BURN PILE: African-American History Month and President's Day. Irony much?

In honor of Black History Month and a day before President’s Day, let’s focus on the African American contribution to art and literature and not talk about the President, shall we? First up, the NAACP Image Awards have announced their 2019 nominees, with Black Panther dominating the competition. A good way to spend President’s Day might be watching it or one of the many other titles on the list of nominees. 

Meanwhile, The New York Times recognizes the life and work of Dudley Randall, who started the Broadside Press out of his home to publish the work of black writers and poets, who couldn’t be published elsewhere, as part of Detroit’s Black Arts Movement. 

And over at Poetry Foundation, Morgan Jenkins examines the way Morgan Parker’s new poetry collection Magical Negro weaves tales out of the past, present, and future of black life in America, while at The Paris Review, Hilton Als discusses the new David Zwirner exhibitionGod Made My Face: A Collective Portrait of James Baldwin. 

And ElectricLit gives us an interview with Hanif Abdurraqib about his new book Go Ahead In the Rain: Notes to a Tribe Called Quest and how writing about music helps him to articulate a better world than the mess out there today.  

And finally, a day before she turns 88, here is a compilation of the legendary Toni Morrison’s best advice on writing, including her own views on how writing enables her to impose order on the chaos of the world. 

Now let’s all get to work creating a better world with our words. God knows we need it.

Happy Black History Month. Happy early President’s Day?

BURN PILE: New releases, tabloid drama, and odes to motherhood in the first week of February.

This Tuesday saw the release of some much-anticipated books. Check out a selection of the titles here, which include Marlon James’ Black Leopard, Red Wolf and The Collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijun Wang, which was mentioned in this piece by Electric Lit as one of four new books that present a different way to discuss, and understand, mental illness. 

As for James, there’s a slew of interviews and articles about him out there right now. The New Yorker did a lengthy profile on him a few weeks ago, and here he is at LitHub reflecting on why he’s always meant to write about his mother and how it has eluded him.

On the subject of mothers and motherhood, here is Emily Bernard reckoning with writing about female desire and the reality that her daughters might read it. Or you could check out this interview with Lydia Kiesling in which she discusses her decision to place the minutiae of motherhood at the center of her new book, “The Golden State,” which also explores the complexities of immigration and marriage.

Drama often follows the dissolution of marriages, especially high-profile ones, but seldom do they erupt into action-hero size media battles the scale of the Bezos vs. National Enquirer showdown. While McSweeney’s is there to remind us of the pillar of morality that is Jeff Bezos, The New Yorker analyzes the perfect domestic goddesses that people MacKenzie Bezos’s fiction and how even they can’t save their men.

That’s February getting off to quite a start, but at least we’re out of January. On that note, let’s pause a moment to celebrate Sandra Cisneros being awarded the PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature and imagine getting to hang out with that panel of judges.

A pen in motion will keep the ink from freezing. Keep warm, keep writing!

BURN PILE: Dodging the Super Bowl Blues

Apparently, tomorrow is the Super Bowl, which has given us cause to reflect on great American traditions, what it means to duck them or all out defy them, and how fiction can provide an escape from the dominant national narrative. 

To help us out, here is a meditation on food as a means for an oppressed people to celebrate their humanity and register their defiance of non-inclusive national holidays, from the late Ntozake Shange.

Laila Lalami at The Nation makes the case that fiction not only helps us to develop empathy by walking a mile in another’s shoes, it can also help us to survive the constant Twitter onslaught orchestrated by a President determined to keep the narrative focused on himself.

Along the same lines, Sarah Wendell at The Washington Post analyzes the uptick in reading among furloughed federal employees and how fiction, especially genre fiction, provides a necessary escape into worlds where the evil are punished, the good are rewarded, and justice is served. This comment alone deserves pause: “It’s a rather substantial act of trust to place one’s time and energy in the hands of a writer, especially during a difficult period.”  

For a more immediate escape from tomorrow, here’s ElectricLit with seven books to read about racial inequality in America instead of watching the high holiday of the NFL. 

And here is Nico Oré-Girón ruminating on the power of fiction to help her reclaim lost time by reimagining the narrative of queer adolescence in America. 

All of this reading should give you an out for tomorrow. But if for whatever reason you choose to watch (no judgement), the good people over at McSweeney’s have your back with a Super Bowl Commercial Bingo that almost makes the whole thing worth it.  





BURN PILE: Back to School Toolbox

Now that the new semester has jumped off the blocks and ground every other aspect of life to a halt, we can look at our tool box of literary links to help current students and prospective students through the next few months. 


