For Better, For Worse

Musings on the future of writing and publishing in the digital age.

by Ed Robson, Fiction and Poetry Reader

There’s good news and bad news for writers in the digital age, that much is certain. What I’m trying to sort out is, which is which?

Publishing is easier than ever. Getting published is harder than ever.

Everyone can write. Anyone can write.

More people are writing poetry. More people are reading poetry. Fewer people are buying poetry.

The opportunities. The competition.

The technology.

We’re doomed, it seems, to live and write in interesting times. Still, I do see some signs that to my mind look encouraging. For instance:

  1. The Internet can monetize your popularity. The digital marketplace for literature, as for other forms of art, is tough. Most people who upload their work, even if it’s really good, will never see a cent for it. But platforms are appearing now that make a point of rewarding content creators who get hits. The first few poems, blogposts, or stories you post may not make enough to buy a sandwich, but if you are persistent, and if your writing is appealing to an audience of primarily millenials, and IF TODAY’S YOUR LUCKY DAY, the next one may tweak someone’s fancy and you’ll start to build a fan base.
  2.  Micropoets. Atticus is only one of several poets whose haiku-length musings regularly reach six-figure fan bases in Instagram and other platforms. I’m not saying we should all start posting 6- to 12-word poems on our social media–it must be harder than it looks, right? But I think it’s safe to say, there are niches yet to be discovered in a world where billions of people seem to live with eyes locked on their cell phones.
  3.  Print on Demand. Everybody knows you can’t make money selling books made out of paper, right? But a few publishers have started taking advantage of the new printing technology that prints and binds single books, one at a time, never more than have been ordered and paid for. POD is still utilized more by the vanity publishing industry, but little houses are appearing now that can say “Yes!” to any book they really like. It’s still largely up to authors to do most of their own marketing, but with waste of unsold books eliminated, publisher and author both make money on every single sale.
  4.  The Opportunity for Digital Litmags. The literary world continues to need journals that select and promote good writing, but publications must adapt to digital reality. Consumers reading on their phones want easy access to searchable content that allows them to select one item at a time. Internet readers will be loyal to journals with specific niche appeal. The Arkana staff, you can be sure, is paying close attention to these trends.

Ask a writer why they write, they’ll tell you it’s just what they have to do. For better or worse, we’re married to those words upon the page, whatever form that page may take.

And that’s good news, because the world–now more than ever–needs that thing we do.


Ed Robson is a retired clinical psychologist from Winston-Salem, NC.  His poetry has recently appeared in The Hungry Chimera, Right Hand Pointing, Failed Haiku, and Perfume River Poetry Review.  His current works in progress include novels, short fiction, and creative non-fiction.  Between writing assignments he enjoys cycling and cooking.  Past pursuits he hopes he’ll someday have time to reactivate include camping, mineral collecting, gardening, woodworking, and silversmithing.  His role models are mostly teenagers, especially Emma Gonzales and Malala Yousafzai, and he secretly suspects the Hokey Pokey may in fact be what it’s all about.
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Ginormous*: My Meeting with Author Kathryn Miles

A member of the Arkana staff reflects on spending time with author Kathryn Miles during her recent visit to the University of Central Arkansas campus.

by Greg Smolarz, Scriptwriting Editor

*Ginormous is her favorite word. It took some persistence, but I finally got it out of her.

My introduction to Kathryn Miles was in the form of one of her books titled Quakeland. I opened the book and the first word I saw was persnickety, and this tickled me to no end. I’m a word guy. I love words, and I feel like I knew persnickety was a word before, but it had also been years since I had read the word. So internally I was like, Yeah I could get on board with this, right away. The next day I sat down to read the selections from her book for our class, and it was such a wonderful piece that I grew way more excited about the fact that we were going to be meeting this author later that day for an interview with her to be included in Arkana’s fifth issue. Then the thought hit me, I should post a tweet and see if she responds.

So that’s exactly what I did. It was a casual post, nothing too crazy. I didn’t think too much about it until after I attended a class I’m auditing for another class. Casually walking home, I pulled up my twitter feed to find several updates. I was shocked. Surely, theres no way. But it was. Kathryn Miles had liked, and even commented, on my post. I was elated.

From there it was a hurry up and wait type of situation because we weren’t technically meeting her until four, and it was still early. So I busied myself, prepared my list of questions, and went over them for the umpteenth time. Finally the time came to leave for class, so I grabbed my book bag and headed out.

