Editorial Preferences in Fiction: Alexandra Myers

I have learned, through two short years of examining literature, that there are so many different stories out there and those stories are told in so many more different ways. There are even more definitions in the world on “what a story is.” As much as I would like to rattle off which definition is more right than another, I simply can’t. A story is whatever we make it. It can be shared or it can be kept for oneself. But if a story is shared, it communicates something to the readers. As Gertrude Stein says, “If the communication is perfect, the words have life, and that is all there is to good writing, putting down on the paper words which dance and weep and make love and fight and kiss and perform miracles.” 

When I read fiction, I look for the raw and the real. Stories that go deeper than the stereotypes and examine life on a constructive level are the ones I remember, connect with, and share. Within the stories themselves, I want to be able to relate to the characters. I want to see what they see, hear what they hear, feel what they feel. Stories that are character driven, surrounded by sensory details and imagery, evoke emotion enough in me to keep me reading until the very end. When a writer shares something that displays the human condition in a way that makes tears form in the corner of my eyes (whether from laughter, anger, sadness, or a mixture of all three), I know that I will remember that story above all others. Combinations of words and ideas have power enough to execute a story that does “dance and weep and make love and fight…” and I look for that in the stories I read.

As a writer myself, I am inspired by every submission. The courage authors have to share their work with the world is something I admire, as mundane and every day as that may sound. Each submission leaves a lasting impression that I learn from and go back to whenever I need. This constant communication between art and people and people and art is what motivates me to keep reading. Share with me the stories that don’t just push characters over the edge, but stories that push the readers too.

 

Alexandra Myers is a fiction editor for issue 22 of Superstition Review. She is a senior at Arizona State University majoring in creative writing, with a minor in film. After graduation, she plans to become a volunteer for the Peace Corps and upon return to the states will continue her passion for writing by completing an MFA.

Editorial Preferences in Nonfiction: Jaime Faulkner

When I’m reading nonfiction, I’m looking for strong sensory detail and a solid voice from the speaker. The best kinds of essays are the ones that start with a high level of specific detail and open up to the reader, allowing them to reflect back on their own experiences. This occurs through developing the setting with concrete imagery. Whether it is focused on just one striking event or transverses months or years, sensory details are essential to understanding how the characters are shaped by their surroundings — and to ground the audience in those moments.

Consider Hamartia: The Failure to Recognize, Rachel Toliver’s essay in Issue 151 of TriQuarterly. The essay is highly personal, lush with detail, and uses location to stunning effect: The street is empty except for a little boy who wears only shorts and stands solemn in his black body. He takes up the middle of the pavement and he stays there, face quiet in the midst of concrete curbs and locked car doors. I can sense, looking at him, the translucent column of his personhood there, patient inside his chest. The scene suspends the boy in the moment, and Toliver allows the reader to rest in that image with her. In just a paragraph, it develops space and setting very quickly with details that provoke thoughts about politicizing black bodies, childhood, and observing the inner world of other people.

I am looking for deeply personal essays — because I’m reading to learn from the speaker, develop my own empathy and try think about the world in new ways. It can be tempting to overgeneralize; as Mary Karr says in The Art of Memoir, “I’ve said it’s hard. Here’s how hard: everybody I know who wades deep enough into memory’s waters drowns a little.” However, when speakers shy away from the gritty details, the story suffers. Vulnerability and thoughtfulness are exactly what I’m looking for in nonfiction. Not every piece needs to be sentimental or overwrought, but I want the speaker to really dig into the memories they choose to share and to clearly show readers why these thoughts matter.

I believe the best literature encourages readers and writers to reach out and learn from each other, and that’s where nonfiction shines. By grounding a story in rich sensory detail and honest reflection, the speaker is allowing us to live, briefly suspended in their moment.

Jaime FaulknerBio: Jaime Faulkner is a junior at Arizona State University majoring in Communication. She is currently the Nonfiction Editor for Superstition Review, as well as a volunteer editor with Four Chambers Press. Upon graduation, she hopes to work in publishing as an editor and author.

 

Editorial Preferences in Poetry: Megan Bromley

I have never pinned down exactly what poetry is. As a sophomore in high school, I bought a used copy of the first volume of Poems for the Millennium: a soaring, 800-page anthology of modern poetry edited by Jerome Rothenberg. While I read this anthology, I thought poetry was an experiment. It was hard not to feel the fundamental joy of watching an idea, snow-shaped, roll down its hill to build and destroy at once.

The modernist imperative—“MAKE IT NEW”—resonated in my very teenage heart. I wanted to read and write poetry that resisted entropic decay, that pushed past the point of no return and did not want to return. “New” meant scattered and blown-out, spacey and Space Age, supernova-ing. I didn’t “make” anything, just placed two ideas on a page and hoped they played nicely. Reader be damned! I was having fun.

