “Why did you laugh at him?” “I didn’t. And I didn’t tell him where it was.” “Yes, you did.” She hissed, whirling around. “And he knew where it was.” He returned to the patio. “Don’t walk away, Norm.” The sudden low timbre of her voice scared her. “How could you do that to him?” He stopped. “That boy was long gone before I ever said word one to him.” “That boy?” she whimpered. “Cole was on the doorstep of his life and you shoved him in a direction he didn’t want to go. Why are you insulting him?”
Pete r A . Wr ight / F IC T ION He stepped toward her, his face a terrifying sneer. “He was at the wrong door, Rain. I pointed him in the right direction. I allowed him to take that bullshit acting class as long as he maintained a perfect grade point average.” She backed into her garden, squeezing her fists. “Cole didn’t have perfect grades.” He scoffed. “Of course, he did. That’s why I gave him the brandy. To toast his good grades.” “What kind of toast was that, ‘To a foolish boy and his foolish dreams.’?” “You’re crazy.” He took a long slug of scotch. “Norm, please don’t say that.” “Don’t put words in my mouth,” he growled. She lowered her eyes and exhaled when he didn’t come any closer. “I’m not,” she whispered. “I remember what I said!” “Norm.” She knelt, her knees pressing into her garden’s soft earth. She pulled specific flowers out of the dirt. “Please listen to me. After dinner, you called Cole into the study and, yes, presented him with a snifter of brandy. I thought it adorable, offering it to him as though he’d never seen alcohol before. Then you yelled at him.” “I was joking,” he said sharply. “Do you remember your grandmother’s hand-painted serving dish? I was carrying it to the sink when you ‘joked.’ I was so scared I dropped it.” “You said it slipped.” “It didn’t slip.” “That was an heirloom!” She choked. “What about Cole?” she said. “Our son?” “Nobody made him do it, Rain,” he said. “He was smart. He should have known better. I only wanted to ensure he’d graduate summa cum laude.” “Cole wouldn’t have graduated top of his class, Norm.”
F IC T ION / Pete r A . Wr ight “Yes, he would have. Cole had a perfect GPA and he was taking all the right courses. That fucking acting class would have only screwed things up.” “Why, by giving him joy? Or is that why you held it against him?” She yanked flowers from their bed in thick handfuls. “Held against him? Where do you get this from?” He kicked his way through the garden. She warded him off with fistfuls of flowers. “From you.” He turned to go back to the table but stopped. She knew his look. The words coming out his mouth bolstered her knowledge. “I wanted Cole to succeed. Why can’t you believe me? I was his biggest advocate. I got him into my alma mater!” “Norm.” She hung her head. “You said if Cole couldn’t visualize the future and dedicate himself to a profitable career, you’d rather he beg on a highway off-ramp than help him.” “I said nothing of the sort!” He rushed forward and grabbed her arm. She cried out. “Yes, you did.” Mud streaked her face from wiping tears away with dirty fingers. “You asked him to name what you hadn’t given him. What opportunities for education you ever denied him.” “That’s not true!” He shook her then released her arm. “When he didn’t say anything, you attacked. I’ve never heard you speak like that. When I peeked into your office, you had Cole backed into a corner. It terrified me.” “We came to an agreement on long-term profitability and investment.” “Is that how you remember it?” He raised his hand as if to hit her. She winced but he didn’t deliver. She opened her eyes to his flared nostrils and glaring eyes. Their big house loomed in the background. She lowered herself to the ground, yanking more flowers in a growing frenzy and launching them into the air. Colored petals fell to the ground around her. “You decreed he could take one ridiculous class. And when his grades slipped—”
Pete r A . Wr ight / F IC T ION “I said ‘If.’” “You said ‘When,’” she yelled, her voice raw. “When his grades slipped, he would work as your assistant over the summer; a week for every grade below an A. Unpaid.” She threw a fistful of flowers at him. “Then you laughed at him.” The flowers struck his chest. His gaze dropped to the dying life at his feet. “We agreed he could take the class.” Each word sounded like a match striking. “He would keep his grades up. He would graduate with honors. He was the high school valedictorian attending Northwestern.” “Cole wasn’t the top of his class, and he went to a state school.” “My son earned a scholarship in Mathematics to Northwestern!” Norm’s voice thundered within the broken silence of the backyard. “Just like I did.” He jabbed his finger at her. “I remember when he received the letter. He was so happy and I was so proud we went out for ice cream.” “Ice cream?” She watched him look at the garden. At the path he’d plowed into it. The gaping hole where a name had been. He walked backwards to the grass and sunk to his knees. His voice broke into a rasp his weak breath barely supported. “He was a genius. Everyone saw it.” His eyes widened as if he remembered the night they’d awoken in a panic after a booming noise and couldn’t find Cole in his room. He turned to look back at the house. His torso convulsed. “Something’s wrong,” he whimpered. “College men don’t get ice cream to celebrate.” He covered his face with his hands. “Oh, god. What did I do?” Rain wanted to console her husband but she remained in place. The psychologist made her promise to avoid contact when Norm finally accepted Cole’s suicide. There was no telling how he’d react. “You’ve been depressed, Norm,” she said. “Haven’t you been depressed?” She approached his sobbing body. “That doesn’t make it right.” “No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t make anything right.” She clasped her fingers together to keep them from touching her husband, as desperately as she wanted to feel his warmth, his love, his anything and go
F IC T ION / Pete r A . Wr ight back to the way things were last month, she wasn’t sure what that had felt like. “You should see a doctor. Norm. Honey? We have to see a doctor so we can feel better.” “No.” A cloud passed over the moon and pitched the yard into a blackness that felt familiar to her, like if she looked in one direction, she saw what she considered normal but if she forgot to focus, something completely unknown and foreign entered her senses in a way she couldn’t understand. It was simultaneously frightening and comforting in how it took her out of her own situation in a way wine never would. The moon reappeared, and she blinked. She remembered where she was and to whom she was talking. “Sweetheart. You’ve been depressed for a long time. Come on, Norm. Let’s go inside. It’s late.” “I’m not depressed.” Her hand was inches from his shaking shoulder. She tried imagining the pain in his heart. “Norm, honey. Let’s go inside. We can talk about this tomorrow.” Her hand descended until her fingers touched his shoulder. He roared to his feet and batted her wrist away. His eyes narrowed. His lips curled. He panted like a caged wolf. He trembled in rib-racking turmoil. Just as suddenly, he dropped to the ground and punched the grass like a piston going faster and faster, hitting the ground almost hard enough to break his hand. “I am not going to any doctor,” he snarled. Then he looked at his bloody hand and vomited the scotch onto the grass. Her face gaped with fear then relaxed. The psychologist had suggested a violent reaction but she had no idea what her husband was capable of. “No doctor.” he said. “All right, but we’re doing something.” “Like what?” “You have to change what you’re doing.” “Change how?” He looked up to her. His innocent eyes were that of a hurt child.
Pete r A . Wr ight / F IC T ION “You’re done analyzing numbers. You hate it.” “I’m good at it.” “The man I married wanted to be an artist. His father pushed him to be an accountant.” “Look at all it’s given us.” “Look what it’s taken.” “How are we going to live?” “We’ll make it. We did before.” “Don’t you even miss Cole?” She slapped him hard enough to make him touch his cheek and stare at her. “Of course, I do.” She inhaled deeply. “This was his choice. We have to keep living.” “What about Cole?” “He’s at peace.” She kissed his wet cheek. “He’s at peace. Come,” she looked back at the hole she’d torn in her garden; the name she’d ripped out by the roots. Her tears ran freely, clearing paths down her cheeks. Norman and Cole were still spelled out. Her name was shattered. She wondered what name to replant. “We’re all we’ve got.” “You’ve got me,” he slurred. “We don’t need anyone else.” She followed Norm to the house and turned to her garden when he went inside. The yard hadn’t changed except for the hole in the fabric she sensed was larger than anything she’d known before.
Peter Wright’s prose can be read at Essay Daily, Fourth & Sycamore, and Past-Ten. He earned his MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts and received the Certificate in Writing from the University of Chicago’s Graham School.
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S of ia Rome ro / F IC T ION
Things I Will Never Get Back By Sofia Romero
It wasn’t until many years later that I learned that the route I walked to school was a mile and a quarter long. I walked it every morning and then walked it home again. In bitter weather, I would always arrive at school with my thighs stinging from the cold. Some days, my breath would freeze inside my knitted scarf. Sometimes, if I was lucky, a friend driving by would pick me up. My mother never offered me a ride. Today, I sit here inside during the blizzard and pray that my power doesn’t go out. My lights flickered a little bit just now. I have taken some precautions, I think, in case of a power outage: ran my dishwasher so no dirty dishes would sit there for days, took a shower so that I could dry my hair, did some laundry so that I have plenty of clean socks and underwear. It’s only 11:09 in the morning. The blizzard warning is on until seven tonight, but in a minute the laundry will be done, and I will have your warm, clean shirt to put on. The other day, I told my younger son, who is eleven, about my fear of flying. He listened, but he’s still only eleven. At the end, he was quiet and said, wow, that’s a lot. And maybe it was a lot. Maybe it was too much. Maybe sometimes we shouldn’t know that our moms are afraid of things like plane crashes or the power going out or being alone. Maybe it’s just too much for us to know. When I take the laundry out of the dryer, I notice your shirt, the one I never gave back to you, has a small hole in it. How this happened, I’m not sure. In my mind, a tiny tornado of indecision forms: keep the shirt, even with the hole? I’m hopeless at mending. And decisions. *** These are all things I will never get back: my abuelo’s glasses, the sapphire necklace, the family
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photos, you. Somehow, the tragedy of each of these losses is the same. There was that time we all stood on the dock, and my mother threw something over the side. I didn’t know what it was, I hoped it was something unimportant. But still, something was gone. But when the tide went out, there it was, what she threw, and it wasn’t anything unimportant at all, it was a small wooden box, the one I had once told her that I wanted. A mistake to tell her, to lay any kind of claim, to reveal that something has meaning. I have a gift for making sure I never got what I wanted. And now, there it was, the small wooden box, lying in the sand, and I walked over to retrieve it, to where water might be if it hadn’t receded, and in fact, was there ever water? It was hard to know. All I knew was that I could now walk over and retrieve the box, the one I said I wanted, the one she threw away. *** Outside now, the blizzard is picking up speed. The cat nudges my hand. I try not to think of the fact that I will have to shovel all this snow later, although that’s the least of my worries if the power goes out. Before she had a snow blower, my mother would go out in the middle of blizzards to shovel, two and three times, sometimes at night, her way illuminated by the light above the garage, so that when the storm ended, she wasn’t faced with inches upon inches of snow. When we were older, sometimes we would go out and help her. We did this to avoid the storm inside. Today, I still think of doing that, of going out to shovel to get ahead of the snow, because there is no one else here to help me. I am thinking of doing that now. There was that Christmas that we stayed out after shoveling and sledded even though it was night, and the spotlight on the side of the house helped us to see, and also the full moon behind the oak trees. And we sledded on the small hill in the side yard, it was very small, but enough to get some momentum before crashing into the quince bushes. My mother sledded with
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us, and she even laughed. This was surprising, both the sledding and the laughter. My grandparents, who were visiting for the holidays, waited inside. And that night, in her room, my mother opened the small wooden box, which was finely carved and smelled of heaven to me, or maybe of home, and took out the necklace, it was delicate and had a small sapphire pendant, and I had never seen it before, and I said what’s that? And she said, it’s a necklace your grandfather gave me. So I coveted it, and I dared to tell her, and she said, well, it’s very valuable, as if that explained everything that was about to happen and put it back and closed the box. And I never saw it again. That was the last Christmas before my abuelo fell asleep and never woke up again, and later we went to his funeral, and I cried when I saw him, lying there, asleep but not asleep, and also not himself because he wasn’t wearing the thick, squared glasses he always wore. And I think now, besides his native Spanish, my abuelo also spoke French. And why shouldn’t he? After all, his mother—or his mother’s mother, I forget which—was from France. How she ended up on a tiny island in the Caribbean is a story I don’t know. But this is where my blue eyes come from, at least partly, the ones that make people say: You are not who you say you are. I want to say: What do you know about me? But the truth is, they are right. I am not who they say I am, or even who I say I am. After my abuelo died, we were surprised one day to hear his voice, it was coming from the answering machine, the sound a caress that clawed at our grief. Como saba bou? he used to say to me in mashed up French, winking. *** Today, the snow is jagging diagonally past the window, and I’m afraid of the power going out. I put on your shirt even though it has a hole in it that I will never be able to fix, and I wonder why my grandparents would come every winter from Puerto Rico to visit us in Boston, staying from Christmas through the New Year. They lugged large suitcases filled with things like coffee and turrón and other treats you could not easily get in New England at that time when long distance phone calls were expensive and short. My abuelo liked to light sparklers on New Year’s Eve.
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That night, while we sledded after the shoveling was over, I took pictures with my new Yashica, the one my abuelo had just given me, and there are bursts of light on the prints where the flash caught the prisms of the snowflakes around us as we sledded. There are pictures of my mother and grandparents from that visit, too. I just threw those negatives away when I was sorting through my things, trying to decide what parts of my old life to keep with me before moving on to the next part. Now I regret having thrown them away, but mostly because I want to show them to my sons and explain to them— in a way that they will inevitably find boring—what “negatives” and “film” and “enlargers” and “dark rooms” are and what they meant to me. But even though I didn’t save the negatives, I saved other things for them: a soft blue blanket, the book about the bears, a pair of fireman rain boots. When I asked my mother one time about the family photos she had kept, she said she didn’t have them anymore. She had thrown them all away because no one wanted them. I wanted them. I was hoping against hope that when I finally opened the wooden box, the necklace would be there, or at least some of the photos. But I was afraid to look. *** That night you gave me your shirt because it was cold, I said here, look, open the wooden box with me, the one I retrieved, and we’ll see what’s inside. And I said, I hope it’s the sapphire, the necklace my mother never wanted me to have because it was too valuable, and when I opened the box, it was empty. My tears, if they came, were hot and unstoppable. Now, today, the snow is coming down almost sideways, and I will have to go out and shovel again. Instead, I go to my room, and dig into my closet and take out the wooden box, and it smells as wonderful as I remember, and the carvings are so delicate and beautiful. This time, when I open it, it’s not empty at all, my abuelo’s glasses are there, squared and black like I remember them, and somehow, he is watching me, has been watching, is always watching, and I just didn’t know.
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You asked once who I am, and I couldn’t tell you then, but I tell you now: I am the ache in my chest where my ribs come together, where they were pried apart, once, twice, by my expanding belly, the kicks, the hiccups, the tiny feet in my side. I lie awake sometimes, praying, that the stars held captive in that cage of grinding bone will catapult to safety in the indigo sky. But instead, I crawl out of my flesh and slip away, following the half-moon woven among the dark veins of the oak trees that have always been there, burning black, and throw only a casual glance back at my other half, still grounded. I will never get that back. And that’s a lot.
Sofia Romero is a writer and editor living in the Boston area and the creator of Mighty Red Pen, a grammar and language resource (twitter.com/mightyredpen). She is a graduate of Wellesley College and Boston College. This is her debut publication.
F IC T ION / Mic hael Hardin
Tongues of Fire By Michael Hardin
One auspicious aspect of growing up in the San Gabriel Valley is fire season. Each summer to fall, the brush on the San Gabriel mountains that sprouted during the brief rains in January and February would dry out and die, creating severe fire hazards. This also led to the apocalyptic feel of Los Angeles, earthquakes, fires and floods (when the brush was burned away, the mountains would be bare, and any water would wash down the mountain, taking immense amounts of mud with it): all of Revelations was present within our own environment. Brush fires turned the skies orange and brown, creating spectacularly vivid sunsets. We could watch the mountains burn from the relative safety of our house near the foothills. One fire, in November of 1980, was particularly close; it burned the mountains directly above and near our house—we lived only about two or three blocks from the base of the foothills. During the day, like the Israelites in the desert, we saw the pillars of brown smoke billowing from the mountains, but at night we saw the pillars of flame, like tornados swirling up into the sky. It was both beautiful and terrifying at the same time, we were on the cusp of catastrophe. The next day, it snowed ash down on our house, large flakes that crumbled when they landed on us, that covered our lawn in a gray powder. The ash covered our cars and roof, it landed on the branches and leaves of our trees. It almost made me want to stick out my tongue and catch one, like kids did with snow on TV. This scene was an inversion of the winter wonderland it evoked, a negative image that was still transcendent. This was more proof we were living in the Last Days and that the Tribulation would start in a couple years. That Christmas, my Grandpa Higbee and Jeannie came down to visit us. They lived in San José, so it wasn’t too long of a drive. I am not sure if all Christians do this, but those of us who believed in an imminent apocalypse liked to see the evidence first hand; it’s one thing to read about the catastrophes that signal the End Times, but it’s another to walk up to them oneself and crumble the ashes in one’s hand. My Grandpa Higbee was that kind of man when it came to Revelations. So we packed the seven of us into the station wagon and drove to Bradbury (Bradbury
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was a tiny enclave of millionaires about one-half mile from where we lived), a community that had been especially hard hit by the November fire. As we drove up the foothills, we could see the blackened ground everywhere, and more significantly, we could see all the exposed foundations, many with only a chimney still standing. On one street, all the houses on the opposite side had been destroyed except for one, right in the middle, as if the fire had just leapt over it and left it alone. Even parts of the lawn were green. We got out and looked at the house, along with the bare slabs and lonely chimneys surrounding it, and there on the door, was painted a Bible verse: As for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord. My grandfather was especially proud of this moment—he aimed his camera and took a picture or two—because it gave him the opportunity once again to remind my parents how soon Christ would return. My parents liked this too, because it meant that God really was looking out for his children. It made me proud too, despite all my doubts, that I could be associated with such a loving God, or at least if He sent fire to destroy our neighborhood, I would be protected because my family were good Christians. My father remarked, “Remember how the Israelites painted the blood of a lamb or their doorways to keep the Angel of Death away? These people painted a verse on their door and the Angel of the Lord spared them as well.” This was our perspective: we did not blame God for the disasters, but praised Him when Christians were saved, and when Christians were lost, we believed that it was God’s will and they would be happier in heaven anyway.
Originally from Los Angeles, Michael Hardin lives in rural Pennsylvania with his wife, two children, and two Pekingeses. He is the author of a poetry chapbook, Born Again (Moonstone Press 2019), and has had poems published in Seneca Review, Connecticut Review, North American Review, Quarterly West, Gargoyle, Texas Review, Tampa Review, among others. He has recently finished his memoir, Touched.
F IC T ION / Z ac h Riggs
Time in Blue and White By Zach Riggs
I found bones in the cave. They were small — not like an animal’s, but a baby’s. Justin looked down at the bones with eyes as wide as his flashlight. “Holy Mother,” he said. “What is this place?” We’d found the cave by following Rushden Creek up the side of Lonestar Mountain. School let us out early as heavy December clouds hung low and somber. Justin and I didn’t go home — instead we set out wandering, waiting for snowfall. “Hey,” he told me. “Y’hear ‘bout the Legend of Lonestar Mountain?” “No I have not.” “My pa told me last night,” he said. “First time. Thought I was big enough now. And I agree. He said up on Lonestar if you foller Rushden Creek upside of it, you’ll find a cave. And in this cave, people have gone in but never came out. It’s said whosoever goes in will see the future, but they won’t never come back out.” “Well,” I said slow and thinking, “how do they know they see the future if no one ever comes out?” “Can’t say,” he said, “can’t say.” “But how then did the legend get star—” “Hush your mouth and come with me,” he said. I thought it odd he already had a flashlight with him. He must have planned last night he would go to the cave today. We followed the creek up — a hard climb. At one point I bent over the stream and put my lips in the water. It was a freezing slap in the face — the best thing I ever tasted.
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Bare tree trunks grew fewer as we climbed higher. Finally the ground leveled out and we saw the water spilling out a cave’s mouth. I was tired, but Justin said, “C’mon!” and he had the flashlight. The stream split the cave right down the middle. At first we splashed through it. The noise of the water over the rocks echoed off the cave walls. It was comforting, in a way. The sunlight faded and all we had was Justin’s flashlight to guide us. And then the stream led up to a little pool, and in that pool and along the bank were hundreds and hundreds of little bones. Baby bones. We even found baby skulls. Justin’s light trembled in his hand. “Wegottagetouttahere!” he said. He dashed out the way we’d come. I was always one of the shortest in our class, so it was hard keeping up. The cave felt it might swallow us into darkness. The air turned wet and thick like moss on a tree. Then it got colder as I hurried after him. I thought maybe it’d started snowing outside. But the opening to the cave wouldn’t come. We followed the creek for what seemed like hours, but nothing came. Justin’s flashlight started to dim. I could hear he was panting, on the verge of panic. Then a shadow passed by the flashlight just as it went out for good. Justin screamed, I felt hair on my neck stand out, and we stood frozen in the darkness “Who goes there!” Justin said, trying to be tough. No one answered. But I could hear one noise, and it was the patter of little feet in the water ahead. “Hullo!” Justin said. The tiny splashes came closer. Dread hit me in my chest. I scrambled away from the creek as the patters came nearer and passed the way to the pool. I couldn’t see but I could smell. The smell of old. The stench of death. Yet I could tell by
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the feet it was a little creature, whatever it was. It paid us no mind and soon the echoes of its splashes went away. I floated in a pitch black vacuum. “Over here,” Justin finally whispered. I’d almost forgotten him. I felt in the dark and found his elbow, then his face. He was huddled in a corner. “W-what was those?” he said. “Should we—” By degrees I could see Justin’s face come into being. A blue light illuminated the cave back toward the way of the pool. Justin stood up. “What is that?” Something moved me to creep after it. “Where you goin?” he said. But I kept on. The light was beautiful and fell over the cavern walls like cool water. It got brighter and bluer as I went. We came to the last bend before the pool. I hid against the rocks. Justin came after me. “What do you see?” I peeked out from the rock and I saw it: I saw...
I see a tiger white as snow. She watches me. She radiates blue light. My hands shake. My bones turn frigid. Her beautiful eyes flicker like flame. She looks amused. The light she emits bathes the
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cave walls in deep blue and violet. I watch entranced as she bends to lap water. “Did… did it eat the children?” Justin says, his voice squeaking at the end. Slowly she turns from the water and pads through the stream. Justin and I back away in opposite directions, giving her plenty of room. I watch her glide through the water like she’s walking on top of it. She turns a bend and the light goes with her. Shadows hide our faces again. “We’re trapped in here!” Justin says. I ignore him and follow the tiger. Her light is before me, always just beyond me. I can never quite reach her. The ethereal blue fades and fades and then turns to white. I spill out of the cave. Cold fresh air bites my face. It’s night now and it’s snowing. The creek is frozen over. The tiger is nowhere to be seen. I follow the creek through the snow, down the hill, searching for her through the trees dressed in white. The air feels dead like New Year’s Day. At the bottom, where the creek levels out, I find a small crowd armed with candles. My boots crunch on white fluff as I move toward them. A snowflake floats into my eye. I get near enough to see a woman’s flickering face, pale and plump, watching me with eyes shot through with shock, her mouth open. The man beside her looks the same. Everyone does. Perhaps they saw the tiger. It’s why they all look so terrified. But that doesn’t explain why they’re still here. Everyone is watching me. Every eye. I notice some of them have watery tears scattering down cheeks like ghosts at dawn. “You’re back!” says an old man with a long grey beard and eyes full of vigor and youth. “What was it like?” a child beside me asks in a slow and somber tone. “We’ve never seen someone go up and come back down,” a young man says.
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It’s then I realize Justin isn’t with me. I look back up the mountain but there’s no sign of him. I turn to go back for him but someone grabs my hand. “Aaron,” a woman says. I gaze into her face and see my own mother. She’s younger than I know her, less blemished. Yet her green eyes are older than I remember. “Aaron. Are you alright?” Everything looks the same to me. But still something’s strange. The air touches my skin and courses through my lungs in an alien way. I start crying. I can’t help it. “Where am I? What is this? Who are you all?” The crowd mumbles, chatters to itself. My mother’s eyes never leave mine. She searches them like she’ll find something she lost. “It’s okay, Aaron. It’s okay.” She pulls me into an embrace, her warmth enveloping me. A voice rises from behind the crowd. “They’ve stopped… I think they’ve stopped rising!” The crowd hurries as one. My mother leads me behind them. The moon lights on the flecks of icy white hidden in her dark hair. We cross the frozen stream and come into a meadow I never noticed before. My mother leads me through as the crowd parts. And in the snowy meadow before me are rows and rows of unmarked graves. Some of them look dug up and empty. “See,” says the one who raised the alarm, “he’s stopped mid-dig. He’s back asleep. I know he came to, though. I saw his eyes.” I move over to the grave he’s indicating. Inside the hole, an old man — corpse, ancient, decrepit, dead — sprawls in the grave, only halfway covered in dirt. His long fingernails are filthy, frozen, partly bloody.