The anticipation during this first class was excruciating because Pam, my partner in crime for the interview, and I were to go directly from that class to conduct the interview with Kathryn Miles. I was starting to hyperventilate during class I was so nervous.

Finally the time came for us to head up to Thompson 331 at UCA where we would be conducting the interview. Pam and I strategized on the way up about how we would go about conducting the interview. My heart was really starting to pound, but I tried to hide the nervousness the best I could.

DING!

The elevator door opened, and I stepped out to face my destiny for that day. It was like I was floating into the room. Thank god Jack West, Arkana’s Creative Nonfiction Editor, was there to break the tension, “You guys mind if I crash your interview?” She called out.

“Of course not.” Pam and I said in unison.

So we rounded the table to our seats and Kathryn Miles declared, “You must be my new Twitter friend.”

“Yup, that’s me.” I replied with a huge grin.

All the formal introductions were made and due to time constraints we jumped right into the interview. Her answers were incredible, and I’ve conducted a lot of interviews, but this one was one of the best I’ve ever been involved with. She was funny, witty, and loved to laugh. So we interviewed her for about half an hour, and everything went great, until I looked at my phone.

My intention was to record the interview to transcribe it later, but I had a call had come through and knocked the recording app out of sync, so it stopped recording. My heart fell into my chest.

Jack West reassured me that it was going to be ok. I had no choice but to believe her. So on we trudged.

I spent most of the dinner in my head about the recording incident, so I’m not sure I showed up the best that I could have, but everyone else was having a blast, and despite the incident, I was still having fun.

After the dinner, we headed over to the business school for Kathryn’s reading. Social gatherings make me really nervous, but I also like to try and face that fear head on because whenever I do show up I always feel better after. I had a great conversation with John Vanderslice about taking his class next semester. He’s the fiction guy here at my school. So we chopped it up a bit, and now I’m even more stoked to take his class next semester.

After a little more hob knobbing, the reading started, and that’s when we entered the auditorium.

Dr. Jennie Case, Arkana‘s Supervising Editor, provided an excellent introduction, and then Kathryn started talking about her work. She exuded confidence in front of this group of people. It was like she had done this a million times before, and maybe she had, but her speech was intoxicating and her level of engagement with the crowd was through the roof. She really knew what she was doing. It all felt so surreal. It was like I was seeing my dreams come true in front of my eyes because she’s got the life I’m chasing.

All in all, I commend our faculty for doing such a great job in putting this together. As a student, this is the sort of thing I signed up for, although next time I will definitely put my phone on airplane mode for the interview.


Greg Smolarz is a creative writing MFA student at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway. His background is in film, but he jumped ship four years ago to pursue writing full time. He is an unpublished author, but hopes to change that very soon. His biggest accomplishment in the world of film was having a documentary accepted into a small film festival in Prescott, Arizona. One of his favorite quotes states, “My biggest weakness is that I’ll never be the smartest guy in the room, my biggest strength is that I don’t pretend to be.”

Issue 4 Notes from the Editors

A note about Issue 4 and Arkana‘s past, present, and future.

by Cassie Hayes, Managing Editor

Arkana, a journal of mysteries and marginalized voices, is now two years old.

I have been working with the journal since it was only a name, a Submittable page, and an empty WordPress site. Now we’ve just published our fourth issue, received thousands of submissions, and been fortunate enough to promote over fifty new works of literature and art from talented contributors from all walks of life. I remember our pride and awe at our first launch party, when we looked up at the journal projected before us—this thing we filled with our time, hard work, and passion, this thing that hadn’t really existed before that day in December 2016. It is a wonderful feeling, creating something beautiful and worthwhile. It’s an even more wonderful feeling to have created something beautiful and worthwhile with friends and cohorts, fellow editors and students on our staff and fellow writers toiling on their craft who took the time to send their art to us and let us make their voices part of the journal.

At the launch of our first issue, I remember understanding for the first time the power and importance of literary community. I remember being in awe at what in only a few months we had managed to create. And I remember feeling pride and excitement—amazed that I got to be a part of this larger literary conversation.

The launch of Issue 4 felt no different. I am overwhelmed by what the Arkana contributors and staff have managed to create.

For this issue, we received over 500 submissions from talented artists and writers across the globe. After combing through the slush pile, careful consideration of each submitted piece, and several tough discussions, we managed to narrow all those submissions down to the twelve new written pieces featured in Issue 4.

