Contributor Spotlights

Contributor Spotlight: Andrena Zawinski

In Fall of 2022, Arkana Editors spoke with poet and writer Andrena Zawinski. Her fiction piece, “Lotus,” appears in Arkana’s 12th Issue.

Arkana: This story is filled with strong female characters (Lotus, the narrator, her mother, etc.). How do you find the right balance between strength and vulnerability when writing about female empowerment?

Andrena Zawinski: Lotus’ desire to move into a progressive lifestyle—after her mother abandons her in the regressive attitude toward women having children out of wedlock—makes development of strength a necessary outcome emerging from imposed vulnerability as she is forced to navigate her life as an expectant mother alone.

ARK: The only man in the story is an anesthesiologist, there to manage the narrator’s pain, and he shows up drunk. Why did you include this detail?

AZ: The anesthesiologist is irresponsible where a woman’s life is in his hands. Other male mentions are also oblivious to women’s fundamental needs: “the smart ass intern” with wisecracks about the narrator’s predicament and struggle as well as the abusive “pothead, art school dropout, soon to be ex-husband” she must put behind. They are carefree where women struggle to survive and develop, capable of putting the skids to their trajectories.

ARK: Do you have a real “Lotus” in your life?

AZ: A woman I met in the maternity ward did awaken me to the feminism that was burgeoning at the time and who introduced me to her own newfound journey into Buddhism, a woman who made me feel less alone in that stage of life. Lotus and the narrator are very different from each other but have paths intersecting that made them very much the same in the challenges they face, which is why I gave them contrasting backgrounds and identical delivery dates.

I named her Lotus for the Lotus Sutra of the Nam-myoho-renge-kyo chant to overcome suffering, placing her chanting in the story where it seemed appropriate, whether the suffering was large or small, immediate or impending.

ARK: Do you agree with Simone de Beauvoir that “one is not born, but rather becomes, a woman”?

AZ: Attaching the idea of not being born but becoming a woman to Lotus and implying it to the narrator seemed right because before them being women was yet to be fully determined, driving home the idea that biological determinism is tinged by social constructs, their gender taking on circumstances and values of social norms.  

ARK: Why did you choose to leave the narrator unnamed?

AZ: The narrator is “I” from the 1st person omniscient point of view that I think gives this piece of fiction the sense of truth-telling. And, in this story, all the facts, whether from memoir (which some are) or fiction (which many are), lead to the same end: a greater truth coming from facts of the matter, invented or real.

ARK: In addition to your work with Arkana, are there any other publications or projects you are working on? 

AZ: In 2022, I had two books published! One, in which “Lotus” appears, is a debut collection of flash fiction, Plumes & other flights of fancy, 80 pages from Writing Knights Press. The other is my fourth full-length collection of poetry, Born Under the Influence, 132 pages, released by Word Tech Editions.

ARK: It sounds like you’ve been pretty busy. We look forward to them! Thank you for visiting with us.

Read “Lotus” here!

Andrena Zawinski is a poet, shutterbug, and flash fiction writer. Her fourth full collection of poetry, Born Under the Influence, appears in September 2022 from Word Tech Press and debut collection of flash fiction, Plumes, in May 2022 from Writing Knights. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Contributor Spotlights

Contributor Spotlight: Zachary S. Johnson

Arkana Editors chatted with writer Zachary S. Johnson. His fiction piece, “A Small Fire in Ephraim’s Wood,” is featured in Arkana’s 12th Issue.

Arkana: The three perspectives in this story build off of each other to culminate in an emotional gut punch. Why did you decide to write from each brother’s POV rather than focus on a single character? 

Zachary S. Johnson: Well, I wanted to demonstrate that the characters weren’t bound to each others’ experience. When we think about sibling relationships—and I’m one of three boys myself—we tend to flatten distinctions between siblings without taking caution with the way each child’s experiences with their parents are formed. It’s not uncommon for siblings to have different individual relationships with each parent, and that’s certainly been my experience. They are brothers, and they do love each other dearly, I think. I just think that their respective ideas about love are grounded in vastly different principles.

ARK: With the epigraph and references to Beloved, this story is clearly inspired by Toni Morrison’s work. What do you find most powerful about her writing? How does it inform your own work?

