October and November Mini-Reviews

Hello, my dear blog readers! Hopefully you are cozy and warm while reading this. You may have noticed I didn’t post any book reviews for October. I’m combining October and November’s reviews because of National Novel Writing Month. Once NaNoWriMo started, it practically took over my life. Everything else had to wait. So here are all of the reviews in one post. Thanks for your patience!

Remember, the following reviews will cover what worked well in the books I read. If you wish to discuss what didn’t work in the books or what you enjoyed about the books, then I’d encourage you to comment on this post. (Mild spoilers may follow.)


A Questionable ShapeLet’s start with the one that left me most aggrieved. When I picked up A Questionable Shape by Bennett Sims, I couldn’t wait to read it. Here was another Two Dollar Radio (my favorite small press publisher) book and it had excellent reviews. Even better, it was about zombies in Louisiana, a state I rarely find represented in stories. Throw in the added bonus of an experimental form and I couldn’t wait to dig in. I quickly realized this book wasn’t something I was going to enjoy. The novel was not my cup of tea, and I could go on—in great detail—about why, but for now, let’s just focus on the positive.

Synopsis from the Two Dollar Radio website:

Mazoch discovers an unreturned movie envelope, smashed windows, and a pool of blood in his father’s house: the man has gone missing. So he creates a list of his father’s haunts and asks Vermaelen to help track him down.

However, hurricane season looms over Baton Rouge, threatening to wipe out any undead not already contained and eliminate all hope of ever finding Mazoch’s father.

Bennett Sims turns typical zombie fare on its head to deliver a wise and philosophical rumination on the nature of memory and loss.

What worked well:

  • If you’re going to use footnotes in a novel, you may as well go all out. Usually, footnotes work in academic texts and not novels because different pacing is needed; you study an academic text, taking time to ruminate on the words written on the page, while you expect to read at a steady pace through a novel. And, indeed, don’t expect A Questionable Shape to be well paced—the length and pervasiveness of the footnotes destroy any hope for that right away. But, if one insists on using footnotes in a novel, why not use them like you would in an academic textbook? After all, footnotes are often used to reference something else. Sims does that in his novel as well, making the footnotes a vehicle for Vermaelen’s endless references and internal diatribes.
  • Taking a step back from the gore and violence usually associated with zombies, to consider our humanity and what makes us human, is never a bad thing. Sims does this in his novel and, while I didn’t find it all to be successful, I did greatly appreciate his refreshing attempt.

Who should read A Questionable Shape:

  • Those who hate genre fiction, especially zombie novels
  • Fans of dead philosophers and run-of-the-mill masculine heroes
  • Readers who enjoy long-winded jeremiads
  • Those who appreciate a Nick Carraway-like narrator

DublinersA friend recommended I read Dubliners by James Joyce after I mentioned that I wanted to read Ulysses for my 2019 reading challenge, which consists of classics published before the 1950s. Taking her up on her advice, I picked up an annotated and illustrated copy of the book from the Bellevue Public Library. I think what left me the most satisfied was Joyce’s daring. His publication attempts fell through many times, but he didn’t give up. He insisted his stories, of which possess little of the modern short story structure preached about in MFA classes, be published and—in an age where self-publishing was a great deal more difficult—finally managed to make it happen. Needless to say, I find his persistence thrilling, even if I found the actual stories to be less so.

Synopsis from Amazon:

Detailed notes accompany fifteen short stories that evoke the character, atmosphere, and people of Dublin at the turn of the century

What worked well:

  • Joyce gives us a peek into Dublin: its people, its pleasures, and its pitfalls. After reading so many novels by English writers, it’s a relief to read something about Ireland, from where the majority of my ancestors emigrated.
  • Joyce’s characters are more complex than they first appear to be. It is the complexities of these characters that most intrigued me.

Who should read Dubliners:

  • Readers who appreciate stories that don’t adhere to contemporary short story structures
  • Those who may be interested in Dublin, especially during the early 20th century
  • Readers who enjoy narrators of different ages
  • Fans of free indirect discourse

Bones and AllWith my La Vista Public Library card, I checked out a book titled Bones & All by Camille DeAngelis, which happened to be shelved in the adult fiction section despite the novel’s young adult narrator. Likely the librarians understood that serial murders via cannibalism might be viewed as more of an adult topic. I was at first intrigued by Maren’s ghoulishness, especially since this was toted in some spheres as a feminist novel, and indeed the story started out strong. But it quickly fell apart, feminist undertones and all. In addition, the author’s note about veganism—equating the cannibalism of the novel to eating animals—really tainted the book for me. Still, Bones & All is memorable for a lot of reasons, and there is something to be said about Maren’s own personal journey to find herself and embrace who she is, even if the result is horrifying.

Synopsis from Macmillan’s website:

Maren Yearly is a young woman who wants the same things we all do. She wants to be someone people admire and respect. She wants to be loved. But her secret, shameful needs have forced her into exile. She hates herself for the bad thing she does, for what it’s done to her family and her sense of identity; for how it dictates her place in the world and how people see her–how they judge her. She didn’t choose to be this way.

Because Maren Yearly doesn’t just break hearts, she devours them. Ever since her mother found Penny Wilson’s eardrum in her mouth when Maren was just two years old, she knew life would never be normal for either of them. Love may come in many shapes and sizes, but for Maren, it always ends the same-with her hiding the evidence and her mother packing up the car.

But when her mother abandons her the day after her sixteenth birthday, Maren goes looking for the father she has never known, and finds much more than she bargained for along the way.

Faced with a world of fellow eaters, potential enemies, and the prospect of love, Maren realizes she isn’t only looking for her father, she’s looking for herself.

Camille DeAngelis’ Bones & All is an astonishingly original coming-of-age tale that is at once a gorgeously written horror story as well as a mesmerizing meditation on female power and sexuality.

What worked well:

  • When is the last time you’ve read anything about a ghoul? I mean zombies? Sure. Ghosts? You bet. Ghouls? I’ll wait. Even if you’ve read fifteen ghoul books lately, it’s always interesting to read a book from the perspective of a monster—not anti-heroes but villains. After all, Maren kills people by eating them. As revolting as cannibalism is—and it’s quite disgusting in the book—you have to admit that the common hero tales out there don’t always cut it. Sometimes you want to know what the villain thinks. Maren’s humanity, which wars with her ghoulish tendencies, creates excellent tension.
  • It makes my skin crawl a little to remember how well the descriptions worked in this novel. Even when the violence is implied, DeAngelis gives us just enough to continue to freak us out. And the devil is always in the details.

Who should read Bones & All:

  • Fans of books about damsels in distress and their handsome saviors
  • Those who enjoy books with speculative elements, especially horror and fantasy
  • Readers who enjoy books from the perspective of the villain
  • Those who can stomach violence and gore

Blue HorsesI wanted to read some more poetry, so I decided to take Blue Horses by Mary Oliver out of my to-be-read pile. Perusing Oliver’s biography, I figured out she was born in Ohio, like me. I ended up enjoying reading Blue Horses and was moved by several of the poems.

