Contributor Spotlight: Kaitlin Dyer

July 17th, 2014

DyerKaitlin Dyer’s poem “At the Last Farm Lands They Haven’t Converted into Golf Courses” appears in Midwestern Gothic Issue 14, out now.

How long have you been writing?
I won a DARE class contest in the 5th grade by writing a poem about a fictional friend with a drug problem. I’ve tinkered with writing since then, but I’ve written with more serious intentions since I was an undergraduate at The Ohio State University, which would have been about eight years ago.

What’s your connection to the Midwest?
I was born in Southern Ohio and grew up in central Ohio.

How has the Midwest influenced your writing?
Central Ohio has the distinct pleasure of being overcast almost all the time. The winters are cold, the summers are humid, and there’s a lack of sunshine that paints a general malaise over many of my poems. Columbus, OH is also a quickly growing city, which means that there’s a consistent uneasiness about human sprawl into traditionally more “natural” environments. I’m often left wondering how to belong to the natural surrounding and show humanity towards all creatures while also accommodating the desire to connect with the other people in the area. Road and building construction often makes me very sad because of the land it takes up, and I wish that there were more forms of public transportation so a car wouldn’t be necessary. I think these concerns are distinctly Midwestern unless you’re in a larger city like Chicago.

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?
I think it’s harder for Midwesterners to adopt a generalized “Midwestern identity,” because we often identify more with our individual cities than the region as a whole. I often point out to people that I come from central Ohio, because it’s distinctly different from being from, say, Southern Iowa. This city-centered identity extends so far that being from Columbus makes me feel very differently than someone from Cleveland or Cinncinati—even though we’re all in the same state. Similarly, places like Chicago or Kansas City are different cultural experiences than being from other parts of those respective states. So, what it means for me to be Midwestern may mean something different than another person, and it may be difficult to have a regionalistic push when there are so many different perspectives on what it is to be Midwestern.

How do you feel about social media to promote your writing, and do you use it?
I love social media! Well, I love community and platforms like Twitter or a blog are great ways to not only promote your own work, but to share what you’re a fan of. Of course, shameless self-promotion makes me uneasy, but I try to remember that it’s about sharing ideas and connecting with the community rather than being narcissistic.

Favorite book?
My favorite book of poetry is Crush by Richard Siken. I can’t wait for his second collection to come out next year!

Favorite food?
Lemon custard ice cream from Austin’s Homemade Ice Cream in Ceredo, West Virginia.

If you could have coffee (or tea or a beer) with any literary figure, alive or dead, who would it be?
Hmm, that’s a tough one. I once saw Dean Young sitting on a bench at a writer’s conference and was filled with feelings of fangirl squee, but never got up the courage to say “hi.” I hate being an imposition, but his poetry is so smart and fresh and melodic that a conversation on poetry with him would be the highlight of my year.

(And feel free to forward this to him. Wink wink. Nudge nudge.)

Where can we find more information about you?
You can find more information at kaitlindyer.com or follow me on Twitter @kaitlinbdyer. I’m also an editor for an online journal for rhetoric where I blog about all things rhetorical: Harlot: A Revealing Look at the Arts of Persuasion. Of course, I welcome emails, tweets, etc. Who doesn’t love non-spam related messaging!?

Contributor News

Jessie Ann Foley, who has work in Issue 14, was awarded the Sheehan Book Prize YA Lit for her novel The Carnival at Bray, which will be published by Elephant Rock Books in October.

Mark Maire, who has work in Issue 14, recently had a poem accepted for publication in the Fall 2014 issue of Talking River.

Rebecca McKanna, who has work in Issue 14, was a finalist for Narrative Magazine‘s Winter Short Story Contest. Her piece will be published in an upcoming issue as well.

Joe Weintraub, who has work in Issue 14, has recently had stories published in Chicago Quarterly Review and Oyez Review; poetry in Slant, Comstock Review, and the anthologies {Ex}tinguished & {Ex}tinct (Twelve Winters Press) and The Mountain (Outrider Press); an annotated translation in Gastronomica; and essays in Qu and Between the Lines, the latter of which won the Arnold Award from Holy Names University, given to “revolutionary works of nonfiction prose devoted to social change.”  That essay can be found here: http://www.hnu.edu/betweenthelines/issue-1/.

