The Masters Review Blog

Oct 11

New Voices: “Imagine This, Thaddeus” by Brad Aaron Modlin

This week’s entry to our New Voices catalog comes from Brad Aaron Modlin: “Imagine This, Thaddeus” shows the titular character, Thaddeus, a monk in fourth century Egypt, in the midst of temptation. The voices are literally set against one another, as they battle, the Tempter poking at the very things he knows will sway Thaddeus the most: his loneliness, his comfort. Read on:


But a child is a version of you, a child keeps you alive even after your body is nothing, he looks like you and says, “My father taught me this.”

Thaddeus, One of the Desert Fathers, Monks of Fourth-Century Egypt

Imagine these nothing-tasting lentils are not lentils, but something new, a fruit your mouth can’t even recognize. Imagine berries a pink brighter than the sunset overflow from your wooden bowl, and when you drop them onto your tongue they pop with tart-sweet juice. Imagine you’ll never run out because they grow like an explosion all over a bush, in a place where plants can thrive, a place made of more than sand. You can pluck the berries whenever you like because the bush belongs to you, because it’s yours. You own something and no one can tell you how to use it or criticize. You can drape a blanket over it to hide it from other people—you can have a secret, and the bush stands on your land, in front of your house because you own a house and it’s more than one room and you can shut the door and tell other men they can’t come in, but you can open your door to women, and dozens of them slink by every evening and you can open your door and call to them and they won’t leave until morning and one day you open the house to a woman and she becomes your wife and her eyes are like lamps and the shape of her cloak is the shape of her breasts and she gives you a bowlful of those berries and never lentils because she is too vibrant for lentils, she throws lentils on the floor and laughs and her hair falls long, long down against her arm and her hair swishes behind her like a flag when she walks, and when she falls back onto your bed, her hair whooshes like a sail.

I won’t listen to this, Troubler.

Imagine she falls back onto your bed, Thaddeus, because you have a bed instead of a sleeping mat on hard sand. And straw stuffs it and softens it because you need softness for what happens there. And she is a sail and you are the wind and she presses her hand into the small of your back to draw you closer because she wants you to touch her and her cloak is the shape of her breasts and you can whip the cloak off just like you can pluck berries from the front yard.

I will think of this place where providence has brought me. I won’t let you veer me away from this desert air in my nostrils, from these prayers.

Imagine she makes herself beautiful just for you, so she holds a sharp-edged mirror to her face and she pretends not to see you in the doorway one morning, but smiles and then her hand brushes against the mirror and it slices her palm and she winces and you rush across the room to take care of her. You dip the sponge in the water jar to wash the blood away, and you mix a salve from olive oil and your spittle and trace the cut with your finger, a quiet line, slow as a rowboat adrift. And her hand cups your spittle and the worst of you can heal each other, and when her breath returns to its normal rate, the rate you fall asleep to each night, you fold her fingers down over the cut and kiss her fist and you think, This is why I am alive, to take care of her.

And someone needs you, someone you can see and hear, and she says, “Help me” and, “I’d be lost without you,” and someone cares whether you wake up and feed yourself or lie in bed all day or starve to death. And your final thought each night centers on someone else and every day is a day of noticing each other. Listen, Thaddeus, I speak of good things.

I will pray, but.

 To continue reading “Imagine This, Thaddeus” click here.

Oct 6

2021 Flash Fiction Contest Finalists!

Here they are, folks! Stuart Dybek’s selections for the 2021 Flash Fiction Contest are in. We can’t wait to share these wonderful flashes with you. Congratulations to our finalists, and thank you so much to all of our submitters! We wouldn’t be here without you.

Winner

Agora é Sempre by Tanya Perkins

Second Place

Play That Again by John Glowney

Third Place

How to Develop (Film) by Candice May

Honorable Mention

Everywhere, All at Once by Emily Roth

Oct 5

New Writing on the Net: September 2021

In this month’s edition of New Writing on the Net, a man pursues a woman while a tumor takes up space in his skull; two friends raise an improbable fish; an older woman reflects on growing her life and the white space in between. These, and other lingering stories, are curated by reader Rebecca Paredes for your September reading list.

Lawrence the Enormous” by Chelsea Baumgarten | The Sun, September 2021

“Lawrence thought of Diane’s new husband, how he’d removed his shoes at the door when he’d come to fetch her things. Somehow, this was more insulting than if he’d tromped dirt on the rug. Lawrence thought, too, of the dishes. To ‘hold him over,’ Diane had left one of everything. He’d never gotten around to buying his own set. Often, he washed his plate three times per day.”