ZSJ: Toni’s work helped me work through my grief; grief is something that sits by you and demands attention. Grief is like a child. It demands nurturing. You have to accommodate it—you cannot neglect it. Thankfully, I had a writer like Toni to look up to; her work reinforced for me that I am entitled to a complex relationship with grief…to complex relationships with all my emotions. They don’t have to fit squarely within certain paradigms or assumptions, be they racial, gendered, poverty-informed, etc. I have a Toni to look up to, and for that, I’m very grateful. Blessed! Being born when I was born, raised on that kind of literature.  

ARK: This story is a heartbreaking meditation on abandonment. What do you hope this piece communicates to your readers?

ZSJ: So the story was inspired by a real story (a la Beloved and Margaret Garner) that I read about two parents in Houston that had abandoned their three children in an apartment, and one of the children died. Notably, it was reported that his body had begun to rot when the police found the children. I’m convinced that there’s not a one-to-one relationship between abandonment and love. People abandon things they love all the time, and I think the absent parents in the story loved their children deeply. Perhaps even love will motivate us to make what seem like monstrous decisions. I’m sympathetic to those parents, you know? I hope that people can read this and feel things they’re not “supposed” to feel, like sympathy. 

ARK: Could you describe the significance of the biblical reference in your story’s title?

ZSJ: Yeah, the Battle of Ephraim’s Wood was a battle between David and his son Absalom. I have a real respect for the legacy of William Faulkner in the genre, and there’s always this problem of parentage in his work. The biblical stories present the occasional masterclass in family dysfunction, which I think is a big part of the divine message, maybe. That there’s some sort of deliverance from your “original sin,” the generational trauma that contorts your emotional ecology. Like, perhaps that’s salvation. With regard to these boys, I think this is a case of divine intervention gone wrong. And they’re all searching for a kind of deliverance.

ARK: In addition to your work with Arkana, are there any other publications or projects you are excited about? (What are you working on now?)

ZSJ: Well, law school is pretty demanding (I didn’t end up going to Duke, I’m at Harvard now), but in between my assignments, I’ve been working through some horror stories. I have a story that’s influenced by a classic, “The Lottery,” that I hope will see the light of day somewhere. I love what the writers on FX’s Atlanta are doing with the genre too. I took a trip out to Martha’s Vineyard in July, and I found myself wandering about, thinking about town secrets and taboos. So hopefully, around the next submission period, I’ll have the pleasure of getting that to Arkana. I like you guys.

ARK: Thank you so much! You know, Shirley Jackson’s story still haunts me to this day. I can imagine the balance between school and writing must be hectic, but look forward to seeing something influenced by Jackson’s work. So, I hope that comes to fruition as well.

ZSJ: I’m just very thankful that this work got to see the light of day. It was a very personal effort—that it resonated with the editorial board means so much.

ARK: We are excited to have your piece in our issue! Thank you for speaking with us, and we look forward to seeing what’s ahead for you!

Read “A Small Fire in Ephraim’s Wood” here!

Zachary S. Johnson is a graduate of the University of Arkansas. A native of Little Rock, he’s a writer, poet, and author of “A Small Fire in Ephraim’s Wood.” He is a student at Harvard University School. He currently lives in Dallas, Texas with his partner and attack dog, Seiko the Yorkie.

Image Credit: Albrecht Fietz

Contributor Spotlights

Contributor Spotlight: Erin Townsend

Arkana Editors chatted with writer and Editor’s Choice Award winner Erin Townsend. Her fiction piece, “Stitches,” is featured in Arkana’s 12th Issue.

Arkana: This piece beautifully addresses the difficult subject of having to watch a loved one suffer. Does this stem from personal experience?

Erin Townsend: Sort of – there are personal elements present for sure, but as with all of my fiction, things have been changed, added to, subtracted from, embellished, etcetera. It started with some truth and grew into something else. My dad is fine, is what I’m saying. 

ARK: Maps continue to show up as a motif throughout this story, seemingly as a way for the main character to attempt to exert control over an uncontrollable situation (especially when the GPS is wrong near the end). What was the significance of using maps as a way for the narrator to connect with her father?

ET: Well, there’s the foremost connection of trying to find a kind of “path” to another person, both the narrator and their father being lost to one another, in some way. And you’re definitely right about that sense of trying to control something uncontrollable. I also liked the parallel it afforded to the mapping of memories and the way that worked with the more literal mapping of a brain; it had a lot of built-in complications that I was excited to explore.

