Archive for the ‘arielle’ Category

Book Review: Almost Famous Women

Today, we review Megan Mayhew Bergman’s Almost Famous Women. This collection delves into the emotional lives of historical women who lived close to fame. Arielle Yarwood writes: “The latitude Bergman gives herself to abandon pure accuracy and pursue an emotional, character-based story creates a collection that may not be entirely factual, but feels entirely true.” We absolutely loved these stories.

almost-famous-women-featuredMegan Mayhew Bergman, known for Birds of a Lesser Paradise, her first book of short stories, has written a new collection that was published by Scribner this month. Almost Famous Women tells the fictionalized stories of historical women on the fringes of fame. Bergman writes their lives into a larger existence than the footnotes to which they have been relegated.

The women whose lives are included in this collection range from a Standard Oil heiress who ruled over her own island, to the conjoined Hilton twins who—for a short time—made it big in show business, to Dolly Wilde, the ambulance-driving niece of Oscar Wilde. Some stories are more fictionalized than others: in “The Lottery, Redux,” Bergman writes a matriarchal cover story for Shirley Jackson’s famous piece. Still other stories feel as though Bergman was right there alongside her characters, a treasured confidant chronicling these women’s lives.

Read more.

Five Fairy Tales With Much Darker Endings Than You Thought

Between the passage of time and the sanitization of Disney, most modern fairy tales are very different from the original stories. In celebration of October and creepy stories, we’re taking a look at our favorite childhood tales and their gruesome origins.

hansel-and-gretel5. Hansel and Gretel: We’ll admit, this story is already pretty gruesome in its current form. However, an older version called “The Lost Children” manages to outdo it. Instead of a witch, the children are captured by the Devil, and he intends to bleed them on a sawhorse. The kids pretend not to understand how to get on, so the Devil’s wife shows them. Once she’s on the sawhorse, the kids slit her throat, steal the Devil’s money, and run back into the wilderness.

The-Frog-Prince-97804484085694. The Frog Prince: This is one story where the original is actually more satisfying. In the older version, the frog agrees to get the princess’s ball back (she’s quite young) in exchange for becoming her companion. The girl agrees, thinking that he’s just a silly frog. However, when he comes to the castle, she has to fulfill her end of the bargain. She is forced to share food from her plate with him, and then he becomes more demanding, insisting that he get to share her bed as well. Well, she says enough is enough and dashes him violently against the wall. And that’s what changes him back into a prince, not a kiss.

1073423. The Pied Piper: This makes the list for sheer brutality. In the modern version, the Pied Piper rids the town of rats, and when the villagers don’t pay up, he takes their children off to a mountain until he’s paid. In the original version, though, he straight up kills those kids by drowning them in a river. You really should not forget to pay the Piper.




61ifCMgB80L2. Little Red Riding Hood: Turns out, there’s no miraculous huntsman to save Little Red Riding Hood in the original tale by Charles Perrault. Instead, the girl is tricked by the wolf, gets into bed with him, and is eaten. In some versions, she is also fed the body of her grandmother first. The original intention of the story was a fairly blatant warning for girls against losing one’s virginity – to watch out for the seductive wolf, or he’ll get you.


Edmund_Dulac_-_The_Mermaid_-_The_Prince1. The Little Mermaid: The original Little Mermaid is a series of unfair and ultimately deadly situations. In order to win over the prince, she makes a familiar deal: she trades her voice for legs. In the Hans Christian Anderson tale, though, each step with her new feet feels like walking on knives, and if she doesn’t marry the prince, then she turns into sea foam. She dances for the prince through excruciating pain, but he decides to marry another. The only way to save herself, then, is to kill the prince, but she can’t make herself do it. She dissolves into sea foam, and the prince continues on with his life, probably happily splashing in the ocean with his new wife.

There are plenty more terrifying endings to old fairy tales — Cinderella’s sisters mutilate their feet to fit in the famous glass slipper; Rumpelstiltskin rends his entire body in half when his name is guessed — if only you dig a bit under the surface. Like all shared stories, fairy tales morph and alter to fit the morals and compunctions of the time period. Still, it’s a good afternoon of morbid fun to explore the dark undertones of our favorite elementary school characters.

by Arielle Yarwood

Banned Books Week: Read a Graphic Novel!

Banned Books Week is a national celebration of the freedom to read, which is something we are very enthusiastic about here at The Masters Review. This year’s celebration is September 21-27, and across the country, libraries and bookstores will participate by highlighting banned and challenged books, hosting events, and encouraging adventurous reading. The focus for 2014 is on comics and graphic novels, a literary medium that’s often under fire—in fact, Captain Underpants currently holds first place in the ALA’s 2013 ranking of the most challenged titles. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has released a handy Banned Books Week Handbook for this year, which is available as a free download from their site.