For those of you that have sent your applications to MFA/MA/PhD programs across the continent and beyond, we recommend that you DO NOT check gradcafe or mfadraft hourly. Your life is still happening and no one needs that kind of stress in their life.

Workshop is great and all, but workshop also sucks. This can be what it feels like. Thank you, McSweeney’s for always reminding us that workshop hurts. A lot.

Great Resources 

For any sort of graduate program content—written by current and post-MFA students—we recommend The MFA Years. Caitlin Dayspring Neely has consistently made sure this website has provided great content to prospective and current MFA students everywhere. Cruise through their articles. You’ll see.

LitHub will personally attack you with this article, but it’s important. Copy editor Benjamin Dreyer shines a light on bad habits we all have.

Are you ready to send out that brilliant thing you’ve been working on? We recommend checking out Entropy Magazine’s Where to Submit page. It is a great way to find book and chapbook prizes, contests, general call for submissions, and even residencies. Do it, and your Duotrope account will blow up. You can also submit to our contests

When/if things start to go south in your workshop or writing group, perhaps look to this great series brought to you by the good folks over at Electric Lit. It is so much better than sifting through yet another pro/anti-MFA debate. And if things get so bad that you just need a breath of fresh air, look no further than Tracy K Smith’s podcast The Slowdown.

Above all, keep reading and keep writing. You and your work are worth it.

BURN PILE: Remembering Mary Oliver (1935 – 2019)

Mary Oliver passed away yesterday. Today for our weekly Burn Pile, CutBank would like to remember her and the gift of her poetry.

Over at LitHub, Brandon Taylor writes how Oliver’s work made him “feel worthy of being in the world.” Emily Popek also reflects on her time as Oliver’s student at Electric Literature. Similarly, Summer Brennan looks back at the lessons she learned from Oliver. For The New Yorker, Stephanie Burt remembers Oliver and her books “of secular psalms, inquiries into nature, and reasons to go on living.”

In the wake of this loss, those of us at CutBank could get mired in grief and sorrow. It would be easy, here in cold and snowy Missoula, MT. But today, cruising through Poetry Foundation’s website, we can read their Poem of the Day: “White-Eyes” by Mary Oliver. We can read that poem and all the rest. We can read and remember. And be thankful for Mary Oliver.

May you all be “married to amazement.”

BURN PILE: Or bonfire? This week (year?) women are dancing, governing, writing, and generally getting about burning the patriarchy to the ground.

Two weeks into 2019 and there are some powerhouse ladies out there making headlines. Elizabeth Warren has announced her candidacy for president, so it’s worth a read over at the New Yorker to find out how she is taking on entrenched corruption in the most organized way possible. 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been in office for one week exactly and has opponents riled up about everything from her tax plan to her dance moves. Don’t miss her own Instagram video giving it back to her critics outside her Congressional office, taunting: “I hear the GOP thinks women dancing are scandalous. Wait till they find out Congresswomen dance too!” Meanwhile, Maureen Dowd encourages her to dance on without losing sight of the main goal. Why the main goal can’t include exposing some of the backward ways of the old guard in Washington, especially vis-à-vis their views on women, is a question for a different post, but it seems like the new Congresswoman can be forgiven for coming out swinging.

There is something suspicious about how many of the same people who hated Hillary Clinton now have it out for Elizabeth Warren and AOC. The people over at McSweeney’s swear (fingers crossed) that it has nothing to do with the fact that they’re women but count their lucky stars that the dancing video rescued them from the follies of a socialist insurgency.

In other news about what it feels like to be a woman in 2019, The Paris Review reflects on the anger, the frustration, and the humiliation of being a woman navigating the daily threat of violence in the great U.S. of A., and Kristen Roupenian talks about being expected to answer for Cat Person as though it were auto fiction when her story went viral in the New Yorker last year.

Meanwhile, Oyinkan Braithwaite discusses the way beauty is elevated to the level of virtue in an interview with Electric Lit about her novel My Sister, the Serial Killer, while Lareign Ward poses the argument that the much-maligned romance novel might just have a thing or two to teach us about a world in which women’s desires are allowed not just to exist but to define the narrative. Revolutionary, indeed. 

BURN PILE: Here's to a new day! Burn Pile coming back at you in 2019 with books, lists, and a few resolutions.

