Turn The Key, Walk In, A Guest Post by Jack Martin

In Worstward Ho, Samuel Beckett says, “Sick of the either, try the other.” To write, or to live and to love is to exist in the either. When is it time to try something else? How long must we wait? How many others are there?

When we write, if we scrawl a story, scribble a poem, even if we use a keyboard, we bring something to life, we invite others (do these others include the other I seek) to love as we have loved, to live as we have lived, to rethink our thoughts. Should I say imagination? Should I remind us that the root of the word imagination is image? The images we live are the real
sensory experiences the world offers. The images we write create another possibility, a sensory experience made of words. Nothing works harder than words, but when we look closer, they are only words. Is this the other?

Something written is not a lived experience, but it is a version. It may be something that has never happened, and as we write, it happens. Anything we write, it happens. Maybe the other arrives.

Twelve years ago, I found my best friend dead. I have tried to write about it. I lived it, and many times, I have tried to write about it. Version after version, it doesn’t hold together. It is all either. Not enough other.

Maybe now:

I knock. No answer.

I stand on the porch of my friend Tom’s trailer house, the trailer where I lived when I was in grad school. Tom let me live there for four years in his spare bedroom, rent free.

I knock again. No answer.

I turn the key, walk in. I say his name. I walk through the kitchen. He is in the hallway on his back on the floor. His eyes are open. He wears a dirty, old t-shirt and boxer shorts. The soles of his feet are toward me. His genitals spill from the right leg of his shorts. I look away. I suppose he was walking to the kitchen, got light-headed, and sat down on the floor. Then, he laid
back. Maybe he knew he was dying. Maybe he just wanted to rest.

I say his name again. I bend down, take his cold wrist. I feel his neck. No pulse. I stand. I walk back out the door.

I enter again. He is still on the floor, still dead.

The evening before, I begged him to let me take him back to the doctor. He’d been there earlier in the week. They’d said he had a sinus infection. Does it matter? Do you need to know what his death certificate said? Now, as a metaphor, does he live again? If I had stayed with him that night, if I had refused to leave until he went to the doctor, would I be telling a different
story? Where is the other when you need it?

Should I tell a different story now? I call his name, and Tom sits up, adjusts his boxers, and says, “Weldon Kees’ death wasn’t a suicide.” An angel breaks through the floor with a crowbar, climbs up into the room, and takes us all out to get ice cream.

Ok. Fine. People die, but what happens to our writing? Is it either or other? How many drafts have I let go too soon? Do I diminish my old friend by using his death as a figure? Am I grieving? Where is the other now?

I sit and wait. Will something worth saving appear on this page?

And… it doesn’t. I’m still looking for the other.

Working with the “What-Ifs,” An Authors Talk with J.M. Jones

J.M. Jones

We are so pleased to welcome J.M. Jones on our Authors Talk series to discuss his piece, “The Course of a Marriage,” published in Issue 24 of Superstition Review.

In this week’s Talk, J.M. delves into the minds of writers—poking at our curiosity about “what-if” scenarios and how we turn to writing to explore how they might have played out.

For him, this is where his story, “The Course of a Marriage” all began. Be sure to listen to to his captivating Talk below.



Want to learn more about J.M.? Check out his website here.

Jordyn Ochser, An Intern Update

Jordyn Ochser

The staff here at Superstition Review would like to congratulate our past intern, Jordyn Ochser, in her freelance editing career. Jordyn acted as our Fiction Editor for Issue 21 of Superstition Review.

After graduating from ASU with a BA in Creative Writing and Minor in Film Studies, Jordyn went on to create a career for herself as a freelance editor while she studies Forensic Linguistics at Hofstra University as a graduate student.

Congratulations on all your achievements Jordyn, we are so proud of you and look forward to seeing what else you will do.


If you’d like to learn more about Jordyn, you can check out her LinkedIn here.

Silver Linings, A Guest Post by Carolyn Guinzio

Carolyn Guinzio

A Reflection on Failure, Imperfection, and Change

In between working on remote classes for his freshmen year in college, my son has spent a little time installing whimsical signage in unexpected places around our scrap of land in the Ozarks. On a walk not long ago, I came across a sign on a tree in the middle of a field. Painted by hand was the Beckett directive to “Fail Better.”

