Posts by editors

Behind the Words: Sheila Luna

Posted by on Jun 10, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Behind the Words: Sheila Luna

Writer Sheila Luna’s work “Unbalanced” graced issue 9 of our magazine. This piece pivots around a narrator attempting to navigate life with her aging parents. Here, Luna and issue 10 contributor, Grace Campbell, talk about how to approach broad themes inside the tiny space of flash. Grace Campbell: This piece spans a great deal of time. How did you reconcile the necessary compressions to represent a breadth of time in such a small piece? Sheila Luna: In writing my essay, Unbalanced, I decided that it wasn’t necessary to explain to the reader how much time had passed to tell my story. Instead, I used repetition to string the memories together to give...

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ABCs of Poetry: Z is for Zoetrope

Posted by on Jun 5, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Poetry: Z is for Zoetrope

“Stop worrying about what the poem means and just listen to the damn poem.”                                                                 U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith One. If you are looking for sound for your poems, you can do worse than the letter Z: Zephyrus, Zeppelins, zeppoles, zithers, hazmat, Zip Cars and zero. Or zilch. When adding zing with Z’s you have the opportunity for zeitgeist, zebras, ziplines, puzzles, seizures, caesuras, or you can write an homage to the day when Thoreau met Zorro and they discussed Zora Neale Hurston. Z seems to be inexorably linked with onomatopoeia, so simply by using z words, you can get...

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ABCs of Poetry: Y is for You

Posted by on Jun 4, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Poetry: Y is for You

The lyric poem, according to Edward Hirsch, has been in practice “for at least forty-five hundred years . . . and is as ancient as recorded literature” (356). In those forty-five hundred years, the lyric poem has expressed personal emotions, experiences, thoughts, and epiphanies through the speaker, who presents herself/himself through the lyric “I.” This makes perfect sense, since when you talk, write, or sing about yourself, you share the experience through “I.” For instance, “I taste a liquor never brewed” from Emily Dickinson’s poem 214; “Every year without knowing it I have passed the day” from W.S. Merwin’s “For the Anniversary of My...

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ABCs of Poetry: X is for Xray

Posted by on Jun 3, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Poetry: X is for Xray

A few years ago I became interested in the artist Man Ray’s camera-less photographs of the early 1920s. Like many of the budding Dadaists, he tried out several types of media – painting, sculpture, as well as photography. He also had to earn a living, which he did with his portraiture and fashion photography. One day, by accident, Mr. Ray placed a glass funnel and a thermometer on photographic paper. This was definitely an accident; his valuable supply of paper was dwindling and he did not need to waste it. But he switched on an electric light and exposed the paper. Images of the objects emerged. Light was refracted through the glass,  yet stopped by the solidity of...

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ABCs of Poetry: W is for Weaving

Posted by on Jun 2, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Poetry: W is for Weaving

Some of the most common questions I receive when someone reads my work, whether the reader is my mother or a friend or a stranger, are these: Did this really happen? Did you really feel like this? How real are these feelings/situations/repercussions/_______? Poetry exists in an uncertain space. Fiction can be realistic and still exist in an imagined space; non-fiction can be creative and still exist in the actual. But poetry—where does poetry find itself? A weaving of both, I think. Sometimes more actual, sometimes more imagined, generally concerned with language and sound and emotion in a kind of reaching beyond. The very asking of the questions about real-ity...

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ABCs of Poetry: V is for Volta

Posted by on Jun 1, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Poetry: V is for Volta

The volta. You might be thinking, oh you mean the turn? That spot in a Petrarchan/Italian sonnet between the octet and the sestet, or in a Shakespearean sonnet between the third quatrain and the final couplet, where things change? Things like rhyme scheme, stanzaic structure, and argumentative agenda? And in other poems, regardless of whether they’re rhymed and metrical or in another received form, or even free verse (which is still formally astute or at least ought to be), you mean that location where the cinematic, rhetorical, imagistic, and/or some other poetic pattern is suddenly and significantly disrupted? And I’d say, yes, but. I’d say, sure, the turn, yes,...

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ABCs of Poetry: U is for “Un,” as in “Un” the Prefix

Posted by on May 31, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Poetry: U is for “Un,” as in “Un” the Prefix

I. Choose the word you want, the part of speech, attach the prefix and there you go. Writing poems is like that (for me, anyway)—Un-shoring, uncoupling, un-troubling, unburdening, unending, un-fucking… That’s the one: Un-fucking. Writing poems is like that, like un-fucking yourself. And when I say write, I mean draft, again and again and again—so much that you’ve un-fucked the “a” from the “gain” so its “again” again. II. You want to write poems. You sit down to do so. Maybe, in whatever “writing space” that you write, you crack books, you find pages and place the books spine-up so the books look like distant birds in a landscape. You write...

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ABCs of Poetry: T is for Tone

Posted by on May 30, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Poetry: T is for Tone

It’s often been said in order for a poem, or any piece of literature for that matter, to truly resonate, the writer must build a bridge between him/herself and the reader. One way to construct that bridge is through tone. Tone is defined as the attitude a poet exhibits toward the poem’s subject and/or audience. For those who like to keep it simple, think of it as the emotion propelling the words onto the page. One doesn’t necessarily need to be a poet to understand the possibilities in tone are endless—from angry to melancholy, humorous to even whimsical—there’s an entire spectrum at the poet’s disposal. In fact, the folks over at Poetry In Voice compiled...

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ABCs of Poetry: S is for the Poet as a Sculptor

Posted by on May 29, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Poetry: S is for the Poet as a Sculptor

Some poets speak of the blank page as a tabula rasa, view the act of writing as one of pure creation. Something from nothing. But I don’t believe that any artist begins with nothing. Although a writer may start a poem with no preconceived idea of topic or form, her preferences in diction, gradations of experience, and frames of reference will color each draft, no matter how rough or free. I prefer to see the poet as a sculptor, someone who shapes raw material step by step into a unique and beautiful artifact. When a poet is drafting, it is a corporeal, visceral act. Sculptor Anish Kapoor believed that “Sculpture occupies the same space as your body.” When writing,...

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ABCs of Poetry: R is for Repetition

Posted by on May 28, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Poetry: R is for Repetition

I have heard Pete Townshend tell Karen he can see for miles—57 times per song, in fact. I can feel his eyes. I do not need to hear another descriptor of his jealousy. My lungs have faltered beneath the heartbeat of Elisabeth Bishop’s Sestina. I am glued under the child’s inscrutable house. I have cried still always cry every time Plath confesses, “I think I made you up inside my head.” I am sorry, miss. I think you might be right. I think I might have, too. Each time you say it, I am a little more certain of us both. But why? There’s a lot to be said about the power of repetition in language. It is used in speeches and songwriting to bring people together,...

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ABCs of Poetry: Q is for Quatrain

Posted by on May 27, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Poetry: Q is for Quatrain

When you’re a poet and are given the option to write something using the letter “Q,” the first thing that springs to mind is QUATRAIN. Well, it did for me, anyway. So what IS it, you ask? The shortest answer is that a quatrain (from the French word for four: “quatre”) is a four-line stanza of poetry. It can be a stand-alone poem of only four lines, or can be a four-line stanza within a longer poem. As a dramatic device, a quatrain not only aids in the memorization of a poem, it also helps give structure, form and rhythm to it. The quatrain organizes the poem, much like paragraphs in an essay help organize a page. By creating some white...

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ABCs of Poetry: P is for Puzzle

Posted by on May 26, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Poetry: P is for Puzzle

Reading poetry sometimes involves a degree of puzzlement. How are we to make sense of the abstractions and ambiguities of figurative language? How are we to comprehend the ways in which the sounds and rhythms of a poem create emotion beyond the words themselves? When one image is placed next to another in a surprising way, how are we to move past that delightful shock into understanding and even revelation? Writing poetry, however, does not always involve the same kind of puzzlement that reading does. As we write, we usually come to a clearer and clearer understanding about what and how we hope to communicate. Instead of being puzzling, writing a poem, becomes a puzzle:...

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ABCs of Poetry: O is for Ode

Posted by on May 25, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Poetry: O is for Ode

Poems can accomplish many things: self-reflection, repentance, emotional evocation, observation, lamentation, and beyond. One of the most common things people think of when they think of poetry is love—and what a true, opportune correlation that is. Poetry is a perfect vessel to express love, adoration, and appreciation. While love can be conveyed with nearly any poetic form, odes are traditionally used as a means to celebrate the subject of the poem. Think of an ode as a chant or a song (as derived from the Greek word aeideina). Odes are lyrical in style and can rhyme or not. There are three types of odes: Pindar Ode, Horatian Ode, and Irregular Ode. While...

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ABCs of Poetry: N is for the Necessity of N+7

Posted by on May 24, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Poetry: N is for the Necessity of N+7

“Agreed. Let’s start at ridiculous and move backwards.” – Professor Jules Hilbert, Stranger than Fiction My most recent motto as writer-poet-artist has been to not take myself too seriously, which has continued my exploration in alternative ways to play with words. I have found, more often than not, that playful creativity comes not from an open expanse of possibilities, but out of the potentiality that comes from constraint. Poets have many tools in their toolbox, not the least of which are techniques spawned from the OuLiPo (ouvroir de littérature potentielle, or workshop for potential literature). The OuLiPo movement has given us many techniques and...

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ABCs of Poetry: M is for Marginalized

Posted by on May 23, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Poetry: M is for Marginalized

The marginalized moments and objects surrounding the space one occupies are a poet’s most useful tool for crafting art out of the written word. While more grandiose moments can occupy a work to great effect—space battles and wizards are fine, I guess—writing poetry about peripheral happenings and innocuous moments can create a greater sense of empathy, belonging, understanding, and osmosis than deliberate explanation of meaning, or an over-reliance on transparent context. Some modern or more mainstream writers would rebuke the idea of writing about the sunlight hitting a wooden desk at just the right angle because it has “been done” and “no one needs to...

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ABCs of Poetry: L is for Line & Line Break

Posted by on May 22, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Poetry: L is for Line & Line Break

I grew up and live in the Midwest. I know—boring. Flat fields, farmland. Nothing around for miles. Dull. Landlocked. But none of those things. Certainly not landlocked—we have five great lakes. I grew up right on the shore of one: Lake Michigan. You can’t see across it to the other side, just another state, though it might as well be France for trying to see it. An expanse. And boring? Dull? Everyone says this about the Midwest but I’ve been here long enough to know what flat lands mean: huge sky. Land—like water—you can’t see the other end of. In college, I knew a “coastie,” as we say here, who said, “I hate the Midwest. There’s nowhere to hide,”...

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ABCs of Poetry: K is for Kite

Posted by on May 21, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Poetry: K is for Kite

I grew up at the base of the Wasatch mountain range in Layton, Utah. On windy days, anything that wasn’t tacked down would take flight: Empty five-gallon buckets, drying laundry, trampolines–if wind could get under it, the thing would go. On less violent days, we would fly kites in the backyard or out in the cul-de-sac. These kites were usually cheap, bought from the Dollar Store or the Summer section at Walmart. After a few flights, they were broken. Eventually, my brothers, sister, and I started making our own kites, which were sometimes better, though the quality was inconsistent. Here’s what we found through several tests: A good kite requires a light frame...

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ABCs of Poetry: J is for Joypopping

Posted by on May 20, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Poetry: J is for Joypopping

When it comes to poetry, this slang word for recreational drug use that does not become addictive means to stand at the threshold of chaos. To keep a healthy distance from all our own darkness and depression, but to evoke it authentically and compassionately on the page. To describe the flames while not being consumed. It’s a difficult place to find, but absolutely essential to the work of poetry. My most valuable lessons in poetry have come from R—an initial for a name she doesn’t use any more. I don’t have her permission to tell this story but I want to credit her all the same. R and I were marooned in central New Jersey, a place where poetry does not thrive,...

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ABCs of Poetry: I is for Imagery

Posted by on May 19, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Poetry: I is for Imagery

Because human beings understand the sense behind actions so well, we tend to project feelings where there are none. We see a flower drooping its head, and it looks sad or ashamed. We feel the anger behind an old truck growling down the street. Poets know how to utilize this connection between imagery and emotion. The best can do so with a delicate balance. A poem loaded with images that scrimps on emotion is so solid the reader can’t nudge it, can’t carry it with them. On the other hand, a poem swarming with abstraction floats away from the reader’s grasp, a ghost of what a poem could be. But even one strong image has the potential to keep a poem on the ground...

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ABCs of Poetry: H is for Hyperbole

Posted by on May 18, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Poetry: H is for Hyperbole

For some reason, when I think about hyperbole, my mind immediately cuts to Act 5, Scene I of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream when Nick Bottom, as Pyramus, kills himself. “Thus die I, thus, thus, thus. Now am I dead, Now am I fled; My soul is in the sky: Tongue, lose thy light; Moon take thy flight: [Exit Moonshine] Now die, die, die, die, die.” It’s ridiculous. Dude, just die already. The best actors playing Bottom will over-act the scene, like a pratfall in an infomercial or William Shatner. But in poetry, hyperbole gives a poet license to create images that stay and stick to your memory like peanut butter to the roof of your mouth. While exaggeration...

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ABCs of Poetry: G is for Gesture

Posted by on May 17, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Poetry: G is for Gesture

As poets we work on descriptions, on noticing the world around us and coming up with creative ways to share with our readers. How many sunsets can we read about and feel as if it’s the first time? In Mark Doty’s Book, The Art of Description: World into Word, he writes, “Description is an art to the degree that it gives us not just the world but the inner life of the witness,” (p.65). In every scene of our lives, there are thousands of details. Every moment could be described down the the lint ball in the corner of the room, but as writers, we chose the most important details. We need to give our readers the information they need to imagine and feel the moment....

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ABCs of Poetry: F is for F-Bombs

Posted by on May 16, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Poetry: F is for F-Bombs

Those tough Italian kids with the pretty names–DiOrio, DelVecchio, Policarpio–taught me to love poetry. If you told any one of them he had a pretty anything, you’d get a metaphor for your trouble: a knuckle sandwich; a brand new asshole; your ass kicked into next week. Of ass-onance they were overly fond, those Roman poets spouting their smoke rings out behind the junior high–smoke rings that were beautiful and true, and rhymed perfectly with the decrescendo O’s of their last names. And f-bombs sprinkled their idiom like commas, like vowels, and there was a definite skill involved in dropping them–in the best places, at the perfect intervals,...

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ABCs of Poetry: E is for Ending

Posted by on Apr 27, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Poetry: E is for Ending

E is for Ending:  Packing a Punch into a Poem’s Finale The best novels do not resolve in the last chapter. They leave you wanting more. This feels authentic to the reader, if unsettling, because the ending of a book, or a poem, or an epoch is never the end of the story. Perhaps you have a perfectly good draft of a new poem, but are stuck for an equally worthy ending. You’ve tried different endings none of which are going to make your otherwise good poem memorable. The many ways to not end a poem are familiar. Every poet tries to avoid certain pitfalls, i.e., endings that are:  predictable weak synthetic tied up in a bow a summary or review moralistic a...

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ABCs of Poetry: D is for Danger

Posted by on Apr 26, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Poetry: D is for Danger

Poetry And/In Danger Poetry is in danger. Who reads it? Large English classes full of bored students. Small English classes full of hyper-conscientious students. Poets. But that’s not all, not the half of it. Poetry is everywhere. Do we know how to know it, when we see it? — I am in danger. I am trying to write about poetry, but it is so much larger than me, and I am so small, and I have so little to say. I am a tiny, wide-eyed yellow chick with a giant red balloon, with a string tucked under my wing, on the lime-green grass in the sunshine beside an empty playground at the edge of an elementary school parking lot—gray asphalt, a hopscotch course, a basketball...

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ABCs of Poetry: C is for Confessional Poetry

Posted by on Apr 25, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Poetry: C is for Confessional Poetry

“I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart: I am, I am, I am.”  — Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar For a writer coming into consciousness in the twenty-first century, time before confessional poetry is murky. Writing the close- and confessional-I, an “I” that looks, sounds, and acts like the poet, feels default for young poets. But as anyone who has white-knuckled their way through another half-baked “how I lost my virginity” workshop poem knows, the genre, while familiar, is not easily tackled. Of course, the foremother of confessional poets, and the official sponsor of sad-girl poets, is Sylvia Plath. Plath’s poetry drips with emotion,...

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B is for Beginnings

Posted by on Apr 24, 2019 in ABC's of Writing (for Beginners) | Comments Off on B is for Beginnings

The way a poem begins matters more than anything else. If you can’t engage a reader or listener right away, all the other beauty you write will not reach them. Some years ago, at a conference, I heard an editor say that he makes a decision on a poem by the end of the first line, and feels no compunction rejecting it straight from that impression. I’ve been thinking about that a lot. Your first line has to sing or scream or quietly pull the reader in enough that they will continue. Let’s look at some poems that do this well. (I hope you will explore these poems to their conclusions on your own.) The first line of Lynda Hull’s “Jackson Hotel” — “Sometimes...

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A is for Anaphora

Posted by on Apr 23, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on A is for Anaphora

Which I love because it is the oldest poetic practice–feature of psalm and song, home of litany and liturgy–that you repeat a thing in the repetition you can intensify the reader’s sense of word as object and phrase as meaning.      Look at you! You are beautiful, my darling Look at you! You are so beautiful. Your eyes behind your veil are doves. Your hair is like a flock of goats. (“Song of Songs”) I like that anaphora connects me viscerally with the most primitive truth of poetry, which is that words have weight, and that weight is calibrated individually and mysteriously by every poet worth her salt. Once I saw a famous poet whip a crowd of...

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Behind the Words: Elizabeth Yalkut

Posted by on Apr 7, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Behind the Words: Elizabeth Yalkut

Elizabeth Yalkut’s “Momos” was published in Spry’s fourth issue. She takes a moment to discuss her poem and writing life with Katie Eber, a frequent contributor to our blog and miniseries. I love that “Momos” dives right into the idea of cooking as a show of love, and I love that it’s so short and to the point. Why does the short poem work so well for this particular subject? It would be ridiculous to make this snapshot overblown; it would be counter to the image presented. Look at the language: only, tidy, straightforward. Poetry isn’t known for being efficient — and goodness knows that I’m as prone as any poet to wandering...

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Behind the Words: John Repp

Posted by on Apr 6, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Behind the Words: John Repp

John Repp was published in the sixth issue of Spry Literary Journal. He takes a moment to catch up with co-founding editor Erin Ollila on writing and process. Erin Ollila: I’m always so interested on what sparks an idea for a poem. Where did the spark of inspiration for “The Invention of Gunpowder” come from? John Repp: I don’t know. Although I don’t keep track of such things, I’m reasonably sure I worked on this poem periodically over a long period, as I’ve done with all but a very few of my poems. Rereading it now, I suspect the “spark” came from the ox roast/Whippy Dip pairing, and I followed its teeter-totter lead as best I could. Is...

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Behind the Words: Patricia Caspers

Posted by on Apr 5, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Behind the Words: Patricia Caspers

We were lucky to publish Patricia Casper’s poem, “Some Good Thing May Yet Happen”, in the sixth issue of Spry Literary Journal. We were even luckier she agreed to be interviewed. Find out what she’s up to since the poem was originally published. Erin Ollila: I’m always so interested on what sparks an idea for a poem. Where did the spark of inspiration for Some Good Thing May Yet Happen come from?   Patricia Caspers: I had been trying for a long time to write about that moment in the car with my dad, but I wanted to write about it in a way that didn’t my thirteen-year-old self sound piteous. When I heard Dr. Nuland’s...

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Behind the Words: Robert Eastwood

Posted by on Apr 4, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Behind the Words: Robert Eastwood

Robert Eastwood‘s contribution to Issue #6 is a poem titled “Where Stood a Stake.” Eastwood takes us to Rouen, France, to stand in the square where Joan of Arc was martyred. As a retired teacher, Eastwood has a great perspective on how to effectively use space, meaning, and context in a poem that is just absolutely an well-crafted example of all those elements. Spry contributor Katie Eber asked Robert to talk about how history and poetry converge to, as Emily Dickinson said, “Tell all the truth but tell it slant.” Katie Eber: There’s something very grounded in the way this poem brings us to a place, not just a physical place but...

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Behind the Words: Jenn Storey

Posted by on Apr 3, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Behind the Words: Jenn Storey

“Villanelle,” the personal essay by Jenn Storey (née Treado), appeared in the fifth issue of Spry. This gripping piece reveals a narrator who is stuck in self-destructive patterns, interspersed with the poem “Mad Girl’s Love Song” by Sylvia Plath. Jenn updates us on her writing and her life here: Laura Eppinger: First of all, I love that your piece runs parallel to the poem “Villanelle” by Sylvia Plath. What does Plath’s work mean to you? Have you studied her work and/or biography in depth? Jenn Storey: I’d like to preface this interview with: Since I wrote and published “Villanelle,” my life and my writing life have morphed in ways...

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Behind the Words: Ryan Tahmaseb

Posted by on Apr 2, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Behind the Words: Ryan Tahmaseb

Ryan Tahmaseb’s “A Communion” tells the story of a narrator who takes an unexpected turn on her way to work one morning to visit her husband’s graveside. The short story ran in Issue 7 of Spry. Ryan was kind enough to talk to us about his writing process, teaching, and what he’s up to now. Phil Lemos: In your story “A Communion,” the narrator immediately drops us into the story by announcing, “You’re probably wondering why I’m here today.”  Did this opening come naturally to you? Did you play around with other potential ways to start the story? Ryan Tahmaseb: This story was one of four I wrote a few summers ago,...

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Behind the Words: Anna Lea Jancewicz

Posted by on Apr 1, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Behind the Words: Anna Lea Jancewicz

Anna Lea Jancewicz lives in Norfolk, Virginia, where she homeschools her two children, and teaches creative writing and People’s History for a homeschool co-op. She is Editor in Chief of Rabble Lit, a magazine for working class literature which promotes anti-racist proletarian solidarity, and her short story collection, (m)otherhood, was published by Widow and Orphan House Press in the fall of 2017. We talked about her poem in Spry, the need for more working class-specific literary spheres, breaking open stories about motherhood,Gilmore Girls, and men with vinyl siding companies. Bess Cooley: Your poem “Black Robin” in issue 5 has this question of...

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Behind the Scene: Krystal Powers

Posted by on Mar 31, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Behind the Scene: Krystal Powers

In her short story “Loving an Ant Sadist”, Krystal Powers provides readers a tender meditation on family, sisterhood, and the challenge of maintaining old bonds with siblings as we age. Complicating these themes is the fact that one of the siblings in the story is stricken by debilitating disease. Told in a series of vignettes ranging from childhood to adulthood, the story also evokes the cool sun-faded beauty of coastal, small town New England. Over a couple of emails, Powers shared with me some thoughts on her story, its setting, and more. Joshua Peralta: Your story “Loving an Ant Sadist” is full of details that reveal a familiarity with the New...

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Behind the Words: Audrey Lentz

Posted by on Mar 30, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Behind the Words: Audrey Lentz

Audrey Lentz is a fiction writer, poet, and marketing content writer. Her flash fiction piece “How to Be a Good Member of Group Therapy” appeared in Spry issue 9. She is currently seeking representation for her novel Meek Madness. Aaron Coder: You mention on your website that psychology and mental health are common themes in your writing, and “How to Be a Good Member of Group Therapy”? certainly explores such territory. What was the impulse behind writing it? Audrey Lentz: One thing they tell you about group therapy is that the group dynamics work to showcase the impulses and roles its members fall into in their life outside of group. I wanted to show this, as...

