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Dear Readers, The syndrome of the blank page doesn’t stop once the story wraps up or once the essay concludes. We turn to the wider community of writers and publishers and readers to find a home for that new creation: our art. But sometimes the home doesn’t exist. At that point, we need to build something to house it, some way to communicate it, some method of sharing our writing. The acronym DIY contains numerous connotations, not all of them positive: ill-made or conceived ideas, poor craftsmanship or planning, a crooked lamp with old sheets around a bent hanger. But the idea behind do-it-yourself culture as it applies to literary endeavors cuts differently—those positive aspects like the entrepreneurial spirit or activist approaches or just the desire to get great writing into the hands and minds and ears of those willing to participate in the dialogue of culture—that’s what this issue of Fictionary revolves around. We want to show how to get involved or get started, who else has started something interesting, and how writers and publishers keep going, particularly as the publishing industry continues to offer new avenues of possibility. In order to scratch the surface of DIY in publishing, we went after a number of different aspects such as investigating the path of a story collection’s publication with an independent press and interviewed Anne Elizabeth Moore, herself an icon of literary activism. With a nod to past Story Weeks, we offer an interview with the amazing, magical Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat. Megan Stielstra takes us through her approach to social media as we get a look at the blogosphere Fiction Writing Department style. We hope you come away from this issue with your own ideas of what you can do with your writing and how you can dive into your own corner of the literary community and shine.

Kevin Kane

Volume 15 / Issue 1

Columbia College Chicago Fiction Writing Department 600 South Michigan Avenue Chicago, IL 60605 FI C T ION WRI T I NG D EPA RT M ENT C HA I R Randall Albers AC T I NG D EPA RT M ENT C HA I R Patricia Ann McNair FAC U LT Y A DV I S OR Sam Weller Bobby Biedrzycki FI C T IONA RY M A NAGI NG ED I TOR Kevin Kane A S S I S TA NT ED I TOR Matt Arado A S S OC I AT E ED I TOR Linda Naslund C OPY ED I TOR S Kevin Kane Linda Naslund Bobby Biedrzycki Matt Arado P HOTOGR A P HER S Moe Martinez Su Tang Frederick Carre Alexis C ONT RI B U T I NG WRI T ER S Greg Baldino Joe Meno Patrick Andrews Jessie Morrison Justin Bostian Maggie Ritchie Kaitlyn Wightman Matt Arado Kevin Kane Michael Meyer Megan Stielstra GR A P HI C D ES I GN Stefan Coisson, Creative Services C OV ER D ES I GN Soule Esemplare T HA NKS TO T HE Student Organization Council for the funding that helps us continue publishing. S P EC I A L T HA NKS TO Deborah Siegel, Linda Naslund, Nicole Chakalis, and the staff of the Fiction Writing Department Mention of the Story Workshop®may be encountered in fictionary. Story Workshop is a service mark (U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Registration No. 1,343,415) of John Schultz, who originated and developed the Story Workshop approach.










news&notes plus… 5 ON THE SHELF









Greg Baldino It’s been no secret to anyone in the Fiction Writing Department that Ann Hemenway is a top-notch instructor, one of the crown jewels of the full-time faculty. Hemenway has been named Columbia College’s Distinguished Faculty Teacher, an honor that many of her past students would say is a no-brainer. The former Columbia College student and alumnus of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop sat down to talk shop with Fictionary about teaching and writing.

Ann Hemenway Fiction Writing Department Associate Professor. 2011-2013 Distinguished Teacher Award Recipient and Director of Faculty Development. PHOTO BY MOE MARTINEZ

GB: So what exactly is this accolade you’ve been awarded? AH: Each year the college has a distinguished scholar, a distinguished artist, and a distinguished teacher who are sort of the college’s representatives for two years, and I am the Distinguished Teacher for the next two years. You get to do research and sort of go out and teach, doing teaching demonstrations with other colleges and faculty. GB: That’s quite an honor; you must’ve been excited. AH: I was totally shocked; I had no idea it was even going on, so it really came as a surprise. It was a wonderful surprise, and I’m really pleased because now the Fiction Writing Department has two distinguished teachers; Joe Meno was distinguished artist two years ago. GB: And both of you are distinguished not only as teachers but also as published writers. How do you find those two sides complement each other? AH: I always find that what I’m emphasizing in my teaching is what’s going on in my own writing, some problem that I’m working to solve in my


own writing. Perhaps it’s development of a character; perhaps it’s a scene that I haven’t gotten to. What am I not doing? “Do as you say, Ann.” I think about my own writing when I’m teaching, certainly. I’m always drawing on it. GB: Now you’ve both taught and studied here in the department, but you’ve also studied under other writing instruction methods. How was it when you first started learning in the Story Workshop method? AH: For myself, I did have critique-based instruction at my first college, then I came here. My first semester I wasn’t totally sold on the Story Workshop method, but I saw what it was doing for my writing. Then I met some other students too, and that helped, that sense of community, and then second semester it really clicked. I’m not all convinced, based on my own experience, that everyone has to love it the minute they come in. I became a ‘convert’ pretty quickly because I saw what it did. It taught me about seeing in the mind. Voice I had a sense of, but seeing in the mind wasn’t my strength and was something I had to work on.

GB: Did what you learn inspire you to teach, then? AH: I really didn’t think of myself as a teacher. When I got out of college I was asked to teach what was then a Writing 1 class, and then I went to graduate school and taught in the summer and then I came back after graduate school and taught part time. I looked at teaching as just a way to write; I was trying to avoid a 9-to-5 job. It was probably in graduate school that I started thinking of it as a career. I thought “I like this,” but I didn’t sit and feel called to do it. GB: So your interest in teaching came after you’d started doing it? AH: Teaching is a long training and it has to be experienced, you can’t do it theoretically, and until you’re up in front of a classroom it’s just theory. The only way you can do it is by practicing, and the only way you get better is by practicing and fucking up. And I think any good teacher probably often feels like they fuck it up. There’s always more you can do. Teaching and writing are both like that; you don’t leave the job at five. • • • fic • • •

One of the smartest ways for beginning writers to start submitting their work is to send their stories to journals and magazines committed to publishing new and/or emerging writers and to use whatever relationships, connections, or “ins” they might knowingly, or unknowingly, possess. Submitting to magazines staffed by alumni of the Fiction Writing Department, sending work to Chicago-based magazines, or searching out newly established magazines in search of new writing are all winning methods for getting your work out to a larger audience. Mentioning your connections to these magazines in your cover letter makes sense and may actually lead to getting your story published. Below is a list of great venues for new, emerging, and established writers.




A brilliant, double-sided broadsheet which features many new and established writers with a wide range of tones from realism to pieces with a more experimental bent, this magazine is helmed by Todd Dills, a graduate of the MFA program.

A brand-new, Chicago-based magazine as of summer 2011, this journal features short, lively writing with an absurd, surreal, or dreamlike tone.

This full-cover locally produced wonder publishes an extended range of short stories, interviews, book reviews, and non-fiction essays, and is edited by Sarah Dodson, Story Week managing director.



My favorite large-circulation fiction venue, this innovative magazine features awardwinning masters of the short story beside never-before-published new authors, and the results are spellbinding and dizzying.

A gorgeous, full-cover, perfect-bound magazine focused on art and fiction, with a true dedication to promoting newer writers, this one is edited by Chris Heavener, an alum of the BA program.



Every spring, Niffenegger teaches “Visual Books,” a specialty fiction writing class in which students learn how to hand-make books and, more importantly, how form (the book’s tangible shape, feel, body, etc.) and content (the story itself) converge and alter one another. “Bookmaking forces you to think about writing in entirely different ways.”

Patrick Andrews

Her students’ results? A ghost story made from coffee-stained paper and tree bark; a robot, with assembly manual; a deck of hand-drawn playing cards; a paper martini glass full of openable and readable pills. What strikes her most is her students’ fluid transition from text-only storytelling to mixed media. “Text is completely abstract,” she says. “We are trained to look through it, to focus on its meaning. We notice its form only subliminally. We ‘read’ images, but not in the same way: we see their forms as well as their story. They are closer to the real world.” Niffenegger made her first artist’s book at fifteen, and constructed her own books for years before she published her first novel. “A unique book might take a day or a week to construct, often longer. An edition of books, which I write, draw, design, typeset, and print letter-pressed text and make aquatints for, bind and box—that could take a year.”

Audrey Niffenegger Fiction Writing Department Associate Professor. Co-Founder of Columbia’s Center for Book and Paper Arts

She published The Night Bookmoble as a short in Zoetrope All Story in 2004, and later serialized it as a graphic novel/strip in London’s Guardian, which she collected and published through Random House in 2010.

Philip Hartigan Fiction Writing Department Part-Time Faculty. Hartigan has shown his prints, film, and sculpture numerous times in the US, UK, and Canada.

The Three Incestuous Sisters (Abrams, 2005) began as “a handmade edition of ten,” which Niffenegger then spent thirteen years designing, toiling, and perfecting. PHOTOS BY MOE MARTINEZ

An artist’s book is a book whose means of artistic expression includes more than just words; that is, shape and texture, its paper, binding, images, pagination, font, and appearance. For an artist’s book, the “form,” or everything beyond its content, actually matters, and enhances the way the reader experiences a book. The artist’s book functions as a medium as well as a pathway toward the story itself, creating something that goes beyond the capacity of a purely textual book, whether it is made of paper or composed of bits of data downloaded electronically.


