This Is NOT a Story about Astronauts: Illustrating “Naples” by Catherine Byun from issue 299.1

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When illustrating for text, I try not to analyze the piece on the first read through. This wasn’t hard with “Naples,” a painful, beautiful story by Allegra Hyde. It swept me up in a whirlwind of imagery, a vivid and multi-sensory experience. I felt myself in that squalid Italian hostel, heard the screech of the metro train, felt the rumble of its passing, smelled citrus blossoms. Continue reading

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Freighthopping Fiction: Borrowing from Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams by Allegra Hyde

Setting serves as the flesh and blood of Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams. The novella nestles into the dawn of the twentieth century, into the feeling of America shaking itself awake and standing on its feet. “He’d started his life story on a train ride he couldn’t remember,” writes Johnson of his protagonist, Robert Grainier, “and ended up standing around outside a train with Elvis Presley in it.” Though roughly hedged by the beginning and end of Grainier’s life, time nonetheless remains an imprecise entity. The opening scene depicts a thirty-something Grainier assisting an attempted murder. In Chapter 2, we fast forward to the 1950s, when Grainier views the World’s Fattest Man, and then beyond to when he has “confused the chronology of the past.” Throughout the novella, history is alternately compressed and dilated. The scope of Grainier’s life—an allegory, in many ways, for America itself—gets shrunk small enough to fit into the palms of readers’ hands, but also sprawls across pages.

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Looking Behind the Poem by Curtis Bauer

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This weekend the sun came out in Seville and suddenly, as if spring has been around for weeks but hidden behind rain and clouds, there’s green and budding everywhere. The kid upstairs has been stomping back and forth in her new shoes. I’ve never seen that kid, but due to the way the apartment is constructed, I know that she wakes at 7:30 and goes to bed around midnight, which means she starts dropping things on the floor—my ceiling—at 7:30 and hardly stops until 12 A.M. I hear her saying goodbye to the apartment when she leaves with her father. “Adios casa,” her little voice shouts. And while they stand and wait for the elevator, she calls out “Ascensor! Ascensor!” I imagine her small, maybe 4 years old, wearing a ribbon in her hair and carrying a doll, and I’m sure if I were to see her parents looking at her, I’d see love in their eyes. I think I know what that love looks like. Continue reading

#NotWriting: I, Morning Writer by Steven Ramirez

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This morning, I fumigated my apartment. I was up early, before the sun, the cars, the first flight out to Denver, with every intention of beginning my novel—I have the perfect opening sentence, dazzling really, one of those rare combinations of form and content that will no doubt write the next three-hundred and ninety-nine pages for me—but before I could crack open my laptop, before I could commit my King Kong chunk of prose to virtual paper, there it was. Out the corner of my eye. The nastiest little SOB to ever crawl its however-many-legs out the crack in my floor. Continue reading

Managing Managing Editor: Office Structure

I wanted to start a weekly blog in which I explain some of the business I attend to as Managing Editor. Surprisingly (or perhaps not), this now humorous questionnaire from the fifties for secretaries is pretty applicable to the job of Managing Editor at a lit mag in 2014. A score of 80% or better “reveals a good personality for the business world.” How did you do?

As Managing Editor of NAR, I am the only staff member in the office. Our other editors are full-time professors at the University of Northern Iowa. A few of them provide their time on a strictly volunteer basis while others receive a very small course release for their time in the office.  As a result, I do all of the management. (In addition to my teaching load at various institutions).

This is my attempt at streamlining our blog schedule using a series of high lighters late on a Friday night on my kitchen table. Perhaps regretfully, nothing in this photo is staged.

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A Note About “In El Hipo” by Gary Gildner in issue 299.1

I was living in Mexico a few years after Jimmy Hoffa’s famous disappearance. My life there and my background were not unlike my central character Keane’s. (A name I borrowed, though spelled differently, from the old radio detective Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons.)
I knew the Hoffa story, the stories of the characters I call Kayo Colone and Belinda Wolfe, plus many of the others, including Gloria Morris, and I wanted to bring them all together, if I could, in a novel. The distractions of a fiction writer have been keenly noted by many good and great practitioners of our craft, and to add to that theme here would be redundant and call up, for me, too much of the blur and whine of the supermarket press. Suffice to say, I found focus by writing short stories, borrowing details from my main project—and riffing on them—and playing a lot of tennis. “In El Hipo” is the story I like best, which is to say if it was all I got out of my time in Mexico I would be grateful. But, finally, I did finish the novel— The Man Who Saw Hoffa Go Off—which I hope will soon appear, unlike Jimmy.