Below are some fantastic graphic novels and the stories of how they have been challenged. This coming week, take a few hours to nab one from your library or bookstore and judge for yourself.

1271704108-1271455736-bone_jeff_smithThe Bone series, by Jeff Smith

The bestselling Scholastic children’s series Bone, by Jeff Smith, has been challenged for a variety of reasons, including “political viewpoint,” “violence,” and “unsuitability to age group.” In fact, the series ranks #10 out of the ALA’s 2013 list of most-challenged books. Most well known is the 2010 challenge by a Minnesotan parent, Ramona DeLay, who believed that the book encouraged children to smoke and drink. While character Smiley Bone does often smoke a cigar, and a beer-selling competition is a significant plot point in one of the volumes, the activities are shown in a neutral light—as just something the characters do. The challenge was rejected by a 10-1 vote.

funhomeFun Home, by Alison Bechdel, and Blankets, by Craig Thompson

Fun Home is a graphic memoir about the author’s relationship with her closeted father and its implications on her own life and sexuality. It won numerous awards, including an Eisner, and the author, Alison Bechdel, just won a MacArthur “genius” grant. Fun Home was challenged along with another semiautobiographical book, Blankets, which is the story of the author’s religious upbringing and its effects on his first love. The challenger was Louise Mills of Marshall, Missouri, who requested that they be taken off the shelves of the library because of  “pornographic images.” She also feared that children might be drawn to them because of their classification as comic books. Both books do in fact depict sex—they’re both about relationships and sexuality, after all—but obviously, that does not make them obscene or pornographic, and neither was categorized as children’s literature. While the challenge did spur the library to draft a materials selection policy, they eventually chose to retain the books in their catalog.

Persepolis ReturnPersepolis: The Story of a Childhood, by Marjane Satrapi

This graphic memoir about the author’s childhood in Iran during the Iranian revolution was removed from all Chicago public schools due to “graphic illustrations and language” and concerns about “developmental preparedness” and “student readiness.” In response, students protested by checking out all the copies from the library, talking on social media, appearing on local TV and radio, and writing articles and blogs about it. The book was reinstated in a victory for student involvement and the freedom to read.




MausMaus, by Art Speigelman

The first graphic novel to win the Pulitzer Prize, Maus is the story of a son trying to understand his father. It is told in two timelines: the present day, as he interviews his father, and in the past, as his interpretation of his father’s life as a Polish Jew who survived the Holocaust. It is a tremendous piece of literature and incredibly moving. Spiegelman illustrates the story with anthropomorphized animals—Jews are drawn as mice, Germans as cats, and Poles as pigs—which, while an effective narrative device, has often been the reason it is challenged as “anti-ethnic” or “unsuitable for children.” Yet again, we run into the false idea that all graphic novels and comics are for kids, not serious literature, and when they fail that idea, the books are challenged as inappropriate.

24242-LIn the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak

Lastly, a book that actually is for children, by beloved author Maurice Sendak. In the Night Kitchen is the story of a little boy’s dream adventure through a baker’s kitchen; however, the protagonist, Mickey, was drawn nude in some panels. This was so upsetting to many parents and librarians that they censored the book by painting diapers or underwear on Mickey. In some cases, the book was actually burned. I’m fairly certain that I read a censored copy when I was a kid, and I’m also fairly certain that I would not have minded the original in the least.

Share your own favorite banned book in the comments!



What does a writer’s office look like? From Proust’s cork-lined room to Margaret Atwood’s organized desk, writers’ offices are as varied as the work produced within them. The spaces where authors create continue to fascinate us. Check out the great spaces below and send us a picture of your #writersoffice.

BuzzFeed compiled pictures of the creative spaces of many famous artists, designers, musicians, and writers. Among them are Mark Twain, Martin Amis, Virginia Woolf, Nigella Lawson, and Susan Orlean. Check it out.

The Guardian did a two-year series on writers’ rooms that features pictures and short essays from each author about his writing environment. It’s nice to hear authors talk candidly about their routines. The series is full of little gems, such as this one from Justin Cartwright: “It’s only about three metres, but the separation of home and work is crucial.” Read the series here.

From Sir Walter Scott composing epic poetry on horseback, to Agatha Christie plotting novels in her bathtub, this Writer’s Digest article talks about the unconventional writing spots of famous writers. Read it here.

This Poets and Writers article discusses the work spaces of many famous authors and examines the question: “What does place even mean to a writer?” It’s a great read.

The Next Best Book Blog features weekly profiles with writers about their work spaces. They even got Margaret Atwood to tweet a picture of her desk to them! Check it out.