Once during my beginning poetry workshop, I met with my section’s TA (Kyle Bassett) to discuss my life goals and to recite Dean Young’s “Anti-Ambition Ode” (my final assignment). A pigeon pooped on my bike while we spoke. When we finished our conversation, I walked back to my bike to find the fresh evidence and a rusty-colored, one-legged bird confidently strutting nearby. “That’s a poem,” Kyle said.

As an astrobiology student, I’m always asked “What is life?” and as a poetry student, I’m always asked “What is poetry?” and over time, these two definitions have converged. Life does not make sense, particularly in its origin. How do we make life out of its building blocks (nucleotides, minerals, amino acids)? What assembly is necessary? How does it persist and evolve? It’s easy now to look at my more “experimental” poems from high school and see the same failures and assumptions made in them as in some astrobiology research. The blocks are there, but the life is not.

I don’t know what poetry is. I only know that it does. It defies its own dimensions, and finds its way into every niche in which we look. We crack open a rock, and there we find poetry. Sink into the mantle, and it is there. Bottom of ocean. Our cities. Our commute. It lives between the bones. It is the interconnectedness of all things—ultimate betweenness.

To quote from Anne Boyer’s Garments against Women:

“Sometimes when you look at smoothly joining at least two different-sized pieces of flat but pliable material so that these pieces might correctly encase an eternally irregular, perspiring and breathing three-dimensional object that cannot cease its motion you think that there is no way ever this could happen, yet sometimes it does.

Megan BromleyBio: Megan Bromley is the student Poetry Editor for Superstition Review’s 20th issue. She is a junior studying Creative Writing and Astrobiology, and is also active in the marching band as a piccolo player. She enjoys all things chaotic and/or musical.

 

Editorial Preferences in Fiction: John Chakravarty

Reading submissions for Superstition Review allowed me to think about the stories I love to read. I’ve found that the best stories have a character I can connect with, and also an interesting problem.

There are so many elements that can make a piece of writing good. The first thing that comes to mind is characterization, which means creating round characters, with both internal and external struggles, and a full life that exists outside the page. My sister says that when she finishes a good book, she sometimes misses the characters and the time that she’s spent with them. One of my professors will always remind us in class not to say the word character, because writers are actually creating souls.

But it’s not enough to have an interesting character sitting in a room doing nothing. What makes a character truly endearing and relatable is their problems and how they choose to deal with them. Even Nick Carroway and Jay Gatsby without their dramatic love affairs would likely not hold a reader’s attention very long.

This is where I feel we get the human experience: when we read about someone relatable that has a problem foreign to us. Or someone that is completely foreign to us, and how they’ve overcome their problems (or not). Stories are about what a character wants and what they are willing to go through to get it. These struggles create an empathetic connection between the reader and the outside world.

Scientific American recently highlighted a study that found reading literary fiction helps young students to learn empathy. The experiment presented young groups with various types of reading; literary fiction, genre fiction, nonfiction, and nothing. The young readers that read literary fiction were significantly stronger at inferring others’ thoughts and emotions. Through seeing someone else’s trials and tribulations, a person is able to learn better how to interpret other people.

Interesting souls with interesting problems create the basis of fiction that empathetically moves readers. These are the kinds of stories that I love; stories that help to build an understanding of the world around us.

Fiction Editor for Issue 20 of Superstition Review

Bio: John Chakravarty is an undergraduate student at ASU majoring in English and Creative Writing. He is the Fiction Editor at Superstition Review. He also interns at Four Chambers Press reading submissions. When he graduates he hopes to write, edit, and publish for the comic book industry.

Editorial Preferences in Art: Ashlee Cunningham

To me art must tell a story, whether it is a complex one or a simple one. Looking at a piece of artwork and having an emotional response means the artist did his or her job. One of my favorite leisurely activities is to go to an art museum with my dad and try to figure out the story behind what the artist is conveying through the piece. Whether we come up with serious stories or sometimes silly ones, everyone sees art differently and that is what I love about art: it speaks to us all in a different way.
I enjoy a variety of mediums when it comes to art, but the two I enjoy a little more are photographs and oil paintings. Photographs can take you back to a memory you long to relive and a gorgeous oil painting can make your wildest dreams take flight on a canvas.
There is a beauty to complex pieces of art as well as beauty in simplicity. Picasso said, “Everything you can imagine is real.” So create it- any way imaginable. Tell a story in the craft, complexity and simplicity of it all.