It’s the start of the new year, and fingers crossed it’s better than 2018. Yesterday over 100 women were sworn into Congress for the first time in history, which is a great start. For our part, we’re kicking off the new year with a return to Burn Pile’s aggregation of interesting links for your reading pleasure. 

First, McSweeney’s calls for a moment of silence to mourn the passing of 2018. R.I.P. and good riddance. 

Then Electric Lit recommends eight books to shed some light on exactly how we’ve ended up here. 

After reading that, you might want to consult this list of books for keeping perspective while the world is burning.

But let’s look for the silver lining. A lot of great stuff came out last year. Here is LitHub’s list of best books of 2018 to catch up on in 2019.

And four books that the New Yorker feels deserved more attention in 2018.

And now, onward and forward. Here’s LitHub’s list to end all lists of the most anticipated books coming out in 2019, broken down by month and extending through September (including Maid by the University of Montana’s own Stephanie Land).

January 3rd brought more desperately needed diversity to Congress. Let’s bring it to our bookshelves too. Here are 48 books by women and nonbinary people of color for 2019.

Of course, there’s plenty of ways to bring change in the new year. If you need any help coming up with resolutions, McSweeney’s has a list of a Jane Austen heroine’s goals. Three cheers for the smart girl.

Bringing it in a bit closer to home, Tommy Schnurmacher at LitHub has an idea that will keep you pressing pen to paper in 2019.

Here’s to a new start, a new Congress, a new year. Happy writing.  

'What Does Democracy Look Like?' - by James Miller

A Contemplation on the 2011 and 2017 Occupy Movements, the political theory that led to it, and observations about political theory post-hoc.

Image Links to Article

Image Links to Article

“‘This is what democracy looks like!’—for some of us protesting Trump in New York on January 21, 2017, this was a familiar chant. We’d heard it before, earlier in the decade, during the Occupy Wall Street movement. That movement had been inspired, in part, by the staggering growth of inequality in the United States and around the world, as a result of the partial dismantling of social insurance policies that, earlier in the twentieth century, had been the chief egalitarian achievement of labor, liberal, and social democratic political parties worldwide. “

“When faced with a decision, the normal response of two people with differing opinions tends to be confrontational. They each defend their opinions with the aim of convincing their opponent, until their opinion has won or, at most, a compromise has been reached. The aim of Collective Thinking, on the other hand, is to construct. That is to say, two people with differing ideas work together to build something new. The onus is therefore not on my idea or yours; rather it is the notion that two ideas together will produce something new, something that neither of us had envisaged beforehand. This focus requires of us that we actively listen. “

Stunning: 'Today I Told Donald Trump' New Poetry by Erica Dawson on Lit Hub

“Today I Told Donald Trump
the story of a woman. How the skies
came out of her wherever. Spacious skies.
Dark skies. Grown woman skies. Coalsack at this time of the month spreads deep. That kind of K
you see in Crux, that’s her. The bloody new
moon, her. Yessir, you’re going to have to swing
a huge dick if you’re going to hit it.

came out of triumph. Trump (verb): play a trump
on; win a trick.”

John Bonazzo: Montana Alt-Weekly Shutdown Mirrors Demise of NYC Media Outlets

It seems an under-appreciation of the news is a condition common to billionaires beyond just the Pennsylvania Avenue one. This piece in the Observer came out a few days ago, but it’s worth a read for the story of Lee Enterprises’ Wikipedia page:

Soon after the shutdown news broke, the company’s Wikipedia page became a wailing wall.

“Lee Enterprises is a publicly traded American media company that specializes in buying well known local papers for the purposes of gutting them for everything they were once worth,” the page briefly read. “It currently is in the process of destroying 46 daily newspapers in 21 states.”

In addition, one of the page’s subject headings was changed to “Newspapers They Are Dismantling.” All of these edits were eventually replaced with more sedate language.”

It’s a shame that Wikipedia page was sanitized, but again, it appears billionaires have little tolerance for competing viewpoints, especially if it means less change for their canyon-deep pockets.

We, The People


Hey Folks! Cutbank’s new Online Team coming at you loud and live(-ish).

Since this is our first Burn Pile post in a while, and a defining moment for us greenhorns, I’d like to take a moment to thank our dear friend Barry Maxwell for his success with the Second Wind Reading and for all his hard work on Cutbank’s Online source. I know it was it was hard work because now I’m doing half of his old job, and some forms of media are just Not. User. Friendly.

