The Masters Review Blog

May 15

New Voices: “B.I.W. Boys” by Katherine Cart

“B.I.W. Boys” by Katherine Cart, this week’s New Voices story, follows three Bucksport boys—Samual, Quiller and Jacob—who are all hired out of high school to work at the iron works in nearby Bellport. The B.I.W. boys grow into their idea of men throughout the pandemic, as their understanding of themselves and the others shifts. Cart’s voice and stream-of-conscious style sweeps you up and barrels you along into the yawning vacuum at the end.

There was no after the pandemic because everything was changed then, though there was certainly a before. But there was a time people started saying, “You know, during the pandemic—” like it was all done. And during those years the presidents switched and people changed like they felt their true selves coming out, not knowing that sort of truth was just hope or fear that felt different, finally. Took a shape, finally, and what a relief to see it.

“B.I.W. boys!” Jacob had cried when he and Quiller and Samual all got hired on at Bellport Iron Works.

The way Quiller had curled his peach-fuzzed lip, like what the fuck is it that you’re saying when you’re saying B.I.W., when you’re saying boys, really? shut Jacob up.

Quiller had two inches on the shoulders of Samual and Jacob by then. He wielded both inches like hundred dollar bills. Those three had been born and grown in a far north coastal place. All that changed each year were the seasons. One winter as seventh grade kids they had hunted mallards with Jacob’s father and it wasn’t so much seeing the living worry bleed out of the birdshot holes that grew those boys up, but the fact that Jacob’s father who was not a happy man had decided it was time for them to be holding guns and growing up.

They grew up into people with jobs.

It was Samual’s mother who had cheered, “B.I.W. boys!” when Samual told her he got hired on. A confused pride wrapped up in her words because she’d wanted Samual to go to the college in the neighboring town, but she’d known since Samual was fifteen and bought a real leather jacket at the Goodwill because Quiller and then Jacob had bought one at the J.C. Penny that Samual would do what Quiller and Jacob did when it came to life plans at eighteen. Like Samual was a piece of wood just waiting on the tide to take him. She told herself that he’d happy at B.I.W. at least for a while. So in their modest and clean kitchen, she scraped out the worry and only let Sammy hear the pride in how she cried B.I.W. boys!

Those three, when they remembered kidhood in later years, remembered Samual’s mom’s kitchen with the pink-checked curtains over the metal sink, a kitchen where it was okay to be loved.

So they moved towns down the coast to Bellport. They went on Craigslist and found three separate rooms in three separate apartments. It was true that Jacob had figured they would live together in a three-bedroom like brothers but Quiller had decided that they were men now and men should live with the decency of strangers. They rented in the same cluster of working streets.

Most of the buildings were old white-washed cod and whaling money homes, grand like a grandmother in her oldest jewelry, now subdivided and held together by plasterboard. The rest were new, beige, vinyl-sided triplexes with cheap insulation. Every single building filled by working people that had followed other people or jobs or both to that brackish place where money was made on the water’s edge.

If anybody had followed anybody to Bellport it was Jacob and Samual following Quiller. Or maybe just Jacob following Quiller. And Samual, who, because of that nice pink-checked kitchen and a dead kid sister, never really had much urgency to do anything but be with his buds, to perpetuate the fact of that childhood triad. Samual didn’t think too critically and wasn’t unhappy.

To continue reading “B.I.W. Boys” click here.


May 12

2022 Chapbook Open Shortlist!

At long last: the shortlist for the 2022 Chapbook Open is here! Guest judge Kim Fu will be selecting the winning chapbook from these final eight, which The Masters Review will publish next spring. We’ve read a number of incredible chapbooks over the last 5 months, and we are so grateful to all of our submitters. It was truly a challenge to narrow down to these final eight; Kim Fu has their work cut out for them! Congratulations to our shortlisted and notable chapbooks, and thank you once again to all of our submitters. Check back next month for the results!


The Duncan Deal by Rex Adams

Ghosts are Everywhere by Leanne Dunic

Working the Banks by Sam Dunnington

Everywhere, Tony Danza by Wendy Oleson

My Bluest Eyes, My Eyes So Blue by Raquel Pidal

Sleight by David Schwartz

What Happened (a Montage) by Victoria Sottosanti

Coats by Naomi Telushkin

Notable Chapbooks

Hum by Lucas Flatt

Trailer Treasure by Amanda Hadlock

His Raucous Girls by Kim Henderson

Small Tales: Stories by Nancy Quinn

Distance by Sharon Wahl


May 10

A Conversation with Talia Lakshmi Kolluri, Author of What We Fed to the Manticore

In this interview with the author of last year’s sensational What We Fed to the Manticore, our own Swetha Amit discusses the inspiration behind the collection, the research involved in its composition, as well as what’s next for Talia Lakshmi Kolluri. Read on below!

Talia Lakshmi Kolluri is a mixed South Asian American writer from Northern California. Her debut collection of short stories, What We Fed to the Manticore (Tin House 2022), was longlisted for the 2023 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, the 2023 Aspen Words Literary Prize, the 2023 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Short Story Collection, and was selected as a 2023 ALA RUSA Notable Book. Her short fiction has been published in the minnesota review, Ecotone, Southern Humanities Review, The Common, One Story, Orion, Five Dials, and The Adroit Journal. A lifelong Californian, Talia lives in the Central Valley with her husband, a teacher and printmaker, and a very skittish cat named Fig.

Swetha Amit: What inspired What We Fed to the Manticore? How did the idea initially come up?

Talia Lakshmi Kolluri: I was always interested in animals. When I wanted to take my writing seriously as an adult, I wrote about things that reflected my life in a self-edited manner but had a hard time writing in an uninhibited way. One day when I was looking for something to write, I found myself with a copy of National Geographic magazine and came across a story about the serial-led patrol. I wondered what dogs thought of that experience. I decided to answer this question by writing a story from a dog’s perspective, which preceded this collection. I liked the feeling of writing from an animal narrator’s voice. It felt joyful and uninhibited. I experienced this emotional honesty; I had not felt while writing before. I felt compelled to keep going and wrote another one. This collection evolved almost intuitively. My personal creative mission was to place the reader inside the animal’s heads and their lives.

How long did it take you to write this collection?

