When it comes to Creative Non-Fiction we all have issues…

Creative nonfiction is a relatively new genre, so perhaps it shouldn’t be so surprising that many people attempt it without really understanding what they’re attempting. Though essays have a rich history, creative writing as we understand it has moved away from the essay to break new ground and in doing so has apparently confused many of those who are interested in writing it. Reading creative nonfiction submissions is like panning for gold: sifting through a collage of personal anecdotes to find one that shines.

First, let’s define what creative nonfiction is. The University of Vermont Writing Center’s website offers one of the more simple and concise definitions: “It is writing composed of the real, or of facts, that employs the same literary devices as fiction . . .” Clear enough, don’t you think? However, writing good creative nonfiction necessitates a deeper look.

So we’ve defined what creative nonfiction is. Let’s take a look at what it is not. Creative nonfiction is not a blog post and it is not a diary entry. Creative nonfiction has to have something more. Put bluntly, creative nonfiction has to matter to someone other than you and your best friend. While your high school experience, your first heartbreak, or your job might be interesting to you and those close to you, if you’re going to write a creative nonfiction piece about it, you need to find a way to make your experience universal. You need to find a way to put it in a larger context.

While it’s possible to be too casual and too personal, it’s also possible to make the opposite mistake and forget the “creative” part of creative nonfiction. A creative nonfiction piece should not be a news article and it should not be an academic paper. However well-researched your piece, it’s the elements of literary fiction that make it creative nonfiction. Perhaps you have read a beautiful, compelling feature in a newspaper. I’ve definitely read a few that I think would qualify as creative nonfiction. It is the ability of the writer to instill a sense of place, to handle dialogue, or to move us with lyrical language that will elevate these kinds of pieces beyond journalism. The point is, however well-done, creative nonfiction is more than just delivering facts.

So do yourself a favor and pick up some Maggie Nelson and some Joan Didion and some David Sedaris. See how they make their experiences important to their readers. See how they weave facts and research seamlessly into their subject matter. See what these writers and others like them are doing with their experiences and the literary forms they’re using. Creative nonfiction is a rich and rewarding genre that is worth exploration, so get in there and get busy.

Hilary Collins is a MFA candidate in Creative-Nonfiction at Roosevelt University and the Oyez Review 43 Editor in Chief.

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We’ll never tell you what to write about, but…

As a poetry editor, the sheer amount of poems you read can be very daunting. When you read hundreds of poems, you begin to notice that there are a few topics everyone seems to want to write about. It only takes a couple of these poems for you to sigh whenever you see certain themes emerging from the words in front of you. Not this again, you think, and push the thought back and give the poem a chance. But by choosing a topic that has been done so much and by so many, and by the greats before us, the poet has created an uphill job for themselves in trying to give a fresh face to these old themes.

I’ve seen too many poems about death. These poems are usually about the death of someone close to the author. Death and love have to be the two most written-about subjects in the world. It is very difficult to say anything new about them. I won’t say much about this because death is a heavy, permanent thing that I don’t care to make light of, but it is universal, and almost everyone has lost someone. This doesn’t mean you will now be able to write meaningful poetry about that experience.

Now, if I can’t make light of how many people write about the losses they have experienced, I can definitely find humor in how many people send in poems about nature. I’ve read poems about birds, about seasons, and so many poems about gardens. We are so enraptured by the beauty of the world around us that it just pours out of us, in couplets, in sonnets, in free verse. Please stop. Your garden is lovely. Your roses are astoundingly crimson. The sparrow you saw embodies hope. The sunset last night was a thing of wonder. But stop writing poems about them.

Please don’t send me a poem about the ocean. Please, please don’t write a poem about the ocean. If you must, please leave out the word “cerulean”. I think this is my least favorite kind of poem, and I think it’s because when you realize a poem is going to try to describe the ocean to you, you already know 50% of the words you’re going to be reading. You’re going to use the word “blue” and fifty different synonyms for the word “blue”. You will probably discuss waves and sand and maybe throw in the calls of the seagulls. See, I know this poem by heart and I haven’t even read yours yet! Don’t send it to me!

