Contributor Spotlight: Ellie Rogers

October 21st, 2014

Ellie Rogers headshotEllie Rogers’ piece “Ouranophobia” appears in Midwestern Gothic Issue 14, out now.

How long have you been writing?
In first grade I thought it would be romantic to someday have a chest stuffed full of my diaries for grandchildren to uncover as they prowled around in the attic, so I set out journaling. Around that time I also began writing short stories and “publishing” them in books made out of cereal boxes/wallpaper.

I still make books, but I’ve moved on from cereal boxes to book board. In the past few years I’ve gotten serious about writing poetry and nonfiction, and I absolutely still fill journals with words only direct descendants should (or would even want to) read.

What’s your connection to the Midwest?
I have grandparents that met at the headwaters of the Mississippi, and I grew up downriver just outside of the Twin Cities in White Bear Lake, Minnesota. (You might know it from the scene in which Frances McDormand interviews two prostitutes in Fargo.) I also did my undergrad at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. I moved to Washington after that but still think of Minnesota as a home.

How has the Midwest influenced your writing?
Linda Gregg talks about a poet needing to find her resonant sources, and I know mine often arise from Minnesota—summer lake skinnydipping, autumn canoe trips in the Boundary Waters, the prairie asleep beneath snow and my skis, stretching spring ephemerals. I still feel those seasons, even though I now live in the Pacific Northwest. Those landscapes of home still live in me and show up in my writing as images. I love, for example, that the roots of the prairie sometimes dig to 15 feet so as to endure wind and drought. The Midwest—its harshness, extremities, exposedness—requires of its inhabitants a tangle of deep roots. It still tugs and ghosts in me profoundly, in ways I’m sure I don’t even know.

Why do you believe there has never really been a regionalist push for Midwestern writing in the past like there has with the South or even the West Coast?
There’s plenty of amazing writing coming out of the Midwest, and we have so many organizations fostering literary communities there (Open Book, for example: http://www.openbookmn.org/default.aspx). To me, the Midwest has a constant and brilliant simmering of writing, if not a regionalist push. I’m drawn to Midwestern Gothic because it names this place, collects some of its impacts, coalesces some of its writers. Monica Berlin and Beth Marzoni’s response to this question intrigued me: http://midwestgothic.com/2014/08/contributor-spotlight-monica-berlin-and-beth-marzoni/.

How do you feel about social media to promote your writing, and do you use it?
I have accounts, but I’m not terribly active in contributing. Thriving online communities certainly exist around writing and I lurk often, reading others’ great blog posts, liking publishers’ Facebook posts, sharing friends’ writing news, etc. Ideally, I’ll find a way to more productively engage with social media and also resist the frenzy of those sites during focused, generative writing hours.

Favorite book?
Changing all the time. Right now, I have three: Anne Carson’s Plainwater, Michael McGriff’s Home Burial, and Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead.

Favorite food?
Coffee.

If you could have coffee (or tea or a beer) with any literary figure, alive or dead, who would it be?
Maybe Szymborska? This is a hard question!

Where can we find more information about you?
Someday I’ll make a real website, but for now: http://elliearogers.wordpress.com/.

Upcoming events + Autoplay pre-release reading/signing

A couple cool things on the horizon, and we you can stop by!

READING

Friday Night’s Alright For Reading (MG + University of Michigan’s Residential College)
When: Friday, November 7 @ 5 PM
Where: The Benzinger Library, East Quad, 701 E University Ave, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109
Who’s reading: Julie Babcock, John Counts, Robert James Russell, Jared Yates Sexton, Laura Hulthen Thomas
Additional details

AUTOPLAY PRE-RELEASE READING & SIGNING

We’re positively thrilled to host a pre-release reading and signing at Ann Arbor’s Literati Bookstore! You’ll be able pick up a copy of Julie Babcock’s debut collection Autoplay a week before its official release, get it signed, and hear her read, too!

When: Tuesday, November 11 @ 7 PM
Where: Literati Bookstore, 124 E Washington St, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104
Additional details

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Photo submissions update

We’ve changed our photo submissions policy! Now, instead of uploading photos via Submittable, we ask that you email your photos to us at mwgothic@gmail.com.