Amanda Williamsen, who had work in Issue 12, had a poem published in the New Ohio Review, and recently won the Judson Jerome poetry scholarship to attend the Antioch Writers’ Workshop.

James Winter, who had work in Issue 5, recently had his short story “A Very Small Flame” published in the current issue (193) of One Story. In addition, he participated in a small interview with the editors of One Story.

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Contributor Spotlight: Jim Warner

warner_pressJim Warner’s piece “.5 Ml” appears in Midwestern Gothic Issue 14, out now.

How long have you been writing?
Since I got my arm stuck in an escalator looking for hermit crabs in the Smithsonian when I was in the sixth grade.

What’s your connection to the Midwest?
I moved to Springfield, Illinois, to become the Managing Editor of Quiddity about a year ago.

How has the Midwest influenced your writing?
I think the most influential aspect of the Midwest so far has been the community of writers I have met in the last year. Even though there’s quite a bit of real estate to cover (compared to being out east), the amount of writers and magazines working to build a network and community is staggering. Obviously working for Quiddity provides me access to this world in a way which may push along the immediacy of entre but, in the same token, I have been pleasantly surprised by the amount of genuine interest the Midwest writing community has taken in my own personal writing and development. I feel like this spirit of collaboration and community is present in the growing number of events like Pygmalion, Lions in Winter, and Voices of the Middle West.

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?
I think (and this ties into my answer above) that while there hasn’t been a regionalist push, there is one slowly growing from the presses and writers who call the Midwest home. As I’m still very new to the Heartland, I can’t really speak to what’s gone on before, but as someone from part of the East Coast not really in literary vogue (Scranton, Pennsylvania), I understand what it’s like to be involved in a writing community which hasn’t been heralded by the larger literati scene. These other regions have had a mythology built into their work—almost an escapist one or in the very least a place to which artists have gravitated/traveled to in order to create. Be it the Beat-generated world of San Francisco or The Black Mountain school in Ashville, there has been a location serving as a point of origin for movement. (Of course you could argue Iowa is a destination for the Carver-esque but…) That said, Chicago is the home of slam poetry, but the longer I’m out here, the more I’ve been told that the Windy City is almost its own geographic region. In this context of regionalism, that makes sense.

In our Quiddity radio special discussing the Midwest, Chad Simpson talked about the Midwest as a place folks escaped from rather then came to (at least in terms of popular culture) which really struck me as I’m decidedly a transplant here. Not that I feel like I escaped Scranton…okay maybe a little… in the Escape from New York-sorta way. I mean, who doesn’t want to be Snake Plisskin?

How do you feel about social media to promote your writing, and do you use it?
Are you asking if I shamelessly ask folks to follow me or Quiddity on Twitter (@whoismisterjim and @QuiddityLit) or if people should like Quiddity on Facebook (QuiddityLit)? Or if they should check out Quiddity’s tumblr (at QuiddityLit.tumblr.com)?? Seriously, are you asking if, perhaps, these places are the best ways to find out the latest goings on at Quiddity or even to check out my weekly column Best Worst Year at @SundogLit’s blog? No. I still prefer Friendster and my e-Harmony profile (Willing2Settle). (PS: I’m assuming you’re not asking whether or not I’m funny or brief—I’m neither.)

Favorite book?
Oh, you know…that one with the poems in it.

Favorite food?
Lumpia (you know, because…I’m Pinoy)

If you could have coffee (or tea or a beer) with any literary figure, alive or dead, who would it be?
Right now, that would have to be Vachel Lindsay—a Springfield poet who has been largely forgotten in the poetic canon. His removal from canonical reading is due in part to his poem “The Congo.” Lindsay is a forefather of performance poetry, wrote one of the first books on film criticism, and was an advocate for racial equality; however, the issue with “The Congo” is its capacity to identify racial inequities in society but its blindness to the misguided “romantic racism” portrayed in the language of the piece. As poets with a social consciousness it is important to confront rather than cover up the issues poetry such as “The Congo” present to us as readers. The tension between progressive intent (or hope within) and the language can be explosive but not nearly as damaging as ignoring the issue. It would be an awkward conversation to have, probably made even more awkward due in part to the fact he’s been dead since 1931 and there’s been a monthly poetry series happening in his living room (probably unbeknownst to him).

