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What pulses beneath the soil?  What do our roots seek when they dig deep? What sap rises in spring to feed the branches that reach for the stark sky?  Place an ear to the trunk of Arkana to hear the hushed voices at work beneath the bark.

This is Arkana’s blog.

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ARKANA UPDATE

by the Arkana Staff

TODAY our brand new issue went live on our main website: arkanamag.org! This issue contains twelve new works of literature, including four short stories, four poems, an illustrated narrative, a work of creative nonfiction, and two author interviews.

The short stories range from the exploring the magic of nature in “In the Forests of the Night,” to coming-of-age tales as kids encounter life’s complexities in “Shelter,” to the supernatural mysteriousness of “Empty as Churches,” to the humorous anecdotes of “The Obituary” and “The Poets Registry Office” in “Two Conversations.”

The poems—“Grandma’s living room of false gods,” “Sunflower,” “My Beautiful Radium,” and “Mad Woman” deal with madness and hate, family and place, and all touch on our mission statement’s promise to “seek and foster a sense of shared wonder.”

The illustrated narrative, “Being Rita,” is a beautiful work pairing visuals and the written word, both mediums coming together to portray the confliction of having difficult or unpleasant family members.

The creative nonfiction, “To the First Time Flier,” presents a narrator musing on America and privilege when talking with an immigrant on a flight to America.

And, finally, members of our staff were lucky enough to get to interview two authors for this issue—Tayari Jones, author of Silver Sparrow and the forthcoming An American Marriage, and Alexander Weinstein, author of the speculative fiction short story collection Children of the New World.

Also, we’re super excited to feature four original works of art with some pieces in this issue. Make sure to check out Sarah Simon’s work with “Grandma’s living room of false gods,” Thomas Gillaspy’s work with “Empty as Churches,” Deborah Torley Stephan’s work with “In the Forests of the Night,” and Rollin Jewett’s work with “Two Conversations.”

We hope you enjoy all the new work we uncovered through reading through submissions and through some wonderful writers and authors taking the time to send work our way. Anyone who wants to come is invited to our Issue 3 launch party, and stay tuned to our blog for some notes from the Issue 3 genre editors about the work included in the issue.

Head on over to arkanamag.org to start reading Issue 3 or our archived issues now!

Issue Three Launch Party

An invitation to the launch party of Arkana’s third issue.

by the Arkana Staff

YOU’RE INVITED to the launch party for Arkana’s third issue! The party will be held on December 5 at 5pm at the Lantern Theatre in Conway, Arkansas. We’ll be celebrating all the hard work of our staff as well as the work of our twelve new contributors that will be included in our upcoming issue.

We’d love to see you there!

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More Poetry from the Poet-Tree

Poet Tree

An exquisite corpse from the writers at the C. D. Wright Women Writer’s Conference 2017.

by the Arkana Staff

On November 3 and 4, Arkana was excited to have a table at the inaugural C. D. Wright Women Writer’s Conference book fair. We asked visitors to our table to write a few lines of poetry on “leaves” of green paper, which we then put on the bare branches of our “Poet-Tree”. Later, these lines of poetry were compiled by members of our staff to form an exquisite corpse poem.

Enjoy the following poem by the writers at the C. D. Wright Women Writer’s Conference!


I am nothing but a rope of smoke
Tied around the stars

Why be loved like the sun, only craved when I’m gone
Unbridled intensity–cut it off before I burn

There was wrong, and there was left

Will you? Will you listen. And if I were beautiful, would you recognize my scent? Would you memorize

She took a dress and went that way

She was the kindest form of chaos

We want for no one we hold on to everyone. To remember is our lot in life–the everyday woman

He heals all but the hidden wounds

And what is it meant to be, only beautiful in writing and austerity?

I write because I think I think because I can

I write before I die I love before I hate

Be a leader, in a world ever changing, hold up the victories, hold up the heartbeats, hold up each other

Nothing ever really dies, you know?

Crash upon the earth with the brown leaves of time

Too humid for fall

The leaves are falling, carried on great gusts of wind- like red crispy snow

The sweet stickiness of a November thunderstorm

Wipers swish over wet windows

The fog rolled over her misting

Beware the stinging ladybugs of Arkansas

The imitation of her magic, the arduous donation of the scarf, the veil, the necklace around her throat

Mimosa, Chocolate, or Kerosene?

