One of the most important realizations of my life was that people are not one way, that they often do and say conflicting things not out of malice or to deceit, but because it a necessary part of the ever-changing human condition. There is a sort of dialectic behavioral therapy that must take place within all of our minds when we consider that good people can do very bad things and bad people can do very good things. This is the dynamic nature of humanity. It is unavoidable. It might be the only unchanging and shared characteristic of humanity.
And it is for this reason that I am drawn to literary fiction. There often isn’t a clear line between good and bad. The characters in literary fiction make terrible choices and deal with the repercussions. As a reader and editor, I want to read stories that sink deep into these chasms between right and wrong, stories that teach us something about what it means to be fallible and imperfect. I want to read stories that challenge me, that make me so angry I hold my breath until the final sentence, so sad that I think of the characters long after I finish the stories. I want to see myself and my flaws laid out before me. I want to read narratives that do not pass judgement but present a situation and ask me to consider a point of view I may never have arrived at myself.
Literary fiction is a conversation between all of the writers in the world, constantly arriving at theses only to have them blown up and reordered by the next. Show me a side of humanity only you can construct, the things that make your perception unique.
But above everything, I want to feel something. I want to finish a story, let take root in my brain and change my long-held beliefs. Whether it is characters, setting, plot, language, form, it doesn’t matter. The stories that stick with me are the ones that make me think about life in a way I couldn’t or wouldn’t. This is the goal of fiction, and this is the fiction I want to see adding to the literary conversation.
Spencer Litman is the fiction editor for Issue 23. He is a fiction writer and essayist living in Phoenix with his wife, Kristine, and his two children, Jayden and Aubrey. He is finishing his undergraduate degree in English with a creative writing concentration and hopes to attend an MFA program somewhere cold, with pine needles and snow.
Through the process of curating art, I would say that I have gained new eyes for looking at different pieces of work. I can admit that I was never one to look at art in the manner of color, context, and composition before. I mainly base what I like on no other context other than just liking the way things look.
I think art as a medium can be something over saturated with the sheer number of artists, but I believe that I have learned so much. Through this journey I was also able to differentiate an artist from a hobbyist.
Looking at art now, I am finding myself drawn to artists that have a lot of work and specifically work that contains the three C’s. The first aspect I like to look for is composition. I really like to take composition into consideration and make sure that it matches the Superstition Review and what the audience would engage with. Secondly, I like to look into the context of the piece. Not simply understanding what the piece looks like, but taking the time to understand what the underlying theme is or what the piece is trying to say. And of course, taking color into consideration with each piece. All of these elements have helped me understand on a different level of viewing and appreciating art.
With that being said, I don’t particularly have a specific type of art I enjoy, I can look at any piece of work from any medium and still be able to apply what I have learned.
Overall, I am very grateful and pleased that I am able to see art differently. And I will continue to utilize what I have learned as I flourish throughout the art community.
Shalanndra Benally is the art editor for issue 23. She is currently in her first semester of her Senior year at Arizona State University studying Digital Culture with a concentration in Design. Currently she is working on the design team for TEDx at ASU, as well as being the sole designer for the 40th annual Ms. and Mr. Indian ASU. She is always looking for new opportunities to show off her artistic abilities and demonstrate her extensive design experience. After graduation she hopes to work in digital media or another creative field.
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.
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.
Hey everybody! We have some great news today that’s been some time in the making: past contributor Anthony Varallo, featured in the Fiction section of our 5th issue, has a new short story collection titled Everyone Was There, out now from Elixir Press. You can read the title story of the collection here, and when you’re finished, go ahead and grab the rest of the collection at this link here. Everyone Was There was the recipient of the Elixir Press 2016 Fiction Award, and we here at Superstition Review could not be any happier than to have been there along the way to this wonderful accomplishment.
Hey there, folks! We’re proud as all get out to announce that past contributor Hannah Lee Jones was recently featured on Copper Canyon Press’ Official Facebook Page as part of their #MeetTheInternMonday segment. The whole Q&A can be viewed here. Hannah Lee Jones’ work was featured in the Poetry section of our 16th issue, and can be read here. Jones is also responsible for the blog Primalschool.org, a wonderful community resource for poets and writers pursuing their craft outside of the MFA system. Check out her work and her website as well, and drop us a line in the comments section below!
Hello everybody! We here at Superstition Review are pleased to bring a bit of follow-up news regarding past contributor Patricia Clark (featured in the Poetry section of our 7th, 8th, and 17th issues) and her brilliant new book, titled “The Canopy.” Clark was interviewed by WYCE 88.1, a local radio station in Grand Rapids, as part of their Electric Poetry series, while “The Canopy” was recently reviewed by Cultured.GR, an art blog based in Grand Rapids. The entire review can be read here, and while you’re at it, do yourself a big favor and listen to the interview here. Patricia Clark’s “The Canopy,” out now from Terrapin Books, can be purchased here. Do yourself a favor and check out “The Canopy” and see for yourself what all the hype is about!
Greetings, dear readers! We here at Superstition Review are pleased to provide a double dose of good news: two of our past contributors, Meghan McClure and Michael Schmeltzer, have collaborated on a new book coming this June from Black Lawrence Press, titled A Single Throat Opens. Schmeltzer’s work was featured in the Poetry sections of both our 6th and 10th issues, while McClure’s work was featured in the Poetry section of our 6th issue and the Nonfiction section of our 18th issue. Preorder the book here, and check out both of these fine writers’ work out in our Archives (links here, here, here, and here)! Let us know what you think in the comments section below.
Good afternoon, everybody! Today brings exciting developments from the field: past contributor Roy Guzman, featured in the Poetry section of our 18th issue, has been selected to have his poetry included in the brand new anthology from Tia Chucha Press, titled The Wandering Song: Central American Writing in the United States. The anthology is scheduled for release this month, and was edited by Leticia Hernández Linares, Rubén Martínez, and Héctor Tobar, with a foreword by Juan José Dalton. Go pre-order this brilliant collection of work here, and do yourself a favor (if you haven’t already) and go read Guzman’s poem in our 18th issue here. Let us know what you think in the comments section below!
Good afternoon, everybody! Today, we are excited to announce that past contributor Mary Sojourner, featured in the Fiction section of both our 3rd and 10th issue, will be teaching a women’s writing circle at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe this Sunday, April 2, from 1:30 pm to 3:00 pm. Details can be found here. This wonderful opportunity coincides with a reading/book signing of Mary’s new book “The Talker,” out now from Torrey House Press. The price of admission is just purchasing a copy of “The Talker,” so if you’re at the reading and want your copy signed, joining the writing circle is a breeze! Come through, hear selections from “The Talker,” and come together as part of our wonderful writing community!
Hey there, readers! In the most recent bit of good news that’s floated by Superstition Review’s open windowsill, we are immensely pleased to announce that past contributor Barbara Crooker has a new book out called “Les Fauves,” which has been published by C&R Press. “Les Fauves” is a collection of ekphrastic poems that utilize the works of the Fauve and Post-Impressionist in order to move through the world, both as it is given and as it is withheld. Crooker’s poetry was featured in the Poetry section of our second issue, and can be viewed here. Go check out some reviews and order yourself a copy of “Les Fauves” here. A hearty congratulations to Barbara Crooker, and as always, feel free to let us know what you all liked about “Les Fauves,” as well as the rest of Crooker’s poetry, in the comments section down below.