Where can we find more information about you?
@whoismisterjim pretty much everywhere. (Yes, I am an only child and no, I don’t have an e-Harmony profile…anymore…as far as you know.) I also finally got my Illinois driver’s license and changed my plates over from Pennsylvania, so you can probably track me down through the Springfield DMV. I’d ask for Todd, he just seems to have it all figured out.

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Welcome Jessica Dewberry!

We’re excited to announce that Jessica Dewberry will be joining us as our newest copyeditor with Issue 15 (Fall 2014)! Jessica is tremendously talented and we’re excited to be working with her!

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Jessica Dewberry’s work appears in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Mutha Magazine, and other places. She’s an assistant nonfiction editor for Pithead Chapel, a literary journal based in Michigan. For decades, her relatives lived in the infamous Cabrini-Green projects in Chicago before most of the units were demolished. She also visited the city biannually, for a few years, and once experienced a winter storm that caused her to cease all complaints about winters she’s experienced elsewhere, especially in southern California where she lives and works.

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What We’re Reading (Summer 2014): The Empathy Exams

ww_bannerIn this series of summer posts, MG staffer Kelly Nhan will be exploring books and music, festivals and goings-on, anything and everything Midwestern-related, and reporting her findings.

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The Empathy Exams, by Leslie Jamison

Leslie Jamison’s collection of essays, The Empathy Exams, released April 2014, is just as much an exploration of that eponymous sentiment as it is of pain. Jamison is a “wound dweller”, she admits in one of the collection’s strongest pieces, “Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain”. The “empathy” is not so often thematized, so much as enacted. Each essay in Exams is an opportunity to defend, examine, or otherwise understand the pain or pathos of another.

The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison

Jamison is also a pain tourist, reaching across into such varied experiences as a meeting of Morgollens sufferers, ultrarunners at the Barkley Marathons, the victims of drug­related violence in Tijuana, and the sites of her own lived traumas (a broken nose, an abortion). The author’s self­conscious and introspective tendency mean she constantly draws lines between herself and the external subject, mostly circumventing the possibility of exploitation without foregoing the project of understanding something outside of herself (although she edges close in “La Frontera” with a bit of undue exoticism). Jamison’s writing is earnest yet reflective, adroit without pretension, and strongest in the most risk­taking of the essays, including “Morphology of the Hit” and “In Defense of the Saccharin(e)”. The former sees the writer circumscribing the memory of her own assault within the architecture of myth, the latter a thoughtful take on sentimentality and irony interspliced with the history of artificial sweeteners. Admittedly, Exams is uneven and at times repetitive; perhaps these essays would breathe better serialized or read with intermittent stops, rather than straight through. Jamison writes big: punchy and often breath­taking, at the risk of getting lost or too seduced in the at times amorphous and impressionistic strokes she paints.

But undoubtedly, The Empathy Exams is a stand­out, marked by Leslie Jamison’s sharp insights into the treatment of pain, physical and emotional, or both. This collection is a testament to Jamison’s own understanding that empathy is a choice we make:

“The act of choosing simply means we’ve committed ourselves to a set of behaviors greater than the sum of our individual inclinations: I will listen to his sadness, even when I’m deep in my own. To say going through the motions—this isn’t reduction so much as acknowledgement of effort—the labor, the motions, the dance—of getting inside another person’s state of heart or mind. This confession of effort chafes against the notion that empathy should always rise unbidden, that genuine means the same thing as unwilled, that intentionality is the enemy of love. But I believe in intention and I believe in work.”

Ultimately, it is a careful defense of feeling, both the emotional act and the emotions themselves, bringing up questions of how we judge others’ experiences of pain, gendered stereotypes, and literary sentimentalism along the way. The Empathy Exams is deeply affecting and thoughtful, and well worth picking up this summer.