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Behind the Words: D.E. Lee

Posted by on Mar 29, 2019 in ABC's of Writing (for Beginners) | Comments Off on Behind the Words: D.E. Lee

D. E. Lee’s work appeared in the fifth issue of Spry Literary Journal. His short fiction appears or is forthcoming in Little Patuxent Review, Quiddity, Alligator Juniper, The Lindenwood Review, Saw Palm, Broad River Review, and several others. Awards include Pushcart Prize nominee, Finalist in Nimrod’s 2011 Katherine Ann Porter Prize, Honorable Mention in Glimmer Train’s 2014 Fiction Open, and finalist for the 2014 Nelson Algren Award. His novel, The Sky After Rain, won the Brighthorse Books 2015 novel contest and is available in paperback. His website is http://www.deleeauthor.com Emily Densten: Second person can be kind of a controversial technique. What made...

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Behind the Words: Jon Spayde

Posted by on Mar 28, 2019 in ABC's of Writing (for Beginners) | Comments Off on Behind the Words: Jon Spayde

Jon Spayde‘s work appeared in the fourth issue of Spry Literary Journal. He is a writer, poet, editor, and solo performer who lives with his wife, Laurie Phillips, and cats Kerfuffle, Yuki, and Kiku in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He studied classical Japanese literature at Harvard University and creative writing at the University of Minnesota. His poetry, translations from Japanese, and fiction have appeared in the Harvard Review, Spindrift, Third Rail, and elsewhere. His autobiographical solo show, Writing the Breakdown Book, premiered onstage in Minneapolis in May and is featured in the Minnesota Fringe Festival. Spayde’s short story, Jazzmen, is a look into...

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Behind the Words: Alice Lowe

Posted by on Mar 27, 2019 in ABC's of Writing (for Beginners) | Comments Off on Behind the Words: Alice Lowe

Alice Lowe appeared in the fourth issue of Spry Literary Journal. She reads and writes about food and family, Virginia Woolf, and life. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in a number of literary journals, including Upstreet, Hippocampus, Switchback, Prime Number, Phoebe, and Hobart. She was the 2013 national award winner at City Works Journal and winner of a 2011 essay contest at Writing It Real. A monograph, “Beyond the Icon: Virginia Woolf in Contemporary Fiction” was published by Cecil Woolf Publishers in London. Alice lives in San Diego, California and blogs here. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing talented writer Alice Lowe.  I admire...

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Behind the Words: Resoketswe Manenzhe 

Posted by on Mar 26, 2019 in ABC's of Writing (for Beginners) | Comments Off on Behind the Words: Resoketswe Manenzhe 

Resoketswe Manenzhe appeared in the seventh issue of Spry Literary Journal. She is an engineering graduate. She received her BSc in Chemical Engineering from the University of Cape Town in 2013. Although born in Gauteng, she was raised in the Limpopo Province of South Africa. She is currently in the process of writing her first novel. Her short stories—”Southern Wind” and “Moths and Butterflies” have been published in The Kalahari Review and Review Americana, respectively; her poems—”A Song from Leonard” and “The Old Man at the Sinking Ship Brothel” have both been published in Bunbury Magazine. In the interest of separating the different...

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Behind the Words: Catherine Bailey Kyle

Posted by on Mar 25, 2019 in ABC's of Writing (for Beginners) | Comments Off on Behind the Words: Catherine Bailey Kyle

Catherine Bailey Kyle was published in the sixth issue of Spry Literary Journal. Her flash fiction piece, The Harvest, is a beautiful reflection on a father-and-daughter relationship. In this interview, Kyle explains her personal connection to this piece, dives into her writing process, and updates us on what she’s currently working on. Carrie Ryan: I was really drawn to the father figure in “The Harvest.” From the description we are given as readers, he seems like a really quirky individual. Was this person inspired from someone in your real life? Absolutely. This story is a slightly tweaked version of something that happened to my father and...

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Behind the Words: Heather Durham

Posted by on Mar 11, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Behind the Words: Heather Durham

Heather Durham styles herself as a “writer, naturalist, wallflower,” all three of which are beautifully apparent in her non-fiction essays. Heather has held an impressive array of positions across her lifetime, including masseuse and trail maintainer. She currently works as an administrator at the Wilderness Awareness School. Being a writer has transcended all of her previous occupations; she has one finished manuscript, Outside the Skin, to her name and another, Wolf Tree, in progress. Sarina Bosco: The narrative in In My Hands seems to feature juxtaposition quite a few times; that of a 12-year-old and a parent, ballet and the beginnings of a heavier taste...

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Behind the Words: Tommy Dean

Posted by on Mar 8, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Behind the Words: Tommy Dean

Tommy Dean’s short story “Without Permission” was published in the sixth issue of Spry Literary Journal. Here he takes a moment to catch up with editor Erin Ollila about where the idea for the story came from and other aspects of his writing life. Erin Ollila: I’m always so interested on what sparks an idea for a story. Where did the spark of inspiration for Without Permission come from? Tommy Dean: When I’m searching around for a new story, I often page through The Photo Book from Phaidon. The introduction of the book describes it as “bring[ing] together 500 inspiring, moving, and beautiful images of famous events and people…” Some days I...

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2018 Best of the Net Nominations

Posted by on Sep 19, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on 2018 Best of the Net Nominations

The editorial and reader team at Spry is happy to announce our nominations for the 2018 Best of the Net Awards. We wish everyone the best of luck. Creative Nonfiction Stranger by Mike Nagel Nine by Mary Lide Fiction The Selkie Wife by Bailey Cunningham > by John Burgman Poetry At My Son’s Favorite Mexican Restaurant After He Died by Chanel Brenner The Black Bull’s Bride by Rita Feinstein breakable bodies by Emma Gammans Good Girls by Ioanna Opidee Blues by Laura Mayron Your Appointment Book is Empty by Rochelle Jewel...

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Behind the Words: Katrina Knebel

Posted by on Sep 14, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Behind the Words: Katrina Knebel

Katrina Knebel’s Saturday’s Treaties was published in the fifth issue of Spry Literary Journal. Here she talks with general reader J.G.C. Wise on writing and life.  J.G.C. Wise: In “Saturday’s Treaties,” you do a tremendous job of detailing what seems a somewhat routine conflict for the protagonist. What was it that drew you to this subject matter? Katrinia Knebel: Routine was really the thing that I wanted my audience to think about.  Particularly, the conflicting nature of routine—how in some moments we cleave to it and in the next are repelled by it.  (My daily routine of waking up a five AM to go for a run would be case in point...

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Behind the Words: Michelle Lee

Posted by on Sep 13, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Behind the Words: Michelle Lee

Michelle Lee’s short story, When Something’s Broken Near Water, is a meditation on how life changes after a divorce, the things kept and the things given away. Lee kindly agreed to answer a few questions about her work. Olivia Lowenberg: When Something’s Broken Near Water, your piece featured in Spry, pulls readers in much like the tide on a beach. What inspired you to write this story? Michelle Lee: First, thank you for the lovely compliment: like the tide on a beach – I may have to put that on the wall above my desk.  Second, my husband gave me the seed for “Something’s Broken.”  He came home from working out at the Y one...

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Behind the Words: Daryl Muranaka

Posted by on Sep 12, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Behind the Words: Daryl Muranaka

Daryl Muranaka is a poet and a martial artist who has, in his words, “lived as a minority, as part of a majority, and also as a foreigner.”  His poem “Auntie’s Laugh” appeared in Spry’s issue 06. We sat down to talk about surprise, how his martial arts and poetry practices influence each other, and how difference can challenge and inspire.  Kristy Harding: One of the things I really appreciate about “Auntie’s Laugh,” the poem you published in Spry, is the way you play with surprise–the surprise of her laugh but also the surprise of finding exuberant life in herself when her husband “wears decrepitude/like a badge of...

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Behind the Words: Alyssa Jewell

Posted by on Sep 11, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Behind the Words: Alyssa Jewell

Alyssa Jewell was  published in the eighth issue of Spry and was kind enough to take some time to talk with another member of the Spry family, Donna Vorreyer, who was published in the third issue, about her poem The Stranger, the Sojourner Passes By. Here is their interview. Donna Vorreyer: One of my initial responses to the poem was how its references to visual acuity (or lack of it) parallel the ways that a stranger in a place is simultaneously focused and blurry –trying to hone in on the details of a new place but standing out as not being a part of the usual landscape. Was this a consideration in your choices? Alyssa Jewell: I think this interpretation of the...

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Behind the Words: Beate Sigriddaughter

Posted by on Sep 10, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Behind the Words: Beate Sigriddaughter

Beate Siggridaughter’s poem Red Fox was published in the fifth issue of Spry Literary Journal. Here she talks with Spry’s general reader Allie Marini about the process and other writing-related thoughts. Here is their interview. Allie Marini: The restraint & brevity of “Red Fox” is admirable—you convey so much meaning using just 24 words—sort of a “flash poem” or “micro-poem”, if you will. How was the writing process for this piece? Was it difficult to keep it this short, or did you have to fight the desire to say more? Is your usual style this short, or is this piece unique in its length? Beate Sigriddaughter: It’s the magic of...

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Behind the Words: Chella Courington

Posted by on Sep 9, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Behind the Words: Chella Courington

Chella Courington was published twice in Spry Literary Journal, and is now a member of our general reader pool for issue 11. Here she talks with fellow reader Allie Marini on both pieces of flash that we’ve published. Allie Marini: Both The Eleven O’Clock News and The Long Walk have a surreal, almost dreamlike quality to them. You manage to pack a lot of emotion, tension, and longing into a small amount of words—every word is deliberate & serves a purpose, yet still manages to retain a poetic sensibility, as well—they’re almost prose-poems, but structurally meet the criteria for micro/flash fiction. What do you call your work? How did these stories get...

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Behind the Words: Joscelyn Willett

Posted by on Sep 8, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Behind the Words: Joscelyn Willett

Joscelyn Willett is a writer whose work can be found in various journals, including Sun Dog Lit, Hoot and Cease, Cows. Here, we discuss her Issue Four story, “What About the Moon.” Cathy Ulrich: So much of this story hinges on this conversation between Alice and Jeremy about the passage of time. It’s a deeply important moment for Alice, and sort of frames how she views Jeremy throughout the story. Then, at the end, we find Jeremy has changed his stance, or, even worse, might not even remember the conversation. How do you think this realization changes Alice? Joscelyn Willett: I think when you are young, and especially young and in love, you idolize people in a...

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Behind the Words: Rachel Warecki

Posted by on Jul 6, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Behind the Words: Rachel Warecki

Rachael Warecki received her MFA in Fiction from Antioch University Los Angeles. She is also an alumna of Scripps College, Loyola Marymount University, and the 2008 Teach for America Los Angeles corps. In addition to winning the 2017 Tiferet Prize for Fiction, her work has appeared in The Masters Review, Midwestern Gothic, The Los Angeles Review, and elsewhere. Here, we discuss her flash story from Issue 4, “The Language of Little Things”: Cathy Ulrich: Right off the bat, a technical question: How hard is it, getting everything set just so, punctuation and syntax and all, for a one-sentence story like this? Rachael Warecki: Honestly, for me, it wasn’t that...

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Behind the Words: Allie Marini

Posted by on Jul 2, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Behind the Words: Allie Marini

Allie Marini is a cross-genre writer holding degrees from both Antioch University of Los Angeles & New College of Florida. She has been a finalist for Best of the Net and nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She has published a number of chapbooks, including Pictures from the Center of The Universe (Paper Nautilus, winner of the Vella Prize) and Southern Cryptozoology: A Field Guide to Beasts of the Southern Wild (Hyacinth Girl Press, finalist for the SFPA’s Elgin Award). Here, we discuss her flash piece in Issue 1, “The Wake.” This is a really personal, beautiful piece. The pills, the lady who died, they all seem so real. Did you have someone in mind when...

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Behind the Words: Matt Jones

Posted by on May 30, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Behind the Words: Matt Jones

Matt Jones was published in the fourth issue of Spry Literary Journal. Here is his interview with current reader and former contributor, Allie Marini. Allie Marini: Msc Whistling is a unique, memorable piece that relies heavily on the use of sound, both through vivid sonic descriptions and onomatopoeia, using sound as the primary means of building tension as the piece hurtles towards the end. Tell us about how this piece began–its origin story, if you will. Matt Jones: I remember stumbling across an article about Silbo Gomero, which is this kind of whistling used by the people of La Gomera in the Canary Islands to communicate across vast distances. I was...

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Behind the Words: Cortney Lamar Charleston

Posted by on May 25, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Behind the Words: Cortney Lamar Charleston

Cortney Lamar Charleston has two missions in life: “build a sustainable happiness” and “serve in the cause of making the world a more just and equitable place for all people.” The latter he achieves through his poetry, versatile and bold in its subject matter, yet delicately crafted like a fine filigree. His poem “How to Fix the Roof” published in the fifth issue of Spry Literary Journal constructs a world, scale-by-scale, inviting the reader to stay within and reflect. Lilia Joy: Where are you from and what do you do for living? Cortney Lamar Charleston: Originally, I’m from the Chicago suburbs, and I lived in the Chicagoland area up until I went east for...

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Behind the Words: Olivia Olsen

Posted by on May 24, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Behind the Words: Olivia Olsen

Jennifer Martelli says, “I had the pleasure to chat with Olivia Olson, whose transformative prose poem, “Abstract Onomatopoeia” was featured in Spry’s Issue 9. Olson is a fellow “Wally “(Warren Wilson M.F.A.) student, and we talked about trends in poetry, podcasts, rivers, scary worlds, and onomatopoeia.” Jennifer Martelli: “Abstract Onomatopoeia” makes so much sense! I found myself saying the words out loud, and yes, they do sound like their meanings. You masterfully manage the emotional arrangement of the words–apart, remember, dead, winter, sky. Can you speak to the emotional narrative? How does the emotion manifest in these words, and...

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Behind the Words: Christopher Grillo

Posted by on May 22, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Behind the Words: Christopher Grillo

Christopher Grillo’s poem, “Without” was published in the fifth issue of Spry Literary Journal. Elizabeth Cooley, Spry staff and former contributor was fortunate to interview him. Elizabeth Cooley: Can you describe your relationship to confessional poetry? This seems to be a theme for you but plenty of poets and other people are skeptical of confessional poetry or don’t like it. How do you feel it has worked for you? Christopher Grillo: Great question! I don’t think I am a good enough writer to be really purposeful about the style in which I choose to write. I am very purposeful about what I wish to convey, which is in many ways the feelings and...

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Behind the Words: Christine Brandel

Posted by on May 21, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Behind the Words: Christine Brandel

Christine Brandel is amazingly multi-talented: a poet, a blogger, a columnist, a photographer, just to name a few.  Inspired by her love for learning, Christine currently teaches writing at a community college, and  finds time to volunteer at a hospice. Her poem “A Wife Is a Hope Chest” published in the fourth issue of Spry Literary Journal has guts, fierceness and charming eloquence, all in one. It serves as the title poem for her collection, A Wife Is a Hope Chest, published in 2017 as the first full-length collection in the Mineral Point Poetry Series from Brain Mill Press. Lilia Joy: Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background? Christine...

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Behind the Words: AJ Kirby

Posted by on May 18, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Behind the Words: AJ Kirby

A. J. Kirby is the award-winning published author of several novels – including most recently the crime-thriller The Lost Boys of Prometheus City – and over 100 short stories. He is also a sports writer, with four best-selling titles under his belt, and a reviewer for The New York Journal of Books. Here, we discuss his piece in Issue 3 of Spry, “The Siege.” Cathy Ulrich: “The Siege” is such a tense, understated piece. The hints of destruction outside the restaurant really up the intensity — both for the reader and the characters. What was your impetus for writing this piece? AJ Kirby: I’d wanted to write a story based on the chaos of the riots which...

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Behind the Words: Neil Carpathios

Posted by on May 17, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Behind the Words: Neil Carpathios

Neil Carpathios’ poem “Intro to Boredom 101” from Spry’s Issue #4 takes on a poet’s worst nightmare – boring people. He explores how folks become boring in the first place, and how it spreads like a plague. Neil’s poem does this in a neat way, blending humor with fantastic imagery that is anything but a lesson in boredom. Katie Eber: I love poems that start out with a good, witty setup, and I think “Intro to Boredom 101” does that really well. It stays grounded, though, in its delight of visual detail. How did you keep the funny of this poem from boiling over and taking over the whole thing? Neil Carpathios: Really, the “funny” is mainly...

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ABCs of Flash Writing: The Conclusion

Posted by on May 14, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Flash Writing: The Conclusion

I marveled at the words. The sentences brevity and richness. “As she picked it (a wild pink rose) to add to her bundle she noticed a raised mound, a ring, around the rose’s root” as told in “The Flowers” by Alice Walker. Ms. Walker puts me in that moment so that I am Myop, the girl who wanders away from her family’s “hen house to pigpen to smokehouse” to pick flowers in neighboring fields. I am the girl who “made her own path, bouncing this way and that way, vaguely keeping an eye out for snakes.” Until Myop “steps smack into his eyes.” A skeleton. A man hung long before Myop had an inkling to wander so far from her home. The body long dead as...

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ABCs of Flash Writing: Z is for Zero Structure

Posted by on May 13, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Flash Writing: Z is for Zero Structure

The first and only time I fired a gun was in my mosquito-ridden swamp of a backyard that is referred to by out-of-towners as the Meadowlands. A childhood friend of mine who, unlike me, had spent his childhood summers hunting everything from rabbits to deer, brought a few of us out to an abandoned nature preserve near our houses. He also brought along a Browning AB3 bolt-action rifle. I remember two things about that day – guns are loud, and, if anyone asks, I certainly didn’t put a hole in one of the water treatment plants across the river. From the earliest days of our writing lives, we are taught that stories must have three things: a beginning, a middle, and an...

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ABCs of Flash Writing: Y is for You

Posted by on May 12, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Flash Writing: Y is for You

Y is for You Long before you started writing, you read Mary McCarthy’s semi-autobiographical collection, The Company She Keeps. One story, “The Genial Host,” blew you away, stuck with you. It was written in the second person, with “you” standing in for the authorial “I.” How did she pull it off, you wondered. Years later a personal essay you were writing just wasn’t coming together. An old boyfriend, a night at the symphony, the death of the relationship. You wanted it short and punchy, to capture the mood of the moment. Discarding the predictable first person, you tried third person—yourself as “she,” but that didn’t work either. Then you hit on...

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ABCs of Flash Writing: X is for X-Factor

Posted by on May 11, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Flash Writing: X is for X-Factor

The letters leading up to this have talked about the meaty, more tangible parts of flash fiction (I’m guessing, having written this piece in ignorance and obscurity). The stuff you can quantify and qualify. But the letter X resists that kind of compartmentalization. It requires imagination, creativity, and a suspension of what you believe to be possible. Much like flash fiction. The “X-factor” in regards to flash is twofold. First, the simple definition: the stuff has to be good. You’re writing something that is hardly the length of a page—or even a paragraph. Your flash fiction has to have “it,” the ineffable quality that hooks in your audience while...

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ABCs of Flash Writing: W is for Weird

Posted by on May 10, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Flash Writing: W is for Weird

“There are two types of stories,” The Writing Man used to tell us. “Man comes to town. Man leaves town.” We believed him because mostly we believed in him and his incredible career, the way he distilled the finer points of writing down to soundbytes. Except they weren’t soundbytes the way we think of them—terrible little summaries that sound catchy but don’t say much at all. They were soundbytes in that when we listened real hard and heard the writers we were to become, we heard ourselves as The Writing Man, Lee K. Abbott, pleased with whatever progress our writing students seemed to make and comfortable knowing we had figured some things out about Good...

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ABCs of Flash Writing: V is for Vignette

Posted by on May 9, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Flash Writing: V is for Vignette

One word: beauty. And that word, over and over again, in variegated iterations, is what makes a vignette. Why a vignette and not a piece of flash fiction? Just roll the two terms around in your mouth and see the difference. The second is swilled quickly, the first is something you savour. If “flash fiction” indicates brevity, “vignette” indicates beauty. Can they be used interchangeably? I have my doubts. Flash fiction demands narrative – the classic three-part structure, resolution. The vignette demands something more. Teachers say that vignettes are impressionistic, capturing moments with imagery, and this has come to be a sort of standard definition to...

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ABCs of Flash Writing: U is for Unexpected

Posted by on May 8, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Flash Writing: U is for Unexpected

U is for Unexpected: Packing a Punch in Flash Fiction I remember the first bit of flash fiction I ever read. I don’t think you can ever forget your first bite of a story swallowed whole. I was a literature student taking an obligatory creative writing class to make me a well-rounded English major. My assignment was to find a piece of compelling flash fiction and present it to the class while focusing on an element of craft. At this point, I had never read flash fiction. I did not even know what it was or could be. My professor lent me her copy of Flash Fiction: 72 Very Short Stories to find a story for the class. That night, sitting on the stained sofa in my mom’s...

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ABCs of Flash Writing: T is for Time

Posted by on May 7, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Flash Writing: T is for Time

Time necessitates brutality in flash fiction and flash non-fiction. In crafting with brevity, each hatch mark on the timeline must be made with a scalpel. And it hurts. In the process of distilling a complete narrative into the compressed time frame of flash, the clever turns, deep characterizations and symbolic scene-setting all take wounds. This process transforms us soft-hearted writers to Lady Macbeths, wringing our hands above bloody results and hoping the end result is worth it. Flash fiction and flash creative non-fiction require violence, the willingness to slash and kill what we hold dear. The best flash pieces time travel, collapsing lifetimes into a page...

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ABCs of Flash Writing: S is for Specificity

Posted by on May 6, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Flash Writing: S is for Specificity

I Can’t Believe I’m Using a Sports Metaphor But Here It Is Anyway: Specificity, The Triple Hitter Downtown Tacoma, Washington is home to a street of warehouses that have been converted into antique shops. Each shop has a different focus: mid-century lamps, vintage magazines, designer-repurposed furniture. But one shop, let’s call it Granddaddy’s, deals in the bizarre. Its walls are lined with porcelain clowns’ faces in bright colors. Party hat-wearing Ken Dolls from the 1960s stand precariously close to table edges. Enormous and delicate Victorian birdcages hang from the ceiling.  When I visited Granddaddy’s recently, the owner—let’s call her...

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ABCs of Flash Writing: R is for Revision

Posted by on May 5, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Flash Writing: R is for Revision

Revision: A Love Story For me, drafting a story is like running blind down a street with headlights coming at me. I pound the keys, but I can’t see what I’m doing. I feel rushed and a bit panicked to finish it up. Then I’m done and I can walk away from the blinding light to find a nice quiet place to revise. A field with butterflies and poppies and wonderfully filtered natural light. And music. Flute music. Well no, not flute music, but something celestial. The point is, once I’m done drafting I can think straight. I can actively consider craft elements, make decisions, and shape my story. I’m in love with revision.  It’s where I get the real work of...

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ABCs of Flash Writing: Q is for Quiet

Posted by on May 4, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Flash Writing: Q is for Quiet

Q is for quiet, for the spaces between the words. In music, you’re taught play the rests. That the moments of silence are just as important as the moments of sound. The same is true in writing, especially in flash, where you have to say so much with so little. These moments of silence can be so very large, so very important. It could be something as simple as dropping some adverbs here and there, tightening up some dialogue, leaving some lines left unsaid. It could be something as simple as implying a larger world for the story with a few words: After it happens, you go to the store. Look at Jacqueline Doyle’s powerhouse story in Wigleaf, Little Darling. Her opening...