“Could be a no-rise,” a teenager says. “Seen plenty of them.”
The speaker shakes his head. “Not this one. He just stopped digging. Like he gave up. And
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it was when that one came back out the cave,” he points over to me.
My mother’s eyes don’t leave the dead man. “I must say… he looks… different this time.”
“I think… he seems like the children when they enter the cave.”
“You mean… dying?”
“I mean dead.”
My brain can’t grasp what they’re saying. Then my mother pulls me through the grave-
yard, over to two unmarked and empty graves.
“Look. Look here. This grave was mine,” she shows me. “And this one. This was yours.”
I’m at a loss. I’m having a nightmare. Somewhere I fell asleep and this is all— “This is where you were born, Aaron. You lived a long and satisfied life here. Don’t you
remember? And at the end, when it came time — when you shrunk and grew small, when you became a child… it was time to enter the cave. As we all do.” A chill shudders my spine. It isn’t the cold. “And you did. But you came back. You’re back.” A million questions chase my mind. Only one matters.
“Did you see the tiger?”
“The tiger. A white tiger. Blue light came from it. It was—” Of course she hadn’t seen her. I take my mother’s hand and look around. The world hushes, unsteady in a quiet inter-
lude. The crowd stands uneasy.
F IC T ION / Z ac h Riggs
“Mother. You say no one’s ever come back out the cave?” “No one until you,” she says with some pride. I scan the graveyards, some of them empty, some still covered and full. “I think I know what happens next.” “What do you mean?” “I’m… not sure. But I’m going to try.” I kiss her cheek. She lets me go without argument. I turn and pass through the parted crowd. They watch me head back up the frozen stream. One by one, they all begin to sing the most glorious medley I’ve ever heard. O cave of past, forgotten scene, the realm of all eternity. The darkness calls us to its breast, and time will lay our bones to rest. I bask in the melody and harmonies as they hold their candles and sing as I climb. The tiger waits for me at the open. I follow her back into the cave. In the dark corners I find Justin huddled up and crying. “Where were you?” he says. “I was worried sick.” “It’s alright. Don’t be afraid.”
Z ac h Riggs / F IC T ION
I leave him where he is and follow the tiger to the pond. There in the shadowy blue light, drifting between the bones of many old children, I see a form on the other side of the pond. He comes nearer. I see my own face. Someone my age with my face, my hair, my eyes. It is me standing before me, the tiger between us, beaming with blue and white confidence. I place my hands on the tiger.
Outside the world freezes over and exploded into a single snowflake.
Zach Riggs was born in Texas, grew up in Vegas and now is a die-hard UGA alum. He’s working on a real-world thriller with a sci-fi twist, along with a children’s book called If Mom Was a Superhero. He’s avidly searching for suitable literary agents and/or publishers. Not yet a member of the Cool Hipster Club, Zach is forever stuck contemplating what his first tattoo should be.
E S S AY S / O i s in Bre e n
In Lamentation, Ireland Reconstitutes Itself By Oi si n Br een
A decade ago, after the Celtic Tiger was “mauled” by a generational economic crisis, old Ireland drew a deep breath of fresh air -- her first for at least 20 years.
economic crisis that followed led to a reappraisal
Young, then twenty-something millennials, and thirty-something members of Generation X thought lost to a ‘me-myself-and-I’ culture inculcated by globalism -- the New Ireland, some called it -- suddenly jobless, were forced to find a way to measure their self-worth beyond what they did and what they could buy, so they cut their cloth accordingly. That is until the crisis passed, and they didn’t.
often alcohol-infused poor man of Europe.
If the 1990s were epitomized by an economic boom and the adoption of a hagiography of mostly American cultural lodestars; and the first decade of the 21st Century represented Ireland’s flirtation with the gauche finery of the nouveau riche; the
everything [was] focused on individual
of what was lost, particularly culturally, in the country’s bid to become known as something other than the romantic, poetic, highly religious and
It was a moment of introspection, sad and sometimes brutal, but ultimately it was also a shot in the arm for a culture that was losing the run of itself in trying to ape international mores, says Dónal Ó Caoimh, a research psychologist in Dublin. “Collectivism was lost, a shared purpose, a sense of being intertwined in the lives of others … achievement … The recession helped as people had to look after each other to survive, and culture thrived because it was all we had, [so] we deeply valued it.”
O i s in Bre e n / E S S AY S But once the Pandora’s Box was opened, it couldn’t be shut, he adds. “The greed is worse now than in the Celtic tiger era … it’s a mass anxiety that’s physically palpable.” The rise of the Celtic Tiger, and the decades of plenty that followed it, has its roots in 1969, when the Irish government granted autonomy to the Industrial Development Authority to pursue direct foreign investment by all possible means. It proved a rip-roaring success. As did the desire to incubate a start-up culture where Irish businesses and Irish people could survive as a result of talent and grit, rather than the protectionist patronage of their government. But it also forced the people to redefine what it meant to be Irish, an identity long associated with poverty and economic migration, as much as it is by the work of Samuel Beckett, or Seamus Heaney. Poverty, though harsh, offered the comfort of knowing it wasn’t your fault. Now, 10 years after the recession, another global crisis – COVID-19 – brings lockdowns, and likely another yo-yoing between boom time excess and austerity politics. Yet beyond the inevitable fallout, the socio-cultural changes that began to be felt in the 1990s and continued into the Celtic Tiger’s Indian summer of 2011-2020 have left Ireland structurally better off in a fiscal sense, but far more divided on an intra-personal level. ”The general Americanisation and corporatisation of Irish society over the last few decades [has led to] a corresponding erosion of Irish culture,” says Goran Kelly, a novelist, based in Bray, Co. Wicklow. “[Moreover] inequality has grown enormously since 2007 to 2009 [and] a relatively small proportion of the population has seen their wealth soar in the last 10 years, often as a result of rent seeking,” But Kelly’s sense of alienation straddles, perhaps paradoxically, a tough optimism, arguably just as much a by-product of the increasing
internationalism of Ireland’s citizenry as the rise of a more laissez faire attitude to the markets. In fact, it’s a huge mistake to highlight only the potential losses, says Shirley Gleeson, managing director of nature therapy firm, Ecowellness Consulting. “The recession [for instance] also strengthened the Irish spirit … brought people together … and many took major risks … to express their own creativity through what they were passionate about. Indeed, although international investment over the last three decades changed everything in terms of what an Irish person could do, and how they were seen, it merely amplified what, as an island nation, the country has always had to handle, namely making hay from scarcity, says Mark Rowe, founder of sleep respiratory healthcare firm, Dynomed. “We don’t have natural resources, we have grass and we have people … [so] we’re investing in the people and the businesses,” he quips. “[But] I don’t think my Irishness is being lost in the process. That sense of my being Irish, it’s what gets me over the line.” The split then in contemporary Irish culture over what it means to be Irish is less an argument between the haves and the have nots -- although that too is a contentious issue, particularly when it comes to the increasing difficulty for people to get on the housing ladder. Instead, the divide is between those who laud Ireland’s pivot from being a more closed economic model in the early-to-mid 20th Century to becoming one of Europe’s most free-market economies in the 21st Century; and those who don’t. These critics see this shift as a death knell for a more playful, less serious culture that didn’t just produce high-end excellence, but also had a fine line in whimsy, craic, and a defiantly non-Anglo Saxon attitude to work -- an Ireland for the novelist Flann O’Brien, where great sea-cats haunt peasant farmers, and policemen become
E S S AY S / O i s e n Bre e n biologically part bicycle, rather than one for the hard-knock Irish capitalist school epitomized by Ryanair CEO, Michael O’Leary. At present, however, everyone is being forced toward the latter framework, a do-it-yourself self-branding where you have a side hustle to your side hustle, and you’re effectively on your own, says Seosamh Plowman, a Dublin-based psychologist. “[This] reveals [the] failure of Ireland to make good on the promise of our national independence … the shift toward individualism and self-reliance is admirable, but it heralds a failure of the social fabric and educational institutions to provide for the next generation.” Such critiques can be heard on all sides of the political spectrum, as much from the humanist secular left that Plowman adheres to, as it is from the religious centre right. “Modern entrepreneurship is antagonistic to our expression and understanding of Irish culture, because it encourages the stage production of a shallow imitative performative Irishness, rather than the real thing,” says Marie Bean Ui Cheallaigh, retired, and a volunteer at the Dublin-based Central Catholic library. The irony, however, is that the sense of what it is to be Irish is often clearest when represented as an intangible quality found through a soul-searching and lamenting opposition to its own disappearance. In the country’s myth cycles, for instance, the ancient members of the Fianna, the warrior bands of old Ireland, often despaired at the loss of Ireland’s soul. Moreover, from Yeats, who in “September 1913” asks: “Was it for this the wild
geese spread / The grey wing upon every tide; / For this that all that blood was shed”, to Joyce who personified of Ireland as the “old crone ... serving her conqueror”, her own language lost to her; the sense of a loss of Irishness in the wake of relentless internationalism, whether through emigration, immigration, colonial oppression, or mercantile success is a key tenet of the country’s national identity. Indeed, in a discussion held over coffee in Edinburgh with Robert McDowell an Irish financial technology consultant during the Masters of the Universe era -- a time best epitomized by Michael Douglas’ portrayal of Gordon Gecko -- the now retired patron of the arts insisted that critics of Ireland’s internationalism have become tangled in a Gordion knot made real only by a revisionist approach to Irish history that began two centuries ago. Initially, it was a natural response, a means to deal with the trauma of subjugation under a British flag and the loss of the national language, he explains. “But historically, Ireland has always looked outwards, as an exporter, and as a relatively wealthy nation … so the idea that the Celtic Tiger was something new is a mistake, it was a return to the old ways.”
O i s e n Bre e n / E S S AY S Nor is Ireland alone in its uncertainty, or the very real feeling that its sense of self is divided. In fact, accepting the assertion first made in 1983 by the political scientist and historian, Benedict Anderson in his book Imagined Communities that all nations are in fact fabricated thought constructs sustained by the consistent retelling of their own mythos, as the Internet era fragments national discourses once carried out in the broadsheets into a myriad of sub-groupings, it is perhaps only natural that each country’s sense of self becomes increasingly diffuse.
Perhaps then for a culture so fond of introspection, the question to answer is not whether Irishness has changed. Instead, it may be apt to ask if it is not this very change, uncertainty, a reliance on people, and on the muck beneath the grass that facilitates the survival and growth of the often melancholic lyrical antagonism that continues to inform Ireland’s sense of self.
Thus, for all that the Irish state broadcaster, RTE, runs an archive of old news footage on its website, carrying stories of retired travelling men building stone replicas of the experiences they’ve brought home with them; of ‘exotic’ Mexican planes stranded in Mallow, Cork; and young women in the 1960s dazzled by Dublin’s then modest city lights; today, like everywhere, the concerns of Ireland are global, and ‘move fast and break things’ is as much a mantra on the banks of the Liffey as it is across the pond.
Oisín Breen is a 35-year-old poet, part time academic in narratological complexity, and a financial journalist covering the US registered investment advisory sector. Dublin born, Breen spent the last decade living in Edinburgh, and has lived, among other places, Damascus, and Prague. His debut collection, ‘Flowers, all sorts in blossom, figs, berries, and fruits, forgotten’ was released Mar. 29 by Hybrid press in Edinburgh (hybriddreich.co.uk). Primarily a proponent of long-form style-orientated poetry infused with the philosophical, Breen had a number of poems published in his early twenties mostly in online magazines, before taking time out to hone his craft, since then he has been published both in written and audio formats in a number of journals, including the Blue Nib, Books Ireland, and Dreich.
F IC T ION / Guinot te W i s e
Just for the Love of It By Guinotte Wise
Why do you do what you do? Say, you’re a User Experience person (UX) and you identify and fix design problems with apps that don’t seem quite right. Maybe you started doing it just for the love of it, got real good at it and now they pay you for the work. Or maybe you’re a rodeoer, who gets better and better at riding bulls, and you love the excitement, the behind-the-chutes bustle and the road trips. A defense attorney who takes the slim-chance cases. A storm chaser. A cop who protects and serves. A pilot. A store clerk who knows how to sell. A ski bum. Me, I’m a writer and a sculptor. When I was trying to get into advertising a lifetime ago, I was a paving field engineer. I liked that, outdoor work and on my own a lot, but my true love was graphic design (I thought) and one night at a jazz club I was talking to the bass player and he said get a copy of “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill. I did. I read that book cover to cover. It’s not so much about getting wealthy as it is about attaining that place, that desire, and, in the process, things just seem to snap into prepared grooves. You get help. Something out there points you in right directions. I can see this book helping actors, musicians, mechanics, filmmakers, writers, artists, nurses, anyone with a try. How big is your try? It helps immeasurably if your aim is at something you’d do without pay if you were independently wealthy. I’m anything but that, but I will write and sculpt if I’m alive and able. Just for the love of it. Bank on it. I’ve made my point and won’t belabor it. But a while back, I was sitting at my macbook and nothing was happening. It was one of those dog-ass days when summer is officially over but it was hot and humid and I was vaguely discontented. Too hot to weld my steel stuff. I did what we writers are continually warned not to do; I fell down the rabbit hole of online by cruising Youtube. Music stuff. Classic old Janis Joplin, Procol Harum, Errol Garner. Then bluegrass and C&W, some Jamey Johnson. Up pops an old video I’d all but forgotten, Charley Pride and Just For The Love Of It. .
A song I know well. I heard it nonstop for two days. A message song: sometimes just for the love of
it has to carry you through. Poetry, a screenplay, sanding a custom car, no real gratification in sight. So do it for the best reason. For the love of it. The other stuff will come.
Guinot te W i s e / F IC T ION I used to work with a digital stock music producer out in Los Angeles. This guy was, is, a legend in this kind of “needle drop” music in that he pioneered all or most of the innovations the stock music business had to offer. The other day he received a Lifetime Achievement Award for his work, which pretty much transformed the industry, but was also known for its exceptionally high production value and musicality across a long mixing board which included big orchestral numbers to house jamz to anything trending at the moment.
His various companies provided music for everything from soft drink commercials to scoring full
feature films. You’ve heard it, believe me. His name is Jim Long and I first met him when a group of us from a KC agency traveled to Dallas to talk to him about his radio stations. He owned some of them with Charley Pride.
This agency was known for its unusual creative on radio and TV stations, and we worked with
Jim targeting media buyers and overall image strengthening. It worked well. Our leader was a genius and so is Jim; of course it worked. We did a lot of fun, crazy stuff. Once, when working on a Detroit station, WOMC, I named it The Big O, and another copywriter came up with the line, “What would Detroit be without the big O? Detrit.” A woman nearing child birth named her kid Detrit upon hearing that commercial in the hospital. I digress. I guess he’d be about fifty now. If you’re out there, Detrit, I’m not responsible but I know the guy who is. Then we began to be involved in his side business; stock music. So-called needle-drop music. I saw him take that from a fledgling niche business to where it is now. I had left the KC agency by then and worked with him in a freelance capacity in a relationship that lasted years. He’d start a successful company, sell it, and start another. I worked with some of those companies after his departure, and became pretty immersed in the business. I believe the music cultivated my ear among other advantages. Those outfits used top musicians, engineers and producers. I strongly urge anyone involved in scoring a film or seeking music for any kind of venture to check out the music of companies like FirstCom, Elias, Gotham Music, Who Did That Music, and (yep) scores of others.
One of Jim’s innovations was something he called Liquid Music, that allowed you to slide various
components in and out, or mute, say, the drums and brass, and just use the strings, or actually create your own track with some of the well-produced sections. He made it easy to play with components and come up with your own sound. We sent out a metal strongbox of music titled Bulletproof—each box had a slugsized dent in it. And the music inside was fantastic stuff. He covered holidays, and patriotic events and
F IC T ION / Guinot te W i s e regional music like southern rock, east coast trends, grunge, urban to gut bucket country to symphony orchestra. And it was all beautifully produced. Great music, splendidly soundscaped. You didn’t get any better because these were the same studio musicians and vocal backups and engineers. But, back to Charley Pride. He made his indelible mark on country music and, being a hell of an athlete, he could just as well have made it in major league baseball. At a time when he was considering moving from Nashville to Branson, he met with Jim Long and his Honest Music label. Jim called me in Kansas, asked if I’d be interested in helping put together a music video for Pride and a song titled “Just For The Love Of It.” It was to be a very budget production. Cheap. Jim Wheeler, a KC-based filmmaker, agreed to shoot the piece at my place, and cut costs. He did utilize a full crew out at the farm but managed to bring the video in on budget. We called in a couple favors, and the weather cooperated, too. Speedy Huggins, a KC jazz musician, made a cameo appearance as the father in the song, walking in a wheat field owned by a neighbor. My wife and I live in a rural community, a very small town. Our little farm, about forty acres, fronts on the town square, a grassy area with a flag. Barn, house, some outbuildings, horses and dogs. When we filmed Charley walking one fenceline, my two Australian Shepherds would always try to be near him when he sang; they loved to hear him sing. That little portion made it onto Good Morning America. Made me a little sad to see it today, as those two fine dogs (Jack and Mickey) passed away, and two more (Rocket and Lucy) came and went. Now, Millie and Cash are taking up the doggie baton at Wise Acres.
Somehow, the cornfield hot wire informed a lot of folks what was going on at the place. They
began to come like the people in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” gathered at the Devil’s Tower to see the UFO space ship landing. Between takes they didn’t ask, “Is this heaven?” as in “Field of Dreams” but they did ask for snapshots and autographs. What a day. Charley dug it immensely. One very old man limped up out of the canebrake when Charley was singing on a bridge, (caused a retake) and told me “I heard he was here. Do you think he’d give me an autograph?” He did, of course. Walked with the man down the dirt road, and they talked a long time putting the schedule in danger. Charley loves old folks and little kids best of all.
And I offer the song to anyone trying to get somewhere, because sometimes it seems like the only
reason you do what you do is just for the love of it. And that’s good—it’ll go a long way toward getting you where you want to go. It got me into one of the the biggest ad agencies in the world and a good living for years in Los Angeles.
Guinot te W i s e / F IC T ION But keep after it. I got three rejections today, but I also got an acceptance. Rare, when lit reviews often only accept one to three percent of the thousands of manuscripts they receive. But if that acceptance had been the fourth rejection, what would I do, quit? Heck no. I weld. I write. It’s what I do. I’m as old as the guy who appeared in the shot of Charley on the bridge. Meantime I write just for the love of it. Here’s the video—remember it’s a looonngg time ago, and way budget, but just give it a listen. My hope is that it’ll inspire you some and you’ll like the message. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wpmlrFmJkZE
Guinotte Wise writes and welds steel sculpture on a farm in Resume Speed, Kansas. His short story collection (Night Train, Cold Beer) won publication by a university press and enough money to fix the soffits. Five more books since. A 5-time Pushcart nominee, his fiction and poetry have been published in numerous literary journals including Atticus, The MacGuffin, Southern Humanities Review, Rattle and The American Journal of Poetry. His wife has an honest job in the city and drives 100 miles a day to keep it. Some work is at http://www.wisesculpture.com
My Place for Inspiration Come see what makes it yours.
Anne Legardere Clay (American, 1745–1821), Quilt, ca. 1800–1820, cotton, gift of Helen Stiles Rose, 1979.1000.19.
3/2/20 1:27 PM
Georgia Writers’ Project is an ongoing creative writing workshop for students in Walton County, GA. Our mission is to foster student creativity and freedom. GWP fully funds student creative work by offering a free, 12-week afterschool workshop. The program is seeking interested, qualified corporate sponsors, individual donors, and board members.
“Before starting the Georgia Writers’ Project class, I didn’t do a lot of creative writing. I didn’t exactly know how to. GWP has taught me how to turn my thoughts into stories and poems. Reading my work and getting feedback in class has really helped me blossom into a better writer. I have enjoyed growing a community of friends who have similar interests as me. I think that because of GWP, I have become motivated to pursue writing in the future. When I heard GWP was doing another semester, I was excited, and joined again to continue my growth.”
“Not only has GWP helped me better myself and my work, it has given me a greater understanding of why I write, along with an appreciation for what I write. I would like to thank everyone who was involved with the creation of this program, for the tremendous blessing that they have provided me.”
“After I picked my student up she was talking about today’s writers group. I am nearly moved to tears. She said, ‘These are my people. There’s someone who invests in me. There’s acceptance. There’s encouragement. And you can’t get that just any ole where. But I can every Monday.’ Kate’s involvement in this wonderful Writers Group has been amazing to witness.”
Bar n 8 / BO OK R E V IE WS
By Deb Olin Unferth By LaVonne Roberts
Deb Olin Unferth is the author of six books, including Barn 8 and Wait Till You See Me Dance. She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship and three Pushcart Prizes and was a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist. Her work has appeared in Granta, Harper’s, McSweeney’s, and the Paris Review.
I first encountered Deb Olin Unferth at The Arch, Austin’s homeless shelter, when she visited a writer’s workshop, where I volunteered. She has such a generous spirit that feels other-worldly coming from her petite frame. She has something about her—a sense of wonder that has everyone around her wanting to impress her.
BO OK R E V IE WS / Bar n 8 Not since Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web, has literature humanized an animal to the extent Unferth has in Barn 8. She gives voice to her feathered friends in an endearing way. So, it’s heartbreaking when we learn that hens are slaughtered between a year and a half after being force-molted or artificially lighttriggered into laying eggs. Unferth takes her readers on a journey from Brooklyn to Iowa with Janey, a young girl in search of her biological father. Janey arrives only to suffer a significant loss, and the reader is warned that her journey to redemption won’t come easy. “It seemed a bit harsh that for the rest of her life, she’d have to pay for one childish mistake she made at age 15, the sort of mistake anyone could have made.” Janey and Cleveland, two auditors for the US egg industry, decide to plan a heist of one million chickens. Their madcap caper requires that a wacky, quarrelsome group of activists must work together to free one million chickens in captivity. You realize it’s no so implausible when you realize Unferth went undercover to write her preemptive essay Cage Wars in 2014 for Harpers. Barn 8 is a book you can already envision as a movie because it’s ripe with tension, drama, and movement. Unferth mines the best out of seemingly unloveable characters, just as she reveals the evil lurking behind facade. Unferth’s novel is as philosophically curious as whimsically outrageous. There are times that Barn 8 feels rushed, when one character’s description bleeds into another, feeling like a relay race, but one could argue that Unferth is doing what she does best—bringing all the manic, schizophrenic details of life to the page in real-time.
Authors like J. M. Coetzee and Jonathan Franzen have used fiction to illuminate the perils of other species, but few have written from an animal’s perspective. Even fewer have woven an animal’s point of view into a fictional narrative. Barn 8 straightforwardly, spells out the stakes while at the same time lures you into believing in the impossible. Deb Olin Unferth has a literary style like no other. At times her prose feels very Kafkaesque. Sometimes, it feels so dark; and at other times, her whimsicality makes me wonder if studying with George Saunders influenced her humor. Certainly, he must have encouraged her ability to breathe life into her protagonists she lovingly sets free on the page. So much so, that you’re sure Barn 8’s characters remind you of people you know. What’s spectacular about Unferth’s cast of character’s quotidian lives is not just that you’re rooting for them, but that your world seems a little less mundane as she reminds us what real human connection looks like. It would be easy to chalk up Unferth’s ability to educate the reader in a way that makes them feel smart, but it’s so much more. She understands humanity in a way that no one else does. However, ajar, anxious, or discombobulated Unferth’s characters are, there’s a sense of order to their madness that’s digestible because Unferth’s compassion is infectious. Here’s the funny thing, I haven’t been able to buy eggs or order chicken since reading Barn 8. I’m not quite sure I’m ready to be a vegan, but then, thanks to Unferth, I’m keeping my options open.
