My good friend Meredith Allison reviewed Space, Collisions and interviewed me about the collection. Her thoughts and questions are totally spot on. She’s one of my writing heroines and I can’t wait for her upcoming historical fiction novel, Blood & Whiskey, to be released.

You can read the review and interview here. I hope you’ll check it out!

Remember when I wrote that I was trying to read more Christian fiction? Well, I’ve been working on finding good homes for my own Christian fiction too. Thanks to the lovely editors at Fathom Magazine, I now have a new Christian flash fiction story published. You can find the story, “Though the Earth Gives Way,” in the Rebellion issue (No. 20). Thanks to Managing Editor Jonathan Minnema for accepting this flash and, also, thanks to the other editors at Fathom Magazine who had a hand in publishing this story. I’m really grateful to be a small addition to this rad publication.

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.

Garbanzo Literary Journal, publication, success, writing, nonfiction, creative nonfiction, quirky, fun, writing, writer, L. N. Holmes

I am so excited to announce that my short memoir “Old Betsy’s Obituary” will be featured in the quirky and fantastic Garbanzo Literary Journal! Some of you may remember this piece won first place in 2013 for a competition at the North Carolina Media Association Statewide Media Awards. My work will appear in Garbanzo #5 to be published at the end of March. I am thrilled that my work will be featured at this wonderful literary journal. If you’re interested, please buy a copy when it’s published and check it out!

The Monday Post: Links for Readers and Writers

ice, winter, writing, editing, reading, edited from original, http://pixabay.com/en/abstract-blue-cold-crystal-drop-22122/

I am continuing a series (inspired by Electric Literature) where I post important links for writers and readers on Mondays. They may be old links or new links, but they’ll be ones that I find the most interesting or helpful. I’m also adding a few new categories. If there are any particular topics you’d like to read about, please feel free to suggest them in a comment on this post.

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Book Review: Thief of Glory

book copyright Sigmund Brouwer
book copyright Sigmund Brouwer

Young Jeremiah Prins begins his life in privilege in the Dutch East Indies. His family is affluent and served by the locals. All of this changes when the Japanese begin their imperial expansion and invade what is now known as Indonesia. Separated from his father and older brothers, Jeremiah takes charge of what is left of his family — his mother and younger siblings. The Japanese eventually round them up and put them in a jappenkamp where there is little food and little medical care. Jeremiah learns to find creative ways to take care of his family while waiting out what feels like an endless war. As more and more people die from lack of nutrition and disease, Jeremiah’s life becomes increasingly dangerous.

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Weekend Writing: Music as Your Muse

music, writing, writing prompt, country, rap, rock, classical, pop, "Music listener" by Kashirin Nickolai - http://www.flickr.com/photos/nkashirin/5325053378/. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Music_listener.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Music_listener.jpg
"Music listener" by Kashirin Nickolai - http://www.flickr.com/photos/nkashirin/5325053378/. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Music_listener.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Music_listener.jpg

[Photo: “Music listener” by Kashirin Nickolai]

I’m a visual learner, so I often use photographs as inspiration for writing. Occasionally, however, I’ll listen to a composition by a band or singer that makes me vividly image a scene or a story in my mind. Music is a powerful tool. Like all art, it can inspire. That is this week’s challenge, are you up to it?

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writing, exhausted, keep going, back to school © Michael Jastremski at Creative Commons
back to school © Michael Jastremski

So the past couple of days I’ve felt really exhausted and have pushed myself to keep writing. I’ve written a bunch of terrible stuff as a result. All the experts in the field tell you to write even if it is nothing pretty to look at — and I see their point. The time when it is the hardest to write is the time you should still be writing.

The literary world is a no excuses industry, rarely forgiving, and incredibly competitive. We have to push ourselves to become the best we can be. Over this week, when I was too strained to continue writing, I researched literary magazines. When the words began to blur on the computer screen, I listened to a podcast about publication advice. I didn’t let myself give up and neither should you.

It’s because of this that I’ve written one good thing: a flash story titled “Haunting the Ruins.” So keep tapping (or scratching) out those words, writer friends. I believe in your potential if you believe in your potential.