The work in this issue is powerful and reflective. Characters and narrators proclaim their identities, confess their secrets, and brave human mystery—touching on themes of family, sexuality, longing, faith, romance, home, hope and hopelessness. The work in this issue finds light in the dark and dangerous, beauty in the ordinary or cast aside, and clarity in chaos. The work in this issue probes the complexities of life—accomplishing the goal of all great art.

The word “journal” in Middle English meant “a book containing the appointed times of daily prayers.” It was tied to the everyday but also the sacred, the spiritual. At Arkana, we strive to be champions of the arcane—writers, editors, and artists putting together a journal of mysteries and marginalized voices, a journal that is everyday but sacred, a journal of writing and art that explores and celebrates the everyday and the sacred.

Issue 4 encapsulates this mission. Just take a look at the way this issue explores the sacred in texts such as “The Anchorite’s Tale” and “On the Oregon Coast”. Look at how it explores the everyday sacredness of home in “What I Remember from Missouri” and “The Bomb Beneath My Skin.” Feel what it means to look back, to struggle, to love in “How to Love Her,” “What you learned as a boy,” “Now—after time—I am willing to admit,” “Ohio Deathbed, 1990,” and “My Father Wore Another Man’s Pants.” And experience confession, it’s joy and it’s dangers, in “623,” “War Commentary #49, #50, and #51,” and “The Secrets of Ellwood County.”

Because the last class to have been here since the very beginning—since the naming of Arkana, crafting our mission statement, and planning the journal before it was a journal—have graduated, Issue 4 is both a capstone and a foundation. It is a statement. This is how far we have come. And this is the starting point from which we will continue to grow.

To the contributors of Arkana, thank you for trusting us with your art. To the staff of Arkana, past and present (and future), thank you for dedicating time and work to the creation and continuation of this journal and its mission. And to the readers, thank you for your appreciation of contemporary literature and for searching—along with the contributors and staff—for answers to the unanswerable questions of life and humanity by experiencing and promoting writing and art.

In other words, thank you to the community surrounding Arkana for continuing to question, wonder, explore mystery, and listen to the marginalized and those whose voices have been silenced.

Check out Issue 4, submit your art and written work to Arkana’s next issue in the fall, and we look forward to continuing to evolve and innovate as a journal.

Read Issue 4 here: arkanamag.org.


Cassie Hayes is from Waxahachie, Texas and attends the Arkansas Writers MFA Program. She works as an editorial intern at Sundress Publications. Under her pen-name, her poetry and prose has been published in From Sac, Cabinet of Heed, L’Éphémère Reveiw, and elsewhere.

Interview with Drew S. Cook

Arkana‘s interview with poet and professor Drew S. Cook, discussing neurodivergence, mental illness, and writing.

by A. É. Coleman, Audio and Art Consultant

Arkana was excited to sit down with Drew S. Cook, our former poetry editor, to discuss neurodivergence, mental health, poetry, and writing.

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.

Here’s what Drew said on some of the challenges when writing through the lens of neurodiversity:

“It’s hard to write about things when your language isn’t tailored to address them. So there are lots of personal challenges in creating the work. I find sometimes, looking out, that there’s sort of a performative expectation with regard to what I would call ‘mental illness writing’. I think people by and large like inspiring stories or stories of triumph over adversity or things that are sympathetic and tragic, and there isn’t always space for the kind of complexity that real life offers us…”

Check out the video for more!

You can find poet Drew S. Cook online at https://www.facebook.com/seriousbidnz


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.

The Poet-Tree and “The AWP 2018 Experience”

poet tree

An exquisite corpse poem from the writers who stopped by our booth at AWP 2018 in Tampa.

By Mikayla Davis, Poetry Editor

Once again Arkana dug its roots in at AWP. With our stickers, flyers, and fantastic staff, Booth 1606 really held its own in the massive book-forest that is the Book Fair.

Then, of course, was the Poet-Tree.

Debuted last year, the poet-tree asked attendees to contribute to the growth of art by adding one line or several of whatever they wished to the bare branches of our little plant. This year, the attendees definitely brought it! The first day alone saw the branches fuller than the entirely of last year’s AWP. By the end count, 2018 brought us 169 contributors to the community writing project.