I can’t speak for all poetry editors, especially since I myself can barely claim that title, but I will say speaking as someone who has read hundreds of poems from poets who are actively trying to publish their work, I have reached my point of saturation on these topics. Most of us have lost someone we loved and most of us agree the ocean is beautiful, but unless you have something new and wonderful to say on the subject, write about something else. And here’s the thing: if you do think you have something new and wonderful to say about death or the ocean, please send it to me. I would love to publish a poem that says something new about the ocean. I would love to see that it can be done, that in 2015 there are still new things to say about the ocean. That would be a beautiful thing.

Hilary Collins is a MFA candidate in Creative Non-fiction at Roosevelt University and the Oyez Review 43 Editor in Chief.

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Chicago native Alexai Galaviz-Budziszewski reads Monday at the Gage Gallery.

Alexai Galaviz-Budziszewski is reading this Monday, March 23 at 5 pm at the Gage Gallery as part of our Spring Reading Series. Mr. Galaviz-Budziszewski is a Chicago born and raised writer. His short stories have been published in many literary magazines including Ploughshares and TriQuarterly, and his collection “Painted Stories” was published in 2014 by McSweeney’s. His writing is based on growing up in the Pilsen neighborhood. He still lives in Chicago, where he works as a high school counselor for students with disabilities. Here are a few facts to get to know him better…

Five Facts for your Friday about Alexai Galaviz-Budziszewski:

  1. Growing up on the South Side in Pilsen, the city line of Chicago seemed a lifetime away. He used to call Chicago, “Oz”. One of his first long-term forays into the city led him to Harold Washington College, which led him to meet a writing workshop professor who encouraged him to apply to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he eventually attended.
  2. Writing about Pilsen wasn’t part of his plan. When he was attending Iowa, he was working on a memoir but realized his story was really fictionalized stories about Pilsen, no matter how difficult they were to write. He said, “When I first started writing stories, I was terrified of writing about Pilsen…Thinking about Pilsen is so emotional for me, but I realized that tapping into those feelings brings out better stories, and it just happens that this is where it’s at for me, in terms of emotion.”
  3. He published the stories about Pilsen in many top literary magazines—Ploughshares, TriQuarterly, Alaska Quarterly Review, Indiana Review and others— but failed to sell them as a collection. He doesn’t write with publication in mind, “…It’s a more satisfying outcome, when I can write something that sounds so good out loud, or bring a tear to my own eye—rather than ‘I need to send this out as soon as possible.’” Which is why his friend from the Iowa Workshop, Peter Orner, submitted his stories without his knowledge to McSweeney’s founder Dave Eggers, who loved and published “Painted Cities”.
  4. He doesn’t believe in ‘Writers’ block’, but instead thinks that is where some of the best writing comes from. He said, “The addictive quality of writing is getting to that point where things are just coming out. That’s the wonderful feeling I look for, and you never know when it’s coming next. That’s why I don’t really believe in writer’s block. Writer’s block is a refusal to let yourself get lost in the woods.”
  5. Before publishing “Painted Cities”, he added the hyphenated Galaviz—his mother’s maiden name—to his name. “I’m writing strictly Latino stories, but my name doesn’t look in the slightest Latino,” he said. “So I threw in ‘Galaviz’ as an homage to my mother and to acknowledge where I came from, which was this biracial, bicultural family.”

Bonus Fact: As a child, his nickname was “Ali”, given to him by his father after winning a bet on the famous “Rumble in the Jungle” between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in 1974.

Be sure to stop by the Gage Gallery this Monday, March 23 at 5 pm for the reading, refreshments being served at 4:30 pm.

Facts compiled from:

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/03/i-dont-believe-in-writers-block/284354/

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2014-04-04/features/chi-painted-cities-alexai-galaviz-budziszewski-20140404_1_painted-cities-gang-member-alexai-galaviz-budziszewski/3

Cassandra Morrison is a MFA Candidate in Creative Writing at Roosevelt University and serves as a reader/editor for issue 42 of Oyez Review

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Oyez 42 Launch Reading! Featuring Donna Vorreyer

Donna Vorreyer author photoOyez Review’s Issue 42 has arrived! As you can see we’re updating our website, but the new volume is out! Join us for a reading at Quimby’s (1854 W North Ave, Chicago, IL 60622) this Friday, March 20, at 7:00 pm to hear our featured reader, Donna Vorreyer, read a selection of her poems including “Compline with a Dream of Folded Arms,” which is featured in Issue 42.