It took about ten years. Partly because I write slowly and like to marinate an idea by indulging in research and letting my imagination wander. Partly is also because I balance my writing with my day job and all the responsibilities that come with it. I was also shaping my creative voice and finding what felt right. A couple of stories didn’t make it into the collection.

Did you face any challenges while writing from the point of view of animals, such as the concept of defamiliarization?

My advisor at the Tin House workshop, Anthony Doerr, introduced me to defamiliarization. It helped me reframe how to really speak as an animal. Partly because I am asking readers to believe me when I write about animals being able to communicate in a human language. I relied on intuition to decide about this defamiliarization concept because sometimes it can get weird. If I spend all my time describing every object as though it’s brand new, it can slow down the story’s pace. So, I developed a spectrum of how I would use defamiliarization. If animals had more contact with humans, they would tend to understand more about the human world. They would know much about the human world and objects if they were pets. And if they were wild animals, they wouldn’t be so familiar with the human world.

Each story has a distinct voice. Did the voice also come as an intuition?

Partly yes. I paid a lot of attention to what kind of colors an animal could see. How do they take in the world? What parts of the world are essential to them? And personality is shaped by how we take in information and perceive things and how we experience and react to what we see. A lot of these characters also reflect aspects of myself. In a certain sense, all art is a quest to understand ourselves partly. Understanding self means understanding all the things we are linked in.

The stories in your book are set in different cities and countries—what kind of research was involved?

I relied on books and documentaries. I have visited India and been to Mumbai, but not Delhi or the Sundarbans, where the stories were set. I used Google earth, and I could get street-level views of the cafes via the photos people post there. I also tried to read literature written by authors from that specific place I was writing about. For the story “The Good Donkey”, set in Gaza, I read two nonfiction books by Palestinian authors; one was Palestinian Walks, which was vivid and moving. When I wrote the whale story, I spent much time listening to documentaries and underwater audio clippings of container ships to absorb what it’s like to be submerged. While writing about birds, I’d read about flight mechanics and watch slow-motion videos of birds flying. It was a combination of trying to make myself embodied in the animal and doing justice to the places where the stories were set.

The language in your book has a good sense of sound and rhythm and embodies a poetic quality. Was that a deliberate attempt to write in a lyrical style?

I love poetry, though I am not a poet. There are so many outstanding contemporary poets writing today. My favorite poetry book is Oceanic by Aimee Nezhukumatathil. Reading contemporary poets has been crucial in learning how to feel the rhythm of language and how the rhythm can create emotion. I see how I think about something I have written. Does that make me feel an emotion I am trying to convey? I ask myself: How does it feel? How does it sound? Whether I like the way it sounds or does it mean what I want to convey.

Your book covers themes like identity, isolation, and climate change. Did you decide on these themes? How did they emerge?

These themes are essential to me. It felt like understanding my own identity, like where I belong. Art is understanding our place in the world. The Great Derangement by Amitav Ghosh influenced my writing about climate change. He explains how important it is to write about climate change, crisis, and it almost felt like I was receiving permission from a great writer to allow myself to write this way. Nutmeg’s Curse is another book of his that influenced me.

In the title story, you broke the stereotypes of a tiger, exhibiting it shows gratitude. Was that a deliberate attempt to break that stereotype?

Tigers are such a touchstone worldwide, and people, especially in South Asia, tend to have strong feelings about them.  A large part of the conversation about tigers is about how we react to animals that have lived their whole lives in an environment, and suddenly find us in their space. I wanted to imagine what a tiger would think of a cyclone experience and disruption, or when they saw us in their space. It’s common for us to imagine the tiger feels remorse or doubt. But tigers and people don’t think in the same manner.

What do you want readers to take away from your book?

I want them to feel that the distance between human and animals have been minimized. I want them to remember that we are animals, too, and that we are all part of the same earth. To survive, we need each other.

Has writing this book changed you in any?

It has made me more sensitive and thoughtful of the environment. It has made me feel more connected to the world around. Ultimately we are all living in one complex environment with other species, so the world has become smaller in a good way.

Which authors or books have inspired you?

It’s an endless list. I love Amitav Ghosh, and Helen Oyeyemi.  Memoirs Of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada is another brilliant read. She also wrote Scattered All Over The Earth, part of an upcoming trilogy. They also touch upon the issue of the climate crisis. The Story of a Goat by Perumal Murugan, and The Immortal King Rao by Vauhini Vara are brilliant reads. I am inspired by a lot of emerging authors and enjoy seeing their books in the world.

Tell us about your writing process.

I carry small notebooks with me, where I can fill the pages out fast. If I think of an idea or a line or title, I write it down. I like the idea of starting out small. And then it accumulates to a point where I feel I have enough bones to write a first draft. I type it out and then print that. Over time I’ll revise that by hand. Then I type out my revisions.

Any upcoming books in the pipeline?

I am working on a novel. Being a slow writer, I’m still determining when it will finish. I am working on the first draft, which deals with the premises of animal captivity. We will see how it progresses.

Interviewed by Swetha Amit

May 9

May Book Review: Small Animals Caught in Traps by C. B. Bernard

Today, we’re pleased to share our next book review for May: Small Animals Caught in Traps by C. B. Bernard reviewed by Irene Lyla Lee! “A small animal caught in a trap is a horrible and mundane scene,” Lee writes in her review. “Wildlife is killed for commerce or because they are perceived as pests. Bernard effectively proposes the fatal tragedy of a world dictated only by humans, and more specifically, by patriarchy.” Read the full review at the link below.

True tragedy holds us with its prose, making it safe to fall in love with the characters even when we know their fate. We discover the personalities within ourselves, so in a way, they live on. Tragedy, according to Nietzsche, describes the genre as catharsis: joy seeping from walls of pain. Small Animals Caught in Traps by C. B. Bernard, published in April of 2023 by Blackstone Publishing, is a toothed, unrelenting story that holds and doesn’t let go: a tragedy in the purest sense.

For all the human qualities illuminated in tragedy, Bernard is wise to entwine the animal within his narrative, as if to include their plight with that of humans. This strategy restores the genre to its original meaning, tragos means “a goat cry” in Greek. And while it is unclear the exact historical purpose of the term, certainly, animals, like goats, knit to human society seem to hold our darknesses, unable to be either human, or their wild ancestors, leaving them in constant state of miscommunication. This misalignment of identity is at the core of the book.

Read more.