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ABCs of Flash Writing: P is for Poetry

Posted by on May 3, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Flash Writing: P is for Poetry

Where Poetry Ends and Flash Begins Always be a poet, even in prose. —Charles Baudelaire The greatest thing by far is to have a command of metaphor. —Aristotle All great art transcends genre. The artist works in a particular vein, adopts conventions, follows rules, but at some point, the true piece of art lifts off, levitates, breaks free from convention, forgets rules, and blurs the lines of genre. That might be obvious, but it’s worth keeping in mind when it comes to the topic at hand. Flash fiction is one of contemporary literature’s greatest proving grounds for the shattering of genre boundaries. The distinction between prose poetry and fiction seems to...

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ABCs of Flash Writing: O is for Ordinary Moments

Posted by on May 2, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Flash Writing: O is for Ordinary Moments

Any writer who’s dabbled in flash will tell you that it’s a challenging form—poets who are looking to try their hand at prose often start with flash, because the brevity of the medium lends itself to poetic conventions without seeming insurmountable. Seasoned prose writers often employ flash as a means of sharpening their skills—after all, restraint is key in successful flash. There’s a saying in writing workshops: Sometimes to make your world bigger, you’ve got to tighten its borders. Most flash fiction is restrictive in its word count—tending to cap word counts at 500, 750, or 1k. The real challenge of flash fiction is making sure that every word serves a...

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ABCs of Flash Writing: N is for Neccessity

Posted by on May 1, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Flash Writing: N is for Neccessity

What do you need? No, really, what do you need? You don’t really need all of those adjectives and allusions and alliterations. You don’t need several achingly beautiful metaphors. You don’t need all of those sly nods to the reader. Do you? Do you need them? Or can you get away with one perfectly placed descriptor, one punch-in-the-gut simile? One reference to rule them all? When I write flash nonfiction, I agonize over what is necessary. What serves the most purpose. What says it all, but in the smallest way. Because flash is just that—a flash. Lightning strikes, and it’s gone as soon as it’s there. Too much language makes the reader go blind. I...

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ABCs of Flash Writing: M is for (short) Memoir

Posted by on Apr 30, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Flash Writing: M is for (short) Memoir

“In memoir, the heart is in the brain” (Art of Memoir – Mary Karr, 151) Crafting a compelling, but brief memoir is not only daunting in its ability to launch emotional upheaval for the author, but also in its grandiose expectations to relay past experience as truthful, meaningful, and respectful of the recreation of all characters, events, and cinematic moments involved. Memoir is a highly intriguing genre because readers find attachment to the reality that ‘this story actually happened’ and ‘this person is actually real.’ Novels create distance between reader and writer as fiction whelms truth and the universe of the story is believable within the context...

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ABCs of Flash Writing: L is for Laughs

Posted by on Apr 29, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Flash Writing: L is for Laughs

“What’s the deal with airline food?” My pupils narrowed from the glare of the lone spotlight, I can’t see the four people sitting at the black wooden four-tops straggled throughout the club, but I know they’re there because their silence becomes them. A flop sweat is starting in my armpits and I’m waiting for the levee to break and drown the audience in my panic. I’ve told jokes for six minutes, mostly comparing different things – airports and cattle ranches, men and women, cars and trucks, dogs and cats. No one has laughed, or coughed even. There hasn’t been a single mucus-clearing ahem in the longest six minutes of my life. I’m bombing....

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ABCs of Flash Writing: K is for Keen

Posted by on Apr 28, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Flash Writing: K is for Keen

For this series, I took on the challenge of volunteering to accept the last remaining letter, regardless of what it was. Naturally, upon receiving K, my first thought as it relates to writing flash was “kickass!” As in: “Colin wrote a kickass flash piece!” But that obviously wouldn’t do. My second thought was to turn to one of my many literary/writing books. The index of the first displayed a glaring hole between the entries of J and L. The second yielded slightly better results: “kenning,” “kinds (of literature),” and “Künstlerroman,” or “artist-novel.” Obviously none of these apply to flash. Next came the onslaught of C words: Klarity,...

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ABC of Flash Writing: J is for Judgment

Posted by on Apr 27, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABC of Flash Writing: J is for Judgment

When writing a flash piece, the most important thing to ask is “What is the story I want to tell?” You don’t have room to meander, for lengthy exposition, or for a long build up to the inciting incident. You must be careful about what words you use, and what words you choose to omit. Ernest Hemingway supposedly wrote a story in six words: “For sale, baby shoes; Never worn.” While this may just be a literary urban legend, there is no doubt that those six words make a story. What makes this example stand out is not the six words themselves, but the implied story, the words that aren’t on the page. It is easy for us to imagine a grieving mother or father,...

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ABCs of Flash Writing: I for Intentional

Posted by on Apr 26, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Flash Writing: I for Intentional

Writing Flash prose is a wonderful challenge, creating a full story in a barbaric little format. A piece of 750 words or fewer is little more than a billboard. This doesn’t necessitate that the writing is flat or unimaginative. If a novel is a five-course meal, Flash is an amuse-bouche, a perfect bite containing complex flavors and layers in one mouthful. Which is more challenging than it sounds, and is reminiscent of the famous quip attributed to Blaise Pascal: “I would have written you a shorter letter, but I didn’t have time.” Good Flash, fiction or non-fiction, comes down to revision and editing. Which brings us to our title: I is for Intentional. The tools...

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ABCs of Flash Writing: H is for Hook

Posted by on Apr 25, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Flash Writing: H is for Hook

“The marvelous thing is that it’s painless,” he said.  “That’s how you know when it starts.” Interested? It’s a good first line to a story.  What is painless?  It sounds ominous. This is the first line to The Snows of Kilimanjaro by Hemingway.  I call it a ‘hook’.  This line is intended to hook the reader, make him curious as to what follows.  It worked for me.  I kept on reading. In flash fiction, we writers don’t have much time.  People who read flash fiction have short attention spans.  They are drawn to it because they are in a hurry.  They want us to get to the point.  So we writers have to be on our toes and get them involved...

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ABCs of Flash Writing: G for Genre

Posted by on Apr 24, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Flash Writing: G for Genre

Much of the fiction writing I do is what, I suppose, most people concerned with categorization might perhaps call genre fiction; I certainly do not trade in life-as-it-is-lived literary realism.  No, in my stories people grow tree roots from their heads, corporations have the ability to resurrect the dead based on who wins a lottery, farmers slowly turn into scarecrows after being shot by their wives, and translucent squirrels give paraplegics born with spina bifida the ability to walk and run.  What do we call these kinds of stories?  Fantasy doesn’t quite fit; my work exists, most of the time, in a familiar world, one that does not require the expansive world...

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The ABCs of Flash Writing: F is for Focus

Posted by on Apr 23, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on The ABCs of Flash Writing: F is for Focus

When I think of “focus” in flash writing–fiction or creative nonfiction–I remember the joys and the challenge of learning to use a 35mm camera years ago. In those pre-digital days when cameras required film rather than a memory card, auto-focus was an available feature on a mid-price Canon but the instructor of the community ed class required us to focus our cameras manually so that we’d learn–by doing–to experiment with composition and depth of field. What’s in the frame and what’s not. What’s centered and what’s sidelined. What’s foregrounded, what’s backgrounded and–depth of...

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ABCs of Flash Writing: E is for Editing

Posted by on Apr 22, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Flash Writing: E is for Editing

Color Me Changed: E is for Editing My flash fiction often gets birthed in quite a close approximation to the final product sometimes accepted for publication, sometimes not. Much of what I write does undergo some extensive surgery under the highlighting scalpel. I always feel closer to a finished product when I can see the changes in front of me and witness the edited material fallen to the floor. For this to happen I use a technique I began using in my high school teaching last year. I was looking for a way to show my students the way an essay should connect from paragraph to paragraph, and found color coding their essays to be quite effective. I’d use one highlight...

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ABCs of Flash Writing: D is for Details

Posted by on Apr 21, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Flash Writing: D is for Details

The first thing I ever learned about running a marathon was that one of the toughest things to master would be figuring out what to do with your brain for 26.2 miles. I imagine that’s truer today than it was when Pheidippides embarked on his legendary run from Marathon to Athens, all the while determined to carry his message of victory. (This is not to say that the conditions under which that first Marathon took place weren’t more difficult — this is not that story at all. But if poor Pheidippides had taken that run with an iPhone in hand and headphones in ears, all the while trying to switch through music selections and podcasts long enough to distract him...

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ABCs of Flash Writing: C for Concise, Comprehensive Creation

Posted by on Apr 20, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Flash Writing: C for Concise, Comprehensive Creation

The assignment: tell the story of an event, a life, a nation. And do it in a page or less. Not an easy task. There’s no time for lavish pontificating or (as Elmore Leonard called it) “hooptedoodle.” Every sentence has to sizzle. No worries. You got this, if you follow the three C’s of flash writing – Concise, Comprehensive Creation. I’ll tackle them here individually. Concise: Flash literature means different lengths to different editors. You may be limited to 1,000 words. Or 500. Or 50. Maybe you feel your word count has you unfairly shackled. But if you’ve ever retweeted someone’s humorous commentary about Jared Leto being unhappy with how Suicide Squad...

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ABCs of Flash Writing: B is for Brevity

Posted by on Apr 19, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Flash Writing: B is for Brevity

This might be a bit obvious, right? I mean, c’mon, “brevity” in a series on flash. Yet the fact of it must be addressed. Concise. Exact. Just the right words and only a very few of them (though that seems to be negotiable); the challenge being to express the breadth and depth of a thing fully within the constraints of brevity, to write beautifully, evocatively, to essay a specific truth without succumbing to wordiness. Poetry does this. The constraints of form and structure seem designed to inspire precision and, by definition, poetry is concentrated. The formality of the genre creates a sort of elegant sparseness, each word “curated” in the...

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ABCs of Flash Writing: A is for Arc

Posted by on Apr 18, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Flash Writing: A is for Arc

For sale: baby shoes, never worn. This famous six-word flash fiction has been attributed to Ernest Hemingway, although that is a literary legend. Like Hemingway’s best short fiction, however, this classic super-short is intriguing—even haunting—and ambiguous (see these interpretations by several everyday readers). Nonetheless, it contains the primary feature that distinguishes flash fiction from prose poem: a narrative arc. Protagonist-conflict-resolution is the basic narrative arc. Flash fiction can scramble the arc, or keep it in shadow, but cannot abandon it (unlike a prose poem, which exists in its own dreamscape). In For sale: baby shoes, never worn the...

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ABCs of Flash Writing: The Beginning

Posted by on Apr 17, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Flash Writing: The Beginning

Dear readers, It’s been four years since we first published the original ABCs of Writing series. That time we focused on what information beginners needed to know when they started writing or publishing. Since then, we’ve followed up with two more ABC mini-issues highlighting the fiction and creative nonfiction genres. I am pleased to announce that the flash genre is just about ready for your viewing pleasure. (Can you guess what will come next?) Starting tomorrow, you’ll hear from 26 writers — experts, in my opinion — who immerse themselves in the realm of flash, whether by writing short fiction, nonfiction, prose poetry, or a hybrid mix that...

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Behind the Words: Chad Hanson

Posted by on Apr 16, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Behind the Words: Chad Hanson

Chad Hanson’s poem “Alonely” was published in our fifth issue of Spry. Catherine Kyle was fortunate to interview him on working in different creative mediums for our Behind the Words feature. Enjoy. Catherine Kyle: In “Alonely,” you explore loneliness as a physical space/setting in interesting ways. Can you comment on what inspired you to analogize solitude—which is so often considered an internal, invisible, and private experience—to the public, visually rich settings of fairground and ghost town? Chad Hanson: In 1950 David Reisman published, The Lonely Crowd. The book became a classic in the field of sociology. Reisman points out that...

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Behind the Words: Matt Lafreniere

Posted by on Apr 13, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Behind the Words: Matt Lafreniere

Matt LaFreniere’s poem “Dream of the Jar” appeared in Issue 03 of Spry, and I was immediately drawn in by the sinister (as he describes it) appearance of Wallace Stevens in the poem.  Here, we talk about that appearance and which poets he’d like to hang out with. Emily Densten: I love that in “ Dream of the Jar” you literally bring the author in as a character and have a conversation with him.  Was this something you always intended to do? Matt LaFreniere: Wallace Stevens appeared in a draft just as randomly and sinisterly as he did in the speaker’s dream. Choosing a villanelle (which was a last ditch effort to salvage the poem) kind of forced him in as a...

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Behind the Words: Jerrod Bohn

Posted by on Jan 13, 2017 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

I caught up with Spry issue 3 contributor Jerrod Bohn as he was in the midst of moving back to Fort Collins, Colorado. He sat down with me and unpacked his thoughts on stylistic choices in poetry, the influence of place, and how maybe—just maybe—we should read more and party less.  Talk to me about the revision process of “we have on display a nascent child.” How did it start? What surprised you through the revision process?   A few years ago, I read this incredibly fascinating text Echolalias: On the Forgetting of Language by Daniel Heller-Roazen. In the first chapter, Heller-Roazen describes how linguist Roman Jakobson observed that “a...

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Behind the Words: L. Ward Abel

Posted by on Sep 28, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

I had the pleasure to talk poetry, jazz, and human frailty with poet and musician, L. Ward Abel. His multi-faceted poem, “Bill Evans,” appeared in Spry’s Issue 2. Read this poem out loud and feel the movement beneath the surface of the writing. Before ever speaking to the poet, I knew he was a musician. Jennifer Martelli: I read “Bill Evans” first as an elegy, and then as an ode. The speaker (you?) establishes an immediate connection by letting us know what Bill Evans knew (“deafening”) and then by inserting himself into Evans’ psyche (“. . . .I sense a brokenness a spiralling. . . .”). What is amazing is how much information is condensed into this...

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ABCs of Creative Nonfiction: The Conclusion

Posted by on Aug 1, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Writing creative nonfiction is particularly hard because the genre requires us to dig deep in order to interrogate whatever subject we’re interested in writing about. The subject is, often, one that resonates at a deep emotional level—in other words, something most sane people work hard to bury so they never have to think about it at all because it’s probably painful. And who wants to do grapple with that level of emotional pain on the off chance that someone might find some value in the essay or book or blog post or whatever comes out of that interrogation? Writers, that’s who. “Other people deal with that stuff in therapy.”   Over the...

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ABCs of Creative Nonfiction: Z is for Zero

Posted by on Jul 31, 2016 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

Z is for “Zero,” or How I Got Fired From Spry Because I Said the ‘F’ Word Too Much As in zero fucks. As in ZERO FUCKS, Nana. Okay, alright. Are we good? Are we scared? ARE WE PUMPED?! Did you think that Z was going to stand for ‘Zany!!!!111!!’ or ‘Zippity-do-da!’ or ‘Zexual Healing’? Well, it’s not. This is not that kind of talk, and I wish you were stop trying to push your beliefs on me when we are out at dinner. I’m just trying to enjoy my veggie tartar, and you’re making a scene. ‘Zero fucks’ is an interesting concept because in the world of writing and in the minds of writers, we should be caring what others think. In our itty-bitty...

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ABCs of Creative Nonfiction: Y is for Yes

Posted by on Jul 30, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

I haven’t always considered myself a non-fiction writer. In truth, fiction has always been my deep and passionate love. For as long as I’ve been talking, I’ve been telling stories—just ask my mother. I’ve also found that poetry has been a comforting friend—a constant lesson in brevity and a way to collect my thoughts. These have always been the forms of expression I’ve fallen into most naturally, the ones I’ve had the strongest urge to share. To this end, I’ve shied away from the idea of writing about myself—aside from infrequent and undisciplined journaling from time to time. I believe there are a few reasons for this. One, I haven’t always felt...

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ABCs of Creative Nonfiction: X is for Xenolith

Posted by on Jul 29, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Xenolith (n.)  xe·no·lith \ˈze-nə-ˌlith, ˈzē-\: a fragment of a rock included in another rock I feel like I have to open with a disclaimer here: while I certainly am I writer, I more often or not define myself as a poet. I wouldn’t call myself an expert in Creative Nonfiction insomuch as, the way I write it, it’s largely just another way to say poetry. The way I put my words down on the page may often look a little different, but I still think that Creative Nonfiction and Poetry (with those capital letters) are really striving toward the same goal: Truth. Or rather, the Closest Possible Thing to truth, which could also be called our own, personal version...

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ABCs of Creative Nonfiction: W is for Weirdness

Posted by on Jul 28, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

You are weird. You are. And that’s great. Your weirdness is an asset. It can be an ally in writing. If I’m ever feeling stumped for inspiration, I retrace memories with an eye for incidents that seem a little weird. I mean “weird” here in the sense of unusual. It’s amazing to me how many bizarre events are categorized as normal by the people involved in them. I suppose this is natural. It happened, so how weird can it be? I think this is what we tell ourselves. But if you think about it, I suspect you’ll find lots of weird things have happened to you. Of course, some of this is context dependent. I once found myself staring up at the roof of a tiny purple...

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ABCs of Creative Nonfiction: V is for Vanity

Posted by on Jul 27, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Vanity is in all the unfinished works on my USB. Little phrases or sayings that show my self-consciousness, my desire to please the reader. These lines are taken out, or they sit in drafts that I am afraid to finish. But as I examine them, I see a trend—I’m either trying to please myself with how artistic and flowing I can make a sentence, or I’m literally just trying to be understood, and like a plumber underneath a sink with a wrench who can’t figure out where to tighten, I feel helpless. How do these two desires merge? My answer is: remove the vanity. Vanity. In my life it has less to do with fanning myself underneath a veranda and sipping lemonade while...

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ABCS of Creative Nonfiction: U is for Unafraid (and more)

Posted by on Jul 26, 2016 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

Authors face a myriad of challenges when writing non-fiction or creative non-fiction (CNF) including the truth and the shaky reliability of memory.  One of the biggest challenges for new writers is fear: U= Uh-oh. What will my family think? How do I expose myself like this? How will people react to me if I share this problematic memory? What if I’ve set the piece in Idaho instead of Florida and the people are now flying dogs but they might still recognize themselves and be hurt? I need to write about X but it is personal and painful. Unlike fiction, it’s hard to hide behind the story when writing CNF even when the names have been changed to protect the...

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ABCs of Creative Nonfiction: T is for Tone, the ‘tude of the writer

Posted by on Jul 25, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

I had a major attitude when I was in high school. Just your typical, mopey, sarcastic, think-I’m-too-cool attitude. On the first day of school, I swaggered into ninth grade Honors English, knowing that I would wow everyone with my 14-year-old insight. I think you know where this is going. Of course I got knocked down a couple of pegs. Of course I got a “C” on my first paper, which was about the novel Here Be Dragons (major shout-out to my friend K, whom I texted because I couldn’t remember the title of the book). That Honors English class was a trip, man. Our teacher, Mrs. K, seemed to know everything. She didn’t shy away from telling us that “All...

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ABCs of Creative Nonfiction: S is for Setting

Posted by on Jul 24, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

The Summer 2015 issue of Soundings Review, the literary journal of the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts (NILA), includes this introduction from editor Jim Gearhart: In this issue we will visit a wide range of settings. We have beaches, deserts, volcanoes, and prehistoric seas. We have hair salons, taxis, barns, and condos. Some of those settings—beaches, deserts, hair salons—were in nonfiction pieces, and as the nonfiction editor, I believe that the following part of Jim’s introduction applies as fully to that genre as to fiction: These settings all help reflect something of the writer. Each of the contributions must take place in that very place, at that...

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ABCs of Creative Nonfiction: R is for Respect

Posted by on Jul 23, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Early on in her canonical craft book Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott notes, “[Good] writing is about telling the truth. We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are […] Just put down on paper everything you can remember now about your parents and siblings and relatives and neighbors, and we will deal with libel later on” (3,4). While Bird by Bird is rife with humorous asides about both life and the writing process, Lamott touches on an important aspect of the craft without writing the word: respect. When it comes to creative nonfiction, respect—both for one’s self and the accurate reporting of past events—is one of the most important aspects in...

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ABCs of Creative Nonfiction: Q is for (Not) Quitting

Posted by on Jul 22, 2016 in Uncategorized | 2 comments

There are probably a million reasons to quit writing. Off the top of my head I can come up with these: 1. Nobody cares about [whatever I’m writing about]. 2. Even if someone cares about [whatever I’m writing about], they probably wouldn’t want to read what I might write about [whatever I’m writing about]. 3. Besides, a Famous Writer has written about this in a way that is so much more artful and insightful than anything I might write about [whatever I’m writing about]. 4. If I did manage to write something artful or insightful, no one would publish it because (a) I’m not a Famous Writer and (b) who am I kidding with the fantasy that...

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ABCs of Creative Nonfiction: P is for Paying Attention

Posted by on Jul 21, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Pay Attention – There’s a World In There Writers have so many words swirling around inside their heads but are often stuck for a vehicle to retrieve them and drive them out. Therefore, writers are constantly on the lookout for inspiration, for a muse, for something or someone to give them that jolt that will open a crack in their mind and let the words tumble forth. It is very important for all writers to PAY ATTENTION. Writers should always be attuned to their surroundings using all their senses – what are people talking about? What is the weather like? What is the environment in which you find yourself? The smells? The sounds? The climate? But I’m not telling...

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ABCs of Creative Nonfiction: O is for Overnight

Posted by on Jul 20, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

O is for Overnight (or, the importance of knowing your own schedule) I write my best first drafts overnight. It usually happens after everyone else has been asleep for a few hours, when I’m just finishing the tidying up, or the laundry-folding, or any of the other repetitive tasks I do before bed, just about the time I’m contemplating sleep. Right then, when I’m at my most tired; that’s when inspiration strikes. It’s not very convenient — I go to bed at 2 a.m. some mornings — but I’ve come to accept that at this point in my life, two hours in the middle of the night are the most creative hours of my day. I’m a novelist, but writing and pitching essays...

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ABCs of Creative Nonfiction: N is for Nature

Posted by on Jul 19, 2016 in Uncategorized | 2 comments

I refuse to cede nature writing to the poets and novelists. In nonfiction, we describe the world around us, using the tools of fiction as well as tropes of our own, to make deeper connections and larger points. We can employ these tools while describing the natural world. Mood Look up. Your lighting has been provided. There are at least ten different types of clouds; altocumulus or striped, nimbostratus or dark and threatening. A writer’s thoughts can be scattered as the clouds, his pain can be piercing like the sun, or the gloomy weather can contrast with his sunny thoughts – weather is the situation for our story. Setting Describe the landscape. The flat, frozen...

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ABCs of Creative Nonfiction: M is for Mentors and Muses and Models, Oh My!

Posted by on Jul 18, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Who knows where inspiration comes from. Perhaps it arises from desperation.  Perhaps it comes from the flukes of the universe, the kindness of the muses.  — Amy Tan The Muses of Greek mythology were the goddesses of inspiration; Mentor was Odysseus’s trusted counselor. Writers today seek modern-day earthly equivalents, people who will serve as guiding spirits, teach us and be our role models, inspire us to stretch and grow. Muses aren’t sprites that float through the window and light on your keyboard every morning when you sit down at your desk with your second cup of coffee. “OK, muse, I’m ready—pour it on!” They’re not servants—they don’t cook...