Kun” by Star Su | Porter House Review, September 13, 2021

“The new tank was beautiful. It seemed alive, channels of electricity and bleached light leapt across the carpet braided with rainbow trim, swallowing the crib that now seemed so small. The glass was warm to the touch, hot even, the temperature of a fever. Peng Peng said that this was normal, the fish needed tropical water, fish this beautiful were born from volcanoes. They were practically volcanoes themselves, molten in color. I nodded, set my hand on the glass. Kun didn’t seem to notice me, didn’t come to touch the tips of my fingers as it had when it was the two of us, swaddled in the closet.”

Autobiography” by Karin Lin-Greenberg | Wigleaf, September 5, 2021

“Before that, Edward was still alive. He was a good husband, agreeable in every way. Maybe too agreeable. My daughter called him an enabler, said I always had to have my way in life because I was so used to getting my way, always, at home. ‘Grow a spine,’ she yelled at him the last time we saw her, before she shut the door on us forever.”

First Moments Through a Looking Glass” by Audrey Burges | Cease, Cows, September 2, 2021

“I am an exhausted laundry list of risks tick-tick-ticked beneath the heading ‘geriatric pregnancy.’ I am a wrinkled womb perched on rickety chicken feet inside this plump raisin of a body, my bloodshot eyes and banshee-tangled hair reflecting back from the portal on the wall, but it’s too late to ask them to cover it.”

Bride School Girls” by Amanda Churchill | Hobart, September 20, 2021

“The Church Girls were nice and met often, a group within a group. They learned English a little faster, perhaps. Their husbands seemed a little more lenient, maybe more understanding. Thus, Akemi had wondered if this Jesus really did help people out. That’s why she kept the King James Holy Bible out on the table. Maybe Jesus would float from it and make her love her husband, make this marriage worth being shunned by her family, who steamed open the envelopes, removed the cash, and then returned all her letters, the sharp crease still in place, the words unread.”

curated by Rebecca Parades

 

Oct 4

New Voices: “My Life Partner” by Jack Cubria

“My Life Partner” by Jack Cubria, this week’s New Voices short story, follows Paul—narrator Roy’s best friend—and his relationship with Ada. In “My Life Partner,” Cubria has constructed an honest, conflicted narrator who loves Paul despite everything, through prose that recalls Hemingway: true, and direct, and with depth beyond measure.


While Ada was in class, Paul and I drank growlers on my porch. He read Roethke and Rilke to me. One June afternoon he was moved to tears by the Duino Elegies, stricken by a kind of mortal anxiety. He started fretting about how other women still interested him. For a minute he talked about being afraid to die alone.

On their first evening out they went to the symphony, and then they fucked like Romans in the car. He made her come just by touching her over her leggings. I know this, because Paul tells me everything he does and thinks, especially when it’s about women.

The first time I actually saw Paul and Ada together they were passing through California on a road trip. I was still in college. We rendezvoused at the campus and caravanned to Tunitas by Half Moon Bay and camped on the beach, and when it was dark they very earnestly told me that they were going to get married. I got up from the campfire to go piss whiskey into the surf and thought, they’ll be finished once the sex slows down.

The following morning, when we walked around the campus in the heat, Ada was upset at something. She refused to talk to us and lagged far behind as Paul and I strolled side-by-side past the dormitories and academic buildings. She didn’t crack a smile when Paul scaled the marble statues on the steps of the art museum and hung around their necks and pretended to kiss them on the lips.

As their white van drove away down Santa Teresa I found myself hoping for a painless outcome. This was not to be expected, which I knew even then.

* * *

After our beach excursion I didn’t see Paul and Ada for nearly a year. I graduated from college in the spring and took my first job writing for a magazine in New York. I covered politics, manufacturing rote prose out of provocations and lies. Before long the whole arrangement defeated me. I decided to get out. Around that time Paul called me.

Come to Missoula, he said.

After a period of perseveration I quit the magazine and took his advice. It was not too hard to move out there—back to Montana, back West—not as hard as it had been to move to New York. I got a room on the north side of town in a little house with a porch. It was close to the Catholic cemetery, and in the afternoons I would go to read among the tombstones. Another man lived with me, but he worked two restaurant jobs, so I saw little of him. I was writing for a website to make money, about eight hundred dollars per month, and I was drinking hard every day at the taprooms around town. Meanwhile Paul and Ada were living in a basement apartment by the campus. She was finishing school, and he was living off savings from prior years, when he had worked summers as a wildland firefighter. They had a puppy, black as the road. It was a mix of collie and husky and wolf, and it was not well socialized, though it obeyed Paul’s commands sweetly. They called the puppy Ash.

To continue reading “My Life Partner” click here.

Oct 1

Novel Excerpt Contest Now Open!