May 8

New Voices: “July 2015: A Compendium” by Daniel Garcia

In today’s New Voices, we are thrilled to share an experimental flash CNF from Daniel Garcia: “July 2015: A Compendium.” Garcia’s compendium, presented as a triptych, offers three modes of exploration through grief and trauma. “July 2015: A Compendium” is a testament to the emotional heft of brevity. Read on below.


betroth(-al) | \bi-ˈtrōt͟h

v. to promise one’s self to another; to be true.
n. a space wherein two people circle together and then fuse.

hope | /hōp/

v. to bridge, as if having shot an arrow, across the interstice between dream and touch.
n. the bloom, red and slow, in my sternum, the day we met; you’d taken me in your arms after calling my name in Spanish—I’d spun to see you, hurrying, trying to reach me.

remains | /rəˈmānz/

v. to continue occupying a space one has taken residence in; to wait, to stay.
n. the parts existing once other essential pieces have been discarded, abandoned, removed, or have otherwise ceased to be.


In bed, six months after I left you, I’ll curse myself: for not leaving after the first blow, for flinching while you begged me to stay; how I lobstered in my dorm’s shower after the first assault. And the day you visited me at work, sober for once, lips rustling through my hair: I hear it still.

In class, ten months later: I’ll remember, sob. The dream I have—us, older, gray; a ring circling my finger; a whisper in my ear, my name, that you’ll always love me: I see it still.

In your apartment, on our last night, in July: a dance before this second killing of consent; my hands at your chest; the rift our lips abbreviate before your drunk, piercing fingers as I consider the wall, just before I stumble out: I feel it still.



1. Romance language that it is, me faltas tú in Spanish doesn’t fully translate to I miss you in English. The difference isn’t so much I am sad the arrow failed to reach the target, but more I remain unfinished in my dream of the arrow reaching the target. It is to circle a negative space, a forced deficiency—vacancy, occupied. Thus, it might be more accurate to say I am rendered incomplete by your absence, which I find to be both sad and beautiful.

2. Before writing this essay, I came across the etymology of betroth on a site with several similarly spelled words. It sat in gray; I was on the page dedicated to it. Right above was betrayer, which I found to be a bright shade not unlike spilled wine, like freshly dried blood—dull, blooming.


For a direct link to “July 2015: A Compendium” click here.

May 4

A Conversation with Susan Straight, Author of Mecca

Presenting “A Conversation with Susan Straight, Author of Mecca,” conducted by our very own Rebecca Paredes! In this interview, Straight and Paredes discuss their shared landscape in Riverside, CA, along with the inspiration for Straight’s characters and other valuable insights into her writing. Dive in below.

Susan Straight is the author of ten novels, including Highwire Moon, Between Heaven and Here, and Mecca. She is a distinguished professor of creative writing at the University of California, Riverside, and a longtime resident of Riverside, a city in inland Southern California. Her body of work focuses on this region; in her novels, Riverside is Rio Seco, a name that not only defines the dryness of the inland desert but also the way it feels to be from this part of SoCal, known as the Inland Empire (IE): barren stretches of desert bordered by lush greenery just past the riverbed. Susan was my professor at UCR, back when I first started writing stories based in my hometown in the IE. Susan was among the first people who validated for me that a story doesn’t have to happen in a big city for its characters and setting to matter. On a cool Friday night in Riverside, I sat with Susan on her porch to talk about writing about place, the inspiration for her characters, and why reading widely is the most important skill a writer can practice.

Rebecca Paredes: One of the things I appreciate most about your work is how your characters act and sound like people I’ve met. In Between Heaven and Here, I still remember the way Glorette looks at Sidney when they’re talking at the taqueria. I’m really interested in how you develop characters that read like real people. Is this something that happens in revision, or do they come fully formed on the page?

Susan Straight: When somebody talks, I’m just always listening. People tell the most amazing stories, especially sitting right here on this porch. My friend Louie—who’s actually the model for Johnny Frias in Mecca—he’s been sitting on this porch for twenty-five years, telling me stories. It took me a long time to write some of them down because they’re so scary.

Right now, people stay inside. They never go out. They do a lot of stuff online. But in a life like mine, you’re out. Everybody is telling you stories all the time, and you have to be a good listener. When I sit down to write those stories, it’s often years later. I can’t write about what Louie told me about 4th Street in Corona. I ended up writing about when he told me about trying to become a CHP [California Highway Patrol] officer when he was nineteen, and he was moreno, and he was from Corona. It was the late ‘70s, and they were like, “No. We’ll arrest you before we’ll let you be in the academy.” The hurt in his voice was the beginning of the whole trilogy that I’m working on.

For me, just listening to how people talk and watching them, it’s easy to make the characters. It’s always plot and structure that are the harder parts for me. How does this part of the novel move naturally into this part, and how does this part lead to this part? Those are all the things I think we still struggle with. Don’t you?

Absolutely. It’s a thing that I personally struggle with because there’s a lot of value in having a character that feels like someone that you know, but then you have to figure out their world. Do you find that the qualities of these people tend to radically change as your plot develops?

My concerns are different, usually. Mecca was my tenth novel. I’m working on my eleventh novel. The hardest part is that I’ve been writing about some of the same characters for a long time. My first book was published when I was twenty-nine. I had a kid and was pregnant with another kid. That was Aquaboogie. There are characters in Aquaboogie that still show up, even now. You talked about Sidney and Glorette. Glorette’s cousin is in Mecca. Her cousin, Lorette, and another cousin, Cherise, are characters in Black Star Canyon. My problem is that I know the world so deeply, that when I think about someone in LA or Chicago or New York reading it, I realize how impenetrable it might be to them.

Everyone has their own language, like you said. If we say, oh, that definitely happened at the taqueria up the street, there’s just a shorthand that we know from being in the IE. I find that my world remains foreign to a lot of the mainstream, so I don’t worry so much about the characters moving through their own lives. I worry about how someone else will understand it.

I’ve never watched Sex and the City. I’ve tried. My youngest one used to really like that show, I’m just like—I don’t know anything about these people, and I just can’t figure out why the characters do certain things. Why would she do that? And I realize, other people might feel that way about my work. They’re like, “Wait, why is his first instinct to do this?” It is a function of having grown up in this world, where I know exactly what somebody would do.

