ARKANA UPDATE

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by the Arkana Staff

It’s alive! It’s alive! Our new issue is now LIVE on the main Arkana website. This issue features plenty of mysteries and marginalized voices, including our recent contest winners and one of our contest runner-ups. We have poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and even translations—and we’ll be including an audio element of pieces being read aloud.

The poems included in this issue touch on nature, writing, art, beauty, and tragedy: “When Can You Come” by Ace Boggess, “Flea Market” by Cassandra Rockwood-Rice, “Creative Writing in Oman” by Kirsten Hemmy, “Don’t Forget Aleppo” by Shahé Mankerian, and our poetry contest winner “Poem for Thalia” by Elizabeth Oness.

The translations, full of mystery, spirituality, and grappling with loneliness: “You come again, Michael” by Zahid M. Naser (translated from Malay by Pauline Fan) and “Man Dines in His Father’s Slippers” by Marko Pogacar (translated from Croatian by Andrea Jurjevic).

The fiction, about the determination to survive and welcome life’s strange attractions despite potential death and destruction: “Central Park: A Ghost Story” by Michael Zimmerman, “Follow the Sun” by Karin Gall, our contest winner “Falling Season” by Judith Kessler, and our contest runner-up “The Winter Cabin” by Matthew Caldwell.

The creative nonfiction, which argue and muse about belonging, identity, and the significance of skin: “An Opening Closed to the Public: A Black Lesbian Separatist at Play” by Shawnta Smith and our contest winner “Pruritus” by J.D. Schraffenberger.

This issue also includes an interview with the poet Oliver de la Paz about publishing, writing, and inspiration.

To celebrate the new issue, yesterday we had a launch party at the Lantern Theatre in downtown Conway (pictured above). Editors read and spoke about the work and we voted to nominate pieces for the Best of the Web and the Pushcart. The party was a great way to get together with the community behind Arkana—the team of people behind the website—and to celebrate the wonderful work we uncovered and unveiled for this new issue. We were also excited to celebrate our recent additions of translation, audio, and our blog to the magazine, as well as this past year’s success in gaining readership and launching this now-not-so-brand-new online literary journal.

Stay tuned here at the Arkana Blog for upcoming notes from the Arkana genre editors about what unifies the pieces we picked for publication, how we decided which pieces to publish, and where our work fits into the current literary landscape. Meanwhile, check out the work for yourself here.

In Defense #1: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to this Form

Converting a TV Script to an MFA Play—the first installment in a series about defending a Master’s Thesis.

by Jacqulyn West, Nonfiction Editor

In order to graduate with a Master of Fine Arts degree, you have to write, complete, and defend a thesis. Your committee guides you through the process of writing, and finally spends about an hour interrogating your work, at which point you answer their questions in order to defend the choices you made, and ultimately, the quality of your work.

Since the Arkansas Writers Workshop allows candidates flexibility in choosing a genre, these can look widely different from one another. These reports are based on my observations at the defenses of our upcoming graduates.

First up is Shua Miller, Arkana Scriptwriting Editor, who is the first in our program to write and defend a script for his thesis.

We gathered in a conference room on the third floor of Thompson Hall, the building where most of our Writing courses are conducted. The wide room is filled with long tables arranged in a U shape surrounded with big office-style armchairs.

Shua sat at the end of the left side of the U – the hour’s hot seat. His committee lined the outside to his right, and the audience took the other side of the room, filling the remaining seats on the opposite side. Many of us had completed our teaching and classes for the day, and came for the comedy we were sure would ensue. We were not disappointed.

Originally, Shua intended to write a TV series with an ensemble cast about some misadventures in a small Arkansas town in order to complete his MFA and create a script that could be filmed with the help of some talented folks across central Arkansas. That did not work out, but the descriptions of what he had planned had me laughing out loud only a few minutes into his defense. I won’t give any spoilers, just in case that opportunity manifests in future.

Shua’s thesis advisor insisted that the work he completed for the MFA would need a defined end point, but Shua didn’t want to end his TV show after only one season. Back to the drawing board, where he decided to table the TV idea and instead write a play to complete his degree.

Meanwhile, the November 2016 elections obstructed that plan. Shua says he heard from and about many outraged artists who couldn’t make art following the presidential election, and after some days of sorrow, rage, and reflection, decided to use his response to fuel yet another new trajectory for his work.