The Masters Review‘s inaugural novel excerpt contest is now open for your submissions! Dan Chaon, author of Among the Missing and the forthcoming Sleepwalk is serving as our judge for this contest, and will select the winning excerpt from a shortlist prepared by The Masters Review‘s editorial team. The winning writer will earn a $3000 prize, along with publication and an hour-long consultation with a literary agent. Full details can be found below, or on our contest page.


submit

The Masters Review is hosting its first Novel Excerpt Contest! We’re looking for excerpts that show off a sense of style, with a clear grasp on craft: narrative, character, and plot. Choose wisely! Your excerpt can come from any point in your completed or in-progress novels, but a synopsis should not be required for understanding the excerpt. Excerpts must be from previously unpublished novels; if your novel has been self-published, it is ineligible for this contest. As always, we have no limitations on genre, though we are primarily interested in literary fiction. Dan Chaon will serve as our inaugural judge and select the finalists from a shortlist provided by The Masters Review’s editorial team. The winning excerpt will be awarded $3000 and online publication and an hour-long consultation with a literary agent. Second and third place excerpts will be awarded online publication and $300 and $200 respectively, in addition to 1 page of feedback from a literary agent.

Guidelines:

  • Winner receives $3000, publication and consultation with an agent
  • Second and third place prizes ($300 / $200, publication and agent feedback)
  • Excerpts under 6000 words
  • Excerpts from unpublished novels only
  • Simultaneous and multiple submissions allowed
  • Emerging writers only (We are interested in offering a larger platform to new writers. Self-published writers and writers with story collections and novels with a small circulation (fewer than 5000 copies) are welcome to submit.)
  • International English submissions allowed
  • $20 entry fee
  • Deadline: November 30th, 2021
  • Please, no identifying information on your excerpt
  • All excerpts are considered for publication
  • A significant portion of the editorial letter fees go to our feedback editor, according to the rates established by the EFA

FAQ
Q: What’s the deal with my rights if I want to publish my book eventually?
While we’re not able to speak for every publisher, since we’re not publishing your work in its entirety, it should not be a problem going forward. Rights also revert back to the author after 90 days. If an opportunity came up for you to publish your work before the 90 days, we are happy to revert rights back to you sooner.

Q: Does it have to have a beginning, middle and end?
We want an excerpt that stands well on its own, that makes us want to read the full book. We want a sense of conclusion from the excerpt, but we also know that we’re only reading part of a novel and don’t expect all threads to be resolved. You can read Jennifer Marquardt’s “The Analyst” for an example of the kind of novel-excerpt we’re interested in.

Q: When should I expect to hear back?
We will try to respond to every submission by the end of February, and hope to have the finalists announced at the end of March or beginning of April. If this timeline changes significantly, we will notify all authors. We appreciate your patience!

Q: Can I submit two chapters if its under 6000 words?
You can submit as many chapters as you’d like, as long as the word count is under 6000 words.

Q: How firm are you on word count?
We allow for some wiggle room; don’t force your revisions into 6000 words. We’d rather read a couple hundred extra words than a cramped conclusion!

Q: Can I submit a synopsis/prologue with my excerpt?
We recommend that you don’t; your excerpt will be judged on its merit alone, and the synopsis will not be published alongside your excerpt.

Q: Can I submit with a co-writer?
Sure; but you’ll need to split the prize money.

Q: What if a small portion of the book has already been published?
As long as the excerpt you’re submitting has not been published in any form, and the novel itself has not been published, we’re happy to consider your work!

Q: I self-published my novel on my blog but later took it down; can I still submit an excerpt?
Unfortunately because it’s been published in some form or fashion, the excerpt would no longer be eligible for this contest.

We don’t have any preferences topically or in terms of style. We’re simply looking for the best. We don’t define, nor are we interested in, stories identified by their genre. We do, however, consider ourselves a publication that focuses on literary fiction. Dazzle us, take chances, and be bold.

Dan Chaon is the author of several books, including the National Book Award nominee Among the Missing, the national best sellers Among the Missing and Ill Will,  and the forthcoming novel Sleepwalk (Henry Holt, April, 2022).  Photo credit: © Géraldine Aresteanu

INCLUDED UNIQUE OPPORTUNITIES AND DISCOUNTS:

To thank you for your continued support of The Masters Review, we’re excited to offer you the following opportunities with your submission:

WritingWorkshops.com is offering 15% off any of their classes this year, and the discount code will be included in the confirmation e-mail when you submit.

Literature & Latte is offering a 20% discount on their incredibly helpful Scrivener writing software for macOS and Windows users. There will be a discount code in the confirmation e-mail when you submit.

The Writing Salon is offering every submitter a 10% off discount code on a writing class with a discount code included in your confirmation e-mail!