Synopsis from the Penguin Random House website:

In this stunning collection of new poems, Mary Oliver returns to the imagery that has defined her life’s work, describing with wonder both the everyday and the unaffected beauty of nature.

Herons, sparrows, owls, and kingfishers flit across the page in meditations on love, artistry, and impermanence. Whether considering a bird’s nest, the seeming patience of oak trees, or the artworks of Franz Marc, Oliver reminds us of the transformative power of attention and how much can be contained within the smallest moments.

At its heart, Blue Horses asks what it means to truly belong to this world, to live in it attuned to all its changes. Humorous, gentle, and always honest, Oliver is a visionary of the natural world.

What worked well:

  • I can’t honestly claim to be the best judge of poetry. However, I can tell you what I find enjoyable. I found Oliver’s poems to be plainspoken but witty and accessible. I especially enjoyed the good-natured jab at Whitman and Leaves of Grass.
  • The poems were also full of beautiful nature imagery. As someone who has a deep appreciation for natural landscapes, I love when a poet can capture the loveliness and mystery of said places with their chosen words. Oliver does this with a noticeable wisdom.

Who should read Blue Horses:

  • Readers who enjoy nature imagery
  • Fans of well-written, plainspoken poems
  • Those who appreciate witty mischief
  • Readers who want to read the work of a well-established poet

This House is HauntedAround Halloween, I wanted to read a ghost story. I finally cracked open This House is Haunted by John Boyne. It’s likely you may recognize Boyne’s more famous work, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. I didn’t realize he’d written that book when I won This House is Haunted from a giveaway by Other Press. So I began the book without any expectations—aside from wanting a good ghost story. The book is written in “Dickensian prose” and even features Dickens as a character in the beginning. So it starts out bold. I was intrigued. In the end, though, the story was too formulaic and the characters were too flat for my tastes.

Synopsis from the Other Press website:

Written in Dickensian prose, This House Is Haunted is a striking homage to the classic nineteenth century ghost story. Set in Norfolk in 1867, Eliza Caine responds to an ad for a governess position at Gaudlin Hall. When she arrives at the hall, shaken by an unsettling disturbance that occurred during her travels, she is greeted by the two children now in her care, Isabella and Eustace. There is no adult present to represent her mysterious employer, and the children offer no explanation. Later that night in her room, another terrifying experience further reinforces the sense that something is very wrong.

From the moment Eliza rises the following morning, her every step seems dogged by a malign presence that lives within Gaudlin’s walls. Eliza realizes that if she and the children are to survive its violent attentions, she must first uncover the hall’s long-buried secrets and confront the demons of its past. Clever, captivating, and witty, This House Is Haunted is pure entertainment with a catch.

What worked well:

  • I did enjoy Boyne’s prose. He seemed to capture the vernacular of the time period, which was probably a difficult and tedious task to pull off as a writer.
  • The supernatural happenings were interesting enough. Who doesn’t enjoy a deadly, vengeful ghost from time to time? Though I really wish I’d known more about the ghost herself, Eliza’s encounters with the specter kept me reading.

Who should read This House is Haunted:

  • Fans of “Dickensian prose”
  • Readers who enjoy ghost stories, especially ones set in the 19th century
  • Those who enjoy stories about motherhood
  • Readers who like stories about English class politics

Fifth SeasonAfter a month of reading stories I didn’t particularly love, I was nervous to start The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin. After all, the book had received a lot of hype, which made me instantly skeptical. But when I began to read Jemisin’s work, my heart soared. Here was a writer that could challenge me, that could make me think, that could offer me new ways of looking at language. Her work reminded me so much of geniuses like Toni Morrison and Octavia Butler. Jemisin gave me an entertaining story, complex characters, and sentences that would make any seasoned writer green with envy. Add that to the way she examines identity and plays with point of view and there’s nothing left to say but I love this book.

Synopsis from Hachette’s website:

This is the way the world ends…for the last time.

A season of endings has begun.

It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world’s sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun.

It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter.

It starts with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester.

This is the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where the power of the earth is wielded as a weapon. And where there is no mercy.

What worked well:

  • It’s much more of a challenge to find what didn’t work well in this book. As I mentioned before, the way Jemisin plays with point of view and then ties that into identity is genius. Downright genius. It thrilled me. But I can’t really say more than that without massive spoilers—so go read it and find out!
  • Not many writers can pull off an interesting plot and complex characters. Usually it’s either one or the other (or in some cases, neither). Jemisin does this flawlessly. She gives us people who naturally wield the earth as a weapon and as a result are feared and subjugated. The story avoids many of the major cliches usually found in speculative genres and improves upon the tropes it does tap into. I am still a little stunned by the awesomeness that is The Fifth Season.

Who should read The Fifth Season:
(Um, anyone who reads? Like, this story is awesome. C’mon. Okay fine.)

  • Readers who enjoy science fiction, fantasy, and horror
  • Veteran speculative readers looking for something challenging and exciting
  • Those who enjoy stories that grapple with ideas of identity and power
  • Fans of Octavia Butler and Toni Morrison

3arabi songSo I’ve had some poetry collections sitting on my shelf for quite a while now and I decided to go ahead and read them. I started with 3arabi Song by Zeina Hashem Beck. While not my favorite poetry collection, I did enjoy Beck’s tribute to Arab singers.

Synopsis from the Rattle website:

3arabi Song is a song of sorrow and joy, death and dance. Yes there is unrest, war, and displacement in countries like Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Iraq, and Egypt. But there is also survival, music, and love. Iconic Arab singers like Umm Kulthum, Fairuz, and Abdel Halim Hafez, inhabit these poems—they mourn and celebrate. So do children, parents, refugees, and lovers. These poems want to hum you stories that straddle the personal and the political, in an English riddled with Arabic words. The voices in them want to mourn for loved ones and broken homelands, but they also want to sing, as Asmahan does, ‘inta inta imta—you you when / will you know I love you.’

What worked well:

  • Beck does a nice job balancing the political with the personal in this collection. Balance in general, I think, is a quality of her work that should be praised. There’s a balance between Arabic and English (the translation notes at the end help a great deal), between tragedy and triumph, between influences of the West and influences of the Middle East. The result is a robust collection, filled with interesting juxtapositions.
  • Another wonderful aspect of 3arabi Song is the examination of song and language. I found Beck’s explanation of Arabizi to be particularly interesting.

Who should read 3arabi Song:

  • Readers who enjoy poems in multiple languages
  • Those who appreciate Arabic songs and culture
  • Fans of poems using refrains
  • Those who may be interested in learning more about Arabizi

Turn Left Before MorningThe other poetry collection I’d acquired from Rattle was Turn Left Before Morning by April Salzano. This collection by a mother of a child with autism really struck a chord with me.