Shua thought a master’s thesis should be a little confusing and theatrical, but still had that quiet voice inside reminding him that simple is good, and encouraging him to use the skills he developed as a graduate student in writing, but the first draft of his play came out too pretentious. He actually created more work for himself by trying to make the work complicated instead of following his instinct to simplify, an instinct that had been honed by his coursework.

But how can classes about poetry and fiction inform and improve play writing?

Shua says they all tie into each other. From poetry, he learned an economical focus on images, and used that economy in constructing concise informative dialogue among his characters. Prose taught him how to describe efficiently by using fewer but better words. Both forms helped him understand pacing, diction, and word choice. Now he writes to find the musicality and rhythm of how his words can best fit together.

The play, tentatively titled “Stamp of Hope,” depicts an angel and a demon working in the bureaucratic behind-the-scenes offices of hell. This appeals to me in a serious and personal way because I was an administrative specialist for a university English department before coming to UCA to join this program. I already like this play.

“The things we imagine when we think of hell—fire and brimstone, tortures and flames— those things are like an amusement park. But someone has to do the paperwork in the office to make sure those things run. That’s what this play is about.”

I’m laughing through tears and squirming in my seat.

“This vision of hell is more like science fiction than traditional or Biblical depictions.”

I’m nodding so vigorously that my chair is squeaking.

“Most of all, I don’t want my audience to feel like I’m telling them what to think through the characters or the action.”

I’m wishing I had the means to produce this play, because I know there are people like me who would empathize, sympathize, and laugh – like me – through relatable tears. People who, like Shua’s unusual creatures – including the human office manager – are doing with their time, how they interact with each other, and their own internal struggles, and still manage to find hope in the most desolate of places and situations.

While some defenses can be intense grilling sessions, this one felt more like a conversation, dashed with smart office humor and enough humility to make it accessible to just about anyone on a scale from demon to angel.


Jacqulyn Harper West is a poet of unfinished parts who prefers writing nonfiction. Her heart is in classic country music, especially the Bakersfield sound, and her scholarship ranges from feminist explications of her hometown’s cultural heritage tourism sites to code-meshing and hip hop as texts in first-year and creative writing pedagogy.

Arkana Represents

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The Impact of AWP, Past and Present

by Mikayla Davis, Poetry Reader

In 2014 I attended my first AWP in Seattle, planning to meet up with one of my creative writing instructors and some classmates from community college. I didn’t know what to expect, having only ever been to anime conventions in the past. But I was just starting to think about grad school, and a writers’ convention seemed like the perfect place to explore my options. If nothing else, I knew my undergraduate institution would be in attendance. It would be nice to gather with old friends and get their take on my plans.

So I made my plans, booked my hotel, scheduled out what panels I wanted to attend. I drove five hours across my home state.

Turns out, planning for panels was a misguided decision—as I became completely enthralled by the Book Fair. There were rows upon rows of booths and tables. There were probably at least fifty tables in each row. They filled this huge hall.Graduate schools, magazine publishers, businesses. People were wandering around, buying books, talking to people behind booths. There were author signings and readings, though the latter couldn’t be heard over the buzz of conversation. I spent hours there, just wandering and looking…but I rarely actually approached the booths, and no one tried to draw me in.

Three years later, I had the opportunity to attend AWP again—this time, manning a booth representing the University of Central Arkansas’s MFA program, the C.D. Wright Women Writers’ Conference, and, of course, Arkana.

My one goal was to engage with participants who, like me in 2014, were just wandering…wanting to ask questions, but not knowing how.

But how does one motivate others to visit your booth, when your budget is limited, and you have three major organizations to try and promote?

This is where my many trips to anime conventions came in handy.

If you’ve never been to one, I can tell you that they are bright, loud, and incredibly exciting. Think about Harry Potter when he first visits Diagon Alley. You don’t know where to look because everything seems interesting. People were drawn to the booths that were there, because they managed to be bigger and brighter than the environment around them. The booths at anime conventions often have activities you can interact with. Whether it’s merchandise or games, there is always something you can put your hands on. When I attended AWP in 2014, most of the booths only promoted free merchandise. Nothing was particularly interactive.