Initially, she plotted her story “the way a director might work out of the storyboard for a film.” But as it progressed, the images began to “carry the story’s weight and the text dwindled,” and so she let the images speak for the text.

Audrey Niffenegger, who began her second year teaching as Full-time faculty in the Fiction Writing Department this fall, cofounded Columbia’s Book and Paper Arts’ Center in 1994, and has taught students of all ages how to make artists’ books for even longer.

“Bookmaking allows the artist to control all of her book’s elements, to heighten its content, and extend the viewer’s experience beyond word and image.”

“The book is made to fit the human body,” according to Niffenegger, “it is meant to feel right in your hands. So when you handle a wellmade book, its body, type, pictures, meaning, and story form a complete experience” larger than the words on the page.

“The handmade aspect appeals to me. I feel more connected to my work when I embody it in a physical object, retaining the trace of my own physical activity. And the sum of an artist’s book

Philip Hartigan, who co-teaches “Journal and Sketchbook,” agrees.

is almost always greater than its parts.” Hartigan exhibited The Lucerne Project: Personal Narratives about People I’ve Never Met, in a Place I’ve Never Been, a 100-page accordion book, at the Finestra Art Space, through the fall and winter of 2011. The project took over a year to make, connects Lucerne to Chicago as Sister Cities, and comprises modified photographs of people standing before Lucerne, Switzerland’s landmarks tells a loose narrative of Lucerne’s citizens. The book’s accordion binding allows for the book to be spread as a banner, its images forming one long horizontal sequence. Hartigan’s process, when compared to Niffenegger’s, is more visual. “I don’t use letterpress or incorporate much text into my print-based books. If I do, it’s usually short phrases or single words, Xerox-transferred over an image.” Like Niffenegger, his work often forges its own path.

The following selections feature five Fiction Writing Department alums and faculty who have recently published books.

“About 70 percent of my work is accidental,’’ Hartigan said. “I gather images that relate to my idea, enlarge them on a Xerox machine at different resolutions, look for the accidental details that emerge, see whether playing with these formal elements enhances or obscures the original narrative impulse. The creative process always alters my initial vision.” Hartigan “throws away about 25 percent” of his daily work, and almost three quarters of his work grows organically from his process, accidentally. This is part of what interested him in bookmaking. “I am attracted by things that I don’t yet know how to do.” The lesson would seem to be that in art, as in life, hard work must be its own reward. For art to change its audience, the artist must be changed by the process of making it. That both Niffenegger and Hartigan characterize much of their work as accidental confirms this, and echoes the Fiction Writing Department’s emphasis on “process” over “product.” Artist’s books allow authors to make mistakes, to fail toward something better, to discover not just what they want to say, but why and how. If books will survive as anything other than antiques, we must redefine their purpose. We must prove that books as a medium are just as important as the story itself. E-publishing is here to stay, but it is our job to renew books’ viability as an art form, to create work that confronts our readers physically and intellectually, and to let our process change, not just the work and its recipients, but ourselves as artists.  fic •••


Everyone Remain Calm AUTHOR:

Megan Stielstra PUBLISHER / DATE: Joyland/ECW; October 2011 HERE, READ THIS PART: I imagined grabbing his rib bone and sliding it out of his side, dropping it to the floor and under the bed… The next day I’d take another one, and he’d have to buckle his belt a couple notches tighter. The day after that he’d be bending forward, curved like some cripple’s cane. By the time the whole rack of ribs was hidden under the bed, Eustis Kane would have nothing left to hold him together in the middle and he’d cave right in, just skin and meat and goop. I’d rub him off me and put the sheets in the wash, and later, when my husband got home from work, there’d be a pile of bones on a platter on the dining room table.







Jessie Morrison


I’ve found myself morphing into one of those cane-shaking, crotchety old people I used to ridicule. Now I cringe every time I have to actually speak with someone other than my mother on the telephone. I used to feel the same way about blogs—that they were a passing trend. The process of blogging seemed so hip and “mecentric” that I didn’t want any part of it. But that all changed last year when Writer’s Digest asked me to write a blog, “MFA Confidential,” chronicling my experiences as a fiction writing graduate student at Columbia. If you can’t roll with change, I told myself, you’ll be left behind. And wouldn’t it be cool to Google myself and have something come up that had nothing to do with the professional racecar driver with whom I happen to share my name? I learned that blogs are meant to supplement not replace traditional literature. I’ve become a fan of blogs, and, to that end, here’s a look at some of the blogs being produced by Columbia Fiction Writing faculty, students, and alums:



Fiction Writing Full-time faculty member (and one of my favorite teachers!) Patty McNair began her blog as a platform to promote her upcoming book, The Temple of Air, but it has since grown into a writing community. The website is both conversational and literary, featuring poems, conversations with authors, and reflections on writing. Additionally, she features the “View From the Keyboard” series, where people send in photos of their writing spaces, prompting conversation about how physical space affects process. Patty posts about three times a week.

Fiction Writing grad student Derek Johnson started his blog earlier this year, he says, as an outlet to display his personality. He told me that he wanted a site that was both personal and unpretentious, marked, above all, by honesty: “I am thirty years old,” he writes in one post, “and my body cannot do the things it once did.” Derek’s blog is a mixture of personal reflection with occasional posts of his flash fiction. He says that blogging helps with discipline, to be in the habit of writing as often as possible. Derek posts about once a week.



Fiction Writing adjunct faculty member Rob Duffer’s blog is written from the perspective of the “husband/dad/guy.” Duffer’s blog is marked by an honest, self-deprecating style, mainly featuring personal essays, but also including guest essays by other dads. “Blog sounds like something you do in a dumpster. Or outhouse,” he says. “Such were my initial impressions.” He was contacted by the Chicago Lit Scene correspondent for Examiner, a communitybased-blog-news network, and began his online writing career. Duffer found the platform useful in addressing the fact that most parenting websites are aimed at mothers. His hope is that the blog might eventually morph into a digital magazine with a print component. 

Fiction Writing alum Eliza Evans has been writing online “since the late ‘90s, before the word ‘blog’ was even coined. Back then, we had online journals and the content was very, very personal.” Since 2008, Eliza began her blog in its current incarnation. As a writer of commercial fiction, Evans felt it was important to secure an online presence and get a head start on being active in social media, as many editors and agents look for that in writers. The blog helps Evans to streamline her process: instead of slaving over a piece, she writes, posts, and then has to let it go. The feedback she gets helps her to understand whether it’s working. Her blogs are short, observational, and personal, usually accompanied by photographs. She adds a new post every Monday. fic   •••



Justin Bostian

Book reviews, interviews and other forms of freelance writing are economically viable and in demand, and, while they’re not as glamorous as a New York Times bestseller, students pursuing a career in writing and publishing can’t ignore the practical side of their chosen field. The Review Lab, staffed by students and faculty from Columbia College’s Fiction Writing Department, helps young, hungry writers apply their talents to create and publish book reviews, generate clips and nab a small but satisfying paycheck. The process of reviewing a book for the Lab follows a traditional editorial path, including multiple revisions and close communication between writers and editors. That’s the biggest advantage of participating in the Review Lab— real-world experience with others in the writing community. “You’re actively practicing the craft of writing,” says Jotham Burrello, director of the Review Lab. “If you’re serious about developing your craft, you have to work with other writers, and that’s what the Review Lab offers.” There’s nothing superfluous or unnecessary about the Review Lab’s goals, processes or results. It exists to bridge the gap between the safety of a classroom and the cold, competitive world of the publishing industry. When confronted with these points, why wouldn’t you take advantage of this opportunity? The student begins by choosing a book from the Review Lab’s collection, a revolving stock of first novels and short-story collections from small presses like Akashic Books, Leapfrog Press, Seven Stories and many more. After reading the chosen book and submitting a first draft, the writer works with a Review Lab editor to streamline the piece, which involves paying close attention to the language and structure while squeezing as much information into 750 odd words as is concisely possible. After a few drafts, the well-polished review is given a critical eye by Burrello, who tears it apart. From that

point, at least one more draft is prepared before the finished review is released into the world. Some of the student reviews are featured in The Review Lab’s web publication, featured on the Fiction Writing Department website. Accepted writers are allowed to keep the book they’ve chosen and score a cool $25.00 for their contribution. Any reviews that aren’t used by the Lab itself are given back to the writers with an editorial high-five and a list of publications that are searching for the perfect book review. Student reviewers have had their work published in many paying and non-paying markets, including Bookslut, Time Out Chicago and Midwest Book Review. The book review is a literary tool that continues to be sought after in a wide variety of publications. Writing reviews regularly can provide a consistent (if lean) income while the writer tries to finish and then sell the Great American Novel. The Review Lab, then, is a valuable resource, providing students with the opportunity to take their skills and apply them immediately to a practical, real-world situation. It also forces the writer to pay attention to their reading material in a different way, noting important points concerning every aspect of the writing process that they can then apply to their own work. It stands as one of the Fiction Writing Department’s best routes to the publishing industry.  fic •••





Maggie Ritchie

MR: I want that on my tombstone. AEM: I hope you don’t need it anytime soon! MR: Thanks! Same here. On that note, though, who inspires you? AEM: I read a lot of nonfiction. I was in the USSR, in Georgia (the country) and I was reading some history of white people and some old feminist writings. And when I say “old,” I mean like, from the 1970s. (laughs) But that’s the stuff that feeds me as a writer, not necessarily the stuff that gets me super excited. Mostly fiction gets me super excited, like Stephen Fry, Lorrie Moore, Elizabeth Crane, and some comics people like Lynda Barry, people who are doing these brilliant, important things. But you can’t read them every day. Like, you can’t just pick up Lynda Barry every time you’re having a bad day.

