Hi, friends! The good people at Rhythm & Bones published “Shadows Cannot be Seen in the Pitch-Black” recently. You can find the story here if you’re interested in reading it.

It’s been a tough year for the editors of Rhythm & Bones. As Tianna mentioned in the issue’s “Letter from the Editor,” “We weren’t quite sure we would make it to the end of the year, but here we are: strong as ever; stronger, even. Our passion and motivation have not flickered out, if anything they have grown.” I’m grateful not only for the publication of my flash fiction amid all of the challenges Tianna and her team faced, but I’m also grateful for the story’s early release. I admire Tianna and her team for their hard work, tenacity, and persistence. I hope you will join me in supporting the lovely literary magazine they’ve worked so hard to create.

Writing Update: Where I am Now

Happy New Year! I realized, in the midst of the mad rush of my life, that I’ve failed to provide a general update on my writing journey for a while now. As a thank you for continuing to follow my blog, I wanted to provide a general overview of the progress I’ve made this past year. I also wanted to briefly discuss the projects that are in the works right now.

Progress

The highlight of my year was the release of Space, Collisions. It’s really exciting that the print version is out too and is available for purchase at The BookwormIndieBound, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and other fine retailers. Many of you know that I’ve already received reviews from Meredith Allison (my friend) and Renwick Berchild (a book reviewer) about the micro-chapbook. I also did an interview with Sarah Foil. If you’d like to receive a copy of Space, Collisions for review, I’d encourage you to check out the publicity page at Heavy Feather Review, the review queue at decomP, or reach out to PRISM International.

To all who have read and reviewed my micro-chapbook, whether on Goodreads or elsewhere, I thank you. I work to publish my writing because I want to connect with readers. I’m grateful for the encouraging reviews and personal notes I’ve received so far. I appreciate all of the readers who decided to give my work a chance.

My individual stories have also taken off in 2018. It’s been a blessing to work with so many different editors. Thanks to them, my flash fiction was published this year in Varnish Journal (sadly, now defunct), Laurel Magazine, The Bookends Review, Apparition Literary Magazine, The Fancy Arm Hole Series Number 1 (Likely Red Press), Crack the Spine, NewfoundFathom, Nice CageBarren Magazine, and Rythm & Bones. I have more flash fiction that will appear in Laurel Magazine and Rythm & Bones in 2019. Notably, the editors of Nice Cage were kind enough to reach out to me for work. This is something that’s never happened to me before, except for with vanity publishers (of which I almost always turn down). So, in short, it’s been a fantastic year for publishing short fiction. I hope that you will support all of these hard-working editors and check out all of the writing featured in these lovely literary magazines and journals.

And since we’re discussing editing, it’s probably a good time to mention that I’ve been working as a fiction editor at Green Briar Review. I was recently appointed to the position and it’s been wonderful so far reading the fiction that comes in. I’ll also be contributing to the blog in the future, so watch for reviews on fiction chapbooks. I can’t wait to see what the future holds. To all who have submitted or will submit: thank you for trusting us with your work.

Another exciting project that I volunteered for was the Forward anthology. I worked as a reader, which proved to be an awesome experience. The anthology will feature flash fiction by writers of color. I can’t wait until its March release! You can pre-order the book here. I hope you all will support this wonderful project, as well as the forces behind this movement for change.

In-Progress

The largest project I’m working on right now is a novel (or novella). You may have seen that I took a hiatus from Twitter—at times, unsuccessfully—to focus on the book. I have had trouble with my longer projects and buried many of my failed novels in the filing cabinet. Though I have many short stories in-progress, I’m going to shift focus this year away from shorter works and focus mostly on this long project. I hope this novella (or novel) will be my first true success with a book-length manuscript.

Goals for this Year

This year will be a challenging one. My husband, pets, and I are all moving to Louisiana in April. The first half of 2019 will be chaotic, but we’ll manage. We always do. But because I know it’s going to be a challenging year, I’m giving myself a bit of a break. I’ll only have three major goals next year:

  • Finish my novel (or novella) and thoroughly revise at least once
  • Complete my classics reading challenge for 2019
  • Find a way to plug into the literary community in Louisiana

I’m probably going to be conservative about reviews this year, sharing my thoughts mostly on Goodreads. I’ll also do away with the “Quick Reads” section of my blog to save time. Most of my energy will be devoted to the novella (or novel). But I’ll still share updates about my progress on my blog, so I hope you’ll continue to check in this year.