Keep working on your novel with one of Catapult‘s classes. A discount code for 10% off any upcoming class will be included in your confirmation e-mail.


submit

Sep 30

New Voices Revisited: “Shine” by Ron A. Austin

In this month’s New Voices Revisited, we return to Ron A. Austin’s “Shine,” first published on our site in March of 2015. “Shine” is a tale about a rebellious teen and her younger brother. It is a gritty, funny, and heartfelt story, touching on the ways in which familial love endures conflict, pain, and anger.


I wanted to believe Yell was slicing notched machetes through Amazonian flora as she tracked rare panthers, tarantulas scattering under her feet. I wanted to believe she was Kumite fighting in Thailand—a musty, concrete theatre bristling with blood-lusting spectators, adrenaline setting claws in her spine, she and the champ trading slashes across the chest like masochists posing as sadists. I wanted to believe all that, but I knew she was most likely chopping it up with one of her dickhead ex-boyfriends, smoking dirt weed and guzzling cough syrup until the ghosts of dead prophets dropped from the ceiling and empty Pringles cans became megaphones heralding End Times.

Yell bit Mom on the shoulder so Mom finally kicked her punk-ass out. Mom made me put on rubber gloves and inspect the wound for signs of infection with a miniature flashlight and a magnifying glass.

The wound was a perfect oval, as if Yell had attacked with a precision cutting instrument and not her teeth. There was discoloration—red, green, and purple, like weather-beaten aluminum—but there was no pus, no gangrene. Funky tufts of fur didn’t sprout from Mom’s face, nor did she become a zombie. One day later, Yell’s stuff was jammed in garbage bags and boxes, and two days after that Mom organized a yard sale. I lugged grimy folding tables out of the basement, and Mom made placards, even busted out that fine and sophisticated calligraphy she learned at the Y.

She earned ten bucks off an old lady who haggled over Yell’s antique hand mirror for a solid hour. Mom closed up shop when a crusty white dude with only 2.5 teeth in his head asked: Got any gently used stockings? I’d take garters, too. Three days after that, Yell’s stuff was back in her room, hair-care products categorized by severity of kink, Freak ‘Em dresses hung with respect.

Two more days after that, Mom sighed and told me, “Avery, you need to go find your sister.”

To continue reading “Shine” click here.

Sep 27

October Deadlines: 10 Competitions Ending This Month

We’ve made it through the scorching heat of summer, and we can finally appreciate a cool fall breeze. These contests are also a breath of fresh air, so check them out!

Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize

In this amazing contest offered by The Missouri Review, contestants can submit entries for fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Not only do the winners in each contest receive $5000 and publication, but there is also a reception and reading in their honor! Make sure to choose the correct category when you submit, and good luck! More details here.

Entry Fee: $25 Deadline: October 1

Zoetrope: All-Story Short Fiction Competition

Founded by Francis Ford Coppola, Zoetrope: All-Story is meant to explore the intersections of story, art, fiction, and film. This contest is open to all genres of literary fiction, with no formatting restrictions! The entries need to be less than 5,000 words and previously unpublished, and will be judged by Daniel Mason, finalist for the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. First place is $1000, second place is $500, and third place is $250. All three prize winners and seven honorable mentions will be considered for representation. Check it out!

Entry Fee: $30 Deadline: October 1

Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Scholarship

There is no better chance for American poets who wish to travel than this opportunity, and it’s not too late! Applicants must send in two applications and a 40-page poetry sample to the Trustees at the law firm Choate, Hall & Stewart, who will choose up to two recipients. The winner must then leave North America for an entire year, produce at least three poems, and will then be awarded $60,500. Find out more here!

Entry Fee: FREE Deadline: October 15

Calvino Prize

Sponsored by the University of Louisville, their Creative Writing Program is searching for outstanding and experimental fiction, in the style of fabulist writer Italo Calvino. Take note, however, that entries ought to be inspired by Calvino, not merely imitating him! First place receives $2000, publication, and an invitation to read either in-person at the University of Louisville or virtually (depending on health, safety, and logistics). Judged by Matt Bell. Submit here!

Entry Fee: $25 Deadline: October 15

Fabulist Fiction Chapbook Contest

Presented by Omnidawn Publishing, this competition is on the hunt for fiction that pushes boundaries! Fabulist fiction, in this instance, includes magical realism and the literary forms of fantasy, science fiction, horror, fable, and myth, as long as they’re written in English and don’t exceed 17,500 words. The winner receives $1000, publication, 100 free copies of their chapbook, and extensive advertising and publicity. Judged by Theodora Ziolkowski. Rules here!

Entry Fee: $18 Deadline: October 18

Emerging Writer’s Prize in Fiction

The Arkansas International is currently accepting submissions for their contest, but all good things will eventually come to an end. Entries are only open to writers who haven’t published a full-length book, and must be less than 7500 words. The winning prose piece will be chosen by Claire Vaye Watkins, and will receive $1000 and publication. Don’t lose your chance!