I was lucky enough to talk with her on how she does it all, what gets her excited about writing, and her new nonfiction book, Cambodian Grrrl: Self-Publishing in Phnom Penh (Cantankerous Titles, 2011), about her experiences teaching a class for young women on self-publishing in a country where it isn’t legal. Rebel, rebel. MR: When it comes to literary activism, where do you start? AEM: It’s important to look at the term activism. I’m not so comfortable with it. Activists have a set idea how things are supposed to change. When I walked into the first dormitory for girls in Cambodia, I didn’t have a specific goal for them. Instead, I asked questions like, “What can I do for you?” “What resources can I offer?”

Anne Elizabeth Moore Columbia’s Center for Book and Paper Arts in 2009 offered a retrospective of Moore’s zine artwork from 1998-2008. Founding editor of Best American Comics.

You know when you get a great idea for how to change the world, and there’s that loud voice in your head that says, “Eh, do it tomorrow”? Anne Elizabeth Moore is the even-louder, bubblier, bolder voice that says, “Get off your ass and do it!” Moore, a Fulbright scholar and author of Unmarketable: Brandalism, Copyfighting, Mocketing, and the Erosion of Integrity (The New Press, 2007) and Hey Kidz, Buy This Book: A Radical Primer on Corporate and Governmental Propaganda and Artistic Activism for Short People (Soft Skull, 2004) is arguably the queen of DIY publishing.


MR: What was the rest of the process like? AEM: This started when Punk Planet was shutting down. Self-publishing wasn’t doing so well, so I started researching where it would be useful. Then I found these young ladies in Cambodia, where the government and society is really, really oppressive, where self-publishing was kind of revolutionary. And I’ve been self-publishing since I was 11, so I thought I could offer my resources. MR: You started self-publishing at eleven? AEM: Yeah, in most interviews it says fifteen, which is official. But I was looking through a box of old crap that my mom had and there was my first zine. It was a comic book that worked on the framework of Garfield, where the main character got into hijinx and adventures and had a catch phrase, which was “Darn!” I don’t know why that catch phrase never caught on. MR: Speaking of comics, you often blend feminist criticism and comics. How did that come about? AEM: As a Best American Comic series founder, it allowed me to see tendencies I wasn’t

comfortable with, mainly in sex, gender, race, and class, both in the way people are hired in the industry and the way characters are portrayed. I pitched a class where I teach, about comics and gender and they said, “Well, your classes always fill up, so go for it!” Since then, my classes have been filled with the most amazing, critical, analytical, creative minds. We started looking into the hiring of women in creative roles in the industry and it’s just not happening. That’s when Ladydrawers started. MR: I see a lot of cynicism and general blaséness among emerging writers. What advice do you have for writers who want to effect change? AEM: I could answer this question 52 different ways. But I guess I’d say that cynicism has been covered. I look at the things that people keep going back to, and it’s the same old shit, like David Foster Wallace, for example. And really, all these guys were doing was cynicism. “Oh, I’m the smartest guy in the room.” But we know that they probably weren’t the smartest guys in the room. We have to realize that we’ve sort of cornered the market on cynicism, so maybe we should try something else. Don’t like what everybody likes. And it doesn’t have to be happy puppy dogs, but you have to find what inspires you so that you can write things that inspire other people.

MR: Now for the question that starts with “In this economy…”: In this economy, how do you support yourself? AEM: Oh, you mean on these expensive projects that often don’t pay? (laughs) Well, I sort of live in a different economy. I come from this US cultural underground of, “I’ve got a pair of jeans and a tee-shirt, so I’m probably going to be okay for the next week;” not owning very much, re-using, recycling. I’m open to not having the best food, and certainly not in fancy restaurants. I just shift my baseline economy. I’m used to having less. The project in Cambodian Grrrl was funded by Fulbright, which helped out a lot. And it helped that I’m used to living this lifestyle. Once you do this stuff enough, you get good at it and people will help you out. Sometimes I’m conflicted about it. But I remember that this work does deserve it. I’m reminded of that with daily freaking e-mails saying “I read your book and what you’re doing is great.” Oh, and even better, “I read your book and I wrote this song about what you’re doing!” MR: How many songs have been written about what you do? AEM: Almost enough for a mix tape.  fic •••



The Cheat Sheet: A Clue-by-Clue Guide to Finding Out If He’s Unfaithful AUTHOR:

Rea Frey and Stephany Alexander PUBLISHER / DATE: Adams Media; June 2011 AUTHOR’S PITCH: This book will help anyone in a relationship. There are stories from all walks of life: married, single, straight, gay, religious, and even teens. You name it, they’ve cheated. With The Cheat Sheet, you’ll know when he cheats, how to catch him red-handed, and where to find a relationship that will bring you a lifetime of fidelity and happiness. HERE, READ THIS PART: If you ever find yourself drawn to someone else, notice why. Is it the newness? Does this person have a passion that you admire, or do you have common interests? Did you recognize these same traits in your partner when you first met? Realize that this excitement about someone new will mostly likely fade, just like it did with your original partner. Try to pinpoint exactly where the attraction is and see if you can’t remedy what’s missing in your current relationship.




Kaitlyn Wightman

McNair is no amateur fiction writer. She has been published in anthologies and magazines including American Fiction: Best Unpublished Short Stories by Emerging Writers and Creative Nonfiction, and she’s a regular contributor to Elks Magazine. Her honors include the Illinois Arts Council Award, Pushcart Prize nominations, a Writer’s Grant and residency at the Vermont Studio Center, a residency at the Glen Arbor Arts Association, and Writer in Residence at Interlochen Arts Academy. She’s also been honored for her teaching at Columbia College Chicago, winning the college’s Excellence in Teaching Award and a nomination for the Carnegie Foundation’s US Professor of the Year. But when it comes to marketing a literary fiction collection, even a writer with all these credentials doesn’t guarantee a book publisher large profits.

Jotham Burrello Fiction Writing Department PartTime Faculty. Founder of Elephant Rock Productions and director of the Publishing Lab and Review Lab.

Patricia McNair Fiction Writing Department Associate Professor. 2010-11 Acting Department Chair. PHOTO BY MOE MARTINEZ

It all began with a simple question. Part-time Fiction Writing Department faculty member Jotham Burrello stopped by full-time Fiction Writing faculty member Patricia McNair’s office one afternoon in September, 2010, and asked about The Temple of Air, a short story collection that she was shopping around to publishers. McNair told him what editors told her: Her stories were good, but publishing a literary fiction collection was too risky.


Burrello understood her struggle. He had been in and out of the literary publishing world for almost twenty years. While interning at the Atlantic magazine, he experienced first hand how difficult it was to read the unsolicited works of fiction that always filled the mailbox. That’s why at Elephant Rock Books, an imprint of his multimedia company Elephant Rock Productions, he runs things differently and seeks out manuscripts to publish. “I know plenty of writers producing quality prose,” he said. “And I know how unfair it is to [have] writers wait months and months for a response from a publisher.” He knew that McNair produced quality work. Burrello edited an essay she wrote for his magazine, Sport Literate, and he’d read her fiction over the years. So after their talk, he returned to the college’s Publishing Lab and stared at the ceiling in deep thought. Here was a manuscript edited and ready for publication by a writer he already had a working relationship with, and who continually stays connected in the writing world. It only took fifteen minutes for him to walk back to McNair’s office. “I’ll publish your collection,” he said. For many emerging writers, this is the oftenfantasized-about end of the long journey to getting published. But in reality, getting a publisher’s acceptance is only the beginning of the business. For McNair, accepting Burrello’s offer was easy. “I could not have made a better choice,” she said. “I think that independent presses are essential in this day and age, and I am lucky to have hooked up with a good one.”

Independent presses are not like the New York City giants, but smaller publishers that support what large publishers sometimes neglect—literary fiction, short story collections, chapbooks, and regional interest books, to name a few. These smaller presses also take unsolicited manuscripts. Working with smaller publishers comes at a price—lower budgets to work with in publishing, promoting, and selling the book.

PRINTING Because McNair had spent ten years editing and reworking her story collection, she and Burrello needed just a brief amount of time to fine-tune the manuscript before plunging into the printing phase. “Eighty percent of my time [on a book] is spent on non-editing tasks,” said Burrello. This includes designing, scheduling, and promoting the book. To get the book to the press, McNair and Burrello had to be in constant contact. That meant weekly emails, monthly calls, and occasional Thai-food dinners to get the work done. McNair even worked closely with Elephant Rock Books’ designer and printer to decide on the cover design and layout of the book. “It feels good to hold in your hands,” she said. “All of that helps people decide to buy it.” This wouldn’t usually happen at most large publishing companies. Not only would the cover be designed only by the company’s design team, but the author would discover the book’s look when the mock-up blueprint arrived in the mail.

MARKETING Choosing a book cover means promoting that book cover. A rule of thumb in the publishing industry is that 8 percent of net revenue is spent on marketing and promoting the book. Elephant Rock Books had less to work with for The Temple of Air. “Free marketing” is the first solution to getting the word out—that is, word of mouth, requesting written reviews, scheduling public readings, and digital/social media marketing. This is where the author needs to step up and sell the book. “It’s a shared responsibility to get the word out,” said Burrello. “But the writer must be out front. No one wants to see or hear from me at a reading or conference.”