I read so widely, as you know. I’ll read anything. I read John Steinbeck’s The Pearl last night because somebody left it on the fence library. I’m teaching Fiona and Jane by Jean Chen Ho right now and I’m loving that book as well. I like reading everything to see how everyone else’s characters are.

I think the main two things that people forget is that you have to read. If you want people to buy your stuff, you should go out and buy theirs. The other thing is that you have to not worry. As in, okay, I know my characters pretty well. I know what they’re going to do.

If someone asks, “Wait, why would he take a drink before he did this? Isn’t he worried about getting a DUI?” I’d say, not this guy. This is the guy that literally is going to drive with a beer can between his knees and go all the way from Riverside to Perris.

That’s my brother-in-law. He says, “I can’t drive unless I’ve got a Corona right here.” And we say, you cannot keep doing that. You have to stop. And he’s like, “I ain’t gotta stop until I stop.” And I’m like, okay.

I think if we’re true to our characters, even if they do something appalling, we have to figure it out in terms of plot: how does that work?

It’s interesting that you bring up mainstream readers and whether or not the decisions that these characters are making are accessible. When I was a younger writer, I would have been really worried about that. But now I’m like, they can figure it out. Yes, there is a shorthand that’s deeply related to the way we think about characters from this space, but that’s what they do.

When I read things, especially bestselling novels about California, it is a completely different California than the one I live in. So, again, I’m reading that as a foreign world, but I’m not trying to say, “Explain it to me.” Which is interesting. Everyone always brings up “The Californians,” that weird Saturday Night Live thing where they make fun of the freeways. Everybody does.

[My neighbor] Mario and I have a running competition. It’s been going on for seven years. I’ve never won. We both come home at nine at night. And I go, “Man, I’m tired. I had to drive from Orange County. It took me an hour and a half to get home.”

And he goes, “Susan, I was in Brawley, and then I was in Calexico, and then I went to Desert Hot Springs, and then I came home.”

I’m just like, “Dude, why you gotta win everything?”

Just think about it. We both got home at nine. He left at four in the morning. I left at nine. He does that every day.

The stereotype of Southern California is that we all have it easy, that we jump on the 405 and go wherever. That’s not how it works out here. That’s not how it works when you’re going home from LA to Lake Elsinore. You’re driving for two and a half hours because you wanted to buy a cheap house with five bedrooms so you can have three generations living there.

That’s how my family ended up in Lake Elsinore.

When you get to a certain point, you’re just like—this is what I want to write about. This is my thing. This is my song that I want to sing. I think you can’t worry about translating it for anyone else. They can’t worry about your vision.

I think that once you start changing your characters so that they can be more accessible to a wider range of people, then you lose some of the things that make those characters who they are.

I think so, too. They’re your characters. The people I’m writing about are from here-from here. They’re from Santa Ana or they’re from San Bernardino, where there are all these touchstones.

Tonight, I’m going to a Valentine’s love jam from six to nine. Last week, we were all hanging out. This old school band played all the oldies. There’s this one guy Bobby, he’s from Pomona. He’s seventy, and he’s a Vietnam vet. I introduced him to this dude Ray Ayala. He’s also from Pomona, and he’s fifty. They both went to rival high schools—and they were still talking smack to each other. We have to celebrate that particular thing and not change it.

Do you feel like your relationship with place has changed with the span of the novels you’ve written about this area?

There are so few writers right now who were born in a place, stay in a place, and write about that place. Toni Morrison was from Lorain, Ohio. That was her fictional medallion. She wrote about Lorain for the longest time. She lived in New York. She was an editor. She had two kids. She was a single mom. I remember reading a great interview with her. I still have it in my office. It’s from 1984, from the Massachusetts Review. I kept it like this talisman. She talks about place. Like, this was the place where she always wanted to write about. It was her place.

There are other writers that you can think of—Richard Russo always writes about his area in New York. Paul Harding, who wrote Tinkers, always writes about Maine. Michael Jaime Becerra, our beloved colleague, always writes about El Monte. I think it’s so unusual now because everyone goes to graduate school or they feel like they have to move to Brooklyn or Los Feliz or San Francisco to be a writer. It’s odd that I’m sitting right here and somebody will go by and honk.

I don’t think I’ve changed in my concept of place, but I’ve definitely changed in my ability to tell a complicated story. My first novel, Aquaboogie, was a novel in stories because I didn’t know how to write a novel. Then I wrote four novels, and then I went to Between Heaven and Here. That was another novel in stories because I just love that form.

Here’s one of my favorite writers who has always written about her place and who I learned the most from: Louise Erdrich. Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine and Toni Morrison’s Sula sit right by my desk. Always have. Always will. Because those two books are like the essence of storytelling that doesn’t have to be this straightforward narrative arc, but it’s a chorus of voices. When you grow up in a place like ours, it’s a chorus of voices. How can there not be? If you don’t know everybody, who’s gonna take care of you when the earthquake comes?

The phrase “write what you know” can be positive and negative—positive because it empowers writers to lean into their lived experiences, and negative because it can feel limiting. What are your thoughts about that phrase, and what would you say to young writers who are told to “write what they know”?

It’s so hard. It stays in my mind all of the time because my undergrads talk about it all the time, too. We were just reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. People got really mad later on because Mark Haddon is not on the spectrum. But they were like, “But he did a great job.” What does it mean, though? How do we look at it?

You’re sitting here talking to a tiny blonde woman who’s lived in the same place her whole life, but who else writes about Riverside? Who else is gonna write about Temescal Canyon? I don’t know if we have the right to do anything. People take pictures of total strangers and profit on it all the time. Back in the day, I remember seeing examples of white writers who did a very bad job. I still see it. The American Dirt thing was just written about again in the New York Times, and it caused a huge outpouring where all these people were like, “But if she did a great job, then she’s allowed to do that.” And people were writing: she did not do a great job. She did not write about Mexico in any way, shape, or form in a way that was real or recognizable. She has a character from Acapulco, who’s rich, and yet she takes la bestia. Why would this rich lady from Acapulco who’s a bookseller take the train? And ride on the roof of it? Why would she do that? She would just fly.

If you’ve done your thinking about your characters, you have to know them pretty well. But where does the imagination come in? It’s “write what you know,” or “write what you imagine.” I think it’s a combination, always. Don’t you?

I agree, and I think it’s also more reason to read widely.

Absolutely. I read everything, and I teach everything.