AND NOW, an Editorial

When regarding Freedom of the Press, no law may be passed that interferes with the people’s right to assemble, to print the press, or that causes the abridgement of free speech. But here’s the problem with the constitution: it is vague. In this instance, it’s the carefully worded language that “No Law May Be Passed” which leaves wiggle room for all other interested parties. There is nothing to say that a pitched battle cannot be waged over what the “Truth” is, only that our elected officials cannot infringe upon our right to debate and question it. I’m not a legal scholar, and it would take one to navigate the byzantine workings of modern governments. I will say this though: We Need the Press.

Let me back up and bring something into context here, it just came to my attention that the local alternative/Indy Newspaper here in Missoula was just shut down, as in is no longer printing the press. Well it can be hand waved as another arbitrary tide of the Free Market, or I can take this opportunity to state that the Newspaper is a dying industry. I’m a newcomer here to Missoula, so I don’t feel it’s my place to jump right into local Politics, yet if diversity of the press dies—if we, on a national level, lose the option of options, then that does not bode well for the foundational elements of a Democracy.

Plainly put, if our only options were to turn the television and choose between MSNBC, Fox, and CNN (as it is right now), we’re going to trick ourselves into thinking that the world is much smaller than it is. Problem A is that national level news outlets only care about national and international level news, servicing a ratings-based agenda. Problem B? Severe Conflict of interest. Over a year ago, it became a point of water cooler discussion, back where I’m from, about Sinclair Broadcasting Group buying up state and local level television news media. Don’t believe me? Watch this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khbihkeOISc. It’s not quite the Orwellian nightmare of the novel 1984, but I find it alarming, and I hope you do as well. Is that all the problems I see? No, but they are the two-most relevant topics to this flash opinion piece.

What I’m getting at, folks, is that journalists take it upon themselves to go out into the world and question the ethics of the society we are living in. Do they have their own self-interest? Yes, and I would not trust anyone that did not operate in their self-interest. As they protect us from infringement upon our rights, safety, and morality as citizens, so too does a diverse range of reporting protect us from the private interests and agendas of journalists. To perform their functions as moderators and truth seekers, they need our support as consumers of their newspapers, and no, the truth is not something concerned with output we find agreeable to our tastes and philosophies.

The “truth” is about taking a skeptical look around us and asking earnest questions: is what is happening in our best interests as individuals? As a society? Hell, what even is our best interest? That answer comes from having thoughtful discussion, and to do that we need to be an educated and informed population. Do I have a plan to save a fading yet critical industry? No not entirely. But I hope these words get you started thinking about your own local news industry.

We’d love to hear back from the community. If you know of some local writers or journalists who worked with The Indy, send them our way.

Click the Caption for the Original Article on the Missoulian.

Click the Caption for the Original Article on the Missoulian.

BURN PILE: Mayday! Mayday! May! Day!

Art by Banksy, maybe.

“Everything in life is self-explanatory. Throw away the instructions and rebuild this Ikea world in your own image. Otherwise, deal with it like a bad haircut: grow out of it.


From the forthcoming collection, Postmodern Memes for the Unworthy, by Eugenia Berry

BBC may day screenshot.png

“A celebration marking the first day of summer, the day's traditions are rooted in pagan festivals. What is celebrated today is believed to be a consolidation of three earlier festivals: Beltane fires - to celebrate the return of summer and fertility of the land; Walpurgisnacht - the eve of the Christian feast day of Saint Walpurga; and Floralia, which was held in ancient Rome in honour of the goddess Flora.”

* *

Michelle Wolf: “I’m not trying to get anything accomplished.” Well, she did.

* * 

Fears of far-right violence as US gears up for May Day protests : 

Far-right groups in Los Angeles and Seattle have announced plans to rally against May Day events.

“May Day, or International Workers Day, is commemorated annually on May 1 to celebrate the struggles of labourers and the working class.”
From Aljazeera

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The “My God. It’s full of stars” section:

my god its full of stars.jpg


* *

Hell, MI

“I ask can I do anything differently, anything better, and he says, You were never my problem. The half-compliments will be the ones that kill me.”

Fiction from Liana Jahan Imam in Waccamaw: a journal of contemporary literature

* *

The Disappointed Housewife

The Disappointed Housewife is a literary journal for writers, and readers, who are seeking something different. We like the idiosyncratic, the iconoclastic, the offbeat, the hard-to-categorize.”


All the Office Ladies ~ fiction by Cathy Ulrich

“If I were an office lady in Japan, I’d be the last person to leave the office. I’d pretend the copier was jammed, or there were some last-minute copies to make. The other office ladies wouldn’t want me to walk out with them, three inches taller and American.”


