Wow, what a mouthful! The Review Review is an amazing organization that rates and reviews literary journals and magazines. They also provide many other helpful resources for writers.

After F(r)iction #2 came out, David Morgan O’Connor wrote a review of the issue. My short story, “When Continents Collide,” was published in F(r)iction #2, so I was pretty excited to see the high rating for the journal. Because David did such a good job with the review, I’m posting it again on my blog for those interested in reading it.

Here is an excerpt:

This is the type of writing that needs to be published and is probably too truthful for commercial journals. Well done, brave editors, brave writer.

A Long Time Coming

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Here I am with some of my classmates after the hooding ceremony at Creighton University.

How’s it going, friends? How’s your writing and reading life? Feel free to post in the comments section about your own journeys.

In the meantime, I’ll give you an update on where I am with my journey. It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted on my blog, so I feel as if there is a great deal to catch up on. That being said, I’ll give you the condensed version—we all have a lot of reading and writing to do, right?

Graduation

As of mid-May, I’m officially an alumna of the Creighton University MFA program. It was an honor and a privilege to study under Dr. Brent Spencer, Professor Mary Helen StefaniakProfessor David Mullins, and Professor Susan Aizenberg. Each of them taught me important things about the craft in their own ways.

I was exceedingly grateful to put together a collection of short fiction for my thesis with Mary Helen’s guidance. I’m hoping to have a few more of the individual short pieces published—but my thesis project overall may be a collection I eventually submit to publishers for consideration. More revision would be involved before any such decision could be made with certainty.

My longer works, however, continue to be problematic. Two of my novels died in the MFA program—or rather, I filed them away for now to work on my current novel. That being said, I learned a great deal about my particular weaknesses and hope to overcome them with my new project.

I’ve finished with my Blue River responsibilities. It was an interesting start to a journal that I hope will continue to be published by the Creighton MFA program. The latest issue recently came out, so don’t forget to snag a copy.

Post-graduation life is, simply put, calmer and more manageable.

The Day Job

After an intense summer internship last year, I started working as a contract employee for Tethered by Letters. It’s been a learning experience—I’ve never worked as anything other than a regular employee before—but the challenges have helped me grow as a writer, editor, and publisher. I’m currently the publishing assistant for TBL and I work as the editorial assistant for F(r)iction—TBL’s triannual literary and art journal. Broadly, my responsibilities concern everything from intermediate updates to the website, to social media marketing, to F(r)iction assginments and editing, to pretty much everything F(r)Online.

F(r)iction recently was picked up by Barnes & Noble and other select chain, independent, and college bookstores—so we’re in the brick and mortars nationwide (and Canada too)! Pick up a copy of the journal at a bookstore near you and check out the amazing art and literature that we publish.

Recent Published Work

My most recent publication, “One Woman’s Junk,” is a flash fiction story that was featured in Newfound‘s web issue: Vo. 8, Other Worlds. I’ve read and admired the flash fiction Newfound has published for some time now—so to have my work published by them is quite an honor. The editors are also incredibly kind. Be sure to check out and support this wonderful nonprofit publisher.

In January, my flash fiction story, “Force Play,” was published in issue #1 of Obra. This excellent digital magazine, produced by the MFA of the Americas, makes for a great read. I was thankful to work with the considerate editors on staff. Go check out what great literature and art they have to offer.

The online and print versions of Vestal Review #49/#47—in which my flash fiction story “Trace” was published—are also now available to read. Vestal Review has been publishing flash fiction since 2000 and are “the world’s oldest magazine dedicated exclusively to flash fiction.” They also recently published their fiftieth issue, which you can read here.

Up Next

This summer is shaping up to be a busy one. I’ve been submitting many of my short stories and flash fiction creations to journals and magazines. I’ll be participating in workshops in Omaha and online—because quality critiques often lead to better work. I’m working on that novel—consistently, desperately. And when things get overwhelming, I’ll be playing in my garden dirt.

Thanks for stopping in again, friends. And as always, thanks for reading.

Update: New Writings and Current Projects

F(r)iction #5, Tethered by Letters, literary journal


typewriter-1031024_1920Whoever said the summer months were for vacation probably wasn’t a writer (or an editor). My graduate school classes don’t start up again until late August, but I’m as busy as I’ve ever been. Don’t misunderstand—I’m not complaining. This past month especially has been wonderful! What’s more, I have some new published stories up and some fantastic opportunities to share.

New Flash Fiction Stories:

As some of you already know, I have two new published stories that are now available to read online.