And remember:

  • We’re looking for images of at least a 6” x 9” at 300 dpi resolution.
  • Make sure to include any pertinent copyright information (e.g. your name, the year it was taken), and a short title/caption.

So send us your Midwest photos and help us show off this wonderful region!

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Contributor Spotlight: Ron A. Austin

ronaustinRon A. Austin’s story “Nothing Uglier Than Gold on a Corpse” appears in Midwestern Gothic Issue 14, out now.

How long have you been writing?
I started writing seriously when I was about 16. Of course my first short stories and poems were atrocious, but I’ve made considerable progress over the last 14 years.

What’s your connection to the Midwest?
I was born and raised in St. Louis city.

How has the Midwest influenced your writing?
Dang—that’s a tough question. Trying to describe the effect plainly feels like squeezing a bar of soap, but I’ll give it a go. I draw power from the landscape’s history of decay and renewal, strife and hope.

Why do you believe there has never really been a regionalist push for Midwestern writing in the past like there has with the South or even the West Coast?
Every artistic movement needs champions and advocates to define a unique headspace and voice. The Midwest has produced its fair share of Champions, and going forward, it’s awesome to have Midwestern Gothic advocating new talent.

How do you feel about social media to promote your writing, and do you use it?
Social media is wondrous, and I don’t use it enough.

Favorite book?
It’s hard to say, but Ironweed by Joseph Kennedy will always be on my top ten list.

Favorite food?
Sandwiches. They’ll never let you down.

If you could have coffee (or tea or a beer) with any literary figure, alive or dead, who would it be?
If I had to choose, having a beer with Jorge Luis Borges would be incredible.

Where can we find more information about you?
I can be reached at ronaaustin@gmail.com. I’ll have a website up soon.

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2014 Lake Prize – Poetry Finalists

We’re thrilled to announce the poetry finalists of the inaugural Lake Prize! We received many, many extraordinary submissions and making the final selections was almost impossible, so thank you for submitting your best work for us to read. Congratulations to everyone who participated, and to the winners!

All of the poems listed here will be featured in Issue 16 (Winter 2015).

Poetry

Winner: “Animal Bride” by Sara Quinn Rivara


Sara Quinn Rivara holds an MFA from the Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. Her work has appeared in a variety of literary magazines including Blackbird, The Cortland Review, Cream City Review, LiteraryMama and her debut collection, Lake Effect was published by Aldrich Press in 2013. A native Chicagoan, she spent most of her life on the shores of Lake Michigan, in Chicago and 18 years in Kalamazoo, Michigan. She now lives with her sons and husband in Portland, Oregon.

Poetry judge Mary Biddinger had this to say about Sara’s poem: First line: “The cherry trees burned, blossoms fell like snow.” In moments both tender and ravenous, “Animal Bride” enters a dialogue with nature, turning its entire tableau into an hourglass where sands migrate and rise like floodwaters. This poet allows place to serve as a character in the poem, and at the same time transcends place, with a nod to seasonal shifts, encroaching time, and primitive desires. Employing economical lines, the poem surprises readers at every turn, making the everyday infinitely more intense, allowing us to hear how, “…the crows brayed all afternoon in the sycamore snag,” and to see, “The baby’s mouth a dry rose.” “Animal Bride” is Midwestern writing at its very best: visceral, haunting, colorful, and gorgeously alive.

Runner-up: “The Last Ohioans” by Holly Jensen


Holly Jensen’s work has appeared in Pank Magazine, the Midwest Quarterly, Kestrel, and elsewhere. “Selected Timelines: Past And Future” is forthcoming from Neon Books. She calls Cleveland home.

 

 

 

Runner-up: “On the Tundra that is Lake Michigan in February” by Bailey Spencer


Bailey Spencer is a recent graduate of Boston College where she was the recipient of the Dever Fellowship. She was also a 2014 June Fellow at the Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets. A native of Michigan, she is living for a year in Heppenheim, Germany.