As promised, I have gathered all of the leaves I could read and combined them into a single piece. Admittedly, I cheated a little bit and broke the entire thing down into ten parts. There were some definite themes this year and I think you’ll see evidence of that below. I can’t promise I have transcribed every leaf perfectly, but I think you’ll be pleased with the results of all of your hard work.

However, please enjoy the amazing contributions brought to you by the AWP 2018 attendees.

 


THE AWP 2018 EXPERIENCE

 

Part I: Arrival

let the wild rumpus start
awp tampa is swimming pools and cocktails
“the state with the prettiest name.”
these pockets full of buttons
the walls sweat
you don’t need pliers
platanos maduros, coated in brown sugar, sizzling
packing peanuts scattered helter-skelter like the lamest confetti ever
the birds + the bees just really get people going
roses are red
books are great
book fairs are better!
at awp 2-thousand-eight! (teen)
tracie morris – traciemorris0001@yahoo.com
rugburn randall
lou lou baumann
shine bright like music
clean the coffee table – these seven dollars have brought me a buffet of mcdonalds

 

Part II: Networking

“i have eaten…
but he smells so good
beautiful is the stranger
i wish for a kiss to remember
i need you and i claim you
let me hear you from across the desert – speak in sand, in orange and shining white –
if it’s all just the same, say my name, say my name in the morning so i’ll know when the wave breaks
love, love, love don’t live w/o love
but i am stuck feeding you thread through my hands
“and what i remember best is that the door to your room was the door to mine.”
she wanted it, too. she wanted it so badly.
she leaves my pillow all blue
why is “i love you” never enough?
te amo siempre
the road curls forward, a thirsty tongue of asphalt
half-eaten kiss

 

Part III: Self-Discovery

i feed him as many bodies as he needs. he chokes on a man-sized fist.
how do you build a world always in motion? how do you imagine a man still inside this skin?
all distance is a place in the body
like a kaleidoscope color-squares of eyes
galaxies swirl in my thighs
i am a mosaic made of plasma and love
i delight in well-worn muscles
the brag of my heart – i am, i am
i expelled your name from my lungs
a heart is the only constant in this world
then my heart fell away
i was naked this morning and then i wasn’t.
i’d smile, but i left my teeth at home
my feet ache
elbows in noses
blow. blow. blow.
always find space for breath
art is in my d.n.a.
writing is the lifeblood of the creative…may it be ever so!!
the mind is a peach always eating itself
my brain is full of gum wrappers and going nowhere.
the rest of us held hands with our teeth. it was the only way we could smile.
even smiles turn into spells
i’m learning to speak with this new mouth
i’m learning to walk in this new body
how to put my body
in the silk crown
where the green sprints up,
somehow there can be
no snow
we let her body burn, and the funeral home said, “thank you.”

 

Part IV: Panels

we sweat the wealth of the mulberry tree and hide our bone from the bushes ever reaching—
diamond leaves
yellowed with the algae that climbs the walls
everybody leaf me alone!
-leaf leave – / – love lost – / – lusted – / -loosed- / -brevity
tree / tree / tree / treats
once i was a tree but now i’m only me
i got poison sumac on my face. so there’s that.
a loss, among the clouds, leaves
eats, shoots and leaves!!
i’d tell you a simile on your likeness to a leaf, but you’re more like a slab of bark
a tree, an apoplectic poplar, or obstinate oak, or an elm lined with leaves
a leaf is a leaf is a leaf
don’t leaf me alone i cannot resist the forbidden fruit of reptilian wiles
hollow bones brittle like leaves
bend the branch until it snaps back
“i fall upon the thorns of life! i bleed.”
a leaf is a many veined thing
leafing from dark rooms / all those introvert writers / photo synthesis
the oak remembers its ancestry, falling through stars
pines sap / my face, glowing / with twilit eyes.
i will sing now of purple leaves
pelted by flowers
i’m a non-invasive woody plant. take care of me.
my roots are growing up and are disappearing into the distance.
like the juniper i am drawn to the edge
willow – how i love you. /      we both come from the river

 

Part V: Inspiration

salt water bath in an ocean on the opposite side of the country from my birth, on my birthday, still a cleansing, far from home.
yes, it was a vaginal birth
pelicans soar over bright water,
among the twists and turns of organs and ovaries
coming along through the trials of being born & born again
fort in the womb / claw mother—branded, bruised, / born.
you said mother earth was looking out for me then burned down the forest surrounding my house.