Though AWP is a lot less visually stimulating than an anime convention, I still began to brainstorming the aesthetic of our booth. Arkana could afford to be a lot less flashy than an anime convention, and still be visually appealing.

In order to invite visitors to our booth, we included several items on our table. For vertical appeal, we had a large banner that advertised the conference. For horizontal, we also had a banner that stretched across the bottom of the table that presented us as the UCA MFA program. We had various flyers, informational papers, and even stickers on the booth tables.

We also had a “Poet-tree” made from the branches of an actual tree, that at first blended into the black curtain that served as our separator from other booths. But as visitors began writing on the green paper “leaves” we provided, and hung them on the tree, they provided eye-catching pops of color on the dark backgrounds.

The “Poet-Tree” also doubled as an activity, something we could invite passersby to contribute to. It was something no other booth had.

We had another highly visual activity to draw people in. One of the other faculty members at UCA had happened upon a bubble cup vending machine at a flea market. They later found some cups for that machine, and—luckily for us‚—she was willing to let us use it for our booth at AWP.

We filled the capsules with candy, excerpts from women writers and Arkana contributors, and stickers, and invited attendees to donate a couple of quarters to win the prize.

All of these things really encouraged others to visit our table. Throughout the event, we received comments about how we were the most interesting table they passed by.

But there was really only one thing that really made us successful. If we hadn’t acquired a “Poet-Tree,” or a vending machine, or even tables at all, we could have succeeded with just one thing…our people.

With toothy grins, we stood out in the walkways of the Book Fair, greeting anyone who walked by. We offered flyers, compliments, and conversation. We were almost impossible to ignore. If we were sitting behind the table, it was because we were on break, or needed more supplies to hand out.

We were passionately involved in the process of pulling people in, and it showed. It helped that we truly believed in the organizations we were prompting, and particularly, the mission of Arkana. Our booth was certainly one of the busiest tables, and perhaps one of the most engaging booths at AWP.

While I worked the booth, all I could think of was 2014 me stepping forward and really getting involved in the world of writing conventions and submissions. It was one of the most thrilling and exciting literary experiences of my life. I am already eagerly planning on how to improve our booth for next year.


Mikayla Davis is a UCA MFA candidate who specializes in poetry while dabbling in fiction. After getting her undergraduate degree at Eastern Washington University, she got lost in two-year business degrees from the local community college before finding her way back to the page. She has a love for cats and magic and has been published in various print and online journals.

Bringing the Poet-Tree to Life

An exquisite corpse from the writers of AWP 2017

by Mikayla Davis, Poetry Reader

On February 8-11, 2017, Arkana took a trip up to Washington D.C. to attend the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) conference. AWP is the biggest conference for writers in the United States, boasting attendance numbers over 12 thousand. It’s a great place for writers, publishers, and programs to share their work and network.

This was Arkana’s first year attending, since we had only just produced our first online publication, and we wanted to make sure that we would stand out from all the other fabulous publishers in the Book Fair. We were also sharing a  table with our homefront’s MFA program and the C.D. Wright’s Women Writers Conference, so it was even more important that we make a place for ourselves.

One of the ways we did this was by bringing along what we were calling the Poet-Tree.

The Arkana staff built a bare tree from actual branches and cut leaf shapes from construction paper. We then asked visitors to our booth to contribute a line of poetry (and even prose) to the branches, to bring Arkana to life, so-to-speak.

Below are the lines we were given. Each grouping is a branch from the Poet-Tree and we have tried to remain as true to format as the lines were written.

We hope you enjoy as much as we did.


 

The pecan tree in the yard — mother, in her way, burning

This

The north wind cuts sharp against my skin

The tree died,
It’s lifeblood milled for pulp
Paper plant, shipped, boxed, cut.
It is now a leaf again.

***

Not today, apocalypse!

The last slice of night before

The rocks on the shore fall into the water like rain

And we were dogwood petals

I feel naked,
But am fully clothed,
Wearing a sweater,
But my soul is exposed

I am torn
But you are watching me
Hold on

Be leaf.
Be change.
Be light to the shadow

Let’s go backwards when forwards fails.