ARK: In the story, you play with form as a way to skip around in time. We loved how this enabled you to handle each moment so delicately. What made you decide to write this as a series of vignettes?

ET: I’m partial to vignettes for different reasons, but for this story specifically, the piecemeal approach seemed like a good representation of the father-daughter relationship here: composed of snippets, not quite whole. And in some sense, each vignette ended up feeling like a point of interest on a map, which I liked as well. 

ARK: How did you choose the order and arrangement of the vignettes?

ET: This very rarely happens in my pieces, but I think the order of the vignettes in the final piece is the same order I wrote them in initially. It very much felt like an association game; I wanted them to be roughly chronological while still allowing for memories to bleed through where they felt most natural.

ARK: The narrator and her father use humor to cope with their situation. Does this mark a change in their relationship, or have they always communicated in this way? In some ways, is she already mourning the loss of her father before he’s gone?

ET: I imagined that they have always communicated this way; it’s an exercise in trying to connect while still maintaining emotional distance. Despite this new tragedy, they keep resorting to old habits and still can’t quite connect the way that they want to, or feel they should. And definitely, the narrator is mourning here. Not just because the future loss is now immediately inevitable but also for the slow changes over time and what that steals from their relationship, from her memories of her father, or even from what their relationship could have been. 

ARK: In addition to your work with Arkana, are there any other publications or projects you are excited about? What are you working on now?

ET: For sure! I was fortunate enough to be a part of a collaboration with the Frick museum recently, so I have a story coming out in a collection they’re doing at the end of March, which I’m very excited about. And right now, I’m working on a novel (I assume this is required by law, but if anyone knows any loopholes, let me know), which I hope to finish a full draft of by the end of my in-residency fellowship here at NYU. Fingers crossed!

ARK: Regarding Ingres: Fourteen Short Stories with an introduction by Darin Strauss will release in March 2023. This collaboration sounds very exciting!

ET: I just wanted to thank everyone at Arkana for all the support! This has been a really lovely experience, and I appreciate everything you’re doing and have done. 

ARK: We would like to thank you as well! We love to get excited about the work our artists are doing and help in any way we can to connect readers to writers; those connections include our editors’ own personal discoveries. We will keep our fingers crossed for your novel draft and look forward to more of your work in the future!

Read “Stitches” here!

Erin Townsend is a Brooklyn-based writer. Her work has been featured in the Long River Review, Paper Droids Magazine, and others, and has received the Jennie Hackman Award for short fiction. Currently, she is finishing her last year of an MFA at New York University.

Editor Notes

Notes from the Editor: Issue 13 Masthead

Dear Arkana Family and Friends,

We are excited to announce the new MASTHEAD for Arkana Issue 13!

In the coming weeks, we will check in with our genre editors here on our blog to learn more about their teams. In the meantime, we are already reading your submissions, so keep sending us your best work! Just a few of our current requests include place-based nonfiction that continues to give a voice to under-represented topics or issues such as regional concerns or communities, more 10-minute plays, and flash fiction. We would also be excited to see more illustrated narratives, a photo or story album that tells an intriguing narrative. This is just a short list! There is more to come as we highlight each team.

Do you have something ready for us to read? Find out submission details on our Submit Page.

Want to see what we have published recently? Explore our current issue here or check out something from the Archive.

Want to engage with us on social media? Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

We love sharing our enthusiasm by celebrating our artists as much as possible. We nominate our writers’ work yearly for the Pushcart Prize and for other prizes, including Best of the Net. Also, for each issue, we award an Editor’s Choice Award for Fiction and Editor’s Choice Award for Poetry.

Looking forward to another great issue!

All the best,
Kathy M. Bates
Managing Editor, Arkana Literary Journal

Arkana is an online literary journal whose mission is to seek and foster a sense of shared wonder by publishing inclusive art that asks questions, explores mystery, and works to make visible the marginalized, the overlooked, and those whose voices have been silenced.

Contributor Spotlights

Contributor Spotlight: L Mari Harris

Arkana Editors were excited to chat with L Mari Harris about her process and story inspiration. Her microfiction piece, “Highlights From the First Hour of Tradio at 88.5FM,” is featured in Arkana’s 11th Issue.

Arkana: “Highlights” is a work of microfiction. What is your process in writing with this medium to create the most impact with so few words?