For fans of Joan Didion and Susan Sontag.

Shop for The Empathy Exams on Amazon

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Kelly Nhan is a senior studying English and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan, and originally from Connecticut. She loves finding good coffee places, exploring cities, reading good poetry, and chatting about feminism. She is interested in going into book publishing, or eventually going to grad school to study post-colonial literature and feminist theory.

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Submissions for the 2014 Lake Prize are open!

The Lake Prize, from Midwestern GothicWe’re delighted to announce that submissions for the 2014 Lake Prize are open!

For a full list of guidelines and additional information, check out the Lake Prize page (which also includes information on this year’s finalist judges). We ask that please all guidelines carefully before submitting—and feel free to drop us an email if you have any questions.

Submit your work via Submittable

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Issue 14 is here!

Issue14_Summer2014_cover_frontMidwestern Gothic Issue 14 (Summer 2014) is here! Grab some shade and an afternoon to spend with new fiction and poetry from the Midwest’s finest literary voices.

Issue 14 is available in hardcopy ($12) and eBook formats ($2.99), including Kindle, iPad, Nook, and PDF. Pick up a copy

Featuring work from Ron A. Austin, Dane Bahr, Boyd Bauman, Monica Berlin, Eric Boyd, John Counts, Kaitlin Dyer, Cal Freeman, Gabe Herron, Michael Hill, Sarah Howard, Amorek Huey, Michael Lauchlan, Mark Maire, Beth Marzoni, David McGlynn, Rebecca McKanna, E. Ce Miller, Brian D. Morrison, Jessie Ann Foley, Leslie Pietrzyk, Ellie Rogers, Chuck Rybak, Samuel Sayler, Meri Sheffler, Mark Patrick Spencer, Ashley Swanson, Fritz Swanson, Keith Taylor, Jeff Vande Zande, Dennis Vanvick, Wendy Vardaman, Jim Warner, J. Weintraub, and Stephany Wilkes.

Shop for Midwestern Gothic Issue 14 (Summer 2014)

(And don’t forget we offer some great deals on subscriptions too!)

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Above All Men Lit Pub Review + Giveaway

Above All Men by Eric Shonkwiler Eric Shonkwiler’s debut novel, Above All Men, continues to draw high praise from readers. The latest: Schuler Benson had this to say about the book over at The Lit Pub: “Amid stark praise for Above All Men’s uncanny breathing of life into the Midwest is the irony that in order to accomplish this, Eric Shonkwiler shows us how the Midwest finally death-rattles and dies. Eric Shonkwiler’s debut literary fiction novel, Above All Men, puts beneath a cracked magnifying glass the panorama of what dust returning to dust could really look like.”

Read the full review

If that’s enough to whet your appetite, there’s good news! You could have a shot at getting Above All Men for free at the giveaway over on The Next Best Book Blog from July 1 – July 8, 2014. You’ll be able to get all the details on that site when the giveaway starts.

Shop for Above All Men

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Contributor Spotlight: Matthew Landrum

294928_639133969761_1212523489_nMatthew Landrum’s piece “Dog Days” appears in Midwestern Gothic Issue 13, out now.

How long have you been writing?
I’ve been seriously writing since I was twenty (about a decade ago). I was trying to be a musician and decided after two and a half years of half-empty shows that I didn’t love it. So I turned to writing.

What’s your connection to the Midwest?
I was born in Lafayette, grew up in Grand Rapids, and live in Ann Arbor.

How has the Midwest influenced your writing?
I’ve grappled with how to approach my material (the Midwest) for as long as I’ve been writing. It’s easy for me to view my childhood (and adulthood) as blasé or unglamorous—cornfields, small towns and underwhelming metropolises, placid lakes. For a time, I was jealous of poets like Seamus Heaney or Natasha Trethewey for growing up in regions with grit, history, and a clear sense of place. So I wrote a ton about Peru and England and the South, a kind of borrowed regionalism. I’ve had to push past this. I write to break out of my head and into the world around me and bring something back. So that makes the Midwest the most important thing in my writing practice, a return to reality.