Bar n 8 / BO OK R E V IE WS
When you wrote Barn 8, did you Studies show that when we read write it as a means to catapult nonfiction, we read with our shields activism? One could argue that you’re up. We are critical and skeptical. most content catalyzing a revolution. But when we are absorbed in a story, we drop our intellectual I didn’t write the book to catapult activism, no. I’m guard. Do you think fiction is interested in activists, activism, social justice, well suited to explore complex environmental justice, animal personhood. I want philosophical questions? Was it your to write about those things and get people thinking goal as a storyteller to use fiction about them. I wasn’t writing a polemic. to build your readers’ morality? I loved getting an education in the egg industry landscape—like learning that California activists fought and won the right for chickens to be able to “lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs and turn around freely” in 2008. Your reportage of the approximately 295 million layer hens and the political and legal battles around the country reads like a KGB novel of espionage, spook-level secrecy, and grave consequences. Could you give us some background into the lengths you went to when you did your undercover research for your Harper’s essay Cage Wars and how that led to Barn 8? I realized that to write the book, I needed research. I needed access to the farms. I needed to get to know industry farmers, spend time with chickens, understand undercover investigators. Harper’s let me write an article on the egg industry, which gave me an excuse to do all of that. Most of what I did was straight journalism: I spent many hours talking to investigators, farmers, scientists, lawyers, watching undercover footage from inside the industry barns, researching chickens, and getting to know them. I went to all kinds of farms, from giant factory farms to tiny ones to sanctuaries. I was obsessed for a while, and I could see how addictive investigative journalism can be.
I was a philosophy major, and I’m married to a philosophy professor. Yes, I do think fiction is a good place to think about philosophical questions. What is meaningful? What is beauty? What is freedom? Who is a person?
You shift perspective between your characters by diving into multiple points of view. Why did you decide to move between perspectives? The book circles around one event, one night, what led to it, and the fallout afterward. I liked creating a Cubist perspective, where you could see all angles on what was happening, why people were doing it, what the animals were thinking, what the wind was doing, the insects. History was part of it, too, and the future came into play. It is about a whole community, even the air, which is slowly contaminating.
BO OK R E V IE WS / Bar n 8
Barn 8 opens to a story about Janey, a 15-year-old girl who finds out her mother has kept the identity of her biological father from her. Your character is split in two after learning of her father - the new Janey and old Janey. There’s a restlessness in Janey’s nature that feels so real. How did you develop Janey’s character so authentically? Is questioning one’s birth origin a subject close to you? Restless characters are human characters. We are questers. I wanted Janey to have a connection to the Midwest but to feel lost there.
I met you in a homeless shelter while I was volunteering, and you were a guest author/ teacher. As you thoughtfully responded to every participant, I thought about your ongoing work in prisons. I wondered about the cornucopia of writers work you read, from MFA students to incarcerated writers. How do their stories influence your writing? I’ve been teaching for so long—since my second year of grad school—I’ve barely been a writer without teaching being part of it. And yeah, I love teaching and all kinds of places. I like getting to know all sorts of people who are different from me or similar, all of us coming together and talking about stories. It’s hard to say how they influence me because I have so rarely been without them all these years. I like people.
Because of your Harper’s essay, we know about the anonymous donor who paid to charter a cargo plane to fly nearly 1,200 chickens across the country to New York. I picture you driving to visit 100 of those chickens at the sanctuary you wrote about in Manchester, Michigan. Now, I think about all the times I reached for commercially produced eggs at a third of the cost of free-range eggs before Barn 8 with remorse. How do we lower the price of eggs so that single moms on welfare can afford to buy them responsibly? We can’t. There are better things to eat anyway. Beans are just as cheap and are better for you. Peanut butter gives you a better punch of protein and isn’t loaded with cholesterol or inoculation byproduct. We don’t need eggs. We don’t need them for baking, we don’t need them as cheap protein, and we don’t need them for Easter.
For writers, it becomes imperative to find joy and humor in life off the page. What are the ways that you offset your writing and teaching? I like hanging out with my husband and dog. I like hanging out with my old parents, my tiny nieces, and my sister. I have a little gang of friends that I like to meet up with, and I like nature.
Bar n 8 / BO OK R E V IE WS
You leave crumbs worthy of a literary forensicist, like your inclusion of Austrian architect, Victor Gruen, or the fact you named Olive after your editor’s daughter. Is it deliberate or subconscious? I’m so glad that you noticed Olive! She entered in a later draft of the book when my editor and I were already working together. I put her in almost without thinking, and then I realized what I’d done, and I was delighted. I just pull in the world around me—it’s not conscious or unconscious. It’s just writing.
You’ve mentioned that there is a bit of you in every character. Which character is or was most you?
TV and could not stop. I’d try not to start watching it until at least after dinner, but I couldn’t help turning it on as soon as I got home from school. I’d try turning it off by ten, but I watched later and later until I was going to sleep at four in the morning and getting up at ten, hurrying to school bleary-eyed, and coming home and turning it on the second I got in the door. This went on for months and months. It was a disaster. But in those months I wrote the passages that turned out to be that character. The character is watching so much TV but still manages to complete an important act (I won’t say what) that makes the end of the book possible. And there I was, watching so much TV but still managing to write the passages that would lead me to the book.
At the end of the book there is a park ranger who is watching a tremendous of amount of TV. Now, I seriously never have been a huge TV watcher, though I do watch some. But there was a time several years ago, when I was first starting this book, that, I don’t know, I got into a funk and couldn’t do anything. I mean, there was something really wrong with me. My husband and I had jobs in different states that year and only saw each other one or two weekends a month. I started watching
LaVonne Roberts is a caffeine-based, aggressively-optimistic writer who plans road trips around culinary adventures, coastlines, friends and independent cinemas. After many lives, LaVonne, a New Yorker who hails from a tiny Texas town, found her voice in a lifelong passion – writing. She leads writing workshops in shelters for female victims of violence, veterans, homeless and mentally ill adults, and where voices have been silenced. Her essays and short stories have been published widely, including in Women Who Waken Literary Journal, The Rio Review Literary Journal, and Litro. She’s working on a memoir of tall Texan tales leading to a magical place called home. When she gets there, she’ll let you know.
BO OK R E V IE WS / Bone C hal k
Bone Chalk By Jim Reese By Clifford Brooks
Bone Chalk is a collection of essays from Jim Reese that transcends the genre of creative non-fiction. Reese takes the loose-but-respectful humor read in David Sedaris and applies it to a fresh array of life. Bone Chalk is brave in its facing down topics like education in our American penal system. Yet, as bold as the author is with teaching in prison, the most virtuous act is writing those incarcerated as wonderfully, redeemably human.
Jim Reese excels in capturing the wonderful and redeemable qualities of the mortal condition. He does not pull punches, but neither does he â€œkeep it realâ€? in the current meaning as rude, shock-jock material. The author defames none nor elevates any to a station they do not deserve. The whole of Bone Chalk is unique in its soul, design, and execution.
Bone C hal k / BO OK R E V IE WS MORE ON THE BOOK FROM ITS AUTHOR:
What motivated you to write Bone Chalk? In grad school I had the great opportunity to watch Ted Kooser win the Pulitzer Prize and also become a two-term U.S. Poet Laureate. He would take time to visit with my classes and talk about craft. And as he became famous over night, he would still take time to visit the UNL grad student reading series called No Name. He had a few days off from his over 270 readings in 2 years and was there to listen to some of us present our work. After my reading he came up to me and said, “Jim, that last poem of yours was an entire Willa Cather novel.” And he smiled and walked away. I love capturing voices in stories. I knew I needed to write prose then. So I got to work crafting essays and getting them published in magazines—12 years later, after 3 books of poetry, Bone Chalk arrived.
What got you involved with America’s prison system? Happenstance. Right place. Right experience. Right degrees on the wall. And a clean UA.
What are some common misconceptions about inmates? That every man and woman locked up is a heinous criminal. That’s what I thought the first year I started and the first years I went to San Quentin. What I realized was that most criminals aren’t heinous people like the guy I used to go to school with who raped and murdered my friend. I write about this in a very extensive essay in Bone Chalk called “Never Talk to Strangers—12 Years in Prisons and What Criminals Teach Me”.
I understand you channel the spirit of David Sedaris to make your humor pop. Is that true? Do you find humor useful in storytelling? Yes and Yes. I just talked to David last week via email. My students just wrote him a batch of letters. He has been kind enough to reply in the past to them and he’s been a great inspiration to me. What he made me realize is that humor has to be carried with some weight. You have to mix the serious with the comedy. For example, in my book I take you into San Quentin and also make you laugh—because there’s some absurd stuff going on there. C.O.’s that are selling t-shirts (outside the Sally Port) that promote a crime within prison to make money for the Honor Guard. What? Truth always trumps fiction in my book. Sedaris taught me to use my voice. My voice. I didn’t have to pretend to be someone cooler than I was. My faults matter. And there’s humor everywhere. Why always so serious? Writers are so eager to show people how smart they are. I’ll never be the smartest guy in the room and I’m totally okay with that.
How can we keep up with you and buy your book? www.jimreese.org for my tour schedule and way more than you probably want to know about me.
You can follow me on Facebook and on Twitter @ReallyhappyJim BONE CHALK is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, at LilyCrest in downtown Yankton, South Dakota and at Texas Book Consortium: https://www.tamupress.com/book/9781622882038/ bone-chalk/ Message me for tour bookings and book club visits.
L I T ER A RY I N T ERV IEWS / E dgar Kun z
Edgar Kunz By Clifford Brooks
Who is Edgar Kunz? A handyman’s kid from New England. An attention-challenged obsessive. A bicycle rider. An enthusiastic teacher. A project-doer of compulsive follow-through. A stressed-out-of-my-gourd news consumer. Easy laugher. Voracious reader with a spotty record in the classics. Socks-and-Birks wearer. Big fan of 90s radio rock, late-aughts indie.
Newly-minted urban gardener. Freshly able to grow a kind of beard. Caretaker of thirty-odd houseplants. Lover of the light in California, the granite beaches of Maine. Attempting to learn French with an app on my phone. Working on my accent.
E dgar Kun z / L I T ER A RY I N T ERV IE WS
What is your responsibility as a poet to your reader? To tell them the truth. By which I mean to try your best not to mislead, obscure, condescend, or simplify. The contract between you and the reader doesn’t allow for anything other than you telling what you have to tell and not wasting their time. No bullshitting. They should be able to sense the urgency with which you’ve pulled them aside. I find coyness in poems annoying. I find purposeful obfuscation annoying. It’s easy to create a barrier with language and tuck yourself safely behind it. Likewise, sentimentality, another kind of lying! A simplification, a flattening out of experience. I’m interested in poems that give a full and complex account and don’t waste any language doing it.
How did you discover your poetic voice? Do you think it changes over time? Do you believe it to be static like a fingerprint? I don’t know about finding my capital v Voice -- I think (hopefully!) we’re always growing and progressing, getting bored with what we were doing before and trying something different -- but there were three poets early on that had a hand in shaping my sense of what language could do. They showed me a way into the material I had to work with. The first was Irish poet Seamus Heaney, whose poem “Digging” was like getting hit in the head with a shovel, the one his father and his father’s father used to dig up sod in County Derry. It’s a thesis driven poem (which these days isn’t so much my thing) but he was describing a lineage of work of which I was also a part and which we both felt ourselves to be outside of, and he blazed a path for me: “But I’ve no spade to follow men like them. Between my finger and my thumb/the squat pen rests. I’ll dig with it.” Working with language is still work, and it’s as difficult and dignified as any other kind. And the language itself in the poem is terse, monosyllabic-- it enacts what it describes. The two
others that jump out at me now are Claudia Emerson, whose book Late Wife is exquisite and devastating, and Natasha Trethewey›s Native Guard, from which I learned so much about line, image, and figuration. Oh, and Jack Gilbert, whose book The Great Fires I still tend to carry with me when I go to the cafe to write. Guy had a wide open heart. And Phil Levine! And Dorianne Laux, Larry Levis, Martín Espada, Ross Gay, Sharon Olds, Yusef Komunyakaa, Louise Glück, and and and.
Tap Out is an incredible book inside and out. How much input did you have in choosing the order of the poems and design of the cover? Hey thanks! I’m proud of it. You know, in the book editing and publishing process, I was always torn between saying to the press Just do whatever you want! I’m so grateful you want to publish it! Please don’t change your mind! and insisting on my vision for the book, making my opinions known-- and on a few occasions, really going to bat for something I believed in strongly. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is a big corporate press, so I was surprised when they were open to hearing from me, even about things as small as size/font/placement of text on the back cover. I ended up having a fair amount of control over the aesthetics of the book, including the cover photo (which I love and which has been met with flinches and affirming nods alike!). Same with the poems themselves and the shape of the book as a whole-- I was more or less in the driver’s seat. Or at least co-piloting. Working with my editor Jenny Xu was a dream-- she’s brilliant, and we were in the trenches together, chiseling the book into its final form, sometimes spending hours on the phone discussing order, arc, etc. She had a big hand in making the book what it is.
L I T ER A RY I N T ERV IEWS / E dgar Kun z
How do you prepare and/or practice for poetry readings? When I first started giving readings, I would get really nervous beforehand. My sweetheart Katie Moulton, an (amazing!) writer herself, would have to endure long stressed-out sessions of me running different poem sets, and ordering of those sets, past her. I was fanatical about time, too -- I wanted to hit the time limit for the reading exactly, or a little under. I’d practice reading the poems with a timer running, leaving blank spaces for banter between poems. Then I’d get up there at the actual reading and be all sweaty and shaky. These days, I’ve been touring a fair amount and I’m much more casual about it. I don’t get as nervous and I don’t plan my sets like I used to. I think it has something to do with being a teacher now, too-- I’m more comfortable up in front of people, doing my thing. It’s good practice for giving readings. Or they’re good practice for each other. I’m still serious about time though: the cardinal sin is to go over your allotted time. If I have half an hour, I read for 20 minutes. If I have ten minutes, I read for eight. Nobody is gonna be mad that you read a little less. If they like the work, they’ll check out the book.
Give a few tips on how to pick and apply to the right grants, fellowships, and/or awards. Apply for everything! Seriously. Somebody has to win this stuff. The folks you see getting fellowships and residencies aren’t necessarily the most talented, the most qualified, the best fit for x y z program. They’re the people who didn’t talk themselves out of applying. They got their shit together and sent in their materials by the deadline. I don’t expect to get anything, and mostly I don’t. But every once in a while, I splash a shot
from half court. Behind every one that rattles in, there are a hundred shots I took that weren’t even close. My feeling is that it’s all about expecting rejection, applying anyway, and popping the champagne if somehow this time it’s your day. That said, application fees are a real barrier. If it’s gonna cost you $30 to submit to a book prize and you’re really not sure your book is ready, maybe save that money and keep working. Buy a friend a coffee and ask them for their honest take. That might be a better use of your cash.
Please tell us your thoughts on the publishing world in general. If you’re on social media, it can seem like what’s happening right now is so important, it’s unprecedented, it’s the latest and best and you’ve got to give your attention. And in some ways -- the lifting up of marginalized voices, for example -- that energy is really good news. But on a larger timescale, I’m not so sure. No one can tell what’s gonna last. You look at an issue of a big lit mag ten years ago and you’ll be lucky to recognize one or two names. A book that tanked forty years ago has a huge resurgence and we can’t believe we overlooked such a major talent. The best we can do right now is write the poems we want to write and hope that we have a few readers now and a few readers later. I can’t get too caught up in trying to get a bunch of attention for myself. I’m just trying to be patient, keep working, trying to get better. I’m not saying social media isn’t an important resource for some folks. Facebook was the first place where I felt like a part of a writing community. But I am saying that if I were to buy into the whole social media curation and participation feedback loop now, I’m confident it would destroy me. There are never enough clicks, enough likes and retweets. I am an ambitious person. I want to channel that ambition inward. The poems are what’s important.
E dgar Kun z / L I T ER A RY I N T ERV IE WS
What are five of your favorite poems by those alive or dead; famous or not. Why? Impossible, but I’ll list five I love off the top of my head: “Tarp” by Rick Barot “Part of Eve’s Discussion” by Marie Howe “The Master’s House” by Solmaz Sharif “Spoon” by Ross Gay “The Spell of the Leaves” by Larry Levis What’s your philosophy on editing poetry? I’m a chiseler. I want to use the least possible language while still sounding natural, colloquial. Sometimes I think it would be better if I could chisel each poem down to nothing! Just a blank page. At least then I’d be honest. I find that it’s easy for me to make a poem seem finished. A teacher once told me my poems «achieve a premature polish.» Devastating. I think that’s right, though: if I’m not careful, I’ll polish up a poem that hasn’t actually done all the thinking it needs to do, hasn’t pushed its initial impulse far enough. I’m dogged and impatient in revision, though of course revision is where all the magic happens. I’d probably be a better poet if I could slow that process down, not be so quick to be done. What helps is showing the poem to a friend you trust utterly, a friend who you know will tell you the truth. If you find one such friend in your life, never let them go.
Do you have anything new on deck? I’m working on some new poems that are wilder and rangier. I’ve got one up at LA Review of Books that I like: https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/ day-moon/. After a while, writing Tap Out started to feel like working in a very small hermetically sealed box. Now that it’s done, I’m so relieved. I can let the world in. What is it Miłosz says? “I hunger for a more spacious form.” I find that these longer associative poems I’m writing now trick me into letting, for example, Stevie Nicks and class warfare into the same poem. They trick me into being funny! I’m proud of the poems in the book, but they’re deadly serious. I want my new work to be more emotionally and tonally various. I tell people now I’m writing a book on love and late capitalism, and I think that’s true. But I’m hoping that’s not all it will be.
How can we keep up with you online? Check me out at edgarkunz.com, @lockthecashbox on Instagram.
Photo Credits for Edgar Kunz: Grant Gnud-Hansen (cover photo, page 105); Hieu Minh Nguyen (page 102).
L I T ER A RY I N T ERV IEWS / Te r r y Kay
Terry Kay By Clifford Brooks
What sparked your passion for writing? What keeps it alive? There’s not much of a romantic story about my experience in becoming a writer, but there’s some humor. I had been recently married in 1959, living in Decatur (GA), and working for an insurance company while trying to build funds for graduate study at Duke University. My job required a lot of night calls and that did not please my wife, who was teaching (elementary school). One day she forcefully requested that I have another job by the time she came home. It was the same day I first saw a weekly newspaper called the Decatur-DeKalb News. In it was a classified ad that read: Wanted: Young man to learn interesting profession. For some quaint reason – but remembering my wife’s
order – I made a call to the listed number and made arrangement to have an interview that day. The job was for an errand boy, someone to sweep the floor, etc. I asked how much it paid. I was told it was $40.00 a week. I accepted the offer simply to say to my wife, “I did it. I have another job.” A few weeks later, I began writing a few minor stories because it seemed to me the writers were enjoying themselves more than floor sweepers. Two years later, I went to work at The Atlanta Journal in the sports department, where Furman Bisher was the sports editor. It was there that I learned to write, there were the passion was fired. And it is the memory of those days that keeps the embers alive.
Te r r y Kay / L I T ER A RY I N T ERV IEWS
You didn’t come into fiction from a traditional angle. How did you learn your craft?
Does music play a role in your creative process? Does it provide you a place of escape?
This might be my favorite question, because no one
I think the sense of music – the hearing of rhythm – does have an influence, but I do not listen to performed music while writing. Escape, for me, is in what I am writing and I want to ‘hear’ it solely – from the pattern of speech to the sound of wind or the gurgle of water or the blink of an eye, etc. Because I was reared without electricity – thus, no television; only a battery-powered radio – my imagination has always been fired by sound. As a result, I do not ‘see’ what I’m writing, I ‘hear’ it. Only after the words are on paper do I have an idea of what the scene looks like.
really believes the answer. I learned my craft by copying the daily sports columns of Furman Bisher – word-for-word. Over the years, I’ve continued that practice, using a number of sources, from the Bible to gifted novelists. I don’t know how to explain the benefit, other than coming to understand the skill used by truly accomplished writers, especially how they handle rhythm and expression. (I think this is especially true of writers working the literary genre). To me, it’s a bit like studying to be an artist and having an instructor have you copying Monet’s Lady with a Parasol – not to imitate, but to ‘feel’ the brush strokes and
However, in college, I often studied by listening to classical music.
to discover what can be made of them.
I’m fascinated by an author’s ability to create characters of vastly different ages, backgrounds, and gender. How do you pull off that trick so well? First, you accept that a character’s age, background, gender does not belong to you – that the story you are writing is his/her story even if he/she might be influenced by your own experiences. Consider the character as a member of an ensemble, that he/she reacts with other people and that those other people provide both voice and perspective. And rely on tricks. (Example: In almost everything I write, the principal character has a ‘sidekick’ – sometimes serious in nature, sometimes comic, but always to emphasize the personality/action of the principal. In To Dance with the White Dog, the daughters are the ‘sidekick’ characters to Sam Peek.) There are many tricks that work for this benefit, perhaps none more effective than dialogue. (I’ve always contended that I can describe a person better through dialogue than narrative.)
L I T ER A RY I N T ERV IEWS / Te r r y Kay
2020 marks the 30th anniversary of your novel, To Dance with the White Dog. How does the story read to you now versus when you first penned it? Did you think this book would still hold such sway three decades later? It is considered my signature book and I have great pride in its acceptance worldwide and in its endorsement from such people as Desmond Tutu and Paul Harvey, and in its popularity as a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie (31 million watched on its premier showing). Yet, when submitted to New York publishers it was rejected. Fortunately, Peachtree Publishers in Atlanta liked it and offered a contract. I’ve always believed New York publishers think of Southern literature as a celebration of dysfunctional personalities engaged in odd dysfunctional behavior, and White Dog has none of that. Still, the setting is Georgia – the South – and in New York anything below the Mason-Dixon must be gritsand-greens Southern. The truth is White Dog could be set anywhere in the world, from Georgia to Alaska, from Africa to Russia. And that’s true of all but two or three of the books I’ve written. I locate the stories in Southern environments because I’m familiar with the land, the weather, the wildlife, the nature of the people and, most important, I’m comfortable with ‘hearing’ what is happening. How do I feel about it after 30 years? I think it has a lasting quality – something I never thought about while writing the book. In fact, my original intention was to produce twenty or so copies on a Xerox machine, just enough for my family. A secret pleasure has been in having representatives of some of the New York publishers say to me, “We made a mistake.”
What is your philosophy on creating accessible, solid writing? Re-write. Re-write. Re-write. I do not believe writing of any merit begins until the third draft – and I mean re-writing every page, every sentence, every word. I think haste, coupled with arrogance (“I’ve nailed it with my first shot. . .”), is a mixture for doom. Writing is basically simple: you put one word behind another. To do it well requires repeated work and a lot more effort than quickflash impulse. To do it brilliantly is almost impossible.
You build suspense, and teach classes on how others can too, within fiction like a surgeon leaving only what’s vital intact. What are a few tips on how folks can do something similar? This requires a book-length reply to address and even then, what works for one writer would be disaster for another. In conducting workshops, I do not have a Question and Answer session; rather, it’s a Question and Consideration session. But I will offer this: there are three basic ‘powers’ in writing – especially fiction of any genre: 1) verbs – pick the right one; 2) rhythm – it accounts for probably 70 percent of perceived good writing; 3) word selection – the gold nugget at the bottom of the pan.
Te r r y Kay / L I T ER A RY I N T ERV IEWS
You’ve mentioned Lottie from Taking Lottie Home is one of your favorite characters. What makes her special to you? Lottie escapes a miserable life using sex as a passport, which means she certainly isn’t an innocent. However, in her yearning, her tenderness, her giving, her dreamy wishing, she never loses her primary innocence, and, for me, that is the perfect character. That’s reason one. Reason two, I waited a long time to see the real face of the Lottie I had always imagined. One day, at a book signing, I looked up and saw her, and that was one of the grand experiences of my career.
How has your childhood and sense of home influenced your writing? Has it changed over the years? Everything I write – even those stories that seem antithetical to my early environment (think Dark Thirty) – is based on one element: Innocence. Is it immediately obvious? No. In fact, in my entire writing career, no one – critics, readers, friends, family – has ever connected the role it plays in all the stories. But there’s a simple reason: All stories are made of contrast – good and evil, right and wrong, the haves and the have nots, etc. I am a rural Southerner, reared in an extraordinary family where those extremes were made evident and emphasized often. Innocence was the heart of my first novel, The Year the Lights Came On. It was the soul of To Dance with the White Dog, the force of The King Who Made Paper Flowers, and, for me, it has been the pulse-beat of all the others. And it will be at the core of the last thing that will fall off these fingers, regardless of how flawed the words might be.
You have a new book on deck this year. Please tell us something about that story. The new book – by Mercer University Press – is titled The Forever Wish of Middy Sweet. It’s essentially a love story about two older people – both 70 – who where childhood sweethearts and who reunite after losing their spouses. He is a small-town retired history teacher, she a wealthy trophy wife suffering from a baffling disease.