L Mari Harris: In the simplest terms, you want the most bang for your buck. When I begin a new piece, my first draft is free-flow and is usually about three times its final length. Then, with subsequent drafts, I start to whittle it down, first getting rid of unnecessary weight, be that exposition or imagery. And as I revise, I also add. As I listen to the piece in my head, new imagery arises. It’s all a weaving process as I build what I am ultimately happy with, what ultimately speaks to what I hope to show readers.

Ark: What inspired you to write this piece in this format?

LMH: There really is a morning call-in show in my rural Ozarks county where people buy, sell, and trade. Many of the calls are your average “I have a Ford F150 for sale”, but some of them include the caller’s story of why they’re calling, and they will break your heart. While everything in this micro is fiction, the host really does say, “I don’t make the rules, I just follow them, folks” every time someone calls in to sell a handgun. Long guns are legal to advertise, but short guns are not, and the host is constantly reminding callers they can’t advertise short guns for sale and he’ll interrupt them if they start to say they have a pistol or revolver for sale. I hear it at least once a day, and I just had to use it.

Ark: When writing this piece, did you have a particular community or location in mind? Do you have experiences or memories that might speak to the tight-knit community feel of the calls being received and the dialers making those calls?

LMH: We are about as rural as you can get. The largest town is 40 miles away, and it’s a whopping 22,000. If you break down on one of the roads, sit tight because a farmer will eventually drive by and fix you right up. We have a wonderful community kitchen where seniors and anyone else needing companionship and a hot meal can go free of charge every day of the week. If someone says they need help cutting firewood or patching their roof, a half dozen strangers will show up. I’m proud of how we look out for each other without asking for anything in return.

Ark:  What led to your decision to highlight, in particular, the first hour of a radio show as opposed to the third or fourth hour? What kinds of tones and messages were you hoping to capture by featuring the first hour’s calls?

LMH: The first hour of the real call-in show is always the most unpredictable and most prone to backstories from the callers. It’s supposed to be a two-hour show every weekday, but sometimes the calls dry up, and the host will just segue into a Judds song without explanation. I love the drama of never knowing what’s coming next.

Ark: In addition to your work with Arkana, are there any other publications or projects you are excited about?

LMH: I’ve been getting two chapbooks of flash fiction ready for spring contests, I have about a dozen different flash and micro drafts in process, and I’m working on a longer story, also inspired by true events. Right now, I only have two pieces I’ve submitted to journals this year. Last year was so incredibly busy for me with my day job that I ran out of unpublished material to submit. It feels like I’m starting from scratch, and that’s a fun place for me to be right now like the entire world is just waiting to open up for me again.

Ark: We can’t wait to see what windows and doors open and where they might lead! Thank you for sharing with us!

Read “Highlights From the First Hour of Tradio at 88.5FM” here!

L Mari Harris’s most recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in No Contact, matchbook, Milk Candy Review, CRAFT, Okay Donkey, among others. She works in the tech industry and lives in the Ozarks. Follow her on Twitter @LMariHarris and read more of her work at

Arkana News, Editor Notes

Arkana Issue 11 Virtual Launch Party

Join Arkana editors and friends on December 1st, 2021 at 6 pm CST!

Arkana Readers, Friends, and Family,

Please join us Wednesday, December 1st, at 6pm CST via Zoom for Arkana Issue 11’s Digital Launch Party.

Writers of Issue 11 will read their poems and stories, we will host our usual rounds of trivia, and come together to celebrate yet another Arkana Issue!

Save the Date! Find a link to our event here!

Read the latest issue of Arkana here!

Arkana News, Editor Notes

Arkana’s Best of the Net Nominations

Arkana Editors announce 2020/2021’s Best of the Net nominations!

Best of the Net is an annual online award anthology curated and hosted by Sundress Publications, honoring the best online writing. Independent publishers are invited to nominate 6 poems, 2 pieces of fiction, and 2 pieces of nonfiction published in their online journals during the previous year. Nominations for this year’s award have originally been published online between July 1st, 2020, and June 30th, 2021.

Arkana believes our authors deserve recognition for their well-crafted work. We are pleased to announce our editors’ picks for this year, and we wish our writers the best of luck in the award process.