***

If you think that my hair makes me
something that can’t be explained,
then you can go fuck yourself

I am a satellite —
A transmitter of language
Floating through the air

Only in poetry are fragments holistic

Headline News:
“Senator Warren
Fistacuffing
In the senate.”

This shit doesn’t have to be good.

Good, cause mine’s not 

“He sang his didn’t
He danced his did”

I am,
I am,
I am…

I was once so once that I am always once

“Your mother told you that if you held
the seashell to your ear, you would hear oceans,
but all you really heard was the sound of yourself.”

I licked my thumb and pressed it
into the crumbs on my plate, not wanting
to lose a single artisanal calorie.

Scrub the wooden
slab, vinegar fills your nose
until the dust dissolves you

Purple is purple
is exactly!

“You can only run on art and love for so long.”

I imagined
What I’d say
I imagined how it’d go
I imagined, I imagine,
And some how when
I was still thinking,
You did.

***

Hail hits the trailer roof
like jawbreakers tipped
from a cup

The trees are in
celebration, their vermillion
and sunset yellow leaves
Falling to the earth justLike confetti

I am unbroken and unafraid

I like to eat cherry pop-tarts in the moonlight

Let my soul sink into the sidewalk,
wrapped in concrete and footprints

…hope the harvest is worth the work
and all those ragged scars

My poetry is lacking
but this poet tree is damn fine

Roses are read

I think I will look at you and think,
“We have always been made for this”

How to Subterfuge:
Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition
Or Sexy jutsu

Find Happiness or it will find you

Keep climbing,
Snail,
But slowly, slowly

***

Leaf me alone
Just kidding.
Take me with you, wholly

Leftovers don’t travel well.
Pack granola.

I, too, have a Spanish dictionary.
You’ll never find it.

There was a deep blue sky

We spell ourselves into the quiet of a long day

Today, beloved,
We have shared marble and snow
It is eternity

Hell is dying and meeting the person you could have been

He remembered turning
off his light, letting darkness slip
deep into every crevice,
and screaming until his Voice gave out.

And then as we traveled through Pakistan

How big my guts were. How red and jealous.

***

What is my line of poetry?

One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish.

Watch your eyes

His eyes contain earths
that tug me back
into his warm orbit.

For a “light” art form, poetry
in my tote bag weighs a lot.

A hush had fallen over
the basement as if any sound
louder than a whisper
would bring another disaster

Gale force winds such
So does this hangover.
Can  I get a bloody mary?

Break the sky and make it bleed.

***

All day I do work —
All day I drink

The promise of the American Dream:
“Keep punching down and you’ll rise to the top.”
It’s a lie. Wake up, Dreamers.

Let the light in and let it divine you

I passed the man with the pink jacket and I wonder what words
he goes home to.

And then, as I held my hand
to your ribs, you breathed out a purple, “maybe.”

The milk was cold and fresh, the cookies warm.

With their umbrella tipped upside down they stood like spirits under a lotus frond waiting for the rain to pass.

Blisters block the arteries of my heart, stretching blood until bursting.

There’s something that does not love a wall.

Honey drips from her lips, sweet sugar sticking, choking.

Is that a spork in your eye or a meatloaf of the mind?

I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

Loneliness is still time spend with the world.

People need to be more like trees and branch out.

***

Spending writing time above printing blood.

And only wonder comprehends anything

Sickle cells slice black signatures into my veins

this is not a sentence because it doesn’t start with a capital letter

There’s something unnerving about being the only listener in a room of speakers

He walked with confidence, but not anger

I am a westerner,
I am a west
Turner. I am
The west.

Discarded feathers drained through slush,
making a final journey down grates,
down gutters, down, down, down.

Those who say poetry is dead, have never been to the A.W.P.

Where writers conference, the world is rewritten


Mikayla Davis is a UCA MFA candidate who specializes in poetry while dabbling in fiction. After getting her undergraduate degree at Eastern Washington University, she got lost in two-year business degrees from the local community college before finding her way back to the page. She has a love for cats and magic and has been published in various print and online journals.

Can We Make Money Like Web Comics?

