Book Picks: The Haunting of Hajji Hotak and Other Stories

I’m continuing to work my way through titles that made waves in 2021 and 2022, and this is my favorite so far. If you are in the market for masterful short stories, Jamil Jan Kochai’s collection will not disappoint. A National Book Award finalist, The Haunting of Hajji Hotak feels like it enfolds the entireContinue reading “Book Picks: The Haunting of Hajji Hotak and Other Stories”

Submission Spotlight: Blackbird

Okay, so the bad news is that a lot of literary magazines have closed their doors until fall. The good news? You’ve got a few months to pull up that piece you’d given up on, dust it off, and see what you can make of it. If it fluffs up into something pretty tasty, BlackbirdContinue reading “Submission Spotlight: Blackbird”

Feel Like You Want to Quit Writing? Try This

I don’t know about you, but it’s easy to for me to get caught up in the old tidal wave of self-doubt. You know how it goes—I’m too old for this, I’ll never succeed at it, I’ll never publish (again), what am I thinking spending all my weekends writing when no one will read anyContinue reading “Feel Like You Want to Quit Writing? Try This”

Book Picks: Palmares

Palmares is marvelous. Magical realist and at times even Biblical, Gayl Jones’ novel is set in a fictional Brazil at the end of the 17th century. It opens with the young first-person narrator Almeyda, observing Mexia, a mixed race woman. She serves as a model for a particular type of femininity: quiet, alluring, and outwardlyContinue reading “Book Picks: Palmares”

Submission Spotlight: Guernica

As of May 2023, Guernica is currently open for no-fee submissions here (follow their link to create a free Submittable account). Founded in 2004, Guernica publishes poetry, essays, fiction, criticism, and journalism online. Unlike most magazines, it pays contributors rather than staff; in fact, its staff are entirely volunteers. Rather than a university affiliation, theContinue reading “Submission Spotlight: Guernica”

A Revision Checklist

This was the week I said goodbye to George Saunders and his book A Swim in a Pond in the Rain. I’ve learned so much from him that I worry it will be impossible to sum up, but I have to try. So here goes. My top lessons from Saunders over the semester so far:Continue reading “A Revision Checklist”

Let Characters Be Complex

This week I’m thinking about a point George Saunders made on the value of digressions in fiction. In his book on creative writing A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, he wrote that stories must “self-complicate, and thus avoid being merely a one-dimensional position paper” (335). However, when writing the first draft of aContinue reading “Let Characters Be Complex”

Book Picks: The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida

The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida is, above all else, a murder mystery told from the perspective of the murder victim who cannot—for the life of him (pardon the pun)—recall how he wound up dead. Set in 1990 during Sri Lanka’s civil war, the mystery unfolds over seven “moons” or days as our ghostly narratorContinue reading “Book Picks: The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida”

Submission Spotlight: The Chicago Review

Their door is open for fiction and poetry submissions until June 15 (nonfiction submissions are open year-round), so if you’re looking to publish a story, now’s the time! The Chicago Review accepts work through their Submittable page, where you can also set up a free Submittable account if you haven’t got one already. The downside?Continue reading “Submission Spotlight: The Chicago Review”

How Humility Will Help Your Writing

It had been over 15 years since I workshopped my writing, but this winter I got a shot with a new critique group. One of your first questions might be how I did that. The internet is thick with posts about finding a great critique group, and I can’t imagine I’d have much to add.Continue reading “How Humility Will Help Your Writing”