Donna is the author of A House of Many Windows (Sundress Publications, 2013) as well as six chapbooks. She has been a repeat nominee for the Pushcart Prize, and her work has appeared in journals such as Sugar House Review, Sou’wester, Rhino, Linebreak, and Cider Press Review. Her second collection is forthcoming from Sundress Publications in 2016.  Bring your friends, pick up your copy of Oyez 42, and enjoy the year’s best poems, short stories, and nonfiction from the new issue. Hope to see you there!

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Rebecca Curtis Reads on Monday, February 23rd!

RC_Pic

The Roosevelt University MFA Program is thrilled to host writer Rebecca Curtis this coming Monday in Room 700 of the Gage Building (18 South Michigan Avenue). The reception starts at 4:30pm, and Rebecca’s reading will start at 5pm. This event is free and open to the public. (Please note: this will be in Room 700, NOT the gallery on the main level)

Twenty Grand: And Other Tales of Love and Money, Curtis’s debut collection (HarperCollins 2007), was a New York Times Notable Book of 2007, a San Francisco Chronicle Notable Book of 2007, and an L.A. Times Best Book of 2007. It was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award and the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for Best First Fiction. Curtis’s fiction and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, The O’Henry Prize Stories, McSweeney’s, N+1, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of a Rona Jaffe Foundation award and a Saltonstall Grant. She lives in Brooklyn.

 Rebecca Curtis Stories:

“The Christmas Miracle” (The New Yorker, 2013)

“The Pink House” (The New Yorker, 2014)

Rebecca Curtis Interviews: 

A Conversation with Curtis and Emily Gould (n+1, 2013)

A Conversation with Curtis and Lisa Swanstrom (sunspinner, 2006)

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Bayo Ojikutu Reads Monday, February 2 at the Gage Gallery!

Bayo Ojikutu is reading at the Gage Gallery on February 2 at 5:00 pm as part of the Spring Reading Series. Mr. Ojikutu joins Roosevelt University, teaching a novel writing workshop in Roosevelt’s MFA program this spring, and we’re very excited about welcoming him to campus. Here are a few facts to get to know him a bit better before Monday’s reading…

Five Facts for your Friday about Bayo Ojikutu:

  1. Ojikutu’s debut novel 47th Street Black was released in 2003 and won both the Washington Fiction Prize and the Great American Book award. His short fiction has appeared nationwide in various places, including the anthology Chicago Noir and Shadow Show, an anthology celebrating Ray Bradbury’s work.
  2. Although he finds he is the most productive writing in an office, he says the subway throughout the city provides great inspiration for writing. “Stay on these trains in this city, end-to-end, north-to-west, south-to-east, ride with eyes open, there and back again, and you will see things for what they are. Blinking and shining and flinching and blue and bruised and blitzed and sagging and brilliant and swinging low and ever bombastic.”
  3. Ojikutu is Chicago born and raised, and sets both of his novels in the Southside neighborhood. Free Burning is based in the neighborhood Four Corners, “People like to think of places like Four Corners as hell, it isn’t hell. It’s part of our real world.”
  4. The work of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas are cited as some early inspiration for his work. He also says that maybe inappropriately, his parents would take him to see Richard Pryor’s films and comedy, and they had a great deal of influence as he grew up. “Maybe they plugged our ears … during certain segments, but that was my exposure to the aesthetically illicit. Pryor was huge for me in terms of gaining confidence in a distinctive voice.”
  5. He has taught at the University of Chicago and DePaul University, and finds that teaching effects his interaction with his everyday reading and writing. “I find it difficult to read anything these days without scribbling in the margins and engaging some back and forth with the writer in my mind, as if they are among my workshop students. ‘Salman, be respectful of your colleagues here in the circle, man.’ ‘You too, Zadie, and stay in your seat back there, Jonathan. I can see you, you know?’ Just joking. I’d never speak to my students like that.”

Bonus Fact: If he had to choose another profession, he would be a big band leader, “Playing swing tunes so hard folks had no choice but to keep dancing, even after the ditties started to bop.”

Be sure to stop by the Gage Gallery this Monday, February 2 at 5 pm for the reading, refreshments being served at 4:30 pm.

Facts compiled from:

http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/cinematic-grit/Content?oid=923540

http://lit.newcity.com/2011/07/18/shoptalk-bayo-ojikutu/#sthash.SfHg147v.dpuf

http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2506000046.html

Cassandra Morrison is a MFA Candidate in Creative Writing at Roosevelt University and serves as a reader/editor for issue 42 of Oyez Review.