Translations – A Note

et-eventyrEditor Arielle Yarwood recently reviewed Other Press’ A Fairy Tale, out this month for its US debut. The book is written by Jonas T. Bengtsson and translated by Charlotte Barslund, which originally debuted in 2011 as Et Eventyr and was an instant Scandinavian hit. As Arielle notes in her review, American readers are becoming more open to reading translations, although the University of Rochester estimates that only 3% of works published in the US are works in translation. As such, it’s particularly satisfying that Other Press pursued rights for this book and introduced the American and Canadian readership to a skillful author who has already gained recognition internationally.

What other presses are recognizing and buying rights to translations? Any favorites? Let us know in the comments.

Read our full review of the book, here.

Book Review: Know the Night by Maria Mutch

6a017ee3e1169b970d019b01ad2318970d-300wiKnow the Night is an impressive debut for author Maria Mutch, whose literary memoir maintains that magical balance between lyricism and realism. Occupying the liminal and flexible space of darkness, Mutch’s book takes place between midnight and six a.m., yet spans the years that the author’s son Gabriel was unable to sleep continuously through the night.

Gabriel, whose own story unfolds through the book, begins as a precocious toddler with Down Syndrome. As he grows older, he is also diagnosed with autism, and Mutch describes the experience of multiple-disability parenting with sincerity and honesty. The story is not sugarcoated. She does not shy away from describing the sleep deprivation, isolation, or difficulty of parenting, nor does she simplify the complexity of Gabriel. Some accounts might focus solely on the parent, rendering the child as a one-dimensional challenge to be overcome. Instead we come to understand Gabriel as a unique individual, as someone who attends school, interacts with his sibling, and loves jazz. In fact, some of the most treasured scenes of the book are when, in the wee hours of the morning, we see Gabriel and Mutch go to jazz clubs in the city, and experience his joy at the music. (more…)

Program Profile – MFA at Virginia Tech

VT_Invent_The Future

Many thanks to Jeff Mann at Virginia Tech’s MFA program for answering a few questions. Virginia Tech’s first graduating class earned their MFAs in 2008 and the program and soared to one of very high ranking. Learn a little more about this special program.

Can you describe the general course of study at Virginia Tech? For example, how heavily does it focus on writing as opposed to teaching or working at one of the literary journals?

The major focus is on writing: we require 15 hours of writing workshops. MFA students also take Literary Editing (a course in which students choose creative work for The Minnesota Review), as well as courses in form and theory and literature. They’re required to take 11 hours in composition pedagogy. After completing that requirement, they teach freshman composition classes. In their final semester, they usually get to teach Introduction to Creative Writing. (more…)

Program Profile – University of Alaska Fairbanks


Many thanks to Professor Gerri Brightwell from University of Alaska at Fairbanks’ MA/MFA program for taking the time to answer a few questions about what makes their program so special.

How would you describe the curriculum and goals of the University of Alaska at Fairbanks?

Our curriculum is designed to give students a solid grounding in the study of their genre through craft courses, workshops, and working one-on-one with faculty. Our students also take classes in literary theory and literature. Not only do these classes expand their expertise, they make them stronger writers. We want our students to leave UAF with a surer sense of who they are as writers, and with publications already under their belt.

Can you explain the combined MA/MFA program available?

Because our MFA students take classes in critical theory and literature, we created the MFA/MA to offer them the opportunity to further explore their scholarly interests and earn a qualification in both creative writing and literature. Students in the combined program take two sets of comprehensive examinations (as opposed to one for MFA students) and produce both a creative thesis and either a scholarly thesis or scholarly essays.

In what way does the natural environment of Alaska factor into the program?

In Alaska, you can’t avoid the natural environment! If affects how you live — temperatures can drop to as low as -50 in the winter, and you might get into your car only to find a moose blocking your driveway. We’re hundreds of miles from the next biggest city — Anchorage. But our environment is not something to be endured. It’s a source of inspiration for many, and for those that chose, it offers a way to live differently. Some of our students live in apartments in town; others rent cabins in the woods. Here you can ski for six months of the year, you can trap, or hunt, you can fish, you can mountain climb. (more…)

Book Review: Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg

9780316225816_custom-82ab7c347d3e7c10fcc7c80e8d5da518b02f7df3-s6-c30To start, this book is beautiful. The first thing you notice when you heft it up (it’s just about as tall as my forearm) is the quality of production: the solid feel, the thick pages, the bold rendering of the lines and colors. Initially its size and luxury make it seem like a coffee table book, something to show off to company. But the story within is far too complex and satisfying to simply flip through.