Bio:
Ashlee Cunningham is a sophomore at Arizona State University pursuing an undergraduate degree in Intermedia Art. She is the Art Editor for Superstition Review and has loved growing her knowledge of art. When she is not in class you can find her capturing life through the lens of her camera.

Ashlee Cunningham, Art Editor for Issue 19 of Superstition Review.
Ashlee Cunningham, Art Editor for Issue 19 of Superstition Review.

Editorial Preferences in Fiction: H. Rae Monk

Editorial Preferences in Fiction: H. Rae Monk (Spring 2017)

I remember fondly an Advanced Fiction class, where my peers and I workshopped two previously published short stories. The first piece took up only a few minutes of discussion, because everything about the craft, the content and the emotion was air-tight. The second, with many a swiftly moving editing pen and several hands risen, in need to remark on this or that took much, much longer to finish with. I think the instructor had us do this exercise for multiple reasons, however I remember the experience, because I couldn’t help asking, “Why did so-and-so publish this when it’s so obviously not a fully realized draft?” I think there has to be an honesty contract between editors and those who submit. I won’t push a story for consideration because it’s just “good enough”, but I’ll advocate for stories that I believe in, from the title to the final punctuation mark.

I love short literary fiction because there are no places to hide; unnecessary information is erased, prose are polished, and a truth about genuine human experience and emotion remain. I search for fearless, relatable, fully-formed stories that keep me engaged from the first sentence to the last. I tend to focus on stories with clean, well-paced writing, attention to detail, sentence variation, as well as situations and interactions that subvert my expectations. E. Annie Proulx writes, “I find it satisfying and intellectually stimulating to work with the intensity, brevity, balance and word play of the short story.” I look forward to working with, and helping put the concise beauties of submitting contemporary authors out into the public eye.

 

 

 

Bio: Student Fiction Editor H. Rae Monk is a Wyoming native and an almost graduate of ASU’s Creative Writing program. When she isn’t reading every book that comes under her nose, she enjoys creating short fiction driven by characters that see the world through the lens of their abnormal vocations. She also enjoys strong coffee, bouldering, traveling on a tiny budget with a big backpack and engaging with her local literary community. Her future plans are constantly changing, but she is considering both MFA programs and jobs in publishing.

Editorial Preferences in Poetry: Mary Lee

My definition of a “good poem” is expanding and shifting every day. As I continue to read, write, and learn poetry, I find that my understanding and appreciation for the art also continues to grow exponentially.

 

I believe that the poem, at its very best, is a discovery. I find that the best poems are invitations to see an object, an idea, the self, the very world, in a different light. Gaston Bachelard describes poets as individuals who are unafraid to take even the corners of a house and bring them to life. I am interested in the corners, in the ordinary that is explored and made meaningful through poetry. The unexpected image, the lyrical line, the compelling thought, the voice that flows familiar—these are all ways in which I am immediately drawn into a poem. I leave the poem not quite the same as when I entered it, and the poem still never quite leaves me.

 

I also believe the poem is an intellectual pursuit. I believe that art is meant to be constantly challenged within its own forms and notions—Dean Young says that we must “disrupt the habitations of use”. There is incredible importance in this, but ultimately, it should still be done well. As writers, we are always faced with this question in the revision process: did I say this well? Is this worthy of the page? Whether it is the utilization of form and technique, or the challenge of such through the experimental, our choices on the page should reflect our investment in the craft. I am interested in poems that are well-crafted and conscious of technique, but more importantly I am interested in poems that are meaningful enough to make the technique worthy. To quote Mary Ruefle, “It is not what a poem says with its mouth, it’s what a poem does with its eyes.”

 

Ultimately, I am always drawn to the honesty of a poem. The poem that is unafraid to explore simultaneous vulnerability and strength, authority and hesitancy, directness and tenderness. As Dorianne Laux writes in her poem “Tonight I Am in Love”: “I am wounded with tenderness for all who labored / in dim rooms with their handful of words / battering their full hearts against the moon.” Like Laux, I too appreciate poets and their ability to constantly bare themselves open through words.

Bio:

Our poetry editor for Issue 19, Mary Lee.
Our poetry editor for Issue 19, Mary Lee.

Mary Lee is completing her Bachelor’s degree in English at Arizona State University. She is in Barrett, The Honors College and is currently the poetry editor for Superstition Review.

 

Editorial Preferences in Nonfiction: Sophie Graham

When I read I want to be surprised- I want to see something new in the story that I have never seen before. I find myself drawn to more modern writing styles, the riskier and the more artful the better. How the author uses words to describe places, things, people, ideas or feelings is critical. Without art and skill in how a writer describes the concepts of the story, the writing falls flat as I am unable to really imagine what the writer is trying to describe and I can’t engage in the text. The writer should use words in a style unlike what I normally see, so the piece is entirely unique. The idea behind the words should be just as creative and original as the words themselves- I want to be lead to reflect on the piece long after I have finished reading. Presenting some new question, idea, or experience for me to read about always gets my attention.