Chicken Sandwich, low quality food, fast food, By Evan-Amos (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Copyright Evan Amos

So I’ve written a new short story. It’s called “Nourishment” and it is about a traveling preacher-in-training that goes into a diner. It is written in second person. In less than 1000 words, a saucy, colorful waitress in the diner tests the faith of the main character.

The first half of this piece was a breeze. It was the second half that dragged me down. I need to do some editing and revising before I submit it.

This story is for week one. I have to write one more story for week two by Saturday. Okay fellow readers, any ideas on a direction I should take?

Thanks to some of my fellow book loving family and friends, I received many books as gifts for Christmas. Their kindness has stocked me with many titles to read over the next year! I also supported some local bookstores — in my hometown and at a bookstore I used to work at in Lebanon, Ohio.

While not all of them are pictured, I wanted to share some of the exciting titles that were purchased and draw attention to their authors. Some of these books I will review on my blog.

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Here We Go Again… My New Year’s Resolutions

writing, goals, objectives, pen, paper, image source: http://articles.hotsaucegames.com/introducing-the-hotsaucegames-weekly-writing-competition/
Image source: http://articles.hotsaucegames.com/introducing-the-hotsaucegames-weekly-writing-competition/

[Image source: hotsaucegames.com]

New Year’s resolutions are infamous for being unrealistically optimistic, as life usually steps in to bulldoze our plans. That being said, I am — believe it or not — an optimist (I blame it on an increasingly healthy diet), and therefore have started to make New Year’s resolutions and stick to them as best I can. While I have more personal ones that I’ve made, I want to share with you my writing and reading objectives for the year.

Please feel free to share your goals for 2015 in the comments on this post, as I’d love to read about them and cheer for you.

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Book Review: All the Bright Places

Copyright Jennifer Niven, cover, All the Bright Places, YA, young adult, fiction, novel, book, Finch, Violet, mental illness, suicide
Copyright Jennifer Niven

When Theodore Finch climbs the steps of the bell tower to commit suicide, he does not expect to find Violet Markey standing on the ledge, also ready to end her life. It is here that they officially meet and both prevent each other from doing what they had planned to do. Their relationship quickly changes into something much more as the two of them discover each others’ secrets.

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Artist Interview: M. Reed McCall

M. Reed McCall, author, Moose Tracks on the Road to Heaven, book, novel, ficiton, Mary Reed McCall, new book

Copyright M. Reed McCall


(Please note that I am adding the addition of colored text. My questions will be in red and the artist’s answers will be in purple.)


L.N. Holmes: “Where is your hometown?”
M. Reed McCall: “I am originally from Rome, NY, which is about an hour east of Syracuse.”


L.N. Holmes: “What is your chosen artistic profession?”
M. Reed McCall: “I am a writer–although I am also a high school English teacher, which requires its own kind of artistry, and I have been working with students (numbered in the thousands by now) for the past 26 years.”

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The Monday Post: Links for Readers and Writers

Copyright L. N. Holmes, truck, old, black and white photography, J. K. Rowling, quote
Copyright L. N. Holmes

I am continuing a series (inspired by Electric Literature) where I post important links for writers and readers on Mondays. 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.

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Book Review and Exclusive Offer: Winter Woven

Written by Garrett Curry and illustrated by Kyle Ragsdale. Copyright Garrett Curry and Kyle Ragsdale, fine artist, children, adults, multigenerational, Winter Woven
Written by Garrett Curry and illustrated by Kyle Ragsdale. Copyright Garrett Curry and Kyle Ragsdale.

[Copyright Garrett Curry and Kyle Ragsdale and associates.]

The day after Christmas, a package arrives for Piper. She is not excited about it. Great Aunt Fran sends her something every year that contains an item that’s itchy and handmade, which she is then forced to wear. This year she gets a scarf. This year will be different from all the others.

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100 Blog Followers and Counting: Thank You Video and Reading

In the beginning of the week, I realized that I had 100 followers for my blog, A Vase of Wildflowers. I started the blog in mid-September and it had really taken off. I wouldn’t be here without you.