The Encyclopedia of Early Earth is an impressive debut for creator Isabel Greenberg. In 2011, she won the Observer Jonathan Cape Graphic Short Story Prize for her piece, “Love In A Very Cold Climate,” which provided the seed for Encyclopedia. (Don’t look it up yet! It’s only four pages, but it’s the four pages of emotional payoff in the longer book.) From that piece, which tells the love story between a Nord man and a South Pole woman, Greenberg expanded their shared universe to tell the story of how the Nord man journeyed all the way across the planet to find his soul mate.

Early Earth, the world in which these characters live, is the Earth that existed before our own, chock full of its own myths, gods, and histories, which we learn through the Odysseus-like travels of our protagonist. Only instead of a journey home from war, he is on a search for the small part of his soul that was lost as child. He sets out from Nord and heads south, landing in various new lands along the way, learning their stories and telling his own as only the clan Storyteller can. In this way, our Nord man, the greatest traveler of Early Earth and the first chronicler of its many myths, does indeed create an encyclopedia for the world. Ultimately, the book evolves into an examination of the nature of narratives and culture, bookended by the initial love story.

Readers will notice some familiar threads among the myths, such as a great world-clearing flood or a whale that swallows up our protagonist. But many elements are unique, such as the capricious and vain god BirdMan and his humanoid children, or the granny who fells a giant with just her wit and some sausages. Scattered throughout is enough sass and irreverence to make the book seem less, well, encyclopedic, and more like a good friend telling recounting a tale over the fire. (more…)

Five Books To Read With Your Kid On MLK

You can also read these books with your sibling, your niece, your best friend’s child, or any young person you care about. Take this opportunity to share a good book while discussing the civil rights movement with the next generation of Americans.


1. Child of the Civil Rights Movement, written by Paula Young Shelton and illustrated by Raul Colón.

Written by the daughter of civil rights activist Andrew Young, this book recounts a child’s perspective on growing up among a community of civil rights families, eventually culminating in the historic march from Selma to Montgomery. Grade Level: K-3


01162014-Martin-Luther-King-Jr-Picture-Books-For-Preschoolers-martins-big-words2. Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., written by Doreen Rappaport and illustrated by Bryan Collier.

Author Doreen Rappaport weaves Martin Luther King Jr.’s own words into this picture book about his life. A Coretta Scott King Honor book, it’s a beautifully illustrated and lyrical story that’s accessible for all ages and perfect for lap-reading. Grade Level: K-4


6a00e54faaf86b88330147e2df6a8d970b3. The Story of Ruby Bridges, written by Robert Coles and illustrated by George Ford

When she was six years old, Ruby Bridges was one of the first African American children to integrate into a whites-only school in New Orleans. She walked through protesters and sat in empty classrooms after white parents pulled their children out. Ruby persevered, showing bravery and strength. The anniversary edition has an afterword by Ruby herself, fifty years later. Grade Level: 3-5

summer-44. One Crazy Summer, written by Rita Williams-Garcia

Set in 1968 Oakland, this book tells the story of Delphine and her two younger sisters as they spend the summer with their estranged mother. She sends the girls out to the local community center, run by the Black Panthers, and over the next four weeks the girls learn a good deal about the revolution. A touching and hard-won story about that ways that movements affect personal lives and about building family. Grade Level: 3-5


51efEuEpSLL._SL500_AA300_5. Martin Luther King, Jr.: Let Freedom Ring, by Michael Teitelbaum and Lewis Helfand, and illustrated by Sankha Banerjee

For the kid who loves comics, here’s a graphic novel that tells the story of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life, including the issues that spurred his involvement in the civil rights movement. Using quotations from his actual speeches, this book would be an ideal read for an older child who’s ready to learn more about this pivotal time in history. Grade Level: 4-6

Writing and Race: Articles For Writers

Martin-Luther-King-Jr-9365086-1-402-300x200 “There’s this idea that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. And what I’ve always thought isn’t that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. It’s that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves.”

Author Junot Diaz, speaking at Rutgers University

With Martin Luther King, Jr. Day right around the corner, now seems like a good moment to set aside some time to think about race and diversity in our own profession. What is the state of publishing like now for minority writers? What books are being published, and how are they being marketed? Whose stories are still underrepresented? And most importantly, how can we, as writers and publishers, help create more mirrors in the world?

To jumpstart the discussion, here is a sampling of articles discussing diversity, race, writing, and publishing.

Want to expand your own reading list or get inspiration? Check out these resources:

At The Masters Review, we want to remind writers that we’re looking for innovation, urgency, and authenticity in the stories we select. We aren’t interested in publishing the status quo – we want stories that take our breath away. Please feel free to submit your work to us! We’re currently accepting submissions for both our New Voices category and the printed anthology.