What are your goals for 2019? Feel free to share in the comments. However you decide to challenge yourself, I wish you a year of peace and joyful reading!

I talked to the wonderful booksellers at The Bookworm today, and they’ve agreed to sell Space, Collisions! For those of you who’d like to buy a physical copy of the micro-chapbook, I’d encourage you to pick it up at this lovely independent bookstore. You can buy the micro-chapbook online or find it on their local author shelf inside the brick-and-mortar store. The Bookworm has a wonderful track record of housing and promoting local authors. It would mean a great deal to me if you’d consider checking out this family-owned business, especially during your holiday season shopping.

Hi, friends! Author Rob Mclennan asked me to participate in a project he created, which is called, “My (Small Press) Writing Day.” The project is modeled after something similar at The Guardian but specifically focuses on small press writers. You can find my response, as well as many others, at Rob’s blog. Thanks for checking it out, if you do!

Hi, friends! “Buried in the Ground” is up at Barren Magazine today if you’d like to read it.

Here is an excerpt:

You begin with the vegetable garden because it’s the likeliest place to bury something. You slip the blank paper into your bag and get to work, not daring to put it down until your dad goes back into the house. The ground is still soft in the garden from spring’s tilling and makes the digging less painful. But when you dig up the carrots, you regret your decision. It isn’t until you’re under the soil that you realize the vegetables are still slivers of orange root, born too early. The leafy carrot tops trick you, making the roots appear more mature than they really are.

I hope you’ll check it out! If you do, thanks for reading.

September Mini-Reviews

Autumn has appeared suddenly here in Nebraska and the cooler weather is a perfect excuse to sit inside and read. We’re also less than a month away from NaNoWriMo, which is a good reminder of just how hard it is to write a book, let alone a good book. I always try to keep this in mind when I review things: authors are working hard, usually for years, to get their books out there and in front of readers. It’s a tough business and a bad review can be rather detrimental.

At a Vase of Wildflowers, I always try to be honest about my feelings concerning the books I read, while still focusing on its positive aspects. That’s not every reviewer’s goal and I respect and understand that. But when you visit my blog, I hope that you will always consider giving the books I review a chance, no matter how I feel about them. It would be boring if we all loved the same things. And isn’t that what literature is really all about: freedom and the right to choose and think for oneself?

So with that in mind, 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.)


The Art of PerspectiveI decided to continue reading Graywolf Press’s “The Art of” series with Christopher Castellani’s The Art of Perspective. It was another smash hit for me, even if I didn’t agree with everything Castellani said. I’m happy to have read it. All the thanks to my local librarian for making me aware of this series about the craft of writing. I hope to be able to continue it. I’m seriously considering reading them all. Let’s hope they stock the rest at the Bellevue Public Library in the near future.

Synopsis from the Graywolf Press website:

A writer may have a story to tell, a sense of plot, and strong characters, but for all of these to come together some key questions must be answered. What form should the narrator take? An omniscient, invisible force, or one—or more—of the characters? But in what voice, and from what vantage point? How to decide? Avoiding prescriptive instructions or arbitrary rules, Christopher Castellani brilliantly examines the various ways writers have solved the crucial point-of-view problem. By unpacking the narrative strategies at play in the work of writers as different as E. M. Forster, Grace Paley, and Tayeb Salih, among many others, he illustrates how the author’s careful manipulation of distance between narrator and character drives the story. An insightful work by an award-winning novelist and the artistic director of GrubStreet, The Art of Perspective is a fascinating discussion on a subject of perpetual interest to any writer.

What worked well:

  • Even when I disagreed with Castellani on a particular idea, he was such an eloquent writer that anything he wrote nearly swayed me to his viewpoint. It’s always nice to know that the one instructing you about writing is a good writer. Castellani proves it in this book, penning elegantly wrought and veracious chapters, which are as much moving as they are instructive.
  • I had a professor in my graduate program that tried to argue that all points of view worked in the exact same way and that it didn’t matter which one was chosen for a story. I’ve never agreed with that idea and I think this book works to show why the point of view we choose for a story does matter. This is a very valuable tool for writers: the ability to understand the nuances of the different perspectives.