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ABCs of Creative Nonfiction: L is for Letter

Posted by on Jul 17, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Dear[1]Or: Hello, hi, hey, hola, salutations. Or: Skip it and just say the reader’s name. You don’t want to come on too strong if this is the first time your pen hits the page. Reader[2]Who is your reader? Give her a face. Sit her down at the marbled gray table across from you as you both sip on iced coffee, water, vodka-disguised-as-water. But that reader needs a face. You need to … Continue reading ,[3]I mean it, give your reader an identity; we’re not moving forward until you get this point. Who do you envision reading your work? How does your tone shift when you think of your mother reading … Continue reading I sat with scissors at my...

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ABCs of Creative Nonfiction: K is for Know

Posted by on Jul 16, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

As lifelong students of writing, we’ve all heard the advice to “write what you know.” I’d like to be subversive about this well-worn topic, and implore you to turn that advice on its head. To throw the old rules out. To write with wild, passionate abandon about any thing your writerly heart desires. And to worry about the details and fact-checking later. But I can’t. Not in good conscience. You should write what you know. Especially in the world of creative nonfiction, you should be careful to write the story as it happened. I hope that doesn’t feel limiting to you, though. I hope it feels exciting, because while you should write the story as it happened,...

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ABCs of Creative Nonfiction: J is for Journalism

Posted by on Jul 15, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

When it comes to consolidating the world of journalism with the world of creative nonfiction, many people, including writers, tend to struggle. The legacy of the journalism field and the ethical pillars it stands for tend to make those who are not intricately familiar with its inner workings consider it to be dry, dull, straightforward, and dark. Stories comprise the who, what, when, where, how, and why and get the point across as quickly and efficiently as possible. Stick to the facts, or else. However, the place in which journalism truly shines is through the stories crafted from the same elements of creative nonfiction. They weave together stories that are engaging,...

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ABCs of Creative Nonfiction: I is for Information

Posted by on Jul 14, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

A couple of years ago I found myself in a room full of writers. Conversations were flowing around me, and because I’m shy, and introverted, and any other word you can think of that is the opposite of outgoing, I was awkwardly sitting by myself in a corner. It was a few days into my first residency for my Creative Writing MFA program, and I was there to hone my craft as a fiction writer. After several minutes of awkward silence, I found myself in conversation with the woman sitting beside me who happened to be a mentor in the program. She wrote and taught creative nonfiction. We were discussing a book she had written about her family, and I found myself confiding in...

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ABCs of Creative Nonfiction: H is for Humor

Posted by on Jul 13, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Comedy in nonfiction is invaluable. It is a relief and a delight. Practically speaking, it decreases hostility, breaks tension, creates neutral ground, introduces commercial viability, adds energy to a piece, increases the writer’s likeability, and entertains. How can we, as writers, hone our humor? Just as we study characterization, plotting, voice, persona, beginnings, middlings, and endings, humor is just another literary tool in our shed that, with practice, can be more expertly wielded. Let’s take a quick look at comedy. Let’s unpack jokes and examine their inner workings so that we may learn to assemble our own. Let’s study the techniques of the ticklers....

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ABCs of Creative Nonfiction: G is for Gravity

Posted by on Jul 12, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Sylvia Plath once wrote in her novel The Bell Jar, “I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.” No matter the genre, all writers need to deal with emotions. It’s part of the job. When we find these emotions, we must ask ourselves, “Why?” Even as writers, there are some emotions we can’t explain, at least not confidently. We must dig deeper to find the meaning and gravity that pulls a memory together. Growing up in my house, I experienced the sorta-kinda-an-only-child-but-not-really-since-I-have-half-sisters syndrome. My older sisters are ten and seven years older than myself, and visited every other weekend. In my eyes,...

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ABCs of Creative Nonfiction: F is for Flash Nonfiction

Posted by on Jul 11, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Flash Nonfiction ‘The fact that you’ve included a word in the sentence you’re making says nothing about its necessity . . . Every word is optional until it proves to be essential. Something you can only determine by removing words one by one and seeing what’s lost or gained.’ Verlyn Klinkenborg in Several Short Sentences About Writing Flash nonfiction, just like flash fiction, is a story shrunk into miniature form. It’s a single story, a moment, or a scene shaped and compressed into a small capsule, usually 750 words or less. This can be a challenging yet immensely rewarding form to work in. For the creative nonfiction writer, regardless of whether you merely...

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ABCs of Creative Nonfiction: E is for Ethics

Posted by on Jul 10, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Writing Sober: The Ethics of CNF the Morning After For me, writing Creative Nonfiction is like a night of runaway drinking. You know, those lost evenings where the night begins with the innocuous plan of having a couple of beers at the local brewery but somehow degenerates into a basketful of friends rolling down the highway in a grocery cart. During the initial creative burst, memories—like your well-meaning friends—egg you on to tell the story of your life in complete and unadulterated detail. Whether you’re ready to or not. In the heat of the moment, these memories whoop and wheedle you to “go, go, go” like those same friends cheering you on in an Irish Car...

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ABCs of Creative Nonfiction: D is for Distance

Posted by on Jul 9, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

My final MFA manuscript, 136 pages about culture shock, dark years, and things I still can’t believe 19-year-old me experienced, still sits bound on my bookshelf.  It hasn’t moved since I put it there after graduation almost three years ago now.  Eventually, I imagine it becoming a piece of New Adult memoir.  For now, it’s a collection of words that I’m not ready to revise. “You’re too close to it,” I was told while working on that manuscript.  “It’s still too fresh.” “Get some distance from it.” This consistent feedback was an indicator that the work was missing the element of reflection needed to give it context and depth.  Sometimes, this...

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ABCs of Creative Nonfiction: C is for Character

Posted by on Jul 8, 2016 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

My writing mentor, Kim Dana Kupperman, loves to remind me that all writing is artifice—that, even though creative nonfiction has a stronger obligation to the quote-unquote truth than fiction, it is not meant to be a literal chronicle of events. That would be journalism. Creative nonfiction is, first and foremost, concerned with telling a compelling story, with all the elements that go into good storytelling, including setting, dialogue, plot, conflict, theme—and character. I used to worry about getting the details about the people depicted in my personal essays just right. I didn’t want someone I know to object to the accuracy of something I wrote. That doesn’t...

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ABCs of Creative Nonfiction: B is for Bravery

Posted by on Jul 7, 2016 in Uncategorized | 2 comments

“You have to be brave to be a writer.” My mom told me this halfway through my second year of grad school as I called her, blubbing incoherently about my looming thesis deadlines. My mom is not a writer. But she was right. To write good nonfiction, whether it be memoir, essay or journalism, you have to dig. You have to turn yourself inside out. You have to stare down things that terrify you until they back down, or you figure out how to present them to the world with grace. Though they seem similar on the surface, bravery is not honesty. Honesty is a good therapy session. It’s admitting your ex-boyfriend might be gay. It’s fessing up that you don’t floss....

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ABCs of Creative Nonfiction: A is for Accoutrements

Posted by on Jul 6, 2016 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

31: Yoga pants. Tank top. Cardigan. Flip flops. Messy brown pony tail made even messier from new hair growth. No makeup. If any, day-old mascara beneath the lower lashes. Charcoal gray Fisher Price diaper bag, ripping at the seams from being too full. In it: diapers, wipes, changing pad, nail clippers, Cheerios, spoon, baby food, bib, socks, backup onesies – both long and short-sleeve, pants, blanket, 40-ounce water bottle –filled, nursing cover, keys, cell phone, wallet, agenda, pens, small notebook with four-leaf clovers between the first few pages, laptop, charger, squeaky toys, scraps of paper, notes, receipts.  21: Jeans. Low cut v-neck shirt. Heels....

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ABCs of Creative Nonfiction: The Beginning

Posted by on Jul 5, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

I’ve decided that the eye of the creative nonfiction writer must be medically enigmatic. It’s at once so purely myopic that it can detect the smallest nuance—a person’s cuticle, the four-leaf clover in a vast field, the subtle upturn of the corner of lips—and so hyperopic it can monitor the infusion of masses into a train station or track the passage of time in footprints on a mother’s heart. And somewhat in the spirit of an orchestra’s conductor or a painter, the creative nonfiction writer is able to make magic of the ordinary. Reading the work of a gifted author in the genre suddenly gives you the feeling of being swept into your closest friend’s...

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Art Feature: Modern Masters Revisited, Cezanne, The Bathers, ink and oil pastel, 2014

Posted by on Feb 9, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Modern Masters Revisited, Cezanne, The Bathers, ink and oil pastel, 2014 by Allen Forrest Graphic artist and painter Allen Forrest was born in Canada and bred in the U.S. He has created cover art and illustrations for literary publications and books. He is the winner of the Leslie Jacoby Honor for Art at San Jose State University’s Reed Magazine and his Bel Red painting series is part of the Bellevue College Foundation’s permanent art collection. Forrest‘s expressive drawing and painting style is a mix of avant-garde expressionism and post-Impressionist elements reminiscent of van Gogh, creating emotion on...

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Art Feature: Constant Companion

Posted by on Jan 11, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Constant Companion by Louis Staeble Louis Staeble lives in Bowling Green, Ohio. His photographs have appeared in Agave, Driftwood, Four Ties Literary Review, Gravel, Iron Gall, Microfiction Monday, On The Rusk, Paper Tape Magazine, Tupelo Quarterly, Up The Staircase Quarterly, Your Impossible Voice, and Fifth Wednesday. His web page can be viewed here. Question 1: “Constant Companion” is amazing. To me, there’s so much happening here — the interplay of light with darkness, the gorgeous colors, the fascinating details of the flower in the foreground, and the cross-hatching on both the flower and its shadow....

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Art Feature: Bus Stop Steamboat

Posted by on Nov 2, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Bus Stop Steamboat by Ryan Seylhouwer Ryan Seylhouwer lives in downtown Denver with his cat, Vincent.  He works as a baker, but his primary passion is in photography and writing.  He enjoys spending time with his girlfriend, Loreli, in her garden and farm-to-table pursuits. Question 1: To me, “Bus Stop Steamboat” accomplishes many things—among them, it’s a powerful study in shade, light, and darkness. Please tell us more about this piece. What inspired this piece? Would you like to share what it means to you, or the story behind it? I took this photo with my Holga shortly after I got out of the hospital...

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On Being Cumbersome: Two Ways to Deal with Too Much

Posted by on Oct 26, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Having safely moved into my new dorm room half-way across the country from my usual home, having said goodbye to parents, friends, family, until Thanksgiving, having tamed a massively unruly schedule through the circus that is add-drop, having attained forms to declare my major by the month’s end, having just completed my first paper of the semester, I write to you again. When this many events occur in the span of two or three weeks, time slows measurably. I have not received my first paycheck yet, and already it seems months since I’ve seen the faces of my mom or dad, or that of a childhood friend who I watched bury her father this summer. And I am missing them,...

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On Writing Where You Come From

Posted by on Oct 13, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

A few weeks ago, my parents and I drove back to the Oberlin campus, a process which entails filling our Subaru to the brim with the necessities I have packed (mostly books), and heading out on many tree-lined highways for the 2-day trek. And, as always, we stop in Memphis, Tennessee to stay with my Great Aunts Jean and Jo. The two story house these sisters share has been an integral part of my conceptions of home and family since my first stay there when I was 10 or 11. I was being driven to my first extended stay at a remote summer camp tucked into the Cumberland Plateau, and Aunt Jean and Aunt Jo were seeing me for the first time in many years. This initial visit...

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Behind the Words: Phyllis Brotherton

Posted by on Oct 7, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Phyllis Brotherton comes to writing after a long career in financial management, during which she focused on crisis management and financial turnarounds. At 50 she obtained an MA in Creative Writing and did a stint as a TA and adjunct while writing before realizing that the grind of part-time teaching “did not lend itself to spending much time creating.” She returned to the more lucrative role of Chief Financial Officer for her local public TV station, a job she held while pursuing an MFA in Creative Nonfiction at Fresno State University; she graduated from that program in May 2015 having completed a master’s thesis titled “Methods of...

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18 Classic Books You Didn’t Read But Should’ve

Posted by on Oct 5, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

We’ve all faked re ading books, myself included. When you were in high school, or even in college or (hopefully not) grad school, there was something else going on or you were too tired or your mind just wasn’t focused enough or your favorite television show was having a two-hour special crossover event. Whatever the reason, you faked it and hoped it worked (it probably did). The internet is filled with a ubiquity of information on these classics and you tell yourself eventually you’ll get around to reading them, but until you do, you’ll never be able to experience the amazing literature within them. These are a few books I’ve compiled that are most likely to...

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Art Feature: LEXIA

Posted by on Oct 1, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

LEXIA by Marco Maisto   In/around 2015, Marco Maisto’s poetry took a turn for the weird. Eerie instructional love poems. Postcards written from one enormous outdoor sculpture to another. Poems containing werewolves. Lots of. During this time, Marco co-edited the Poetry Comix and Animation folio for Drunken Boat. Recent work can be found now or soon in: Fjords, Drunken Boat, Rhino, 3Elements, Timber, Heavy Feather Review, Tupelo Quarterly, Small Po[r]tions, and, best of all, Spry. His chapbook, The Loneliness of the Middle-Distance Transmissions Aggregator was a finalist in YesYes Books Vinyl 45s Contest, and his poem...

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The Muse: One Lie, Four Truths, and the Necessity of Trust

Posted by on Sep 28, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Why do babies like peek-a-boo? Infants don’t know something exists unless they can see it for themselves— hide behind your hands and suddenly you’re whole face has actually disappeared. In psychology, this is called object permanence, and it has everything to do with trust. There is a beautifully false myth about writerly folk that suggests that what inspires our work is, most often, a semi-divine insistence or gift from a muse/fairy/magical-creature-of-your-choosing.  Once upon a while, written arts can be created, but only when this being shoots its lightning bolt of creative ability down upon the chosen bard humans, and then a story or poem may be born onto...

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5 Books Every Writer Should Read

Posted by on Sep 21, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

The greatest writers really are the greatest readers. We’ve all heard this sentence, and yet there is not any workshop of which I have been a part wherein someone does not assert that in order to be a good writer one does not have to read, but simply have the imagination that all the writers before us did. While it is true you need imagination, the ability to take a risk with your storytelling, to be a successful writer, that does not mean you shouldn’t study what came before you. What do judges and lawyers study before they become judges and lawyers? History and precedents of the law. What do doctors study before they become doctors? Biology and medicine. What do...

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The Museum -vs- The Library: A Wordy Post on Clichés

Posted by on Sep 14, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

I recently wrote a poem in which the speaker wanders through a special exhibit in a semi-fictional museum, and is given some extra information about the paintings by an unnerving docent. This phenomenon is one fairly common to our culture; the attending guard person has spent their work days in front of the same room of paintings for months, maybe years, and their knowledge of the histories of those specific pieces is therefore much more intimate and, frequently, a little spooky. Museums themselves are relatively odd archival structures— dedicated to preservation and demonstration in a way other archives, libraries, and storage facilities are not. I think this has...

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The Overshadowed Books

Posted by on Sep 7, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

When you think of the greatest book of all time, you’re going to likely choose a famous one. It’s one that has had super success, most likely deservingly. But what about the other books those great writers pump out? Everyone knows The Great Gatsby but what about The Beautiful and Damned? Everyone knows For Whom the Bell Tolls’s warning about modern war thwarting Romantic idealism, but what about On the Beach by Nevil Shute or even Hemingway’s own Islands in the Stream? I’m offering here a list of books I think we should read more often and in addition to the famous few “classics” in literature. The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald Everyone knows...

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On Accessibility and Loving the Book; A Young Poet’s Confession

Posted by on Aug 31, 2015 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

I want to start by saying there are some titles I think are brilliant titles and others I think are silly and/or misguided. I’m currently reading Linda Berry’s “The Lifting Dress” and Noel Crook’s “Salt Moon,” and as I look at both these slim smooth-covered volumes, I am realizing how much I am in love with these books (and their near-perfect titles). My love is not just for the poems they contain and how those words are affecting me, which they are tremendously. My love is for their shape in my hands, their fonts, the paper they have been made from. I bought both in a recent tour of the Northwest, which included stops in dozens of indie bookstores...

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Behind the Words: Ellen Kombiyil

Posted by on Aug 27, 2015 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

Ellen Kombiyil is the author of Histories of the Future Perfect (2015). She is a recent transplant from Bangalore, India, where she lived for nearly eleven years. She is a four-time Pushcart Prize nominee and has read, performed or taught workshops at the annual Prakriti Poetry festival in Chennai, the Raedleaf Poetry Awards in Hyderabad, and Lekhana in Bangalore. She is the co-Founder of The (Great) Indian Poetry Collective, a mentorship-model poetry press, publishing innovated voices from India/Indian diaspora. Originally from Syracuse, New York, and a graduate of the University of Chicago, she now lives in New York City with her husband and two children. In the...

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First Lines Matter: Famous Sentences that Begin Our Favorite Novels

Posted by on Aug 24, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

The first line of your short story, novel, or essay is arguably the most important sentence you will every write throughout the piece. It is just as important, or perhaps even more so, than the last line because it’s what connects the beginning to the end. The first line is important obviously because it is the very first thing anyone will read of this. If it’s your first novel, then it is the first thing anyone will read of your work ever. So, this isn’t something to be taken lightly. Imagine you haven’t eaten a single cupcake in your entire life and then you take your first bite in the most succulent piece of your favorite flavor. That’s your first sentence....

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Behind the Words: Ricky Garni

Posted by on Aug 19, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Ricky Garni’s poem “Bluebirds,” featured in issue 03 of Spry, takes readers down an often contradictory narrative; nonetheless, the speaker’s charm and transparency keeps us hooked. It is wonderful to see that this same charm and openness continues as Garni discusses his writing process, insights in the arts, and upcoming projects.   Laura Bernstein: Talk to me about the revision process of “Bluebirds.” How did it start? What surprised you through the revision process? Ricky Garni: My revision process doesn’t vary too much – like most of my poems, I wrote BLUEBIRDS in the computer as straight prose without line breaks.  I...

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Learning to Write on Accident; I Am the Daughter of my Mother’s Mother’s Mother.

Posted by on Aug 17, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

My mother accidentally taught me how to write poetry. She didn’t do it on purpose, and she didn’t know she was doing it. I didn’t either. Some of the invaluable lessons we receive about what to do with all the words are ones we get in the classroom with our teachers and mentors. Others, we pick up without realizing in places outside the workshop because poetry fundamentally has wormed its way into everything. There is nothing forbidden to the written arts, and so they will embrace all our experiences, even if we don’t realize that’s what’s happening at the time.   When I was about 11, trying to bloom into a Southern Womanhood I understood very little...

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Behind the Words: Erin Cinsey

Posted by on Aug 12, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

What is more thrilling than two Pennsylvania residents discussing poetry? Answer: Two Pennsylvania mothers discussing poetry. If that description doesn’t win you over, Erin Cinsey’s poetry certainly will. Tackling death, gender norms, and grief, “The Denial” was a beautiful and heartbreaking poem featured in issue 02 of Spry Literary Journal. Erin is a graduate of Franklin and Marshall College and currently resides in Pennsylvania with her husband and two sons.   Laura Bernstein: First, talk to me about the revision process of this poem. It is such a short, refined piece, that I wonder if an earlier draft was lengthier.  Erin Cinsey: I was...

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LGBT 20th Century Lit

Posted by on Aug 10, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

As a member of the LGBT community, it is almost taken for granted that I know the forebears of literature for my community. Sadly, though, often lumping all LGBT writers and subjects into one genre means there’s only one place to find any and all LGBT fiction (past and present) in the bookstore. So, I’ve done my research and consider this post an exploration of that section as journey through the 20th century. Maurice – E.M. Forster British author E.M. Forster best known for analyzing the hypocrisy of 20th century England wrote Maurice in 1913-14 after a visit with his friend Edward Carpenter and Carpenter’s lover George Merrill. Forster for his entire life...

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Behind the Words: Lucas Burris

Posted by on Aug 5, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Flash fiction is a venture in extreme brevity, and no writer explores those treacherous depths (or is it shallows?) with greater gusto than Lucas Burris, author of “Blind Little Rain God” from our premiere issue. If you’re a fan of the micro-fiction of Russian surrealist Daniil Kharms or the disconcerting antics of Andy Kaufman then you’ll surely find Lucas as fascinating as I did. Mark-Anthony Lewis: According to your bio, you’ve been a surrealist writer since you were a little kid. What sent you down this path? Who were your early influences? Lucas Burris: It’s just what came naturally at the time. I didn’t really have any...

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The Locomotion Principle

Posted by on Aug 3, 2015 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

We’re so excited to be working with two wonderful and talented interns for the seventh issue of Spry Literary Journal. This post is the second in our series of alternating blog posts from Faith and Preston. Need to get caught up? Check out Faith’s first post here, and Preston’s here.  Post 2 – The Locomotion Principle; Why Won’t My Piece Move? (Or, a partial dictionary for words that start with “m.”) Diligently and daily, I have been working my way through the queue of submissions in our manager, all of whom gleam at me wearily from their positions in line, asking for decisions swift and determined— the guillotine or the magazine, please....

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Art Feature: Transitory Space, Brooklyn, The Bronx and Queens, NYC

Posted by on Jul 31, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Transitory Space, Brooklyn, The Bronx and Queens, NYC by Leah Oates   Leah Oates has a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and is a Fulbright Fellow for study at Edinburgh College of Art in Scotland. Oates has shown in NYC at Pierogi Gallery, Nurture Art, Momenta Art, Associated Gallery, Susan Eley Fine Art, The Central Park Arsenal Gallery and The Center for Book Arts. Oates’ works on paper are in many public collections including the Harvard University Libraries, The Brooklyn Museum Artists’ Book Collection, The Walker Art Center Libraries, The...

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Behind the Words: Erin Hoover

Posted by on Jul 29, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Erin Hoover’s poem “Temp” featured in the first issue of Spry Literary Journal. Jennifer Martelli recently had the opportunity to interview Erin about her writing process and her world as a poet invested in the literary community. They discussed her fascinating, haunting poem that features a car rental shop, a store-bought cake, and cannibals!   Jennifer Martelli: “Temp” is a fascinating poem, chilling in the best way, because it’s set up to be so ordinary, that the weight of the ominous is like “a full-body smack.”  The poem is really two stories:  the speaker’s story and the lady with the grandson.  What is the origin?  What compelled...

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Meet Our Interns: Preston Taylor Stone

Posted by on Jul 27, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

We’re so excited to be working with two wonderful and talented interns for the seventh issue of Spry Literary Journal. For the next few months, you can expect to read alternating blog posts from Faith and Preston on Mondays. This first week, we asked them to take a moment to introduce themselves. We’re sure you’ll love our new teammates just as much as we do. Hello, all! I’m Preston Taylor Stone and I’ll be blogging and interning with Spry in the coming weeks/months. I am an undergraduate student at Clemson University in the small town of Clemson, South Carolina. I’m a double major in Philosophy and English Literature and an aspiring...

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Behind the Words: Kate Alexander-Kirk

Posted by on Jul 22, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

“Reflections on My Parents’ Past” is a fictionalized recounting of the bizarre series of events leading up to the conception, birth and childhood of Kate Alexander-Kirk (well, technically the “narrator”). The story is surreal in the best sense of the word: you won’t have any idea where it’s going, but it will always feel right when it gets there.   Mark-Anthony Lewis: Are your parents really a platypus-mermaid chimera and a recovering-minotaur primordial dwarf? If so, where you ever bullied in school for your nontraditional family? Kate Alexander-Kirk: You have no idea how long I have had to suffer with this unusual fact in...