I walked down the old lane and questioned choices made before my knees started aching. Then I thought of dragons & fairies and pirates with long hair gleaming in the sun. And I forgot, and choices were good again.

Do you hear my hum of bees
wax of words
the honeyed seas salt of my last waking thought

I could only speak for myself

The Green Ocean that you can never hold your head above. While sitting in that ocean you are always waiting for that moment that you sink. You gasp for air while your head bobs in and out. Then you’re gone.

Where water is still it will deepen.

I must learn to live my own, carve the lesson in my bones. When I stand before my own gods, I must stand there all alone.


*Photo credit: Drew S. Cook

Diversity In Publishing: Will It Ever Be Rectified?

A personal discussion of the need for diversity in publishing.

by Victoria Mays, Scriptwriting Editor

I am black. I am a female. As a writer, those very distinct qualities that are genetic and unalterable are the very things I fear being discriminated against in publishing. Though one may believe the fight for gender equality in the field has been conquered, the question still remains: Did we fail to include minority women? In my case, black women. So, that still leaves me at two strikes. When I was asked to do a presentation over diversity for class, I wasn’t surprised by the numbers for the lack thereof in the industry. It wasn’t news to me that the fight still isn’t over and that it may never be over.

As a black woman, I feel the need to create literature that will be empowering and uplifting to people that can identify with me personally or know someone that can. Throughout my high school and early college career, I studied some of the so called greats in the literary canon: Virginia Wolff, Ernest Hemingway, Margaret Mitchell and Oscar Wilde. Though I admire and respect the energy and passion they put into every work that has gained them the fame they have today and wouldn’t dare rob them of it, I have always wondered why there weren’t any black writers amongst the literature we read. Writers like Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, Walter Mosley and Richard Wright that captured the essence of the black soul and shared the struggles that my ancestors had to endure and overcome in their time.

Being a writer of the times, I feel the call to represent the beautiful and ugly things that black people have encountered in their human experience. In his essay, “Diversity is Not Enough: Race, Power, Publishing,” Jame Older stated, “Publishing is always negotiations between what you want to say, what you can say, and what society will allow you to say.” Not only do I have to worry about publishing quality work, but also facing the fear of presenting quality work that isn’t accepted because of the message that it conveys. Will it be another story thrown into the pile of work that doesn’t contain the idea of a universal character that “generally indicates a false neutral that more or less resembles whiteness?” (Older)

The VIDA Count, a system that “started when the cofounder Cate Marvin sent out an email addressing the lack of feminist conversation in contemporary literature,”  has expanded to include data that addresses race and ethnicity, gender, sexual identity and ability (Prufer). The data covers information for a variety of publications. While we still have work to do as far as increasing diversity in the publishing realm, VIDA shows us where change and progress is needed. If everyone in the industry were to get on the page and use the data that is free and readily available to the public, we could take steps in the right direction.


Victoria Mays is pursuing a MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Central Arkansas.  She is a freelance editor and writer.  When she’s not crafting stories, she is inspiring people through her blog, Soul-Liberation.

Keeping our heads above water: can the lit mag survive?

The struggle for lit magazines to survive in the 21st century.

by Gabrielle Lawrence, Poetry Reader

“The problem is not whether print will survive, but how literary publishing adapts to a world where to publish something has lost value,” Jane Friedman writes in an article titled “The Future Value of the Literary Publisher” from Literary Publishing in the 21st Century. It’s no secret that the shift from print to digital sent the publishing industry into a crisis, and with literary journals already existing in a vacuum or a “null economy” as scholar and founder of Versal Megan Garrcalls it, there’s no clear view of the future of publishing. In a time where literary magazines are seemingly becoming irrelevant and dying out, why should we still publish? Editors, readers, and writers are losing faith in the power of literary journals, but we recognize it’s value in contributing to the richness of our literary community.

Megan Garr interprets the literary journal economy as an industry dependent upon both capitalism and the gift economy. Capitalism is of course referring to the exchange of gifts and services such as press and postage. The gift economy refers to the exchange of time, content, and recognition on behalf of the authors and the editors with hopes of greater future returns such as exposure.