Synopsis from the Rattle website:

Turn Left Before Morning explores the daily struggles involved in parenting a child with autism. These poems map a mother’s quest for understanding of a world that requires a significant shift in perspective and a new definition of what it means to love a child. The key to navigating the rough terrain of autism is not something she discovers, but is instead something that has been subtly guiding her all along: autism is as wonderful as it is terrifying, as humorous as it is heartbreaking, in alternating and equal measure.

What worked well:

  • The brutal honesty offered in these poems makes this collection undeniably strong. Each felt like a strong punch to the gut.
  • There is a lot of beauty in this complex relationship between mother and son. The plainspoken poems reflect this with gripping and convicting language that has the power to move the reader.

Who should read Turn Left Before Morning:

  • Readers seeking poems about autism
  • Parents of children with autism
  • Fans of plainspoken poems
  • Those who can appreciate and grapple with complex situations and relationships

Language of Rain and WindThe final poetry collection I’d been meaning to read was The Language of Rain and Wind by John Krumberger. I picked this out of a “free books” giveaway pile at Creighton University, because I was intrigued by the title. I found the poems to be interesting enough to keep me reading.

In lieu of a synopsis, here are some quotes of praise about The Language of Rain and Wind from the Backwaters Press website:

‘In poems sometimes elegiac, sometimes celebratory, often both, John Krumberger acknowledges his self-appointed task: “as a Scorpio who feels / the ground beneath the ground, / I lay my ear down to hear / the rocky, carbon, root-ash loam / breeding with the old year’s bones.” Past and present commingle in beautiful and disturbing ways to create “rank, rain-watered, worm-riddled” layers, and The Language of Rain and Wind is replete with modest gestures that offer “brisk benediction before quicklime and dark.” Oddly affirmative, these poems born of passionate listening speak as naturally as the elements and touch us as rain and wind might, lightly, but with memorable effect.’
• Michael Waters – Author of Darling Vulgarity

‘These empathetic poems are rich with the realities of other lives. John Krumberger doesn’t miss much: there is a wide (and deep) range of concerns in these pages. Here is a writer who knows how to listen and to watch, who can make vividly surprising, daring imaginative connections without raising his voice; the complexities are all the more strongly felt for the overall naturalness of his manner and the skillful quietness of his voice. These are indelibly human poems; I loved reading them.’
• Michael Dennis Browne – Author of Things I Can’t Tell You

What worked well:

  • Beautiful images and sensory details bring the poems to life on the page.
  • The third section, which expresses intimate moments with patients, was rather striking. Many of the lines delivered there were haunting and powerful.

Who should read The Language of Rain and Wind:

  • Those interested in psychology
  • Fans of poems rich with sensory details and striking images
  • Readers who like poems focused on human relations
  • Fans of poems about nature

BONUS TITLES!

I read #43 through #45 in the Ghost City Press micro-chapbook series. You can find all of them here.

Quick Reads (October 2018)

So many wonderful magazines and journals released new content this month and it was hard to keep up. I haven’t read through all the things I want to, but I’m sure I can sneak more in while procrastinating during National Novel Writing Month!

Anyway, here is the list of everything short I read this past month. Please remember: this list is not necessarily meant to act as a review, a show of favor, or a “best of” list. Feel free to share your own findings in the comments!


A Summoning in Section 292.1.J-P” By Anya Josephs (Green Briar Review)
[Note: This is where I volunteer as a fiction editor. Please consider sending us your own excellent creations!]

When Czechoslovakia Was Still a Country” By Tad Bartlett (Green Briar Review)
[See note directly above this.]

4P16.3” by Maya Alexandri (The Forge Literary Magazine)

Snap Bam Boom” by Robert Mangeot (The Forge Literary Magazine)

Zero Tolerance” by Jayne Martin (Barren Magazine)

Toy Box” by Asher (Barren Magazine)
[Note: “Buried in the Ground” by yours truly is in this issue of the magazine!]

Barnlights” by Amanda Crum (Barren Magazine)

A Girl Buys Lilies for Herself” by Priyanka Sacheti (Barren Magazine)

Sharp Parables” by Emily Osborne (Barren Magazine)

How to weave a blanket out of horsehair and spidersilk” by Sonja Swift (Barren Magazine)

The Horror of Party Beach” by Dale Bailey (Lightspeed)
[I listened to this story via the Lightspeed podcast.]

The Miracle Lambs of Minane” by Finbarr O’Reilly (Clarkesworld Magazine)
[I listened to this story via the Clarkesworld Magazine podcast.]

Midwestern Women: An Essential Reading List” by Meghan O’Gieblyn (Literary Hub)

The Routine” by Marie McKay (Rhythm & Bones)

Unravelling” by A.L. Bradshaw (freeze frame fiction)

Waiting for Nothing to Happen” by Caroline Langston (Image)

Dionysus Promised to Let You Have Another Glass” by Chloe N. Clark (Likely Red)

The Atomic Clock” by Michael Grant Smith (Spelk)

Crazy in Love” by Anita Goveas (Pixel Heart Literary Magazine)

Letter of Recommendation for a Basic Male MFA Applicant” by Emma Brewer (McSweeney’s Internet Tendency)

How to Build a Dream World” by Ruth Joffre (Electric Literature)

The Power of Cautionary Questions: Neil Gaiman on Ray Bradbury’s ‘Fahrenheit 451,’ Why We Read, and How Speculative Storytelling Enlarges Our Humanity” by Maria Popova (Brain Pickings)

Into the Wash” by Mitchell Grabois (Blue River)

The Hill” by Laura Huey Chamberlain (jmww)

The Things I Miss the Most” by Nisi Shawl (Uncanny Magazine)
[I listened to this story via the Uncanny Magazine podcast. It is part of the Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction issue.]

Convalescence” by Alicia Cole (Uncanny Magazine)
[I listened to this poem via the Uncanny Magazine podcast. It is part of the Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction issue.]

“Catalyst” and “Reaction” by M. Stone (Nice Cage)
[My short story, “All the Waves Resound,” is also in this issue of the journal!]

New Old” by Tara Isabel Zambrano (The Southampton Review)

Emily As We Turn Off the Sound of Monday Night Football” by Darren C. Demaree (The Stay Project)

The Horror of the Unknown: Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe by Thomas Ligotti” by David Peak (Electric Literature)

Quick Reads (September 2018)

Here is the list of everything short I read this past month. Please remember: this list is not necessarily meant to act as a review, a show of favor, or a “best of” list. Feel free to share your own findings in the comments!