And McNair hasn’t been shy about promoting The Temple of Air. She already maintains a constant online presence with her website ( and View From the Keyboard blog series that connects and engages the literary community. She did the footwork (and driving) to schedule workshops and readings across the Midwest throughout the summer and into the fall. Some marketing approaches that make an impact cost money. Elephant Rock Books printed postcards to hand out at literary events or to stack at coffee shops and bookstores. Posters of the book were also printed to hang at scheduled reading venues.

SELLING With the marketing process under way and the book hot off the press, McNair was eager to start selling her book. The Temple of Air was officially launched at the Women and Children First bookstore in Chicago on September 9 with a public reading and book sale. The book is also available online at the Elephant Rock Books site books as well as Amazon and in e-book format. The Temple of Air will even be carried at select Chicago bookstores. According to Burrello, getting national distribution for a nascent independent press is an uphill struggle with the redundant process of submitting queries and waiting. The press recently acquired a national distributor after much searching. “The effort to establish a relationship only to distribute a few products is not worth it financially [for a national distributor],” said Burrello.

BEYOND THE FIRST BOOK All this selling and celebrating hasn’t kept McNair away from the keyboard to work on her second book. “I am glad to have a book out there,” she said. “But that doesn’t promise anything for the next one. And having a book published doesn’t get the next one written. Only time at the desk can do that.” What advice does Burrello have for emerging writers? “Work hard on the writing,” he said, “and readers will find you.”  fic •••





about your own culture. If you were really good you’d write about something totally different.” I don’t agree with that. I write about things that fascinate me, just as I think most writers do.

Matt Arado another one. I kept writing for that paper, and then began submitting stories to contests in places like Seventeen magazine. When I got to college, I started submitting more seriously, to small journals, magazines I’d see advertised on the walls of the English Department. It grew from there. MA: You started writing your first novel, Breath, Eyes, Memory, while a grad student at Brown. ED: I did. Actually, it had its true beginnings in some of the earlier pieces I’d done for that citywide paper. But it really took shape at Brown. It wasn’t anything that I workshopped, though. I just worked on it here and there while doing other work for my classes. It seemed super vulnerable to me, like something that could die from too much criticism! (Laughs)

Edwidge Danticat 2002 Story Week Featured Writer. A 2009 MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellow and 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award winner, Danticat received in 2011 the Langston Hughes Medal from City College of New York. PHOTO BY FREDERICK CARRE ALEXIS

Edwidge Danticat doesn’t mind being referred to as an “immigrant writer.” The 42-year-old novelist, memoirist and essayist, who was born in Haiti and moved to New York at the age of twelve, believes the phrase describes who she is and what she does—not what she’s capable of doing. “It’s simply a statement of fact,” she says. “I am an immigrant—part of the first generation of my family willing to call myself that. And I’m a writer. And much of what I write is about being an immigrant. But it’s not all I can do.” Danticat emerged on the literary scene in 1994 with her debut novel, Breath, Eyes, Memory, which started as her thesis project in the MFA program at Brown University. Since then she has jumped from fiction to nonfiction and back again, telling 12 — FICTIONARY SPRING 2012

stories that cast an insightful and compassionate eye on her home country of Haiti and how that nation’s struggles continue to haunt the people who leave it. Danticat’s work has received the American Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, and in 2009 she was awarded the prestigious MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship. Fictionary chatted with Danticat recently about her career, her process, and what it means to be a writer in today’s uncertain publishing world. MA: When did you first sense that you’d like to tell stories for a living? ED: I was always writing—ever since I came here, really. I was twelve when I moved, and when I got to high school I started writing stories for a newspaper that was distributed to public high schools in New York. I think one of my first pieces was about what it was like to come to America at twelve, not knowing the language or anything. I remember using the image of riding an escalator, how doing that felt like moving from one life to

MA: How do you go about your writing? Is there a particular time, place, etc., you devote to work, or do you grab time when you can? ED: I really don’t have any ritualized process in place. Before becoming a parent, I pretty much wrote all the time. Now I have two children, and as every parent knows, that severely limits your free time. I find now I spend a lot of my day contemplating my writing, and then when I do have a chance to sit down and do it I really try to make the most of it. I tend to work at night now, because that’s when the children are asleep. MA: Besides your parental obligations, are you able to concentrate on your writing full time? ED: What I try to do is alternate periods where I have a job—I’ll adjunct teach at a university, or do freelance essays and articles—with periods where I focus on my writing. It takes some planning. I don’t mind the periods where I’m working, because I’m able to do things that I know will enrich my own writing when I get to it. MA: You’re known for exploring the immigrant experience in your writing, especially as it relates to Haiti. Have you ever found that this “typecasts” you with critics or the audience? Do you ever feel pressured by your readers to do a certain kind of story? ED: I think if I feel any pressure it’s from the other side. The idea that, “Oh, it’s easy to write

MA: You’ve written in a variety of forms and genres throughout your career: short stories, novels, memoirs, essays, young adult fiction. What inspires you to move from one to the other like that? ED: Well, first of all, I look at all of it as storytelling. And that’s what I’m really about— telling stories. But it’s also true that each form presents different challenges to me as a writer, and I like that. I like trying different ways of getting to a story. I think that goes back to the previous question, about common subject matter. I enjoy writing about Haiti and the immigrant experience because those are subjects close to my heart, and they’re subjects that haven’t necessarily been explored in full by other writers. I feel I have something to bring to that subject. And using different kinds of formats keeps it from getting stale or predictable for me. MA: Your book The Dew Breaker (2004), about a Brooklyn man who harbors dark secrets about his past in Haiti, has an interesting structure, one that falls somewhere between a novel and a collection of short stories. Did you approach it that way from the start? ED: That happened during the writing of it. I love short stories, and I love novels, and as I developed that book I became interested in kind of marrying the two forms together. It’s not really one or the other. That’s why on the cover it doesn’t say “a novel” or “a short story collection.” It’s just, The Dew Breaker. Structure is always a big question. I’m working on something now that’s about a talk-radio show, and I’m spending a lot of time on figuring out the right structure to use. MA: The title of your latest book, a collection of personal essays, is Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist At Work. I’m curious where that title came from, and what “creating dangerously” means to you. ED: The title comes from a lecture by Albert Camus that was very inspirational to me. If you haven’t read it, you should. It got me thinking about people who make art without any regard for their personal or political obligations. And that book is really a meditation on being bold and taking risks in the art we make. It got me thinking about my own reaction when I finish a piece. It might be something that’s competently done, but I try to ask myself questions: What is the piece contributing to the world that’s new? What

purpose does the piece serve? Why does it need to exist? Now, that doesn’t mean that everything I write must have an earth-shattering effect, but it should at least be an attempt to move beyond the safe or conventional. “Creating dangerously” also has some meaning for me as an immigrant writer, because you never know how people from your homeland are going to react when you use their lives, their struggles, in art that you create from afar. But the alternative would be silence, and to me, that’s not acceptable. MA: The publishing world is going through a lot of upheaval now as a result of the down economy, changes in technology, and other factors. What do you think about the way things are going? ED: Well, that’s such an unknown right now. Who can say what this industry will look like down the road? Just looking at e-readers, for example. I think we maybe can gain a number of new readers with those devices. And that would be great. But I’m concerned at the same time about physical bookstores, which have been such strong advocates for books and writers. I don’t want them to disappear entirely. It’s all very confusing right now, but I do believe that people still want to read, and I think they always will, however the material is delivered to them. MA: How do you go about marketing yourself in this new high-tech environment? ED: I’m actually behind the times in a lot of ways. I go the traditional route—book tours and interviews. My publisher set up a Facebook page, but I barely do anything with it. It’s not that I don’t like it, or think I’m “too good” for it. It’s simply a matter of time. I have two young kids, and I haven’t figured out a way to add a blog or Facebook time to everything else I have to do. I know some writers have done that—Colson Whitehead has something like 80,000 followers on Twitter! And young writers today make their names on the Internet before anything of theirs even gets printed! So I have to get better with that stuff. MA: Any final words? ED: Well, because students will be reading, I’d like to say this: I know there’s some antiMFA feeling out there. For me, though, it was wonderful being in that kind of program. It gave me a community, a group of people who were serious about writing and took my work seriously. I could see patterns in my work—things I could change and improve. Whatever level you’re at, the important thing is to learn as much as you can. You won’t always have this kind of time to explore your own work. It’s really precious.  fic •••


The Temple of Air AUTHOR:

Patricia Ann McNair PUBLISHER / DATE: Elephant Rocks Books; September 2011 AUTHOR’S PITCH: Grief, tragedy, broken hearts, bad behavior, joy, comfort, bubble gum, summer storms, and ice cream fill the pages of these stories, just as they fill the days of our lives. HERE, READ THIS PART: Close by, the door to the Temple of Air was propped open, and Ernie could hear the loud hum of voices spill out from it. He couldn’t make out any specific words, but the sound reminded him of childhood and home, of Saturdays at the synagogue in the suburbs, a chorus of sounds aimed at something beyond knowing, at something greater than the everyday, something bigger and brighter and more beautiful than all that was visible. Ernie often stood silently outside the Temple of Air on a Saturday morning, listening and remembering and longing for something he could no longer name, something, he was certain, that was no longer available to him.