Who should read The Art of Perspective:

  • Writers, especially fiction writers
  • Professors and teachers who want to educate their students about perspective
  • Those who enjoy books about the craft of writing
  • Readers who like to study particular literary movements and their impact on literature

Building FictionAnother craft book I finished this past month was Building Fiction by Jesse Lee Kercheval. I read parts of this book in graduate school for a class. After I graduated, I decided I wanted to read the entire thing. I read the book from start to finish, including the chapters I’d already studied. It was worth revisiting, and I’ll probably reference it again at different points in my career, but it did take a while to get through it because of the textbook-like feel of the prose.

Synopsis from the University of Wisconsin Press website:

No one looks at structure like Jesse Lee Kercheval. She builds a work of fiction just as an architect would design a house—with an eye for details and how all parts of a story or novel interconnect. Even with the most dynamic language, images, and characters, no piece of fiction will work without a strong infrastructure. Kercheval shows how to build that structure using such tools as point of view, characterization, pacing, and flashbacks. Building Fiction will help you envision the landscape of your fiction and build great stories there.

What worked well:

  • This is an excellent guide for beginning fiction writers, with many things that are valuable for the intermediate writer. Honestly, even for the most experienced, it’s nice to reexamine these basic elements. Kercheval is thorough and gives ample examples, including ones from her own books. She even has a very valuable chapter on experimental writing—a topic often ignored by other craft books I’ve read.
  • What I appreciate about Kercheval’s writing is the candidness of it. She doesn’t pretend her advice is the only advice out there, nor does she suggest that it’s the only correct way of doing things. This is important because she encourages writers to find their own voices and to write what works for them.

Who should read Building Fiction:

  • Fiction writers
  • Professors and teachers who want to teach their students how to write fiction (especially novels and short stories)
  • Those who enjoy books about the craft of writing
  • Writers who enjoy extensive, time-consuming exercises

Milkyway HitchhikingI realized, with horror, that I hadn’t read any comics or graphic novels lately. I decided to obtain a library card from La Vista’s public library (I can as an employee of the college I work for) and check out what they had to offer. The first book I choose to read was a manga titled Milkyway Hitchhiking, Vol. 1 by Sirial. While its slice-of-life storytelling left much to be desired, there were still some lovely things happening in this volume.

Synopsis from the Yen Press website:

There are as many people on Earth as there are stars in the sky. Milkyway–a peculiar cat with a pattern of the Milky Way splashed across her back–travels across time and space; sometimes to observe, other times to interact with an unfolding story. From Sirial, the creator of One Fine Day, comes the full-color tale of Milkyway hitchhiking across the bright stars of people’s lives, loves, tears, and laughter.

What worked well:

  • The art in this is gorgeous. What’s even cooler than that is that the art style changes somewhat with the different stories. I’m no expert, but it felt like only a truly skilled artist could pull off so many styles so flawlessly.
  • The fantasy and sci-fi aspects presented in this book are fascinating. They include everything from shape-shifting to robots. And everything is super cat focused, which I can’t help but love.

Who should read Milkyway Hitchhiking, Vol. 1:

  • Fans of manga with beautiful artwork
  • Readers who like quick stories connected by a single character
  • Those who enjoy fantasy and science-fiction
  • Readers who enjoy intermixed light and dark stories

The BunkerThe other comic book I picked up was The Bunker Vol. 1 by Joshua Hale Fialkov (writer) and Joe Infurnari (artist). I love apocalyptic stories but I felt more confused by this one, due to both the storytelling and art style, than satisfied.

Synopsis from Oni Press website:

On their way to bury a time capsule, five friends – Grady, Heidi, Natasha, Daniel, and Billy – uncover a metal bunker buried deep in the woods. Inside, they find letters addressed to each of them… from their future selves. Told they will destroy the world in the very near future, the friends find, over the next few days, growing further and further apart. Though they’ve been warned against making the wrong choices, how do they know what the right ones are? Can the future really be changed, or will an even darker fate engulf the world? Collects the first four issues of the ongoing series.

What worked well:

  • There’s definitely a lot here to keep readers interested: letters from the future, time travel, and crops that kill, to name a few.
  • The art style compliments the horror aspects, especially that of the impending apocalypse.