For years, my favorite James Baldwin book was If Beale Street Could Talk. James Baldwin was a great mentor to me, and he said all these things to me about how, when you’re writing a book, it feels like this weight you’re carrying. It’s this thing you carry inside you. He said, “It’s what I imagine a woman feels like when she’s pregnant, and she’s ready to have a baby, and she can’t have the baby yet.” When I read If Beale Street Could Talk again, after having known him, after he passed away, I thought, he is so deeply inside this young woman’s mind that who would ever say, “Oh, James Baldwin was a gay man. How could he imagine being this young woman, pregnant and deeply in love with her fiancé who is imprisoned?” Because he listened. He cared. He was us. He was constantly listening to how people spoke and looking at what people did and what they wore. He was a master of that, too.

I think it’s a really hard question. I do. Especially for somebody who looks like me. I think for whatever reason I got put right here. My mom came here from Switzerland. She’s 4’11”. She showed up here, and she didn’t speak any English. She wasn’t a citizen. She married my dad, the con man. She learned to speak English from Vin Scully. Now that we’re talking about it this way, I think my true subject is always SoCal. Not Southern California. It’s SoCal. It’s Califas. It’s Cali. It’s our California. So whoever is in that California is who I want to write about.

James Baldwin was raised in Harlem, and he wrote about Harlem like nobody else. Louise Erdrich—I mean, the whole world knows about Louise Erdrich’s landscape in North Dakota because of her. That’s just what we do.

You’ve been at UCR for a while, and I’m wondering if the experiences you’ve had with your undergraduates there have impacted the way that you think about your characters and your work—or even vice versa.

 This is my thirty-fifth year. I was twenty-seven when I started, which is pretty crazy. I was twenty-seven, I got the job, I had three short stories being published in literary magazines, and we bought this house, which was trashed, and started working on it with my brother. So in the beginning, I had some great students. One of my very first students was Rigoberto Gonzalez, who’s super famous. He was seventeen. He’s from Coachella. He wanted to write in Spanish and English. He was super quiet. He didn’t say anything. He wanted to do poetry and fiction. And he was good at all of those things. I remember being like, knock yourself out, man. He was super talented. And I just enjoyed reading his work.

Then I had other students who were talented but lazy. I had other students who really wanted to write stuff and they hadn’t read enough. I’ve taught low-res stuff. I’ve taught all kinds of different groups. I’ve taught workshops in prison. I used to teach at CYA, California Youth Authority. I taught only kids who were M numbers, which means they were in for murder. They were between the ages of sixteen and twenty-five. And when they turned twenty-five, they would walk across the street to Chino and do the rest of their sentence. We worked together for a year and we published a literary magazine called Phoenix, like rising from the ashes.

There’s always going to be like five-percent of the students who are just so talented, and you’re like, wow. It’s fun to watch you guys. And then there’s the middle group that’s got talent and works really hard, but then there’s just some people that just want to mess around and write fun stuff. I think, no matter whether I’m dealing with prison inmates or undergrads, it’s all about reading. What puts you up over somebody else, wherever you start, is this ability to read well and to absorb how a sentence becomes a beautiful sentence.

There’s this beautiful phrasing in Helena Maria Viramontes’s book [Under the Feet of Jesus]. “The amputated trees at the corner…” Remember? They’re not pruned, they’re amputated. Then you have a beautiful short passage of dialogue where they’re like, “Como?” Then you have another long, lyrical passage where she’s in the barn, and you have her comparing the stars at night to daggers that are piercing her heart. All of those things, you learn by reading, the same way that a musician has to listen to music.

The deciding factor in all of that, having taught for thirty-five years, is that I can always tell when someone is absolutely in love with language and reading. I can tell when someone is just like, I want to do that.

But this is my favorite thing: I used to have all creative writing majors. Right now, these two seminars I’m teaching have a really great reputation in the sciences because they’re upper-division electives. I have this great student right now. He is Korean American and he’s a bio major, and he’s working on fiction, and he’s so excited because he wants to be able to figure out how to write with Korean and how to make that accessible to English language readers. He’s obsessed with it, even though he’s a bio major. We’re having so much fun. And then I have another student, he’s working on a jet propulsion rocket, and he’s super excited to write fiction. I love that people are coming to the classes where I don’t make them just write essays. I let them write twelve pages of fiction instead of essays. I’m like—you have to write something that’s got family life in it, or that’s got a roadtrip in it, or that’s got a young narrator in it. And they’re over the moon. It’s super fun.

Interviewed by Rebecca Paredes

May 3

May Book Review: House of Cotton by Monica Brashears

In our first book review of the month, reviewer Lauren Michelle Finkle dives into Monica Brashears’s debut novel, House of Cotton, released last month through Flatiron Books. Brashears is a former TMR contributor (read “Psalms of Charred Summer” here) with a promising career ahead, according to Finkle, who writes that House of Cotton is “one of the most innovative stories I’ve read in a long time.” Read the full review at the link below.

“‘Mama Brown died.’ Those words falling from my lips make me feel like I’m speaking in tongues. Those words make me wish I believed in ghosts. Haunt me, Mama. Even if you a tiny puff of smoke…Haunt me like you ain’t ever left me at all.”

This paragraph from the early pages of House of Cotton captures a love so enormous and a grief so loud that the protagonist, a nineteen-year-old Black woman named Magnolia, has no choice but to be haunted by it—setting into motion the tragedies and rebirths that follow.

Read more.

May 2

Last Day to Register for the 2023 Novel Workshop!

Feeling stuck in your novel? Have a draft that needs a refresh, but not sure where to start? Our Novel Workshop may be right for you! Participants receive personalized feedback on the first fifty pages of their novel, with detailed suggestions for improvement—all from an experienced editor. Interested participants may also sign up for a writing group with other workshoppers. This asynchronous, remote workshop is an excellent way for writers to improve their novels. Enrollment is open until 11:59pm PT tonight, May 2, 2023.

//Registrations Close Tonight!//
Cost: $497

Writers are invited to submit the first fifty pages of their novels. In their cover letters, writers should also plan to include a brief synopsis of the novel, any challenges they may be facing, and any specific feedback they are seeking.

After registration, writers will receive their assigned editor, along with instructional materials compiled by The Masters Review. Manuscripts will be processed in the order they are received. All participants will receive feedback no later than August 31, 2023.

Registration is $497.