Layers ~ fiction by Pat Foran

Thank you so much. Everybody’s got something going on if you peel back the layers.”

* *

How to Respond After Your Dentist Pulls the Wrong Tooth from Your Mouth

Nonfiction at Cosmonauts Avenue from the awesome Liz Howard.

“When you finally meet with the dentist, you are nervous as hell. You’re resolute in the fact that he pulled the wrong tooth, but you know your trembly, uptalking, anxious little self well enough to know it’s not going to be that simple.”

Œ=~~                     Œ=~~                   Œ=~~

The Jellyfish Review

“I asked for yellow balloons for my twelfth birthday, instead of my favourite colour blue because it no longer was.”

I Asked for Yellow Balloons by Alva Holland

Œ=~~                     Œ=~~                   Œ=~~

My Poem About Last Sounds

Prageeta Sharma in the Boston Review

“…you gave me all the departing desires,
as a way of teaching me to cope and to stay a poet when I don’t feel like being a poet.”

* *

Good Guess
by Kristine Langley Mahler

an erasure essay from Ch. 16 of The seventeen Book of Etiquette and Entertaining, 1963

“She would strip her fear fresh and neat, thank the mother, mind her modesty, and he would envelope her as he said he would. Later. You are not the right girl.”

Read this and more at Cahoodaloodaling, a collaborative publication

* *




by Allie Marini

“Husband told her he liked redheads. but later, he told her that he knew it was just paint & it looked fake. he liked to dress her in outfits that didn’t quite fit right so he turned her upside down and bashed her head on the floor to get her pants to zip up.”

(Visit Allie Marini’s site. )

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Things I Keep, Things I Discard

By Jennifer Harvey, at Spelk ~ Short, sharp flash fiction


* * *

"The Internet is not a thing, a place, a single technology, or a mode of governance. It is an agreement. "

John Gage, Director of Science, Sun Microsystems, Inc.




* * *

Our Imaginations Need to Dwell
Where the Wild Things Are

How Children's Literature Leads Us to The Uncanny

By Liam Heneghan



* *

Andrew Sean Greer:
All the Novels I Almost Wrote

The New Pulitzer Prize-Winner on the (Many) Times He Tried For a Guggenheim

by Andrew Sean Greer

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How to Write When You Don’t Wanna Write
(As Told By Other Writers)

This article was completely crowdsourced.
(But … by Justin Cox, at The Writing Cooperative)

“I call this strange feeling The Funk™️.”

* * *

"PYNK," "I Like That," "Make Me Feel" & "Django Jane" available now: https://janellemonae.lnk.to/dirtycomputer Janelle Monáe with Special Guest St. Beauty "Dirty Computer" Tour Dates - Just Announced!

BURN PILE: "In the Shadow of a Mountain." From National Walkout Day to March for Our Lives, students are demanding a saner, safer world.

In the Shadow of a Mountain

by Bryn Agnew
Editor-In-Chief, CutBank

On March 14th, 2018, students from the University of Montana participated in the National Walkout Day to protest gun violence in schools.

The signs read WE CAN END GUN VIOLENCE, EDUCATED PEOPLE DO NOT NEED TO CARRY GUNS, MOMS DEMAND ACTION, and MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS. Someone starts a chant: “Enough is enough,” yet no one joins in. As far as protests go, the Walkout at the University of Montana is pretty tame. The signs, a single megaphone, a moment of silence. Letter writing materials are distributed. People register to vote. Sitting on a bench, just behind the crowd of my fellow students, a man sits down next to me and talks about the difference between fishing for trout in the Kootenai and fishing for bass at Lake Fork, TX. Looking at the crowd of students, he says, “I don’t do this gun stuff.”

Washington DC, National Walkout Day
Photo by Lorie Shaull

There is no way to know what he means. The verb is weak, the statement vague. But I wonder why he tells me this, on the bench away from the crowd. I can’t help but think that he doesn’t consider me a part of the crowd, and I wonder if I’m even a part of them.

In the weeks since the Parkland shooting, I walk the UM campus haunted. To my office in the LA building, to the UC for lunch, to class in the afternoon, I wonder where the shots will come from. At the Walkout, sitting on the bench, I cannot will myself to stand shoulder to shoulder with my fellow students for fear of being an easier target. I am a traitor to them.