Rabbit Hat” by Marcus Slease (Nice Cage)

Watch Them Glitter” by Tommy Dean (Ellipsis Zine)

Comfort, Dogs” by Matthew Fiander (Barren Magazine)

Fantastic Fabrics” by A.E. Weisgerber (Barren Magazine)

Chinese Bleeding on a Friday” by Peter Ngila (Barren Magazine)

Sweet Violets” by A.E. Weisgerber (New Flash Fiction Review)

The Funny Thing” by Michelle Ross (Nashville Review)

All of #22, Volume XII, Issue 1 of the Whitefish Review

Salt and Calcium” by Sarah Roth (Columbia Journal)

One Lifetime With a Stranger” by Matthew Caldwell (The Esthetic Apostle)
[Note: Matthew attended Creighton University’s MFA program around the same time I did.]

Unmentionables” by Kaitlyn Andrews-Rice (Paper Darts)

Back Talk” by Danielle Lazarin (Copper Nickel)

Nebraska” by Brian Hoey (New Orleans Review)

A Girl Walks on the Moon” by Ruth Joffre (Vestal Review)

Muriel” Elizabeth O’Brien (Newfound)

The Difference Between Reading and Reading Well” by Collin Huber (Fathom Magazine)

A Son” by Rachel Rodman (Apparition Literary Magazine)

Inversions” by Meghan Xanthos (The Bookends Review)

Mullenville, Population 82” by Sandra K. Barnidge (Allegory Ridge)

Wings and Sand” by Sean Patrick Whiteley (Obra/Artifact)

Counting Elephants” by F.E. Clark (Rhythm & Bones)

The Farewell” by Gem Caley (The Ginger Collect)

Out and Out” by Latifa Ayad (The Masters Review)

Quick Reads (August 2018)

Here is the list of everything short I read this past month. Please remember: this list is not necessarily meant to act as a review, a show of favor, or a “best of” list. Feel free to share your own findings in the comments!


All of The Conium Review: Vol. 5

Why Christians Should Read More Fiction” by Paul Anderson (RELEVANT Magazine)

“The Fool’s Stone” by Aubry Kae Andersen (Analog Science Fiction and Fact)

An elf in the witch-garden” by Kate Garr (Rhythm & Bones)

Thaumatrope” by Christopher Iacono (Rhythm & Bones)

forgiving mistakes i’ve made” by Linda M. Crate (Rhythm & Bones)

Today” by Maddie M. White (Rhythm & Bones)

A Dungeon Open House” by Ben Niespodziany (Train)

And the Hole Never Heals” by Ryan Habermeyer (Bat City Review)

Dragon Princess” by Michael Chin (Cherry Tree)
[Note: I read the excerpt available online.]

Big Bad Wolf” by Terrance Wedin (New South)

Unicorn” by Philip Dean Walker (Big Lucks)

This and That” by Ricky Garni (Big Lucks)

Rhode Island Red” by Michael Kimball (Big Lucks)

The Wardrobe” by Aysegul Savas (The Adroit Journal)

Apology” by Anne Rasmussen (Jellyfish Review)

Uncle Soot” by Joshua Jones (Midwestern Gothic)
[The round 1 winner for the journal’s annual summer flash fiction series]

Perseids” by Madeline Anthes (Midwestern Gothic)
[The round 1 runner-up for the journal’s annual summer flash fiction series]

Day in the Manner of Magritte” by Austin Sanchez-Moran (Maudlin House)

Bees” by ​​Melissa N. Warren (Gordon Square Review)

Me and You and Zvonimir” by Casey Whitworth (Green Briar Review)

Arsonist With Unlit Match” by Matt Fiander (Barren Magazine)

The House Mourns Alone at Midnight” by Maryse Meijer (Outlook Springs)

Koi Pond” by Cathy Ulrich (Outlook Springs)

Quick Reads (July 2018)

Here is the list of everything short I read this past month. Please remember: this list is not necessarily meant to act as a review, a show of favor, or a “best of” list. Feel free to share your own findings in the comments!


Pillow Talk” by Lori DeSanti (Blue Earth Review)

Ice” by Marianne Villanueva (Bellingham Review)

Ohio Deathbed, 1990” by Greg Marzullo (Arkana)

This Must Be the Place” by Jeffery Helton (Appalachian Heritage)

Of Leaf and Limb” by Hamilton Kohl (The Arcanist)

Bloom” by Lori Sambol Brody (matchbook)

Coloring Book Sky” and “Holy Noodles” by Elizabeth Elliott (Remington Review)
[Note: Elizabeth graduated from the Creighton MFA program before I did.]

Tips on Discipline” by Jeff VanderMeer (wonderbooknow.com)

Jeff VanderMeer on the Art and Science of Structuring a Novel” by Jeff VanderMeer (Electric Literature)

Rebuking A Sexist Prayer” by Diane J. McDougall (Fathom Magazine)

Every Bright Patch of Green” by Rachel Joy Welcher (Fathom Magazine)

Birds of a Feather” by Tianna Grosch (Okay Donkey)

The Piano Room” by Lily Wang (Cosmonauts Avenue)

May Mini-Reviews

 May was a really good month for reading. At least for me. I read twelve books and micro-chapbooks. The summer micro-chapbook series is really boosting my numbers! What did you pick up in May, blog readers?

The following reviews will cover what worked well in the books. If you wish to discuss what didn’t work in the books or what you enjoyed about the books, then I’d encourage you to comment on this post.

Without further ado, here are the mini-reviews for this month. (Mild spoilers may follow.)


Brass

Brass by Xhenet Aliu

Brass by Xhenet Aliu is another novel I picked up from the Bellevue Public Library. I found the cover art curious and so I picked up the book and read the synopsis. I put it down at first because I was unsure if I really wanted to try it out. But then I circled back and took it to the checkout counter. I’m glad I took the time to read this one in the end.

Synopsis from the Penguin Random House website:

A waitress at the Betsy Ross Diner, Elsie hopes her nickel-and-dime tips will add up to a new life. Then she meets Bashkim, who is at once both worldly and naïve, a married man who left Albania to chase his dreams—and wound up working as a line cook in Waterbury, Connecticut. Back when the brass mills were still open, this bustling factory town drew one wave of immigrants after another. Now it’s the place they can’t seem to leave. Elsie, herself the granddaughter of Lithuanian immigrants, falls in love quickly, but when she learns that she’s pregnant, Elsie can’t help wondering where Bashkim’s heart really lies, and what he’ll do about the wife he left behind.

Seventeen years later, headstrong and independent Luljeta receives a rejection letter from NYU and her first-ever suspension from school on the same day. Instead of striking out on her own in Manhattan, she’s stuck in Connecticut with her mother, Elsie—a fate she refuses to accept. Wondering if the key to her future is unlocking the secrets of the past, Lulu decides to find out what exactly her mother has been hiding about the father she never knew. As she soon discovers, the truth is closer than she ever imagined.

Told in equally gripping parallel narratives with biting wit and grace, Brass announces a fearless new voice with a timely, tender, and quintessentially American story.