A conversation paraphrased.

by Shua Miller, Scriptwriting Editor

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I formed all of my opinions from reading these articles:

“Web Comics Send Readers Looking for Books” by Douglas Wolk

“Web Comics: Page Clickers to Page Turners” by Heidi MacDonald

“Inside the Economics of Digital Comics with Todd Allen” by Rob Salkowitz

“Trotman Talks Templar” by Brigid Alverson

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Shua Miller is a candidate in the Arkansas Writers MFA Workshop and a producer/director/actor/designer/tech guy at The Lantern Theatre. He writes a little of everything, including about himself in the third person. You can follow his tweets of nonsense.

Print vs. Audio: A False Dichotomy?

by A. É. Coleman, Fiction Reader

I am attempting to answer a question.

In the November 2016 issue of JSTOR Daily, Rebecca Rego Barry discussed the history of audio books in its relationship to the future of print.  Initially, I dismissed the charge that “listening was ‘a lazy man’s way of reading’” as the luddite’s battle cry.  After all, Barry was referencing the initial response to the Library of Congress’ introduction of “talking books” in 1934.  That battle had long since been won I thought, and so, the antiquarian chest beating looked almost quaint in hindsight.

As I neared the end of the article though, I found philosophy professor, William Irwin quoted in 2009 as admitting that he hid his “audio habit” from colleagues as well as his more judgmental students for fear that they would see his taste for audio as a sign of the intellectual end times.  Upon further investigation, I discovered that Irwin wasn’t alone in his fear of social castigation.  Even scholars such as Jessica E. Moyer who specializes in YA reading habits has been occasionally fought skewed data that does not include YA listening habits seeing as how that’s not “real” reading.

It would appear, like some horrible rash, the luddites are not gone.  Nor is this irrational bias against audio in the face of print.  The great irony is that audio was the original story telling format.  Print is the beloved usurper.

Here then lies my question.  This mentality toward audio presentations of print works is so foreign to me that it is difficult to even address the topic.  What about audio technology elicits such hostility?  Surely it can’t be sloth since, by definition, such ire requires energy.  Granted, the pseudo-intellectual appeal of having something to thumb one’s nose at knows no bounds, but why has the target of this thumbing taken this particular shape?  And is there some aspect of this discussion that should worry Arkana as we, its editorial staff, move forward in adding audio to our website?

There are legitimate discussions to be had about the impact of this.  Our choices as an editorial staff affect what literature is given a platform, what art reaches the population, and thus, we choose the face of art.  For a host of reasons–aesthetic, practical, and arbitrary–we decide what issues are important, what messages are worth transmitting.  We are gate keepers of thought.  In the words of narrator Barbara Rosenblat, “A gifted audio recording artist can elevate less-than-stellar writing to someplace[sic] very new.”  Should we choose to elevate less than stellar work?  Does that act, in and of itself, create a new piece of art?  And if so, does that put the editors and narrator in the position of artists themselves?  Technology constantly introduces new questions of ownership, creation, and the nature of art.

Which I personally find extremely fascinating.

Perhaps that is the answer then.  Perhaps the hostility that’s been elicited is not mere elitism and white-male-beard-stroking.  Perhaps it is in fact a reaction to fear and to intellectual sloth.

We continue to tread further into uncharted waters with technology, and it is human nature to fear the unknown.  Those that oppose recordings and view it as not being “real” writing fear being forced to back into the position of the student, of not knowing, and of having to be humble to the questions.  It’s hard work to think and tackle the questions introduced by that which is unfamiliar, but it’s much easier to use the intellect you’ve already got to dismiss it all as fluff.


Originally from Oklahoma, A. É. Coleman writes fiction, comics, and questionable poetry.  He’s a Navy vet who owns cats, plays bagpipes, and listens to science podcasts while pursuing his MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Central Arkansas.

ARKANA UPDATE

by the Arkana Staff

Good news, folks—the second issue of Arkana is on the way! On Monday we met to discuss each editorial team’s picks for work to be included in the journal, and we’re super excited about the literature that will soon reside on our website. Poems, nonfiction, fiction, and perhaps less traditional genres (you’ll have to read the issue to find out what) will be displayed online for your perusal.

You want a space to reflect where silenced voices can be heard? Well, we have the lit for you.

And to celebrate the launch of our second issue in April we’ll be having a launch party at the Lantern Theatre here in Conway, Arkansas. At the party, we the staff will come together and celebrate by reading from our published works, discussing craft and connecting themes, and explaining how the work points right back to our lovely mission statement.