Gary Gildner has received the National Magazine Award for Fiction, Pushcart Prizes in fiction and nonfiction, and the Iowa Poetry Prize. Among his two dozen books are a new and selected volume of stories, Somewhere Geese Are Flying (2004), and a new edition of The Warsaw Sparks (2008), his 1990 memoir about coaching baseball in communist Poland. Gary’s most recent work in North American Review“In El Hipo,” appears in Winter 2014 issue 299.1.

Photograph by Stan Shebs.

Adventures of an Amateur Writer By Grant Veeder

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Yes, I remember being a young writer. I think my eighth grade English teacher, Mr. Hershey, was encouraging me, but at the time, it felt more like I was being tolerated.  Mr. Hershey was a sweet, sweet man. When I told him that the title of my poetry notebook was “Evangeline and Other Poems I Hate,” he merely gave a grimace-smile, and said, “Oh, you don’t really mean that.”  I did. Continue reading

The Artist’s Vision by Jeffrey Ethan Lee

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Recently, I heard the results of The Fifth Annual James Hearst Poetry Prize sponsored by the North American Review (573 Entrants 2,583 Poems). I was a finalist with one poem, which is below. I did not think the judge Billy Collins was going to pick my poem as the winner, to be perfectly honest, because the poem I sent wasn’t really up his alley, so to speak. I was glad to make the finalist group though because that means they will publish this poem. I have always liked this poem despite the fact that it is “difficult.”

I’m going to do an unusual thing and actually say how this poem was created. It began like, jesuschrist (!) more than twenty years ago. Yeah, it was 1984, and I was staying at a friend’s house due to being somewhat temporarily destitute (okay, okay, I was homeless for a while after I was a literally starving artist in a real third-floor garret with bullet holes in the windows, blah blah blah. It may sound romantic, but it really was mostly ugly and nasty. Stuff that makes you prone to anti-social habits and rots your teeth, etc.) Continue reading

On “Ancient Aliens” by Richard Katrovas from issue 298.4

How many of us don’t wish that flying saucers were real? Who doesn’t fancy the idea that “ancient aliens” (the assonance is yummy) chummed with our ancestors, that humankind was even genetically hot-wired by visitors from afar? Well, most people filled with religious faith probably don’t, but the atheists, agnostics, and airheads among us gleefully slurped von Daniken’s fanciful speculations, and the extraterrestrial industry thrives and is growing.

I’m addicted to cable documentaries on the subject of aliens, ancient and contemporary, and on their cover-up by governments, most fervently by our own. Do I believe we have been—are being—visited?

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I believe the world is filled with liars and crazy people. I believe that there are more liars and crazy people than there are rational truth tellers. I find it meaningful the fact that not
a single reputable scientist on the planet has expressed solidarity with any of the talking heads of the extraterrestrial industry. I find meaningful the fact that it would take literally millions of years, at the speed of light, a speed unreachable by material objects, for otherworldly beings to reach us.

Wormholes? Inter-dimensional travel?

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Double Duty; Writing and Illustrating Comics by Jared Rogness

It was editorial cartooning for my college’s newspaper that first hooked me.  Attempting to do it all writing and illustrating, doing my best to peel back complex layers of an issue to get at the succinct core of an idea in a seriously restrictive format, it was comic boot camp for four years 4 yrs, and I loved it. I moved away from editorial to try my hand at freelance projects when I moved out west after college. I let someone else be the director and I was simply the hired hand.

But projects like that were never as satisfying as seeing my own story birthed on paper. I’ve finally hit my stride after many years with my current project, but this evolution has taken years of continual, sometimes obsessive, drawing, writing, and falling forward, to now be at a place where I feel liberated creatively and excited to share my story with the world. Failing forward? Let me elaborate on what that means:

Jared Rogness's picture In Process Continue reading