What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in the publishing world over the span of your career? The mind-numbing number of books being published, primarily due to self-publishing, has produced a crowded field. When my first book was published in 1976, there were fewer than a dozen writers of fiction being published In Georgia. Now, due to the ease of self-publishing, there are hundreds. Sadly, lack of editing dooms any real chance of major success for most offerings – and I don’t strictly mean questions of grammar. The absence of content editing from insightful and experienced editors is even more grievous. Additionally, the lack of resources for even minor promotion hampers everyone who doesn’t have the financial backing of major publishers.
Do you have plans to release another collection of essays like Special Kay? I would enjoy something of that nature, but, no, I don’t have plans to do so. I think it would be fun to do another book of short stories, however, and if I have the energy for it, I might attempt that.
L I T ER A RY I N T ERV IEWS / Te r r y Kay
You’re a fan of poetry. Who are your favorite poets?
How does poetry fuse into your creative process?
Clifford, that’s a scary question. I’m not sure I have favorite poets. I have always been intrigued with poems that seem to latch onto my memory cells like Velcro, and those poems cover a lot of time and a lot of subjects – from Elizabeth Browning to Mary Oliver, from Alfred, Lord Tennyson to Byron Herbert Reece. I love Kipling, Walt Whitman, Frost, Sandburg, Wendell Berry. The list is long and filled with mesmerizing words.
It’s probably more influential than I understand, but to give you a non-romantic answer, I will offer one of my early descriptions about elements of writing: rhythm matters. Putting aside the ability of poetry to make statements or reveal elusive insights of the mysterious and magical, the simple power of rhythm subconsciously grabs a reader’s attention and stirs the imagination. To me, that is an essential of my writing.
I believe that a really grand poem is the distillation of an engaging novel and that an engaging novel is the full extension of an engaging poem.
How can we keep up with your new book and speaking engagements?
I’m not very accomplished at social media (it makes me uncomfortable to stand in the glare of that spotlight), but with the kindness of others (to borrow from Tennessee Williams’ Streetcar Named Desire), I hope to keep things posted on Facebook and on my website: www.terrykay.com.
/ L I T ER A RY I N T ERV IEWS
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L I T ER A RY I N T ERV IEWS / Alina Stefane s c u
Alina Stefanescu By Clifford Brooks
Who is Alina Stefanescu? What does spring mean to you? Alina Stefanescu is a 41 year-old-human who started writing to publish at 35 while homeschooling her three small mammals, one of whom had special needs. I wanted to be a writer as a child, and then I spent years doing everything else, including becoming a mother (which actually wasn’t on my list of dreams as a young person). I have always written. I have always found solace in reading books and studying the words of others, discovering a world wider than the narrow one I
was given, or the rigid one that was socially acceptable in Alabama. Spring this year means something different--it means watching the world continue its slow bloom, its gradual processes, as social, economic, and political uncertainty dominates our daily lives. COVID19 is the stuff of terrifying fiction, and I think it’s very challenging to be a writer in the world when the worst things you can imagine seem to be coming true.
Alina Stefane s c u / L I T ER A RY I N T ERV IE WS
What are you reading for pleasure? How is it affecting you? I am always quadri-fisting the cookie jar where books are concerned. Right now, I’m in love with Mary South’s short story collection, You Will Never Be Forgotten--it is as dark and terrible and exquisitely written--as well as Elaine Chiew’s The Heartsick Diaspora. I’m also obsessed with Marguerite Duras’ Me & Other Writings (Dorothy Project) as a vehicle for disembodied voice and, somehow, violence. Poetry-wise, I’m currently smitten by Elizabeth Deanna Morris Lakes’ Ashley Sugarnotch & the Wolf (Mason Jar Press), Calamities by Renee Gladman (Wave Books), Justice by Tomaz Salamun, Faylita Hick’s fabulous Hoodwitch (Acre Books), and Roy Guzman›s Catrachos (Graywolf Press). That is really just skimming the surface of current ardors in poetry. The surface, I tell you--the surface. I also can’t get over Laura Hershey: On the Life & Work of an American Master edited by Meg Day and Nikki Herd. It’s from the Unsung Masters Series by Pleiades Press, and both the essays and poetry are incredible. For inspiration and sheer valence, I love The Poem’s Country: Place & Poetic Practice, a collection of essays edited Shara Lessley and Bruce Snider.
How do you edit poetry? What’s your process? There isn’t one process for me. Often I return to drafts after reading poems that compel or incite or provoke me. I love reading other poets and learning from them. I love letting them speak to me at a formal and syntatical level. When all else fails, I re-read Paul Celan.
How does music play into your daily life? What’s the last concert you attended? The last show I attended was probably Pussy Riot’s fundraiser for Planned Parenthood and Yellowhammer Fund in Birmingham, Alabama. I was so proud of the community that showed up to support those who work vfor women and trans persons to maintain autonomy over their physical and reproductive health.
Tell us about your books. What do they mean to you and where can we find them? I’m not good at this. I’m not good at this part at all. I am trying to be better at it but in the meantime, Ralph Pennel’s review of Every Mask I Tried On really speaks to the fiction collection and what I hoped to accomplish in it. I am super grateful to editors and readers and friends who take the time to immerse themselves in writing and share those thoughts in print.
Who are your top 5 favorite novelists? Why those? This year. Today. My top five favorite novelists are Vassily Grossman, Herta Muller, Ocean Vuong, Deb Olin Unferth (whose Barn 8 everyone should read), and Josip Novakovich. But I’m a solid Aries, so my favoritisms are subject to change. That said, I love these novelists fiercely for their unique voices and their courage.
L I T ER A RY I N T ERV IEWS / Alina Stefane s c u
How does dancing slide into your creative life? I love dancing. My partner jokes that it’s my first language. I love getting lost in my body. As someone who learned what it meant to recover from physical trauma at an early age, I can’t take this body for granted. And I know that we never recover completely...we just buy time and hope to make the most of it. As of 2020, most dancing takes place in my imagination. I’ve been trying to recover from a back and hip injury since this summer, but all of that takes a back seat (as it should and must) with the new COVID19 pandemic. There are millions of humans like me canceling appointments for epidurals and pain management in order to put less stress on the medical system at this time. And there are worse cases--there are those whose treatment for life-threatening illnesses is being jeopardized by the pandemic. I think physical trauma at an early age changed the way I understood “health” and “wellness”--I don’t believe anyone has earned their good health or their “able” body, and I’m aware of the way ableism creeps into the nicest liberal circles as an assumption of “competence”. Not being able to dance or do all the things I love right now challenges me. But being given the chance to interrogate and reflect on my own ableist mindsets is more important than I can express in this short form. So I’ll rest in that.
What are three misconceptions about being a poet that drive you crazy? Ahhhh... this idea that poetry is a “hobby” or “dalliance” could only exist in a culture so deeply capitalist that value is ascribed entirely by ability to make money. And poets make nothing. Poets make nothing. Poets struggle to survive and to keep writing and to make space in their lives for creation. Even with the most supportive partners, we still struggle. We are asked not to just to be vulnerable in the writing itself--to expose and put our most intimate worries under a microscrope-but then we are asked to sell it, to defend it, to monetize it, to be sucked dry by the emotional demands of marketing while trying to protect our families or loved ones. I felt this very strongly after Stories To Read Aloud To Your Fetus Came Out. I felt guilty for having written poetry about abortion--and for allowing it to be published. There was no way to separate my motherself from my writing-self at readings. I don’t think I understood (or accepted) how much discomfort surrounds the topic of abortion-and how those privileged enough to have access really cannot imagine otherwise. I didn’t trust my own voice, and the shame surrounding abortion was very real in the space of extended family. So I hunkered down and started writing from a different space. I learned from that. I think my skin is tougher now... I hope I have more confidence in my writing. But that confidence comes at the expense of believing in american capitalism and its materialist seductions.
Alina Stefane s c u / L I T ER A RY I N T ERV IE WS
What’s your philosophy on life? You have been wrong about things. You will be wrong again. You are surrounded by people who are wrong about things, including Romania. You cannot change that. You cannot rip the wool from anyone’s eyes. The most you can do is offer mercy to those who have wronged. On that note--in a way that is absolutely inseparable from that note--prison reform is one of the critical issues of our time. Deportation camps and xenophobia could not thrive so hardily in soil that didn’t adopt the extremely punitive and racist measures of the US prison system. Read Bryan Stevenson. Follow Equal Justice Initiative. Work to turn the page.
What do you have on the horizon? How can we keep up with you online? I’m superstitious about horizons but I finished two poetry manuscripts this year, both of which are rooted in my experience as a romanian-alabamian, and I am hoping against hope that they find a publishing home. I’m also working on a hybrid fiction-memoir form that tastes like fear and looks like fresh dandelions. I have no idea what will come of it but thank you so much, Clifford, for giving me an opportunity to talk about the things that matter to me. I am deeply grateful to you and every editor who makes writing, publishing, and hoping possible for the rest of us.
You can find me online at: www.alinastefanescuwriter.com or @aliner at twitter saying impossible things.
Links to purchase books below: https://www.amazon.com/Choice-Words-Abortion-Annie-Finch/dp/1642591483/ https://www.alinastefanescuwriter.com/stories-to-read-aloud-to-your-fetus https://www.alinastefanescuwriter.com/every-mask-i-tried-on
L I T ER A RY I N T ERV IEWS / C hr i s tophe r Mo ore
Christopher Moore By Clifford Brooks
How did your childhood shape the writer you are today? Is writing, in part, a practice of staying young. I was an only child, so I spent a lot of time on my own, reading. My father was a huge reader, who always spent one of his days off going to the library, where he would pick up a half-dozen books a week for himself, and a stack for me, even before I could read. Books held a high place in our house, and I
spent a lot of time exercising my imagination with stories. I donâ€™t view writing as a practice of staying young, but I do think the act of empathizing with characters of different ages forces one to look at the world through younger (and older) eyes.
C hr i s tophe r Mo ore / L I T ER A RY I N T ERV IE WS
You had numerous jobs before your writing career took off. What are your top 3 favorite jobs from that era? Do you have any side hustles to get the mind off words? My three favorite pre-writing jobs would be waiting tables, which was decent money, got me out of my head, and forced me to socially interact with people every night. Alternative rock DJ on an Indy station, which was creative and fun and a little manic. And grocery story night stock, which was physically hard work, but I was doing it at a time where that was good for me, plus we got to listen to rock and roll radio all night, eat pretty much anything we wanted, the money was good and because it was a union store, the benefits were terrific. As for side-hustles, I’ve done quite a few things over the years because I was interested, but very few for money.
What’s your philosophy on solid writing? What mantras do you repeat when you’re at the keyboard? I don’t really have a philosophy of writing. Ultimately, I guess, writing is communication, so it’s about reaching the reader and hoping your work invokes emotion. I don’t really have any mantras. It’s not a good idea to have words circling in your mind when you are trying to arrange words in original ways.
How does music play into your life and creative process? Music can inspire emotion in me that I hope to bring to my work. Movie soundtracks work well for that, since, essentially, that’s what they are designed to do (inspire emotion). I’m not able to listen to music with words while I work, but I do listen to chill music, mushroom jazz, trip-hop, whatever you might call it, but basically stuff with a beat that disappears into the background and will drown out ambient noise. I find myself rocking back and forth to the beat in my chair while I’m working, but if you asked me what I was listening to at the time I wouldn’t be able to tell you.
Where did you come up with the premise for Practical Demon Keeping? You ever thought about a sequel? The demon is mentioned in Lamb, and that’s stuck with me. How about an anniversary issue? For my 1st book, I knew I was going to write about a small coastal town in California, because that’s where I lived and that’s what I knew. (Write what you know, you know?) So, what you seen realize in small town, is every tomorrow is going to be like yesterday, so to have a story, I needed to bring something to town that would shake things up, a monster, that eats people. The demon bit was working backwards, trying to figure out how to get that monster there. I don’t think I’d do a sequel because Disney owns the film rights, therefore all the rights to the characters, and they’re rather tight-fisted with releasing those rights. If they ever make the film, I might consider a sequel.
L I T ER A RY I N T ERV IEWS / C hr i s tophe r Mo ore
You write about topics like politics, death, religion without being preachy or judgmental. How do you tackle such hot button topics with humor, and respect? I think it’s important to make characters relatable. To do that, you have to empathize with them. When you’re in a character’s head, you subscribe to all their strengths and insecurities, but you get a different point of view. Also, I learned to be forgiving toward my characters from reading Steinbeck. I learned that as humans we are all flawed, and those shared flaws is what defines our humanity. I try to bring that attitude toward my work.
The environment factors into all your books. I don’t feel it’s only to fill in the reader’s mental landscape. Especially in books like Fluke, there’s a deep awareness of the sea/nature. Is this intentional? Yes, but more as setting. Fluke, in its own weird way, is my only science fiction novel, although the science is biology. You can’t write about biology without talking about evolution, and you can’t talk about evolution without writing about the environment. I’ve lived on the coast most of my adult life, which is an interface between the wild and the civilized, and the impact of human civilization is always in your face. I suppose that comes out in my work, although I don’t think about it much.
What makes you happy? Good food, good company, good books, good movies.
What are you reading/listening to these days? Right now, I’m mostly reading research for the next book. Today, I’m reading about San Francisco’s Chinatown through history. I’m also reading Jonathan Lethem’s, The Feral Detective, and a Dan Turner, Private Eye novel from the 1940s. I don’t listen to much new music anymore because, as I said, I don’t listen to stuff with words when I’m writing and in the car I listen to podcasts and audio books. When I work out or run I listen to the Podrunner Podcast, which is mostly EDM mixed to certain beats. I’m woefully out of touch with new music for someone who was, at one time, an alternative rock DJ.
In Fool and The Serpent of Venice you take on the world of Shakespeare with a smattering of Poe. You built a new reality with the Bard and Raven in mind. Why? What’s the draw? How much research went into it? The connection was all about the setting. Othello, The Merchant of Venice, and The Cask of Amontillado were all set in Venice, and the Poe story features a fool who is walled up in dungeon. It just fit together for what I wanted to do. The research was mostly historical. I was going to use my character Pocket, the fool, who finished up the book Fool at the end of a mythical 13th century, so I focused my research on the period, rather than the time period of the Shakespeare plays, which were set in the 16th century. I did take a couple of trips to Venice. On the first trip I saw these great, iron, well heads, that are raised six feet or so about the street to keep salt water from getting into the water supply during floods. When I saw them, I thought, “Well something creepy is going to come out of there.” And that something, was the serpent of Venice.
C hr i s tophe r Mo ore / L I T ER A RY I N T ERV IE WS
What do you feel is your responsibility to the reader? To entertain them. Make them feel as if their time reading was well spent.
What is your deal with waffles? I like ‘em. I went on a low carb diet about a year ago, and about that time I discovered a Paleo waffle mix that allowed me to eat something that tasted like dessert but didn’t have the calories. I started to really look forward to my waffle each day, and I got all wrapped up with different kinds of waffle makers and toppings. Waffles are a small and simple pleasure, and in times like these where horrific stuff is coming at you out of the news every day, small and simple pleasures are important. Waffles are sort of a metaphor for enjoying the moment.
Please tell us about any new projects and how we can keep up with you online. Right now, I’m working on a sequel to Noir, my 1940s tough guy novel. I’ll be touring for Shakespeare for Squirrels, my 3rd book of Pocket of Dog Snogging, in May 2020, and that’s about it for now. I’m @ theauthorguy on Twitter, my web site is chrismoore.com, and I’m on Facebook as @theauthorguy, although I don’t interact on FB much, it mainly functions as announcements for book releases and tour dates.
You can find the Authorguy at: http://chrismoore.com
Or on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/theauthorguy?ref=sgm
On Twitter at: twitter.com/TheAuthorGuy
L I T ER A RY I N T ERV IEWS / Tyre e D aye
Tyree Daye By Clifford Brooks
What defines Tyree Daye as a poet? I am a southern poet that writes narrative poems with moments of a lyrical burst. Usually, the environment is included in my poetry. Still, I wouldnâ€™t consider myself a nature poet because though nature is featured, the people are generally at the center of my work.
Tyre e D aye / L I T ER A RY I N T ERV IEWS
Whose poetic tradition do you further? What of your own traditions make it into your work?
How does music factor into your creative process? Do you believe music and poetry are blood kin? How?
My poetry teachers were Dorianne Laux, Joseph Millar, Eduardo C. Corral, Vievee Francis. These poets having different poetic styles has allowed me to move between schools. I am a confessional southern poet of the heart and, I try to further the poets of that tribe.
I listen to music as I write. I listen to music when I’m looking for new poems and ideas. Usually, I’m trying to capture the tone in that song. Well, it’s always been about the music of my lines first, then the logic. I’ll say that poetry is not dependent on music like song lyrics are. A poem can stand only. Most song lyrics need the music to accompany it. Who are three living poets you believe aren’t getting attention they deserve? The poets Nabila Lovelace, Desnity Hemphill, Bryce Emley are so talented!
Tell us about River Hymns. River Hymns was my thesis while I was in my MFA program at North Carolina State University. It explores the love, joy, and traumas of my southern heritage. River Hymns invites the reader into the complex lineage of the values, contradictions, and secrets of a southern family. These poems reflect on the rich legacy of a young black man’s ancestry: what to use, what to leave behind, and what haunts.
What is your responsibility as a poet to your reader? I think our responsibility as poets is to tell your truth and to write the hard stuff (which is the hardest part). Also, bring up younger poets behind you, teach them of the craft of writing from inside their bodies.
What projects do you have coming up? How do we keep up with you? My second collection Cardinal is forthcoming with Copper Canyon Press this year. Cardinal explores narratives around the Great Migration and my family’s own migration. Cardinal is continuously asking the question, where can black go to be safe? I’m currently writing new poems that explore Dorothea Lasky Metyaphsyhical “I,” and asking the question of what does my “I” have to become in a world always reaching towards death? And what must I do to “you” the reader to bring you along?
L I T ER A RY I N T ERV IEWS / T im G aut re q u x
Tim Gautreaux By Clifford Brooks
What defines you as a novelist? Which character traits best-designed you for the task of storytelling? Probably my patience, a quality required in revision. When a writer puts aside what he’s written and comes back to it a week later, he sees the many ways it could be better. He revises it again and becomes satisfied. Then he picks up the ms a month later and wonders how he could have written so badly. This happens over and over until he gets it as right as he can. Sometimes I’ve rewritten a short story for six months like this,
changing the gender of the main character, adding a new ending, burning down a house then cutting that scene out, purifying the dialogue until it’s authentic, cutting dozens of details that don’t matter and adding dozens that do. It takes a lot of patience to turn a complex narrative into something the reader wants to read more than once.
T im G aut re q u x / L I T ER A RY I N T ERV IEWS
Your short stories are striking in their cast of players from various time periods. Even in that variety there’s a shared familiarity between story and reader. How do you craft such convincing short stories?
and makes them a little better, drawing lines through adverbs and zombies.
By always keeping the reader in mind. When I’m writing I sometimes pretend that I’m in a hot auditorium at 2:30 in the afternoon reading fiction to 500 non-English majors who have enjoyed a heavy lunch and have no idea who I am. I write to keep them awake, to earn their interest, to make them curious and to make them sort of like the not-solikeable characters in the tale, and bring them to the point where they feel compassion for these written strangers.
I guess you mean differences in writing them. There are few similarities. I never plan or outline a short story. It’s only 6500 words max, so you can’t get too lost. But woe to the writer who doesn’t use a rudimentary outline for a novel that lets him think things through to begin with so he won’t spend six months writing a 35,000 word section that he discovers is irrelevant, a drag on the narrative, and has to be used to wrap fish guts for the trash. The outline can change as he writes through the project, but it is kind of a governor to control what he’s doing. You can always spot a novel written with no planning because it at least 800 pages long and doesn’t sell. The leviathans that do sell were written from rudimentary outlines. The main difference between novels and short stories is how the language is cultivated. I can work a short story over and over, massaging sentences, key passages and of course the endings which I rewrite, throw away, add, expand and fritter with until the words do what I want. You can’t do that with a novel unless you are called to spend 5 or 6 years making the language as beautiful as everything else in the book.
What’s your opinion on teaching creative writing? How much of it can be taught? Is there a genetic gift in some for craft? Each student that wants to learn how to write a short story brings a different writing gift to the table. Most of the gifts are bad, but the writing teacher’s job is to improve the gift. Some students have limited vocabularies and write “see Jack run” sentences. So I assign a couple minimalist stories to read and tell them that you can execute a good plot line and keep a reader engaged with lean and mean writing that is to the point, economical, where each simple word carries the meaning as in a story like “Hills Like White Elephants.” Some students bring a gift wrapped in Victorian diction because they read Poe (too much) as youngsters. I have them read some stories that were published last year and talk about outdated language and clichés and let them know that it’s not okay to write narratives about people trapped inside brick walls anymore, and that people who talk to ravens are off their meds. That’s what a creative writing teacher does: modify awful gifts. Sometimes the gifts are pretty good, so the teacher pulls out his red pen
What are the similarities and differences between short stories and novels?
Same Place, Same Things, and The Next Step in the Dance are equally well-paced and elegant. How do you do that? I used to write poetry.
What is your responsibility as a writer to your current and future readers? To entertain them and let them know what’s important.
L I T ER A RY I N T ERV IEWS / T im G aut re q u x
How do you feel about William Faulkner? While you possess a literary succinctness more in line with Hemingway, your Southern mythology, visceral/conflicted cast put Faulkner on the tip of my tongue.
What are the pros and cons of today’s publishing world?
I never read much Faulkner. I like Spotted Horses
Maybe. I ain’t dead yet.
very much. I like a part of “The Bear.” “Barn Burning” is a great story. I guess the one about the pervert cutting a parakeet up with a pair of pinking shears is okay, but I could never forgive Mr. F for the first long part of Absalom, Absalom. If he had turned that in to me in an English course, I’d have flunked him myself.
What do you do to disconnect from the world? How do you find rejuvenation? I don’t write for long periods. I volunteer at a local railroad museum where I am a certified steam locomotive fireman and sometimes, they let me run the thing.
Which of your books is a quiet, personal favorite? What characters do you cherish most? Why? I like The Missing and I like the main character for his passivity and the fact that he refused to shoot dead about ten people in that book that sorely deserved it. I like the way he understands one of the world’s greatest truths: that revenge is absolutely worthless and always does more damage to the self than to the other.
Don’t know. I have nothing to do with it.
Do you have any new projects on deck?
How do we keep up with you in regards to books and reading engagements? I stay below radar. It’s comfy down here.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers? Write stories that contain at least one quark of compassion and, more importantly, deal with questions of values. Walker Percy once told me that if a narrative did not in some way touch on a character’s innate struggle between right and wrong, he didn’t find it interesting. It’s the only topic that matters from Adam and Eve all the way to Kim Jung Un. Why would you write about anything else!
L I T ER A RY I N T ERV IEWS / Ric hard Kraw ie c
Jacar Press Interview with
Richard Krawiec By Clifford Brooks
What makes your press unique? How does your backstory put you apart from the rest? What makes Jacar Press unique is that we are a community-active press. That means in addition to publishing poetry we support progressive individuals and organizations seeking to make change in their communities, to date over two dozen. Some of this support comes in the form of direct donations, some in workshops offered, or other ways - sales from Resisting Arrest, edited by Tony Medina, went to support scholarships that helped meet college expenses for students in D.C. and Atlanta; we supported the Women’s Theater Festival by purchasing theater tickets for LGBTQIA teens; we donated $600 worth of books for a summer youth reading program. We also provide free and low-cost workshops and conferences
featuring major poets those in our area would otherwise never get a chance to experience - like Ilya Kaminsky, Marilyn Nelson, Li-Young Lee, Zeina Hashem Beck. We operate these workshops at a loss as part of our community service, so we can make them affordable. In addition, we honor other literary presses through our $500 Julie Suk Award for best book published by a literary press each year. Just as important to us as the award is that we publicize the two dozen or so presses that make the long list of finalists, so people can learn about important work other presses are publishing. Jacar Press was founded the first year of Obama’s presidency, inspired by his early vision of hope and change.
Ric hard Kraw ie c / L I T ER A RY I N T ERV IE WS
What were some of the hidden challenges in creating your press? Like all presses starting out, establishing credibility was a challenge. Making sure we received strong submissions for our books and magazine and didn’t resort to publishing our friends. To that end we were supported early by well-known poets who valued our vision of a community active press. Dorianne Laux and Toi Derricote, for example, were among our first competition judges. Dorianne, as well as Claudia Emerson, MacArthur Genius Awardee Thylias Moss and others sent poems for One, our international literary magazine. Also, funding is an issue. We do not receive university support, or grants, like non-profit presses - some of which, by the way, take in $3 million in revenue per year. We do rely on booksales and donations.