We’ll also have some cool stuff heating up on our blog. Soon we’ll be featuring short series of posts by members of the staff. These posts will pop up every couple of weeks and will cover topics diverse in scope and subject matter, highlighting our various interests and voices.

The blog will also feature letters from the editors of Arkana. Want to know more about the submission process? Want to know how the pieces of each issue fit together? Want to know more about Arkana’s place in the larger literary landscape? Check out our forthcoming editor letters to learn more about what makes the behind the scenes world of Arkana tick, and how each issue and work included in each issue comes together to promote our mission to “foster a sense of shared wonder by privileging art that asks questions, explores mystery, and to discover and uncover the overlooked, the misunderstood, and the silent.”

For the rest of this month we’ll post on our blog and be busy putting together the next issue of the journal, which comes out in late April. In the meantime, check out our older blog posts or our last issue.

Exciting stuff is happening here at Arkana. We’re glad that you’re a part of it!

Art: There’s an App for That

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Musings on multimedia storytelling, art, and apps.

 by Cassie Hayes, Fiction Editor

On Monday, publishing house Simon & Schuster, partnered with Paragraph, launched a new campaign to let readers spend time with characters from beloved books. Using actors and technology, such as smart phones, apps, and recent breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, this new initiative will focus on bringing literature alive and creating a more intimate storytelling experience. “We use to invite readers to enter into a book’s universe,” said Stephen Bedford, Senior Marketing Manager for Simon & Schuster. “With the ‘Meet the Character’ initiative we are inviting the book to enter our universe, forming more personal connections between reader and text. Have coffee with Captain Ahab. Go bowling with Harry Potter. Explore a haunted house with Jane Eyre…”

Okay, okay, the above paragraph isn’t completely true. There’s no ‘Meet the Character’ initiative, no way to tour New York with Holden Caulfield or go to a movie with Jo March—not outside your imagination, at least. That’s what you get for trusting a fiction writer.

But that’s not to say that what I said was completely false, either.

Take a look at the app Crave, for instance. Simon & Schuster, partnered with the company Paragraph, really DID launch Crave back in 2015, and the app’s point is to create a more intimate connection between authors and readers of romantic fiction. In the article “Simon & Schuster Launches Serial Fiction App for Romance Superfans” on bookbusinessmag.com, Crave is described as a subscription service in which “users choose the author they want to subscribe to and receive daily installments of her latest work before that novel is sold to the public. The subscription also comes with extra content that enhances the story, like video featuring the main characters and messages from the author.” In this age of Twitter and algorithms, readers want—dare I say, crave—to be personally connected with authors and texts. Apps that offer exclusive extras, like Crave, or apps that create interactive storytelling experiences are some of the ways in which publishers are adapting to and taking advantage of digital technology to engage readers.

Book apps are also in the business of engaging readers with interactive, multi-modal storytelling, and, at least for picture, coloring, and comic books, business is booming. Picture book apps offer games, sound effects, music, animation, and narration for to hold kids’ attention when mom or dad allows some screen time, as long as it’s educational.

But, when pondering stories told through apps, I’m always reminded of Rudyard Kipling’s lines:

When the flush of a newborn sun fell first on Eden’s green and gold,
Our father Adam sat under the Tree and scratched with a stick in the mold;
And the first rude sketch that the world had seen was joy to his mighty heart,
Till the Devil whispered behind the leaves: “It’s pretty, but is it Art?”

So what, we can entertain kids with picture book apps? Kids are actually pretty easy to entertain. I mean, when I was a kid I played with cardboard boxes, bubble wrap, and tin foil. So we can add animation and sound effects to comic books? Hollywood’s been doing that for years. So we can color in pictures on our phone while waiting in line for coffee or while trying to avoid conversation with a coworker? We’ve always been pretty great at wasting time.

Sure, apps that offer interactive storytelling experiences are interesting, maybe even educational, but are they capital-A Art?

Or, perhaps the more important question is—do they have the potential to be Art?

In the article “Picture Book Apps and the Case of the Vanishing Author,” writer Sandy McDowell bemoans that picture book authors don’t adapt their talents to help app designers tell better stories with apps. She points out three ways in which picture book authors are already primed to help develop apps—picture book authors are already multi-modal writers, they know about user experience and design, and a lot about app development is the same as picture book development.