Kevin Kane

Folks at the Fiction Writing Department never know when to stop when it comes to literary activities and aspirations, and that’s one of the things that keeps the community thriving. Whether it’s starting up a journal, magazine, broadsheet, reading series, themed reading series, cross-country tour, activist-based collaborations, websites, and on and on, writers and editors associated with our fair department open up a dialogue with the rest of the city, country, and world, demonstrating something about its people. The number of extremely successful literary endeavors like The2ndHand, Reading Under the Influence, and 2nd Story could easily fill the pages of this magazine and a handful like it. For this issue, we cherry-picked a few recent forays into the DIY literary world that add new voices to the growing weight of both the Fiction Writing Department and the wider, amazing literary community of this renegade city by the lake.

CRIMINAL CLASS REVIEW “We Will Not Take No for an Answer” Kevin Whiteley, Columbia College alum, takes his job seriously. As one of the founders of Criminal Class Press which produced Criminal Class Review, along with Ricardo Cozzolino and St. Johnny Walker, he never lets slip from his mind the task at hand: make their publication the best it can be. As the name might suggest, the journal offers a different focus than many others out there—a unique look at a diverse, if sometimes-underserved group of people. Whiteley explains, “We definitely want to keep that blue collar voice and class alive because that’s one of the foundations of writing: life experience. That definitely makes a better writer, and Criminal Class Press is there to project that voice and keep it alive.” The small group of founders has grown along the way: “We have twelve people now and everyone was hand-picked. We do everything as a team. No one is more important than the others. The members of the outfit were handpicked for their dedication, their work ethic and their loyalty. The owners have put their trust in us to take this publication to the top. We’ll never stop busting our ass. We’re a family and we look out for each other.”

That’s something that Whiteley returns to again and again—the camaraderie, connections and mutual respect among writers, activists, and literary types. Unlike many journals out there, the Criminal Class staff puts out the publication alone, without backing from a corporate sponsor or academic institution. That trust, loyalty, and brotherhood come in handy when putting in those long hours. Whiteley contacted Walker and Cozzolino, and they put the first issue together themselves, and funded it themselves after a potential backer, a record label, felt that the publication was “too smart.” Though the magazine’s aesthetic hasn’t changed much from the blue collar-inspired writing, they have brought more genres of writing into the fold. Whiteley notes, “Originally, we were putting in the stories that inspired the music of the punk scene and that’s still true, but we’ve also acquired noir, and we still take gritty edgy stories like that. We certainly remain in that darker aesthetic.” The journal and widening staff don’t stop at just the issue. In October of 2010, they hit the road, renting an SUV and driving nonstop to Vermont, New Hampshire, and down to New York City for a reading at Banjo Jim’s. Just as they put up the money for the first issue, they paid for the trip and planned it themselves.

For the 2011 Printer’s Row Literary Festival, Criminal Class Press delivered a unique and specific show by hosting a reading by writers dressed in prison jump suits. The work read was written by San Quentin inmates and published in their latest issue. “Our involvement in Printer’s Row was a springboard from Kent and Keith Zimmerman guest editing the last issue. Our project in San Quentin was a great chance to give back and work with my grand mentors Kent and Keith Zimmerman. We felt it was important to participate in Printer’s Row so that the guys back in H Unit in San Quentin would have a chance to hear their stories being read. We’re damn proud of them. We had a DVD made and we sent that back to San Quentin. We had a big banner of the cover made to send that back. We gave free copies of the magazine to the guys in H Unit. It was a chance to work with them and really hear some voices that had been through some serious hard times. It was really a treat for us.” In the works still: a west coast tour that will stretch from Los Angeles to San Quentin with multiple readings taking place up that long stretch of California. Criminal Class Press will also get involved in more international activities. One of the assistant editors, Bill Hillman (Fiction Writing MFA candidate), who also founded and runs the popular Windy City Story Slam, will be taking Criminal Class Press to both the UK and Australia.

Kevin Whiteley Fiction Writing Department BA Alumnus.




Knee-Jerk Magazine Three Fiction Writing Department MFA Alums: Tartaglione, Fullmer, and Bye (Unpictured). PHOTO BY MOE MARTINEZ

Neutron Bomb Three Fiction Writing Department MFA Candidates: Kumming, Ritchie, Terry. PHOTO BY MOE MARTINEZ

KNEE-JERK MAGAZINE “Get Involved. Stay Involved.” The three guys who make up Knee-Jerk Magazine, Jon Fullmer, Casey Bye, and Steve Tartaglione, all Fiction Writing MFA alumni, seem attached at the hip (though Bye recently stretched that hip from Chicago to Memphis). They finish each other’s sentences, playfully rib one another, but also show a sincere and mutual respect. All three entered the MFA in Fiction Writing program at Columbia College together and found solace late at night after classes over drinks, talking about writing and future plans but in particular the idea of starting a literary project or magazine. Tartaglione says, “We realized we were nearing the end of our first year of grad school. And we knew the ten people that came in with us. We had a little interaction with some of the class that


came in before us but that was it as far as being tapped into the wider Chicago lit scene. So how do you do that?”

“It forced us to think it through,” Fullmer says. After securing a domain name, email, and a blog set up, they were on their way.

They did that by getting involved: attending reading series like Reading Under the Influence or Quickies and meeting readers and the folks that ran the series. They also talked about their plans while (briefly) serving as assistant editors at Another Chicago Magazine, where the editor-in-chief Jacob Knabb, introduced them to a lot of behind-the-scenes activities like reading submissions and attending editorial meetings. The Fiction Writing classes also helped them to flesh out Knee-Jerk: Bye took Jonathan Messinger’s Small Press Publishing Course which helped establish a timeline for their project, while Tartaglione and Fullmer took Sam Weller’s Freelance Applications where they used the kernel of the magazine in the class.

They secured some great, national talent for their early issues including Bonnie Jo Campbell, David Shields, Padgett Powell, Michael Martone, and many more. “I think that was part of going into it,” Tartaglione says. “We decided that if one of the main things is to branch out, to connect with these people, let’s take a few chances.” Fullmer continues his friend’s line of thought: “Our big word was community. We just wanted to bring together, incorporate, celebrate art in general through writing. That’s why we had the idea of the dinner table.” As their website states, they see their magazine as “a dinner table filled with friends and family. We’re all

sharing ideas, stories, laughter, and a whole lot of corndogs. The table is round, everyone is facing each other; everyone is enjoying the company. Next to the published writer is an emerging writer, a person who’s searching for a home for his or her first story. Sitting across from them is a musician who finds time to squeak out a story between studio sessions. Also at the table, the casual reader of literature. And the guy who’s read Infinite Jest twice.” Recently, this online magazine ventured into the world of print with a stellar collection of fiction, interviews, essays, and comics with the help of the Weisman Grant from Columbia College. As before, they went out and talked to people; they invited folks to submit or solicited from well-known writers. That line of communication continues, drawing new readers to the magazine and introducing them to new writers.

The next edition of Knee-Jerk Offline is in the works for the 2012 Associated Writing Program conference in Chicago. They’re finding themselves entering a different stage in the process, one separate from graduate school. Fullmer explains, “We’re just finding ourselves maturing as we do this because we’re realizing what’s working and what’s not. We had some big ideas in the beginning that either fade out or get reconstructed into a new idea. But the big thing is that we’re very open to ideas and progress and change. We want to keep this an interesting magazine; no matter what format we take, we want people to be excited the way we’re excited.” I think we’re all excited to see what happens next.

NEUTRON BOMB: PUNK ROCK WRITING “Bring the Energy” Neutron Bomb: Punk Rock Writing isn’t like any other reading series. It’s brash, loud, and held in a grimy but well-respected South Loop bar—Cal’s Liquors where it looks, according to co-founder Chris Terry, “like a bomb went off in there five years ago and they never cleaned it up.” Benny Kumming, Maggie Ritchie, and Terry, all MFA candidates in the Fiction Writing Department and the founders of Neutron Bomb are not grimy or brash or loud, at least not usually. The idea started when Ritchie and Kumming found themselves being shushed at a disappointing reading. They wanted something different, less James Taylor and more like, as Terry put it, “the reading equivalent of ‘Judy is a


the past thirty years,” and that they hope to contribute to its continued existence by “giving a venue for bands to play to new people—for people to make connections to the music they might not have made otherwise.” In the end, it’s a fusion of punk rock music and writing: two worlds that they are all passionate about that they can celebrate by putting together the readings and shows.

THE HANDSHAKE “Create What You Love” Dan Duffy, Fiction Writing MFA candidate, loves magazines. In particular, those full of great nonfiction writing like the popular Stop Smiling magazine that recently transitioned to book publishing a few years ago. When he interviewed JC Gabel, the founder and editor of Stop Smiling, he realized that he wanted more than to love magazines. He wanted to start one—one full of nonfiction like the long-form interviews in Gabel’s magazine and the researched, essay writing popular in glossy magazines in the 1960s like Rolling Stone and Esquire. So he did: the Handshake Magazine was born about six months after he interviewed Gabel.

The Handshake Fiction Writing Department MFA Candidate: Duffy. PHOTO BY MOE MARTINEZ

Punk’ by the Ramones. Short and exciting and just generally faster paced.” To put it together, they sat in Ritchie’s basement apartment and she says “talked about how we wanted the structure of the event to go so what we ended up with, roughly: two or three readers, then a band. A break before two or three readers and a final band. We talked about who we wanted. Who we know could represent what we’re looking for.” And they were looking for more than just someone who could write a good story—they wanted storytellers, someone that could tell an engaging story off the cuff. “We’re always looking for storytellers who aren’t always writers,” Terry says.