In the time we’ve been staying home, the field around the tree has passed from early spring to early summer—the field is too overgrown and hazardous to walk through now.

While I was writing this, an email arrived. It brought news of a magazine rejecting a submission of poems. When I came back to this piece later and read the previous sentence, I had already forgotten that happened. Rejections are swift blows, quickly absorbed and leaving no lingering pain. It’s the same approach many of us take to writing: take risks, cast aside failure, forge ahead.

“…cast aside failure, forge ahead.”

A couple of months ago, I wrote a sequence on the anxiety of the impending threat. I have a screenshot on my phone from “Find My Friends,” my “friends” being my daughter and my son. There she is in Miami. There he is in New York. Here we are in Arkansas. There were many mitigating factors beyond mere geography, and writing a frantic, disjointed sequence that moved my terrors from my mind to the page was a balm. It was early March, and I embedded into the sequence the technique of counting backwards as a self-calming device while trying to fall asleep.

Since then, my social media feed is a veritable onslaught of pandemic-related special issues, calls for submissions, anthologies, and the like. Were my own two cents worth sharing? My two teenagers managed to get home in good time and good health, and I managed, through writing, counting backwards, and various other forms of self-medication, to survive with a strong sense of gratitude. It was worth writing. If it’s deemed worth sharing, who knows if anyone would ever have the time or desire to read it. And how much does that even matter?

“It was worth writing.”

Before I ever encountered the Beckett quote, (which is, in its entirety: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”) I always saw rejection as an opporrunity to improve a thing that, by sending it out somewhere, I had stamped as “done.” I’d been given a second chance. Any manner of creative pursuit, and any manner of being a parent, are prime environments for getting something wrong and trying to do better. I don’t know how many more books I’ll write, and I’m in the late stages of raising my kids. Right now, they would’ve been half home, half gone, pulling away in a getting-grown stage. Instead they are, for the moment, as present as they were before they even started kindergarten. It’s a second chance at being less imperfect, and all four of us have plenty of time to consider the question of what constitutes failure.

3 Reasons Every Writer Should Make A Twitter Account

Social media is a source of entertainment for millions of people, but is there any benefit to it besides that entertainment value? Is it just a mindless way to pass time or is there something else that makes it so popular? I say there is much more to social media than what meets the eye.

Over half of my writer friends refuse to use at least one or more social media platforms and I have never understood why they are so strongly against it. Is it the presumed unprofessionalism or bland commentary? Or is it simply that they never knew what social media could do for them?

One of my favorite platforms is Twitter, and I am a firm believer that having a Twitter account can be beneficial to any writer. Here are 3 reasons why Twitter is such a great resource for writers.

1. Twitter gives you immediate access to what lit mags, journals, and publishers are promoting

If you want to get your work published, Twitter is one of the best places to find the opportunities, contests, and open submissions that get promoted by thousands of journals and publishers. Almost every publication has a Twitter account where they post about their submissions windows and contests immediately and continuously. With Twitter, you no longer have to wait on a newsletter or word of mouth to reach you and force you to frantically pull your submission together before the window closes. You will know as soon as your dream publication opens its submissions, and you’ll have the time to make sure that you send them your best. 

2. Twitter is a great platform to promote yourself and your work

After getting published, one of the main problems writers face is finding people to read their work. Bad book sales can be one of the most disappointing parts of a writing career, but social media platforms like Twitter can help you avoid that. When you get something published, Twitter becomes another way for you to tell people about it, and because Twitter is so massive, you will reach far more people with one Tweet than you would by sending emails or asking people to read what you got published.

3. You get to be part of a fun and supportive international writing community

It is so easy to feel alone when you’re writing. It is often an independent craft, and no matter how many workshops or peer reviews you experience, there will be times when you feel like you are staring down this enormous project all on your own. Whether it’s been a long day and coming back to the page feels like a chore, my revisions aren’t turning out the way I want or anything else, feeling less alone as a writer always makes me feel better, and Twitter is a great reminder that you are not alone. Every time I scroll through my feed, I see hilarious and heartfelt tweets about writing and other writers’ struggles and triumphs. There is a strong writing community on Twitter where we constantly encourage and inspire each other, and I don’t think any writer should miss out on that.