  • “Trace” can be found at Vestal Review online (issue 49) and it is forthcoming in print (issue 47). This story deviates greatly from my normal style. I wrote this to see if I could stretch myself as a writer. Though it may not be what you expect, I hope you enjoy it.
  • “Spacefall” is the fourth installment of a Dually Noted group writing project. The writers used the phrase “Hold this—it’s supposed to relieve stress” as a prompt. It was really fun to write and I hope you enjoy it. It’s a personal favorite of mine.

Other Available Writings:

  • “Articulating Agony: The Writer as Antihero” is up on the Blue River blog. While my attempts at being funny may be somewhat laughable… I hope you enjoy it anyway. I would encourage everyone to read the writings of my fellow staff members as well.
  • Helly Luv: The Pop Star Fighting ISIS has surfaced on GERM Magazine. I found this spectacular woman via social media and decided to do a brief feature. She’s a pretty cool artist.
    • As a note: My women’s college and women writers series will be continuing according to one of the editors. You can find a complete list of my GERM Magazine contributions here.

Forthcoming Writings:

  • Interviews:
    • Roger May at Change Seven
    • Molly Rose Quinn at Tethered by Letters
    • Tyler Barton at Tethered by Letters
  • War Song” in The Stark via Wisehouse/Editorial l’Aleph
  • Book Reviews:
    • All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders at Tethered by Letters
    • UHaul by Emily Ramser on my blog

Opportunities for Readers and Writers:

I’ve had some exciting adventures with Tethered by Letters lately. As a summer intern for this amazing nonprofit, I have seen first hand how wonderful Dani, Leah, and the staff are to their writers, readers, and business partners. If you’re curious check out what they offer:

  • Readers, participate in the #LitStory Series giveaway for a chance to win a copy of F(r)iction #2, #3, or #4! Here are the details.
  • Free Editing Program: The FEP is a great opportunity for writers. Feedback from an editor is often hard to come by and it can help a writer transform a piece from a fifth draft to a polished work. This program is indeed free once you join the Tethered by Letters community (also free). Here are the details.
  • F(r)iction #5: The anticipated release of this beloved journal of fine art and literature is about to happen—and let me tell you, it is gorgeous. Tell your friends. Tell your friends’ friends. Tell the dude crossing paths with you on the sidewalk—you get the idea. The Kickstarter is up!
  • Dually Noted: Do you want to be part of a group writing project? Submit your story by Friday for your chance to be part of the current TBL story cycle. Submissions are voted upon by a select group of editors and then the chosen story is posted on the website for readers. Try your luck, writers! Submit your awesome 500 word addition—details here—and tell them I sent you.

As fiction editor for Blue River, I’ve been reading some exciting work from graduate students that have submitted to our journal. The great news is that there is still time to submit for the chance to win the Blue River Editors’ Award of $500 (USD). The editors will be giving feedback for each submission. We’re looking for great stories from graduate writers for the first issue and—if you’re a writer in a graduate writing program—we hope to see your work!


Thanks for tuning in and, as always, thanks for reading!

Of Lovely Minds and Bodies: Jennifer Niven’s Holding Up the Universe

Let me explain a bit about Jennifer Niven before I begin this book review—for the sake of those unfamiliar with the author.

Jennifer is the daughter of Penelope Niven, who was also an accomplished writer. In the early stages of Jennifer’s career, she wrote nonfiction, which was her mother’s genre. When she published Velva Jean Learns to Drive, she was venturing into the world of fiction, and I became one of her biggest fans. Velva Jean was a heroine that I rooted for, that I loved, that I wanted to be like. Jennifer had me hooked.

In 2015, Jennifer decided to switch age groups—from adults to teens—and, as a result, became a New York Times bestselling author with her book, All the Bright Places. The novel sold in many different countries. Jennifer gained international acclaim. More importantly, she became more than “just an author” to so many young people—she became an advocate for those with mental illness.

Holding Up the Universe is Jennifer’s newest young adult novel, scheduled to release on October 4, 2016.

Here is the synopsis:

Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed “America’s Fattest Teen.” But no one’s taken the time to look past her weight to get to know who she really is. Following her mom’s death, she’s been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby’s ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for EVERY POSSIBILITY LIFE HAS TO OFFER. In that moment, I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything.

Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin, too. Yes, he’s got swagger, but he’s also mastered the impossible art of giving people what they want, of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a newly acquired secret: he can’t recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He’s the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything in new and bad-ass ways, but he can’t understand what’s going on with the inner workings of his brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don’t get too close to anyone.

Until he meets Libby. When the two get tangled up in a cruel high school game — which lands them in group counseling and community service — Libby and Jack are both pissed, and then surprised. Because the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel. . . . Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world, theirs and yours.