Entry Fee: $20 Deadline: October 25

Benjamin Saltman Poetry Award

In honor of the poet Benjamin Saltman, Red Hen Press is looking to reward a previously unpublished original collection of poetry! Open to all poets, each manuscript must be a minimum of 48 pages, and submitted without any identifying material. The award is $3000, and also includes publication of the winning entry. Judged by Major Jackson! Details here.

Entry Fee: $25 Deadline: October 31

Black River Chapbook Competition

Black Lawrence Press presents a great opportunity for poets and fiction writers with short manuscripts! The contest is open to new, emerging, and experienced writers, whose entries will be read blind by the panel of editors. The winner is awarded $500, publication, and 10 copies of their book. Guidelines here.

Entry Fee: $17 Deadline: October 31

Creative Nonfiction Prize

If you have an unpublished creative nonfiction piece, this could be your big break! Indiana Review and Indiana University Press are currently accepting submissions for this prize. An entry of outstanding merit will be selected, less than 5000 words, and the winner will receive publication and $1000. The final judge will be Anna Qu. Do it!

Entry Fee: $20 Deadline: October 31

Vern Rutsala Book Prize

Cloudbank Books was founded in 2000 by Peter Sears, the Poet Laureate of Oregon from 2014 to 2016, and this contest is dedicated to another great Oregon poet, Vern Rutsala! They are looking for manuscripts in a wide range of styles, forms, and aesthetics, from lyric poetry to flash fiction, although entries must be between 60 to 90 pages. Once chosen by judge Doug Ramspeck, the winner receives $1000 and publication. Submission guidelines here.

Entry Fee: $25 Deadline: October 31

by Kimberly Guerin

Sep 25

New Contest Alert! The Masters Review’s First Novel Excerpt Contest, with Guest Judge Dan Chaon

Paging all hopeful novelists! The Masters Review is running a contest for your unpublished or in-progress novels. We’re looking for strong excerpts, up to 6000 words, that can be enjoyed without a synopsis. The winning writer will earn a $3000 prize, along with publication and an hour-long consultation with a literary agent. Full details can be found below, or on our contest page. Submissions open October 1st!

The Masters Review is hosting its first Novel Excerpt Contest! We’re looking for excerpts that show off a sense of style, with a clear grasp on craft: narrative, character, and plot. Choose wisely! Your excerpt can come from any point in your completed or in-progress novels, but a synopsis should not be required for understanding the excerpt. Excerpts must be from previously unpublished novels; if your novel has been self-published, it is ineligible for this contest. As always, we have no limitations on genre, though we are primarily interested in literary fiction. Dan Chaon will serve as our inaugural judge and select the finalists from a shortlist provided by The Masters Review’s editorial team. The winning excerpt will be awarded $3000 and online publication and an hour-long consultation with a literary agent. Second and third place excerpts will be awarded online publication and $300 and $200 respectively, in addition to 1 page of feedback from a literary agent.

Guidelines:

  • Winner receives $3000, publication and consultation with an agent
  • Second and third place prizes ($300 / $200, publication and agent feedback)
  • Excerpts under 6000 words
  • Excerpts from unpublished novels only
  • Simultaneous and multiple submissions allowed
  • Emerging writers only (We are interested in offering a larger platform to new writers. Self-published writers and writers with story collections are welcome to submit.)
  • International English submissions allowed
  • $20 entry fee
  • Deadline: November 30th, 2021
  • Please, no identifying information on your excerpt
  • All excerpts are considered for publication
  • A significant portion of the editorial letter fees go to our feedback editor, according to the rates established by the EFA

FAQ
Q: What’s the deal with my rights if I want to publish my book eventually?
While we’re not able to speak for every publisher, since we’re not publishing your work in its entirety, it should not be a problem going forward. Rights also revert back to the author after 90 days. If an opportunity came up for you to publish your work before the 90 days, we are happy to revert rights back to you sooner.

Q: Does it have to have a beginning, middle and end?
We want an excerpt that stands well on its own, that makes us want to read the full book. We want a sense of conclusion from the excerpt, but we also know that we’re only reading part of a novel and don’t expect all threads to be resolved. You can read Jennifer Marquardt’s “The Analyst” for an example of the kind of novel-excerpt we’re interested in.

Q: When should I expect to hear back?
We will try to respond to every submission by the end of February, and hope to have the finalists announced at the end of March or beginning of April. If this timeline changes significantly, we will notify all authors. We appreciate your patience!

Q: Can I submit two chapters if its under 6000 words?
You can submit as many chapters as you’d like, as long as the word count is under 6000 words.