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Meet Our Interns: Faith Padgett

Posted by on Jul 20, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

We’re so excited to be working with two wonderful and talented interns for the seventh issue of Spry Literary Journal. For the next few months, you can expect to read alternating blog posts from Faith and Preston on Mondays. This first week, we asked them to take a moment to introduce themselves. We’re sure you’ll love our new teammates just as much as we do. PART ONE- Basics: Hey, everybody! My name is Faith Henley Padgett, and I am thrilled to be an intern for Spry for issue 07! I was born and raised in the suburbs of Texas and am currently a Creative Writing and Spanish double major at Oberlin College.  As another way of introduction, I feel I should tell...

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Behind the Words: Robert Morgan Fisher

Posted by on Jul 15, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Robert Morgan Fisher’s fiction “If It Hurts” was featured in the third issue of Spry Literary Journal. We were fortunate to share some of his writing again in the ABCs of Fiction Writing series. We hope you enjoy this interview between Jason Hill and Robert Morgan Fisher as much as we do.   Jason Hill: The blurry line between fiction and creative non-fiction is mentioned a lot these days, how do you see “If It Hurts” in relation to that line and the process of its creation? Robert Morgan Fisher: “If It Hurts” is purely a work of fiction. There are some details family members and friends would probably point to–as...

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Art Feature: La Puerta Azul

Posted by on Jun 30, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

La Puerta Azul by Alyssa Yankwitt   Alyssa Yankwitt is a poet, photographer, teacher, bartender, and earth walker. Her poems and photographs have previously appeared in Fruita Pulp, Gingerbread House, Penwheel.lit, Yellow Chair Review, Metaphor Magazine, Red Paint Hill’s Mother Is a Verb anthology, Houston and Nomadic Voices, Up the Staircase Quarterly, and Stone Highway Review. Alyssa has incurable wanderlust, enjoys drinking whiskey, hates writing about herself in third person, and loves a good disaster Question 1. Tell us more about “La Puerta Azul.” What was it about this particular door that struck...

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Art Feature: The Light

Posted by on May 31, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

The Light by Sabrina Grimes Sabrina is a photographer, writer, and filmmaker who is currently attending the FSU College of Motion Picture Arts. She aspires to enter the film industry as a cinematographer after graduating. Question 1: Your work does a great job of capturing powerful moments and fusing them with life. You mention on your website that you strive to “tell a story through visuals alone.” How does the idea of story factor into your photography? What helps you accomplish this? Story has been an important part of my art for a few years now, especially since I am currently working on my Bachelor’s...

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Behind the Words: Brogan Sullivan

Posted by on May 6, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

We were so excited to accept Brogan Sullivan’s creative nonfiction essay “The Beat Goes On” in our second issue of Spry Literary Journal. The piece is rhythmic and fluid and welcomes the reader into its world. To say I was excited when I had the opportunity to meet Brogan at AWP in 2014 is an understatement. The best part about meeting him was realizing how incredibly awesome he is as a person, not just as a writer. I’m so grateful that we were able to stay in touch, and hope you’ll enjoy this interview as much as I enjoyed doing it. Erin Ollila: This story of a son and father and their relationship to music is so touching. How did...

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Art Feature: Study of Hair

Posted by on Apr 30, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Study of Hair by Jessie Reyna Jessie Reyna received her Bachelor’s in Art History from the University of New Hampshire and currently attends Fairfield University in the M.F.A. in Creative Writing Program studying nonfiction. She has worked as both Nonfiction Editor and Editor-In-Chief for Mason’s Road: A Literary Arts Journal. Her current hobbies include cooking, blogging, training for marathons, and traveling. She lives in Long Beach, California. I’d love to know more about the story behind this piece. What inspired this drawing? The day I drew this piece, my cat had escaped. My boyfriend and I...

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Behind the Words: Carrie Ryan

Posted by on Apr 29, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Lyrical bursts leap off the page in Carrie Ryan’s flash fiction, “Babyfeet.” Here, we discuss music, branching out with new characters, and influential writing.    Laura Bernstein: Between religion, violence, and an unwanted pregnancy, there are quite a few “hot topic” issues in Babyfeet. However, those themes seem to fade in the background, and my main concern is for the speaker’s well-being. How conscious were you about garnering a sense of empathy for the speaker? Was this a speaker you’ve written about before? Carrie Ryan: This definitely wasn’t a person I wrote about before, but I think my main point of the piece was to...

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Behind the Words: Paul Pekin

Posted by on Apr 22, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Paul Pekin’s short story “Bread and Butter” is about a single moment on a single day between two young boys. Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of the language, though – this story will stay with you and make you ponder the impact and influence of the small moments in our lives.   Kelly Morris: One of the commenters on your story said: “I’m still trying to understand how you take the simplest words and the simplest sentences and turn them into settings I can see and people whose hearts I can know.” I know exactly what she meant – you never name the boys, they are simply the dark-eyed one and the tall one. We don’t know the...

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Behind the Words: Catie Joy

Posted by on Apr 15, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

“After the Bombs” by Catie Joy was contributed to Spry’s “Beanstalks” section, which is devoted to essays from those who experienced the Boston Marathon bombings. Catie’s account of the bombing moves far beyond that day; she highlights broader cultural implications and examines the instincts of some to blame entire groups of people for the actions of a few. Catie is an MFA candidate in nonfiction writing at Emerson College, and she is the nonfiction editor for Redivider. Her author website can be found here.   Julia Blake: In “After the Bombs” you state: “The rest of the afternoon was a swirl of cable news, Twitter feeds, and graphic photographs...

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Behind the Words: Sheila Black

Posted by on Apr 8, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Sheila Black is the author of House of Bone and Love/Iraq. A third collection Wen Kroy is forthcoming. She is also co-editor of Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability, an ALA Notable Book for Adults for 2012. She is a 2012 Witter Bynner Fellow from the Library of Congress for which she was selected by Philip Levine. Read her conversation with poet Leigh Anne Hornfeldt below.   Leigh Anne Hornfeldt: Sheila, your poem in the inaugural issue of Spry, ‘First Cigarette,’ is haunting and explores a difficult subject with lines such as ‘…I grasped that it was not smoke only, // but a space inside me, a vacuum that // hungered to be filled. Knew I...

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Behind the Words: James Claffey

Posted by on Apr 1, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

James Claffey’s “White Horse” was featured in Spry’s 3rd issue, and we still remember how excited all of our readers were when we first read it in our submissions manager. Almost immediately, the staff voted yes, suggesting we accept it before another journal got their hands on this great piece of flash fiction. We were lucky when he agreed to interview with our Editorial Reader, Greta Mugge on process and life as a writer.   Greta Mugge: Would you consider “White Horse” fiction or nonfiction? James Claffey: Fiction, totally. The idea behind the piece is a complete fabrication in terms of the cast of characters and the narrative...

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Art Feature: Notebook Drawing

Posted by on Mar 31, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

-Notebook Drawing, Ira Joel Haber 

Ira Joel Haber was born and lives in Brooklyn. He is a sculptor, painter, writer, book dealer, photographer and teacher. His work has been seen in numerous group shows both in the USA and Europe and he has had 9 one-man shows including several retrospectives of his sculpture. His work is in the collections of The Whitney Museum Of American Art, New York University, The Guggenheim Museum, The Hirshhorn Museum & The Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Since 2007, his paintings, drawings, photographs and collages have been published in over 184 on-line and print magazines. He has received three...

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ABCs of Fiction Writing: Onward

Posted by on Mar 28, 2015 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

Dear Readers, Thank you for following along with us in our study of the ABCs of Fiction. From defamiliarization through the lens of cats to tackling the foreboding issue of junction, to waxing, waning, and the construction of a universe, it is our hope that you’ve gained a deeper understanding of yourself as a writer, and how you can continue weaving the delicate threads of your latest fictional tapestries. Writing can be a daunting, sometimes seemingly lonely process—but, as these these writers have shown, you’re not alone, and you have a new set of tools we hope will help you sculpt the story you’re driven to tell. Stay tuned to Briefs as we prepare to share...

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ABC’s of Fiction Writing: Z is for Zeitgeist

Posted by on Mar 27, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Zeitgeist – The Spirit of an Age or the Spirit of a Time or the Spirit of Christmas Whenever that Christmas occurred. The essential core of zeitgeist is that people and thus the art they make are products of the times and social constructs in which they live rather than the other way round.  We emerge from those periods rather than create those periods. As writers, however, we often seek to recreate a period whether it be several hundred years ago or just last week.  We fail in this effort.  One cannot write a Victorian novel because we are not Victorians no matter how many Downton Abby dinner parties we throw.  We can, however, write a novel set in Victorian times...

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ABC’s of Fiction Writing: Y is for You

Posted by on Mar 26, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

In Defense of the Second Person POV Like me, you were probably told by your English teachers to never use you in a story or essay. Maybe you were told the second person POV has no place in creative writing, that it is gimmicky and silly at best, off-putting at its worst, and that writers should stick with either the first or third person.  The second person POV can be silly and gimmicky and off-putting. But it can also be a nuanced and intriguing POV and a vehicle for a humorous or touching story if used correctly. Here are a few compelling reasons in favor of this much maligned and often ignored POV. – It puts your reader on high alert. First person is considered...

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ABC’s of Fiction Writing: X is for X Marks the Plot

Posted by on Mar 25, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

While most kids had play-dates after school, I had a standing appointment every day, from 2 pm until 4 pm with my yiayia. The only thing that would ever interrupt it was an important, late-breaking message from the President of the United States. No exaggeration. My appointment with my grandmother was to watch her two favorite soap operas, One Life to Live and General Hospital, and translate them from English into Greek for her. The challenge was this: English was her second language. Greek was mine. And sometimes I just didn’t have the words in Greek – or a complete understanding of the complex, adult relationships on the show – to tell her what was actually...

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ABC’s of Fiction Writing: W is for Waxing and Waning

Posted by on Mar 24, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

The moon has followed me throughout my life. When I was a child, I’d sit in the backseat of my parents’ car and watch the moon through my window. I’d imagine the man in the moon following us to be sure we got home safely. And yes, even as a young child, I questioned why there was a man in the moon and not a lady. Sometimes, when I’d awaken after falling asleep in the backseat, the moon would be waiting for me as my father or mother lifted me out. My friend, the moon, was always with me, though I never viewed it as an intruder, always a protector. As I grew older, I learned more about the moon and its position in the sky – the lunar phases. When...

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ABC’s of Fiction Writing: V is for Voice

Posted by on Mar 23, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

In his essay “Behind the Mask – Narrative Voice in Fiction,” Chuck Wachtel points out that fiction is the only art form that “asks its experiencer to conceive” a world that is “complex and specific” without leaning on any other medium for assistance (Wachtel 65). There is, he says, “no sound, color, texture . . . no screen, no stage, no sets, no one dancing or singing or enacting life” (65). There is only the voice, which must invite, capture and then enrapture the reader into and through a tour of an invented world. Steven Schwartz, in his essay “Finding a Voice in America,” notes that narrative voice often contains an autobiographical trace of...

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ABC’s of Fiction Writing: U is for Universe

Posted by on Mar 22, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Why do we read fiction? We read fiction because we want to forget about the realities of our own lives — our overdue bills, our tyrannical bosses, our failed relationships, dreams and aspirations. Simply put, we read (and write) fiction to escape. Every work of fiction takes place in it’s own universe. Even those that are historical in nature are never a 100% accurate representation of the actual events, though many are pretty good facsimiles. And then, on the other hand, there are those FICTIONAL universes, that inhabit worlds so far away from our own that they defy logic — the dystopian, Big Brother-dominated Airstrip One from Orwell’s Nineteen...

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ABC’s of Fiction Writing: T is for Triangulation

Posted by on Mar 21, 2015 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

We all long for the convenience of formula. And while it’s true that formula is a good place to start, it’s all too easy for things to devolve into the formulaic. I prefer the word “equation” when it comes to conceptualization in writing. It sounds more mathematic. And yet, adhering too closely to any “equation” of conceptualization can cause a story to grow inorganically and predictably. Not good. We see this kind of GMO storytelling all the time in mediocre movies. Smart conceptualization is all about creating effective trajectory so the story can unfold intelligently and the writer can, to borrow a term from actors, “play discovery.” But this essay is...

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ABC’s of Fiction Writing: S if for Significant Details

Posted by on Mar 20, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Details are the stuff that breathes life into a story. But how do you find the right details? What all can details accomplish? I’m an advocate of choosing details that are not only specific, but also significant. They need to do more than just look pretty; they need to also do some of the work of story-telling. There are three types of significant details I wish to discuss: 1. Details that add depth to the world, helping to define the characters and their surroundings We’ve all heard that it’s better to show than to tell; choosing the right details for your story helps you do that. An easy thing to do is show everything in the character’s world: if you have a...

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ABC’s of Fiction Writing: R is for Reading

Posted by on Mar 19, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

I almost felt silly writing about reading, because, duh, right?  But it’s important enough to write about over and over and over again.  Even though I don’t think craft books are required reading, I also don’t think it’s ever a bad idea to pick one up.  My personal favorites (On Writing by Stephen King, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman, if you were wondering) tend to emphasize the importance of reading. We all know that you need to read to write.  Reading everything you can get your hands on is fundamental to developing a personal style as well as ability.  The only thing more important is sitting down and doing the dang thing. I’ve...

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ABC’s of Fiction Writing: Q is for Quixotic

Posted by on Mar 18, 2015 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

Madrid, Spain. A nine month search by archeologists for the final resting place of Miguel de Cervantes turned up fragments of a battered coffin with the initials “M.C.” spelled out in metal tacks on a piece of wood. Evidence of the final resting place of Spain’s greatest author and creator of the beloved Don Quixote caused a sensation and received international attention. I had no idea that Cervantes was missing. Writing is also a quest for something that is missing.  Your job as a writer is to uncover a narrative, story, or a character that has escaped notice. Which brings us to the title of this piece. The word “quixotic” is derived from Don Quixote...

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ABC’s of Fiction Writing: P is for Persona

Posted by on Mar 17, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Writing involves a series of choices, many of them made before the first word is written. Will this story be told by in first, second or third person? Past or present tense? Do I start at the beginning or in the middle? For the experienced author these decisions are consciously made; for the novice, they may be accidental (“It just came out that way”). But there’s one decision that both beginners and veterans sometimes overlook: how close will I—the writer—come to the red-hot emotional core of the story I’m telling? A story (or poem, or essay) is like the solar system. At its center should be a heat-giving sun—that is, a deep feeling. It might be fear, or...

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ABC’s of Fiction Writing: O is for Obsession

Posted by on Mar 16, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

In a sense, everybody has a private language. –Jasper Johns Every writer is triggered by something deeply personal; it takes possession of you without knocking on the door or giving reasons. It simply is. In my case, I discovered it has something to do with experiencing a particular weather as a child in Italy, in a  small town in the hills near Venice. We waded in and out of a dense fog all Winter. When I walked to school I turned to look over my shoulder after a few blocks, and my house had disappeared. Sometimes my friends ran ahead and faded except for their voices. I was fond of catching up and finding them, like a bat, through a kind of echo-location. They were...

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ABC’s of Fiction Writing: N is for Nonfiction

Posted by on Mar 15, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Before you stop me and put up your hands, I know. I know, you thought this was the ABC’s of Fiction Writing, and here I am, opening with “N is for Nonfiction.” Bear with me. I’ll make it worth your time. My native style is fiction, and frankly, I feel a discomfort with nonfiction. There’s an insistence on honesty and an inability to bend the characters and events to fit what you’re trying to accomplish. I get it. As uncomfortable as this alliance with the enemy is, trust me, when you take that risk and venture into the unknown territory by adding the spice of nonfiction, I know you’ll significantly boost the flavor of your story. The truth of the matter...

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ABC’s of Fiction Writing: M is for Metafiction

Posted by on Mar 14, 2015 in Uncategorized | 3 comments

Let’s talk about metafiction. The term “metafiction” was coined in 1970 to refer to works where the construction of the narrative is part of the narrative itself.  But metafiction arguably began during the Dadaist movement of the early 20th century with practitioners like Felipe Alfau, whose absurdist works echoed the revolt against reason embraced by visual artists. Seriously. If you were sitting right here next to me, first of all, I would totally share my ravioli with you. Secondly, I’d talk exactly like this. Have you read Felipe Alfau? You should. Everyone should. In Alfau’s 1936 book Locos: A Comedy of Gestures, a group of characters wanders in and out...

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ABC’s of Fiction Writing: L is for Longing

Posted by on Mar 13, 2015 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

My best friend Zac has written nonfiction for as long as I’ve known him. Well, that’s not true; he was originally a poet when I first met him in grad school, but some harsh feedback sent him into his true calling with the quickness. Recently, though, he’s decided to put aside his essays and try his hand at fiction. “It’s so much harder,” he lamented one day over Google Chat, while we were both totally not at work. “In nonfiction, you already have the people. In fiction, I have to make up all of these characters from scratch.” They don’t really come from scratch, I told him; it’s more about cobbling than conjuring. My protagonist might have my...

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ABC’s of Fiction Writing: K is for Knot

Posted by on Mar 12, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

de·noue·ment : noun the final part of a play, movie, or narrative in which the strands of the plot are drawn together and matters are explained or resolved. Origin: In French dénouement, literally, means untying, from Middle French desnouement, from desnouer to untie. I’ve chosen to spend many, many hours of my life watching baseball and reading novels – two activities many, many people find incredibly boring. People who find baseball boring say it’s too slow, too long, too uneventful. While some marvel at an epic pitchers’ duel, another whines, “It’s still zero-zero?” Quiet fiction, artful fiction, not-so-genre fiction, I’ve found, as a...

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ABC’s of Fiction Writing: J is for Junctions

Posted by on Mar 11, 2015 in Uncategorized | 2 comments

Juncture, or, avoiding a case of the howevers Oh, the dreaded transition between two sections of writing. It can be daunting. It can be scary. And sometimes, when we writers are stuck staring down a nasty transition, we can be tempted to solve the problem with one magic bullet of a sentence.    This sentence usually begins with “However,” “On the other hand,” or “Meanwhile.” That’s because it’s a holdover from high school English class, when the teacher sent back your essay with a B- and a little red note between the first and second paragraphs: “need transition here.” Don’t do it. Step away from that sentence. Use it and your writing will come...

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ABC’s of Writing: I for Imagery

Posted by on Mar 10, 2015 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

William S. Burroughs said of writing, “Cheat your landlord if you can and must, but do not try to shortchange the Muse. It cannot be done. You can’t fake quality any more than you can fake a good meal.” In the way that frozen meat pales in comparison to grass-fed beef, writing lacking in imagery can’t compete with writing full of lush detail and description. While it may seem obvious, imagery, scene setting, and sensory details are areas where most amateur writers reveal their neophyte status. [1] As an author, it is your job to invent the world of your novel (or short story) for your reader as clearly as you’ve invented it in your head. Consider yourself a...

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ABC’s of Fiction Writing: H is for the Holistic Approach

Posted by on Mar 9, 2015 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

The Holistic Approach:Viewing your Manuscript as a System Whether you are in the beginning stages of planning out a novel or in the thick of writing or revision, taking a step back to view your work in a holistic, comprehensive way can increase the richness and authenticity of the piece.  Since “holistic” means to view something as a system, or as one whole being, instead of disparate parts, what I am about to suggest might initially seem counter-indicated for a holistic approach. To achieve a holistic conceptualization of your manuscript, tease apart the different elements, but do this to see how they each influence the other as a system. Stop to consider what...

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ABC’s of Fiction Writing: G is for Grade School

Posted by on Mar 8, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Kindergarten was one of my happiest times as a child. There were naps, there were Capri Sun juice pouches, there was fingerpainting. In my spare time, I ran around naked on a beach in San Diego, CA fashioning seaweed belts and skirts which I sometimes adorned around my waist. I was planning how I was going to be a mermaid when I grew up. I wrote and directed my own mini-plays mainly based on the Shirley Temple movies I watched over and over. I dressed my poor little brother and his friends in frocks and makeup and choreographed dances they had to perform, which mainly involved kitchen utensils and bouncing around the kitchen to “Can’t Get No Satisfaction.”  My...

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ABC’s of Writing: F is for Fear

Posted by on Mar 7, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Fear: The chill crawling up your skin. The gnawing sensation overtaking your gut. The hesitation to write what may not be received by others the way you imagine in your mind. The paralysis that prevents you from sending your work out, to your peers, to your idols, to the countless literary magazines. Fear is an emotion as common as ambition, desire, and frustration. It plagues not only the neophyte writers who are just beginning their literary journeys, but it seizes the seasoned writers just as frequently, just as fiercely. Whether it manifests itself in the form of self-doubt or inaction, fear is something all writers struggle with. Write when it scares you. When you...

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ABC’s of Fiction Writing: E is for Experiment

Posted by on Mar 6, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Whenever I’m asked who my favorite writer is, I always answer Thomas Pynchon.  Having a relationship with Pynchon’s work can be difficult and frustrating and I never recommend him to other readers because so many people don’t connect with him or outright dislike him.  But for me, nothing can replace or downgrade the sensation I felt after reading Gravity’s Rainbow for the first time in my early twenties.  Page after page astonished me.  I kept asking myself, “You can do this? They will let you get away with that?”  Encountering that book gave me permission to try whatever came to mind with my own writing.  It let me know that changes in structure,...

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ABC’s of Fiction Writing: D is for Dialogue

Posted by on Mar 5, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Within the Speech-Marks The author, unaccustomed to public speaking as he was, gripped the lectern with white-knuckled fists. Cleared his throat. Took a swig of water. Set aside the distraction of imagining the audience naked. Then began: “Today, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls,we’re going to talk about dialogue.”     The author suffered a momentary mental-blank and fumbled for his notes. But suddenly he found he could no longer decipher his own writing. It looked as though a spider had crawled across the page, trailing ink from each of its limbs. “Dialogue in fiction,” he said in desperation, “is a multi-faceted thing.”   It...

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ABC’s of Fiction Writing: C is for Cats (Yes, Cats)

Posted by on Mar 4, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

The Art of Defamiliarization This is how not to draw a cat: a circle for the head, an oval for the body, two triangle ears, a squiggly line tail, four sticks for legs.  In theory, these are the shapes that make up a cat.  If you have seen a cat or a picture of one, you have this knowledge stored away somewhere in your mind and can pull it out like a manual if you want to reconstruct the image.  But when you look at this drawing, do you see a cat?  Does it provide you with an authentic cat experience?  Not really. The following is a scene from the children’s book Black Hearts in Battersea by Joan Aiken: “‘I can’t draw live things!’ snapped Justin. ‘A...

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ABC’s of Fiction Writing: B is for Building a World

Posted by on Mar 3, 2015 in Uncategorized | 7 comments

World-building: it’s a phrase most commonly used when discussing fantasy and science fiction novels, stories so far removed from reality that readers must be guided through these narratives every step of the way. In some cases, the phrase is macrocosmically literal; in science fiction, for example, entire planets are created from the core outward. But the craft of building a world isn’t just for authors dealing in aliens and alternate universes. Even if you’re writing realistic fiction, the world through which your characters move needs to be fully developed, or else you run the risk of miring your readers in poorly-described settings, incomprehensible character...