All three have a punk rock past, and all have played in various manifestations of punk bands. Ritchie, a green mohawk-wearing teen in a town where the school mascot was a hay bailer, played in a band called Unbalanced Systems. Terry played in a number of punk bands and has been writing reviews for the magazine Razor Cake for years. They’re reaching back into their past, but in a different way than just attending shows again. Kumming notes that “punk rock is something that has stayed with me.” Terry adds, “Music was more of a creative outlet when I was in my early to mid twenties. I’m into writing now and I still get to have the social aspect with, loud music, and the performance side of it: the entertainment.” But punk rock is more than just either the music or other manifestations of it.

Terry points out, “There is the punk idea of doing it yourself. Of feeling like what you’re doing is organic. That it’s of your own creation. I think that transfers to progressive or independent literature. We’re trying to shed light on that here.” The reading series features an edge to it, an aesthetic of punk without focusing on broken beer bottles or mohawks by transitioning toward the energy that punk contains. They do this by inviting readers as well as bands who exhibit that spirit of, as Terry puts it, “rebelliousness or questioning quality that reminds me of punk rock.” They don’t want to close off anyone from reading or attending. But it still goes back to the music in some ways. Kumming explains that “punk rock has come and gone in waves over

The concept for the magazine spawned not only from the idea of long-form interviews and essays but from Duffy’s influences as a fiction writer (Henry Miller, Jack Kerouac, and New Journalists: Gay Talese, Hunter S. Thompson), enjoyment of conversations between artists as in the Believer, and appreciation for magazines like National Geographic that deliver phenomenal photography with writing. And the rubric became known: an essay, a conversation, an interview, a story, and a photographic travel essay. Duffy says, “If we can just do one of each of those it would be a well-rounded magazine that people will want to read from cover to cover rather than having someone open it up and read just one interview from someone they know. I’m going for a balance between bright, beautiful photography but also really solid long-form content where you get real answers.”

date with friends, Duffy talked to Brad LaBree about the idea of interviewing working people about their jobs, an homage to another writing influence: Studs Terkel. They created the “Working” section of the website because “having that video component of real world people we can relate to who just have real jobs, and pairing that with the interviews and conversations and some fiction—all this stuff involves the same people.” He enlisted a number of other friends and, full disclosure, enlisted myself as managing editor. Kickstarter, the online site dedicated to funding projects through donations, helped provide not only financial backing but moved the drive to start the magazine to a different level. Duffy made videos explaining the project and invited donations. “I said that this money you’re donating to this cause is going to pay for this website and this print run,” Duffy explains. “So I needed a website then and a print run. How do I do these things?” Jonathan Messinger’s Small Press Publishing class in the Fiction Writing department provided some of the logistics like finding a printer and getting print quotes. For the website, a few friends helped out at first but Duffy learned that “even though they’re your friends, web designers and developers get paid a lot.” He decided to design and make the thing himself using a base template and “long nights spent in online forums.” He completed the website, and continues to toy with it. The magazine successfully raised the money on Kickstarter. The first issue arrived on June 21st to a packed room at Schuba’s Tavern, featuring a “Working” video of Peter, a funeral director, and a reading by Don De Grazia, Fiction Writing Department full-time faculty member whose fiction appeared in the first issue. Duffy constructed a dual publishing program for the magazine: tri-annually for print with new content put up every other month online. Though the magazine publishes mostly nonfiction, many call the publication a literary journal, but Duffy knows that distinction is a work in progress. A recent author Duffy contacted, Arion Berger, said of the magazine: “Most literary journals leave me cold, but this has a lot of head, heart, and muscle.”  fic •••


Birch Hills at World’s End AUTHOR:

Geoff Hyatt PUBLISHER / DATE: Vagabondage Press; September 2011 HERE, READ THIS PART: Birch Hills sprawled somewhere between Detroit and nowhere, and halfway through our senior year it started to break us. It was the ass-end of 1998. All across the country, lunatics stockpiled ammo and bottled water in preparation for a millennial apocalypse. The war with Iraq was brief and happened when we were little; you could still see shredded, yellow ribbons tied around backcountry trees. Our high school’s doors stood unlocked all day; inside, it had no security cameras, and no one had to wear an ID badge. I had a mad crush on Lindsay Kruthers. Erik Grunder was my best friend. I’d never known anyone who got murdered. All of these things would change faster than I could have imagined.


Duffy didn’t want to stop at a print magazine, and Handshake Online was born. Over a double



Michael Meyer



W E W A N T T O H E A R F R O M YO U ! Full-time faculty member Randy Albers was recently listed in New City Magazine’s 50 People Who Really Book in Chicago. He chairs the Fiction Writing Department at Columbia College Chicago, and is the founding producer of Story Week Festival of Writers. He is the co-writer and co-producer of the Story Workshop creative writing videotapes, The Living Voice Moves and Story From First Impulse to Final Draft, and has presented at AWP and many other national conferences on writing and the teaching of writing. A Certified Story Workshop Master Teacher, he is a former recipient of the Columbia College Chicago Teaching Excellence Award. In 2010, he was nominator for the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Prairie Schooner, F Magazine, Writing in Education, TriQuarterly, and elsewhere. A chapter from his novel-in-progress, All the World Before Them, was nominated for a Pushcart prize.

Part-time faculty member Megan Stielstra was also listed in New City Magazine’s 50 People Who Really Book in Chicago. In addition to teaching creative writing at Columbia College, Megan is the Assistant Director of Columbia’s Center for Teaching Excellence and the Literary Director of Chicago’s 2nd Story storytelling series. She has performed stories for numerous Chicago theaters including The Goodman, The Steppenwolf, The Museum of Contemporary Art, The Chicago Poetry Center, Story Week Festival of Writers, Wordstock Literary Festival, The Neo-Futurarium, and Chicago Public Radio, among others, and she is a Literary Death Match champ. Her fiction and essays have appeared in Other Voices, Fresh Yarn, Pindeldyboz, Swink, Monkeybicycle, Cellstories, Perigee, Annalemma, Venus, and Punk Planet, among others, and her story collection, Everyone Remain Calm, debuted in October 2011 from Joyland/ECW. Her website launched September 1st.

MFA alumnus Geling Yan is the author of more than 20 books in English and Chinese, and the recipient of more than 30 film and literary awards. Her English-language works include novels The Banquet Bug and The Lost Daughter of Happiness by Hyperion press, and her short story collection, White Snake and Other Stories by Aunt Lute Books. She is a concurrent member of the Writer’s Guild of America and the Writer’s Association of China, and many of her works have been adapted to film such as Xiu Xiu: The Sent-Down Girl, winner of seven Golden Horse Awards, Siao Yu, co-written by Ang Lee and Best Picture recipient at the Asia Pacific Film Festival. Production was recently competed on The Flowers of War, a film adaptation of her novel The Flowers of War, starring Academy Award winner Christian Bale and scheduled for release in 2012. The Flowers of War is China’s nominated film for Best Foreign Language Film for the 2012 Academy Awards.



FULL-TIME FACULTY Eric May was a featured reader at Reading Under the Influence in April of 2011.

Shawn Shiflett was a featured reader at Reading Under the Influence, June 2011.

Patty McNair was awarded a Presidential Grant to attend the One State Together in the Arts conference. In October of 2010, she and faculty member Phillip Hartigan presented “Illuminating the Past,” a community memoir project in Mount Carroll, IL. In April of 2011, she taught a master class with Phillip Hartigan at Columbia’s Center for Teaching Excellence, “Ways of Seeing: The Journal and Sketchbook in Creative Practice.” Her story collection, The Temple of Air, Elephant Rock Books/Productions, was released in September of 2011. She was interviewed by Jonathan Messinger about her the book in TimeOut Chicago, September 8, 2011

Sam Weller’s book Listen to the Echoes: The Ray Bradbury Interviews was a finalist for The Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Nonfiction. Listen to the Echoes was featured in “A Literary Look Back” in the Chicago Tribune and “He’s a Mass of Contradictions” in the Chicago SunTimes. In May of 2011, Weller appeared as Master of Ceremonies at the Society of Midland Authors 95th Annual Awards Dinner. Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury, a story anthology co-edited with faculty member Mort Castle, will be available from Harper Perennial Press in 2012.