 

Part VI: The Book Fair

i can’t tell if the warmth in here is heat from anxiety or brain power
snakes and birds and cats— / clouds as large as my ego— / it’s hunting season!
“napping, and hunting, and chasing some mice, the history of cats and quantum mechanics. course worn is easy and simple and fun and then you get to eat some fish when everything is done.”
the donkey’s braying jerked me from sleep
i forgot snow exists, i live with flamingos
i eat men like air
“bring me the sunset in a cup”
fried egg sun tastes twice as bad
you don’t need a pony to connect you to the unseeable or an airplane to connect you to the sky
fragile wings to wind unbind the bend resend our words
bones of silk reflecting sunlight & i’ve never felt so breezy!
make sand-angels at sunset!
if sunsets could scream, would they still bleed into the sky
they are lonely / as i am lonely / as the moon is lonely / as a lake / as a lamp post
the golden moon glitters over black crowned mountains
she leapt toward the stars and pebbled the moon
i never intended to stay here long enough to see the skyline change
i have found the breeze in the controversy of our good-bye

 

Part VII: After-Hours Parties

too many writers in the room – my head hurts!
the place where the worst thing i done lol!
drowning in the casual intimacy of pressing one’s knee against someone else’s under a table
please pay attention to the pineapples, alaskans, and only drink the kool-aid sometimes
there is only one god, and its name is metal.
aim high as a badger tucked beneath all winter.
the water looked so lovely when he realized it was okay
kanye 2020
splendid is the word strange is the flood of them
yeet
ocean blue eyes in a land locked city, even with the kiss of a rifle remain pretty.
i took a breath and stepped into water
loki made me do it
a sea of free around me and yet i sink, under the depth, without any breath, seeking safe harbor with you.
ravenclaw’s my second choice
i’ve never wondered more than wandering has wondered me.

 

Part VIII: Outside Events

to be the house means an under sweeping
they come for kindness first.
family fears finding fake friends formed from fiends fighting faceless fellows far from home.
here i am with ya’ll again
i feel like a survivor of genocide like the brown on my skin is a ready-made story for white men to tokenize.
memories like / foreign films / awkward angles / and shading
pink is pain / scores in swollen / skin / wrists rounding into roses
still this thought after watching all the faces not me how to get there from here small town bluffing big wannabe hip(stirring) long after [the] next [trend]
there is a place for you somewhere
life is truly more beautiful than i could have hoped ❤
“isn’t it pretty to think so?”
“the line, of course, came from diogenes.”
be more bold than that—.
as writers we have a big responsibility to make a better world through words
because someone has to tell the story
commit heresy, be like antelopes, do it any way
life is a movie, but there will never be a sequel
todo lo real es inasible.
hope is a thing with feathers
a hierarchy of those she disdains
i am clothed / in darkness / yet exuberate / a light / so strong i survive
don’t let other people’s expectations limit you. those are their expectations, not yours.
your only limits are the size of your dreams and the degree of your dedication
do today what you want of tomorrow and said you’d do yesterday
unless someone like you cares a whole lot – nothings going to get better – it’s not
it worries me – trying to make the words work
it don’t come to last; it come to pass
why, when death is a thief, is it easier to imagine death as a man? a competitor who one upped me? a wrestler who pinned me to the mat, was too underchallenged to even laugh?
this is vast and mighty build on words
today i saw america – only more so.
i feel like i should be enjoying this more than i am.
i’m sicka y’all

 

Part IX: Packing

my the belfry bats in the dark nights saddened folds be free, my poets.
you are now creating six different time lines
so many writers books / joys!
i used a prompt: exquisite corpse but i don’t know where to take it.
this is in cursive so it’s harder to read
i am indecisive; therefore, i have no character.
my wife said she’s braindead.
drawing a blank
brilliance is in the eye of the beholder as the creator is wracked with inadequate indecisiveness
our writing like classical overtures
i came / i saw / i wrote a little poetry
welp…i tried

 

Part X: Departure

anything that matters is here, in these lines.


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.

Favorite Five #1: Lit Mags

Part of a series in which members of the Arkana staff list some of their favorite artworks.

by Cassie Hayes, Managing Editor

Here’s a list of five literary journals that I love to read (and look at, and listen to). I like journals that do innovative things with technology while also remaining very true to themselves and to who they are as a journal. Literary magazines are works of art by themselves, put together by the writers, editors, staff members, and readers with the same care and passion that goes into a sculpture or a painting—and looking at the following five journals always reminds me of that. Of course, this list is not complete—there are so many amazing, innovative literary journals out there, and these are just the five that I’ve recently been reading. I hope you check them out once you’ve read through the issues of Arkana!