Jennifer Niven delivers another poignant, exhilarating love story about finding that person who sees you for who you are — and seeing them right back.

As a contributor to Germ Magazine (for the sake of transparency: it is an online publication created by Jennifer), I had the privilege of receiving an ARC of Holding Up the Universe in exchange for a review.

REVIEW (SPOILERS MAY FOLLOW):

Holding Up the UniverseRomance, for any age group, is not my genre of choice—but I have to admire Jennifer’s ability to make love stories feel true to real life. The romance between Libby and Jack starts slow and with lots of initial loathing. From there, it’s not an easy transition to love and acceptance.

Loosely based on Jennifer’s own experiences, she doesn’t sugar coat the hard issues, and I think that is what makes her writing so strong. The characters in this story are struggling to find the confidence to move forward with their lives. Libby is bullied for her weight. Jack is terrified he will lose everyone he loves if he tells them about his cognitive disorder. Jack’s brother carries a purse despite his schoolmates’ opinions of him. The list goes on.

A cowardly act inspires the bravery hidden in both Libby and Jack. They start to change the people around them, including each other, as they learn how to accept themselves and pursue their dreams. And interwoven with these trials is an underlying truth—that Libby and Jack are wanted simply as they are.

At times it is a heartbreaking journey, but I’m glad I tagged along to see all of the triumphs for our main characters. It’s like Niven’s writing invites you in and makes you want to stay for dinner. There is cordiality in her paragraphs, friendship in her sentences. Then she shakes it up with a dash of humor. There is a deliberate connection, like she’s reaching for the reader’s hand. Her writing does not suffer due to her intentions. On the contrary, her kindness magnifies the power of the story.

There were only a few things that bothered me, overall, about the book.

There were many minor characters and I eventually started to mix some of them up because of the sheer number of them. Oftentimes it was because a group of minor characters played a minute role in a single part of the novel, with only a brief mention of them later. The ones that were more concrete, like Caroline and Mr. Levine, I didn’t have too much trouble with. It was people like Kendra Wu, Jesselle Villegas, Jayvee De Castro, and Rachel that made me scratch my scalp. There were several times I had to stop reading to go back in the novel and figure out who these minor characters were.

And since we are on the topic of characters, I have to admit that many of them bordered on stereotypes. Jennifer’s writing was much stronger when she focused on holistic qualities of the characters, because it made them feel more like real human beings.

That being said, I think Holding Up the Universe deserves to be read. In these tumultuous times, we all need a little more empathy. Jennifer’s novel examines just how lovely and wanted all of us are—a message the world desperately needs.

Where You Should Be and When: Urgent Literary Events

Blue River, book drive, donations, literary journal, literary magazine, booksHi friends! There is an explosion of awesome literary events happening in my neck of the woods (and a few other places) that you need to know about. Here’s a quick run down, starting with the most urgent.

At the University of Nebraska Omaha (Omaha, NE):

Tonight 7 pm, Twyla M. Hansen and Tim Hunt will give a reading at the Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center. Learn more here.

At Salem College (Winston-Salem, NC):

Tonight at 7 pm, Incunabula is releasing their newest installment of the magazine. Go support some emerging writers if you’re in the area. Learn more here.

At the Joslyn Art Museum (Omaha, NE):

The last Fair Use Reading of the year will be at the Joslyn Art Museum tomorrow night. Get there at 6:30 pm for seats. Make sure to bring books for Blue River‘s book drive! Meredith Spears, Nathan Sindelar, and Shelby Snedeker will be reading.

Enter to win an autographed copy of Pas de Deux: Part One (online):

You’ve got about a day before this opportunity is lost. Put your name in that hat. Also, check out Wynter S.K. and Pas de Deux.

At Salem College (Winston-Salem, NC):

A collegiate publications and journalists conference? Who dare take on such a momentous task? None other than Emily Wonder Woman Ramser of course. Check out this great opportunity coming up April 30. You can learn more here and—never fear—still register by emailing Emily at emily.ramser@salem.edu.

At Pageturners Lounge (Omaha, NE):

Another installment of the literary pub quiz is happening May 4 at 8 pm. Don’t forget to bring your books to donate to Blue River‘s book drive! Learn more about genius and event organizer Theodore Wheeler and about the event.

A Flash Fiction Class for $0.99 (online)?

Yes, the rumors are true, so hurry and sign up. Ilana Masad is teaching this course. Learn more about it here.

Blue River Book Drive (Omaha, NE):

Blue River is seeking book donations for an upcoming fundraiser. Please help us out if you can. Drop them off at Creighton University or at the Fair Use Reading or during the Literary Pub Quiz. Thanks for supporting literature!