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Weekend Writing: Researching the Unknown

Sfoskett , "Hot air balloon glow". Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hot_air_balloon_glow.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Hot_air_balloon_glow.jpg
"Hot air balloon glow". Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hot_air_balloon_glow.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Hot_air_balloon_glow.jpg Photo by Sfoskett

[Photo by Sfoskett]

A writer is wise to do research, even if they are making up their story.

While I was rereading the second edition of Janet Burroway’s Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft, I came upon a writing prompt that was really interesting. The writer is supposed to make a list of some sort and then use something off the list as a trigger for a writing prompt. One of the suggestions is “Things on which I am an expert” (page xxvi). For this writing prompt, we are going to do the opposite of that and do a bit of research. Are you up for the challenge?

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A Compilation of the Best Books of 2014

By Shawncalhoun (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by Shawn Calhoun

[Photo by Shawn Calhoun]

The holidays are stressful but buying books as gifts is not. If you’re looking to put some literary cheer in the hands of your friends and family (something I highly recommend, even and especially for reluctant readers), then you’ve come to the right place. To celebrate the recently announced winners of the Goodreads Choice Awards and the soon to be announced winners of The *Book Shimmy* Awards, I’ve compiled a bunch of “Best Books of 2014” lists (but not all, because that’s a lot) for your convenience.

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The Monday Post: Links for Readers and Writers

parrot, mccaw, reading, writing, colorful birds, Margaret Atwood, practice, quotes

I am continuing a series (inspired by Electric Literature) where I post important links for writers and readers on Mondays. They may be old links or new links, but they’ll be ones that I find the most interesting or helpful. I’m also adding a few new categories. If there are any particular topics you’d like to read about, please feel free to suggest them in a comment on this post.

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5 Writing Contests with Nearing Deadlines

A writing friend of mine recently asked where she could find more writing contests. I suggested she look to Poets and Writers, which lists many in their online database. Here are a few directly from their website with nearing deadlines. Check out Poets and Writers for more.

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Short Story Review: ‘The Apple Tree’

By Jimoshikato (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Jimoshikato

[image by Jimoshikato]

This is no ordinary apple tree. In fact, it is a dead tree. The main character strings apples from its branches and decorates it with paper. She also spatters her lawn with raw meat and sprinkles the grass with pieces of bread.

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My Latest Publication: ‘How to Love Again’ in GERM magazine

L. N. Holmes, Nicole Gentles, author photo, How to Love Again, poetry, poem, GERM magazine
L. N. Holmes (Photo by Nicole Gentles)

[Photo by Nicole Gentles]

Here is the newest update of my personal progress as a professional writer.

GERM magazine is a bright place, full of wonderful people, places, and things. Along with articles on love, life, style, inner and outer beauty tips, and other topics, GERM magazine has a literary section. As soon as I saw the lovely work of other writers that was featured, I knew I wanted to be a part of this gorgeous publication.

As I saw they accepted previously published work (if the author has the rights) I offered my poem “How to Love Again,” which was originally published in Incunabula and won the Katherine B. Rondthaler Award for Poetry in 2012. To my great relief and delight, they accepted it.

You can find the poem here:

“How to Love Again” by L. N. Holmes

Please feel free to read, review, and share with others. Thanks for your support in advance. Even Jennifer Niven, founder and editor-in-chief of GERM magazine, recommends it:

 

 

I hope you enjoy it!

Artist Interview: Emily Ramser

Emily Ramser, poet, writer

Copyright Emily Ramser


L. N. Holmes: “Where is your hometown?”

Emily Ramser: “That’s kind of a hard question for me to answer because I consider myself to have two different hometowns, Sacramento, California and Wake Forest, North Carolina. I was born in California but lived in Wake Forest for a good portion of my life as well. They both hold claim to my heart and shaped me into who I am today.”


L. N. Holmes: “What is your chosen artistic profession?”

Emily Ramser: “I suppose I would have to say writer or poet. I’m not sure I like to really define myself as anything because, to be honest, I’m not too sure who I am.”

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