Q: How firm are you on word count?
We allow for some wiggle room; don’t force your revisions into 6000 words. We’d rather read a couple hundred extra words than a cramped conclusion!

Q: Can I submit a synopsis/prologue with my excerpt?
We recommend that you don’t; your excerpt will be judged on its merit alone, and the synopsis will not be published alongside your excerpt.

Q: Can I submit with a co-writer?
Sure; but you’ll need to split the prize money.

Q: What if a small portion of the book has already been published?
As long as the excerpt you’re submitting has not been published in any form, and the novel itself has not been published, we’re happy to consider your work!

Q: I self-published my novel on my blog but later took it down; can I still submit an excerpt?
Unfortunately because it’s been published in some form or fashion, the excerpt would no longer be eligible for this contest.

We don’t have any preferences topically or in terms of style. We’re simply looking for the best. We don’t define, nor are we interested in, stories identified by their genre. We do, however, consider ourselves a publication that focuses on literary fiction. Dazzle us, take chances, and be bold.

Sep 24

Litmag Roadmap: Ontario

Do you have your passport ready? This week we’re crossing the Canadian border on our trek finding the best local literary magazines!

After over a year of restrictions, the Canadian border has finally reopened to nonessential travel! Well, sort of. It’s complicated. What’s not complicated is the plethora of outstanding litmags published by our neighbors to the north. So, sharpen your hockey skates and fry up some beaver tails (the pastries, not the real thing!). We’re going to Ontario!

Carousel

This ever evolving and adventurous journal recently transitioned to an all-digital platform. Marrying literature and art, Carousel has produced visually stunning and carefully curated publications twice a year since 1983. They pride themselves on delving into work across genres, capturing many moods and styles. A fun feature of the journal is Chain, an ongoing series of poems, each written in response to the previous entry. Submissions to Chain are always open. General submissions open in September.

The Puritan

No fusty New Englanders here, this independent Toronto based literary magazine has been publishing some of Canada’s finest literary talents for over a decade. Besides offering contemporary literature from writers in all stages of their careers, The Puritan is also a great source of interviews and reviews that dive deep into both Canadian and global literature. Submissions for the quarterly magazine are open year-round to writers anywhere in the world, and an annual fiction and poetry contest runs every fall.

untethered magazine

Another independent Toronto based journal, untethered is a relatively new publication. However, its eye-catching design and quality writing coupled with some exceptional launch parties ensure many years of literary excellence lie ahead. They are seeking fiction, nonfiction, poetry, art, and “those strange beings in between.”

Taddle Creek

A truly unique publication, Taddle Creek defines itself as “a general-interest literary magazine.” Beginning as a Christmas annual for a Toronto neighborhood, it has since expanded to a bi-annual print and web publication featuring vivid colors and a spunky beatnik mascot. This multi-award-winning magazine is meticulously designed and edited. Issues feature everything from fiction to comics, cultivating a style that is hard to pin down but always engaging.

The New Quarterly

For forty years, TNQ has been discovering and nurturing new voices in Canadian literature. Housed in St. Jerome’s University in Waterloo, Ontario, the journal prioritizes community engagement through frequent collaborations with fellow publications, as well as hosting the annual Wild Writers Literary Festival. In addition to fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry, they also seek pieces discussing various aspects of writing life.

Brick

Since its founding in 1977, Brick has become Canada’s premier purveyor of literary nonfiction. The magazine has featured all-time greats such as Zadie Smith and John Irving, but they are always looking for new voices to promote. Published twice a year, submissions run from Sept.-Oct. and Mar.-Apr. for nonfiction in a variety of forms from essays to humorous letters. So long as a piece prizes the personal voice it can find a home among the pages of Brick.

Arc Poetry Magazine

This edgy, long running magazine is always looking for fresh voices in poetry. They publish two issues a year with submissions running Apr.-Jul. and Sept.-Dec. In addition to the sharpest, most incisive poetry they can get their hands on, Arc also features essays, interviews and articles on poetry, as well as running several contests a year.

Augur

In the first five years of its existence, Augur has created a fantastic home for all writing that is surreal, strange or otherwise indefinable. They believe that sometimes the best way to understand the world is to view it through a slightly cracked lens. The journal tends to lean toward more literary speculative fiction in the form of short stories, flash, and poetry, but is open to high fantasy and sci-fi so long as the narratives remain character driven.

B.B Garin

Sep 20

New Voices: “Jackpot” by Mike Nees

We are excited to share this morning our newest entry to the New Voices catalog: “Jackpot” by Mike Nees. In this energetic story, take on two roles: The first, an addict, working the casino floor for a score and a fix; the other, a security guard who plays his job like a video game to be attempted over and over until it’s mastered. “Jackpot” offers a unique insight on casino life, and we’re thrilled to share Nees’s work. Dive in.