After, I text my friend saying, I think it is tragically American that I could not will myself to stand in the crowd for fear of being shot. I think of the statistics we are constantly being reminded of: you are statistically more likely to be struck by lightning while being chewed in half by a great white shark than to be shot in school. We are reminded that we are irrational. That this will never happen to us. I shame myself for my own fear.

Pennsylvania Ave March For Our Lives
Photo by Shawn Thew-EPA

Yet, this fear is all many of us have known. On April 25th, 1999 I was eight, sitting in church with my parents. The pastor walked to the pulpit and said the most searing words I’ve ever heard: “This week was hell.” Five days earlier, the Columbine shooting happened. Fifteen dead, twenty-four wounded. I learned what the word “hell” actually meant.

There are students at UM who were born after Columbine, who have lived through the constant fear of being shot at school, who grew up participating in active shooter drills the same way I grew up participating in fire or tornado drills, the way our parents hid under their desks hoping the ply-board and cheap metal would save them from the mushroom cloud. Please, listen to them.

Mt. Sentinel looms over UM, and by the bronze statue of a bear, they—we—gather. Because it is tragically American to be shot in school. We don’t want to be good Americans. We want to be the Americans the “good” ones hate. Apathy is a privilege. Yet, sacrifices to the gods of gunpowder should never afford apathy. Approximately 7,000 children have been killed by gunshot wounds since Sandy Hook in 2012.

We gather under the mountain because the fear is not irrational. Our institutions of knowledge, growth, and creativity are plagued by the fear. A shadow over the campus. This is how we live, fearing what could happen to our school, to us.

I am proud of my fellow students and our educators all over the nation, looking out of the shadow, saying however we can, “Enough. Not one more.”

"March for Our Lives: hundreds of thousands demand end to gun violence." 
The Guardian, U.S. edition.

Leni Steinhart on A.M. Joy:

“We were just in New York just last week, doing a panel there, and a couple of students were coming up to us and saying you’re inspiring to us, we’re looking up to you, we’re going to fight with you, and I just tell them, first of all thank you, but we’re just students who want to create change, and we hope that they march along with us today.”

What are your thoughts?
Let's keep this conversation out front. 

Talk to us. We're listening.
We'll add you to this post and tweet to our readers. 

Send your comments directly to cutbankonline@gmail.com.

A BURN PILE of Post-it notes to self. There are good things all around. Great things. Pick one. Click it.

The Force of Decency Awakens

by Paul Krugman. Opinion in The New York Times.

"Suddenly, it seems as if the worst lack all conviction, while the best are filled with a passionate intensity. We don’t yet know whether this will translate into political change. But we may be in the midst of a transformative moment."

* * * 

Swing Your Partner

New fiction by Jean-Luc Bouchard at Pithead Chapel.

"When I asked everyone their opinion, they all said the same thing: “You always seem happy to me.” So I took their words to heart, because if the whole world tells you something, it’s probably true."

* * *

If I had a dog I’d name it Virginia Woof.

Literary Pet Names Using Puns Unworthy of Their Namesakes

A list of laughter by Kristen Arnett and Mary Laura Philpott at McSweeney's.

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Honeysuckle and Jasmine

Fiction by Rachel Abbott at The Stockholm Review of Literature.

"We did not notice at first that we were aging out of our games. The restlessness of early adolescence settled over us one summer like an itchy blanket. The Beanie Babies became lifeless, fuzzy sacks. It wasn’t that we realized we couldn’t time travel or dig all the way to China; we just didn’t want to try anymore."

* * *

Is it too late to write about AWP? Because I feel a thread coming on. Rereading my notes from the WRITING BAD ASS & NASTY WOMEN panel, I’m finding so many gems that seem appropriate to share as students protest & as I’m thinking about misogyny yet again.  https://twitter.com/MaureenLangloss/status/974012009749581824

Is it too late to write about AWP? Because I feel a thread coming on. Rereading my notes from the WRITING BAD ASS & NASTY WOMEN panel, I’m finding so many gems that seem appropriate to share as students protest & as I’m thinking about misogyny yet again.

* * *

Joshua Mohr at LitHub: The Time I Robbed a Liquor Store

On Confession, Guilt, and the Impossibility of Absolution

"[D]o our mistakes really deserve mercy? Can something as simple as time erode the severity of our indiscretions?"

* * *

Forgive Me South Dakota

New nonfiction by Vivé Griffith in the latest Hippocampus.

"My grandmother didn’t tell me 20 miles can be so many things. Bend after bend. Rising and falling. The road blocked, buffalo illuminated in my headlights. Beep the horn before the one-lane bridge. Use the brights. Squint into blackness, turn another curve."