In nonfiction, the author reigns supreme. You’re the main character of your own story in nonfiction, and it revolves around you. When I read a nonfiction piece, I want as much information and detail about the author as possible from every sense. The more detail and description the author gives in a story the more able I am to fully reflect on the story they just told me. The descriptions should not only be affective and creative- but artful, almost poetic. The more beautiful a piece is to read, and the longer I find myself thinking about it after I finish it, the better I judge the piece to be.

Bio:

Headshot for Sophie Graham
Sophie Graham, Nonfiction Editor for Superstition Review

Sophie Graham is a junior at Arizona State University double majoring in English Literature and Sociology, and minoring in Geography. She is currently the Nonfiction Editor for Superstition Review. She is also a Writing Tutor at the ASU Tutoring Center. Upon Graduation, she plans to pursue her interests in social work and education.

Editorial Preferences in Nonfiction: Hayley Townsend

Nonfiction Editorial Preferences – Hayley Townsend (Fall 2016)

I enjoy a story that introduces me to distinct characters and places and allows me to live there for a while with them. Unique structure, unexpected lyricism, and ultra-vivid details are always a way to pull me in but more importantly I want to know these people enough to remember them if I visit the town in their story. Fleshed out characters with distinctive voice seem to walk off the page and join me in life, popping up at random times to remind me of their experiences and their lessons.

Characters are the reason I read, as people are the reason I write. The character doesn’t have to be relatable or recognizable but does need a strong voice so I can hear them in between lines of dialogue and so they can keep living after the last word. Places similarly exist before and after the story and I would love to visit without leaving my house, show me the place, show me where you fell, show me the highest point of the mountain and the lowest you felt getting up to it.

I’m eternally attracted to new, modern formats that surprise me and if that style is met with a story that conveys some universal truth or lesson, well then I have something to read and share endlessly. Intriguing style is not everything though, often I am simply looking to escape my surroundings into your world, live your life, and maybe learn something while I’m there. Whether we take a hike through the Grand Canyon together, share memories of your late relative, or feel the anxiety of an argument with your landlord, I am willing to ride along if you’re driving with a convincing voice.

Bio:

Hayley TownsendHayley is an almost ASU graduate of Creative Writing. She owes everything to the incredibly brave and inspiring artists that she had the pleasure of calling professors during her time in college and she plans to pay them back in monthly increments over her lifetime, so they will never be forgotten. She is an outgoing introvert who loves to discuss stories and writing with other like-minded weirdos then retreat back to her hole (home) to put pen to paper. Hayley is captivated by characters and keeps them in her memory as “friends” to reference now and then. At other times you can find her smothered by 2 cats and a dog consuming movies and books like the sustenance they are.

Editorial Preferences in Fiction: Charlee Moseley

Fiction Editorial Preferences – Charlee Moseley (Fall 2016)

Lately, I’ve become more self-aware of what catches my attention when I read. Through various mentors and reading outside my comfort zone, I’ve learned I seek a compassionate approach to characterization. I don’t want judgment or condemnation in the fiction I read; everyone’s lives are so complicated without an added layer of judgment from an author who is attempting to tell the character’s story. I want an empathic approach to characters as they struggle through their days. Dani Shapiro has said, “Recognize the possibility of the divine in any given moment. It’s like a lens through which to see the world.” I take this approach to reading fiction.

What I’m generally looking for is an insight into the human experience. I want to be immersed in the story with the character, their voice becoming my own, as we travel through their world. Theme and plot are usually secondary in the stories I like reading. If a compelling cast of characters is presented to me, I will follow them through either great peril or a very boring, everyday existence. Language, however, can either serve to elevate a story or weigh it down with cliche and sentimentality.

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received from one of my mentors is that you should trust the reader to understand without outright telling them. Hide the details of the story in carefully tailored language, and you won’t have to rely on cheap thrills and tricks. The reader wants to be invested. Some of my favorite authors, who are aces at character exploration and language mastery, are Junot Diaz, Denis Johnson, Sherman Alexie, and Sandra Cisneros.

Charlee Moseley

Bio:

Charlee was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, and has been reading since she was four years old. Since then she has pursued the human element in fiction, poetry, and all other forms of art and pop culture. When she isn’t on the ASU campus, she is pursuing a career as a nurse. When she’s not doing that, she is most likely curled up reading, listening to music, or watching Netflix. Now that the weather has turned nice, she will most likely find refuge in any one of the nature preserves located around the Greater Phoenix area.