 

 

 

 

 

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2014 Lake Prize – Fiction Finalists

We’re thrilled to announce the finalists of the inaugural Lake Prize! We received many, many extraordinary submissions and making the final selections was almost impossible, so thank you for submitting your best work for us to read. Congratulations to everyone who participated, and to the winners!

All of the stories listed here will be featured in Issue 16 (Winter 2015).

Fiction

Winner: “Our Lady of Cleveland” by Brian Petkash


Brian Petkash was born and raised in his beloved Cleveland, Ohio, a focal point of many of his writings. He’s a graduate from the University of Tampa with an MFA in creative writing. Currently living in Tampa, Florida, and working as both a marketing professional and a teacher of high school literature and creative writing, Brian’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in El Portal and Southword.

Fiction judge Ander Monson had this to say about Brian’s story: I particularly admired several things about “Our Lady of Cleveland.” For starters, it’s about work, and there aren’t enough stories about work, which is how most of us spend a great part of our lives. Perhaps that’s because most work’s not very dramatic. This work, though, is: literally (life and) death. But even more important is how work allows the story to access the headspace of the protagonist and his history and the many tensions operating on him at once. Get an interesting character, wind him up with a bunch of pressures and contexts, and let him go. Bravo.


Runner-up:
“Just For Now” by Sarah Terez Rosenblum


Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for publications and sites including The Chicago Sun Times, XOJane, afterellen.com, Curve Magazine and Pop Matters. Her fiction has appeared in literary magazines such as kill author and Underground Voices, and she was a 2011 recipient of Carve Magazine’s Esoteric Fiction Award. Her 2012 debut novel, Herself When She’s Missing, was called “poetic and heartrending” by Booklist. She lives in Chicago where she founded the Truth or Lie Live Lit Series. When not writing, she supports herself as a figure model, Spinning Instructor and creative writing teacher at Story Studio and The University of Chicago’s Graham School. Inevitably one day Sarah will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She’s kind of looking forward to it, actually. Follow her on Twitter or on Facebook.

 

Runner-up: “Please Don’t Make Us Come Down” by Aaron M. Geer


Aaron M. Geer is originally from Lowell, Michigan, and graduated from Western Michigan University in 2012. He now lives in Greenville, North Carolina, and studies and teaches English at East Carolina University. His writing has appeared in The Litribune, The Laureate, Asylum Lake, and was recently a Finalist for Glimmer Train‘s March 2014 Family Matters Contest.

 

 

Special Mention: “Japan Air, 1985″ by Katie Steen


Katie Steen is a recent English/Education graduate from the University of Michigan. She has spent the last four years shuffling between the cozy co-ops of Ann Arbor, glass-glittered streets of Detroit, and sleepy suburbs of Grosse Pointe, where she grew up. Though Katie loves Michigan and all of its Midwestern manners and lakey grandeur, she’s excited to leave this state—at least for a little bit—because almost all of her friends have already deserted her, and anyway, it’s time to see something new. She will be moving to Slovakia for a year to teach English through the Fulbright Program. Slovakia isn’t exactly known for its lakes, so Katie will have to find a nice river nearby to stare at when she needs to think.

 

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Contributor Spotlight: Jenna Stoeber

JennaStoeberJenna Stoeber’s piece “The Mansions of Middle America” appears in Midwestern Gothic Issue 15, out now.

How long have you been writing?
Technically since I was in 5th grade and wrote my first fanfiction (Animorphs, and yes the main character was just me-but-better). I wrote a lot of short prose pieces during high school, but I didn’t get into poetry until college, when I started to get exposed to poetry that wasn’t just Shakespearian sonnets and Coleridge. I went to undergrad at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and I was lucky enough to study under exceptional poets like Allison Funk and Adrian Matejka. They taught me about modern poets, who cursed or referenced pop-culture or talked about places I had been. That was really eye-opening.

What’s your connection to the Midwest?
Born in southern Illinois, currently living in Madison, Wisconsin. Growing up in the woods, I spent a lot of time having adventures in the backyard creek and really laying down roots in Midwestern soil. My childhood is marked by a literal distance from other people, but a firm closeness to the landscape.