Twitter is more than just fun and games; it’s a unique and effective tool, especially for writers. It has such potential to benefit us, and all we have to do is give it the chance. Happy Tweeting, and most importantly, happy writing!

Surrealism and Survival, A Guest Post by Robin Gow

Surrealist painting,  Image credited to JR Korpa
 Image credited to JR Korpa

Last night I read my poetry master’s thesis in my childhood bedroom on a Zoom call. The walls of my room are painted like the rainforest from third grade when I obsessed over jungles and canopies. In the background, my cohort and professors could probably make out the blue sky painted on the ceiling of the room and the closet in the background that still houses old dresses, short-shorts, and cosplay costumes from high school.

I haven’t lived at my parents’ house consistently for over six years. Part of that distance has to do with coming out as a queer transgender person. I have returned after my housemates and I were unable to make rent in our New York apartment due to COVID19 closures and uncertainty of future employment.

The juxtaposition between my childhood bedroom, a place where I grappled for the first part of my life with gender, sexuality, and mental health, and the achievement of finishing an MFA as a queer trans poet, is, ironically, something I could see myself having written into a poem months
ago before any of this began.

In my poetry, I often turn to the surreal, the fantastical, the paranormal, and the absurd to make sense of the fulcrums of my life and my place in society as a queer person. The deeper we wade into the pandemic and into the increasingly disturbing and violent American landscape, the weirder and weirder I have found my poetry becoming. Usually, before the pandemic, I would take notes to write poems daily but I have found myself waking up and leaning into whatever images are stalking my thoughts. I find comfort in my strangeness because the worlds that warp and distort time feel more real and true than the present.

This past week I have been reading a collection of poems by Vladimir Mayakovsky, who I admittedly only stumbled upon because there’s a Frank O’Hara poem I love titled by his name. In his poems, I find the threads of my own tilting away from realism in order to grapple with injustice. There is a sad humor to his speakers similar to O’Hara’s. In, “An Extraordinary Adventure Which Befell Vladimir Mayakovsky in a Summer Cottage,” he writes:

And beyond that village
yawned a hole,
into that hole- and not just maybe –
the sun for certain always rolled,
slowly, surely, daily.
At morn
to flood the world
again
the sun rose up-
and ruddied it.
Day after day
it happened this way,
till I got
fed up with it.

And one day I let out such a shout,
that everything grew pale,
point-blank at the sun I yelled:
“Get out!
Enough of loafing there in hell!”

This moment in the poem sticks with me because the idea the sun could retreat into a hole and then the speaker’s anger and address to the sun tells us something I think is incommunicable without turning away from “reality.” The earnestness of the speaker and the futility of yelling at
the sun is much like how I feel right now. The bends in perception capture what we are experiencing as humans who also implicated and interpolated in complex systems of oppression in a time of great loss, grief, and injustice.

The speaker shouting “Get out!” embodies how I have been experiencing time. I forget what day it is. An afternoon takes eons and then a week is totally gone. The speaker wants the persistent cycles to stop and even chastises the sun for his role in this.

I wish I had more time to find endings. Instead, I have been brought back to a physical place full many of my ghosts.

In the absurd and surreal I find my contradictions survive together. There is healing in letting the worlds of my poems unravel in ways the physical word doesn’t allow for. I’ll leave you with the last lines of a poem I wrote today:

i hope the sky is eventually mauve.
i hope the stone melts to magma
& the mountains finally get to experience
a real transformation. i too
turned to liquid & cooled in the stream.
pillow over my head.
the sun is blinking or winking
who can know which?

Authors Talk: Sarah Carey

Authors Talk: Sarah Carey

Today we are excited to welcome back poet Sarah Carey on our Authors Talk series. In this podcast, Sarah shares some tips for getting “unstuck” in your creative process. She revisits an unfinished poem and walks us through her process of revision with fresh eyes—giving us some incredible insight along the way.

“Don’t give up, explore the hidden…practice self-love, forgiveness, kindness towards yourself and others, and rest.”


You can read Sarah’s poem, “Exotic Taste” in Issue 18 of Superstition Review.

Want to hear more from Sarah? Follow her on Twitter.