2020/2021 Nominees:


Baby Boy” by Caitlin Woolley (Arkana Issue 9), I Find You Attractive” by Francis Golm (Arkana Issue 9)


The Big Fat Free Bird End of Times” by James Jacob Seawel (Arkana Issue 9)

The First Woman I Loved was Named Pain” by Madari Pendas (Arkana Issue 9)


Paint the Window Open” by Mary Paulson (Arkana Issue 9)

Trains” by Shooooz (Arkana Issue 9)

Love Letters from Lilith” by Natasha King (Arkana Issue 10)

Lament for Children” by Nansŏrhŏn, translated by Ian Haight & T’ae-yong Hŏ (Arkana Issue 10)

Witness Marks” by Adam D. Weeks (Arkana Issue 10)

The Fire I Carry” by Sandra So Hee Chi Kim (Arkana Issue 10)

Read the latest issue of Arkana here!


Interview with Micha Meinderts

Arkana‘s interview with Dutch author Micha Meinderts.

by A. É. Coleman, Audio and Art Consultant

It’s a day of firsts. Not only has Arkana crossed national boundaries with our interview of Dutch author and trans activist, Micha Meinderts, but it is also our first video interview. We were honored to have Micha as our guest on this maiden voyage.

Micha is the author of five books, the most recent of which being Aldus Sybren. This is an autobiographical work of fiction about the main character, Sybren, who was born a female in the Netherlands, grew up in the US where “she” transitioned to he, and is now returning to the Netherlands as an adult male to both find his way among men and his place as a stranger in his homeland.

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.
Editor Notes

Issue 3 Notes from the Editors: Fiction

A message about the fiction included in Arkana‘s new issue.

By Liz Larson, Fiction Editor

Working on Issue 3 of the Arkana this fall has been a rewarding experience. It’s been daunting as well, like when our submissions for fiction tripled for this issue’s iteration. (And believe me, there was quality as well as quantity.)

But it all just means that things are working well. We are developing our potential to better partner with underserved/underexposed writers as well as cementing the kind of journal we want to be known for in the writing community.

The staff worked together to further develop our cross platform outreach innovations (social media outlets, new genres, interviews, and audio files) to produce quality work within Issue 3 that will hopefully with its intentionality open more doors to a broader audience.

We’ve had steady growth of readership throughout the United States thanks to pieces like “Empty as Churches” by James Ulmer and “Shelter” by Brent Fisk. We are also expanding our global connections with submissions like “In the Forests of the Night” by Bhavika Sicka and the two flash fictions “The Obituary” and “The Poets Registry Office” included in “Two Conversations” by Christine Brandel.

The four fiction selections for Arkana’s Issue 3 weave together thematically in their deference to the magic of place. With our commitment to mystery, a sense of wonder, and dedication to under-represented voices as stated in our mission statement we thoroughly enjoyed each piece for its adherence to settings and tone, as well as overall polished writing. Beyond that, each piece’s commitment to imagery showed in their crisp and efficient gateways into their respective narratives.

Arkana‘s fiction readers, who screen and discuss what to include in each issue, did a fantastic job working together to choose the four pieces for Issue 3. Their dedication to showcasing the best ensemble of fiction made a huge impression on me (and made my job all the easier!).The fiction readers for this issue, C.F. Lindsey and Victoria Mays, and Cassie Hayes displayed insight and a willingness to put in long hours reading through many outstanding submissions. I hope we get just as many and then some for the next issue. (Hint, hint—send more work our way!)

Finally, I need to thank the leadership of Arkana: Dr. Jenny Case, Supervising Editor and Cassie Hayes, Managing Editor of the journal. Whenever I needed guidance, they were always there with suggestions. They made all questions from staff seem worthwhile, even my new to the role ones. They modeled engaged leadership to me and the rest of the Arkana staff.

So head on back over to the main Arkana page and dive in to the wonderful pieces we laid out for you. You won’t be disappointed with any genre you pick. But since I am partial, read the fiction first!

Fiction included in Issue 3:
“In the Forests of the Night”
“Empty as Churches”
“Two Conversations”

Check out these stories and more by exploring our third issue:

Liz Larson is a member of the Arkansas Writers MFA Program at the University of Central Arkansas. She is a bigly believer in risk-taking. Though fearful of falling down, she will do it with aplomb.
Arkana News


by the Arkana Staff

TODAY our brand new issue went live on our main website:! 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 to start reading Issue 3 or our archived issues now!