Joe Meno’s play, Star Witness debuted at the Chopin Theatre March 17th – May 7th in 2011. In April of 2011, he published an article, “Vonnegut’s Disciple,” in the Chicago Reader Spring Books Review. In June of 2011, he presented at the Chicago Cultural Center for “The New Chicago Style: Readings from Another Chicago Magazine’s 50th Issue.” His book, The Boy Detective Fails, was featured in “Top 10 Beach Reads” by Akashic Books. John Schultz, professor emeritus, presented “About War: Veterans Read Recent Fiction and Non-Fiction About Their Wartime Experiences in Iraq, Vietnam, and Korea” at Story Week 2011. Lisa Schlesinger had an article, “A Dream of the Sea” in American Theatre Magazine, September 2010

ADJUNCT FACULTY Kathie Bergquist reviewed The Paris Wife: A Novel for the Chicago Reader Spring Books Review. April 2011. She edited the anthology, Windy City Queer: LGBTQ Dispatches from the Third Coast, University of Wisconsin Press November 2011. Julia Borcherts reported on the Windy City Story Slam Semifinals in “Them’s Fightin’ Words,” RedEye, Febuary 2011. She co-founded the Chicago Way literary series, beginning in Spring 2011. Mort Castle published “An Interview with Joe Meno,” in The Writer, Jan 2011. His poetry anthology, All American Horror of the 21st Century: Best of the First Decade, will be available from Wicker Park Books in April 2012; Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury,


Windy City Queer: LGBTQ Dispatches from the Third Coast EDITOR:

Kathie Bergquist PUBLISHER / DATE: University of Wisconsin Press, November 2011 AUTHOR’S PITCH: Here is a first-rate collection of queer voices from Chicago’s literary landscape. Celebrated writers Edmund White, Achy Obejas, Sharon Bridgforth, Brian Bouldrey, E. Patrick Johnson, Carol Anshaw, David Trinidad, and Mark Zubro are joined by emerging voices from the queer literary scene. These pieces span all literary genres, from fiction and poetry to memoir and essays, and portray a full gamut of gay Chicago lives from the everyday to the quirky, from public spectacles to quiet intimacies, from family life to nightlife, from dating to marriage, from loving to mourning. The writing that comprises this volume, which seeks to claim a queer space on the literary continuum, is surprising, smart, hilarious, and heart wrenching.


news & notes co-edited with Sam Weller, will be available from Harper Perennial Press in 2012; New Moon on the Water, from Dark Regions Press will also be available in 2012. He published “The Doctor, The Kid, and The Ghosts in the Lake,” F Magazine 9, “Dreaming Robot Monster,” Mighty Unclean Dark Arts Books, “The Old Man and the Dead,” Best New Zombie Tales, Vol. 2 Aug 2010 and in Otto Penzler’s Zombie Archives Vintage Books 2012. Rob Duffer won the One Book One Chicago Flash Fiction Writing Contest judged by Stuart Dybek, September 23, 2011. Gina Frangello published “A Chelsea of One’s Own” in the Chicago Reader Spring Books Review, April 2011. She presented “Adoption Nation” at the Printer’s Row Lit Fest with Jane Katch and Amy Alessio in June 2011. She co-edited Men Undressed, Other Voices Books, which was released in October of 2011. Her new book, A Life in Men, will be published by Algonquin Books. (No date available.) Aaron Golding produced “A Sharp,” an audio documentary for American Public Media’s The Story, broadcast February 2011. Philip Hartigan was awarded a Presidential Grant to attend the One State Together in the Arts conference. In October of 2010, he and faculty member Patty McNair presented “Illuminating the Past,” a community memoir project in Mount Carroll, IL. In April of 2011, he taught a master class with Patty McNair at Columbia’s Center for Teaching Excellence, “Ways of Seeing: The Journal and Sketchbook in Creative Practice.” Geoff Hyatt’s book, Birch Hills at World’s End, was released by Vagabondage Press in September of 2011. Tina Jens, published in ½ Nelson Press, issue #2,, September 2011. Stephanie Kuehnert’s article “Never too Late: College Grads and their Moms Big Fans of Club” published in the Chicago Sun-Times, Sept 2010. She was a featured reader at the Neutron Bomb reading series in April of 2011. She started writing for Rookie online magazine for girls, September 2011. Laurie Lawlor’s book Muddy as a Duck Puddle was selected to represent Illinois at the National Book Festival. Deb Lewis was featured performer at the “Criminal Class Press Anti-Gala Benefit,” in September of 2010, “Word Harvest” and “LGBTQ History Month Reading” at the Gerber/Hart 22 — FICTIONARY SPRING 2012

Library, “What’s Next?” at the Next Theater, “Critical Encounters: Image and Inference with 2nd Story” and published material in Windy City Queer: LGBTQ Dispatches from the Third Coast, University of Wisconsin Press, Fall 2011. Mickle Maher’s play, There is a Happiness that Morning Is, debuted at Theater Oobleck, April 14th- May 22nd 2011. Patricia Pinianski, writing as Patricia Rosemoor, had her book Deal Breaker published by Harlequin Intrigue in July 2011. Her book Hot Trick was published by Carina Press (digital first) in October 2011. Megan Stielstra’s story collection, Everybody Remain Calm, Joyland ECW Press, was released in October of 2011. Jessica Young was a finalist for Columbia’s 2011 Excellence in Teaching Award.

ALUMNI Arnie Bernstein’s book, Swastika Nation: Führers, Politicians, Mobsters and the Rise and Fall of the German American Bund, will be available from St. Martin’s Press in Fall 2013. Mark Beyer’s book, The Village Wit, was published by CreateSpace, September 2010. Michael Burke’s book, What You Don’t Know About Men, was published by iUniverse in May 2011. Todd Dills edited All Hands On: The2ndHand After 10, 2001-2011, which came out in August 2011 from The2ndHand. Rea Frey’s book, The Cheat Sheet: A Clue-byClue Guide to Finding out if He’s Unfaithful, was published by Adams Media in June 2011. Nancy Grossman, Asst. Director, University Honors Program, De Paul University, Chicago, A World Away, Young Adult fiction, DisneyHyperion, July 17, 2012. Jon Gugala’s story “The Barbecue” from Hair Trigger 33 was selected by Bennington College’s plain china: Best Undergraduate Writing 2011 third annual anthology of undergraduate student work. Jesse Jordan, Gospel Hollow, Casperian Books, spring 2012. Christina Katz has a book, The Writer’s Workout: 366 Tips, Tasks & Techniques from your

Writing Career Coach, available from Writer’s Digest Books in December of 2011.

Leah Tallon became assistant editor, fiction, of The Nervous Breakdown online magazine.

Robert Koehler read at the Lake Forest Friends Meeting House in May 2011 from his book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound, published by Xenos Press in October 2010.

Judy Veramendi’s play Forever Flamenco: From Yesterday into Tomorrow was featured at Wright College in May 2011 and Alegrías y Lágrimas (Happiness and Tears) at Theater Wit in June 2011 and Raven Theatre, Oct 24, 2011.

J.A. Konrath’s book, Draculas: A Novel of Terror, was published by CreateSpace in November 2010, and his book Shaken was published by AmazonEncore in February 2011. Gabriel Levinson edited A Brief History of Authoterrorism, Antibookclub, Chicago, September 2011. Susanna Main was conferred the title of Valedictorian for Columbia College Chicago in May of 2011. Andrew Micheli named Executive Director, Arts & Business Council, Chicago, September 2011 Frankie Migacz was a Windy City Story Slam Finalist, featured in “Them’s Fightin’ Words” by faculty member Julia Borcherts, RedEye Feb 2011 and published material in in ½ Nelson Press, issue #2, Halfnelsonpress.wordpress. com, September 2011. Jeff Oaks, Sheree Greer, April Newman and Rose Tully published material in Windy City Queer: LGBTQ Dispatches from the Third Coast, University of Wisconsin Press, Fall 2011. David Peak, Glowing in the Dark, Aqueous Books, 2012. Deborah Pintonelli’s book, Some Heart, was published by Unbearable Books/Autonomedia, in May 2011. Ksenia Rychtycka presented at Ukrainian American Writers: A New Generation of Literary Voices, in August 2010. Marcus Sakey’s novel, The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes, was published by Dutton Press in June 2011, and reviewed in The New York Times Sunday Book Review, June 2011. Earl Sewell’s book Maya’s Choice was nominated for a Lincoln Award and an NAACP Image Award. Eric Staggs started Spectacle Publishing Media Group. Stephanie Shaw’s novella Mademoiselle Guignol published in anthology Tattered Souls 2, Cutting Block Press, August 2011

David Anthony Witter, Oldest Chicago, Lake Claremont Press, January 2011. Geling Yan’s novel, The Thirteen Women of Nanjing, made into film, directed by Zhang Yimou, staring Christian Bale, July 2012; her book, The Flowers of War, will be published in the U.K. in February, 2012 by Harvill Secker. The Flowers of War, based on a novel by Geling Yan (MFA alum) is China’s nominated film for Best Foreign Language Film for the 2012 Academy Awards.

GRADUATE STUDIES Ramon Castillo was a featured reader at the Neutron Bomb reading series in April 2011. Kristen Fiore’s story “Kicking Toward the Sun” was a Top Twenty-Five Finalist for Glimmer Train’s Short-Story Award for New Writers, February 2011. Bill Hillmann’s essay appeared in the Chicago Reader August 22, 2011; interviewed as a “remarkable person” for the Chicago Tribune Magazine, August 2011. Nicolette Kittinger was a Windy City Story Slam Finalist, featured in “Them’s Fightin’ Words” by faculty member Julia Borcherts, RedEye Feb 2011. Benjamin Kumming, Maggie Ritchie, and Christopher “C.T.” Terry collaborated to create the Neutron Bomb reading series that debuted in February 2011. Jessie Morrison won the Union League Civic & Arts Foundation Third Place in Young Adult Division. Maggie Ritchie was a Windy City Story Slam Finalist, featured in “Them’s Fightin’ Words” by faculty member Julia Borcherts, RedEye Feb 2011. In April 2011, she was a featured reader at Reading Under the Influence and the Neutron Bomb reading series. Her story, “The Knowledge of Scars”, was published in Annalemma Issue 8, July 2011.