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ABC’s of Fiction Writing: A is for Attention

Posted by on Mar 2, 2015 in Uncategorized | 3 comments

Years ago I went to SFMOMA and saw the work of Joseph Cornell, maker of strange wonderland boxes. His art was new to me and entrancing: surreal and nostalgic and beautiful. I went to see the show again, and read a couple of books about him. And years after that I wrote a character into my novel Twister who I realized has the spirit of Joseph Cornell: alienated, sexually repressed, and maybe a little creepy, but acutely observant and creative. My character, Scottie, is not overtly Cornell in any way you’d recognize. He doesn’t make shadow boxes in his mother’s basement in Flushing. But Cornell’s fictionalized spirit is there. Although I didn’t consciously...

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ABC’s of Fiction Writing: The Beginning

Posted by on Mar 1, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Dear Readers, In 2014, Linsey and I decided to create the ABC’s of Writing – a mini-series that we would publish between issues. We were so pleased with the response we received to this series that we decided to continue it, each time taking on a new genre or perspective. Tomorrow we will begin our second installment of the series: The ABC’s of Fiction Writing. We’ve asked 26 writers from our personal writing community to share with you a lesson they’ve learned based on a letter of the alphabet. We’ll start with A and make our way to Z over the next few weeks. What’s better than immersing yourself in the world of fiction? These writers dedicated a...

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Art Feature: Float

Posted by on Jan 31, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Float by Grace Antic Grace Antic is a Chicago-based Contemporary artist whose work deals with the restrained expression of deeply felt/experienced emotions often depicted through figures in solitude. Recognizably influenced by Asian Art, Antic’s work exhibits expressionistic use of color as well as linear figures. Much of her work is inspired by music and fashion as well as Pop Surrealism and Contemporary Art. Growing up in a family of creative thinkers, Antic has crafted her own individual style rooted in what she knows to be her innate drive—to create. Question 1: You mention that you’ve grown up in...

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Behind the Words: Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach

Posted by on Nov 7, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

When Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach’s poem, “The End of Daylight Savings,” was submitted for the second issue of Spry, we knew we had something remarkable on our hands. This haunting piece, the fingers of which adeptly grabbed at those near-nostalgic threads of the heart, remained in the minds of our readers for days upon days. There was no denying our need to share it with the world. It is our honor to share with you that Julia’s manuscript, The Bear Who Ate the Stars, is the winner of the 2014 Split Lip Uppercut Chapbook Awards. We asked her to share her insights on the art of poetry and her life as a poet. Her thoughtful, evocative answers are sure...

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Behind the Words: Alan Shaw

Posted by on Oct 31, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Alan Shaw was published in the first issue of Spry Literary Journal. His creative nonfiction essay, Sex for the Recently Divorced, is the post with the most incoming search traffic here at Spry Literary Journal. Can you guess why? We love the story, and are grateful he took time to talk with us. Justin Townsend: Tell me first about the origination of this piece. What made you write about this heavy, common theme in our modern society? Where did the muse come from? Was it a personal story, or a friend’s, or just something you wanted to write about? Alan Shaw: Well, the piece comes from being recently divorced. I wrote it the summer following my divorce, fresh off...

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Behind the Words: Saeide Mirzaei

Posted by on Oct 24, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

The decision to accept “The Joy of Peeling” came almost instantaneously, and if you’ve ever worked for a literary journal, you’ll understand how rare that is. Saeide Mirzaei writes this flash piece with such grace that the reader is immersed in the moment, as if the memory is a glimpse into your own past, not the narrators. We were so honored to find out “The Joy of Peeling” was a finalist for the 2013 Best of the Net awards. We couldn’t be more proud of this writer we published in our first issue.    Erin: First, I’d like to congratulate you on being a finalist in the 2013 Best of the Net Fiction genre. We loved...

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Behind the Words: Lois Marie Harrod

Posted by on Oct 17, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Lois Marie Harrod graced the second issue of Spry Literary Journal with her story “Chessboard & Newspaper.” She kindly agreed to talk to Spry contributor, Justin Townsend about her writing process. Enjoy! Justin Townsend: It is impossible to read your short story “Chessboard & Newspaper” without seeing the poetic nature deeply rooted within. For me, I held onto every word in the most engaging, attentive way; I didn’t want to miss anything. Afterwards, I told myself to bookmark, favorite, and write post-its to remind myself to come back to it again. As a writer, was writing a short story poetically something you find naturally...

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2014 Best of the Net Nominations

Posted by on Oct 14, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

We are so proud to announce our 2014 Best of the Net Nominations! Has anyone ever asked you to choose which one of your children were your favorite? Impossible, am I right? When we have to decide who we should nominate for awards, we feel as if we have to make just as hard of a decision. We already love everything we published, or we wouldn’t have accepted it in the first place! But alas, sometimes we must all make difficult decisions. We queried our staff members. We printed out pictures and did a line-up of contributors American-Idol style, and when all was said and done, we narrowed our selection down to two creative nonfiction essays, two short stories (one...

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ABCs of Writing (for Beginners)

Posted by on Oct 12, 2014 in Uncategorized | 2 comments

ABCs of Writing (for Beginners)

Dear Reader, There’s something about beginnings that are intimidating. Maybe it’s the fear that whatever we’ve set out to do will fall flat, or be less than perfect. Maybe it’s that gut-wrenching dread that makes us feel as though something we’re excited and passionate about won’t connect with those around us. And maybe it’s loneliness—that notion of going into the unknown without the hand of a friend, soul mate or loved one to hold and to guide us. Apprehension. The fear of the dark. One of the many things I learned in reading the labors of love that each of our contributing writers put forth in this series was that beginnings are anything but lonely....

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ABC’s of Writing (for Beginners): Z for Zzzzz

Posted by on Oct 11, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Give Your Brain a Break! As much as we’d all love to write the next great American novel in a single sitting, that’s not a realistic goal. You’ve probably discovered that your brain (and your sanity) can only last through so many genius sentences. When you hit that breaking point, stop! Better yet, stop before you get there. We should treat our brains like muscles. Bodybuilders don’t do a bajillion reps with no rest; they work out in sets to get the most out of each exercise. Sometimes they even (gasp!) take a day off. They break down their muscles through hard work, then rest to allow them to build back stronger. Bodybuilders also don’t spend all day...

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ABC’s of Writing (for Beginners): Y for You

Posted by on Oct 10, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

The trouble with “Y” when discussing the literary arts is that it doesn’t have an obvious correlation to any particular element of writing. “A” can be for active voice, while “E” might suggest environment, and “S” is almost certainly for setting. But what does “Y” have to do with writing? The first answer I came up with was the easy way out: just make it “Y?” with a question mark. Like, why write? Why bother? It wasn’t a bad solution. “Y?” not only asks a broad, subjective question, but it looks hip by social media standards, and isn’t that all that anybody cares about these days? There are, however, two problems with this idea. The...

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ABC’s of Writing (for Beginners): X is for Xyq

Posted by on Oct 9, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

In old dictionaries you may find the now obsolete word, xyq (pronounced “zik”)—a noun that meant “1. a person or thing included in a group only as a necessary measure to attain some form of completeness 2. a rare though often essential thing unable to exhibit its true uniqueness.” Xyq had a vogue in the Victorian era but eventually fell out of use by the 20th century having been replaced in common speech by synonyms like token which never really captured its depth of meaning. Though you may never have had a word for it, all writers face struggles adapting xyq into their work. Let me explain: Xyq Are Necessary to Attain Completeness Complete is a...

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ABC’s of Writing (for Beginners): W for Words, Words, Words

Posted by on Oct 8, 2014 in Uncategorized | 4 comments

Gates and Alleys (Words, Words, Words) The leprous distilment, whose effect Holds such an enmity with blood of man That swift as quicksilver it courses through The natural gates and alleys of the body. The Ghost, Hamlet Words are poison, a kind of leprous distilment. They hover above my ear’s porches as I sleep in the orchard. I haven’t thought about them like that—the fall from Claudius’s vial to Hamlet Sr.’s ear the moment they gain their vigorous power—until just now, the effects quicksilver quick. And that’s my point. I’m no quick thinker—that is to say, not fast on my feet, my tongue rather dull in the moment. Honestly, I’m downright slow...

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ABC’s of Writing (for Beginners): V for Voice

Posted by on Oct 7, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Let Your Character’s Voice Be Heard Imagine the voice of Jay Gatsby. Now imagine Nick Carraway’s voice. How about Daisy Buchanan? A natural way for the writer to show the reader part of who the character is, is by using voice. Each of the three above characters sounds unique and unlike each other. We know Daisy isn’t completely stupid, but her aloof and airy way of speaking tells us a lot about how she wants to be perceived. Both men, Nick and Gatsby still sound different, with Nick’s serious and story-telling speech and the hint of hopefulness always present in Gatsby’s voice. By choosing the words and phrases, thus the voice, that your characters use,...

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ABC’s of Writing (for Beginners): U is for Undercurrents

Posted by on Oct 6, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

We were stuck in traffic. It was hot. When it wasn’t hot, it was because it was fucking hot. My girlfriend held the steering wheel loosely and stared at the car in front of her with the concentration of a failed telekinetic. She tried to move the vehicles out of her way with mental power. Her eyes bulged with red veined determination but… nothing. We sat on a bridge over a khlong on a summer day in marshy Bangkok. The water in the canal was stagnant. Nothing was moving in the brown water besides a few floating lilies and plastic bottles. The wide green leaves and the empty coke bottles drifted down the waterway that extended out from the north and winded its way...

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ABC’s of Writing (for Beginners): T is for Tension

Posted by on Oct 5, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Tension: Building it, Escalating it, Resolving it My biggest challenge as a writer is that I hate tension in real life. I’m a conflict-avoider. I’ve had to work really hard to counteract this tendency in my professional and personal life. So it makes sense that I’ve had to fight my conflict-avoidance in my writing, too. When one of my MFA mentors, Hollis Seamon, read the early half-draft of my novel, she said very kindly, “There’s not very much happening.” She explained how she thinks about developing tension in a novel. The word denouement, she said, means “unknotting.” Which means: everything that comes before the denouement (i.e., the whole novel)...

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ABC’s of Writing (for Beginners): S for Sentence (With a Soul of It’s Own)

Posted by on Oct 4, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

I obsess over sentences. This obsession might seem like the most obvious preoccupation for a fiction writer: sentences are, after all, the building blocks of short stories and novels. But I’ve found, as I’ve grown as a writer, that workshop groups and reviewers seem to take well-formed sentences for granted; in graduate school, there was a baseline assumption that everyone’s prose was competent, and the bulk of critiques were directed at pacing and characterization and the use of exposition. If a sentence stood out as a particularly lovely example of the form, it might warrant a brief mention, but for the most part, the focus was elsewhere. (In fact, the last...

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ABC’s of Writing (for Beginners): R for Revision

Posted by on Oct 3, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Full Disclosure: This text has been revised one time twice three times. There’s almost nothing better than typing the words “The End” on a first draft. It’s a triumph and we, rightly, revel in it. Within moments, though—sometimes even before we finish up the happy dance—most of us realize that “The End” is an illusion and its real significance is that we can now start revising. “Huzzah,” I say. “Now the real work can begin.” That’s hyperbole by intent; I’m well aware that completing a first draft is real work. And let me just say right here and now: I resent the process of revision as much...

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ABC’s of Writing (for Beginners): Q is for Query

Posted by on Oct 2, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

The word “query” is defined as a question or request. This seems to me a most fitting way to think about the query letter, where you’re asking “Do you want to read/represent/publish my work?” The query letter is many things. It’s an introduction to your manuscript, and also to you as an author. It’s also a sales pitch. And, more than any of that, I’ve found in writing and revising my own query letters, that it’s an opportunity to make an impression, use our gifts as writers to craft something that speaks to who we are and what it is we do in our own writing. The query letter is, or can be, wholly stylistically yours to make what you will of it, to send...

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ABC’s of Writing (for Beginners): P for Perspective

Posted by on Oct 1, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

There is a story told about the poet Rilke. In 1902, he was in Paris working with the sculptor Rodin. Up until this time, Rilke had been writing poetry in a receptive mode, courting inspiration, but he admired Rodin’s craftsman-like approach to the making of art. Rodin had spent years earning a living carving ornamentation for buildings. Even as a full-time artist he didn’t wait around for inspiration to arrive. He worked and made things. So, when Rilke became restless and blocked, he went to Rodin for advice. To his surprise, the sculptor didn’t tell him to either chase inspiration or barrel through his discomfort. He advised Rilke to go to the zoo and choose an...

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ABC’s of Writing (for Beginners): O is for On-Ramping

Posted by on Sep 30, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

BANG! SWOOSH! POW! No, this isn’t a novelization of the Adam West Batman (though maybe that will be my next project). This is me lamenting the fact that I’m not writing all about onomatopoeia for you; but even if I included as many examples as I could think of, I still don’t think I could write 1,000 words on the delectably auditory subject. Let alone 1,000 words that would actually be useful to anyone outside the comic-based-tv-show-novelization crowd. So I’m left to write about some other aspect of writing that starts with the letter-O. I could talk about odes, but that doesn’t really help the prose crowd much. I could write about apostrophe, but O! Cruel...

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ABC’s of Writing (for Beginners): N for the Novelty of Novel-Writing

Posted by on Sep 29, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

So you’ve finally admitted you’re a writer—huzzah! And now you’re ready to sit down and write the novel that’s been percolating in your head the last few weeks/months/years/. Don’t listen to the naysayers who say you should write short stories before writing a novel. One of my writer friends likes to compare writing a novel to being in a committed relationship. As long as you’re ready to be there for your characters through good times and bad, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t write what you want. So here are a few things to keep in mind. Outline. You should definitely outline so you know where your story is going. Unless outlining makes you feel as...

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ABC’s of Writing (for Beginners): M for Mundane

Posted by on Sep 28, 2014 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

So your story is going along, and then suddenly 1 your character needs to participate in some extraordinarily ordinary activity, or interact with some object always taken for granted, and you hate to just say it how it is because that would be boring, but you can’t think of a different way to tackle the issue. If you’re writing a story that takes place in a modern setting, this probably happens all the damn time, and if you’re a realist, it’s likely that every damn thing your character interacts with is ordinary, and therefore mundane, and you therefore run the risk of potentially being really boring all the time, and that’s not what you 2...

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ABC’s of Writing (for Beginners): L is for Listen

Posted by on Sep 27, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

The single best advice for any writer, at any stage, is to write. But then the question becomes, what does a writer do when she’s not writing? If your answer is, eat sourdough pretzels while watching a shameful amount of TV shows on Netflix and crushing digital candies on Facebook, then perhaps the better question is: what should a writer be doing when she’s not writing? For any lazy or procrastination-prone writer like myself, the answer should make you rejoice. It involves minimal physical effort, but engages your mind and intellect. And most importantly, it can – and should – generate a lot of writing material, whether you’re a poet, a novelist, memoirist or...

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ABC’s of Writing (for Beginners):K is for Kickstart

Posted by on Sep 26, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

“Kickstart”:Kickstart Your Character, Breathe Life Into Your Work-in-Progress & Bust Through Writers Block!   Writer’s Block These are two words that make anyone who has ever sat for hours in front of a blank screen tremble in fear, cringe in horror, or breathe out a knowing sigh on behalf of the writer who is afflicted with “The Curse.” We could (literally, not hyperbolically) spend hours talking about what writer’s block is, where it comes from, why we get it—but the reasons for it don’t matter to you, when you’re in the midst of it. And for some people, writer’s block doesn’t just mean the hours sitting in front of a blank page,...

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ABC’s of Writing: J for Juxtaposition

Posted by on Sep 25, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Juxtaposition is a tool of both contrast and comparison. The definition of the term is to place two elements side by side, often meaning things that wouldn’t typically be paired together. When a writer places unexpected descriptors side by side, it adds depth to the imagery. Juxtaposition adds a unique slant to your voice; each person draws parallels and contradictions in their own way. When and how can you use juxtaposition? Character Adding juxtaposing traits to your characters makes them more believable and dynamic. When creating character, you always want to avoid clichés and stereotypes, and this writing tool can be used to break the mold. Let’s look at some...

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ABC’s of Writing (for Beginners): I for Inspiration

Posted by on Sep 24, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Search for the reason that bids you write; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest places of your heart . . . –Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet Inspiration: The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative; the drawing in of breath; inhalation; from the Middle English for ‘divine guidance.’ One of the first pieces of advice we often receive as students of writing is not to wait around for inspiration; not to expect that a muse will sing down especially-tailored verses to us from Mount Parnassus; that writers write—that being a writer means putting ass in chair, and pen to paper...

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ABC’s of Writing (for Beginners): H for Honesty

Posted by on Sep 23, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

There seems no better place than an essay about honesty in writing to admit the sad fact that the reason I’m a poet is a simple one: I’m a coward. I don’t mean to be. I wish I had enough pluck and courage to tackle a memoir but such nakedness sends my anxiety over the edge. Now, dear fellow poets, before you come at me with rusty pitchforks or vitriolic response letters, let me say, so many poets I know are brave souls doing the good, hard work of revelation. I applaud them. I cheer for them & root for them & envy them. Meanwhile, I’m trying to write my failures & fears & faults of loved ones (dear God, especially the faults loved ones) into some...

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ABC’s of Writing (for Beginners): G for Generalization

Posted by on Sep 22, 2014 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

Poetry is a very peculiar kind of magic. It is built, as so many beautiful things are, out of contradictions. In poems, we make meaning of the seemingly insignificant, time shortens and alternately stretches, the past is alive, and memory crisper and clearer on paper than it could ever be in our own heads. Magic. But there’s something all beginning (and sometimes not-so-beginning) poets do because of said contradictions, something I would categorize as an understandable error in judgment—they generalize what they’re trying to say in an attempt to write something that their readers can connect with. They take what they want to write about and hammer out the details...

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ABC’s of Writing (for Beginners): F for First Drafts

Posted by on Sep 21, 2014 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

Tell me if this sounds familiar: You come home after a long day, handle whatever household chores need handling, and excitedly sit down at your computer to write. Adrenaline pumping, mind racing, you’re certain that person, incident, or image you encountered on your way to/from the office is the perfect inspiration for a great story. And so, you write for a while – maybe you forget to do that thing for work, maybe you forget to eat dinner, maybe you look at the clock and realize you need to wake up in three hours. Doesn’t matter. What you’ve written, pure gold. The next day, you come home, handle whatever household chores need handling, and excitedly sit down to...

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ABC’s of Writing (for Beginners): E for Ekphrasis

Posted by on Sep 20, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Simply stated, ekphrastic work is a written response to another form of art. A painting inspires a novel. A photograph inspires a poem. A piece of sculpture inspires flash fiction. It creates a kind of indirect dialogue, in a way, in which one artist honors another’s work with a fresh, creative response. So, let’s get started. Step One. Go to a museum. Yes, there are other ways to begin, but please trust me on this one. Start here. You can expand later. So – go to a museum. Do not take a guided tour. Wander. Oh – quick legal caveat – wander, but NOT into places that will get you the attention of the guards, resulting in your immediate...

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ABC’s of Writing (for Beginners): D is for Description

Posted by on Sep 19, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

What does “description” mean for writers? Description can be thought of as added flavor to an otherwise bland piece. In the greater story, description helps to further characterization, setting, and mood. The use of description whether in its broadest and most verbose sense or in its most controlled, deliberate, and sparse application has the same goal–to create a seamless reading experience for the audience–a world in which your reader can immerse themselves. So, how do we utilize description in an effective and deliberate manner? We start by taking simplistic sentences in our stories, poems, novels, and essays and fleshing them out. We push our words by...

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ABC’s of Writing (for Beginners): C is for Character

Posted by on Sep 18, 2014 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

An old creative writing teacher once told me over dinner that character was the soul of a piece of writing. Without characters, she said, writing was nothing but a voice in a void, words in the ether. She said it’s a writer’s job to give the reader a character they can cling to, a handle onto which they can grasp and be pulled in to the narrative, a guide for them through this foreign land. In every genre, fiction, poetry (especially narrative poems) and non-fiction, characters are the momentum which moves the story forward. Literary writing, after all, is defined as character driven, instead of plot driven. For readers, characters are hugely important, as they...

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ABC’s of Writing (for Beginners): B for Balls Out

Posted by on Sep 17, 2014 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

I wrote something for this. It was just about finished. I was just going to do some tweaking. Then I deleted it. It wasn’t balls out enough. It was forced. It was unclear. It was shit. I feel like you and I are close enough that I can level with you… I am in a little bit of a writing slump. Partially my own fault for neglecting those muscles. Partially the fault of the universe for keeping me so busy this summer. And partially the fault of genetics for making me so goddamn charming and fun to be around. So here’s the thing, the best writing I’ve done in months is an email I sent to a lovely woman. It was passionate. It was heartfelt. It was...

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ABC’s of Writing (for Beginners): A for Ambition

Posted by on Sep 16, 2014 in Uncategorized | 4 comments

Writers spend hours discussing craft; we talk about struggling with writers’ block, making time to write, and making a living while writing (but not necessarily making a living as writers). We can discuss every element of the process, down to what types of pens we like to use, but few of us can speak openly about our ambition. Not goals, not daily word counts, ambition. Why can’t we talk about our desire to be successful both financially and artistically? Maybe we think we’re not allowed to talk about it. Maybe we think we’re supposed to be super sensitive literary types focused on the satisfaction we get from making art and being part of a community of artists....

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ABC’s of Writing (for Beginners)

Posted by on Sep 15, 2014 in Uncategorized | 2 comments

Dear Readers, When I first started writing, I thought I knew what I was doing. I’d jot down a story or poem (I hadn’t yet realized how much I loved creative nonfiction) sometimes finishing it quickly, other times agonizing over what was important to share, but almost always believing my writing was complete after the first draft. After realizing that I was in fact a beginning writer and not a professional, which is another story for another day, I wasn’t sure how to proceed. I knew there was so much to learn, but how? It wasn’t as if I could Google how to be a better writer. Well, that isn’t true. You can Google how to be a better writer,...

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Behind the Words: Donna Vorreyer

Posted by on Aug 28, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Donna Vorreyer’s poem “Scientific,” uses prose language to talk about love from a more logical standpoint than Emily Densten was used to seeing in poetry, which immediately drew her into the short piece. Emily talked with Donna about the poem, genre, and her writing in general. We were so lucky to have both of these incredible writers on the staff for Spry’s fifth issue. Thank you, Donna for allowing us to interview you!     Your prose poem, “Scientific,” shows a girl exploring love in a way we don’t normally see in poems.  Instead of “comparing thee to a summer’s day,” she is solving equations and using logic.  Was this an intentional...

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Behind the Words: Leigh Anne Hornfeldt

Posted by on Aug 22, 2014 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

Leigh Anne Hornfeldt is an accomplished poet, whose melodic style has graced several publications, including the inaugural issue of Spry. Her poem, “Strays,” is an incredibly imagistic and layered work that displays her depth as both a poet and a human being. Leigh Anne also runs Two of Cups Press and brings this distinctive perspective to her editorial work as well. We hope you’ll enjoy her incredibly insightful interview as much as we did.    Stephanie: Your poem “Strays,” published in the first issue of Spry, is so heavily imagistic and visceral. Do you have a process in how you channel those images or does it come in a more organic way? Leigh...