* * *

On Hysteria

Nonfiction by Renée Branum at The New Limestone Review.

"Wanda was prone to fits of hysterics, was known to fall out of her chair laughing on occasion. She would quiver on the carpet, folded up like a hand that couldn’t quite make a fist. And because she was old, was always old as far as I can remember, this was a little frightening."

* * *

The Male Glance

By Lili Loofbourow at VQR.

"The male glance is how comedies about women become chick flicks. It’s how discussions of serious movies with female protagonists consign them to the unappealing stable of “strong female characters.” It’s how soap operas and reality television become synonymous with trash. It tricks us into pronouncing mothers intrinsically boring, and it quietly convinces us that female friendships come in two strains: conventional jealousy or the even less appealing non-plot of saccharine love. The third narrative possibility, frenemy-cum-friend, is an only slightly less shallow conversion myth. Who consumes these stories? Who could want to?"

* * *

The Magazine Interview: the American Gods and Coraline author Neil Gaiman on his outsider status and open marriage

“This isn’t doomsday, this isn’t armageddon... I guess fundamentally I’m an optimist.” 
Interview by Helena De Bertodano

* * *

A Place You Can See the Stars

Fiction by Cathy Ulrich

It’s different here, he says, than in the real world. He calls it the real world. He lives on a street with lamps all up and down it, a place where it’s never dark.

He says: I come here so I can see the stars.

* * *

What makes a good short story?
With Chris Power – books podcast

David Sedaris once said: “A good [short story] would take me out of myself and then stuff me back in, outsized, now, and uneasy with the fit.”

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Why this? Why not?

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Best of the Net 2017 at Sundress Publications

"This project continues to promote the diverse and growing collection of voices who are publishing their work online, a venue that continues to see less respect from such yearly anthologies as the Pushcart and Best American series. This anthology serves to bring greater respect to an innovative and continually expanding medium in the same medium in which it is published."

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Stormy Daniels is crushing President Trump at his own game

"One remarkable feature of Stormy Daniels' chess match with Trump is that shame — this White House's usual instrument against its adversaries — isn't working. Porn stars don't find shame especially useful, and Daniels is no exception. This poses a problem for the president: Daniels (aka Stephanie Gregory Clifford) is utterly unembarrassed about profiting off her connection to him. She's unembarrassed in general. As the president's most virulent defenders have come after her, she's parried their attacks with jokes that defang them. Cracks about her age earn GILF humor, cracks about her being a prostitute have her crowing with glee. She's so good at this that her attackers often end up deleting their tweets; it's just not worth it."

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Joy Williams, The Art of Fiction No. 223

Interviewed by Paul Winner

"Huddled in a hoodie, Williams made coffee with almond milk before sitting across from me at a pine table. She got up several times to retrieve objects or fuss with the dogs. When the talk was over, she drove us into town for a martini and we returned after dark. There was a fat moon. She cut the truck’s headlights and moved, very slowly, through the herds as they sniffed and stepped aside, hides glowing with moonlight.

“Forget the interview,” she said. “Write about this.”

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Does Recovery Kill Great Writing?

As I emerged from alcoholism, I had to face down a terrifying question.

By Leslie Jamison

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Katie Flynn reads from “In the Skin,” and we interview Associate Editor, Essence London, on why she voted for the piece. Listen here for an glimpse of our latest issue and insight into our selection process.

“In the Skin” was originally published in Indiana Review 39.2, Fall 2017.

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To the Future Readers of Lucie Brock-Broido

By Stephanie Burt

"I remember her telling early-nineties students, often for the first time, about Jane Miller, Denis Johnson, Frank Bidart, and on and on. I still have the photocopies, some divided into categories that she made up (for example, The Swerve)."

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Why Reading Sherman Alexie Was Never Enough

As the #MeToo spotlight moves to Indian Country, epidemic violence against Native women meets tokenism in publishing.

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A Mud Season Review interview with Lynne Feeley

Our nonfiction editor Mindy Wong recently had this exchange with Lynne Feeley, our Issue #36 featured nonfiction author. Here’s what she had to say about her writing and revision process, her inspirations and influences, and the research involved in crafting her essay “The Measurer of Ruin.”


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Christ in the Garden of Endless Breadsticks

The agony and the ecstasy of America’s favorite chain restaurant

by Helen Rosner ( @hels )

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Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters

While Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters
Sons of bankers, sons of lawyers
Turn around and say good morning to the night
For unless they see the sky
But they can't and that is why
They know not if it's dark outside or light

BURN (it all down) PILE: the presidents' day edition.