Another audiobook I finished in May is Parasite by Mira Grant (a. k. a. Seanan McGuire). I had a hard time feeling engaged by McGuire’s writing style in Every Heart a Doorway, so I wanted to try a different book by her. While I liked Parasite better, I think I’m too disenchanted at this point to continue the series.

Synopsis from the Hachette Book Group website:

A decade in the future, humanity thrives in the absence of sickness and disease.

We owe our good health to a humble parasite — a genetically engineered tapeworm developed by the pioneering SymboGen Corporation. When implanted, the Intestinal Bodyguard worm protects us from illness, boosts our immune system — even secretes designer drugs. It’s been successful beyond the scientists’ wildest dreams. Now, years on, almost every human being has a SymboGen tapeworm living within them.

But these parasites are getting restless. They want their own lives . . . and will do anything to get them.

What worked well:

  • Grant’s idea of sentient parasites that can heal people by living in their body is bizarre, wild, and extremely imaginative. It’s also a genius twist on a familiar genre, which becomes more apparent as the reader delves farther into the book.
  • Grant also approaches animal rights in a way that many other writers do not. Many writers consider animal rights at a distance, their characters narrating what is happening instead of actively engaging with the animals. Grant’s protagonist engages with animals and their rights directly, a truly refreshing approach.

Who should read Parasite:

  • Readers who enjoy new approaches to familiar science fiction genres
  • Those who enjoy books about human and animal rights
  • Fans of Seanan McGuire’s books
  • Readers who enjoy books about weird science

A Wrinkled in Time

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

I wanted to support the film version of A Wrinkle in Time but felt guilty about not reading the book before the movie released. I watched A Wrinkle in Time in theaters anyway and decided to read the book later on. I ended up downloading the audiobook from my local library. Madeleine L’Engle is an inspiring writer and I’m glad I had the chance to listen to some of her work.

Synopsis from the Penguin Random House website:

Madeleine L’Engle’s ground-breaking science fiction and fantasy classic, soon to be a major motion picture. This movie tie-in audiobook includes an introduction read by director Ava DuVernay, a foreword read by the author, and an afterword read by Madeleine L’Engle’s granddaughter Charlotte Jones Voiklis.

Meg Murray, her little brother Charles Wallace, and their mother are having a midnight snack on a dark and stormy night when an unearthly stranger appears at their door. He claims to have been blown off course, and goes on to tell them that there is such a thing as a “tesseract,” which, if you didn’t know, is a wrinkle in time. Meg’s father had been experimenting with time-travel when he suddenly disappeared. Will Meg, Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin outwit the forces of evil as they search through space for their father?

In 1962, Madeleine L’Engle debuted her novel A Wrinkle in Time, which would go on to win the 1963 Newbery Medal. Bridging science and fantasy, darkness and light, fear and friendship, the story became a classic of children’s literature and is beloved around the world. Now Disney is taking it to the silver screen! Directed by Ava DuVernay and with an all-star cast that includes Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Chris Pine, and newcomer Storm Reid, the major motion picture brings the world of Wrinkle to life for a new generation of fans.

What worked well:

  • A Wrinkle in Time does a nice job of depicting a female protagonist who needs to embrace her truest self—flaws and all—to overcome obstacles in her path. It’s a positive message but, let’s be real, it’s also kind of radical. She’s a young girl who’s not your stereotypical beauty and whose flaws are things like anger and impatience. L’Engle opened a door with this novel for many young girls who badly needed representation in literature.
  • L’Engle’s imagination was also a joy to discover. From the “tesseract” device to the villainous “IT” to the vastly different locations, L’Engle creates a complex universe full of life, weird science, and beautiful fantasy.

Who should read A Wrinkle in Time:

  • Those who enjoy middle-grade books
  • Fans of the science fantasy genre
  • Readers who like complex female protagonists
  • Those who enjoy books about family and bonds of friendship

The Underneath

The Underneath by Melanie Finn

When I read that Melanie Finn had a new book coming out, I knew I had to buy it. In the past, when I worked at Tethered by Letters, I read The Gloaming for a review. Back then, I wasn’t familiar with her work. Now I know how much of a genius she is. It was inevitable that I would preorder The Underneath from Two Dollar Radio.

Synopsis from the Two Dollar Radio website:

With the assurance and grace of her acclaimed novel The Gloaming—which earned her comparisons to Patricia Highsmith—Melanie Finn returns with a precisely layered and tense new literary thriller.

The Underneath follows Kay Ward, a former journalist struggling with the constraints of motherhood. Along with her husband and two children, she rents a quaint Vermont farmhouse for the summer. The idea is to disconnect from their work-based lifestyle—that had her doggedly pursuing a genocidal leader of child soldiers known as General Christmas, even through Kay’s pregnancy and the birth of their second child—in an effort to repair their shaky marriage.

It isn’t long before Kay’s husband is called away and she discovers a mysterious crawlspace in the rental with unsettling writing etched into the wall. Alongside some of the house’s other curiosities and local sleuthing, Kay is led to believe that something terrible may have happened to the home’s owners.

Kay’s investigation leads her to a local logger, Ben Comeau, a man beset with his own complicated and violent past. A product of the foster system and life-long resident of the Northeast Kingdom, Ben struggles to overcome his situation, and to help an abused child whose addict mother is too incapacitated to care about the boy’s plight.

The Underneath is an intelligent and considerate exploration of violence—both personal and social—and whether violence may ever be justified.

What worked well:

  • There is so much good to say, but let’s start with the obvious one: Finn’s use of violence. Violence may not seem like a good thing—and indeed, it is not—but in the hands of a master prose stylist, there is somewhat of an important subversion that takes place. The Underneath unflinchingly delves headlong into some heartbreaking topics through the characters and their experiences: child soldiers, warmongers, mutilation, drug abuse, self-harm, suicide, sexual abuse, neglect, pedophilia, physical abuse, verbal abuse, animal abuse, destruction of the earth, etc. It’s true that you likely need a strong stomach to read this book. But the things that Finn brings up are important for us to discuss and not to ignore. Finn also shows us how any person—”good” or not—can end up perpetuating violence.
  • Like with The Gloaming, Finn’s prose in this book is stellar. From the very first beautiful and compelling line, I was hooked. Finn phrases things in ways that few other writers can or have. To understand what I mean, you should read an excerpt of the novel or just take a leap of faith and buy the book.

Who should read The Underneath:

  • Readers who enjoy literary thrillers
  • Those who are prepared to read about intense violence
  • Fans of The Gloaming
  • Readers who enjoy exquisite prose

*BONUS TITLES!

From Likely Red Press:

 

From the Ghost City Press Summer Micro-Chapbook Series:

casserolethere are over 100 billion stars in our galaxyWolf InventoryBrett+Stuckel+-+Outerbridge+Shelter  

*I have strong affiliations to these particular titles and their publishers.