Participants will receive:

  • an editorial letter with specific suggestions and developmental analysis that will help elevate their novel to the next level;
  • a PDF of a self-guided learning curriculum on fiction and novel writing, featuring workbooks uniquely built by our team around such foundational texts as Naming The World edited by Bret Anthony Johnston, The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maass, Writing Fiction by Janet Burroway, and Save the Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody;
  • an opportunity to join a curated writing group with other participants;
  • a free submission to one of our upcoming contests;
  • and an archived copy of The Masters Review anthology.


  • For this workshop, we are accepting works of fiction only, the first fifty pages or fewer of your novel.
  • All submissions must be double-spaced with one-inch page margins and use Times New Roman or Garamond. Please do not include front matter (i.e., title page, table of contents, dedication, etc.). 
  • All genres and all styles of fiction are welcome. Please do not submit poetry or memoir manuscripts.
  • Please submit a single manuscript per submission.
  • Submissions are accepted on a rolling basis.
  • If you submit your manuscript after reserving your spot, you will need to request to open your submission by emailing us at contact [at] mastersreview [dot] com. We’ll grant you access, and then you can upload your piece.
  • All participants will receive feedback no later than August 31, 2023.

Guest Editors

Colleen Alles is an award-winning writer living in West Michigan. Her debut full-length poetry collection, After the 8-Ball, is available through Cornerstone Press. Master of Arts, her second novel, was published last fall. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in numerous places, and she is a contributing editor (short fiction) at Barren Magazine. Colleen is a graduate of Michigan State University (BA) and Wayne State University (MS). When she isn’t reading or writing, Colleen enjoys distance running and spending time with her family, including a well-loved hound, Charlie. You can find her online at, on Instagram at ColleenAlles_author, and on Twitter at @ColleenAlles.

Yvonne C. Garrett holds an MFA-Fiction (The New School), an MLIS (Palmer), two MAs (NYU), and a Ph.D. with a dissertation focused on women in Punk. She’s been published in a wide array of journals & magazines. Senior Fiction Editor at Black Lawrence Press, she also edits the weekly publishing newsletter Sapling.

Laura Hart is an assistant editor for Bellevue Literary Press, a nonprofit publisher at the intersection of the arts and sciences. She earned a BA from Auburn University and an MFA from Columbia University. Her passion lies in cultivating and empowering diverse stories so that the publishing world better represents our modern society. She previously worked at Writers House and the Columbia Journal.


May 1

New Voices: “Blow Up” by G. S. Arnold

At the height of the pandemic, Two Guys from Mumbai struggles to stay afloat. Despite renaming their dishes to fit the times (who doesn’t want to chow down on some Community Spread Chana Masala?), the restaurant’s clientele is scared away by an increasingly worrying trend: The inflatable dictators they’ve stationed around the restaurant to socially distance their booths are being systematically assassinated. Sanjay wants to know who’s responsible, and so he enlists the help of our narrator Haley, his most trusted employee, to find out.

Lunch. Ferdinand Marcos sags to the floor, a corkscrew quilling from his thigh. Again, the tomato chutney. This is the third execution in five days. More customers leave mid-meal. Sanjay holds a staff meeting before the dinner shift.

“Two Guys from Mumbai is under attack,” he says. He raises a gloved finger, his face shield a monsoon of foggy breath. “Dewy will spare no expense to root out the malefactor. Except video cameras. He won’t pay for those. Or a private investigator. But we’ll find the culprit. Mark my words.”

Saddam Hussein has toppled into his Shelter in Place Strawberry Falooda, the air gone out of him like a popped tire. Crimson guck pools around the tandoori skewer pronging from his side. I dab a finger and sniff.

Tomato chutney. Again.

Sanjay swishes up in fluid resistant coveralls, gloves, a plastic face shield.

“Another one?”


The restaurant is half-full of diners distanced by tables of blow-up dolls from the Inflate a Dead Dictator website. Each dictator sits in front of plastic displays of pandemic-themed food. Joseph Stalin eyes a glossy plate of Trying Times Tandoori Chicken. Benito Mussolini samples PPE Papadum. Muammar Gaddafi poises a fork over his Community Spread Chana Masala. Yesterday, a customer screamed when she spotted Kim Jong-il face-down his Socially Distant Dal Tadka, his throat slashed and smeared with the same tomato chutney.

“Haley,” Sanjay says, each word blossoming as fog on his face shield. “Someone’s trying to make a statement.”

He scans the restaurant for a suspect. De-masked diners stare open mouthed at Saddam’s deflated body. A woman asks for the check halfway through her State of Emergency Shahi Paneer.

“Bad for business,” I say, and start rolling up Saddam so he’ll fit in the trash.

“Dewy’s going to blow a gasket,” Sanjay says.

* * *

Catheter Flats Assisted Living. WhoopAss is watching wrestling on TV again. I rap on her ground-floor window outside and pretend to elbow-drop the bag of food I’ve put on the grass. She scowls at me, slaps her forearm. She has no idea who I am.

When I was little, my grandmother and I would eat Indian takeout from Chutney Buddies, slurp mango lassies, and watch WWE. She took me to Wrestlemanias in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Detroit. After my father passed, my grandmother took me in when my mother disappeared into a bottle of Glenfiddich. (I often wonder if she’s still inside that bottle, floating on her back, I don’t really know.) If I misbehaved, my grandmother would threaten to open a can of whoopass on me. The name stuck. When I was seventeen, dementia played its sweet chin music and super-kicked her into a befuddled state. She soon marked me as her pro-wrestling enemy. Now I indulge her, clotheslining the air, performing spinning heel kicks. My way of trying to relate to her, I guess. So she doesn’t feel like she’s gone off.

I take my bag of Speaking Moistly Shrimp Pakora to the front desk. WhoopAss still loves Indian food, even though she doesn’t really know what she’s eating. Ironic. She’s the one who used to tell me that food was memory. That taste and smell connected you to your past, to people. That it was a cure for loneliness.

I hold up the bag to the nurse.

“Lockdown’s another three days,” she muffles through her mask. “Nothing comes in, nothing goes out.”

To continue reading “Blow Up” click here.

Apr 28

Getting Unstuck: Characters, or Getting to Know You

In this month’s Getting Unstuck, Jen Dupree dives into resources available for writing strong, well-rounded characters. How can we write compelling characters without knowing who they are? And how better to learn your characters than taking them on a first date?