Here’s the thing about those old games, though: There was always the chance that some master would emerge from the shadows, pat you on the shoulder, and ask you to step aside. A teenager who worked at the arcade, maybe. He’d slice through the hoards who’d mocked you for years, demolish the bosses before they could take their first breaths.

 

Here’s a game where you run around the casino asking for change, security hot on your tail. You weave your way through the bachelorette parties, hide in the clouds of chain smokers. It’s tricky. Even if you shake the guards, you have to watch the shame meter—it maxes out after too much begging. The game’s called Meth Head, which, eh—if you’re really at the point of panhandling for crystal meth, the shame is probably a non-factor. Not that you’ve transcended it or anything. It’s just a constant, like tinnitus.

And here’s a game where you’re the security, and it’s your job to run after the Meth Heads. Revenue goes up whenever you clear the floor, but each wave is bigger than the last. Without upgrades, you can only give chase. Sometimes they just run in circles to tire you out. You earn a pinch their of their respect when you emerge with a baton.

In truth, when you take cover in the men’s room, you might bump into that nerd from the food court who’s always hunched over his laptop—the youngish guy with glasses who never gives you any change, only offering a tangerine here or there—and if you catch his glance in the mirror as he washes his hands, tell him how tired you are from all this running, and how he’s looking like a snack—there’s a chance that the rejection that follows, that particular face of pity, will register on the shame meter. So there’s a little truth in it, somewhere. The meter.

An earpiece feeds you intel, a taser boosts your attack. It’s never enough. Just when you think you’ve got the hang of things, your enemies swarm the floor with new vigor, drive coveted demographics to rival casinos. The old white ladies disappear. Your progress lay in ruins. And to be fair, this was how it worked in all the old games. Everything just got harder and harder, until you ran out of quarters. You knew the machines were unbeatable, but that just made you want to beat them more.

When security kicks you to the curb, it’s time to add up your change—fail to reach your target and it’s back to the casino, only now you’re muted by shame, unable to beg, and so you have to start casing purses. Thieving. Everything revolves around patience now—not a Meth Head’s strong suit. It’s so heavy-handed, this game and its agenda. How gladly it revokes your voice. Tells you what to feel. One purse, at least, puts you over the top. You can finally buy a crystal off the guy in the rooming house strewn with loose mattresses, and this part’s real enough. It even plays out as a cutscene, which is how it always feels—once you can afford the crystal, it’s a forgone conclusion. A thing you watch yourself do. Only as the warmth of that first hit courses through your limbs do you reinhabit them.

To continue reading “Jackpot” click here.

Sep 16

Reading Through the Awards: The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

In a continuation of our series of micro-reviews, assistant editor Brandon Williams brought together a group of ardent readers to give their quick-hit impressions of recent novels which have won major awards from the literary world. Stephen Graham Jones’s The Only Good Indians, winner of the 2021 Shirley Jackson Award, is our next selection.

Quick Book Summary (from the official blurb): “[The Only Good Indians] follows the lives of four American Indian men and their families, all haunted by a disturbing, deadly event that took place in their youth. Years later, they find themselves tracked by an entity bent on revenge, totally helpless as the culture and traditions they left behind catch up to them in a violent, vengeful way.”


Stephen Graham Jones’s The Only Good Indians, like many horror novels, doesn’t start with the supernatural. But where a Stephen King book might start with the mundane lives of middle-class white people, Jones’ book begins firmly grounded in reservation life—and death. From the opening scene he makes his points clear. This book is not about an idyllic town sitting peacefully in some racially homogeneous flyover state, suddenly disrupted by a vengeful spirit. This is about an Indian reservation, and it already contains hundreds of years’ worth of its own demons. If the “monster” had never entered the story, it would still be about fear and despair and death. The characters we inhabit in The Only Good Indians grapple not just with marriage, children, and jobs, but with intergenerational trauma, endemic alcoholism, a broken relationship with the old ways, and a spiritual disconnection from just about everything. These people were dying off before the monster ever arrived.

Jones confronts his characters and his readers with the visceral terror of facing something you cannot understand, and at the same time with the very real and often physical oppression already faced by Indians in America. There is no shying away from the brutal history. It is clear to any careful reader that the sin committed by the main characters upon the elk—indiscriminate, pointless violence—is the same sin committed by white people upon Indians. It is hard to put down this book without wishing that revenge and justice for humans could be meted out as bloodily and as thoroughly as they were for the elk. Enter this book like you would enter a sweat lodge. Leave expectations at the door, and see which of your own demons are revealed.