American Short Fiction

I’m a fiction writer and reader—I love seeing cutting-edge fiction. I’m also from Texas. So I adore this literary journal that publishes short fiction and is based in Austin. Every time I go into a Barnes & Noble, I make a beeline for the magazines to pick up American Short Fiction, which is always well made yet not pricey, and includes not only wonderful writing but interesting illustrations and designs within their pages. I am always in awe and (I’ll admit it) a little jealous of the quality of writing included, and after reading I am always left with lots to ponder and plenty of inspiration for my own work.

The Drum

The Drum is “a literary magazine for your ears.” It’s entirely audio and includes work that focuses on the musicality of language. With downloadable content, I like downloading a story, essay, interview, or poem and listening while I workout or do housework, sort of like podcasts.

Image Journal

This literary magazine is not only visually stunning, but it also includes thought-provoking writing that grapples with issues of faith—specifically through the lens of the Western religions Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Spiritual without being preachy, the work in this journal muses on deep and human topics that are always worth the read. I also love the interviews included in the journal, in which writers and artists talk about their craft and their work, as well as spirituality.

Storychord

This literary journal did innovative things with multimedia by pairing a short story with art and music every other Monday. As of November 2017, the site stopped accepting new work for publication, but you can still comb through their archives to see all the great work they published since 2010.

Memoir Mixtapes

On their website, Memoir Mixtapes claimes to be “the ultimate mashup of the two things we all love to talk about: ourselves and music.” Not only will you find some cool writing in this journal, but you’ll also stumble upon some great music that you might have never heard or haven’t thought about for a while.

Thanks for reading this list of some of my favorite literary journals. There are plenty of wonderful lit mags out there, and I hope you discover and rediscover some of your favorites while thinking about this list!


Cassie Hayes is from Waxahachie, Texas and attends the Arkansas Writers MFA Program. She is an editorial intern at Sundress Publications, and her fiction and poetry appear in various online and print literary journals.

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.

http://www.michameinderts.nl
https://www.facebook.com/aldusSybren/
https://twitter.com/michameinderts
https://www.instagram.com/michameinderts


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

Hello friends of Arkana! We are now reading for our fourth issue, and we’re on the lookout for some new work that questions, explores mystery, and discovers and uncovers the overlooked, misunderstood, and the silent. Keep your fiction and creative nonfiction under 4,000 words total, your poetry up to three poems, and your illustrated narratives or scripts short enough to fit in on our website.

We’re specifically looking for historically underrepresented writers, especially writers of color, writers in the LBGTQ community, and writers with disabilities. Arkana‘s mission is to give a platform for marginalized voices, so if you are in one of these groups, we need to see your work! Another of our goals as a journal is to represent works whose genre or form has been historically underrepresented in literary magazines. In our second issue we included two translations, and in our third issue we included an illustrated narrative. We’d love for more translations or illustrated narratives, but we’re especially hunting a stellar short script, for the stage or screen, that we could include in our fourth issue. So if you’re working on a script or have a killer script idea, please send write up and polish your script and send it our way.

We accept work from writers of all shapes and sizes, writers with fancy MFA degrees and writers still in high school, writers from our home-base of central Arkansas to writers from around the world. Plus, we include an audio feature with our issues—so, if you’re accepted to the journal, you’ll literally get to have your voice heard.

Stay tuned with the Arkana blog to find out more about what’s happening with the journal and our staff. And if you’re interested in submitting, check out our Submit page on our website, and read some of the notes from the editors under the Arkana News heading on our blog to get a feel for what our editorial teams are thinking when they read submissions and put together an issue of the journal.

Please submit—we want to hear your voice!

The Way of the Writer

A review of The Way of the Writer by Charles Johnson.

by Cassie Hayes, Managing Editor

Reading Charles Johnson’s book The Way of the Writer is a lot like listening to your dad. One-third of it is fragmented, rambling anecdotes about people you have only heard of vaguely. One-third is a lecture about how society is going to pot. Then there’s a third of hard-earned and sensitive wisdom that keeps you pondering for days. And the wisdom is why it’s worth it to keep listening.