However due to the imbalance of the industry, our most common circular business model is failing. That is, hoping that sales from magazines and profits from community-run programs will pay for the expenses of the magazine. For journals without external funding from universities, endowments, etc, we’ve seen this model deteriorate over and over again. There just seems to be no money in the literary magazine world anymore; in the publishing world anymore. Now that publishing is effortless thanks to the digital world, it seems as if there’s no esteem in the practice let alone profit to be made. With externally funded magazines competing in the same space as volunteer and donation based magazines, and the failure of the recommended retail price not offsetting the costs of production and distribution, the industry seems “doomed to need something outside of itself to survive” Garr says.

So why do we do we continue to pour our own time, money, and resources into something that continues to unravel? For the good of the literary society? For recognition and reputation? For the sliver of a promise for greater future gain? Both Garr and Friedman suggest we start there, with the questions that mean the most. Discover the why, and build it into a brand. Focus on branding our publications and drawing out a devoted readership. Focusing inward, on our business models and really crunching the numbers. Or banding together and consolidating in an effort to stretch resources and pool our shares of the market. The point is most literary journals are barely staying afloat, as is the publishing industry. Arkana takes its mission seriously, we’re passionate about telling and sharing stories, and we recognize something needs to change. We can start by breaking away from old habits and having more open and honest conversations about our purpose, our finances, our business models, and how to adapt for the rapidly evolving future of publishing.


Gabrielle Lawrence is a poet and writer.  She is pursuing her MFA in poetry at the University of Central Arkansas. Her writing can be found in Gravel Magazine, Words Apart Magazine, The Chaos: Journal of Personal Narrative and West Wind Literary Journal.

ARKANA UPDATE

by the Arkana Staff

We’ve received so many awesome submissions during our issue three reading period that we’re having some tough discussions about what to include in the upcoming issue of the journal. Thanks so much, anyone who sent work our way!

In November, we’ll be transitioning from reading/discussion mode to production mode—putting together the issue. This means the glamorous work of copyediting, proofreading, matching artwork with written work, reading and re-reading the issue, and getting it put up on our website. For a bunch of lit nerds like us, despite the hard work of production mode, we’re ready for the fun of formatting the issue and making public the work we (and YOU, writers, artists, and readers) have uncovered.

Recently, some changes have appeared on our website. We’ve added an Archive page to help you get to the work that you want to read. So feel free to comb through our back issues before the new issue drops in early December.

Also, on our About page, take a look at our masthead, updated with the new issue’s staff, comprised of grad students here at the Arkansas Writers MFA Program. Want to hear from these folks? Follow our blog to hear the voices of the people dedicated to the misunderstood, overlooked, and silent.

The blog itself has been revamped to make navigating to old posts easier. So check out the menu at the top of the page to find some thought-provoking writing about everything from the publishing world and grad school life to pop culture and movies.

We’re hard at work on the new issue! Meanwhile, keep up-to-date with the workings of Arkana by following us on social media (Twitter, Facebook, and our brand-spanking-new Instagram). Or just head back over to our website and get lost in writing of mysteries and marginalized voices.

As always, thanks for reading, and happy writing!

An Excerpt from Mental Illness and the Poetics of Failure

Brief musings on costumes, artists, and mental illness.

by Drew S. Cook, Poetry Reader

A surprising number of photographs of people dressing like Sylvia Plath for Halloween can be found via a Google image search. One might ask: what does a Sylvia Plath costume look like? I imagine her 1953 interview of Elizabeth Bowen for Mademoiselle. In the months leading up to the interview, she shopped voraciously, feeling a tremendous pressure to not only give a good interview, but to meet the standards of appearance that were aggressively asserted both by Mademoiselle and society at large. Despite the pressure, Plath delivered in terms of both substance and form, nailing her first interview for the magazine, to which she wore a highly fashionable dress, fitted jacket, pearls, and gloves.

If we accept The Bell Jar as autobiography, then the entire Mademoiselle-New York adventure is prelude to a significant mental health crisis. Yet, this is Sylvia Plath. Driven by self-loathing and genius to persist, to outshine, to overcome, Plath’s smile seems genuine in the photos that remain of that momentous occasion—after months of certainty that she will fail, she discovers that she is knocking it out of the park. This is the smile of a mentally ill person who has, yet again, kept herself alive in the land of the sane. Three years before her fateful encounter with Olympic-tier gaslighter Ted Hughes, Plath is a young woman who, on her own in the big city, survives. She despairs, she is outside, she is neurodivergent, but she belongs wholly to herself.