Who should read The Bunker Vol. 1:

  • Fans of apocalyptic stories
  • Comic book readers who can appreciate the art style
  • Readers who like science-fiction
  • Those who are patient enough to figure out where the story will lead

BONUS TITLES!

I read #41 and #42 in the Ghost City Press micro-chapbook series. You can find all of them here.

Blood & WhiskeyAnd remember that book I was a beta reader for? Guess what, you can pre-order it now! It’s called Blood & Whiskey and it was written by my friend Meredith Allison.

Blood & Whiskey thrilled me. Meredith Allison uses famous criminals like Al Capone, Dean O’Banion, and Tom Dennison and expertly plays them against dynamic fictional characters of her own creation. It’s a daring and exciting book, filled with all of the adventure and peril of the Roaring Twenties.

 

August Mini-Reviews

Sorry for the delay, blog readers. August turned out to be a busy month. I continued as a beta reader for a novel and I also read for an exciting new anthology coming out (more details soon). Along with some more personal things going on in my life, I only managed to read three books and four micro-chapbooks. I’m hoping I’ll get more reading done before September ends (*cue Green Day song—just kidding).

Back to it then. 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.)


TroublersTroublers by Rob Walsh is another book I borrowed from my librarian friend and another Caketrain title. I wish I could say that I liked this one much better than Nevers. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy it all that much. But, like with Nevers, there were things in the collection that sparked my interest and made me appreciate reading the book despite my grievances.

In lieu of a synopsis, here are some quotes of praise about Troublers from Caketrain’s website:

‘Walsh’s stories are so odd and wonderful that they seem to have been treasured from some heretofore nonexistent Eastern European country that should now, finally, be properly celebrated.’ —Rivka Galchen, author of Atmospheric Disturbances

‘In Troublers, Rob Walsh entertains marvelous, profound little dances which never fail to twirl you somewhere you’ve never been. In his world, ‘heartless betrayal is both the engine of modern television and a kind of stainless upholstery to which no ethical principal can stick.’ But inside Troublers’ beautifully rendered exterior lies a heart so pure. ‘Let’s poke the thing!?’ as Walsh directs.’ —Terese Svoboda, author of Bohemian Girl

What worked well:

  • There’s a lot of absurdism that’s enjoyable. Many stories will also hint at the political without bashing you over the head with it, which is refreshing.
  • The oddness of the stories also works well. And make no mistake, these stories are often exceedingly odd. If nothing else, I enjoyed the whacky ideas the writer could come up with.

Who should read Troublers:

  • Fans of absurdist fiction
  • Readers who enjoy odd stories and ideas
  • Readers of short stories
  • Those who enjoy other Caketrain titles like Nevers

Little Fires EverywhereI was excited to read Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng after I so greatly enjoyed her previous novel, Everything I Never Told You. To say I liked Little Fires Everywhere less than her previous book doesn’t do Ng’s newest novel justice. This book is gorgeous and full of important things to discuss. Ng never disappoints.

Synopsis from the Penguin Random House website:

From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture-perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives.

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.

Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood – and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.

What worked well:

  • Ng wields summary as if it were scene, which is a truly difficult thing to do, and this keeps the novel extremely interesting.
  • The way she describes the thoughts and actions of her characters: it is so precise it makes me want to study her novel like I would a textbook. She even takes things that seem a little on the nose—like Trip and Moody’s names—and expertly complicates them.

Who should read Little Fires Everywhere:

  • Fans of Ng’s writing, especially her novel, Everything I Never Told You
  • Readers who enjoy novels about the complexity of human relationships
  • Those who enjoy books about artists and art
  • Readers who enjoy stories about motherhood

the art of descriptionThanks to my awesome librarian friend, new writing craft books have been stocked on the shelves of Bellevue Public Library. With those new books came Mark Doty‘s The Art of Description, a book published by Graywolf Press. I didn’t know what to expect going into this book but I came out of it with a deep sense of admiration for Doty and his beautiful writing.

Synopsis from the Graywolf Press website:

‘It sounds like a simple thing, to say what you see,’ Mark Doty begins. ‘But try to find words for the shades of a mottled sassafras leaf, or the reflectivity of a bay on an August morning, or the very beginnings of desire stirring in the gaze of someone looking right into your eyes. . . . ‘ How the writer moves perception to image and finally to written word is at the heart of any literary work. In this vivid meditation on this essential aspect of the writer’s craft, Doty finds refuge in the sensory experience found in poems by Blake, Whitman, Bishop, and others. In clear chapter-essays and a vibrant abecedarian sequence, The Art of Description is an invaluable book by one of America’s most revered writers and teachers.