Elisabeth Stark’s story, “The Night Drivers” was a Top Twenty-Five finalist for Glimmer Train’s March 2011 Fiction Open. Her story “The Clearing” was published in the Handshake Magazine, July 2011. Dan Duffy was featured in Outside the Loop Radio Episode #240 in April 2011. The Handshake Magazine started by MFA Candidates Dan Duffy (editor and publisher) and Kevin Kane (managing editor) began its online release in May 2011, and its print release in June. The first issue features writing by faculty member Don DeGrazia. On behalf of The Handshake, Duffy and Kane were featured in “Greeting Inspires Publication: New Journalism Magazine Devalues Celebrity, Debuts in June,” Columbia Chronicle May 2011.

UNDERGRADUATES Greg Baldino had a comic, “Flower Power/ Blumenkraft” published in War: The Human Cost, an anthology by Paper Tiger Comix, his “Review of The Playwright by Eddie Campbell and Daren White” in Rain Taxi, and was featured in “The Three Creators: Pop Matters at the ‘Chicago Woman in Comics’ Panel,” PopMatters, Oct 2010. He does book reviews for Booklist.


Liz Baudler published material in ½ Nelson Press, issue #2,, September 2011.

PUBLISHER / DATE: Lake Claremont Press; January 2011

Bryce Berkowitz began an internship with 2nd Story in Jan 2011 and became a Freelance Book Reviewer for Booklist in May 2011. Robert Hobson’s essay “Camel in the Wire” won the Guild Complex nonfiction contest, judged by Alex Kotlowitz (There Are No Children Here) November 2, 2011. Erin Nederbo was a featured reader at Reading Under the Influence, June 2011. D.T. Ragnhild’s play Marker for Knives Doesn’t Sleep was featured at the Ghost Light Theatre, April 11–April 13.

Oldest Chicago AUTHOR:

David Anthony Witter

PUBLISHER’S PITCH: In Oldest Chicago, journalist David Witter highlights dozens of the oldest local treasures in Chicago and its suburban and exurban areas. Remarkable for having survived demolition and extinction for decades, these beloved landmarks have also helped define our city’s landscape, offering continuity and civic identity across generations. Oldest Chicago is a reminder of the value of these familiar places and a call to preserve them for a future sense of place.









Megan Stielstra

Here are some things I’ve learned: Make good art. You can be the Mozart of SelfPromotion; it doesn’t mean squat if your writing isn’t thoughtful and well crafted. This goes for your blog post just as much as your novel/ essay/Major Contribution to Western Literature. Get thyself a website. Take some graphic design classes, hit Columbia’s Portfolio Center, and/ or save $50 from every bartending shift so you can buy yourself a good one. You need a professional online presence. Your online presence—proceed fully (and with caution). Keep the photos of beer bongs offline, people (and please don’t follow your teachers on Twitter and then be surprised when they know you were drunk at the Pixies concert instead of home with the flu). That said: our industry is online, so research can be a onestop shop. On my various social media outlets I’ve made some good connections by following agents, editors, literary journals, and listings for literary contests and grants.

Megan Stielstra Fiction Writing Department Part-Time Faculty. Literary Director of Chicago’s 2nd Story Storytelling Series. PHOTO BY MOE MARTINEZ

I spend a lot of time on Facebook. Twitter, too. Maybe this sounds familiar: One second you’ve logged in for a quick peek and suddenly it’s three hours later? What are you doing with those three hours? Here’s what I’m doing when I’m plugged into social media outlets: reading the news; getting pissed off, excited, and inspired; promoting 2nd Story, a storytelling series I work with; finding new art; meeting new potential collaborators or audiences for my work and—perhaps most interesting for Fictionary readers—getting a book deal.


Here’s the short version. I follow a guy on Twitter who re-tweeted a contest looking for short story collections. I did some research, entered, and a month later I had a contract. Yay! Happy ending, right? Wrong. As anyone who’s had the good fortune to publish his or her work will tell you, that contract is the happy beginning. What comes next? How do I get the book out there? Where is this there? What am I doing? I’m still figuring it all out. But everything I’ve ever done of value has started from that place of Not Knowing: writing, teaching, performing, even getting married and having a kid.

Do stuff. Go to readings, openings, lectures. Meet like-minded people. Chicago in particular has a hugely supportive and inventive literary scene—these are people to make work with. I have no idea where I’d be without the communities I’ve built within 2nd Story and the Fiction Writing Department. Unplug. You need to live your life in order to have something to write about. And we need to make the time to do that writing without checking a status update every ten seconds. I don’t care what you do—stick gum in your ethernet port—but find a way to control your time so it doesn’t control you. And finally: Be a good editor. Social media does not have space for your ninety page unedited opus. Learn how to say what you need to say powerfully and efficiently. Then, in another draft, say the same thing more fully and slowed down. But really, why stop at 500 when I can take it down to 140 characters?  fic •••

Patrick Andrews grew up in Northeastern Illinois, surrounded by soybean fields. His work appeared in the 2011 Story Week Reader. He graduated from Northern Illinois University in 2006 and currently attends Columbia College, where he is pursuing his MA/MFA in Fiction Writing. He lives in Chicago.

Matt Arado is an MFA student in the Fiction Writing program. He’s an award-winning journalist at the Daily Herald, and during his time there he has interviewed such people as Chuck D, Bob Mould, Julianne Moore and Bruce Willis. He lives in Chicago with his wife and two young boys.

Michigan ex-pat Greg Baldino is a BA student in the Fiction Writing program. His journalism has appeared in Transcendent Journeys, Rain Taxi, and Half Nelson, and his graphic essay “Blumenkraft” was published in the collection War: The Human Cost. Currently he writes a column for the website Bleeding Cool and contributes to the American Library Association’s publication Booklist.

Joe Meno is a fiction writer and playwright that lives in Chicago. A winner of the Nelson Algren Literary Award and the Society of Midland Authors Fiction Prize, he is the author of four novels, The Boy Detective Fails (Akashic 2006), Hairstyles of the Damned (Akashic 2004), Tender As Hellfire (St. Martin’s 1999), and How the Hula Girl Sings (HarperCollins 2005). His short story collection is Bluebirds Used to Croon in the Choir (TriQuarterly 2005). His short fiction has been published in the likes of McSweeney’s, Witness, TriQuarterly, Mid-American Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Washington Square, Other Voices, Gulf Coast, and broadcast on NPR.

Justin Bostian is a student at Columbia College of Chicago. He publishes zines, works too much and writes less than he should.

Michael Meyer is a recent graduate of Columbia College Chicago and stayed to pursue an MFA in the Fiction Writing program. He has co-taught writing workshops through Columbia’s Center for Community Arts Partnerships, and has performed for The Brinksmen Press and Silver Tongue Columbia. His fiction is forthcoming in Hair Trigger 34.

Jessie Morrison is a high school English teacher at Loyola academy in Wilmette, Illinois and an MFA candidate in fiction writing at Columbia College. She is a native of the Northwest side of Chicago, where she still lives and works.

Maggie Ritchie is an MFA candidate in the Fiction Writing Department of Columbia College Chicago. Her fiction has been published in Hair Trigger 30 and 32, Knee Jerk, and Annalemma. She is a founding member of the Neutron Bomb reading series, a two-time finalist for the Windy City Story Slam and has performed with 2nd Story, Orange Alert, and RUI.

Megan Stielstra is the author of Everyone Remain Calm and the Literary Director of the 2nd Story storytelling series. Her stories have appeared in Other Voices, Fresh Yarn, Swink, Pindeldyboz, and Punk Planet, and have been performed for the Goodman, Steppenwolf, Neo-Futurarium, Museum of Contemporary Art, and Chicago Public Radio, among others. She teaches creative writing at Columbia College Chicago.

Kaitlyn Wightman received her B.A. from Grand Valley State University and is currently an MFA candidate at Columbia College Chicago. Her plays have been featured at Rebel Yard Theatre Collective’s Ten-Minute Play Festival (2011), Ghost Light Theatre’s Seven Deadly Sins Play Festival (2011) and GVSU’s STAGE (2008). Her creative work has been published in Copperfield Review, Story Week Reader 2010, Urban Moto, and Fishladder. Her prose is forthcoming Hair Trigger 34.



600 South Michigan Avenue Chicago, IL 60647 1996


UNDERGRADUATE BA/BFA degrees in FICTION WRITING, with specializations in Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, Playwriting, Electronic Applications, Publishing, and Story Workshop® Teaching; and BA/ BFA degrees in PLAYWRITING, interdisciplinary with the Theater Department. GRADUATE MFA IN CREATIVE WRITING – FICTION, with specializations in Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, Playwriting, and Teaching; MA in the TEACHING OF WRITING; and COMBINED MFA/MA degrees. STUDENTS-AT-LARGE WELCOME.

YOUR STORIES. YOUR FUTURE. Columbia College Chicago admits students without regard to age, race, color, creed, sex, religion, handicap, disability, sexual orientation, and national or ethnic origin.


Develop your creativity, tell your stories, and gain skills essential for personal and professional development in the FICTION WRITING DEPARTMENT AT COLUMBIA COLLEGE CHICAGO.

Our renowned Story Workshop approach emphasizes voice, imagery, audience, and positive reinforcement of your strengths as a writer. For more information about our diverse study programs, extensive course listings, award-winning student anthology Hair Trigger, and visiting writers series, check out, or call 312.369.7611.

Fictionary: Spring 2012  

The spring 2012 issue of Fictionary includes an interview Edwidge Danticat.

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