Taylor Seyfert


Stephen Graham Jones has created a beautiful and gruesome novel-sized parable about breaking traumatic cycles through his novel The Only Good Indians. Though the plot focuses on the karma-like consequences following four Blackfeet men who illegally hunt down an elk herd, it more poignantly points out the kind of strength it takes to see an unhealthy cycle and put an end to it. The idea of things needing to come full circle is challenged by one character, Denorah, who dares to think “…it can stop…it has to stop…” Her choice to stop the violence instead of seeking revenge is powerful, especially when the readers see the growth and life that can come from walking away from such situations.

Meaningful parable aside, Jones has built a complex world within The Only Good Indians that is modern, but carefully folds in other worldly elements. The entity haunting the men so brilliantly bides their time that at some moments it’s easy to forget there really is an entity and to imagine that possibly these men are losing their minds. When the gory scenes filled with brain matter and blood ensue, it’s hard to stop reading because despite it all, it’s eloquently written with almost alluring detail. The gore is horrifying, but is also necessary and apt for the plotlines to be completed. The Only Good Indians is ingeniously written and worth reading every bloodstained sentence.

Melanie Spicer


Horror is achieved in the buildup. The anticipation. The moment of is-it or is-it-not that keeps a person guessing until, inevitably, the horror spills out in a flood that overwhelms. Stephen Graham Jones’s The Only Good Indians not only achieves this deep level of atmospheric anticipation, it crescendos into a mid-book climax few will be prepared for.

The story of four Blackfoot boys that hunt elk on land they know they shouldn’t spirals into an intricate narrative about the darker aspects of cultural traditions, and the price for breaking them. The true horror of the story comes when the consequences of their actions takes on a physical form, becoming a character that thinks, and speaks, and acts against them. Jones crafts a nightmare scenario both unique to his own Blackfoot heritage, and also so universal it sends a shiver down any reader’s spine on concept alone.

With an ending that sparks hope and respect, The Only Good Indians leaves a reader mulling over its meaning, its symbolism, its vividly gruesome imagery, and a central question of what the characters should have sought forgiveness for.

Allene Keshishian


The opening chapter does well to loop back to its beginning with the phrase, “INDIAN MAN KILLED IN DISPUTE OUTSIDE BAR. That’s one way to say it.” This phrase introduces the reader to some of the narrative style being employed (the cheekiness mainly), and there is plenty of action and a decent amount of explanation given to the character of Ricky. However, as soon as we meet Lewis, the momentarily compelling language that adds just a hint of wry wit is doubled, if not tripled before it distorts into a completely humorless and joyless reading experience.

The narrative voice appears to be overcompensating for something—like the narrator is trying far too hard to make a point that Lewis and Ricky are not the same types of “Indian.” The narrator’s need to separate their personalities into distinctive categories causes the text to overindulge in the instances of ‘what-if’ scenarios and mental newspaper headlines that were just peppered on but are now dominant all over the page. Lewis’s hallucinations are handled no less elegantly than his own reckless character, which exhausts itself quickly within his introduction. I rarely feel empathy for a character who knowingly does idiotic things and then suddenly regrets the action right in the middle of it—this is the problem I have with most media that lends itself to the horror/gratuitously horrifying genre.

Also, the redundancy of Lewis reassuring himself that hallucinations are just hallucinations and no dead elks are coming back from the grave becomes mind-numbing. I enjoyed Ricky’s brief entrance far more than Lewis’s stagnating presence for his remaining portion of the novel, and I found his mental deterioration increasingly formulaic and expected. While the descriptions of gore are disturbingly vivid, there is an abrupt change from literary to an overbearingly supernatural and mystical style that does not align with the book’s first half. The abrupt changes in tone and narrator perspective were often jarring and intrusive. Even with the cultural slang and traditions, I would not place this work alongside any cultural literature, and I would not rate this novel highly with other horror tales.

S. N. Valadez

 

Sep 14

September Book Review: Assembly by Natasha Brown

In September’s Book Review, reviewer Alexis David examines Assembly by Natasha Brown, out now from Little, Brown and Company, a book called by The Guardian “a modern Mrs. Dalloway.” David writes, “Mrs. Dalloway is not uncertain in her Britishness, her feelings of belonging, whereas Brown’s narrator does not get this privilege.” Read the full review at the link below.

In Natasha Brown’s short novel, Assembly, there is a literal plot—a financially successful woman who has just found out she has cancer must go to her boyfriend’s parents’ anniversary party—and also a metaphoric plot, one that circles around issues of class, social mobility, race and uncertainty, always uncertainty. The book is told from a first person narration and is similar to Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. Assembly, like Woolf’s novel, is a book of interiority. In some ways, it seems a response to Woolf. As if Mrs. Dalloway is at the other end: she is hosting the party that the narrator will attend.

Read more.