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Meet Our Staff: Tony Perri

Posted by on Aug 18, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Tony Perri is a serious writer and editor. He cares about the craft, and takes submission reading very seriously. Erin and Linsey were fortunate to get to know Tony through the Fairfield University  MFA program, and couldn’t ask for a more dedicated team member. Since Tony is only on staff for Issue #5, we are going to appreciate him for the days we have left with him.   Spry: Tell us about where you are from. Tony: I’m originally from North Jersey, but feel like I was born in Connecticut because that was where I was when I first accepted I was a natural writer.   What was your favorite childhood story and why? “The Emperor’s New...

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Behind the Words: Bill Riley

Posted by on Aug 15, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Editing “Welcome Home, Kakuda” with Bill Riley was fun. Interviewing Bill Riley for this post was fun. If you want my honest opinion, I’m pretty sure that Bill Riley is fun all of the time. One of the thing I enjoy most about talking with Bill is that he seems to have really great insight to his writing. He understands how the greater world can influence the “I” in an essay. While at the same time, his narrator is deep and thoughtful. While his essay is personalized to a single boy’s experience in the 1990’s, he brings us to a level of adolescence that in some ways we can all understand and appreciate.    Erin...

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Writing As A Collaborative Process

Posted by on Aug 13, 2014 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

“Writing is a lonely job. Even if a writer socializes regularly, when he gets down to the real business of his life, it is he and his type writer or word processor. No one else is or can be involved in the matter.”         – Isaac Asimov, I, Asimov: A Memoir      I find some truth in the notion that writing is a solitary act—an intimate experience the writer shares with her notebook, pen and paper, or keyboard. And it can be lonely. I’ve experienced the occasional moments where, like a grounded child, I look out the window at the other kids in the midst of a game and wish, just for a second, that I was out there playing too....

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Behind the Words: Wei He

Posted by on Aug 8, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Wei He is in the beginning of a long, successful, bilingual writing career. After accepting her short fiction story “You Are the City” for the first issue of Spry, we were shocked to find out that it was her first English publication. You’d think she spoke and wrote English her entire life with the way her words preformed a melody on the page. Her short story was so lyrical and well written, and Spry was honored to be the home for this story. Wei He was kind enough to speak with Erin about the story, her process, and current aspirations.   Erin Ollila: H, the narrator of “You are the City” considers the world (specifically the city)...

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Behind the Words: Chels Knorr

Posted by on Aug 1, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Chels Knorr is an editor, a writer, a student, and a soon-to-be MFA graduate. She came to Spry in our third issue with her lovely creative nonfiction essay, “Navigating the Margin,” a piece that dealt with big themes like figuring out roles in a new marriage and finding–and giving away a pet–all in the same day. If you haven’t read it yet, head over to read it now and then come back here! She prefers writing short creative nonfiction, but don’t let the length fool you. Her essays are lively and full of emotions.    Erin Ollila: Navigating the Margin” is a very short essay. Coming in at just over 1,000 words, it could...

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Behind the Words: Michael Sarnowski

Posted by on Jul 25, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

The aspect of “New Religion” that I am most enamored with is Michael Sarnowski’s ability to describe something without naming or placing it explicitly. My curiosity as a fellow writer left me craving answers about the poem’s intentions. Sarnowksi’s craft for layering dimensions so thoughtfully and in such a provoking tone makes for a worthwhile read; and interview.     Amanda: Were you raised in a religious home? How does that affect your work? Michael: Religion was a part of my upbringing, yes, and although I distanced myself from the church and any affiliation as a teenager, it has remained fertile ground for content in my writing. Generally...

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Six-Word Stories for Hemingway’s Birthday

Posted by on Jul 21, 2014 in Uncategorized | 10 comments

Legend has it that one afternoon while lunching with friends at a New York café, Ernest Hemingway was bet he couldn’t write a novel in under 6 words. As each of his writer friends entered the pot, Hemingway took a sip of his drink, replied, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn,” and collected his winnings. Though some attribute the story’s creation to a bar bet, others refer to a magazine challenge, and still others claim the story is older than Hemingway himself. In the introduction to A Moveable Feast, Hemingway writes, “If the reader prefers, this book may be regarded as fiction. But there is always the chance that such a book of fiction...

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Behind the Words: Iris Graville

Posted by on Jul 18, 2014 in Uncategorized | 2 comments

Iris Graville is about to graduate from the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts, though you’d never know it if you read her writing; you’d think she were teaching in the program instead of learning. Her words flow naturally on the page (or the screen such as the case of her essay, “Cycles” which we published in our second issue), and even with such a small word count, she leads the words with patience and an unwavering sense of self. We were so pleased when she agreed to interview with us, and think you’ll really enjoy what she has to say.   Erin: “Cycles,” an extremely short creative nonfiction essay, examines the life...

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Take Your Poet to Work Day!

Posted by on Jul 16, 2014 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

Looking for a little something to get you over the hump of the week? Well, we have some great news for you. It’s July 16, and that means it’s Take Your Poet to Work Day! It’s the day that you can color and cut out one of your favorite poets, thanks to Tweet Speak Poetry, and bring him or her to work with you. It can make for some great adventures. Introduce your boss to both the visage and inspiring works of Langston Hughes, or romance that special someone with one of Neruda’s famous odes. (And while we can’t grant you permission to bring a real-life poet friend to work, that’s something worth considering on its own.) Today, our...

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Meet Our Staff: Stephanie Harper

Posted by on Jul 14, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Stephanie Harper is the type of writer that you want as a friend. She has a very keen editorial eye, an imaginative mind, and a kind heart. She is full of knowledge on the world she lives in, and she loves to learn about the people and places around her. Stephanie is an organized and dedicated writer. She cares deeply about her characters, and creates a world so real, that as a reader, you feel part of the entire experience. In her job as an Editorial Reader for Spry, Stephanie’s attention to detail is what pulls her through the lengthy submission manager. She pays close attention to every single submission assigned to her, and she takes this responsibility...

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Behind the Words: Elizabeth Hilts

Posted by on Jul 11, 2014 in Uncategorized | 4 comments

Elizabeth’s Hilts’s essay, A System of Linear Equations, is a wonderfully quiet piece that dedicates many of its words to exploring the world that she has found herself in; a world with a mother who is “completely out of her mind” and a world where she has to face adult realities. Hilts was nice enough to answer some questions about her writing routine, teaching, and what she’s working on now.    I love your descriptiveness in this piece, especially because it juxtaposes the idea of holding a secret with giving every possible detail of a setting or situation. Did you do that intentionally, or did you find it came more naturally? What a great question....

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Happy Fourth of July!

Posted by on Jul 4, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

It’s been an exciting year for Spry so far. New projects, new jobs, and even a new name (congrats to Mrs. Erin Ollila!) have occupied our editors, and wildly insightful, inspired, hilarious, and heartbreaking pieces have all come through to our staff. Writers and artists, you may not realize it, but you change our lives each day with the work you share. The Fourth of July, in many ways, is a summer Thanksgiving. We spend this time enjoying (hopefully!) long weekends, family, friends, weather—or even just taking time to ourselves. We’re grateful for what our nation has accomplished, and we celebrate and honor one another’s creations and accomplishments...

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Art Feature: none

Posted by on Jun 30, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

none by addison Here today, gone tomorrow…. Will wonders ever cease, will wonders ever wonder? We were fortunate to learn more about addison, an artist whose intellect, imagination, and creative insights speak to artists and writers of all media and genres. In this interview, he shared his views on such topics as art, the creative process, and how to determine when a piece is complete. We hope you enjoy spending time with his work, and learning more about the artist behind it. Question: This is an acrylic piece. Is this your preferred medium? If yes, we’d love to know more about why. (If not, can you...

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Behind the Words: Kevin Miller

Posted by on Jun 13, 2014 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

Kevin Miller’s poem “Casey Drops Blue” appeared in the inaugural issue of Spry. Pleasure Boat Studio published his third collection Home & Away: The Old Town Poems in 2009. Recent poems appear or are forthcoming in The Massachusetts Review, Crab Creek Review, and The Museum of Americana. Kevin lives in Tacoma, WA. Recently we were lucky enough to have a conversation with him about his poetry and writing in general.   Leigh Anne:Kevin, tell us a little about who you are outside of your writing self. Kevin: I taught in the public schools of Washington State for thirty-nine years, thirty years as a high school English teacher, four years as an...

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Behind the Words: Amy Sibley

Posted by on Jun 6, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Amy Sibley’s “The Period Calendar,” a creative nonfiction essay from our first issue, is a memorable glimpse at a young girl’s thoughts on getting her menstrual cycle. Amy is both a writer and an editor, and we welcome her to the Behind the Words feature.         The last time we spoke, you were a student at the University of Glasgow. Are you still there? I have completed the MFA now and am headed back to the states. What made you pursue your education abroad? I applied and was accepted to both universities in the states and abroad. There were different reasons for applying to international universities in addition to...

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Art Feature: A Study in Gestures

Posted by on May 31, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

A Study in Gestures by Chrystal Berche Chrystal Berche dabbles, lots, and somewhere in those dabbles blossoms ideas that take shape into images. Many of her current pieces of artwork start out as three minute gesture drawings and eventually get paired with some sort of still life photography and a lot of playing in photoshop. She loves to take pictures, especially out in the woods, where she can sit on a rock or a log and wait quietly, jotting notes for stories until something happens by. A free spirit, Chrystal digs in dirt, dances in rain and chases storms, all at the whims of her muses. What drew you to the use...

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Behind the Words: Gayla Mills

Posted by on May 30, 2014 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

Gayla is the author of “The Last Day”, as well as published features, reviews, and flash fiction, all which can be found atgaylamills.com. Gayla also teaches writing and directs the writing center at Randolph-Macon College. Her essays have appeared in RED OCHRE LiT, Prairie Wolf Press, Skirt!,The Truth about the Fact, Greenwoman, The Stylus, Agenda: The Magazine of Politics and Culture, The Hook, and the Richmond Times Dispatch. Her chapbook of personal essays, Finite,won the RED OCHRE LiT Chapbook contest and was published in April 2012. In addition to writing, Gayla plays stand-up bass in a bluegrass duo with her husband, hikes with her dogs on...

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Behind the Words: Paul Hostovsky

Posted by on May 23, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

After the many interviews I’ve done with creative nonfiction and fiction writers, this is serendipitously my first poetry interview. How does that make you feel? It makes me feel like reading “The Three Princes of Serendip,” or giving Sir Horace Walpole a kiss on the mouth, or giving you a kiss on the mouth.   Do you often go around mouth-kissing strangers? No, never. In my head, all the time.   It doesn’t seem as though poetry needs to identify itself as either fiction or creative nonfiction. In fact, poets could lend themselves to either side, or play in the middle ground taking the best from both. Do you find your writing leaning...

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Behind the Words: Rosanna Staffa

Posted by on May 16, 2014 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

Dante, Archangel Michael, a miscarriage –  all are part of Rosanna Staffa’s flash fiction piece “The Call.” This haunting story balances emotion with intellect, fear with love. It will remind you of the tenderness we feel for ourselves and others when life takes an unexpected turn.     You graduated with an MFA in fiction from Spalding University almost a year ago. Some people feel unmoored after graduation and others feel relieved to not have strict deadlines looming over their heads. Can you relate to either of these? What’s a typical writing day for you? It feels like a continuum to me. I absorbed like a sponge while at Spalding...

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Behind the Words: Emily Densten

Posted by on May 9, 2014 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

When “Fine” was first published, Allie, a reader for the issue, commented that “the writing is deceptively simple–and I think that sometimes, like a shy person, that trait can be misinterpreted. Make no mistake, this piece is elegantly constructed, and straight-forward and honest in its intentions. But it doesn’t yell, doesn’t raise its voice; it simply tells its truth and trusts that the reader will take pause and really listen.” It’s impossible to introduce this piece without reflecting on Allie’s spot-on comment. We are so fortunate to have Emily on Spry’s staff for issue #5, and I’m excited to be the person lucky...

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Behind the Words: Brian Alan Ellis

Posted by on May 2, 2014 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

Brian Alan Ellis is the author of The Mustache He’s Always Wanted but Could Never Grow and 33 Fragments of Sick-Sad Living. His writing has appeared in such publications as Skive, The Single Hound, Zygote in My Coffee, Monkeybicycle, DOGZPLOT, Conte, Sundog Lit, FLARE: The Flagler Review, That Lit Site, Diverse Voices Quarterly, flashquake, Spittoon, Spry, Emerge, NAP, The Next Best Book Blog, and Atticus Review, and was also adapted and performed by the Buntport Theater group in Denver, Colorado. He lives in Tallahassee, Florida, and works at a barbeque slop house. Brian’s short story “Delia Done Wrong” appeared in Issue #2 of Spry.   Samantha: On the...

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Art Feature: April is a Pregnant Cat

Posted by on Apr 30, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

April is a Pregnant Cat April is a pregnant cat, slinking in through the last, lingering shadows cast by March’s final monuments – already etched with winter’s past scratchings.  She adds her own, clawing at the cold surface, trailing new lines through withered vines, marking her scent as she stretches,  up,  a growing belly of blue sky.  Soon — soon — blossoms trail after her, everywhere, like kittens.     Photo: Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, 1996. (c) Heidi St. Jean April is a Pregnant Cat by Heidi St. Jean Heidi St. Jean received her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing/Poetry from...

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Literary Love Letters: Robert Frost

Posted by on Apr 29, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Have I Told You Lately That I Love You? One never forgets a first crush: shy smiles and shaky knees and a desperate yearning to be noticed. My first poetry crush would have to be Robert Frost. Now, judging from photos, you wouldn’t think that old Frost would have what it takes to make a girl weak in the knees. However, his naturally cadenced rhymes and visions of the natural world gave him a special place in my young poet’s heart. I received a book of Frost’s most famous poems illustrated with lush New England photographs as a birthday gift early in my high school years, though I probably first read “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” or “The Road Not...

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Issue #4 Featured Interview: Idiots’Books

Posted by on Apr 28, 2014 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

Zac Zander: Robbi and Matthew of Idiots’Books are funny. I know this because I have read their hilarious books and because of an interview I did with them, which you will soon read. You’d think I was being paid to write these things, but I can assure you, I am not getting paid—that’s how funny I think they are! I don’t even need to get paid to write that they are funny! You know what else they are? Nice. Talented. Creative. Attractive. I’m sure their house smells good. I bet they say hi to their neighbors. You know? Just good people. But, seriously, they are so awesome for answering some questions for me and Spry, and I’m so thankful to Erin and Linsey...

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When It Rains: Hugo’s Love Letters to the Pacific Northwest

Posted by on Apr 25, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

-Amanda Stopa National Poetry month always presents itself as a reminder to return to my roots, and revisit the writer’s works that first introduced me to poetry. After spending all year discovering new writers and investing in the next generation of poets, every Spring I find myself revisiting the work of a select group of Pacific Northwest writers- Theodore Roethke, Carolyn Kizer and Richard Hugo. Particularly, it is Hugo’s regional work, and love of the landscape, that consistently reignites my affection for the craft of poetry, and the place I call home. As a regional poet, Hugo’s work doesn’t just capture landscape, but rather connects with it and even...

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Behind the Words: Katie Darby Mullins

Posted by on Apr 25, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Katie Mullins’ poem “Coming to Terms” explores the collision between the past and the present, more specifically what it’s like to learn that an old friend committed a terrible crime. Word for word, image for image, this poem will make you think about the complexity of friendship and why sometimes it’s the good memories that haunt us the most.     Kelly: So you and I actually know each other outside of our Spry connection–I recently earned an MFA in fiction from Spalding University and you’re a current MFA candidate there. What made you decide to go back to school? Katie: That was part of the reason I was so excited to do this...

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Poem in Your Pocket

Posted by on Apr 24, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Do you know what day it is today? It’s Poem in Your Pocket Day! Starting in 2002, the New York City Departments of Cultural Affairs and Education and the Mayor’s office created Poem in Your Pocket Day to accentuate the city’s National Poetry Month activities. Since then, it has grown and spread nationwide. In 2008, the Academy of American Poets began encouraging  individuals to join and share poetry on a specific day every April. But it doesn’t stop there, as this grew, libraries, schools and other organizations joined forces to spread beautiful words across the United States. And they’ve done incredible things. We applaud Poet.org’s...

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Call for Submissions from our friends at Redivider

Posted by on Apr 23, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

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National Poetry Month Interviews

Posted by on Apr 18, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Hopefully you’ve been enjoying National Poetry Month so far! While the privilege of an entire month dedicated to the art is something we find to be vital, Spry believes that poetry should be celebrated every day. So, in honor of the art, we’d like to present you with some links to interviews with outstanding poets. Some of these interviews have been conducted by Spry staff, and others have been published on the websites of friends of Spry, namely Lunch Ticket and Redivider. Be sure to keep checking Briefs for new poetry interviews that will take place throughout the year, and happy reading! Featured in Spry “I was told in graduate school, over and...

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Boston Marathon 2014

Posted by on Apr 15, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Today marks the passing of one year since the Boston Marathon bombing. Today, Spry holds all those affected by the bombings close to our heart. It will be a difficult day for all, but it will also be a day when we are remember the strength of our runners, their families, our city, our state, and our country. In one week, Boston will be reminded-and transformed-as runners take to the streets for the 118th Boston Marathon. While I’m sure there will be some apprehension, there will be more perseverance and energy than ever before. Regardless of what happened last year, this year–we will run.

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Behind the Words: Erica Dawson

Posted by on Apr 11, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

 In honor of National Poetry month, we would love to share this interview we did with Erica Dawson which was originally published in issue #2. We are huge fans of Erica, and hope you enjoy this as much as we do.   Erica Dawson‘s early love of nursery rhymes, negro spirituals, hymns, and The Babysitters’ Club all lead to her first collection of poems, Big-Eyed Afraid, winner of the 2006 Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize, judged by Mary Jo Salter. Contemporary Poetry Review named the book the “Best Debut” of 2007. Her poems have appeared in Virginia Quarterly Review, Harvard Review, Blackbird, Barrow Street, and other journals. Her poems are anthologized in Best...

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Behind the Words: B.D. Fischer

Posted by on Apr 4, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

B.D. Fischer’s poem “The Tocai Fruiliano Is At 54 Degrees” interweaves sensory impressions, snippets of dialogue, and declarative statements interlaced with self-corrections to create an impression of the mental state of its speaker. The poem begins, “I have a number of discrete personality disorders” and continues its splintered narrative from that place. I had a chance to speak with B.D. about his process, his writing life, and about the poem itself. B.D. Fischer’s novel Slowly But Thoroughly is forthcoming from Strange Days Books.  He can be reached here or via Twitter and is a regular contributor at the politics and culture blog Public (dis)Interest...

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Art Feature: New Skies for Fly-Speck Times

Posted by on Mar 31, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

New Skies for Fly-Speck Times by Stephen Mead A resident of NY, Stephen Mead is a published artist, writer, maker of short collage-films and poetry/music mp3s. Much can be learned of his multi-media work by placing his name in any search engine. His latest project in-progress, a collaborative effort with composer Kevin MacLeod, is entitled “Whispers of Arias”, a two volume download of narrative poems sung to music. His latest Amazon release, “Weightless,” a poetry-art hybrid, is a meditation on mortality and perseverance. 1.  You mention that a theme of your work is the inevitability of...

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Behind the Words: Jenni Nance

Posted by on Mar 28, 2014 in Uncategorized | 2 comments

Jenni Nance is a creative nonfiction MFA candidate at the University of South Florida. She is the recipient of The Knocky Parker Creative Nonfiction Award and nominated for 2014’s AWP Intro Journals Award for Creative Nonfiction. Jenni teaches creative writing at the University of South Florida and with the Dunedin Fine Arts Center. Her poetry and prose have appeared in Mother, Sweet: A Literary Confection and Necessary Fiction.  Spry is lucky to have published two of Jenni’s pieces, “Variations of Numbness” and “Hefty Bag.”   Allison: You’ve published both creative nonfiction and fiction in Spry, but you write poetry, too....

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Behind the Words: Joshua Scott Ricker

Posted by on Mar 21, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Joshua Scott Ricker’s “I’m an Asshole: Marathon Monday” is a bravely written essay that explores regret and fear on the sidelines of the Boston Marathon. He is the author of Hephaestus: A Modren Affair, which can be found on Amazon.       Julia: In “I’m an Asshole: Marathon Monday” you seamlessly shift the tone of your work from frivolity to contrition and concern, which I would suspect captures a slice of many experiences that day—normality followed by its complete toppling. What helped you to decide that this would be the focus of your piece on the Boston Marathon bombings? Joshua: When we made those jokes to the runners about Copley...

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Behind the Words: Amanda Stopa

Posted by on Mar 14, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

The first time I read Amanda Stopa’s “Jeff” in our submissions manager, I was immediately stopped. Jeff, the main character in a flash fiction piece, felt alive. It wasn’t a character sketch or a well-developed character in a story. Jeff jumped through my screen and showed me his world. Amanda has the power to capture the reader’s attention immediately. Her words draw you in and turn you around until your balance is off, but you don’t want to stop spinning. I recently caught up with her to talk about craft and the writing life.   Erin: “Jeff,” coming in at under 700 words, is a flash fiction piece following a twisted...

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WHERE IS SPRY? The Winner is Announced!

Posted by on Mar 7, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

I bet you’ve been wondering about the WHERE IS SPRY? Contest we just recently ran at AWP. (Play along with me if you weren’t wondering about it.) Here’s the thing about AWP and me: I have so much fun and overdose on people and literature and networking and staying up late and waking up early and anything that has to do with the bookfair, so when I get home, I tend to crash. Which I did this year. Now that I’ve successfully made it a few days without talking about anything literary (that’s a joke, it’s issue #4 decision-making time is happening in these neck of the woods), I’m ready to announce the winner of the contest. Before I...

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Behind the Words: Jennifer Crystal

Posted by on Mar 7, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Jennifer Crystal’s “Thank God for Naps,” published in the “Beanstalks” section, illustrates how terror and compassion coexisted on the day of the Boston Marathon bombing. Jennifer is enrolled in Emerson College’s MFA program, and she writes for the websites Lyme Disease and Tick-Borne Disease Alliance. Her website can be found here.       Julia: “Thank God for Naps” pulls the reader fully into your emotional journey the day of the bombing. We feel your uncertainty at first, then the dread and horror. We also experience the comfort that you found with your friends that day—the comfort of food, the comfort of safe harbor, the comfort of...

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More Rejected AWP Panels

Posted by on Mar 4, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

-by Allison Kirk   In the spirit of post-AWP inspiration, we’ve taken a stab at adding a few “Rejected AWP Panels” to this hilarious list from 2012 by Dan Moreau. Panel Etiquette: The Art of Leaving Early 10 Quippy Remarks to Make Yourself Unforgettable at Your Idol’s Book Signing An Introvert’s Guide to the Bookfair Random Conference Almost-Hookups: How to Keep Him/Her as a Literary Contact After Being a Tease Using Your Neuroticism to Build Your Author Platform Literary Crushes: How to Stalk Your Favorite Authors at Conferences   Allison Kirk received her Master of Fine Arts in creative...

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Art Feature: 9

Posted by on Feb 28, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

9 by Ramiro Davaro-Comas Ramiro Davaro-Comas  is an artist and illustrator from Buenos Aires, Argentina, currently living in Brooklyn NY. His work has an underlying narrative that reaches out to its viewers and invites them to create their own story line to the images they are seeing. It is colorful, powerful and thought provoking. Davaro-Comas’ work is influenced by his life travels, the urban art movement, skateboarding culture and the “street life.” His work ranges from small illustrations to large canvases to immense outdoor public works. He has had his work published though different channels and his recent...