The 2018 Summer Micro-Chapbook Series Begins!

The annual Ghost City Press Summer Micro-Chapbook Series kicked off today with Sara Adams’s Casserole. There will be new works of poetry, prose, and art released each day from May 28 to September 7. My collection of stories, Space, Collisions, will release July 19. I hope you’ll check it out!

And because I’m writing about my micro-chapbook, it should be noted that the collection now has a cover! The artist is Jennifer Potter, a talented illustrator and the creator of Echo’s Rift. She really went above and beyond to make the cover fit with the writing. To fully appreciate the intricate details added to the cover art, you can watch Potter’s speedpaint video on YouTube.

Book Cover-hi-res

Cover Art by Jennifer Potter

I’m hoping for some reviews for Space, Collisions, and have submitted an advance reading copy (ARC) of the micro-chapbook to a couple of places for consideration. My hometown newspaper was kind enough to publish an announcement on their website. One of the current editors of Blue River also expressed interest in reviewing the collection for the Blue River blog.

If you know of any places that accept review requests for micro-chapbooks—or if you’re an independent reviewer interested in receiving an ARC—please reach out to me at leeann [dot] n [dot] holmes [at] gmail [dot] com. You can also review Space, Collisions on Goodreads after its release.

It’s going to be an exciting summer. I hope you all will check out the micro-chapbook series. And as always, if you do, thanks for reading.

Likely Red Press, L. N. Holmes, "The Squatter's Inn," flash fiction, anthology, series, small press, poetry, art, story

Hello cherished readers, beloved blog followers, and inquisitive newcomers. I’m excited to announce that Likely Red Press released the first installment in The Fancy Arm Hole Series today. You can find my story, “The Squatter’s Inn,” in anthology number one. I hope you’ll check out my work and the other lovely creations in this series. And if you do, as always, thanks for reading.

Quick Reads (February 2018)

Here is the list of everything short I read this past month. I’m going to cheat this time and include some nonfiction and poetry with the flash fiction and short stories. Please remember: this list is not necessarily meant to act as a review, a show of favor, or a “best of” list.

Feel free to share your own findings in the comments!


Paper Shackles” by Sean Enfield (Lunch Ticket)
[Note: I worked with Sean—namely, performed some minor edits—on his piece “Colorblind Passengers,” which was printed in F(r)Online.]

Prom Night” by Jayne Martin (Crack the Spine)

Life Without Anesthesia” by Kristen M. Ploetz (Crack the Spine)

Death and Dying in America” by Bailey Bridgewater (Crack the Spine)

Forever Jung” by Leah Mueller (Crack the Spine)

The Diamond Girl” by Courtney Bird (Fairy Tale Review)

The Clowns” by Rodney Gomez (Fairy Tale Review)

Ashes” by Aimee Pokwatka (Fairy Tale Review)

Delicate” by Jasmine Sawers (Fairy Tale Review)

Interrogation” by Michael Chin (Prime Number Magazine)

Devil’s Hopyard” by Donald Hubbard (The Harpoon Review)

The World for a Heart” by Kenneth Otani (The Harpoon Review)

Trajectories” by Alex Miller (The Harpoon Review)

Otherwise Panic” by Mary Kuryla (Shenandoah)

Resort” by Mary Miller (Wigleaf)

Now That the Circus Has Shut Down, the Human Cannonball Looks for Work” by Meghan Phillips (Wigleaf)

Parliament of Owls” by Jeff Ewing (Smokelong Quarterly)

Princess Shipwreck” by Tessa Yang (Smokelong Quarterly)

Ueno Zoo” by E. J. Koh (Smokelong Quarterly)

חלב חם” by Lea Klibanoff (Smokelong Quarterly)

New Yorker Story About Michigan” by Carolyn Nims (Smokelong Quarterly)

The Jumper” by Geoff Kronik (Smokelong Quarterly)

The Cartographers” by Joshua Jones (Smokelong Quarterly)

The Noises from the Neighbors Upstairs: A Nightly Log” by Amber Sparks (Smokelong Quarterly)

All the shortlisted flash fictions for the VERA (Vestal Review)
[Note: James R. Gapinski’s story, “Tuxedos and Evening Gowns,” appeared in F(r)iction #6]

Moorish Architecture” by Erinrose Mager (The Adroit Journal)

Check My ID” by Krys Malcolm Belc (The Adroit Journal)

The Cry of the Butterfly” by Matthew Baker (The Adroit Journal)

Chinaman, Run” by Kathryn Hargett (The Adroit Journal)

Harvest” by Stephen Case (Bracken)

poltergeist ii” by Candice Wuehle (Sonora Review)

We Are Trying to Understand You” by Joy Baglio (TriQuarterly)


[Note: I’m pretty sure I missed a few.]

 

February Mini-Reviews

With eight books now read, I am closer to my goal of reading 52 books this year. For the short month of February, I decided to check out the collected novellas of Ursula K. Le Guin and revisit some of the books I read in college.

The following reviews will cover what worked well in the books. If you wish to discuss what didn’t work in the books—or better yet, your own reading goals for the year—I’d encourage you to comment on this post.

Without further ado, here are the mini-reviews for this month. (Mild spoilers may follow.)


the found and the lost

The Found and the Lost: The Collected Novellas of Ursula K. Le Guin

With Ursula K. Le Guin‘s passing, I felt the need to read her collected novellas as an act of mourning. She was such a talented writer and the breadth of her work could not be contained by any one genre.

Summary from the Simon & Schuster website:

Ursula K. Le Guin has won multiple prizes and accolades from the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters to the Newbery Honor, the Nebula, Hugo, World Fantasy, and PEN/Malamud Awards. She has had her work collected over the years, but never as a complete retrospective of her longer works as represented in the wonderful The Found and the Lost.

Includes:
-Vaster Than Empires and More Slow
-Buffalo Gals, Won’t You Come Out Tonight
-Hernes
-The Matter of Seggri
-Another Story or a Fisherman of the Inland Sea
-Forgiveness Day
-A Man of the People
-A Woman’s Liberation
-Old Music and the Slave Women
-The Finder
-On the High Marsh
-Dragonfly
-Paradises Lost

This collection is a literary treasure chest that belongs in every home library. 

Book Review: Uhaul by Emily Ramser

Bear with me, because this is relevant. Those who know me well know I have an aversion to romance. I find phrases like “rippling muscle” and “love canal” gag-worthy and unattractive. If I read one more novel where two characters have “their eyes meet” and they don’t immediately try and kill each other afterward, I might stab a book. (Side note, I’m actually nice—or try to be. It’s been a long day.)

I know what you guys are thinking. But LeeAnn, we see you promoting romance novels on your Twitter all the time! Yes, observant friends, you do. That’s because there are great writers out there who write romance—a genre equal in awesomeness to all the others. I’m friends with quite a few romance writers. Some very kind ones let me join their writing group and I’m a better writer for it. I actually dig a lot of mentioned romance writers’ stuff.