The iconic moment with Bowen is not the costume, though, that Halloween celebrants choose. To them, Sylvia Path is a woman—any woman—with a cardboard, mocked-up oven over her head. Plath is only her suicide, only her sickness. She is not even a poet anymore. Instead, she is just a joke about a chronic, sometimes fatal condition known as bipolar disorder.

Plath’s story offers a cautionary tale to mentally ill artists. No matter one’s achievements, no matter the effort, to write as a mentally ill person is to expose oneself to ridicule from bad actors, and uninvited psychoanalysis from the well-meaning. It is, in the terminology of feminist rhetorical theory, to subject oneself to “containment.” One can no longer write about a thing; rather, one is perceived as writing from a place.


Drew SCook is many things: an expert in obsolete operating systems, a student of literature and poetry, a psychiatrically disabled person. He is other things, too, and grew up in the Ouachita Mountains, whose sights and sounds continue to inform his writing. Drew is currently a Co-Executive Editor at Trio House Press. His poems have appeared in Nimrod Journal, Pleiades, and elsewhere.

Writing is Life

A proclamation of the writing life.

by Victoria Mays, Scriptwriting Editor

One day, we will all pause and ask ourselves: Did I truly live the life I desired?  Am I satisfied with where I am?  Did I make the most of my time?  At the young age of 23, I am already asking myself these questions.  Throughout my childhood and adolescence, I expressed my interest and passion for writing, but I was afraid to embrace and become it.  In consequence, I allowed myself to be sidetracked and influenced by what other people wanted me to do and their perceptions of what a “successful” career was.  In journeying on their path, I lost myself.  I stopped writing.  I stopped dreaming.  I stopped living.

For awhile, I felt like I was an alien in this world.  I was just going through the motions.  When I brought writing back into my life, I became reacquainted with myself and started to create my place in this world.  During this time and even to this day, writing is teaching me more about myself.  It has taken me places within that I never knew existed.  Writing is a part of me.

While having the passion for writing is great and necessary, having the skills and knowledge of writing is just as important.  For this reason, I decided to pursue my MFA in Creative Writing.  I know that being a part of the program will provide me with professors that are experienced, have a passion for writing, and a desire to inspire others to write.  It will also connect me with other aspiring and creative writers.  When working towards a goal, it is wise to have people in your corner who are like-minded and want the same thing.  I want my writings to be more than pieces of paper or journals hidden away in a chest or cardboard box.  I want to share them with the world.  In my lifetime, I want to publish several books and writings.  In order to be the very best that I can be, I must invest in proper training and education.  So far, being in my MFA program has truly be an enriching and educational experience for me.  There are certain things about writing that I have yet to learn, but am eager to learn.  I am confident that the MFA program will provide me with the necessary skills and opportunities to really strengthen and improve my writing.

As an author, I want to inspire people to discover their true identity, liberate themselves, and overcome challenges.  Writing is food and oxygen to my being.  One of the things that truly nourishes my soul and satiates my desire to uncover my innermost self.  Writing is the key to the lock that secures the gates around me. Writing is life because without it, my life seems like a neverending void. Through writing, I truly become myself. I become the light that breaks through my self-inflicted darkness.  I become a creator.  By writing, I feel liberated and loved.


Victoria Mays is pursuing a MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Central Arkansas.  She is a freelance editor and writer.  When she’s not crafting stories, she is inspiring people through her blog, Soul-Liberation.

Page or Pixel

An exploration of how, because of technology, times in the publishing industry are a-changing.

by C.F. Lindsey, Fiction Reader

Fellow Arkanasans, let’s talk digital. We, in case you were unaware, live in a world of pixels. Life is defined by our online presences and the content which we post. Your life—as of this moment—is consumed by the words I am presenting to you on your computer screen. Let’s take a moment to marvel in this amazing process: my thoughts are being presented to you, from far and wide, via a piping of digital content through space and time to compile in front of your face in the form of constantly-firing-pixels, delineating visual expression to your cognitive reality. This is an amazing process, beyond my meager comprehension as a mere purveyor of words; however, it presents a question to me as a curator of the literary form: what is the future of literature within this digital age? Editor of the journal AGNI, Sven Birkerts—in his article “Reading the Tea Leaves: Notations on the Changing Look of the Literary”, states “Change itself is changing” (3). What does this mean for our futures, dear writers? One thing is for certain in that the future is quite simple: we can adapt to change or be swept underneath the rug of society. In the words of the Nobel Prize winner in Literature Bob Dylan, “for the times they are a-changin’.”