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Behind the Words: Conor Bracken

Posted by on Feb 28, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Besides the inaugural issue of Spry, Conor Bracken’s work can be found in Bodega, The Oklahoma Review, Foothill, The Magic Lantern Review, and Lungfull. He received a BA from Virginia Tech, was raised in New England as well as overseas, and is currently an MFA candidate at the University of Houston. Conor’s poems are ethereal, yet relentless in their intensity. Recently we were lucky to spend some time talking with him about his process.   Leigh Anne: Let’s start with the most basic (and therefore maybe most difficult) question: Who are you? Or, what would you like readers to know about you? Conor: Let’s see – I’m a twenty-something living in Texas,...

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Behind the Words: Lee Stoops

Posted by on Feb 21, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Lee Stoops write with an emotional vulnerability that draws all readers–whether or not they’ve experienced a similar situation–in to the world he creates with his words. He is a father, a husband, an editor and a writer. Check out his flash essay “The Only Scars I Choose” here.       Erin: “The Only Scars I Choose” is about the loss of your daughter, Bennett. Did you find it difficult to write about such a huge life event in so few words? Lee: Yes. To date, these words are the only ones I’ve been able to write about losing her. That’s not to say I haven’t tried or that I don’t want to. I’ve wondered what...

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Behind the Words: Janna Vought

Posted by on Feb 14, 2014 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

Janna Vought is a poet, nonfiction, and fiction writer with more than 50 pieces published in various magazines and literary journals. She is an Association of Writing Professionals Intro Journals Project in Poetry nominee for 2013. Her Flash Fiction White T-Shirt was published in Spry Lit #1. Janna plans on attending Prescott College’s PhD program in Sustainable Education this fall.   Rosanna: “Everything in the world began with a yes,” writes Clarice Lispector in The Hour of the Star. What did you say ‘yes’ to when you started this story? Janna: Initially, this story began as a poem, though the material never seemed comfortable in verse form....

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Behind the Words: Travis Baker

Posted by on Feb 7, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Travis Baker was born in South Boston but has lived in Houston, New York City, Orono, and Savannah.  As well as writing short fiction, he enjoys crafting fantasy and plays, and he just completed a novel, Texas Sky.  His play One Blue Tarp was named the best Maine play in the prestigious 2013 Clauder New England Playwrights Competition.  Its world premiere will run from February 1st to February 16th with the Penobscot Theater Company in Bangor.  Baker lives in Maine with his wife and two sons.   Elizabeth: Your piece of flash fiction, “The Other Side of the Bed,” explores, in an evocative and surprising way, an incident between two people.  What...

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Art Feature: Grazing: A Horse’s Perspective

Posted by on Jan 31, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

  Grazing: A Horse’s Perspective by Mary Wlodarski Mary Wlodarski is a lover of all things animal, and lives in Minnesota with her two horses and miniature dachshund.  She completed her MFA from Hamline University in the spring of 2013.  Her current project is a collection of horse poems titled Speak Horse.  She has had poetry published in the St. Paul Almanac, Sleet, Versus Literary Magazine and Shark Reef. Linsey: This is the first time Spry has been able to feature visual art, and we’re so excited to open the feature with “Grazing: A Horse’s Perspective.” What inspired...

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Behind the Words: Elizabeth Cooley

Posted by on Jan 31, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Elizabeth Cooley’s small poem “Genesis” charms the reader with its depiction of creation as child’s play. But there’s much more to this poem than play. Elizabeth was kind enough to answer some questions about this poem and her writing process in general.       Donna: If you’ll pardon the bad pun, what was the “genesis” for this poem? Elizabeth: Sometimes for me, poems run out onto the page and I’ve no idea where they come from. Of course, there are plenty of poems I really have to coax out, but “Genesis” wasn’t one of them. I didn’t immediately think of the Genesis story, but of Earth being a kind...

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Featured Interview: Michelle Disler

Posted by on Jan 27, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Michelle Disler has a Ph.D. in Creative Nonfiction from Ohio University, and teaches creative writing at Grand Valley State University. Her work has appeared in The Laurel Review, The Massachusetts Review, Fact-Simile, Hotel Amerika, Seneca Review, and Columbia among many others. Her first book, [BOND, JAMES]: alphabet, anatomy, [auto]biography, was released by Counterpath Press (2012). Michelle spoke with us about literature and writing—poetry/prose, creative/technical, and that fun space in between. Here’s what she had to say:   Mark-Anthony: From your book [BOND, JAMES] to your shorter poetry and creative nonfiction, a lot of your work experiments with...

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Behind the Words: Krysta Voskowsky

Posted by on Jan 24, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Krysta Voskowsky contributed her essay “When She Closes Her Eyes” to Spry’s “Beanstalks” section, which provided a space for writers to explore their reactions in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing. Krysta’s piece is one that is sure to stay with the reader: it is raw, it is brave, and it is vivid. Krysta is earning her MFA from Emerson College, and she blogs here and also for NoshOn.It. She is currently at work on her memoir.   Julia: “When She Closes Her Eyes” was written following the Boston Marathon bombings and is constructed in such a unique way that with each reread something new is discovered. So much emotional ground is covered in...

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We Are Looking for Art

Posted by on Jan 23, 2014 in Uncategorized | 2 comments

Are you an artist? Do you know creative souls who consider themselves artists? Yes? Wonderful! (No? Go make some artsy friends!) We are so very excited to feature art monthly in Spry Literary Journal beginning in 2014. Every month on our Briefs blog, we will feature art (of various forms), as well as an in-depth interview with the artist. We are very excited for our first features to go live on January 28th and February 28th, so you will be able to view the completely alternative forms of art we have accepted to showcase. But there are still ten months left to the year, so please send us your work. Send us your paintings, your prints. Send us sculptures and mixed media....

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Behind the Words: Laura Bernstein

Posted by on Jan 17, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

With engaging format and a flowing narrative, Laura Bernstein’s essay, Ice-Locked, reflects on the dynamics of mental illness and family. She was kind enough to answer some questions regarding writing about family, her writing style, and how writer’s can benefit from certain craft aspects.   Zac: How do you think the breaks from the essay act in this essay? Did you find that these breaks can be interpreted in many ways? Laura: Almost all of my work is poetry, but this story begged to be creative nonfiction. Begged, I tell you! Mid-revelation that I wanted to dab my toes into another genre, an NPR...

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Behind the Words: Matt Lucas

Posted by on Jan 10, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Matt Lucas is a student, short story writer, and boxer who specializes in muay Thai and enjoys reading escapist literature. He is currently at work on an undergraduate degree in English. His flash piece “The Boxer’s Soliloquy” appears in Issue One of Spry Literary Journal.   Rachael: Between your author photo and the subject of your flash piece “The Boxer’s Soliloquy,” I have to assume that you’re a boxer yourself (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong). What initially drew you to boxing? What drew you to writing? What roles do prose and pugilism play in your...

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Behind the Words: Lauren Kay Halloran

Posted by on Dec 27, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Lauren Kay Halloran’s nonfiction piece Stay was published in the “Beanstalks” section of Spry’s second issue, a portion of the journal created in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing. Lauren’s work highlights the vulnerability that is pervasive following a tragedy, and she masterfully weaves together past events to highlight how emotional reactions are formed in the present. The 2013 winner of Glamour’s personal essay contest, Lauren is earning her MFA in nonfiction at Emerson College and blogs here.   Julia: Your nonfiction piece Stay (included in Spry’s “Beanstalks” section focused on the...

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Behind the Words: Ray Scanlon

Posted by on Dec 20, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

“Simple Pleasures” is a flash fiction piece about, yes, the simple pleasures in life, the ones that come when something irritating—sand in your shoe, an errant eyelash, food stuck in your teeth, etc.—is finally freed. As Ray Scanlon pointed out, we used somewhere around 700 words to describe this 72 word piece. Funny and poignant, this piece deserved every word.   Kelly: I recently read an article about flash fiction by Grant Faulkner, the executive director of National Novel Writing Month. He raised the idea that as writers we are often told in workshops and writing groups that our stories need...

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Behind the Words: Joe Baumann

Posted by on Dec 13, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Joe Baumann’s flash fiction piece “You” explores the negative space that is formed when a person goes missing.  Hope and loss co-exist for the family members left behind, especially whenever an unidentified body is found. Could those remains be your missing mother, your son, your lover? “You” will make you think about the ways we impact others long after we are gone from their lives, and what it means to seek closure for a loved one. Kelly: The title of this piece “You” works on many levels, including a thematic one. Did the title occur to you first, or the story? How...

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Amanda and the Purple Quill

Posted by on Dec 8, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

On this day in 1860 Amanda McKittrick Ros—commonly regarded as the worst writer ever to lay pen to paper—was born, and the literary world would never be the same. Her first novel, Irene Iddesleigh, was published in 1897 by a vanity press and features an indecipherable, Harlequin plot. But it’s her convoluted, adjective-laden sentences filled unnecessary metaphors that have made her of literary humorists contemporary and present. Irene Iddesleigh opens: “Sympathise with me, indeed! Ah, no! Cast your sympathy on the chill waves of troubled waters; fling it on the oases of futurity; dash it against the rock of gossip; or, better still, allow it to remain...

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Behind the Words: Barbara Wanamaker

Posted by on Dec 6, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Barbara Wanamaker graced the first issue of Spry with “Errands,” an observant essay of a woman’s busy day. She was kind enough to answer some questions regarding her craft and what brought her to write this reflective essay.   Zac: In your essay, you approached the content in a more narrative approach. Did you do this intentionally, or did you find that this was how the story came organically? How do you feel your essay would have changed had you executed it differently? Barbara: Errands emerged as a narrative.  I intended to tell this story with a panoramic view and the narrative voice...

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Curses!

Posted by on Dec 3, 2013 in Uncategorized | 3 comments

Occasionally, down at the Spry offices, we’ll receive submissions with flippant use of curse words or sexually-explicit language. We’ve even published some pieces containing these “vulgarities.” Some people think the use of this kind of language shows a lack of subtly and creativity. Think of the beautiful turns of phrase in Lolita that, after a moment’s contemplation, are actually quite disturbing. The shock of vulgarity pales in comparison with the slow burn of subtly. Avoiding obvious and vulgar language and imagery takes artistry and ultimately leaves a stronger impact than lazy vulgar writing. But others say, fuck that. The use of...

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Behind the Words: Michael Dwayne Smith

Posted by on Oct 11, 2013 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

Michael Dwayne Smith proudly owns and operates the English-speaking world’s most mysterious name. His apparitions can be seen at Word Riot, kill author, Monkeybicycle, BLIP, Northville Review, Blue Fifth Review, Orion headless, WhiskeyPaper, Cortland Review, Heavy Feather Review, and other haunts. A recipient of both the Polonsky Prize for fiction and the Hinderaker Prize for poetry, he lives in a desert town with his wife, son, and rescued animals—all of whom talk in their sleep. His flash piece, “Preservation Project,” was published in the first issue of Spry Literary Journal. ...

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Spry Lit’s Inaugural Gala

Posted by on Oct 1, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Well, it’s safe to say we never saw that coming! Sure, we know we have an impassioned, energetic, and altogether brilliant reader base, some very talented friends, and, of course, a host of creatively charged Massachusetts venues at our disposal, but we never would have been able to predict the seamless way in which those things would combine to make our first gala such an incredible event. The evening didn’t start so promising. It began by both editors leaving work later than planned, followed by monster traffic, dinner at a shady pizza place, a complete deficit of parking in the city of Cambridge, violent, rock-throwing children ambushing innocent cars, frightened...

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What Sparked Your Passion for Literature?

Posted by on Sep 25, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

December 31, 1999: The Matrix still had moviegoers reeling from futuristic special effects, the recently discontinued Beanie Babies were selling for hundreds of dollars eBay, and Y2K had the world bracing themselves for the computer apocalypse. This day also happened to be my 11th birthday, and I was more worried about a book report I had due by January 2nd than any computocalypse celebrations. I hated reading, and in my aversion, I left my assignment to be completed at the last moment. Unfortunately, I had no books in my house to read, and I was too afraid of my parents finding out about my delinquency to get a book from anywhere else. Families usually have their own...

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At the Intersection of Art and Commerce

Posted by on Sep 23, 2013 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

-by Christine Hale Generations of writers have arrived at this crossroads. Agents, editors, mentors, or peers sagely instruct them, Keep at least one eye on the market.  Know what sells.  These days that seasoned wisdom comes with a corollary: Do everything you can to build your brand. This is not bad advice.  But it is one-size-fits-all advice.  There are writers, young and not-so-young, who are good at brand-building.  Some of them enjoy doing so.  Those with this sensibility and this talent will build a brand, create saleable product, and may experience commercial success.  Those who don’t build brands, those who can only craft something beautiful or...

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Behind the Words: Christy Scott

Posted by on Sep 13, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Christina Scott is a graduate of the MFA program at Sarah Lawrence College, and now spends her time as an English professor at both Monroe College and The College of New Rochelle. She is currently working on several short stories and a book. You can read her short fiction for free here. Christy’s non-fiction piece “Loss, Faith, Chaos” appeared in issue #1 of Spry.   Sam: Your piece “Loss, Faith, Chaos” is moving and emotionally vulnerable. You portray this feeling of intense loss and sadness powerfully and honestly. This is not the kind of piece you can just read and then go on with your day;...

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I Know It When I See It: Lorca’s Theory and Play of the Duende

Posted by on Sep 10, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

The Duende—What It’s Not: Manfred Mann, “Doo Wah Diddy” Though he has a voice and understands style, Manfred Mann probably didn’t understand the theory and play of Lorca’s duende (which might explain why, though being forerunners of the British Invasion, the band never managed to eclipse The Beatles. The White Album has duende—Quinn the Eskimo, though a great song…not so much.) So what is this ephemeral duende that Lorca believes makes a piece of writing truly spring to life? The duende of writing seems to fall into that category where a person tries to categorize an observable fact, event, or quality, when the thing that they’re...

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Behind the Words: Christine Hale

Posted by on Sep 6, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Christine Hale’s essay, “Milk” is a complex journey. In this small essay—or more appropriately, flash essay—Christine moves her readers through small, quiet scenes that evoke emotions beyond what is written. She has mastered the ability to keep her writing calm but strong, simple but intentional. She was kind enough to answer some questions regarding her craft, her use of symbolism, and what brought her to write this captivating essay.   Zac: What made you decide to go in the direction of a collaged memoir? How do you think that changes the experience for the reader? Do you think there any...

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Practical Creative Writing

Posted by on Sep 2, 2013 in Uncategorized | 3 comments

I’ve been working with Spry for almost a year now, and it’s really starting to hit me what sheer mass of creative talent there is out there. I love reading your submissions (the damn near hundreds of them), and while some of them are weird, some are funny, and some heartbreaking, each submission seems to reserve a special attention for form and craft. At my school, the writing program focuses mostly on the more practical technical and business writing, or journalism (though I’ve certainly got that novel I’ve been workin’ on). But I’m finding that whether it be producing copy, drafting essays, developing user documents, or researching...

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Behind the Words: Angele Ellis

Posted by on Aug 30, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Angele Ellis is the author of Arab on Radar (Six Gallery)–poems from which earned her a 2008 Individual Artist Fellowship from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts–Spared (A Main Street Rag Editors’ Choice Chapbook), and with Marilyn Llewellyn, Dealing With Differences: Taking Action on Class, Race, Gender, and Disability (Corwin Press). She has published widely, including chapters from her novel in progress, “Desert Storms,” and poems from her new chapbook manuscript, “Departing Chameleon.” She lives in Pittsburgh.   There’s a poetic, abstract quality to...

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Disney Princesses, Abusive Relationships, and the Young Adult Novel

Posted by on Aug 26, 2013 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

In most of the young adult novels I’ve read, a romantic man-woman relationship is central to the story. And in nearly every case, the man is dominant and the woman is submissive. This dynamic often plays out subtly—so subtly that it’s hard to identify it or determine where it comes from. In extreme cases of this, you get an abusive relationship. Unfortunately, young adult novels that deal overtly with abuse tend to fall into traps of cliché and archetype. In my experience, they all follow the same formula, which can be broken down thus: Setting: a typical public high school. Protagonist Jane meets Jack. Jack is older—most likely the new, cool kid at school—and...

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Behind the Words: Gail Hosking

Posted by on Aug 23, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Gail Hosking’s essay, “Missing Girl Scout Cookies” was featured in the second issue of Spry. Her essay features common themes of estranged parents and the struggles of childhood, but what she accomplishes in her essay is the portrayal of the emotional and physical hunger one feels. She was kind enough to answer some questions that  accentuate the already wonderfully written essay she has shared with our readers.   Zac: First, I would like to tell you how much I loved your essay. As someone who is also writing about a reclusive mother, I found that you portrayed the mother character in a very neutral...

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Spry’s First-Ever Inaugural Gala!

Posted by on Aug 22, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Come celebrate a year of words with Spry Literary Journal! Join us for readings delivered by our outstanding published authors and poets (including Travis Baker, Gail Hosking, Christy Scott, Elizabeth Hilts, Jenni Nance, Crystal Jarvis, Krysta Voskowsky, and other local [Boston-area based] entertainers,) raffles, and light refreshments. Admission is free (!); small donations will be accepted at the door. When: September 27, 2013, 8-10:30 Where: Out of the Blue, 106 Prospect Street, Cambridge, MA 02139 617-354-5287

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Behind the Words: Michelle Auerbach

Posted by on Aug 16, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Michelle Auerbach’s poems “Eros” and “Psyche” appeared in the second issue of Spry and her novel, The Third Kind of Horse, was released this year by Beatdom Books. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Denver Quarterly, Chelsea Magazine, Bombay Gin, and the literary anthologies The Veil (UC Berkley Press), Uncontained Baksun Books, and You. An Anthology of Essays in the Second Person (Welcome Table Press), among other places. She is the winner of the 2011 Northern Colorado Fiction Prize. She is an editor at Instance Press and can be found here.    How...

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What’s Your Literary Pet Peeve?

Posted by on Aug 12, 2013 in Uncategorized | 7 comments

I have to admit, I hate the word porcelain. I just don’t like it when writers compare skin to porcelain. It is the bane of my existence. It is anathema to me. Use anything else—milky, creamy, half-and-halfy—just don’t call it porcelain. I know it’s not that big of a deal, and used inventively, any word can be turned into something fresh and meaningful. Porcelain is just a pet peeve of mine. I’ve noticed this with others, as well. One of our readers seems to loathe it when poets use the lowercase “I” without reason. I know our editors are constantly fussing over non-blinded submissions (Remove your names please!). So I’m...

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Behind the Words: Jeni McFarland

Posted by on Aug 9, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Jeni McFarland is a Michigander living in Houston, TX with her husband. She received her BA in Creative Writing from the University of Houston in 2011, and will start her MFA in Fiction at the University of Houston in fall 2013. She currently serves as fiction editor for Houston & Nomadic Voices Magazine. Her work has appeared in Forge, Glass Mountain, and on makeblank.com. Jeni’s short story ‘Window’ was featured in Issue #1 of Spry Lit. In this interview she shares her experience writing ‘Window,’ and talks about the balance of color and darkness in story.   Samantha: ‘Window’ radiates a...

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Spry: An Award Winning Journal

Posted by on Aug 8, 2013 in Uncategorized | 6 comments

It was a dark and dreary morning today in Southeastern Massachusetts. One of those mornings  after a long stretch of idyllic summer days, where you wake up to gloom spitting on your window and you think “Welp, that was nice, and now I’m going to live in bed.” But despondency wouldn’t last long for the editors of Spry. At 6:49 AM, Linsey was the first to receive the news that Spry had won second place in the Lit Bridge 2013 Literary Magazine Contest.  At 7:13 AM, Erin was next, though she didn’t quite know at first what was happening. All she saw was an excited email from Linsey full of exclamation points. We invite you to read more about LitBridge, the...

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To Hear Myself, I Listen to You: How Reading for Literary Magazines Informs Writing

Posted by on Aug 5, 2013 in Uncategorized | 6 comments

I’m a true believer. By that, I mean that I believe—fully, wholly, and with an often naïve, reckless abandon—in the transformative power of writing. I believe that writing changes lives. I believe that writing saves lives. I believe that writers are shaped by the world they live in, and in turn, assert their influence back onto that world: reflecting it, synthesizing it, changing it. I believe that writing is a healing experience, for both the author and the reader. I believe that writing matters. As a writer and true believer, I want you to hear me. I started working with literary magazines in high school. That’s when it’s the hardest—you’ve got a clear...

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Behind the Words: Kelly Morris

Posted by on Aug 2, 2013 in Uncategorized | 2 comments

Kelly Morris is a recent transplant to Los Angeles. She is also a current MFA candidate at Spalding University. Her novel Since God Was A Boy was a finalist in the Writers’ League of Texas 2013 manuscript contest. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Spry and Sundog Lit. When she’s not writing, Kelly can be found hanging out with her kids, who remain unconvinced that being a writer is actually a very cool job. Kelly’s short story “You, the Ex, and the Neighbor,” was featured in Issue #2 of Spry. Samantha Eliot Stier, Spry’s contributing writer, had the opportunity to talk to Kelly about this story and what...

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Art Feature: What Flower Can Grow with a Bag over Its Head?

Posted by on Jul 31, 2013 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

What Flower Can Grow with a Bag over Its Head? by Zac Zander Zac Zander lives in Connecticut with his dog, Kaki, who is named after the musician, not the pants. He obtained his MFA from Fairfield University with a concentration in nonfiction. His work appears in Now What? The Creative Writer’s Guide to Success after the MFA, and he is currently working on a collection of essays. Read his collaborative writing blog here. Zac Zander, an inspired, passionate artist and writer, composed the visual text  “What Flower Can Grow with a Bag over its Head,” in response to the violence and discrimination...

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Contributing Writers Wanted

Posted by on Jul 30, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

As we mentioned yesterday, part of the reasons we started Briefs was to create an ongoing conversation in the literary world. We’re excited to continue to share our staff’s thoughts with you–however wild they may be–but we’re a small journal, and we want to share diverse perspectives. So what should we do? Duh, invite our lovely readers to participate! We’d love to add you to our list of contributing writers for Briefs. We can’t wait for you to challenge us, to make us pause, to excite us, and ignite our own creative processes. If you have any great ideas you’d love to share with us, we invite you to pitch us here. If you’re interested but not...

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Welcome

Posted by on Jul 29, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

When we were younger, the length of time between now and the next exciting thing to take place felt like several lifetimes. If a friend’s birthday party was taking place in any amount of time longer than 2 hours, forget it. Might as well be a month. Might as well be an eternity. Successfully passing time was always something of an accomplishment. Now that we’re adults, well, even though the space between exciting things is typically full of reading, writing, working, and whatever else should come up, it’s still hard to wait for exciting things to happen, even though life passes by us at a much faster pace. Finding productive, engaging ways to spend our interim time...

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Behind the Words: Krysta Voskowsky

Posted by on Jan 24, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Krysta Voskowsky contributed her essay “When She Closes Her Eyes” to Spry’s “Beanstalks” section, which provided a space for writers to explore their reactions in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing. Krysta’s piece is one that is sure to stay with the reader: it is raw, it is brave, and it is vivid. Krysta is earning her MFA from Emerson College, and she blogs on her personal site and also for NoshOn.It. She is currently at work on her memoir.   Julia: “When She Closes Her Eyes” was written following the Boston Marathon bombings and is constructed in such a unique way that with each...

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