UhaulThe point is I’m not romantic, therefore I don’t like sappy writing. What I appreciate about Uhaul: A Collection of Lesbian Love Poems by Emily Ramser is that, while definitely romantic, it is also honest. These are the types of poems you write about your crush in your journal and then hide in your shoe box under your bed because they are soul-bearing and unpretending. These are poems of sheer adoration.

Ramser writes in plain language that the average reader can understand. For example, the poem “One Day, You Will Eat” begins with a humorous list of things that the person the speaker is referring to will not eat: “You don’t like mushrooms,/hamburgers, cinnamon, lettuce…”. However it ends with a nice sort of twist, with words that seem simple but actually will resonate with many readers.

There are two poems that leave me scratching my scalp. The poems seem odd editions to the collection. I am still at a loss after reading “The Day I Spoke With Your Gray Hair” and am frustrated with the somewhat successful but ultimately eyebrow raising, “I give you my body for your own.” They’re not bad, necessarily, just different and somewhat out of place.

As expected, Ramser brought back the birds in this collection with the poem,”I will sing to you.” It’s in this poem, arguably, that she writes her most memorable description: “how you hide your smile behind your thumb.” Again simple, but spot on, and ironically proceeded by how the speaker found it difficult to describe this action.

The poem I find most surprising is “I’d Steal You a Skillet”. This poem interested me—not because of the romantic elements, but because of this odd and fascinating tradition. I also got the sense that the speaker was as surprised as I was—not by the tradition but by the romantic elements.

The artwork for this collection is stunning. Sara Tolbert’s work adds another, beautiful layer of meaning to the poems. I was very impressed and kept gazing admiringly at the black-and-white drawings.

Overall the collection is interesting and honest—even if romance is not my favorite subject. What’s more, Ramser is an impressive person. She is an editor at many different publications with four published collections while still an undergraduate student at Salem College. She has a lot of things to write still. I’m curious to see what comes next.

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!

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.

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!

writing, Blue River, Valentine's Day, literary journal, literary magazine, award, special, submission, fiction, poetry, nonfiction

Hey graduate student writers and those who know graduate student writers—are you ready for Valentine’s Day? At Blue River, we’re showing the love by offering a two-for-one special. Here are the details:

Blue River is offering a Valentine’s Day submission special: submit two pieces for the price of one! The two-for-one submission period will run from midnight to midnight on February 14 only. Submit here for a shot at publication and the $500 Editor’s Choice award in Fiction, Poetry and NonFiction. Regular entry fees will resume thereafter.

Blue River is a non-profit literary journal produced by the students in Creighton University’s MFA program. We seek to build a new tradition: to foster and celebrate contemporary graduate-level creative writers by publishing their fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry.

Our March 1st deadline is almost upon us. Send us your best work!

https://blueriver.submittable.com/submit

Follow us on Twitter.

Like us on Facebook.

We’re looking forward to your contribution. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Judging for the 2016 Art Young Memorial Award for Poetry

Art Young, poetry, Garbanzo Literary Journal, Good Morning, contest, writing

Art Young (source)

I’m grateful to Marc and Ava (Mr & Mrs Garbanzo) for a great many things. They were the ones who allowed my writing to appear in Garbanzo Literary Journal and then again in Good Morning. So when they asked me to help judge the 2016 Art Young Memorial Award for Poetry, I felt honored.

When I received the poetry packet, however, I found the task to be rather difficult.

I had stumbled upon a pool of talented poets and now had the monumental task of voting for the entry that seemed to “deserve” the prize. I read each poem carefully—studying each word, each punctuation mark, each space, each sensory detail, etc. I was very impressed with the entries. After much painstaking effort and consideration, I offered my votes, which would be added to the votes of the other judges.

I have been on the other end of this process too. I have been the writer submitting work to contests, winning few and losing many. That’s why I so meticulously read and analyzed each poem—because I would want any judge in a writing contest to do the same for me.

January 15, Marc and Ava announced the winners:

The 2016 Art Young Memorial Award for Poetry goes to Terry Severhill for “Beneath the Shadow of the Sun”. An honorable mention goes to Emily Vieweg for “Shadows”. Thanks to all the storytellers who were a part of this event.

Both pieces will appear in the March 1st 2016 issue of Art Young’s Good Morning.

Congratulations to Terry and Emily, and thanks to those who allowed me to read their wonderful poetry submissions.

After the Holidays: A Writing Update

There is no rest for the working writer—but I’m not complaining. A lot of good has happened lately. I owe you an update.

I’m going to do this list style. Here goes:

Judging the Teen Poetry Bash

Saturday, December 12, I went to listen to some talented teens speak their piece at the Teen Poetry Bash, held at the Omaha Public Library. Because of my past work with the Nebraska Writers Collective as a Louder Than a Bomb judge, I was asked to be one of the judges for this competition as well. It was such a privilege to be on the panel and to listen to some local talent. I was impressed with all the poets that chose to speak their words. It was a fun event—one that will only keep going if these young ones keep participating, I’m told.

IMG_2960

The finalists are chosen and invited to participate in the second round.

IMG_2962

The winners pose with OPL’s representative.

My Interview with The Other Stories

Thanks to the wonderful editors at Tethered by Letters and writer Ilana Masad, I was recently featured on The Other Stories podcast for my story “When Continents Collide” from F(r)iction #2. It was really fun (and I was super nervous)! You can listen to the story and my interview here.

My Professor Won an NEA Fellowship

I am blessed to be learning from amazing writers and professors at Creighton University. Brent Spencer, Mary Helen Stefaniak, Susan Aizenberg, and—this semester—David Mullins. You may have heard in recent news that David Mullins won a National Endowment of the Arts fellowship. I’m pretty stoked to be participating in his workshop soon. All of my professors have really challenged me so far. I’m so excited to start classes again.

Los Angeles and AWP

That’s right, ladies and gents, I’m going to L.A. in March/April for the Association of Writers & Writing Programs conference. It’s going to be a wild drive there and back (and probably on the L.A. streets). Four of us are going to make the pilgrimage. I’ll live tweet some of the madness. If you’re going to the conference, come check out the Blue River booth and say hello!

Writing for Change Seven

Recently, Change Seven editor Sheryl Monks has asked me to write for their magazine. I will be doing this in addition to my work at Germ Magazine. My work for Change Seven is still in the beginning stages, however, so I’ll have more concrete updates for you as I work on my first assignment.


Well, that’s all folks! I hope all of you had happy holidays (or happy recent days, if you don’t celebrate holidays). As always, thanks for reading (or listening to podcast audio).

Upcoming Events

Friends, I wanted to let you know of some upcoming readings I will be participating in. They’re going to be really fun. Please come out and join us if you are close to the area. I’d love to chat with you.