The book came about when the poet E. Ethelbert Miller asked Johnson via email a long series of questions about Johnson’s life, career, philosophy, and craft. Johnson later took what he’d written to Miller and edited and combined the emails to become The Way of the Writer, something akin to Stephen King’s On Writing, but more literary, more academic, and more philosophical, probably because of the different personality behind the writing. Because of the fractured origins of the work, the book feels very pieced together, going through wide-ranging subjects and—sometimes annoyingly—repeating and cycling back to information and ideas over and over again. It’s not completely a craft book. It’s not completely a memoir. It’s not completely a philosophical exploration. It’s not completely anything—except an opportunity to be a fly on the wall as E. Ethelbert Miller’s brain-picking questions lead to a very talented and brilliant philosopher, educator, artist, and writer opening up about what he’s learned over his long and productive career.

Throughout the book, Johnson preaches discipline, patience, dedication, curiosity, and getting pure enjoyment out of your work. His advice ranges from the broad, such as that a writer may have to “work a lifetime before he (or she) stumbles upon that one story that becomes an archetype for our thoughts, feelings, and experiences,” to advice more specific, such as how to better develop dialogue and characterization and the importance of plot in fictional works. These more craft-specific chapters are what I find most compelling. The chapters that feel more like memoir come across as preachy, and the philosophy chapters—such as the entire sixth and final section of the book—come across as pompous and educated-out-the-wazoo.

But in those craft-based chapters, Johnson’s sensitivity and his true passion for literature and young writers shines through. “Despite its importance,” Johnson writes, “art should always be a form of play.” He rants about “the natural, inevitable, and annoying human tendency to oversimplify people and things (or any phenomenon) to make them manageable,” which makes me want to give him a standing ovation. He includes writing exercises and tips he used in his classes while he was teaching at the University of Washington, gives several examples of books that have helped him and his students over the years, and even offers a chart of a hundred of the best opening sentences of some classic books.

Although you could certainly take the fact that he includes the opening sentence of Middle Passage, his own book, on this list of best opening lines as proof that he’s not exactly the most humble or unbiased of guys, I like how personal the book is. This book is not meant to be a “how to be a writer” book. It is the way of the writer—what works and what doesn’t for this particular writer, Charles Johnson.

Out-of-touch and elitist at its worst, refreshingly old-school at its best, Charles Johnson’s The Way of the Writer is a fascinating read in which you feel like you’re swept away in the writer’s own thought process and struggle to make meaning of his life, world, and craft. It ends on a sour note, with the final section focused more on philosophy than writing and that detracts from the power of his earlier craft-based discussions. (A good rule of thumb for you writers out there: if you start rambling about Sartre, you’ve probably gone on too long, and you had better have a dang good reason for it.) But, despite the ending, there’s a lot to learn from someone who’s had such a long, disciplined, and passionate career. I would highly recommend The Way of the Writer for anyone interested in fiction or teaching, and it’s an interesting and helpful read for anyone interested in nonfiction. There’s not much about poetry, but the ideas behind the book are useful for anyone interested in pursuing the writing life. (If you’re willing to tune out the constant name-dropping of John Gardener, which verges on the obsessive.)

In his chapter on writing book reviews, Johnson writes that he tries to include as many quotes from the book being reviewed as possible, so that readers of the review will be able to get a taste of the author’s writing for themselves. So, I will end this blog post book review with words directly from the introduction of The Way of the Writer:

“It is all one piece, this writing life, and each activity—professional and personal—enriches the others. Everything flows from the same source—the love of art. All art.

For the kind of writer I’ve just described, what might have been selfish or ego-driven at the onset of his or her career gives way—as is always the case with love—to the simple desire to humbly serve and possibly enrich, if we are lucky, literary culture of our time.

My hope is that, if nothing else, readers young and old, beginners and veterans, will experience on these pages devoted to the craft, the discipline, the calling of writing, that predisposition to love the goodness, truth, and beauty found in fine writing (and all well-wrought art). And to see that serving such a mistress for a lifetime is, in the truest sense of the word, a privilege and a blessing.”


Cassie Hayes is a scribomaniac, film aficionado, and sometime taco-maker from Waxahachie, Texas. She got her undergraduate degree in English from the University of Texas at Arlington, and she currently attends the Arkansas Writers MFA Program at the University of Central Arkansas. Her work appears in From Sac, Five:2:One, Work Literary Magazine, and elsewhere.

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!