Please give us a few do’s and don’ts when it comes to submitting material. What do we do? What should we avoid? Read what we publish. It’s difficult to define a ‘Jacar Press book’ but if you read the work of our writers you will get at least a sense of the quality of work we are looking for, some idea of style. We do tend towards lyricism, but accessibility is important too. Voices that have something to say we favor more than literary gamesmanship. We like poems that explore the world. Although progressive, we do not look for preachy political poetry, even if we agree with your political positions. We favor poetry over polemic. Avoid pumping up your resume by listing dozens of obscure magazines, awards in local contests, or your multiple nominations for Pushcart Prize. That has no bearing on how we read your work. If you want to establish credentials list 2-3 good publications, an award or two, and skip all mention of nominations.
Who or what press/ publisher inspired you to create your own? Back in the 1970s I discovered Alice James Books, housed at the time in a small storefront in Cambridge, MA. They were publishing exclusively women’s poetry, which had been grossly undervalued on the literary scene. They also operated as a co-operative. At the time, the ‘literary magazine establishment’ tipped their noses up at both women’s poetry and the idea of a co-operative. Now, decades later, Alice James Books is one of the major literary presses in the country. Jacar Press isn’t co-operative, but we have adapted some elements of that model by including poets we publish as readers and editors for our competitions and magazines. That helps with the judging, because those writers have a direct stake in choosing the strongest manuscripts, since they publish with us. It has helped establish a true sense of community, too, among our writers.
Do you have any announcements to make about issues or projects on the horizon? Our 10th Annual Gathering of Poets will be taking place the weekend of Sept 5 at the Historic Brookstown Inn in Winston-Salem. This year we are featuring Ilya Kaminsky, Kamilah Aisha Moon, Traci Brimhall, Helene Cardona, Brian Turner, and Jessica Traynor - a third-wave feminist poet from Ireland. We also have many new books coming out, including chapbooks by TR Hummer, Simon Baega and Julie Suk, full-length collections by Crystal Simone Smith and Alison Stone. Our competitions for full-length and chapbook manuscripts are now open. Unfortunately, with coronavirus, we’ve had to scrap our intended readings in Chicago, New York, Boston and our appearances at book festivals in Minnesota and Virginia.
L I T ER A RY I N T ERV IEWS / Ric hard Kraw ie c
Social media: How does it play into your operation? Do you put a spin on it? Natalie Patterson, our Assistant Editor, who came to us first as an intern, handles our social media. We do not use it as primary sales platforms. Twitter in particular we focus on putting poetry out into the world, our own and others, without saying - go buy these books. Instagram we’re still playing around with, but mostly posting beautiful or playful images not necessarily connected to our books. Again, putting beauty into the world. I also share reviews of my French novels there. Facebook is a site where I bloviate and argue politics and culture on my wall. Our Jacar Press page takes a traditional approach to sharing news of readings, publications, etc.
How can we keep up with you online and across social media? Our website is http://jacarpress.com/ Twitter @ jacarpress On Facebook, you can follow Jacar Press. Instagram our official name is either JacarPress of richardjkrawiec - I’m not sure, and that’s on me. I’m still playing around with that :)
/ L I T ER A RY I N T ERV IEWS
L I T ER A RY I N T ERV IEWS / Rythm & Bone s P re s s
Rhythm & Bones Press Interview with
Tianna G. Hansen Founder and Editor-in-Chief By Clifford Brooks
What makes your press unique? How does your backstory put you apart from the rest? My press, Rhythm & Bones, focuses on turning trauma into art, helping authors find a way to voice what they have experienced and turn it into a beautiful, positive outlet, a work of art. All of our books deal with trauma in some way. Trauma for us covers many areas. Survivors of sexual abuse and assault are dear to our hearts, as I am one as well, and this is the main reason I was inspired to create the press in the first place. When I began to write
about my traumatic experiences, I felt very alone. I wanted to share these stories, hoping they would help others feel less alone in their own struggles. There were a number of lit mags and journals which were welcoming and warm in accepting my stories, and that encouragement and validation (in a way) of what I had gone through made me want to go further, provide a type of home like that for others.Â
Rythm & Bone s P re s s / L I T ER A RY I N T ERV IE WS Trauma can occur in so many ways. It can be a car accident; childhood experiences including divorce and family baggage; relationships and losing friends (from death or otherwise); mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and so much more; illnesses, medical procedures, and chronic conditions; pain; despair; loss; the list can go on and on. Nearly everyone has experienced some type of trauma, and many people I’ve met along this journey are turning it into art. No, the point of “going through something” isn’t to make art or make anything beautiful out of devastating situations and experiences, but it helps, to create out of pain. To give life to something you can feel proud of when you’ve lost hope in everything else is affirming and useful. And those are the stories I want to give home to at Rhythm & Bones Press. That’s what makes us unique. I do try to accept and publish stories that offer glimmers of hope, too. To show strength and healing and forging a path through deep forests of trauma by offering safe shelter and hearts to listen on the other side. We have published 10 collections over the past year (2019-2020), and we plan to continue growing our catalogue in the years to come. Our first release of 2020 was C. Aloysius Mariotti’s debut collection of poetry and prose, Scream into my Mouth as a Waterfall (March 12, 2020). The book explores the existence of the self and the ways memories evolve with time to define who we are. Pieces in the book deal with childhood trauma, adult anxiety, lost relatives, and desert landscapes. We were fortunate to have cover art designed by Mathew Yates and include 6 full-color paintings of theirs inside the book, along with art by Stuart Buck. Our April release is Violence/Joy/Chaos by Jane Marshall Fleming, exploring coming out on the other side of trauma, creating a life for yourself, moving beyond abusive relationships, and also enduring loss and mental illness. The cover art for this book is painted by her twin brother, Jordan Aman, and the book was recently featured in The Daily Texan.
My press was born out of chaos, and exists sometimes still in chaos, but we celebrate the beauty and fluid nature of indie publishing. We began the press as a literary magazine focused on publishing “dark” literature, grew and expanded into a small press with our first publication of You Are Not Your Rape, an anthology pulling together 180 unique voices speaking out from personal stories of sexual abuse and assault. Our mission is to highlight those who have overcome trauma, to give a home to their voices and help amplify them, to let others know they are not alone, and help writers find courage and strength in sharing difficult stories. We work closely with all of our authors and ensure their vision and their voices are respected and heard. We do not believe in any type of discrimination, and lead with positivity and respect in all our endeavors. There are so many wonderful, brilliant presses and literary citizens in the world who do the same and we are thankful for their inspiration and guidance as we have grown into a small press.
What were some of the hidden challenges in creating your press? This is probably a common answer, but the financial burden behind creating and maintaining a press is one of my biggest challenges. It costs me money to keep a website and domain, to purchase ISBNs, to print and publish books, and so much more that we do. It’s also a major time-suck (for which I don’t get paid). Basically, it’s like running a full-time job on stolen midnight hours, squeezing in time for editing and designing books and creating literature around a full-time day job, pushing past daily struggles, the grind, the burnout (while also balancing being a writer and poet myself).
L I T ER A RY I N T ERV IEWS / Rythm & Bone s P re s s I sometimes worry I have given up my life as a writer to become an editor. But I want to keep the balance, and my own writing alongside helping share others’ work and stories. Working as an editor can be a great burden with a lot of responsibility, and it isn’t something I take lightly. It’s a lot of work, much of it thankless, but there are golden moments throughout the experience that make me remember it’s all worthwhile. It is one of the most beautiful things I have created, and I wouldn’t give it up for the world. While I don’t make money off it (but one day dream of turning it into a sustainable business), the payment for me is when that book comes fresh off the press – when I see it entering homes of readers and their excitement, when I hear how something we have published has touched the lives of our readers. Those moments make every challenge worth it.
Please give us a few do’s and don’ts when it comes to submitting material. What do we do? What should we avoid? Do – Follow submission guidelines. It’s been said so many times before by so many other editors, but following our guidelines when submitting is so important. It not only saves time and frustration for us, but ensures your work will receive the proper attention it deserves. Do – Introduce yourself, tell us about your work. Especially when submitting a manuscript for our consideration, we want to learn about you and who you are, how you’ve come to create the book, what it means to you. Don’t – Submit when we are closed. We haven’t had many open submission periods of manuscripts solely because it is mostly a one-woman show. I don’t have the time or ability to give attention to manuscripts as they deserve on a regular basis yet (maybe someday).
Don’t – Feel downtrodden on your work! Give yourself a chance. When I’ve gotten some lit mag submissions from people who don’t believe in their work, it makes me sad. All writers struggle with imposter syndrome, for the most part, so don’t feel like you aren’t talented just because you’ve been rejected by other places before.
Who or what press/ publisher inspired you to create your own? When we were just beginning, we got a lot of support from the indie lit community which we will always be grateful for. A huge shout-out to Mark of Hedgehog Poetry Press for giving us unlimited advice on the publishing process when we were fledgling, and for everyone else who has offered guidance and support in every single way since we were founded. There have been countless editors who have shown us support and encouraged us to keep going, including Magda of Mookychick, Sam of Pussy Magic, Renee of Twist in Time, Nadia of Moonchild Mag, and many others. There isn’t any particular press/publisher who inspired us to create our own, but so many of them which we watched, acknowledged, even admired enough to take ideas from. We have “cherry-picked” design ideas from other books, and our focus in the beginning which carries on now is being good literary citizens. Supporting the presses and publishers around us by buying as many books as possible, admiring how they are designing and creating books. A few of these include Riverhead, TinHouse, Graywolf Press.
Rythm & Bone s P re s s / L I T ER A RY I N T ERV IE WS
Do you have any announcements to make about issues or projects on the horizon? There are infinite plans we have for the future, both through the lit mag and our press work. We have been discussing with Charlie Allison, one of our editors, a new themed issue of our lit mag which will hopefully be announced and opened for submissions soon (we did take a bit of a hiatus on lit mag publishing to get our feet on the ground with the press this year). We are currently working to publish the rest of our upcoming 2020 releases, as well as narrow down our BoneChaps (a new project of ours featuring chapbook selections) into a Short List and select titles from there for publication. Our original plan was to publish some of these titles as chapbooks over the summer, and the rest in 2021, and we hope to honor that.
The next book we are releasing is Violence/Joy/ Chaos, a hybrid collection of essays and poems in memoir by Jane Marshall Fleming (April 1, 2020). We will be publishing our first collection of short fiction, Leaving Arizona, by Justin Hunter in May 2020, which is another debut for the author. This book explores characters set in the desert, and â€œpacks a punchâ€? with its minimalist fiction. In June, we are working with Paul Rowe who edited the anthology Vioces for the Cure: An Anthology by People Living with ALS and their Caregivers, which is a big undertaking for us to help raise money toward ALS research and amplify voices of those living with ALS, those caring for people living with ALS, and the battle to find a cure. We hope to have a Kickstarter in place to fundraise for this project soon.
L I T ER A RY I N T ERV IEWS / Rythm & Bone s P re s s Our summer is to-be-determined as far as publications go, but we do have a very exciting book in mind for that which we are still being quiet about at this time. It is watery and beautiful, though, and comes from an author living across the world from us (always exciting!). We begin preorders April 1st for Kate Garrettâ€™s newest collection with us, A View from the Phantasmagoria: Haunts, Hexes, Healing (coming October 2020), a pamphlet poems exploring life with premenstrual dysmorphic disorder (pmdd) and how one can feel haunted by themselves.
Our final scheduled release for 2020 is coming in November, and is the third book of poetry by Stuart Buck, Portrait of a Man on Fire. This book explores everything from yearning and rapture to loneliness, love, self-discovery, and beauty in unexpected images and moments the way only Stuart can bring.
Rythm & Bone s P re s s / L I T ER A RY I N T ERV IE WS An exciting new addition this year to our books is designing double-sided broadsides and bookmarks to go along with preorders. It’s been a fun way to promote pieces of the work and test my design skills. I have a lot of fun making them and sharing them, and it’s a great addition to the orders. Check out all our titles and more on rhythmnbone. com (under the ‘Books’ tab).
Social media: How does it play into your operation? Do you put a spin on it? We put a lot of stock in our social media presence, particularly on Twitter. One of the most exciting things is growing a community out of the work we share, finding support in survivors and helping share their stories and spread their voices, and giving hope to others. We have always felt like there are some amazing people on social media (despite some of the dark sides of the community), and we hope to always have a presence there. We love social media for hosting giveaways, so give us a follow if you don’t yet. We will also post exclusive sales codes and other exciting ways to support us, our authors, and still save your bank. We realize not everyone is financially able to support us, so we remind you that even just sharing our posts or engaging with us makes us feel like we are making some sort of difference and being seen. We love interacting with our followers and feeling like we are reaching audiences of people from around the world.
How can we keep up with you online and across social media? If you see a post you like or a new book we are promoting, any likes, shares or interactions in any way helps motivate us forward. To know we are creating work that speaks to others, inspires them, allows them to feel hope that their stories can also find a loving home. Their voice and stories matter. The coming together as a community gives such a massive amount of encouragement to continue going and growing our press. Follow us on Twitter @rhythmboneslit (this is also our Facebook handle, though we aren’t as active on there) and find us on Instagram @rhythmbonespress. You can also always find us at rhythmnbone.com (sign up for our newsletter for announcements, upcoming submission opportunities, and new releases) and check out our newest projects as far as book publications at rhythmnbone.com/books. Thank you, Clifford and Blue Mountain Review, for taking the time to feature me and Rhythm & Bones Press. It’s an honor to receive recognition and have the opportunity to highlight a little of what we do!
L I T ER A RY I N T ERV IEWS / Hellb ore P re s s
The Hellebore Press Interview with
Denise Nichole Editor-in-Chief By Clifford Brooks
What makes your press unique? How does your backstory put you apart from the rest? The Hellebore Press blossomed out of pure frustration with the publishing industry. It was my mission to create a space that was authentic and inclusive from the start. Not as an afterthought or as an amendment to the press- but as the foundation.Â
Immigrants, Refugees, Students, Black, Latinx, Women, Asian, LGBT+, Indigenous, Disabled, Neurodiverse, and Nonbinary writers, poets, and artists are often tokenized and marginalized by the publishing industry. Because I am a publisher, educator, and writer who is Black and Mexican, I recognize these disparities- which is why my mission is one of urgency. Rage. Determination.
Hellb ore P re s s / L I T ER A RY I N T ERV IE WS I founded The Hellebore Press to honor the narratives of underrepresented voices. We explore darker themes to illuminate the truth and vulnerability of the human experience. The Hellebore Press is part of how I uplift my community and mobilize upcoming generations who are still trying to discover their path. My students and family motivate me to persevere. Fierce compassion is at the root of all that I do.
What were some of the hidden challenges in creating your press? Operating a press is incredibly rewarding and re-energizing but filled with many challenges. Publishing and editing magazines and forthcoming chapbooks and anthologies as a sole effort can become isolating. Many writers and editors feel the weight of loneliness. Technology allows us to feel more connected but can also disconnect us from the realities we live in. Sometimes, I feel invisible- when my efforts are not recognized or when my stress level is especially high but I am still expected to perform and produce. That in itself can become draining leading me to feel exhausted and depleted. I have dealt with anxiety and depression since I was a child- which causes many internal battles of doubt- often resulting me to withdraw further and further into myself. But I conceal it so well. I often hide my struggles because I do not want to burden anybody. But that creates an impossible standard and expectation for myself. You know?
Yet, that will not deter me or us. We should be open about it. We should confront it. Even though there is so much pressure and so much at stake, it is important to find the balance. I am learning how to be open and honest with myself and others. I am learning how to set healthy boundaries so that I can navigate the new and hidden challenges of owning an indie publishing org. And I am confident that I will persevere.
Please give us a few doâ€™s and donâ€™ts when it comes to submitting material. What do we do? What should we avoid? Oh my. This is a long one folks! Submission Guidelines are different for every publisher. But when I review submissions for The Hellebore Press, I always appreciate a warm greeting and introduction. Brief context and background information reveals new meanings that may not always be evident to the reader. I try my best to provide feedback for work that may not have been selected for publication but is still very promising. So I hope that writers and poets know that my comments are genuine and sincere. However, I do not condone impatience, disrespect, and harassment. Projecting those frustrations onto the editor can become concerning. It is a form of harassment that many editors and publishers deal with in private. But thankfully there are editors who call it out and share their experiences. I greatly admire Christine Taylor of Kissing Dynamite Poetry who has been one of the leading voices in demanding accountability.
There are times when self-perseveration and self-care take precedence- though by nature, I put everything and everyone before my own needs. Truthfully, publishing and editing is filled with many economical, financial, and social barriers that are often not spoken about.
L I T ER A RY I N T ERV IEWS / Hellb ore P re s s Additionally, writers and poets who are not open to revising their work are missing out on a valuable opportunity to grow and improve. When editors take the time to offer suggestions and to workshop a piece, it is because they believe in the author and their work. When I offer these services, it is with the best intention in mind. I would never overstep. Nor would I want to compromise the integrity of their work. My encouragement to writers and poets who want to submit to The Hellebore Press is to familiarize yourself with the guidelines, ask questions (I always respond!), read the (free!) digital issues and to interact with our poets, writers, and artists. It is amazing to see the connections that develop through exchanges about the craft and content. Oh! And I always appreciate readers who submit. The care and attention they apply to their work is evident in their submissions.
Who or what press/publisher inspired you to create your own? There are so many! But I will list a notable selection below. I am truly fortunate to join the ranks of other indie magazines and publishers who are operated by editors of color: Kissing Dynamite Poetry The Offing Royal Rose Apogee Winter Tangerine Honeysuckle Press Linden Avenue Crepe and Penn Shade Literary Arts FIYAH Literary Magazine Nat. Brut Yellow Zine Underblong The Poetry Annals MarĂas at Sampaguitas
Do you have any announcements to make about issues or projects on the horizon? Yes! A couple actually. The Hellebore Press is currently seeking submissions for our next anthology series which will focus on topics that are currently affecting our society including: immigration, identity, culture, climate change, mental health, healthcare, family, adolescence and parenthood. Additionally, we have a call for submissions that will focus on teens and young adults which just opened as part of a very special blog that is centered on the resilience and rebelliousness of youth. Pretty cool right? Other than that, keep an eye out for more information regarding The Hellebore Poetry Scholarship as well as the HUES Fellowship which will provide more academic and professional resources for writers, artists, and poets of color through scholarships and mentorship. But in these troubling times it is so important to rally together. We must advocate and create. Art heals. Creative expression fuels revolutionary change. The Hellebore Press is part of a movement that will not be silenced or ignored any longer. I hope these opportunities can help to assure others of just how much they are needed and valued.
How can we keep up with you online and across social media? To keep in touch with me personally, follow @DNicholeAndrews. Also, feel free to follow @TheHellebore and @HUESFoundation to stay up to date on the latest literary news. To check out free digital issues, visit: thehellebore.com.
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American Neolithic Terence Hawkins ““American Neolithic is a stunning, alarming, and deftly crafted read that has author Terence Hawkins’s novel achieving a similar literary status to the likes of George Orwell’s 1984“–Clint Travis, Midwest Book Review.
It’s the day after tomorrow. America is Police State Lite. The Bill of Rights has been swallowed by the Patriot Amendments. Science bends the knee to state-sponsored Creationism. The Supreme Court is powerless before the Patriot Tribunal and the Homeland Police upholding their motto, “Always Watching.” Enter Blingbling. Foreign-looking, undocumented, and apparently homeless, he’s implicated in a hip-hop murder. His lawyer, the hard-boiled Raleigh, keeps him from Homeland’s clutches until a routine DNA test exposes a secret that threatens to destroy his client, his career, and much more. Available at thecalliopegroup.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble
the skin o dreams: new and collected poems 1995-2018
Quraysh Ali Lansana “Quraysh Ali Lansana has woven a roadmap of poems and prophecy from Tulsa to Chicago, slowly breaking open the voices of history with each step. Follow the path on these pages to enter your own skin.” Tyehimba Jess, Pulitzer Prize winner, Olio
the skin of dreams is a remembering, an offering and a gathering of geographies. Traversing twenty-three years of earth and breath, Quraysh Ali Lansana’s first new and collected works roadmaps small town Oklahoma to southside Chicago in compelling poems that question, surprise and dare. As a direct descendent of the Black Arts Movement and last student of Miss Gwendolyn Brooks, Lansana explores the complicated internal and external terrain of Blackness and history from a post-King, post-Kennedy childhood through the election of the first non-White president while grappling with the definition of home. These are poems that cry, sing, scream and see. Available at thecalliopegroup.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble
L I T ER A RY I N T ERV IEWS / The S hore Maga z ine
The Shore By Clifford Brooks
What makes your journal unique? How does your backstory put you apart from the rest? What is interesting about The Shore is that it was started by three poets who either have taught or studied at Salisbury University, but are now located across the country. In this way, we all have foundational aesthetic preferences but also vary vastly as editors in what we argue to publish. Emma and Caroline worked with John as students at Salisbury and were encouraged to publish in our early writing days. And how I think this has translated is that we encourage (and publish!) submissions from writers who have been in the
game for decades, but we have also been the home to poetsâ€™ very first publications. We care not about the value of the name, but the quality of the work and I think this is something us three editors have had in common since the beginning. Also, we are dedicated to showcasing work that isnâ€™t afraid to challenge readers--whether intellectually, formally, emotionally or some combination. This commitment makes for a great variety of poems in each issue--I think readers can expect to be surprised and excited by each new issue we put out.
The S hore Maga z ine / L I T ER A RY I N T ERV IE WS
What were some of the hidden challenges in creating your literary magazine? I suppose our previous answer, our geographic and aesthetic distance from each other has been a challenge in the same way it has set us apart. We conduct all of our editorial meetings online and don’t have that opportunity to always be elbow-deep in the issue in person like we would probably like to be.
Please give us a few do’s and don’ts when it comes to submitting material. What do we do? What should we avoid? Do: follow submissions guidelines closely, check out one of our prior issues before submitting, pay attention to personal rejections, send us work you might be afraid to send elsewhere, and please proofread your work. Don’t: over-explain or include notes about how we should read the poem, give up on submitting to us if you get rejected once, send us work in genres we do not publish.
Who or what magazines inspired you to create your own? Caroline’s answers: The Adroit Journal, Puerto del Sol, Superstition Review, Muzzle Magazine.
Do you have any announcements to make about issues or projects on the horizon? We have a lot of exciting stuff on the horizon. We recently brought on three production assistants to help with social media, blogging, and reviews: Ella Flores, Tyler Truman Julian, and Adam Weeks. We are launching “Shore Things” within the next month or so which will keep in touch with our contributors and announce their accomplishments. The hope is to create a community with our contributors long past their issue’s release. We care about what they are doing beyond the confines of the issue they are published in. We are also planning on launching a review page where we will review new books or chapbooks from contributors from each issue.
Social media: How does it play into your operation? Do you put a spin on it? Social media promotion is huge for us. Yes, it allows us to reach a larger audience and we think we get more submissions from writers we probably would not receive were our social media presence not as large. But also, social media has allowed us to extend the issue beyond the pages of our website. It has allowed us to share and connect with writers from all over the world.
How can we keep up with you online and across social media? Follow us on Twitter @PoetryShore Follow us on Instagram @theshorepoetry
Emma’s answers: Beloit Poetry Journal, PANK Magazine, and Sugar House Review. John’s answers: Crazyhorse, 32 Poems, Copper Nickel, 45th Parallel, Poetry Northwest
L I T ER A RY I N T ERV IEWS / Blo o d O range Re v ie w
Blood Orange Review By Nia Tipton
What makes your journal unique? How does your backstory separate you from other small presses? We started an online literary journal at a time when the literary establishment was wary of online publishing. There was a general sense that if a writer published in an online journal it didn’t really “count.” This was 2006, and we were seeing dozens of journals find new audiences online. Many of the journals we looked to for inspiration during those early days are no longer in existence, mostly because building a journal and cultivating relationships is labor intensive. What kept us going is that we loved creating a space to share good writing—stories and poems and essays that reminded us why we like writing so damn much— without concentrating on prestige, paywalls, or print costs. Blood Orange Review represented our mutual effort to sustain our friendship and literary cred
through years of shit jobs, cross-country moves, and persistent rejection. The website began on Stephanie’s kitchen counter with a blood orange sliced open on a cutting board—the first image for the site. The name for the journal came from a poem about happiness written by Heather. But the writing came from everywhere, first from friends and then from people around the world. We’ve been so lucky to work with so many great writers throughout the years, and we were thrilled to send our “baby” to college to become part of Washington State University’s publishing program. We’re happy that Blood Orange Review is still publishing and going strong as one of the oldest running online journals—and we know that it is built on our shared love of literature, and the collective efforts of so many dedicated and talented writers, artists, and editors.