  • Soundz of Freedom presents: Freedom Expressions ~ As seen through the Eyes of a Veteran
    • Thursday, December 10
    • 6-10 p.m.
    • Ralston Arena, 7300 Q Street, Ralston, Nebraska
    • Admission: $12 in advance/$15 day of event
    • I will be playing a very small part in this large event. Around 8:45 p.m. I will be reading a pre-selected work of literature that coincides with the theme for the night: “Seeing the stories of our Veterans through their eyes”
  • Fair Use Reading Series Continued
    • Thursday, December 17
    • 6:45 p.m.
    • Abbott Lecture Hall in the Joslyn Art Museum, 2200 Dodge Street, Omaha, Nebraska
    • Admission: free
    • I will be reading my speculative fiction story “When Continents Collide”, published in F(r)iction #2

 

reading, Creighton University, MFA, writing, fiction, poetry

The Second Fair Use Reading featuring Erin Pulispher, Allison Hraban, and me.

Two Universities, One Reading, New Voices

Creighton University, New Voices, University of Nebraska Omaha, reading, students, fiction, poetry

From left (for Creighton University): our lovely liaison and poet Allison Hraban, poet Aubree Else, and prose writer Nicole Koneck-Wilwerding.

This post is a little late, but I wanted to tell you all about an exciting reading I attended November 19. It was a special event—hosted by Creighton University and the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO)—known as New Voices. Like the Fair Use readings, it is a series for young and emerging writers who want to read their work aloud to an audience.

There were four writers total, given roughly five minutes to read their work.

Nicole Koneck-Wilwerding began with her funny short story, appropriately titled “Thanksgiving”. It was a series of letters from the main character to her siblings, discussing her upcoming Thanksgiving dinner and the potential problems on the horizon. Through humor, wit, and awkward political battles, Nicole entertained us with a character that is more complex than she originally seems. It was an excellent and engaging piece.

Ashley, a representative of UNO, read next. She read a small collection of poems including “New Moon”, “She’s Human”, “Tabasco Sauce”, and others. Her poems at times were surprising, amusing, and thought-provoking. Some of her images were really interesting and strong. I enjoyed hearing Ashley’s work for the first time.

Nick, another representative for UNO, then read part of his short story “Mile Marker”. His story starts with a dead dog and has this mysterious mixed feeling of a combined Sir Arthur Conan Doyle novel and a Stephen King novel. I thought Nick did well with surprise and power dynamics in his piece. I really enjoyed hearing his work for the first time.

Aubree Else finished up the night with a collection of her poems. Some of them I was familiar with from the Fair Use reading like “North G Street House” and “The World Ends for a Fifth Time”. She also read some poems I was not familiar with, like “The Indian Leopard Sticks His Head Into a Pot” and “Waste Places”. I really enjoyed listening to all of them. The last one was my favorite thus far, but each one compelled me to listen and pay attention.

The New Voices readings sometimes feature graduate students, but there are often undergraduate students as well. If you have a chance to attend the next one, I’d encourage you to do so. It’s always wise to support your local writers.

A Talented Trio: Creighton University’s First Fair Use Reading

Fair Use Reading, writers, writing, reading, fiction, poetry, Nebraska

From left, our host and fellow writer Shelby Snedeker stands next to our featured writers Amanda DeNatale, Aubree Else, and Quentin Chirdon.

Happy Halloween everybody!

Have you been to an author reading lately? Thursday evening, I went to see three of my talented classmates read some of their work at Solid Jackson Books in Benson. I knew they were good, but I was mind blown by how amazing their writing was.

Amanda DeNatale read first. Her short story was about a young man who is haunted by past addictions. He struggles to find a “healthy replacement” for his lack of stimulants to avoid losing his family. But this poses its own set of problems, which eventually climaxes in an unexpected, strange, and fascinating way. I won’t give away what happens, but remember our fellow writer’s name, so you can be one of the first to read her amazing work in published form.

Aubree Else was the next to read. She read a small collection of poems. Her writing discussed her loves for fall and her childhood home. She even had a poem, cheeky and thoroughly enjoyable, about the end of the world. I found her poems to be thought-provoking and riddled with interesting images and sounds. I’d definitely suggest her work to anyone.

Quentin Chirdon read the openings to two short stories and an opening to a nonfiction essay. I found myself enthralled by the disturbing images in his work and taken aback by the surprise of humor that surfaced in the midst of the strange. His first story I was somewhat familiar with, so it was wonderful to hear a longer excerpt. I definitely want to read the rest of it. His second story was so funny and convincing, even though he made up an art form that actually doesn’t exist, we believed it anyway. His nonfiction essay, another I had a chance to peek at, discussed the space age in an intimate way that was emotionally moving. Definitely give his work a read if you see his name surface in any publication.

Shelby, our host and a fantastic writer herself, treated us to wine, cheese, and festive Halloween candy (side note, I don’t drink, so I just had the yummy snacks) before the event. Solid Jackson Books was a wonderful venue, with great vintage records and reads to peruse, and an open but intimate space for us to gather. Overall, it was an event that I’m glad I didn’t miss, featuring some of Creighton University’s great writers.

The Fair Use Readings are a series of events. Watch for the next one, which will most likely be held in December. We hope to see you there!

Chauffeuring Erin Bow: An Evening of Poetry and Killer Robots

Erin Noteboom Bow, L. N. Holmes, writing, reading, poetry, science fiction, fantasy, YA, young adult, memoir, science, books, novelsOn Tuesday, I had the privilege to meet Erin Bow—poet and novelist extraordinaire—and drive her to her reading at Creighton University. She brought along her mom—a classy lady—and talked to me about post-apocalyptic fiction. She was really fun to chat with.

Bow read science poetry and young adult fiction to us in the Harper Center. I really enjoyed her poetry, which wasn’t riddled with ambiguity like many modern poems. It was beautiful and moving. Her prose was exciting and—using her words—snarky. I enjoyed it so much, I bought two of her books: The Scorpion Rules and Sorrow’s Knot.

As a Creighton alumna, she had many friends come out to support her and listen to her read. In between the excerpts, Bow made us laugh and fed us science facts. Afterward she patiently answered our questions about writing and her own writing process. It was a fantastic evening.

Erin (Noteboom) Bow is the author of Plain Kate, Sorrow’s Knot, and The Scorpion Rules. Under her maiden name she has written books of poetry—Seal Up the Thunder and Ghost Maps: Poems for Carl Hruska—and a memoir, The Mongoose Diaries. She’s a physicist and an award winning writer. Bow lives in Canada with her husband and two daughters.

Blue River Now Open for Submissions

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My fellow writers, I have exciting news. Blue River, a non-profit literary journal produced by Creighton University’s MFA program, is now seeking submissions. There is also a chance to win $500.

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