Now, I want to start with addressing the groaning feeling of despair that some of you, if you are anything like me, might be feeling when it comes to this subject. As someone who studies classic, canonical literature, and has an extreme love for the feel of paper between my fingers, this concept of a digital take-over can seem quite bleak. What does this mean for the classic practice of leafing through a novel or the sleek, glossy pages of your favorite lit mag? Birkerts, on the one hand, would lead you to believe that this is an abysmal move that surely spells out the doom of the literary arts as we know it. The key phrase here is “as we know it.” Is the changing of literature a bad thing? I particularly think not, but you have your own opinions, dear readers. In his article, Birkerts discusses a subway trip on his way to the airport while thinking on the matter of change. He says that this digital change “…was already in place. Every person in that car was either staring at a phone or reading pad, or standing with a faraway look in her eyes and a wire in her ear” (6). The change is happening or already has happened, friends. The way we communicate, disseminate information, speak, hear, see, the very fabric of human operation is changing. On one hand, this is exquisitely exhilarating in the means that we are breaking down barriers of differences and emerging in a world without definitions and classifications. We, the world, are becoming a community through the push of technological advancement. According to Birkerts, however, the one area that is lacking in this technological push is the literary. Birkerts discusses a 2014 article from the Washington Post by Matt McFarland discussing this lack of transformation when it comes to the publishing industry. “Technology has reshaped everything from how we communicate to how we find a mate or a job. Yet the experience of reading books remains largely untransformed, and the popularity of books has suffered in the face of flashier media formats that are perfected for our busy world” (9). Birkerts continues his discussion on this subject by stating how, without changing the way literature is presented to readers, the future will be bleak for writers and readers alike. The article, sadly, continues on this sorrowful tempo for the remainder of Birkerts discussion.

I don’t know about you, but I’m about ready for some good news right now after delving into such a pit of sorrow. There is hope, dear readers. Three articles discussing the same subject—from authors Matthew Stadler, Sandra Beasley, and Sian Cain—put a more positive spin on the moves of literature in the digital age. Beasley’s article, published through Poets and Writers, discusses the growing number of online literary journals, such as Arkana itself, versus the print journals that have always occupied the literary spectrum. This growth, as Beasley states, is not only visible in the number of online lit mags popping up, but how the “prestige” of publishing is shining through the scope of these online publications. In the past, let’s say 10 years ago, the game of publishing was dominated by print with the opportunity of online publishing being scoffed at as for the amateur writer. If you wanted to play in the literary game, you aimed to see your name in print. Today, however—according to Beasley, “…modern writers are increasingly defined by the work they have available online. Those serious about developing a career have to think about managing that virtual dimension” and the best way to accomplish this is to “…read online journals, evaluate them, and send them work you’re proud to have associated with your name” (Beasley 2).

There is no doubt that literature is shifting with the times, despite the beliefs of some, and this is good news for us. Another question to be considered, though: is this shift permanent? Matthew Stadler, in his article “The Ends of the Book: Reading, Economies and Publics,” believes in another possibility. He touches very minutely on the shift to online, instead tending to focus on reading/publishing versus shopping mentalities and how we, the literary community, have to abandon the latter to protect the former. His solution to the falling popularity of literary publishing is to implement an on-demand printing system. This seems to coincide with Sian Cain’s findings that—through a survey—62% of 16-24 year olds prefer reading from print, breaking from the rising popularity of online media. Whether this model will be of any effect on the literary community seems unlikely, but is yet to be determined.

Despite anyone’s preference between print or digital publishing, one thing is certain: the scape of the literary world is changing. Magazines, such as Arkana, are at the forefront of this movement by supplying a place for marginalized or unheard voices to make their opinions and beliefs known through the literary arts. No matter the shifts in the landscape of our community, I am confident that literature will thrive in magazines like Arkana, and many others, due to the passion that is put forth by the authors and publishers alike. I look forward to seeing where the future, and the growing opportunities in publishing, will take us. Until then, happy reading, my friends.


C.F. Lindsey is full-time writer and part-time fly fishing guide pursuing his MFA in Fiction at the University of Central Arkansas. After shirking a promising law career, C.F. hopped a train before landing on a riverbank where he began writing fiction. His works have been featured in The Wilderness House Literary Review, The Wagon Magazine, Heavy Feather Review, Nebo: A Literary Journal, and other online and print publications. He resides in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains with his wife and two dogs.