How has the Midwest influenced your writing?
In lots of ineffable ways, probably, but some effable examples would be the images I draw on. I grew up in a rural area where no snowplows would come, because we didn’t belong to any city. It’s a lot of slow dealing and long growing seasons. A lot of the physical things I talk about come from this—floodplains, buildings that have been abandoned for decades, pockets of old-growth forests. But the Midwest isn’t just cornfields and cicadas—it’s also repression and loneliness and inescapability. I think a lot about burnt-out people I know, who lived their whole life in the Midwest and regretted it, or who come from a city smaller than my graduating class. There’s something in the long drives between rural towns that is essentially Midwestern. And the Midwest is farmland, yeah, but it’s also big cities and suburbs. The events happening at Ferguson are as Midwestern as harvesting soybeans. Drunk driving rates in Wisconsin are as Midwestern as fireflies in the evening. I get catcalled walking home about once a week, and that’s the Midwest too. All of these things have influenced my writing.

Why do you believe there has never really been a regionalist push for Midwestern writing in the past like there has with the South or even the West Coast?
That’s practically a dissertation topic! And one I’m particularly poorly informed to answer. The West Coast and the South are pretty sexy locations, though. It helps that in a broader media landscape, both of those regions have a strong presence and a lot of imagery and tropes associated with them. Comparably, the Midwest isn’t on a lot of people’s minds. When people think of the Midwest, they think long empty plains and people with slight accents. We have to prove that the Midwest has a flavor.

How do you feel about social media to promote your writing, and do you use it?
I love it! Why, do people not like it? I use it, and I think it’s a great resource. You can reach so many people you wouldn’t normally, and keep up with them more effectively. My website is a great place to learn things Of Substance about me, but if you really want to see a day-by-day snapshot, you check twitter. It’s the salon of the modern era.

Favorite book?
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.

Favorite food?
Apples and apple-related foods. (See photo.)

If you could have coffee (or tea or a beer) with any literary figure, alive or dead, who would it be?
I’d have coffee with Sherman Alexie, because he seems like he’d be easy to chat with and not make a big deal about being a total badass. For most authors I’d probably just run out of things to ask, and we’d sit in silence like a bad first date. You know? But Alexie seems like he wouldn’t even be awkward to talk to.

Where can we find more information about you?
On my website, JennaStoeber.com. For more up-to-date info, on twitter (@thejenna).

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MG interviewed at American Microreviews and Interviews

Sebastian H. Paramo of Ameriacn Microreviews and Interviews was kind enough to chat with Midwestern Gothic‘s Jeff Pfaller and Robert James Russell about regionalism, submitting your work to journals, the future of MG Press, and more.

You can read the whole interview right here.

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Contributor news

Christopher Linforth, who recently had work featured in Issue 7 (Fall 2012), recently saw the release of his collection of stories, When You Find Us We Will Be Gone, published by Lamar University Press.

Congrats, Christopher!

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Behind the Cover: Michelle Pretorius

Michelle Pretorius, whose photo graces the cover of Issue 15 (Fall 2014), was kind enough to chat with us about how she was able to capture this photo, and what it means to her.

Michelle_Pretorius-July_in_Chicago_1

Michelle: The clouds rolled in during a sweltering July day. The sky menaced, forming dramatic eddies and whorls, reminiscent of cinematic renditions of the apocalypse. The Ghostbusters theme song came to mind as I started shooting the cityscape from a 14th floor window. I loved how the Chicago skyline visually interacted with this display of nature, reflecting subtle variations of bluish-gray hues. Within twenty minutes the sky was clear and calm again. Not a drop of rain had fallen, the event fleeting and confounding. Then again, that’s what we’ve come to expect of Chicago weather.

**

060cropMichelle was born and raised in South Africa where she received a B.A. at the University of the Free State. She has lived in London, New York and the Midwest. She graduated from Columbia College Chicago with an MFA while working as a freelance event photographer. She is currently a PhD candidate in Creative Writing at Ohio University. When she is not writing or taking photographs, she enjoys theater, a fine scotch, and discussing stories with her writing group. She is an abject failure as a drummer, skydiver, runner, and chess champion, but enjoys doing it anyway.

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