Blo o d O range Re v ie w / L I T ER A RY I N T ERV IE WS
What were some of the hidden challenges in creating your literary magazine?
This simple act in reading allows our readers to access the art—or craft. The way the thing is put together.
We know some people think getting contributors is the hardest part for a new journal, but we were surprised how quickly people started taking us seriously and sending us their work. The unexpected challenge was figuring out how to keep track of online submissions before online submission platforms (like Submittable) existed. We had an Excel spreadsheet, and we took turns with the tedious tasks of entering people’s names, emails, and titles as well as our responses to them. Another hidden challenge was that every holiday, every “sick” day, every day we should have been grading essays or doing laundry went toward making the next issue happen.
Our team meets weekly and we try to get as many eyes on all the submissions as possible to see what rises up in discussion. Sometimes, when we don’t get anything we really want to publish, we discuss an “obvious no” submission and attempt to articulate why it’s not working. The genre editors make the final decision, though we have a lot of conversations year-round.
How important is it for you to publish diverse voices in Blood Orange Review? Thank you for this question, Nia. One of our larger goals is to publish diverse voices, and we navigate this with care. Rather than advertising broadly, we community with writing organizations that support literary diversity, organizations like Cave Canem, Kimbilio, and VONA—to name a few. We want writers to know we’re not just trying to publish diversity for the sake of publishing diversity, and that’s difficult to show in an advertisement. We need to meet people, support, stand with, and celebrate their accomplishments on social media and in the real world. This has been more effective in bringing in voices we like to see in submissions.
What is your process behind reading and selecting submissions? Bryan generally asks our readers—whatever genre they’re reading—to answer two simple questions: 1) What decisions is the writer making? and 2) How do those decisions impact the story, essay, poem?
Are there any unique qualities that you look for in submissions? We actually have descriptions from our genre editors!!! Poetry: We want your fresh voices and challenging poems. We look for work of consequence and risk. Send us your resistances, your mystic letters, your incantations, spells, and curses. We want your American sonnets, your missives from the margins, erasures, and excursions to the unknown. Simply put, our editors read for the heart and not cleverness; show us something at stake in the work, and take us into your world. We ask only that you keep your submissions to five excursions. — Cameron McGill, Poetry Editor Nonfiction: Our creative nonfiction call reads, “Send us your personal essays, memoir scraps, philosophical investigations, and lyric interludes. Regardless of shape or sub-genre, we seek writing that advances--be it via narrative, structure, form, idea, or intellection. We seek prose in which language weighs as much as story (...or even more, in some cases). Experiment. Innovate. Invent against the borders.” Once we’re actually reading submissions, my interns and I focus on perpetually challenging and redefining our sense of what it means for an essay to be “a fit for BOR.” We love essay writing that feels fresh, precise, engaging, and unexpected--but, you know, unexpected in a
L I T ER A RY I N T ERV IEWS / Blo o d O range Re v ie w way that likewise makes the reader feel as though the story, the language, could just as easily be theirs. I don’t mean I want to read an essay that’s relatable; I mean I’m seeking empathy in all its forms. Prose at once contemplative, experimental, and unforgettable. Ultimately, if I wake up thinking about an essay I read two weeks ago in a meeting, if there’s something in the essay that won’t leave me alone...well, that’s a sign right there, isn’t it? —Lauren Westerfield, Creative Nonfiction Editor Fiction: We’re looking for the story that compels from the start, that feels so unique to that particular author that it’s impossible to imagine someone else telling the same story. The first line puts a spell on the reader, and each line after deepens the spell. Tell us something true and unique in the guise of fiction, and we’ll listen. In addition, we tend to like stories that unsettle reader expectations and do so in a relatively short space. —Jeff Jones, Fiction Editor
Do you have any announcements to make about issues or projects on the horizon? We recently published an interview with one of our favorite poets, Nikky Finney. Keep an eye out for selected work from her new book, Love Child’s Hotbed of Occasional Poetry: Poems & Artifacts. Finney is also judging our poetry contest, along with Rion Amilcar Scott (judging fiction) and Jenny Boully (judging nonfiction). We’ve extended the deadline for Contest submissions to May 15th!
What advice would you give writers who would like to submit to Blood Orange Review? Read as much as you can, including the work we publish in our journal. There are no side-steps. Writing is a practice. Every writer has to go into that place where they learn on their own how to study sentences, line breaks, dialogue, digression— the music. The majority of the work we get—that all journals get—includes work from writers who are still in the middle of processing or trying to bypass the real labor. Get at least one good teacher who can read you through a poem, story, essay and show you the way, how to think like a writer. Get busy & keep going.
How can we keep up with you online and across social media? We’re so lucky to have creative, innovative interns working in our marketing department this year and revamping our social media presence via Instagram @bloodorangereview. Find contest info, introductions to our staff and judges, excerpts from the latest volume, and news & events there and via Facebook. Finally, we have a few evolving features and surprises on deck on the Blood Orange Review site itself. Please visit often!
Blo o d O range Re v ie w / L I T ER A RY I N T ERV IE WS
Co-Founding Editor H.K. Hummel
Co-Founding Editor Stephanie Lenox
Editor-in-Chief Bryan Fry
Poetry Editor Cameron McGill
Nonfiction Editor Lauren W. Westerfield
Fiction Editor Jeff P. Jones
Copy Editor Johanna Heloise Abtahi
Associate Editor Donna L. Potts
Associate Editor Buddy Levy
Interviewer Nia Tipton
L I T ER A RY I N T ERV IEWS /
Music Interviews 146
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MUSIC I N T ERV IEWS / G e orgia S ou l C ounc il
Georgia Soul Council
By Clifford Brooks
Who are the Georgia Soul Council? GSC consists of Brian Didsbury – Bass & Vocals, Rob Robinson – Drums & Vocals, Johnny Halpin – Guitar, Adam Holliday – Organ, and Jordan Shalhoup – Tenor Sax We are 5 laid back musicians in Atlanta that like to play the same style of music, a style that doesn’t get played around here too often.
G e orgia S ou l C ounc il / MUSIC I N T ERV IE WS
What’s the meaning of the band’s name and how did you come up with it? We actually first got together to be the backing band for Otis Redding III for one show in 2010 in Atlanta. I was trying to come up with a name that sounded good after “Otis Redding III and the _______________________”. In a bathroom at McDonald’s on the way down to New Orleans to play a show with another group, “Georgia Soul Council” popped into my head. After the Otis gig, we decided to keep playing together, and the name stuck.
What’s the philosophy that drives your sound? As long as it’s funky, tasteful, and the sounds like 1969-74, we will dig on it. Brian Didsbury writes most of the songs, but we all collaborate on their development. All keys are either Organ or Rhodes, maybe a little Clav on occasion, nothing synth or electronic. I’d say that a little more than half or our stuff is instrumental, keeping focused on the grooves.
Who most influenced each member of the band? Instrument-wise Rob Robinson – Clyde Stubblefield & Jabo Starks (James Brown), Zak Najor (Greyboy Allstars) Johnny Halpin – Eric Krasno (Soulive) Adam Holliday – Booker T Jordan Shahloup – The Brecker Brothers Brian Didsbury – James Jamerson (Motown’s Funk Brothers), Paul Jackson (Headhunters)
If you could play in a weekend jam session with 5 other bands/ musicians alive or dead - who would it be and why? Fred Wesley, Maceo Parker, Pee Wee Ellis – (because that’s the funkiest horn section in history) Aretha Franklin, Curtis Mayfield – (no explanation needed)
How do you pick which songs to cover? We try out different covers in practice that pop into different peoples’ heads. The ones that really hit in practice, we’ll give ‘em a shot live, maybe work them in to the regular rotation if we’re feeling it. We try not to do big hits, or things that have been covered too often. Usually, we will take the song and bend it to our GSC organ grooving style. We did include three covers on our 1st releases, but didn’t put any on “What’s for Breakfast”. We’ll usually throw in one or two covers a set when we play live.
How do you stay professional as well as friends? We’re all pretty laid-back individuals, so it’s easy to stay friends. And we all value our time, so there’s none of that 6-hour practice stuff. 7-10, get it in.
What is your responsibility as a band to give the audience? It’s all about feeling the groove, connect with them on the funk plane. Whether that’s dancing or stink-face head bobbin’, it’s all good.
MUSIC I N T ERV IEWS / G e orgia S ou l C ounc il
Your albums are available on vinyl. Are you happy the medium is making a comeback? What else would you like to see come back to the music business? Oh, hell yeah, that’s been a great comeback, especially for our genre. There’s nothing like hearing your own stuff on vinyl. Huh, good question. More localized radio for sure, it was so much better before Clearchannel bought all the stations, it had actual variety and unsigned acts. Only community radio and college radio have that now, so that’s what I listen to on the airwaves.
What’s your tour schedule look like? How can we keep up with you online? Well, everything is unsure right now because of Covid-19. We just had to cancel a couple of shows for March and April. Our next show is scheduled for June at Venkman’s, but that’s assuming everything is back to normal by then. Either way, Facebook is definitely the best way to keep up with the shows and recordings of GSC. Instagram too. I feel for the touring musicians that are taking a big hit because of all this. Hopefully people continue to buy music in the meantime, and this can be over soon.
GSC links: Website/streaming discography - https:// georgiasoulcouncil1.bandcamp.com/ Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/ GeorgiaSoulCouncil/ GSC Spotify - https://open.spotify.com/ artist/4TNxZTtWE3TLEtIOTH0aCG GSC Pandora - https://www.pandora.com/station/ play/4167228840691113822 Vinyl Review - http://nostalgiaking. com/2017/05/03/georgia-soul-council-whats-forbreakfast/ YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/channel/ UCql7O5_2snnyXvjE0SWPTKg
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MUSIC I N T ERV IEWS / S unny S outh Blue s Band
Sunny South Blues Band
By Dusty Huggins
Tell us about the band’s formation and its evolution since its onset. We originally formed around 6 years ago, and went through a few lineup changes before arriving at what you see today. The core has been Ross and I (Cliff). We’ve been brothers for going on 30 years now and we’ve been friends at least 8 years or so. It’s really awesome to get to create music with your brother, and each time we play with Bo, Scott, and Reid we just get more and more in sync. It’s really uncanny how they can read our minds to get exactly what we want to come out of a groove. They are insanely hardworking guys and really interested in honing their crafts and contributing to the song in a positive, non-selfish way, which is super refreshing and I think you can definitely hear our collective happiness when we really hit the note.
S unny S outh Blue s Band / MUSIC I N T ERV IE WS
With all the music coming out of the Athens scene, how do you manage to stand out among the rest of the bands? We just try to play great shows. Every time we strap on the pads, we are trying to be the best anyone’s ever seen. Athens is incredibly dense with phenomenal bands. In a weekend you might have Lullwater, Universal Sigh, Dangfly, and Ty Manning all playing shows in the same town, sometimes in the same room, and it certainly makes it difficult to stand out but there is nothing if not plenty of really inspiring competition in Athens.
Is the Athens scene a very competitive group of musicians and bands or a very supportive scene to be in? I wouldn’t say that the bands are competitive with one another. Everyone is super supportive of each other. It’s really nice to look out in a crowd and see musicians that inspire you, enjoying your stuff as well. Seeing all the great bands within the scene consistently getting better and releasing not just good, but great, material day in and day out is super inspiring and motivating. We internalize that and use it to better ourselves to stay competitive.
What are some of the bands, other largest influences? We’re all huge fans of the Allman Brothers, Grateful Dead, and My Morning Jacket. Those guys inspire a lot of the writing and direction when jamming and the way that we structure songs.
If you could play any venue what would it be?
Where do you see the band in 5 years? Fatter, older, and better. Hopefully with a couple gilded gramophones for the mantle.
If you could build a 10-band music festival of any bands of all time, what would it be? Allman Brothers Grateful Dead My Morning Jacket Bob Dylan (in his prime) Frank Zappa Van Morrison Talking Heads Led Zeppelin James Brown The Band
What are some of your biggest goals for 2020? We have spent the last year really working on honing in on a great live show. In 2020 we want to get our ideas on tape and record with this lineup. I genuinely believe that every time we plug in together, we sound the best we’ve ever sounded. I would be remiss if we weren’t able to get a record out for the masses showcasing our abilities. We also want to keep playing stellar live shows! That’s our bread and butter!
We would love to play Red Rocks. What an incredible place!
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SPE CI A L F E AT U R E / Re d Phone Bo oth
Gatsby Smiles at the
Red Phone Booth (Atlanta) By Clifford Brooks & Andy Whitehorne with help from Robert Gwaltney
Winter is on the lam, hopping cold and naked through the streets of downtown Atlanta. And my pal and I, we are restless, searching for warmer, golden places. I’m an old sport, so I pull Andy along, chasing the White Rabbit to the old Dailey’s building: 17 Andrew Young International Boulevard NE. A flash of red—an antique phone box, and I know I am where I am meant to be. The Red Phone Booth. A speakeasy. A secret passcode is required. My thick fingers are numb and awkward, but my mind is nimble— clearer in the cold. The second time through and I hear the click. That sound of possibility. And we are inside, the place opening up and spreading
warm and understandingly as a Jay Gatsby smile. One of those rare smiles with a quality of reassurance in it. Through a hand-painted, back-lit ceiling, light filters, casting calming, amber hues like Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain. We make our way through the joint, a 1920’s inspired speakeasy, across the brick floors to lounge on high-backed Italian leather sofas. Others sit at a cozy distance, telling stories, eating gourmet bites—worries rolling off like tears in the rain. No vicious Dorothy Parkers here. The crowd is keen and top drawer. And there is a dress code. Everyone looks swell.
Re d Phone Bo oth / SPE CI A L F E AT U R E Right away, I know this ain’t your average gin-mill. At the honey onyx bar, a team of drink doctors tend and heal, wielding concoctions named “vaccines” and “prescriptions”. And the impressive array of top shelf liquors (180 whiskeys to be exact) guarantees a cure for what ails. And baby, Gatsby’s got a fever! Like the bar, respect is paid to the custom-built humidor featuring over 130 distinct selections. This is not “a cigar bar.” It’s the granddaddy of sophistication. Just another example of how The Red Phone Booth makes every effort to ensure your satisfaction. And the wangdoodle? It’s smokin’—spanning from the Rat Pack to Earth, Wind, and Fire. More than once, conversation stopped to say, “I love this song.”
Andy and I, we are hip to jive, both of us singing along, drifting in the easy flow that leads you to the pool table and private mafia-style kitchen in the back of the speakeasy. We stay that way, my friend and me. Enjoying the night. Both of us boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. Basking in the Gatsby glow of the Red Phone Booth’s smile—a thing concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. This is the first in a series of features to come featuring this establishment. To keep this in check we’ve omitted a few key pieces you’ll need to read more about in our summer issue. For now, just relax and tune into the interview featuring the Red Phone Booth operators.
SPE CI A L F E AT U R E / Re d Phone Bo oth
The Red Phone Booth Interview
Greg Grant & Stephen de Haan (Operating Partners) By Clifford Brooks
Please tell us a bit about yourself. What in life prepared you to take charge of The Red Phone Booth? GG: I was introduced to this industry 35 years ago and developed a strong desire and passion to learn about and create my own inspiring dishes. I grew up standing alongside my West Indian mother, who used dozens of unique ingredients in her own cooking. As my time and experience in the industry grew, I found a passion for exceptional wines and spirits where I came to realize that bourbon had stolen my heart. I was at a tipping point, and the final push was my intense love for the hospitality side of the industry. Creating new relationships, meeting perfect strangersâ€Śit was infectious and became the heart and soul of what we do. It was, and still is, like having a huge house party every night and giving people an experience like no other.
Re d Phone Bo oth / SPE CI A L F E AT U R E
What inspired you to create the Red Phone Booth? SdH: The Red Phone Booth was created as homage to my grandfather W.J. Boortz, a pharmacist from Council Bluffs, IA. As I first entered the hospitality industry as a bartender, I visited my grandfather’s home proudly announcing, “I am a bartender. May I make you a cocktail?” Needless to say, he was not impressed, and proceeded to take me to his bar where he said softly, “You need to know where you are from, in order to know where you are going.” He pulled a cocktail book written in 1941 called “Here’s How” and proceeds to educate me on how to make a proper cocktail, and how ladies and gentlemen serve ladies and gentlemen. Tie this education with his passion for cigars, and practice as a pharmacist prescribing whiskey for medicinal purposes, and Red Phone Booth is born!
What kind of atmosphere do you provide in your establishment? GG: First and foremost, we are exclusive, not private. As soon as you walk through the threshold of the fully restored English phone booth, you are taken back in time to the era of Al Capone, Bugsy Siegel, Lucky Luciano, John Dillinger and the rest of the gang. The room is set with dark brown, custom Italian leather couches in a European style seating arrangement. This encourages guests to sit with others and create connections while have meaningful conversations over a fine bourbon and cigar. The ceiling is tiled with large, backlit and hand-painted panels that look like the artwork of Michelangelo. The bar top is made out of honey onyx and is also backlit to give off a warm and inviting glow. The back bar and custom glass cabinets are stocked with fifty of the rarest bourbons, scotches and Japanese whiskies from around the globe. Lastly, there is a small television behind the bar that features classic black-and-white silent films and not sports! This room was created to foster conversation, enjoy great cocktails and create lasting relationships.
What services can patrons expect when they spend an evening with you? GG: We create classic cocktails as they were done in the 1920’s and do not cut any corners! All of the fruit juices we use to create those cocktails are fresh-squeezed every day, including lemon, lime, mango, pineapple, grapefruit and yes, even cranberry. Drinks are also mixed with Fever Tree beverages, one of the highest quality mixers worldwide. We elevate the cocktails even further by bringing in 300lb blocks of twice-passed, double reverse osmosis ice, which is then hand chipped and carved by our bartenders. The gentlemen you see behind the bar are at the top of their craft and some of the most skilled bartenders in the industry. We have a twenty-foot, walk-through humidor with over 130 selections, yet we don’t claim to be a cigar bar. The cocktails are the star! Finally, the hidden gem we like to call the “mafia kitchen”. I can’t give you the details…you’ll have to come in and experience it for yourself.
SPE CI A L F E AT U R E / Re d Phone Bo oth
You don’t consider yourself a cigar bar, how do you categorize Red Phone Booth?
What’s your philosophy on doing good business?
GG: A cigar bar is known to be an establishment that specializes only in cigars and caters only to the patrons that smoke them. We, on the other hand, cater to everyone! Some guests may think they’ll be put off by the smoke, but we pulled out all the stops with our air-filtration system. Every eight minutes, all the air in our 6,000+ square foot establishment is turned over and conditioned every eight minutes for a fresh, virtually smoke-free environment. Make note, whiskey and cigars went hand in hand in the roaring 20’s!
GG: To us, doing good business is providing each guest with the most memorable experience and always looking for opportunities to exceed each guest’s expectations, while maintaining a sincere, gracious attitude. We do this to experience personal and professional fulfillment, and to build a lasting relationship with our guests. We evoke a culture that is based on core values that our team portrays while working and outside the business such as dignity, respect, integrity, teamwork, professionalism, leadership, service, fun, attention to detail, quality of operations and to always trust but verify.
Your bartenders are a cut above the rest. What do they bring to the game other night spots lack?
You have a Nashville location. Tell us about it. Do you plan to open other locations?
GG: We have been blessed to have a family of some of the best local artisans the city has seen for decades. I don’t think we ever have or ever will hire ‘bartenders’, or what people may call ‘mixologists.’ Sounds offensive, but I want to clarify…’bartender’ is someone that works behind a bar and ‘tends’ to a guest, being engaging and hospitable. A ‘mixologist’ is one who is there for ‘the study’ of the cocktails and is devoted to that study. Our team is the unique blend of both, which is very rare. They take the most pride in giving every guest the most incredible experience and creating a long-lasting relationship while being gracious and sincere in every moment.
SdH: This last Repeal Day, December 5, 2019, we opened our Nashville location in a historic 100-year old brick building. Featuring beautiful wood fired Neapolitan pizzas, hand chipped ice, 100% fresh juices, and civil war era tobacco barn floors, Red Phone Booth continues the great tradition that the Atlanta location started. A second location in Atlanta, located in the affluent Buckhead district, is in the permitting process with a late 2020 open date. Additionally, we are working to identify a Dallas location for the Red Phone Booth.
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SPE CI A L F E AT U R E / C andac e S c hilling
By Clifford Brooks
What’s the skinny on Candace Schilling? Where were you born? What about your childhood sculpted the professional you are today? I was born and raised in Birmingham. (No one in Washington, DC, cared about my lack of a Southern accent as a PR specialist and lobbyist years ago. But in Alabama’s capital of Montgomery, sometimes a state senator or congressman would squint during a handshake. “Honey, where are you FROM?” And that was always my answer.)
C andac e S c hilling / SPE CI A L F E AT U R E I grew up in a loving — but also conservative, strict and deeply religious — Southern home. I had a lot of rules about the “right way” to think, speak and act. Though I speak a broader dialect of faith today, choosing my words carefully as a kid equipped me for PR Communication and Training as much as my college education did. My career taught me there’s no perfect message point. But some choices are distinctly better than others.
What is your philosophy for living a good life? Right now? “Love. Slow down. Listen, trust and let go.”
How did you get into the public relations game? You’re also an editor. What drew you to that field? Planning to become a corporate magazine editor, I studied all four tracks in journalism school: Print, Broadcast, Advertising and PR. State Farm hired me as a regional magazine editor after graduation. While my desk was in the Public Affairs Department, State Farm gave me more outlets for my communication skills, such as teaching classes for HR while I was still an “editor.” When I outgrew the editorial position, the company was reorganizing and opportunities were limited. I spent most of my time away from State Farm as a PR specialist (and state and federal lobbyist) for a financial trade association before a State Farm manager mentioned an open seat for a full-time HR development specialist. Next, a State Farm Public Affairs manager called about a PA specialist role. I’ve circulated my skills across editing, writing, PR and training ever since.
Why is a PR consultant important to new and established artists? How do you stand out from the rest? As a creative, marketing your own work can be challenging. I’ve worked through a lot of mental and emotional blocks in advertising my own creative business. Sometimes personal growth was the source of my discomfort. At other times, I flinched because my marketing wasn’t authentic. I needed to welcome assistance while standing firm-footed in my own power. Until you find your own voice as an artist — and that includes marketing your work — you will anoint vendors as messiahs. (Ask me how I know this.) Vendors offer educated opinions, sometimes wrapped in a strong sales pitch. Specialists can be great resource, but no one knows your work or your heart the way you do. Forget the “pain points” about your business. What’s your joy point? What customers or assignments do you want to attract? If you don’t love your own marketing, or if you’re intimidated by the thought of publicizing your work, I want to help you change that.
You wear many hats. What other services do you offer the public? Why are they important? Experience makes me a specialist. Imagine having a corporate PR rep as your own consultant and advocate. Picture working with an editor who is also a publicist. A diverse knowledge base and connections make me a generalist, a guide as you map your own path. I respect and train DIYers who want to handle their own marketing and publicity.
SPE CI A L F E AT U R E / C andac e S c hilling Together, we can view your content like a reader or a “visitor.” An artist and website designer wanted more creative, colorful clients, but most of her calls came from techies. I pointed out that her marketing, including her website, was… technical. What you show is what you’re selling. I also keep a short list of social media managers, website designers and other artisans, and I don’t accept or offer referral fees in exchange for recommendations. You can find a variety of tips, including questions to ask potential social media managers or website developers, on my website.
To be so in-tune with the world of letters I can’t imagine you don’t write creatively. What kind of creative outlet gives you respite from society? I have a dusty “book under the bed,” several versions of a manuscript. Each experiment with magical realism, drama or comedy taught me something about the craft of writing fiction (and myself). Someday, I will take another run at it. Although I’d been a freelance writer, editor and strategist for a decade, I had no website until five years ago when I landed in Atlanta. I was always writing for clients instead of “minding my own business.” Inspirational posts have always flowed faster than instructional ones. The act of writing such messages uplifted me as much or more than my readers.
What makes you happy? Walking a wooded trail. Fellowship. A good meal or a good book, savored. Papercrafting; I love making cards. Curiosity.