If you want other people to care about your characters as much as you do, it’s important to get to know who they are and what motivates them. You’ve heard that before, probably. Maybe you’ve heard that your characters have to be believable, have to feel real. Maybe, like me, you try to give them one quirk or trait to make them memorable. Maybe you make lists of things they have in their purse or bedroom drawer or maybe you give them job-interview style questions. (I do all of this, myself, in one form or another.) All of that’s good, but it can start to feel like a collection of details if you aren’t able to focus on exactly what you need to know about the character (see my dozens of notebooks filled with character information that has never seen the page). In my mind and in my writing, getting to know a character is like getting to know a date. I have a glimmer, a glimpse, an inkling, and I want to know more. My characters kind of appear in my mind and they seem really interesting even though I don’t yet know much about them. How, then, do we translate this character information into authentic characters on the page?

In this episode of Write-minded, guest A.M. Homes says that she thinks about “what would be important to the character” rather than what she, the author, feels is important. But how do you know? You can’t just come out and ask that on a first date (can you?)—so how do you find out what’s important and why? Write-minded cohosts Brooke Warner and Grant Faulkner tease out Homes’s idea. Say a character uses travel-sized toothpaste exclusively. Well, that’s interesting, but why do they only use travel-sized toothpaste? Faulkner posits, “Is it because they think they’ll only be here for a little while? Or do they get them free somewhere?” I can think of a long list of other reasons (an unwillingness to commit to a brand, a love of miniature, a strong desire to avoid the crusty bits that accumulate on the top of toothpaste after a while) but the point is to figure what the meaning behind the object is. You can’t, and shouldn’t, do this with every single thing that appears in your story. You’d be exhausted (and we’d be exhausted reading you). Just pick a few things—and maybe they won’t even show up in the finished story—but they’ll tell you what you need to know about how your character operates in the world.

And once you start excavating the meaning behind the stuff of your characters, they’ll likely start answering you in ways you didn’t expect. That’s okay. I think it’s actually a sign you’ve created fully-formed characters. Omer Friedlander, in this episode of First Draft, says, “I like that idea of a conversation between an author and their characters as something on a more equal footing, rather than an author pulling the strings and making their puppet character do whatever they want, because I think it feels unnatural when a certain kind of plot is forced on a character, or when you want the story to contort in certain ways that don’t seem organic.” What we see sometimes in submissions is an author trying to shoehorn a character into a plot they’re committed to at any cost. Sometimes an author needs to let go of a plot, or maybe the author just needs to discover that one thing about the character that would make her do such a crazy/sad/difficult/misguided/funny/terrifying thing.

But what happens when you love your characters too much? In this episode of W/MFA, Dantiel W. Moniz says, “If you’re trying to tell a story as completely as you can, you can’t sit in judgement of your characters, but you also can’t protect them.” It’s so hard when you’ve done all the work to get to know your character and you realize either that they have the capacity and/or desire to do something really awful, or that something awful will necessarily befall them. We see this desire to protect with some submissions: the character who almost tells her boss/mother/teacher off, the character who almost tells his partner/mother/yoga instructor the truth, the character who just misses getting hit by a car/bus/bicycle/bird, the character who thinks about saying/doing/reacting/confessing but doesn’t. In the spirit of getting to know them fully, you have to let them do bad things and let bad things happen to them.

In short, ask questions of your characters and then ask again, in a different way. Ask questions of the things you allow them to do or not do, of their successes and failures, of their decisions and non-decisions, of their stuff, their lack of stuff, their hatred of dogs or their love of peppermint. Then think about what that stuff might mean in the context of your character’s life, the life you’ve created on the page. If your character seems to be pulling you in a direction you didn’t think you wanted to go, consider it. If your character starts to do and say things that have unexpected results, weigh the authenticity of their actions against what, by now, you know about them. By the final draft, your characters should feel like someone you’ve known forever.

by Jen Dupree

Apr 27

May Deadlines: 11 Prizes and Deadlines This Month

We’re hoping that the past rain showers will bring up many May flowers. And we hope that you’ve used your time well, and that you now have a stack of writing that you can submit to these contests!

OPEN NOW: Spring Small Fiction Awards

The Masters Review has a new contest open now, looking for the titans of the tiniest writing forms! Microfiction is less than 500 words, Flash Fiction is between 501 and 1000 words, and Sudden Fiction is between 1001 and 1500 words. First place in each category receives $1000 and online publication! Judged by the magnificent K-Ming Chang! More details here.

Entry Fee: $20 Deadline: June 1

FEATURED: 2023 Online Novel Workshop

There are still spots available for this year’s Novel Workshop, but not for long! Writers are invited to submit the first fifty pages of their novels, a brief synopsis, any challenges, and what feedback they’re seeking. This course includes personalized feedback from an experienced small press editor, an opportunity to join a curated writing group with other participants, curated learning materials, and more! Sign up here.

Entry Fee: $497 Deadline: May 2

Waterston Desert Writing Prize

Inspired by author and poet Ellen Waterston, this prize provides financial and other support to writers whose work reflects a connection to the desert. They’re looking for creative or literary nonfiction, with an engaging style, unique voice, and a fresh perspective. The Waterston Desert Prize recognizes one writer with $3000, a residency at Summer Lake, OR, and a reading and reception at the High Desert Museum in Bend, OR. Applicants need to provide a biographical statement, a proposal, and a writing sample. Judged by the Washington poet laureate, Rena Priest. Submission guidelines here.

Entry Fee: FREE Deadline: May 1

The Emerging Writer’s Contest

Ploughshares prides itself on their commitment to promoting the work of up-and-coming writers, and that means you! This contest is meant to celebrate emerging writers in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, awarding $2000, publication, and agency review to the winners of each category. Gish Jen is judging fiction, Meghan O’Rourke is judging nonfiction, and Sandra Cisneros is judging poetry. Guidelines here.

Entry Fee: $24 Deadline: May 15

The Loraine Williams Poetry Prize

Hanif Abdurraqib, winner of the 2022 Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction, is judging this contest for The Georgia Review, and he is looking for a masterful poem! The final winner will receive $1500, publication, and a trip to Atlanta for a public reading, but all submitted poems will be considered for publication (at $4 a line). Learn more here.