What worked well:

  • Mark Doty is a wise and patient teacher. The example poems were fantastic and the advice thought-provoking and challenging.
  • Even though this book addressed poets, I felt a deep conviction as a prose writer to pay better attention to language.

Who should read The Art of Description:

  • Poets (and prose writers too)
  • Readers who appreciate studying the nuance of language
  • Writers who are seeking how to better describe their characters, settings, and more
  • Teachers and professors who are seeking a great book to use as a teaching tool in their creative writing classes

BONUS TITLES!

I read micro-chapbooks #37 through #40 in the Ghost City Press Summer Micro-Chapbook Series. You can find all of the available ones here.

SPACE, COLLISIONS Available for Print Pre-Order!

The print version of Space, Collisions is now available for pre-order! If you like brief stories, then this is the collection for you. The micro-chapbook will be 6″ x 9″ with saddle stitch binding. 

Advanced praise:

“Three perfectly paced and elegantly written stories that leave the reader breathless and pensive at once.” —Meredith Allison, author of Blood & Whiskey

“L. N. Holmes has a talented pen and a great imagination. . . .” —Renwick Berchild, Nothing In Particular Book Review

Synopsis:

Space, Collisions is a micro-chapbook containing three brief stories. In “When Continents Collide,” a man waits on the shores of the Outer Banks for the collision of the North American and African continents. “Trace” focuses on the intimate secrets shared between one pining woman and her self-destructing lover. In “Spacefall,” two scientists take a break from work to drive to the countryside and bask in their friendship. Each installment in this short collection offers motifs of physical distance and intimate connection. Overall, the stories emphasize the common longing to overcome the space that divides.

Print options:

The micro-chapbook will be on sale September 19, 2018 with pre-orders available now. *Personalized messages are an option. A single copy of the micro-chapbook is **$3.99.

Individuals, booksellers, general retailers, and other interested parties may submit orders to LeeAnn Adams (leeann [dot] n [dot] holmes [at] gmail [dot] com). Please include in your email the quantity of micro-chapbooks desired, any preferred ***printing and shipping methods, shipping address, PayPal address, and any personalization requests. Invoices will be processed through PayPal. Wholesale discounts are available through IngramSpark Distributors (ISBN: 9780692165065).

Ebook options:

Digital micro-chapbooks are still available through Ghost City Press.

Continue reading

stories, microchapbook, small press, fiction, flash fiction, Space, Collisions, L. N. Holmes, short story, print version

Here is a sneak peek of the print cover for Space, Collisions. This a screenshot, so it’s a bit grainy.

It’s been nearly a month since Ghost City Press released the digital version of Space, Collisions. Thanks to Jennifer Potter, the print cover is shaping up nicely as well. Stay tuned for the release date! And a big thanks to my amazing cover artist.

I received some really great news last night. Rhythm & Bones Lit agreed to publish two of my flash fiction stories! You will be able to read “Shadows Cannot be Seen in the Pitch-Black” in issue three of the magazine and “How to Suffocate a Shark” in issue four. Many, many thanks to Tianna, Renee, and Charlie for the kind acceptance letter. I can’t wait!

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!

Cover Art by Jennifer Potter

Hey, friends! My micro-chapbook, Space, Collisions, is available now! I’m thrilled to have my first ever micro-chapbook released into the world. I hope you’ll check it out. If you’re on Goodreads, remember you can add it to your shelves here. I’m working on a print version too, which will be available soon. For those of you who check it out, thanks for reading!

And don’t forget that the cover art was made by the wonderful Jennifer M. Potter. You can find more of her work here. I hope you’ll choose to support this fantastic artist!

I’m so grateful for the support I received from the good people at Ghost City Press. Being a small part of the 2018 summer micro-chapbook series is a huge blessing. A massive thank you to everyone who helped me with the stories and their publication. This profession is tough, but your kindnesses have made the burden much lighter.

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.