What are you reading and listening to now, that has you excited? Prayers of Honoring Voice by Pixie Lighthorse! Rhoda Janzen’s memoir, Does This Church Make Me Look Fat?, makes me laugh out loud every time I read it. She loves her family, her faith and language, and it shows. I’m also a huge fan of Tosha Silver’s Outrageous Openness: Letting the Divine Take the Lead, whether I’m reading it cover to cover or opening it at random. I have diverse musical tastes, but right now I’m hooked on the Benedictine Nuns of Mary Queen of Apostles (The Lent at Ephesus CD). Although I need instrumentals, Latin or Sanskrit while I’m working instead of the distraction of English lyrics, their soothing voices benefit me during other tasks.
How can our readers contact you to find out more about you and your price scale? For more information as well as tips about marketing and strategic communication, visit candaceschilling.com or find me on LinkedIn. Contact me for an upbeat, 15-minute “coffee chat.” Phone required; coffee optional.
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SPE CI A L F E AT U R E / The High Mu s e um of Ar t
The High Museum of Art Interview with
Coordinator of Museum Interpretation
By Clifford Brooks
Katie Domurat, please give us a glance back on your life. Where did you grow up? When did art first engage you? Where are you now? I grew up in Richmond, Virginia, which is a city with a great art community. I spent a lot time while I was growing up at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and exploring the galleries in town when they were open on the first Friday of every month. On top of all my local art resources, I also had the advantage of growing up in close proximity to Washington, D.C. In an easy two-hour drive, I had access to our some of our Nationâ€™s pre-eminent institutions. I visited the museums frequently and
always looked forward to visiting the different museums especially the National Gallery, the Hirshhorn, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art. I eventually would attend graduate school at the Smithsonian (a program run through George Washington University) where I studied History of the Decorative of the Arts. I have translated this love of museums into my career where I currently serve as Coordinator of Museum Interpretation at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.
The High Mu s e um of Ar t / SPE CI A L F E AT U R E
You hold an elegantly critical role within the High Museum of Art. Tell us about your typical workday.
How has working for the High Museum of Art enriched you as an individual?
As Coordinator of Museum Interpretation, I serve as an advocate for the public and make sure that we tell stories within our institution that are accessible to all. Commonly daily tasks include writing exhibition texts seen in the gallery spaces, making interpretative materials like videos, iPad applications, and touch table activities, overseeing the maintenance of our Greene Family Learning Gallery, creating content for the museumâ€™s blog, weekly e-mails, and social media sites, conducting visitor surveys, and researching for upcoming exhibitions.
The High Museum of Art is in an incredible institution and I feel so fortunate every day that I get to work here! The High has enriched me as an individual in the diversity of projects that I have had the opportunity to work on while being employed here. The High brings all sorts of culture and art to the city of Atlanta and they have done this for me too. I have been exposed to many great artists like Yayoi Kusama, Virgil Abloh, Paa Joe, Maira Kalman, and others through their diverse and fantastic exhibition offerings. I have learned some much in the time that I have worked here.
What do you enjoy most about your job? How does it keep you interested over time? I enjoy the fact that every day is different in my job. No two days are the same. One day I am working with the Curatorial Department on gathering research for an interpretive map they want to put in an upcoming exhibition. Another day I will work with the Exhibitions Department on the adjusting the height of pedestals so that they are ADA compliant. Then the next day, I will be making a short film with one of the curators with our media team. Every day is something new and I get the great opportunity to work with colleagues throughout the entire museum.
What advice do you have for those coming up and interested in a vocation like yours? How can folks avoid heartache? My major piece of advice is to get out and volunteer at organizations that you may be interested in working for. I began as a Second Sunday volunteer at the High Museum of Art. I started to meet people that worked there and learned what the culture was like before I made the decision to actively apply for jobs there. It is a good way for you to decide if you want to work somewhere and for people who work there to get to know you too. Persistence is the next step. You wonâ€™t get the first job you apply for so just keep applying and try to meet as many people as you can. You can get where you want to be, but it may take a while.
SPE CI A L F E AT U R E / The High Mu s e um of Ar t
What artist or artwork caught you off guard during your tenure at the High Museum of Art? Why?
What are you reading right now? How is it affecting you? I am reading a lot about Daywoud Bey at the moment as we have a great retrospective of his work opening in Summer 2020. The book Dawoud Bey: Seeing Deeply is truly beautiful and insightful. Bey has transformed African American portraiture over the past three decades and it has been interesting to learn more about him and his career.
The first exhibition that I worked on at the High Museum of Art was Way Out There: The Art of the Southern Backroads which was one of my first forays into Southern folk and self-taught art. Southern folk and self-taught art was not something I was really familiar with but I have grown to deeply respect and enjoy the many different art forms that have grown out of the south especially the work of Eddie Owens Martin (also known as St. EOM). His home, Pasaquan, is located in Buena Vista, Georgia, is one of the coolest places I have ever visited. St. EOM was self-taught and used art as a way to teach his own religion Pasaquoyanism. His home served as a way to for him to connect with nature and his spirituality.
Tell us about your philosophy on living your best life. What makes you happy? I think you need to laugh a lot and actively try to find activities and people that make you feel fulfilled. I am happiest when I am with my dog, Steve, and exploring new places or trying new things.
Do you have a creative streak? If so, how do you express it? I do have a creative streak. I like to sew, embroider, or cross stitch when I have time. I like to keep my hands busy.
What is your legacy at the High? How do you want people to remember this vital institution? I hope that visitors will remember the High as a museum that cares about its community and provides culture, diversity, and inclusion in terms of the exhibitions that are showcased. I hope my legacy will play into this too.
Br ian Mur phy / SPE CI A L F E AT U R E
How Writers Write Brian Murphy By Clifford Brooks
What’s your story, morning glory? Who are you and what’s your purpose on Earth? Oye. Tough question. I don’t think of my life as having a singular purpose. To me, life is a series of seasons. Each season comes with its own purpose. So, in my current season, it is to thrive both as a writer, leader, and coach. I’m here to tell stories and help writers tell their story.
SPE CI A L F E AT U R E / Br ian Mur phy I’ve just left a season where I rounded out a career in the tech world. I worked for huge software companies in a variety of marketing and sales roles. While I made a great living, I knew part of my evolution was to spend my time on this planet doing the work that only I can do. I asked myself: what would be a dream life? What can I give that is singular to me? What came out of that question was How Writers Write. I’ve melded my love of writing, my experience as a business executive, and the lifechanging power of coaching into a platform to serve writers. It is a blast!
On your show, How Writers Write, you bring a keen intellect and easy energy. What coerced you into this business? The answer is that I couldn’t find the content I wanted. After my MFA at NYU, I longed for a bit more of the meat and potatoes of the writing life. I felt like there was this underbelly of the writing life that we do not talk about. Writing is hard. It is lonely. And most of the content out there was very focused on getting an agent or self-publishing. Both wonderful topics, but I sensed that there was a disproportionate focus on the end-game of writing (aka publishing) and not enough focus on what it takes to produces pages day-after-day. And so, I created a show where I interview authors from all parts of the writing world and dig into what has made them successful. I am obsessed with uncovering what made Victor Lavalle or Amy Harmon or Marlon James into the writer they are today. What were the steps? What did they do when they hit a roadblock? How do they write in a fulltime life?
Tony Robbins says, “Success leaves clues.” If there were a motto for the show, it’d be close to that. As writers, we can look to the people who are further down the path and learn from both their successes and their failures. My job as the host is to bring out those lessons in an engaging and fun conversation.
Tell us more about How Writers Write. I believe that 95% of the people who fail at writing do not fail because they don’t know how to write, but because they don’t have an internal engine that allows them to create. How Writers Write helps writers build that engine. Practically, that means we support writers to build solid beliefs, working habits, structure, routine, and mental toughness to get their work done. Writers invest in one-on-one coaching or group courses (how I make a living). I teach everything live, both because I do this for the connection to writers, but also because the energy created is propulsive.
What do you write? I am 50% of the way through my first rewrite on my second novel. It is a long, epic novel that spans about 80 years, starting in 1986 and finishing in 2066. The novel is set in New York City and follows a cast of characters as they confront a changing world and city. My goal is to have it done by the end of 2020. But, and I am getting super ahead of myself, but I am kicking off another project soon. It is going to be ridiculous and crazy, and I’m going to document the entire thing.
Br ian Mur phy / SPE CI A L F E AT U R E
Where do you see your show in 5 and 10 years? What kind of mark do you wish to leave? One thing I’ve brought from my last season is that I do not think small. I am driven to extremes by nature, and so I see How Writers Write as a cornerstone of the writing world. I see the podcast serving as one of the key outputs, but I am also launching a ridiculous second podcast (more coming soon on that), we are doing an online reading series to support authors in the age of the Corona Virus, I’m launching more group courses, more coaching, more content, more everything.
I wish to inspire and empower writers to tell their story, and so my mark will be the books that are written because someone listened to an author say they had to fight through despair, or a writer took a group class and they learned the skills and mindset they need to write. Imagine a platform that teaches writers how to build their emotions, spirit, beliefs, and writing practice to support their creation. Imagine those programs are available to all writers, in any budget and level of support. That’s my vision for How Writers Write.
C lare Taylor / SPE CI A L F E AT U R E
By Clifford Brooks
Tell us a bit about what makes you tick. What makes you happy? I am an incurably curious person, and so I’m happiest when I’m learning something new. I spend a lot of time researching and discovering, so my ideal afternoon would be spent in the library, a museum or an art gallery. I absolutely love shopping for second-hand books and spend more time than I should hunting second-hand stores for new additions to my collection - recent acquisitions include a textbook about bird migration patterns, a selection of unsolved mysteries from around the world and a coffee table book about pieces of miniature art. In addition to visual art, my other great love is music, and I play the cello in the little spare time that I have. It makes me inordinately happy, even though I don’t sound very good!
SPE CI A L F E AT U R E / C lare Taylor
What are you reading and listening to now, that keeps you awake? Right now I’ve been listening to the Vitamin String Quartet on repeat - they made an album last year where they arranged a bunch of Bjork tracks for string quartet, and it’s incredibly beautiful. I’ve also been pretty obsessed with ShekuKannehMason’s latest album - the young cellist who played at the Royal wedding has released a recording of Elgar’s Cello Concerto which gives me goosebumps. My tastes are pretty varied though, so I’ve also been spending a bunch of time listening to a Spotify playlist called Bluegrass Covers - a bluegrass cover of Get Lucky by Daft Punk? Yes please. Recently I’ve been reading The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa - it was released in English for the first-time last year and is a haunting, beautiful novel about an island where things - and everyone’s memories of them - disappear on a regular basis. The idea both intrigued and terrified me. Considering the book was originally written in 1994, it has a feeling of dreamy, timelessness to it.
What inspired you to create Artists of Color? I studied fine art at university and, during that time, developed a special interest in postcolonial studies, the study of colonial and imperial legacy and how they have affected populations. In most broad-brush theory textbooks, the kind which give an overview of the current state of play of art theory, there is a small segment for postcolonial study. This is the segment which will contain the work by non-white writers, and it is often carefully sanetised to avoid offending the assumed white reader. Throughout the rest of the textbook, you will find very few references to non-white artists, theorists or experiences. The lives and work of non-white artists is hinged upon their otherness, their race being outside “the norm” of art.
After I graduated, I spent a long time searching for resources which addressed art but made a space for artists of colour which didn’t centre whiteness at its core - a space which acknowledged that these artists are not white, but that refuses to treat white as a default or assumed state. Eventually, I had to accept that I was unable to find that space - and it was up to me to make it. Building the platform over the last few years has given me such an insight into just what an audience feels when they see art that they can see themselves in.
How does Artists of Color stand out from other hubs of fine art? While there are lots of Twitter projects which promote art, there are a few things which I think make AOC unique. Firstly, I accept and encourage submissions from Twitter users, many of whom are not working professionally as artists and are not represented by galleries. It’s really important that AOC feels like a platform which can be influenced and shaped by its followers to bring them the kind of art which reflects their life experiences. Secondly, I don’t share work with any commentary, which is a deliberate decision on my part. There are plenty of online platforms which share work with their own commentary attached - which can be great! But it can also create a narrative which is influenced by the author. I’m not really able to fully understand the life experiences of an artist who is racialized differently than I am - and in attempting to provide too much interpretation, I run the risk of inserting my own experiences.
C lare Taylor / SPE CI A L F E AT U R E Finally, AOC hosts two special months per year for Black History Month (which is celebrated internationally in February, and in October in the UK). I feel it’s incredibly important to make specific space for Black artists particularly, who are often neglected by the art world more than most. As artists, we need to work to promote and uplift those amongst us whose voices are heard the least, which is why I’m so passionate about running these special months.
What flavor of artist are you? What private projects are you working on? I work across a bunch of different mediums, partly because I find it so hard to stick to just one thing! I have some long form projects which look at how globalization and migration create communities in new places - so, for example, I have been working on an A-Z map of London which charts where you can find money transfer services. Their locations tell us a lot about the populations of those areas you can’t find a money transfer service easily in the center of the city, but you can find an abundance of them in the suburban areas with large migrant populations. I’m fascinated by diasporas of all kinds, and I’ve been exploring the connections between diaspora communities and how they assimilate - or not - into the wider communities they have found themselves in. One particularly fascinating trend, prevalent in the United States, is the way many communities have used beauty pageants as ways to assimilate but also highlight their communities’ unique attributes. I’ve been working on a project which explores this connection between beauty and assimilation on various levels.
Outside of my more conceptual pursuits, I also love to draw and illustrate. I particularly love to lino print, and I’ve been making a whole series of cute prints starring illustrated bears. I recently started to move into digital drawing, and it’s been so much fun to explore a whole new medium to work in.
What is your philosophy of living a good life? I firmly believe that all people need some kind of creative outlet to balance their lives - that we have an obligation to ourselves to use our creativity to shape our worlds to be a little brighter. For some of us, it means making creativity a part of our everyday life - I try to make time every single day to draw and to play music - but for others, who might find it a little more daunting, it’s about finding ways to make yourself excited by things you make. That could be a really exciting new recipe you’ve been meaning to try, or finger-painting with the kids, or going to the theatre to see something new, or taking an evening class in something new, or spending ten minutes doing some yoga. To me, there’s no way to be fulfilled in life without some kind of creative outlet - and everyone’s looks different.
How do we keep up with Artists of Color online? Right now, the project is pretty humble - you can follow us on Twitter at @artistsofcolour to see a regular feed of works by artists of colour and submissions from artists online. I have some big plans for 2020-2021, though, so keep an eye on the Twitter account to see what happens next!
SPE CI A L F E AT U R E / Pe nny w i s e Mov ie Re v ie ws
Decades of Horror By Tom Johnson
The horror genre has always been looked down on as disposable or exploitative, which it can be but it is also an important genre. Itâ€™s where society works through its collective fears like a form of group therapy. Since our culture is constantly in flux, you can see a significant shift in the subject of horror movies through the decades.
Pe nny w i s e Mov ie Re v ie ws / SPE CI A L F E AT U R E
You may picture Leave it to Beaver when you think of the 50’s but people were dealing with a lot under that pleasant facade. Many were afraid of the nuclear bomb and its radioactive fallout. Americans were afraid that the U.S might be invaded by Russia at any moment and even worse, they worried that their neighbors might be communist sympathizers trying to bring the country down from the inside.
Many people see the 60’s as when America lost its innocence. Our nation was embroiled by a controversial and unpopular war, our president was assassinated and people started associating hippies with Charlie Manson more often than free love. People could see changes coming quickly but they couldn’t tell whether it would be for better or worse. There was a lot of dread for horror movies to tap into so campy Sci-Fi horror was mostly left behind for darker, psychological horror. Plus, until this point the monster was always destroyed by the end of the film but not anymore.
Now look at the horror movies that came out in the 50’s. Godzilla (1954), Them! (1954) and The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) all deal with the effects of radiation on humans and animals. The Thing from Another World (1951), The War of the Worlds (1953) and The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) all centered on an invasion scenario and Invasion of the body snatchers made being distrustful of your neighbors a survival trait.
Night of the Living Dead (1968), The Birds (1963), and Village of the Damned (1960) all reflect a fear of change. Each film starts with an everyday scenario that quickly spirals out of control. The hero is presented with a threat they don’t understand that comes out of nowhere and they have no defense for it. Psycho (1960) also deals with an everyday situation but instead of a supernatural source, the danger stems from the madness of a seemingly docile motel manager.
SPE CI A L F E AT U R E / Pe nny w i s e Mov ie Re v ie ws
Believe it or not, up until the 70’s there was a general sense of optimism in the United States but not anymore. Some people refer to this decade as the Age of Depression because people began to doubt themselves, their family and their religion. Pregnancy and childbirth were huge issues given the introduction of oral contraception and the controversy over Roe vs. Wade.
The 80’s perfected the “Slasher” genre started in the 70’s and turned movies like Friday the 13th (1980), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and Poltergeist (1982) into the massive franchises we know today. The fear was still of “the other” with faceless, bigger than life villains pushed to the forefront but with changes in technology and effects, everything was done bigger and gorier.
These fears gave rise to a flood of movies about evil sons, daughters, brothers, and sisters, as well as spiritual horror movies. For instance, Halloween (1978) is centered on a murderous brother while Don’t Look Now (1973) shows a couple being haunted by their daughter. The Other (1972), The Brood (1979), and Its Alive (1974) all deal with the horrors of reproduction. While movies like The Exorcist (1973), Carrie (1976) and The Omen (1976), deal with religion and more specifically, the devil.
There was a subtle power shift going on behind the scenes from the mid 70’s through the 80’s. Up until around 1975, the main audience for horror was adults. But more and more teenagers were getting jobs so they had a lot of spare time and money. This made young people the primary audience instead of adults, which horror movies started to reflect. In place of adult protagonists, we were given groups of teens who liked to smoke, drink and get naked. This was to give the younger audience someone to latch onto but these movies throw the adults a bone because those kids are usually killed by the monster. So in a weird way, 80’s slasher movies have 2 viewpoint characters: the counselors for the kids and the maniac for the adults.
On the upside, before it ended, the 70’s gave rise to the” Slasher” genre and introduced the concept of the “Final Girl” with classics like Black Christmas (1974) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974).
Pe nny w i s e Mov ie Re v ie ws / SPE CI A L F E AT U R E
Unfortunately, the 90’s were a bad time for horror movies. Society was fascinated by the idea of serial killers and everyone was afraid that they might have one living next door to them. So this brought back the fear and paranoia seen in the 50’s but the monster was just an everyday person. Because of this, horror movies struggled to have a memorable antagonist. Although, a few films did manage to overcome this problem like The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Copycat (1995) and Kiss the Girls (1997).
The 9/11 attack had a massive effect on the landscape of horror films for years afterward. Since we had experienced the real thing, horror movies didn’t hide it under the pretense of an invasion from space. Our new movie monster was human beings. Saw (2004), Wolf Creek (2005) and Hostel (2005) all dealt with someone being at the mercy of another person’s ultra-violent attacks because Americans were still feeling paranoia, grief and anger in the aftermath 9/11. This gave rise to a type of hyper realistic body horror referred to as “torture porn”. Once this ran its course and people recovered, a new type of horror became popular due to the advancement of technology. Cameras were smaller than ever and anyone could film a movie. This gave horror audiences access to stories that seemed more immediate and real. Films like Rec (2007) and Paranormal Activity revitalized the monster movie for a new generation. Unfortunately, this style of filmmaking lends itself to jump scares instead of slow burn tension so your enjoyment may come down to whether you like being scared or being startled.
SPE CI A L F E AT U R E / Pe nny w i s e Mov ie Re v ie ws
Horror in the 2010’s seemed to be primarily focused on revisiting old properties, remakes and homage. This is neither good nor bad by itself but I think it does illustrate an underlying issue. It seems like society was suffering through a fear of the unknown. It caused people to become nostalgic for the old and familiar. Audiences became fascinated with movies that were done in the “80’s style” or “70’s style” with less CGI and more practical affects. Revisiting the classics and using new technology can lead to a more fully realized version of the original story but it often ends in disappointment. Nostalgia gave us great movies like The Conjuring (2013), It Follows (2014), The Cabin in the Woods (2011), You’re Next (2011), It (2017) and Tucker and Dale Vs Evil (2010) but it can’t sustain itself. Horror needs fresh ideas and new fears to stay relevant.
2020 What will the next decade of horror bring? I’m afraid to ask.
Mitc hel Stone /S CE ME MBER SPOT L IGH T
SCE Member Spotlight
Michel Stone By Clifford Brooks
Let’s begin with the impossible: What’s your favorite book? Dang. Impossible is right. I have loved so many books. My research for my first novel allowed me intimate conversations, both heartwarming and heart wrenching, with many undocumented immigrants whom I interviewed while writing the book. Their stories and those human connections significantly impacted me and the trajectory of my work. Writing a novel, particularly one’s first novel,
is a mix of audacity and self-doubt, and for me, working through all those emotions and getting to the other side with a beautiful published novel was a major event in my life. So, on a very personal level, everything that my first book The Iguana Tree represents in my life makes it my favorite, even though by no means is it among the top fifty most beautifully written books I have read. It isn’t.
S CE ME MBER SPOT L IGH T / Mitc hel Stone
The Iguana Tree and Border Child capture lives whole and tell stories with stunning elegance. Who helped you hone this delicate skill?
You’re staring down the barrel of your new novel. How’s that feeling right now? Are you wrestling with any angels or demons?
The first person who comes to mind is Dr. Rosa Shand. She taught me creative writing in graduate school at Converse College in the late 1990s. She was a generous and brilliant teacher and a gifted writer who turned me on to Anton Chekhov and gave me a deep appreciation for writers who could break readers’ hearts. “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
The process doesn’t get a bit easier for me. Certain aspects of writing this, my third novel, are more difficult because I have more to prove to myself with this manuscript. This one is much more ambitious, with more characters, more plots lines. It pretty much feels like an unwieldy mess. Onward!
What is your responsibility as an author to those whose story you tell and your fan base? My responsibility is to do the research, to dig deep and never to assume that my story speaks for any particular group of people or culture. Rather, I want to write stories that speak to universal truths, that tap into the interconnectedness of humanity, that have something worth a damn to say about the human condition. Any story, whether it’s set in a tiny village in Nepal, or among sky scrapers in Manhattan, or somewhere in between, if written well, can do that.
How do you define happiness? Happiness to me is that feeling of well – earned physical and emotional exhaustion that comes from working hard toward a goal and then achieving it.
You play basketball - well. Historically you’ve played and coached basketball well above average. What are some similarities between writing a novel and playing/coaching basketball? Maybe you should say I played, past tense, as in back in the day. These days my basketball playing consists solely of games of HORSE in the driveway with my teenage son. But yeah, most writers who were athletes feel that connection between writing and sports. Both require self-discipline, faith, hard work when no one else is watching, sacrifice, learning how to deal with disappointment and setbacks, steadfast focus on improvement, a deep respect and appreciation for those who came before you, and a willingness to help those who come along after you when you see their efforts are in earnest.
Mitc hel Stone /S CE ME MBER SPOT L IGH T
Tell us one of your guilty pleasures. One of my greatest pleasures is sitting on the porch in the South Carolina Lowcountry with a cup of strong coffee and my dogs at my feet, watching the dawn break over the saltmarsh while the rest of my family sleeps. Maybe that’s not a guilty pleasure, but it sure is a pleasure. I also don’t mind at the end of a productive day sitting on that same porch, sipping Tito’s Vodka with a splash of OJ, a splash of ginger ale, and a wedge of lime over ice, listening to the mourning doves coo while I watch the sun set with my husband and my dogs beside me.
What’s your philosophy on writing convincing characters? A convincing character has a want or need that’s going to be tough for her to obtain, has flaws, maybe even plenty of flaws, but has at least one strong redeeming quality, and demonstrates a realm of emotion. She rarely speaks in complete sentences. The really convincing characters break the reader’s heart. The best ones of all break the hearts of the writers who create them.
What about the Southern Collective Experience makes sense to you? Everything. The Southern Collective Experience is all about community, positivity, creativity, and supporting the arts and artists. I love its welcoming feel. Everything about that makes sense to me. Plus, when the one and only Clifford Brooks, the founder of the Southern Collective, attended a reading I gave near Atlanta, he shouted “Preach it, sister” during my talk, and even though we hadn’t met, I suspected right then that we’d get along rather nicely. And now here we are.