And, McDowell claims, “even the best animation or the most speedy download can’t save a bad story.”

Reading has always been interactive and personalized, and storytelling has always been multi-modal. A fascinating irony about all this new-fangled technology is that the more we get away from humans doing stuff on their own, the more we learn about ourselves—the more we can’t escape ourselves.

The more we can’t escape our stories.

Therein lies the Art. Yeah, a lot of apps in the publishing world are about bells and whistles. A lot of them exist to make money. A lot of them are escapist video games disguised as books. And a lot of them are going to have their heyday on the AppStore and then disappear. But as long as they are telling stories, there is the potential for an app to give a reader a burst of insight and emotion that forces him/her to look up from his/her digital daydreams and see the world anew.

There’s no telling where digital storytelling is going to take us in the future. Digital technology is blurring the lines between fact and fiction, casting into flux the idea of identity. Already with stuff like Comic-Con and Snapchat filters, we see people shape-shifting into their favorite characters or wearing digital masks. With alternative reality technology, people are finding new ways to escape into video games and the digital world. With apps like Crave, romance readers can now see and interact with their fantasies. So maybe before long you WILL be able to have coffee with Captain Ahab or go bowling with Harry Potter.

But hopefully the farther we escape the more we will come to appreciate reality, life, the human experience.

And perhaps that appreciation will come from a small voice whispering: “It’s fun, but is it Art?”


Cassie Hayes is a fiction writer and sometime taco-maker from Waxahachie, Texas. She graduated with her bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Texas at Arlington and now attends the Arkansas Writers MFA Program and interns at the Oxford American.

Everything is Now Political

The future of the literary journal in the age of Trump.

by Mark Lager, Poetry Reader

“Everything is now political. We have the responsibility to make the political personal.”

Roxane Gay challenged booksellers with this statement. She challenged booksellers to extend their scope beyond their usual predominantly suburban, predominantly white demographics. She challenged booksellers to share marginalized voices. She cited as examples bookstores in Detroit, Milwaukee, and Los Angeles that had reached out to minority communities.

She had already caused controversy in the publishing industry by withdrawing her new book How To Be Heard from Simon & Schuster as an act of dissent. Some commentators had criticized her demonstration as another posturing of political correctness. They were wrong in their assumptions. Her choice was a bold and courageous move.

Simon & Schuster’s imprint, Threshold, had originally planned on publishing the book Dangerous by the alt-right firebrand Milo Yiannopoulos. His speeches and writings have tapped into much of the same misogynistic and xenophobic fears and hatreds which fueled the ascendancy and election of Donald Trump. Protests against his college tour turned explosive in California on the campuses of UC Davis and UC Berkeley.

Despite his disgusting and divisive rhetoric, the ACLU decided to defend his First Amendment free speech rights. Censoring Milo Yiannopoulos and others like him reinforces his supporters’ suspicions of the liberal media, which will only encourage even more dangerous and outrageous alt-right agitprop. Censorship is never the answer. Counterdemonstrations are essential and important.

Simon & Schuster eventually did the right thing: they canceled the publication of Dangerous. However, the burning question still remains: how many more major booksellers will consider publishing someone like Milo Yiannopoulos in the first place? Will the publishing industry’s attention seeking (through a figure like Milo) continue?

Joy Peskin of Farrar, Straus and Giroux has detected a disturbing pattern here between the political and publishing worlds: “It’s not a coincidence that Trump went from a reality television star to president of the United States, thanks, in part, to the radicalization of the white working class. And a lot of the leg work was done by Milo and his mentor, Steve Bannon…If you think Trump’s presidency is the last gasp of the white male patriarchy, think again.”

Authors, booksellers, bookstores, and literary magazines need to step up to the plate as Roxane Gay has done. They need to address the issue of inclusiveness. This is absolutely fundamental now because of the forces of bigotry and racism previously beneath the surface but now unleashed by the presidency of Trump.  Literary journals must create communities of marginalized voices, what Roxane Gay recently nicknamed “sacred spaces” so that writing will progress, not regress, in this current charged climate.

Minorities have always faced an uphill battle in their writing being published and now this could only get worse if literary journals do not continue to disseminate these voices.