Guest Post, Chelsea Dingman: On Writing During Ongoing Crisis

I’ve been thinking about the world we will leave our children. In the wake of what is happening with the COVID-19 pandemic, there are many people mourning the inability to return to a world as we knew it, yet this may be the only world that today’s youth will have any memory of.

Memory: fault line; fissure; an inability to reason with the past.

The instinct of a new writer might be to create drama in a piece—at least that was what I found when teaching. Some teachers I had forbid us to kill anyone in a poem or story because we felt the need to create stakes by doing so. To make people care. A professor of mine once said that all poems must have conflict, but that conflict might be as subtle as the way the light falls across the road. I want to believe him, to value that, to be able to sit still, but, when I am called to write, the ghosts ascend, the sky falls, and I can only see what is down the dark tunnel in my mind.

I’ve always written from a place of risk: what do I need to say? Why is that? Is the dramatic situation complicated in an interesting way? Do I recognize the difference between melodrama and drama? Why am I attracted to poems where the stakes are high? Must every poem be about death, somehow, some way?

What I learned through this crisis is that I have trouble writing a quietly complicated moment because I have not had time to appreciate those moments in my life in a great while. Right now, I swing between the inability to get out of bed (inertia) and being overly productive as my two coping mechanisms. I’m not sure which is less effective. Yet, crises have come in waves over the last few years, whether in the form of catastrophic weather (hurricanes on the Gulf coast where I was living), or gun control, or money problems, or health issues, or the deaths of loved ones. How can anyone be expected to write about the light falling across the road when all around us worlds are falling? On the other hand, I read Tranströmer, for example, and understand that both are possible at once.

[The site of resistance as the body]—

My father died when I was nine. I’ve written about that incident a lot. I’ve resisted calling it trauma. Yet, right now, children are experiencing trauma in a new way that feels much like that event: something that they won’t realize is traumatic until years from now. I’m trying to stay hopeful that the lives children dream of will one day be possible. I worry that, much like many of our ancestors, there will not be a place beyond struggle to reach for—which brings me back to my question: what world will we leave our children?

Guest Post, Kristen Keckler: The Art of Memory—Writing to Remember

Guest Post, Kristen Keckler: The Art of Memory—Writing to Remember

Even in 2019, with trusty devices always on hand to capture my daily existence, most of my life goes unrecorded (thank God). My pre-device life, a Dark Age itself, is only documented by an occasional washed-out photo, receipt, ticket stub, or “remember when?” story passed among family and friends. 

I often lament never having kept a proper journal. Only once, at age eleven, have I ever faithfully inscribed dates and happenings; the diary had a pink, puffy plastic cover studded with rhinestones. Despite the security feature, a tiny gold key, my mother and younger sister broke into it—together! —and when they later admitted it, I was relieved that I hadn’t confided anything private to its pages: no secret crushes or burning questions about my awkward, beanpole body.

In my twenties, I wrote little poems and observations in notebooks—many little notebooks. These musings now seem written in code, as if I was protecting my words from an intruder, who, strangely enough, is myself! Today, I still draft in a random, haphazard way, in spiral notebooks, and keep several going simultaneously. Writing essays, for me, is like journaling twenty years after the fact. I go easy on myself and do not—simply because I now live in a digital age—expect perfection from my memory. I figure, if I only wrote about things I remembered very well, I might never have written anything at all. 

Recently, a former student, Maritza, reached out, seeking my advice for jumpstarting her writing. “I don’t know where to begin,” she confided, a phrase I recognize in my bones. The key, for me, is not a little gold diary key, but to start somewhere—with a moment, or maybe with a song, place, or detail. I write whatever pops into mind, and don’t decide if I remember “enough” until after I’ve given it a go. 

Jumpstarting sparks remembering; you have to get the car running so that you can actually move. For me that means sometimes turning an unproductive writing day, when I’m sleep-deprived, distracted, or just not feeling it, into a semi-productive one by inventing topics and ideas for later, for when the mood strikes. (How DIY of me: a book of handcrafted, shabby chic rainy day writing exercises!) In a blank or mostly blank notebook, at the top of every other page, I write a word or a phrase; each one is a prompt. When I’m looking for inspiration, I flip through this notebook; one of the headings usually calls out to me, and off to the races I go. Occasionally, a prompt even becomes the title for a finished piece, like in the case of my SR essay “A Merry Little Group Home Christmas.”