How do we keep up with you and your new book? Anything you want to add before we pass the hour glass? I was thrilled to be awarded a writing residency from the Ucross Foundation this spring, but that was just canceled today due to the pandemic. At the time of this interview, I’m hunkered down with my family, honing my social distancing skills, waiting for the COVID-19 Pandemic to wane, and trying to finish the first draft of this novel before summer. Keep up with me at www.michelstone. com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ authorMichelStone/ Thank you for allowing me this opportunity to chat with you today, Brother Brooks.
FACE S of FA I T H / Kathar ine J. Ar me nt rout
Faces of Faith
Katherine J. Armentrout By Clifford Brooks
Who are you? Where did you come from? I am a child of God, just as we all are, and loved into wholeness by Godâ€™s presence in my life. That is how you would describe my life now from a theological perspective.
Kathar ine J. Ar me nt rout / FACE S of FA I T H From a sociological perspective, I was an “urbanmobile” young person – born on the East Coast, raised from the age of six to seventeen in Tacoma, Washington (with an eighteen-month sojourn in Southern California), and then returned to the East Coast, to Manhattan, when I was 17. Then it was college at Brown University (a Baptist college originally but thoroughly secular when I attended) in Providence, Rhodes Island and then back to Manhattan where I lived until I was married. Those multitude of moves were not easy but they ultimately provided me with flexibility and tolerance and a wide lens through which to view the world. The most formative part of those years for me were the four summers of college where I served as a counselor and swim instructor in an Episcopal Camp in Connecticut. There I experienced God’s wonderful tapestry of His children – campers from Harlem, campers from the Puerto Rican section of New York, campers from the wealthy suburbs of Westchester County, and we had chapel in the morning, chapel in the evening and chapel at supper time, or so it seemed. The chapel was an open- wooden structure down on the lake and God’s presence was palpable, especially as a hush fell over the lake in the early evening. It was there I met Jack Jensen, our Girl’s Camp Director, through whose eyes I could clearly see his love of our Lord. It was through him that I understood that we, as diverse as can be imagined, can all live together in harmony and it was through him, I could see what a personal relationship with our Lord looked like, although I don’t think I ever imagined that would happen for me. A hunger for justice grew in me as a result of those four wonderful summers.
After marriage and a move to Baltimore where we lived for 40 years (an appropriate biblical period of time), came two children – a daughter and a son. Their care was my full-time priority initially but as they got a little bit older, I was called to community service as a way to live out my desire for justice. I knew that many of Baltimore’s children were struggling with poverty and family-disintegration. It became a wonderful time of collaborative work with a number of organizations. We were able to get a Child Neglect Reporting Statute passed for Maryland and I helped to establish a Foster Care Review Board system, after we got that legislation passed, so that children in foster care did not languish in limbo without a plan for their future. All this time we continued to go to church but, I have to say, I was mostly a Sunday attendee and did not have what could be called a deep personal faith. My faith played out in my community work. Instead of overtly deepening my faith life, the advocacy work I did led me to consider going to law school so that I could do even better work lobbying for change. But law school led me down a slightly different path, instead of community work in lobbying, I began to work for our community as an Assistant United States Attorney; it was a career of 18 years in which I hope our work made our community safer and provided honest justice for those involved
You held an impressive position within the American legal system. Please tell us about that. In 1983, 20 years after graduating from college, I graduated from the University of Maryland Law School. Two years later, after a rather boring time at a civil litigation firm, I was offered a job as an Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Maryland. It was a dream job for someone like me – helping to make our community safer, and at the same time, it was challenging and stimulating work.
FACE S of FA I T H / Kathar ine J. Ar me nt rout While there, I became a member of the narcotics unit, investigating large-scale, multi-district narcotics organizations who were plaguing Baltimore and cities across our country. These cases involved working with a variety of federal and state law enforcement agencies – the DEA, the FBI, ATF, Immigration, the IRS etc. under the supervision of a national program from the Department of Justice called the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force. At times the agents I worked with laughed to think that a 40-something, proper mother of two, who had never even seen marijuana before coming to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, would be involved in some of the nastiest, scariest narcotics investigations in the country. Later I became head of the narcotics unit in our office and then the regional coordinator of OCDETF., with oversight responsibilities for large narcotics cases in the Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware, region. Ultimately, in 1998 I was asked to head up the entire OCDETF program for the Department of Justice. I moved from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Baltimore down to the Department of Justice in Washington D.C with oversight responsibility for cases across the country. While my time at DOJ was important, at times it was also like being a kindergarten teacher in some respects – getting the different agencies to play nicely with each other – much time was focused on getting the agencies to share their information, share their resources, trying to get their computers to talk to each other. Good coordination meant more thorough investigations both nationally and internationally and that meant better community safety and opportunity.
I do not make light of that time by likening it “to making agencies play well together”. It was among the great honors of my life to work with those men and women of all the agencies that make up the Department of Justice and Treasury. They are honorable men and women who take their oath of office seriously and who work brutally long hours and at times work in real danger and whose work today has been called into question by politicians. In 1992 President George H.W. Bush had nominated me to become a United States Federal District Court Judge. My nomination was held-up and then died in the political transition from the Bush administration to the Clinton administration. Not to sound cliché however, when that door closed, I was freed up to open my heart to the calling I felt to get serious about my faith. And from that point forward, until I left the Department of Justice in 2002, my attention was divided among my work, my family and my faith.
How and why did you feel the divine tug to become a deacon and how did you end up at Holy Family Episcopal Church? In 1992, just at the time my nomination for the federal bench was in limbo, I had what can only be called a “conversion” experience or a “born again” moment. We don’t often think of Episcopalians and “born again” experiences. In fact, a friend called me an oxymoron – “A born-again Episcopalian.” But I came to understand, to know deep in my heart, that our Lord was “Love” and that I was called to this Lord of Love and, in an even deeper way, to love His people. It changed my life.
Kathar ine J. Ar me nt rout / FACE S of FA I T H The change began with renewed commitment to my faith, including more faithful church attendance, renewing my Baptismal vows after a time of study. Then I entered a four-year study program called EFM (Education for Ministry)/ It is an in-depth study of the Old and New Testament, Early Church history, and a study of ancient and current theological writers. It is a wonderful program for anyone interested in expanding their understanding of the Bible and their church. But these years weren’t just church and study. There was a renewed commitment I had to my community through outreach efforts in Baltimore. As you might imagine, Baltimore had plenty of places that needed the attention of those committed to God’s love. My main volunteer focus became the Sandtown Habitat for Humanity effort in a terribly run-down, drug-infested community in West Baltimore. Through the powerful work of a Presbyterian Minister and a young, deeply faithful couple who moved into that neighborhood, they gathered around them those who lived in that community. Overtime together they rehabilitated over 200 hundred dilapidated town-houses. A school was built and a jobs program was started, and a community-center was created, all out of God’s love and wonderful commitment. They brought back to life Sandtown for its people and I was grateful to be a small part of that effort.
In 1998, as I left the long-hours of overtime work as a front-line prosecutor and moved to the Department of Justice as the national OCDETF Coordinator which was an administrative role, my life was freed up a bit. That coincided with the time that a friend at church suggested to me that I might be called to be a deacon. At that time, I knew nothing about the role of deacons as our church had not ever had one. When I opened up the Book of Common Prayer and to read the Ordination service for a Deacon, I began to cry. It seemed as if it was describing how I longed to live my life: It is a call to serve all God’s people, “particularly the poor, the weak, the sick and the lonely….You are to make Christ and his redemptive love known …You are to interpret the Church the needs , concerns and hopes of the world”. It was as if all the disparate elements of my life could be woven into a life of love and service for our Lord, and in 2003, after a period called “discernment” and then a three-year study program in the Diocese of Maryland, I was ordained a deacon. Deacon comes from the Greek word which means “servant”, but an even earlier definition of the word means “One who walks through the dust”. That was the life I imagined. - especially walking and working in the streets of the inner-city of Baltimore and its community. But …family intervened. By this time, both our children had moved from Baltimore to Atlanta and both married and each had two sons. Our whole family was now in Atlanta. My grandfather had been an important presence in my life. My father had been a very important presence in the lives of our two children. And I believed that our presence as grandparents would be important to our grandsons. Thus, we began to search for a home in the Atlanta area so that we could be closer to them.
FACE S of FA I T H / Kathar ine J. Ar me nt rout Part of any move we contemplated had to be the concern about where could I serve out my call to the diaconate. And the answer was at Holy Family in Jasper where, on my very first visit to the church while on a house-hunting expedition in 2004, the new rector told me that she had been praying for a deacon and wanted me to come. As we often say, “It was a God-thing.” While the dust here in Jasper is clay-colored here rather than the inner-city brown that I had anticipated in Baltimore, the needs of God’s children are the same – there are the sick, the needy, the lonely, the prisoner, the faithful looking for God’s presence. We arrived permanently at Holy Family in 2006, fourteen years ago. It has been my greatest joy to serve with the faithful folks in our congregation all of whom have “outreach in their DNA”. Holy Family is a congregation always looking for ways to serve others near and far. There is always much to be done in our joint effort to bring God’s love out of the sanctuary and into our community. Today, in addition to my work at Holy Family, I serve as a volunteer chaplain at Lee Arrendale Prison for Women in Alto, Georgia. That work, with the women many of whom have known little love or affirmation in their lives, is precious and life-giving to me. I hope it is for them. It is there, as Jesus said in Matthew 25, that I see Him.
What’s your favorite book of the Bible? Why? “The Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ according to Luke.” That is what I get to announce when I am privileged to read a gospel passage from Luke during one of our services. The Gospel of Luke is the book that most opens my heart to Jesus and the eternal, upwelling, never-failing love of God, brought to us through the life of Jesus. Story after story in this gospel tell of Jesus’ love for all – the tax-collector, the sinner, the
immigrant, the crippled, the debtor, the outcast. It also powerfully shows us how Jesus did not fear to call out the hypocrisy of the power structures, setting an example for all his disciples, including us, to resist complicity with a status quo that embeds inequality and injustice in our community. In Luke all barriers are broken down – Luke shows that that Jesus’ love is for Jews and for gentiles, for saints and for sinners, no matter. We see fully in that gospel that all are welcome and forgiven at God’s table.
Who is an unsung hero of the Episcopal Church you feel a kinship to? Why? Pauli Murray is my unsung hero – an AfricanAmerican woman, born in Baltimore in 1910, she was raised by an aunt in segregated North Carolina in the 1930s. She went North to college in New York City to avoid Jim Crow. After she was arrested for violating the bus segregation laws of Virginia (like Rosa Parks), she decided to go to law school. She graduated first in her class from Howard Law school, among the first women at that school, but called the sexism she experienced there “Jane Crow”. Subsequently she was denied admission to Harvard for graduate law work because she was a woman. Undeterred, one of her great characteristics, she later graduated from the University of California Berkeley with a Master’s degree and received a Doctor of Juridical Science at Yale, the first that Yale ever awarded to an AfricanAmerican.
Kathar ine J. Ar me nt rout / FACE S of FA I T H Her civil rights career was distinguished. In 1950 What story from the Bible do she wrote a compendium of all the segregation you see playing itself out on laws of the United States, which Thurgood today’s stage? What wisdom Marshall called “the Bible of the Civil rights from it can you share with us? movement.” and it was useful in the development of It would have to be the story of the Good the brief for Brown v. Board of Education. She was Samaritan from Luke 10:25-37, where it was the a co-founder with Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the “outsider”, the “unclean” who stopped to care for National Organization for Women and was the injured Jew, not his priest nor his political mentioned as a participant in the brief in Reed v. leader who were the consummate “neighbors” by Reed, a 1971 landmark gender discrimination case definition. It was the “outsider” who acted as in which the Supreme Court ruled that the Equal neighbor. Protection Clause of the 14th amendment prohibited differential treatment based on sex. In other words, Jesus taught, through this parable, how to she was an important part of the two most understand our responsibility as “neighbor”. The important civil-rights efforts of the 20th century parable teaches us all that our commandment to – ending segregation and ending gender love our “neighbor” extends beyond the boundaries discrimination against women. of our own neighborhood, beyond the boundaries of our own ethnic class, beyond the boundaries of Pauli Murray was by then a professor at Brandeis “deserving” poor, beyond the boundaries of our own University, where she not only taught law but becountry. “Neighbor” includes the outsider, the gan the university’s first classes on women’s studimmigrant, the refugee, the prisoner, the mentally ies and African-American studies. She also found challenged, the one who looks different from us – time to write poetry. black, white, yellow or Martian green. The commandment to love our neighbor includes us all. In 1973 she left her position at Brandeis to enter Today we see many who would redefine “neighbor” seminary and in 1978 was ordained as the first to include only those within our own borders or to African-American woman priest in the Episcopal include only those who think like we do or only Church at the National Cathedral. She settled in those we believe will not pose an economic threat Baltimore and Washington and devoted the rest in some way. Perhaps we need to return to the days of her life to her priesthood, especially ministry of Sunday School and put on a play featuring the to the sick. She wrote in her autobiography of her parable of the Good Samaritan! priesthood: . “All the strands of my life had come together. Descendant of slave and of slave owner, I had already been called poet, lawyer, teacher, and friend. Now I was empowered to minister the sacrament of One in whom there is no north or south, no black or white, no male or female – only the spirit of love and reconciliation drawing us all toward the goal of human wholeness.” The Episcopal church celebrates her as one of our “saints” on July 1st and I can’t understand why I never really knew of her until recently, as her life exemplifies courageous discipleship.
FACE S of FA I T H / Kathar ine J. Ar me nt rout
What are you reading right now? Since it is Lent, I am reading each day a meditation from A Season for the Spirit. It is written by Martin L. Smith who is a former Anglican monk and powerful spiritual director. His theme, woven through out the meditations, is that God’s Spirit dwells within each of us and that our work in Lent is not so much to “give things up” as to dig down deep to let God’s indwelling Spirit rise up in our hearts and lives. The book was written in 1991 but has been re-released. It has been a gift to me, reminding me to quiet my busy-ness and let God’s Spirit really enliven my life. The other book I have recently read and would commend to anyone is Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy. It is his story of the Alabama prison project and the efforts to win exoneration for wronglyconvicted, death-penalty defendants. It was recently made into a movie and is also the subject of a PBS documentary. It is a profoundly disturbing but also heartening story of God’s justice. I have found inspiration in that book as I work with the women prisoners each week at Arrrendale Women’s Prison in Alto. Stevenson believes, and our faith tells us, that “each of us is more than the worst thing we have ever done.”
Give us some advice on, if we’ve strayed from our church home, how to find the way back. If you have strayed, just come back. God welcomes all, no matter how far we have strayed away – remember the Prodigal Son??? God will run to meet you, I promise. You can come, starting slowly. No one will push. The return does not have to be dramatic. God’s presence is always with us so just opening ourselves to that presence through some prayer however halting and awkward is a start. Opening ourselves up through reading a helpful book like Meeting Jesus Again for The First Time by Marcus Borg can begin to answer questions. Opening ourselves up by attending services, trying out different congregations until you fill a sense of a “fit” or of belonging begins to emerge. Just begin, take a step and look up – there God will be, leading you on. I honestly experienced that – as I began to return to church, I imagined I could see Jesus climbing up the hills of Galilee, far ahead of me. But I began to follow and slowly, slowly has come the sense that we walk, now, together (most of the time!).
Kathar ine J. Ar me nt rout / FACE S of FA I T H
If you could sit and talk to one saint from scripture who would it be, why, and what would you talk about? I guess it would have to be Paul. We have in common a legal background – he was a prosecutor as you remember. And he had a powerful conversion, probably the most well-known and powerful and, dare-I-say it, most productive conversion in our church history. His voice was fearless. His work was tireless. He walked through the dust, like a deacon. And, most importantly, he articulated for our church the understanding of Jesus’ teaching that in Christ’s love there is no East or West, no black or white, no male or female, no slave or free. That understanding makes us who we are as the Church and is the guiding principal of our work for justice and peace.
Pauli Murray Poem – Dark Testament Verse 8 Hope is a crushed stalk Between clenched fingers Hope is a bird’s wing Broken by a stone. Hope is a word in a tuneless ditty — A word whispered with the wind, A dream of forty acres and a mule, A cabin of one’s own and a moment to rest, A name and place for one’s children And children’s children at last . . . Hope is a song in a weary throat. Give me a song of hope And a world where I can sing it. Give me a song of faith And a people to believe in it. Give me a song of kindliness And a country where I can live it. Give me a song of hope and love And a brown girl’s heart to hear it.
SPE CI A L F E AT U R E / He mmingway’s D o g
Hemingway’s Dog By The Dog
The world is so stressful right now. What should I do? I find when I am feeling overwhelmed with the world, wait, I’m a dog. I’m never overwhelmed by the world’s problems. However, if I were, I would simply take a nap, followed by a walk, and some quality time with a good chew toy. Humans should do those first two things when feeling stressed. You may replace the chew toy with reading a good book. The other canine trait you should try is being excited to see others. Except for cats, and sometimes the mailman. I’m sure he’s a nice guy (or gal), but they usually only bring bills and junk mail, and no one with good sense appreciates either of those.
He mmingway’s D o g / SPE CI A L F E AT U R E S
I come from a long line of insurance agents, and my family expects me to do the same. However, my dream is to be a writer. How do I break this to my family? Always follow your passion. I’m assuming it is your parents who have this expectation as siblings mostly want you to leave their stuff alone. It is the same with littermates. Sit your parents down and tell them how much you appreciate their hard work and passion for insurance. I know, I don’t get how anyone could be passionate about insurance either, but it will help your cause. Explain that your passion for writing is the same as the one they hold for insurance and that you are willing to do what it takes to become a one. Then do the work. Write, re-write, edit, and submit; then be prepared to re-write what you submitted. You may even offer to work at the insurance office part-time. Let’s face it, creativity takes time, and you have to eat while following your dream. Living your passion won’t be easy, but it will be worth the sacrifice. (Helpful hint - in Issue 16 of the Blue Mountain Review I gave a list of places of where you may submit your writing).
I hear you are quite the music aficionado. In your experience, what are some steps a young musician can take to further their career? Be proficient at more than one instrument or discipline. If you are a singer, play guitar or piano. If you are an engineer, learn how to produce. If you play an instrument, learn to compose. Maybe you are a songwriter who also has a knack for publishing administration or a drummer who is a whiz at teaching others. Many who are successful in other areas of the business, such as music editors, have been trained as musicians. You can’t edit a piece of music to film/TV if you can’t find the one count. My point is that having multiple skills not only makes you more valuable, and thus more employable, it will also make you happier. They say music is a dog-eat-dog business. Well, clearly, that was coined by a cat. However, I say, music may be enjoyed alone, or with others, and either way, your life is enriched. Even more so if you create music.
Aaron Douglas Despite being one of the central figures of the Harlem Renaissance, very little study has been made of Aaron Douglasâ€™ work. Douglas used Christian imagery to explore the religious and aesthetic values of the Black community in the USA at that time. His adoption of specific African motifs - such as West African masks - sought to explore the connection between Africans and Black Americans and to suggest a strong, unbreakable connection which cannot be severed by time or trauma.Â
EDI T OR S Clifford Brooks Editor-in-Chief Clifford Brooks founded the Southern Collective Experience and is the Editor-in-Chief of the Blue Mountain Review. He lives in Atlanta with his girlfriend, Carolyn. They share a dog named Daisy. Carolyn Wilding Kelso Content Editor Canadian born, Carolyn Wilding Kelso is a mother and U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served ten years on active duty as a legal administrator. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition Science degree and is currently working towards earning a Masters in Health & Wellness with the American College of Healtcare Science. Carolyn’s poetic voice was pressed into the open by debris traveling the currents of life. Her spare time focuses on family, friends, hiking, cycling, and riding her Harley. Follow Carolyn’s Instagram feed at KelsoPoetry. Dusty Huggings Music Editor Dusty Huggins is a family man, musician, writer, and lover of literature. His interest in writing surfaced during his freshman year at Young Harris College due to an English professor nurturing his interest, stimulating passion, and building the confidence required to find his way as a writer. Dusty is the founder of the Atlanta blues-based, Southern rock band The Ides of June, and also performs as both the lead vocalist and bassist. He is a member of The Southern Collective Experience acting as the music editor for its journal of culture The Blue Mountain Review. In his spare time Dusty enjoys touring with The Ides of June throughout the southeast.
Terrence Hawkins Prose Editor Terence Hawkins was raised in Fayette County, PA, a former coal hub later distinguished as the setting for the original Night of the Living Dead and American Rust. He graduated from Yale, where he was Publisher of the Yale Daily News, and received a law degree from the University of Wisconsin. In 2012 he became the founding Director of the Yale Writers’ Conference, which he developed and managed through 2015. He is now the Director of the Company of Writers and Fiction Editor of Blue Mountain Review. His first novel, The Rage of Achilles, is a realistic and sometimes brutal account of the Iliad based on the theory of the bicameral mind. Tom Perrotta called it a “genuinely fresh take on a classic text.” In naming it a Year’s Best, Kirkus Reviews called his second, American Neolithic, “a towering work of speculative fiction.” His forthcoming short collection, Turing’s Graveyard, was called “dazzling” by Louis Bayard and “extraordinary” in a starred Kirkus review. He lives in Connecticut. Casanova Green / Contributing Editor Casanova Green is a writer, singer/ songwriter, educator, and pastor. He is a 2010 graduate of Ohio Northern University where he earned a BA in Language Arts Education, with a minor in voice. In 2018 he earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Reinhardt University located in Georgia’s Etowah Valley. Casanova is a member of the Southern Collective Experience, often serving as a contributing editor. He has been published in several publications including The Blue Mountain Review, Raw Art Review, and Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review. In 2019, Casanova published a mini-chapbook of poetry entitled Whispers & Echoes, and his first book of poetry Things I Wish I Could Tell You is scheduled to be published in 2020. Casanova has done extensive ministry work since the age of nine, and has served as both a worship leader and choir director for over twenty years. He released his first album A Worshiper Mentality in January 2016, and his second album Songs from the Journey: Part 1, in August 2019. He is currently working on his third album Songs from the Journey: Part II, which will be released in 2020. Currently, he is the Owner of CGCreate LLC and serves as the lead pastor of True Vision Christian Community in Lancaster, OH, where he and his family reside.
EDI T OR S Robert Gwaltney Contributing Editor Robert Gwaltney, a writer of southern fiction, is graduate of Florida State University. He resides in Atlanta Georgia with his partner, where he is an active member of the Atlanta literary community. By day, he serves as Vice President of Easter Seals North Georgia, Inc., Children Services, a non-profit supporting child with disabilities and other special needs. Robert’s work has appeared in such publications as The Signal Mountain Review and The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. He is represented by Trident Media Group, and has completed his first novel, The Cicada Tree. Tom Johnson Contributing Editor Tom Johnson was born in Roswell, Ga. He went to college focused on a career in Information Technology but to make ends meet, he worked in a few demanding sales jobs that taught him the ins and outs of marketing. He had always loved writing and he found that marketing gave him an outlet as well as a way to pay the bills. He enjoyed those aspects of his work so much that, after college, he decided on a career in sales instead of going straight into IT. Within a few months, he studied for and passed the Georgia Real Estate Exam. For the next four years he worked for Remax and later Lindsey and Pauly as a seller’s agent. After that, he became the Director of Marketing and Residential Support for a computer company. There he helped them to increase their visibility, develop new leads and on occasion, write content for client’s websites. In late 2009, he decided to go solo as a freelance copywriter for a wide array of clients. In recent years, he has been branching out into fiction and entertainment writing. His first book is slated to be published in 2020.
Oisen Breen Contributing Editor Oisín Breen is a 35-year-old poet, part time academic in narratological complexity, and a financial journalist covering the US registered investment advisory sector. Dublin born, Breen spent the last decade living in Edinburgh, and has lived, among other places, Damascus, and Prague. His debut collection, ‘Flowers, all sorts in blossom, figs, berries, and fruits, forgotten’ was released Mar. 29 by Hybrid press in Edinburgh (hybriddreich.co.uk). LaVonne Roberts Contributing Editor LaVonne Roberts is a caffeinebased, aggressively-optimistic writer who plans road trips around culinary adventures, coastlines, friends and independent cinemas. After many lives, LaVonne, a New Yorker who hails from a tiny Texas town, found her voice in a lifelong passion – writing. She leads writing workshops in shelters for female victims of violence, veterans, homeless and mentally ill adults, and where voices have been silenced. Her essays and short stories have been published widely, including in Women Who Waken Literary Journal, The Rio Review Literary Journal, and Litro. She’s working on a memoir of tall Texan tales leading to a magical place called home. When she gets there, she’ll let you know.