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?
We haven’t had major wars fought here, no goldrushes or conquistador missions. Our buildings are mostly post-1900. We don’t have history or a history of regionalist writing. In viewing ourselves as the middle, we’ve ceded the right to identity to every place around us. The major cities have their own thing going on: Chicago and Detroit. But for me, in the hinterlands of Michigan, I had the sense that I was no-place. I don’t think I’m not the only one who’s had to fight past this.

How do you feel about social media to promote your writing, and do you use it?
I use it. I went through a stage where I was tweeting and tweeting but it began to be a substitute for the writing I was trying to promote. So I backed off. Now I use it sporadically to promote events I’m reading or lecturing at and alert friends and followers to news from the magazine I edit for (Structo Magazine).

Favorite book?
A Shropshire Lad by A.E. Housman. He’s a great example of someone who created regionalism where none existed.

Favorite food?
I feel a bit like I’m filling out a match.com profile here. I like middle-eastern food though garlic’s no good for romance or poetry readings.

If you could have coffee (or tea or a beer) with any literary figure, alive or dead, who would it be?
I’d have hard ciders with Paul Muldoon.

Where can we find more information about you?
You can connect with my magazine at structomagazine.co.uk and read my occasion blog at www.matthewlandrum.com.

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Contributor Spotlight: Gail Jeidy

gail picGail Jeidy’s story “Mozart and Magnolias” appears in Midwestern Gothic Issue 13, out now.

How long have you been writing?
I began writing letters to my Grandma when I was four. Stamps featured Abe Lincoln then and were 4 cents so it’s been a few years.

What’s your connection to the Midwest?
I was born in Woodstock, Illinois, but moved away at age four and spent the bulk of my young life in Wisconsin. I grew up in Monroe (Swiss Cheese Capital of the World), graduated high school from Fennimore (home to Igor the giant cheese mouse), graduated college from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, taught art in Wautoma, then did grad school at UW-Madison before my westward-ho journey as a young woman. I’ve come back every summer and many Christmases since to connect with my family who all live in Wisconsin or Illinois. I feel an affinity with the Midwest people and landscape deep in my gut.

How has the Midwest influenced your writing?
I grew up on a dairy farm and attended a one-room schoolhouse. My pleasures were getting lost in cornfields, running alongside raging creeks during spring thaw, treasure-hunting for wild asparagus and family-time spent snapping string beans around the kitchen table. My early years gave me humility and a sense of grounding. My childhood was also a bit of a survival test, given I was the lone girl among three brothers. When we played cops and robbers, I was tied to the clothesline pole and left for dead — or staked to the ground, the twines around my wrists wetted so they’d pull taut in the hot summer sun: this helped me see amazing shapes in the clouds overhead. I survived the tumultuous teen years by walking in the woods every day. I’ve never lost sight of where I grew up, the people I grew up around and the creativity it fostered.

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?
I’ve lived on the west coast for over 30 years now, mostly in Portland, Ore., and sense some folks have a narrow view of the Midwest as fly-over country or that place with awful politics or boring corn fields or too ordinary of lives. This has always gnawed at me, but, being from the Midwest, I haven’t said anything; instead, I’ve written about it. Maybe there’s no regional push for Midwest writing because we’re too polite.

How do you feel about social media to promote your writing, and do you use it?
I use facebook and occasional Twitter. I like to communicate when I have news to share. Generally not selfies.

Favorite book?
I love books with a strong voice. Catcher in the Rye comes to mind first. And Ladder of Years by Anne Tyler.

Favorite food?
Spring greens salad full of great stuff like pine nuts. Also popcorn with cheese.

If you could have coffee (or tea or a beer) with any literary figure, alive or dead, who would it be?
It would have to be Mark Twain. Coffee or beer on a Mississippi river boat would be ideal. I’d put up with mosquitoes for that.

Where can we find more information about you?
Google me and it will turn up some of my stories. I have a blog, The Hero’s Journey at gailjeidy.blogspot.com, which profiles my walk through breast cancer last year. I also have a website www.soclever.com.

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