A few months ago, I came across the words “Memories to Age Six” written atop a blank notebook page, jotted by my own hand a year or so earlier. When I re-discovered it, my husband and I had been speculating about how much, if anything, our two-year-old son would remember about being two. (Would he recall his first trip to Florida, those two-foot long iguanas? Or his Matchbox cars being confiscated, temporarily, by mean Mommy after he clocked her on the head with a Mustang and left a boo boo?) As I started to freewrite about my own early years, I was surprised by how much I actually, truly remembered from my life, especially between ages three and six. Some of my memories originated in stories told by my parents throughout my childhood, but other moments I recalled simply because I lived them: I was there. Whether routines that occurred in a pattern, or one-time events, the more I wrote, the more I remembered, and the more material I generated, until I had a finished essay draft plus pages of extra notes. 

As I drafted a six-year-old memoir, I had to quickly decide: do I comment and reflect on the child’s life, or do I let her experiences speak for themselves? I decided on the latter, to focus on the child’s impressions and lived moments, allowing the adult writer to hang back, quietly choosing language and forming a structure. I find that when writing about a very distant past, concrete details are especially important, as memories need physical objects in which to take root, spreading their shoots into the darkness and reaching for context. My Six-Year-Old Memoir has many such anchors: a sewing machine, a horse track, green shorts with daisies, a tiny tarnished silver cup, a gun, a hospital bed, a two-toned Buick, and maraschino cherries. 

Since writing is remembering, and writing is crafting, you often don’t know how much you recall about your life until you face the blank page (or screen) and dive in.  Memory is part black magic, a deeply intuitive conjuring, and part rolling a tumbleweed through the mind’s desert, gathering what sticks. The more I go with it, the more I think, (a fully focused, meditative-type thinking), and the more I perform other little exercises to jog my recollection, for example, looking at Google Maps street view or texting a family member or friend. 

It is usually not until after I’ve written quite a bit that I figure out what an essay is about, and often that “what” defies summary, is more of an emotional cue than a lesson or theme. For me, the purpose of nonfiction is not to see how much I remember, but to determine what I can do with what I think I remember. And when I’m finished writing a particular piece, I always feel like I remember those events more vividly than when I started—sometimes the writing and memories become intertwined, interchangeable. What has happened is gone, and let’s face it, there is nothing, not even writing, that can ever bring it back. What’s left is the art of memory. And I’m okay with that.

#ArtLitPhx: Faye Hamilton’s ‘Rescue 12 Responding’

Hamilton discusses and signs her independently published debut novel.

David and Jonathan are paramedics who deal with life and death and the consequences of human choice. On Rescue 12, they respond to the tragic drug overdose of a group of teenagers at a high school party. One girl survives to tell what she witnessed during her near-death experience. This encounter results in the spiritual awakening of David and forces Jonathan to confront his own Christian faith, which he abandoned when he came out to his father. What happens when the ambulance arrives? What happens when a patient dies? Why does God allow for sin, death, and suffering? What’s the point of trying? These questions are answered, the emergency rescue calls are shared, and the lives of the two paramedics are forever changed by the spiritual warfare they encounter.

PARKING / LIGHT RAIL

  • Don’t want to drive? Take the Light Rail! It lets off at the Central Avenue/Camelback Park-and-Ride, which has hundreds of free parking spaces across the street from Changing Hands.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

FAYE HAMILTON writes, “I was a paramedic for many years. 25 years ago, while assigned to Rescue 12 in Gibsonton, Florida, I wrote the novel – Rescue 12 Responding. Shortly after I completed the novel, my life went crazy and the book found its way to the back of the closet.

I returned to School, got a bachelor’s degree with a major in Religion then continued to graduate school, and am now working as a Physician Assistant in an Emergency Department in the Phoenix, Arizona area.

Recently my husband died and in that quiet, I decided to pick up this novel and share it with others. I knew when I wrote it, that I would write a sequel to the story. I have recently begun to work on the second book, this time, set in an Emergency Department.”

EVENT INFORMATION

Location: Changing Hands Bookstore, 300 W. Camelback Rd., Phoenix 

Date: Tuesday, August 6

Time: 7 p.m.

For more information about the event, click here.