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!

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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.

International Poetry, Niven’s New Book, and More

Holding Up the Universe

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

There have been some exciting things happening lately.

For one thing, my poem “War Song” was placed on the long list for the 2016 Wisehouse International Poetry Award. “War Song” will appear in the first issue of The Stark (a poetry journal published by Wisehouse/Editorial l’Aleph), which will appear in August of 2016. Congratulations to the winner, the finalists, and the other long list poets!

Another exciting development is the introduction of Jennifer Niven‘s new young adult novel, Holding Up the Universe. Contributing content to Germ Magazine (Jennifer’s creation as well) allowed for the opportunity to snag an advanced reading copy from Alfred A. Knopf. I’m really enjoying it so far.

Blue River is working on blog content along with the first issue of the journal. (Graduate writers can still submit to the journal, as the deadline has been extended.) We are also looking into hosting local readings around the Omaha area featuring Nebraskan authors. The last day for the book drive fundraiser is tomorrow, May 14.

I may have some more updates for you soon. Stay tuned. As always, thanks for reading.

Upcoming Events and Another Writing Update

Writing Before Work

Finding the time is hard, so I often have to make time. Today, I’m working on revisions before heading off to work.

Can you tell this graduate student is a busy person? I apologize for not updating more often. But don’t worry, this blog isn’t going away. I’m merely working hard on my short stories and novel (and working hard every moment in between). I hope that I’ll have some great stuff to present to you within the next few years.

I wanted to let you know of some exciting upcoming events, but first let me start with some general writing updates.

I have two new projects rolling with Germ Magazine and Change Seven Magazine. One of them is available right now for readers, the other is forthcoming.

For Germ Magazine, I wrote a brief essay on the magical elements present in two books: The Cure for Dreaming and Belzhar. My main goal with this article was to talk about the importance of magical realism and to generate interest among young adults for the genre. Also, I wanted to give a rather brief history of the genre’s origins.

The article for Change Seven Magazine is a forthcoming interview with Ann Pancake. If you’re not familiar with Strange As This Weather Has Been, Ann’s novel, you should put it on your to-read-immediately list. It’s a beautiful work of art. It’s also a successful political novel. If you want to find out more, watch the Change Seven Magazine site for the interview. I’ll also post a link on my Twitter feed when it is available to readers.

As far as my fictional writing goes, I’ve got two short stories I’m revising and I’m working hard on my novel. Workshops for the piece have been intense, but I’m closer to a finished project.

How about you, writing friends? How are your projects going?

Upcoming events:

AWP Conference
The annual conference for the AWP organization will be held in Los Angeles this year. A few of my brave classmates and I will be heading to the sunny city to represent the Creighton University MFA program and Blue River. We hope to see you there!

F(r)iction, Tethered by Letters, AWP, offsite event, 2016, These Days GalleryLiterary Friction
This is an offsite AWP event. I will be reading part of my story that was featured in F(r)iction #2Talented artists like Paisley Rekdal, Campbell McGrath, Lynn Emanuel, Geffrey Davis, Simone Muench, F Douglas Brown, Anders Carlson-Wee, Kai Carlson-Wee, Nicky Beer, and Scott O’Connor will be performing as well.

Pageturners Literary Pub Quiz (Vol 2, Ed 4)
Interested in book trivia? Writer Theodore Wheeler is having another literary pub quiz at Pageturners Lounge and this time the quizmasters are Blue River‘s managing editors.

geisha, culture, art, Japan, writing, article, Germ Magazine, Germ U, L. N. Holmes

Hello blog readers and newcomers! I’ve published another article over at Germ Magazine and would love for you to check it out. It’s called “The Flower and Willow World: Recognizing Historical and Modern Geisha.” As always, I appreciate it if you share it with others via social media or word of mouth (or any other creative way, for that matter).

The Monday Post: Links for Readers and Writers

Francine du Plessix Gray, art, reading, writing, life, The Monday Post, links, readers, writers

So I realize the post is two days late. But in all fairness, it was a holiday weekend and I was kind of enjoying views similar to the one below.

mountains, writing, The Monday Post, Rocky Mountains, National Park


Inspired by a similar type of post found on Electric Literature‘s website, The Monday Post is a collection of articles for writers and readers as well as a sampling of interesting works and publications from across the internet. They may be old links or new links, but they’ll be ones that I find the most interesting or helpful. If there are any particular topics you’d like to read about, please feel free to suggest them in a comment on this post. In addition, each new month will feature a new and interesting quote from an established expert in the literary field.

Writers and readers may find additional links and featured writers in The Monday Post archivePlease follow my blog for writing prompts, commentary, reviews, and more!

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