Entry Fee: $30 Deadline: May 15

Raymond Carver Short Story Contest

If your stories are compelling, captivating, and concise, then Carve Magazine has the contest for you! Judged by the publisher and editing team at Carve, the winner receives $2000, second-place receives $500, third-place is given $250, two Editor’s Choice recipients get $125, and all of the winning entries will be read by three literary agents. This is the twenty-third anniversary of the contest, so don’t waste any more time! Submit here.

Entry Fee: $18 Deadline: May 17

New Letters Prizes

There are actually three contests here, one each for poetry, nonfiction, or fiction! The Conger Beasley Jr. Award for Nonfiction submissions may be up to 8000 words, and the best essay receives $2500 and publication. The Robert Day Award for Fiction may also be up to 8000 words, the Patricia Cleary Miller Award for Poetry up to six poems, and the winner of these contests also receives $2500 and publication. Make sure to select the correct contest for your submission! More details here.

Entry Fee: $24 Deadline: May 22

Autumn House Press Contests

In this threefold contest offered by Autumn House Press, contestants can submit manuscript entries for fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. The categories are judged by Pam Houston, Jenny Boully, and Toi Derricotte, respectively. The winners in each category receive publication, a $1000 honorarium, and a $1500 travel/publicity grant to promote their book! Make sure to choose the correct category when you submit, and good luck! Find more details here.

Entry Fee: $30 Deadline: May 31

Elixir Press Fiction Award

This contest is sponsored by Elixir Press, and is open to all authors writing in English! They’re accepting both novels and short story collections, as long as the submissions are literary quality. Simultaneous submissions are welcome, and the winner receives $2000, publication, and 25 copies of their winning manuscript. Judged by Kirk Wilson. Submit here.

Entry Fee: $40 Deadline: May 31

Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction

The University of Georgia Press has offered this award since 1983, and it has become an important showcase for talented emerging writers. Series editor Lori Ostlund is looking for short story collections, which may include novellas and long stories, and the competition is open to all authors writing in English who reside in North America. The winner receives a cash award of $1000 as well as a standard book publishing contract with the University of Georgia Press. More information here.

Entry Fee: $30 Deadline: May 31

Guy Owen Prize

Southern Poetry Review is looking for the perfect poem, and it could be yours! They’re accepting three to five poems in every submission, and the winning poem will receive $1000 and publication. Enter here!

Entry Fee: $20 Deadline: May 31

by Kimberly Guerin


Apr 26

Out Now! The Masters Review Anthology Vol. XI is Now Available!

Volume XI of our annual anthology of stories and essays is now available for purchase through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and! This year’s volume includes pieces selected by guest judge Peter Ho Davies, who wrote an accompanying introduction to the book, which you can read below. Congratulations once again to our finalists! Stay tuned for more news this summer on Volume XII!

I’m a reluctant judge of literary competitions. Partly that’s for practical reasons. As a slow reader it’s a challenge to take on extra pages during a busy teaching semester, and impossible during MFA application season when I’m already encountering hundreds of manuscripts. I often find myself regretfully declining such invitations—it is an honor to be asked, after all—sometimes politely saying, if only I was on sabbatical, except when a sabbatical comes around it’s still hard to say “yes” to the reading, especially for book prizes, when I’m supposed to be writing one of my own.

I feel guilty about this—serving as a judge is a generous act of literary citizenship—which is why occasionally, if the timing is just right, I take on one of these assignments. (In the case of this assignment for The Masters Review, they were nice/dogged enough to ask twice).

But I suspect my reluctance to judge runs deeper than the practical impediments. There are the usual the lofty philosophical reservations about the incommensurability of art, of course, but also the more anxious writerly neuroses. The doubt that I, and any writer, feels when judging our own work (how and when do we know it’s any good?) inevitably spills over into the judging of others.

To judge, after all, is to be judged—for our choices, our taste—and none of us are quite so sure of that as we might wish (as betrayed by how vociferously we argue for or against the lastest Pulitzer, National Book Award, or Oscar winner; how affronted we are when something we hate wins; how diminished we feel when we don’t “get” why something was picked).

Such doubts feel like weakness, and maybe they are, but they seem like the kind of “weakness” that may be essential to strong fiction, a space where writer (and reader) are often productively confronted by uncertainty and ambiguity—more doubt. Novels and stories, we might say, play out doubt—”things in doubt” would be a pretty good catch-all description of most drama, after all. Beyond this I’ve a sneaking sense that fiction—mine at least, and the fiction I cherish— is somehow antithetical to judgement. Judgement feels distant, from on high, ex cathedra. To read, to write, to empathize—these things feel close-up, intimate, entangled. On the page I’m not interested in good guys and bad guys, so much as in people who are both good and bad, which is to say “human,” which is in turn reflected in my resistance to categorizing the pages these humans appear in as good or bad.

This may all seem very deflective, even disowning, perhaps especially to the writers and their work collected here, which would be a disservice. Part of the joy in being chosen, after all, is that someone dispells our own writerly doubt, replaces our judgement with their own. I’ve felt that relief myself. And yet, it’s probably at the heart of my reluctance to judge – this whiff of usurpation. I spend some time in my recent book The Art of Revision: The Last Word thinking about what it means to finish our work, to arrive at doneness, the final draft. That’s a distant, hard-won destination, but on rare, blessed occasions we know it when we get there, a recognition that strikes with the force of revelation. It’s the point, I argue, at which we finally understand our own work, when we become the best reader of our own work, which is to say the best judge. And one way to know a story has arrived at that point of doneness is that we no longer care quite so much about the judgement of others. There’s a conviction to the work, an essentialness. And paradoxically, perhaps that’s the quality I responded to in each of these works: their conviction, the sense of their knowing themselves, the feeling that—contrary to the circumstances in which I encountered them—they weren’t asking for and didn’t require my judgement, just my reading.

by Peter Ho Davies

Congratulations to the Anthology XI finalists!

Funny Not Funny by Jenna Abrams
Open Enrollment by Danielle Claro
The Tree That Stood Alone in the Desert by David DeGusta
Bad Guys by Patricia Garcia Lujan
Sanctuary by Tim Griffith
Walking to Camano by Clemintine Guirado
The Dog by Fredrick Kunkle
Barely a Sound by Kathleen Latham
Hammock by Ikechukwu Roy Udeh-Ubaka
Egging by Sophia Zaklikowski

Purchase your copy today from Amazon, Barnes & Noble! or!