March Mini-Reviews

I’ve read 13 books so far toward my goal of 52 books for this year. I’m mostly excited to share my thoughts about what I’ve read this month. I write “mostly” because I was surprised how strongly I disliked one of Neil Gaiman’s books. As a huge fan of Gaiman’s Neverwhere, Coraline, and Fragile Things—and an appreciator of The Graveyard Book—I was shocked to realize American Gods would rank among my least favorite books of all time.

Nevertheless, 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.)


flash fiction, chapbook, Split Lip Press, shasta grant

Gather Us Up and Bring Us Home by Shasta Grant

After seeing Shasta Grant‘s name appear in some of my favorite literary journals and magazines, I became really curious about her work. Perusing the Split Lip Press store, I noticed Grant’s collection of stories, Gather Us Up and Bring Us Home, was runner-up for the 2016 Turnbuckle Chapbook Contest. I decided to purchase the chapbook and I’m glad reading it gave me the chance to become even more acquainted with Grant’s work.

Summary from the Split Lip Press website:

Happy National Novel Writing Month! Even while I attended Creighton University’s MFA program, I participated in NaNoWriMo. It was tough, to say the least, but the upside was that I never had to worry about showing up to class empty handed.

In celebration of NaNoWriMo, I’d like to link you to this article by one of my former classmates. It’s titled, “National Novel Writing Month inspires Creighton writers,” and some of my own thoughts about the nonprofit are also there to read.

Here’s an excerpt:

‘It’s a great way to promote writing and reading and an everyman vision of being a writer,’ said Adams…

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.

Book Review: Video Game Storytelling by Evan Skolnick

video-game-storytelling“I found it to be both interesting and entertaining, using real-life examples taken from very popular movies and games that most people will be readily familiar with. I feel that Evan Skolnick has a lot to share and I really wish I had the opportunity to attend one of his talks. I would recommend Video Game Storytelling to anyone involved in the game development process—or anyone hoping to get into game development.” —Game Vortex

I started with Game Vortex’s quote because I believe I need to shed some positive light on this book. I could see how this book could be extremely helpful to people in the video game industry.

Here is the summary from the Penguin Random House site:

With increasingly sophisticated video games being consumed by an enthusiastic and expanding audience, the pressure is on game developers like never before to deliver exciting stories and engaging characters. With Video Game Storytelling, game writer and producer Evan Skolnick provides a comprehensive yet easy-to-follow guide to storytelling basics and how they can be applied at every stage of the development process—by all members of the team. This clear, concise reference pairs relevant examples from top games and other media with a breakdown of the key roles in game development, showing how a team’s shared understanding and application of core storytelling principles can deepen the player experience. Understanding story and why it matters is no longer just for writers or narrative designers. From team leadership to game design and beyond, Skolnick reveals how each member of the development team can do his or her part to help produce gripping, truly memorable narratives that will enhance gameplay and bring today’s savvy gamers back time and time again.

Many game developers care just as much about the story in their games as they do about game mechanics, which I think is smart. However, game developers may not have studied creative writing in school. So creating stories that resonate with their gamer audiences may be difficult to create.

For someone who has studied narrative structure and character building the majority of their life, I found this book to offer nothing new. To be fair, I am not a game developer and I read this book because I was interested in the idea of the subject matter. However, it’s truly a book for beginners as far as the storytelling aspect goes. This doesn’t make it a terrible read. While I didn’t enjoy it, I’m sure others will and have.

Evan Skolnick has worked at companies such as Activision, Lucasfilm, and Marvel. He’s worked on projects such as Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2Spider-Man 3Star Wars 1313, and many others. He’s conducted workshops and spoke to many different video game industry professionals about storytelling techniques.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Update: New Writings and Current Projects

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


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

New Flash Fiction Stories:

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

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

Other Available Writings:

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

Forthcoming Writings:

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

Opportunities for Readers and Writers:

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the synopsis:

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

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

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

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

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

REVIEW (SPOILERS MAY FOLLOW):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where You Should Be and When: Urgent Literary Events

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

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

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

At Salem College (Winston-Salem, NC):

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

At the Joslyn Art Museum (Omaha, NE):

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

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

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

At Salem College (Winston-Salem, NC):

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

At Pageturners Lounge (Omaha, NE):

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

A Flash Fiction Class for $0.99 (online)?

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

Blue River Book Drive (Omaha, NE):

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