John Freeman argues that an alternative to the contemporary literary magazine is one which is international. Freeman says that “corrective narratives” are necessary right now in order to counteract the dominant capitalist and corporate narratives being used to manipulate the populace. However, Freeman also says that these narratives themselves should not be didactic on a moral or political level. They should simply present a region of human life which goes against these narratives.

Can a piece of poetry or fiction accomplish this ambition without being political? According to Roxane Gay’s more radical stance, this is no longer viable.

“The overlooked, the misunderstood, and the silent” are the voices which Arkana promises to share with the world in our mission statement. We have included voices which contemplate the complexities of life in China and London, of genocide in the Middle East, among other voices. All literary journals need to keep pushing themselves beyond their borders. It is only through this process that we will be able to combat the insular mindset which has prevented progress for such a long time and create communities which are truly inclusive.


Mark Lager is currently enrolled in the MFA in Creative Writing program at the University of Central Arkansas. His work has been published in Chiron Review, Circumference, Columbia Journal, and Denver Quarterly.

Arkana Rooted in Diversity

A brief essay on Arkana and the importance of diversity.

by Jacqulyn West, Nonfiction Editor

Here at Arkana, part of our mission is to uncover the hidden and provide a platform for voices that are frequently silenced, overlooked, or ignored. We embrace our responsibility toward and embrace a commitment to diversity. But what exactly does diversity mean? As the new folks on staff, we discussed just that – and here’s what we said to each other:

“Diversity means that there are always others besides myself.”

“Diversity is a range of ideas, platforms, styles, life experience, identity, and history.”

“Diversity includes different backgrounds – not just the straight, white male.”

All true, valid, honest assessments right? But what do we actually do about it? First, we did some research to find out more about diversity in publishing.

Regarding gender identity and representation, we found the VIDA Count – available at http://www.vidaweb.org/category/the-count/ –  both informative and engaging. This tally takes a look at who is publishing in a number of different periodicals and journals and shows how many women and how many men are publishing within them. VIDA is a nonprofit feminist organization that brings awareness to concerns of disparity among traditionally marginalized populations. Since we’re a new organization preparing to publish our first issue, we don’t yet have the data to run a count on our publications, but we’re confident we’ll represent both women and men.

Of course, we want to encourage and invite writers from multivariate backgrounds and identities to submit their best work to Arkana. In order to reach a variety of audiences, we’re sending our calls for submissions to places and organizations that already have an audience and the infrastructure already built in to reach out, like Writers of Color on Twitter. We’ve also reached out to Cave Canem, an organization supporting African American poetry writers. See more about the organization, their outreach, events, and publications at http://cavecanempoets.org/ .

With more information about what’s happening in the wider world of publishing, we looked locally to see how we could reach out and hear back from diverse writers and readers. Our team has made contact with representatives from the KIPP Delta public schools, an equal opportunity provider serving six Arkansas schools and alumni teaching life skills for success. We hope to receive submissions from their alumni, and get the word out about our magazine to their students as well. Check out their website at http://www.kippdelta.org/ .

In addition to these, we also want to encourage and embrace work both from and about a diversity places as well. Since we are part of the MFA program in Creative Writing at the University of Central Arkansas, we are definitely situated in the South, and we welcome and enjoy works from this region. But we don’t want to exclude works and voices from other places. The big publishing houses have received (valid) criticism about their focus on stories and voices from big cities, especially on the coasts. At Arkana, we want to read stories from the sticks and the cities, and to find out how and why culture works from the people living and creating in those spaces.

Finally, we encourage diversification and fluidity in genre. Works don’t have to fit neatly into one category to find a home in this magazine. If you have suggestions on how we can continue to reach diverse audiences, grow our readership, and publish infrequently heard voices, reach out to us on social media.  And if you want to share your own voice, take a look at our Submission guidelines. Keep our mission statement in min, and share this with writers you think would be a good fit. We’re all in this together, and we want to represent.


Jacqulyn Harper West is a poet of unfinished parts who prefers writing nonfiction. Her heart is in classic country music, especially the Bakersfield sound, and her scholarship ranges from feminist explications of her hometown’s cultural heritage tourism sites to code-meshing and hip hop as texts in first-year and creative writing pedagogy.