                        The sky will never be an ocean, 

no matter how often you write it that way. 

Georgia Dennison, "Mount Saint Helens—"

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Emma Gonzalez of Douglas High Calls Out Trump, Politicians & NRA.

BURN PILE: “What sane person could live in this world and not be crazy?”

Ursula K. Le Guin (October 21, 1929-January 22, 2018)

Breaking into the Spell

The queen of science fiction on war, the problem with literary realism and learning to write as a woman.
By Alexander Chee

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The Fantastic Ursula K. Le Guin

The literary mainstream once relegated her work to the margins. Then she transformed the mainstream.
By Julie Phillips

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Ursula K. Le Guin on Anger

“Anger continued on past its usefulness becomes unjust, then dangerous… It fuels not positive activism but regression, obsession, vengeance, self-righteousness. Corrosive, it feeds off itself, destroying its host in the process.”

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Celebrate the Life & Writing of Ursula K. Le Guin (R.I.P.) with Classic Radio Dramatizations of Her Stories



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The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story.

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Ursula K. Le Guin On ‘Starting Late’ as a Writer

Posted by Mark Armstrong, from a Paris Review interview with John Wray.

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Ursula Le Guin: ‘Wizardry is artistry’

As Ursula Le Guin receives the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters at the National Book Awards, she talks to Hari Kunzru about alternative fictional worlds

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BURN PILE: Inspiration 2018

Quick! Before classes, or work, or tonight while the kids are asleep, or packed into any carve-it-out-and-take-a-minute time you’ve got, just go soak up inspiration from these folks.

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From The New York Times, “Women’s March 2018: Thousands of Protestors Take to the Streets.

“Desiree Joy Frias, 24, of the Bronx, and her grandmother, Daisy Vanderhorst, wore red capes and curved white hoods — the telltale outfits of the enslaved child-bearers of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which was recently adapted for television from Margaret Atwood’s dystopian science fiction novel.”

See? It’s literary news.

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Largesse cover.jpg

In celebration of the release of The Largesse of the Sea Maiden—reviewed here, by Michael Schaub at NPR—experience “Now.” A poem about which a friend said: “Wow. He sure knows how to inhabit the ineffable.” (Sorry, but I’ve only been able to find it online as a Facebook post.) The Poetry Foundation has many more of Denis Johnson’s poems available here.

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The Poem Climbs the Scaffold and Tells You What It Sees. Natasha Oladukun. The Adroit Journal.


Read in whatever order, but read Paige Lewis’s “Eager,” and this note to the poet at One Great Things.


Oh, mortality, and all that comes before it… “Assisted Living” by M. Stone, at formercactus.com.


FEAR NO LIT presents: Show Your Work, Episode 10: Laura Citino - "What She Does When She Gets Lonely" in podcast chit chat, and Citino’s story is right here at Split Lip.


If you missed this one at Pithead Chapel, you have no excuse now to miss it again. “This Dog, This Shower, This Bench, This Morning” by Janet Frishberg.

From Twitter: Taylor Johnson's "Nocturne" in Tin House


If you lean more toward longer short fiction, Longreads has recommendations for you, in “10 Outstanding Short Stories to Read in 2018

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Back when we had a presidential president, Alexander Chee’s “21 Lies Writers Tell Themselves (And How They Can Stop Lying To Themselves And Become Awesome!)*” ran in The Awl, which, sadly, is ending its life on the Net. Go while you can.

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Was it you?Harry Potter book known as 'Holy Grail for collectors' stolen by burglars
Valuable edition of JK Rowling's first novel was one of only 500 printed in 1997

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This month’s issue of Brevity is (as always) filled with jaw-droppingly strong nonfiction. Some standouts to hit from here are “At My School” by Courtney Kersten, and “Turn, Bend, and Spread” by Michael Fischer. 

“The bathroom walls are a battle. Between dissent and Magic Erasers, between wrath and paint, between the kids and the janitors.
I sit on the toilet and read—about the protests back in November, about the institution protecting rapists, about Chance the Rapper, about which Instagram accounts to follow, about whether or not Jeff Sessions is Hitler-incarnate, about the taco place downtown that gives you diarrhea. Do NOT go!!! I read the messages one day and watch them morph the next; the graffiti augmented by agreement, argument, or thick lines of deletion.”

                                                                                From “At My School” by Courtney Kersten

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Inspiration at work.


Later, y'all.