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Spring Reading Series Dates:

Just a quick update as Roosevelt University’s Spring Reading Series dates and readers have been announced. Check out the exciting lineup and stay tuned for upcoming blogs about each reader and details about the events:

Bayo Ojikutu, Monday, February 2, The Gage Gallery (80 South Michigan) at 5 p.m.

Rebecca Curtis, Monday, February 23

Alexai Galaviz-Budziszewski, Monday, March 23

Jessica Hopper, Wednesday, April 15

Graduate Reading, Monday, April 27

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Tim Kinsella Reading Tuesday, November 18 at the Gage Gallery.

Tim Kinsella is all over the Internet. When doing research for our blog, I found myself engrossed with articles and interviews written about him from Spin, The Chicagoist, Chicago Magazine, The A.V. Club, Bookslut and many many more—so I can’t wait to meet him at the reading. Because one of the LEAST kept secrets about Mr. Kinsella is that he’s somewhat of a rock star, there are multiple reasons to be excited about his reading on Tuesday, November 18 at the Gage Gallery, including but not limited to his fiction, his music and his role as managing editor of Featherproof books.

Five Facts for your Friday about Tim Kinsella:

  1. Kinsella’s musical career began with the much loved, Cap’n Jazz band in the 90’s. He has also been a member of Owls, Make Believe, and Joan of Arc. He’s released three solo albums and worked on many collaborations. He just returned from touring with Joan of Arc in October. His first book, The Karaoke Singer’s Guide to Self-Defense, was also published in 2011.
  1. His latest book, Let Go and Go On and On and On is based on the on the life of Laurie Bird, actress and photographer known for Two-Lane Blacktop and Annie Hall. Drawn to Two Lane Blacktop, Mr. Kinsella said, “It also represents the introduction of a specific cultural moment–the lingering of the hippy lifestyle after the death of the hippy optimism. Personally I’m still a little bit working through that myself.”
  1. He said that the revision process for this book took about 8 years, during which he toured with his band, taught creative writing classes at the Graham School, bartended, made a movie and released a plethora of music.
  1. Kinsella is from Chicago, and still bartends at the Rainbo Club in the Ukrainian Village on occasion. His father was a bartender, as well.
  1. He’s taken over as the managing editor of the Chicago publishing house, Featherproof Press, which published his first book, The Karaoke Singer’s Guide to Self-Defense. He took over in July and has moved the offices onto Roosevelt’s campus, more specifically into MFA Director, Christian TeBordo’s office. Featherproof boasts a proud catalog of books they have published. Mr. Kinsella said of his new position, “There’s this part of me that would be perfectly content to never see my own name on an object in the world, but I really enjoy the process of creating things. I like seeing someone’s imagination become a material object for other people to access. I’m deeply invested in that process.”

Bonus fact: By their own admission on their website, Featherproof is here to publish books written by their friends and by friends of their friends…so come to the reading and become Mr. Kinsella’s friend.

The reading will begin at 5 pm, with refreshments served at 4:30 pm at the Gage Gallery.

Facts compiled from:
http://www.bookslut.com/fiction/2014_04_020588.php
http://www.vol1brooklyn.com/2014/06/26/the-life-of-laurie-bird-reflected-in-film-and-transmitted-in-fiction-an-interview-with-tim-kinsella/
http://www.spin.com/articles/tim-kinsella-interview-marvin-tate-angel-olsen-joan-of-arc/
http://chicagoist.com/2014/04/08/tim_kinsella_on_owls_chinese_food_c.php
http://www.avclub.com/article/tim-kinsella-63033
http://featherproof.com/

Cassandra Morrison is a MFA Candidate in Creative Writing at Roosevelt University and serves as a reader/editor for issue 42 of Oyez Review.

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Get to know Lori Rader-Day for the reading Tuesday!

Lori Rader-Day is reading this Tuesday, November 4 at 5 pm at the Gage Gallery. Ms. Rader-Day is a Roosevelt University MFA graduate, so we are particularly excited about her success and reading. Here a few facts to help you get to know her a little better before the reading Tuesday…

Five Facts for your Friday about Lori Rader-Day

  1. New York Times bestselling author, Jodi Piccoult, picked Ms. Rader-Day’s short story for Good Housekeeping’s first short story contest in 2010. Lori Rader-Day’s first published book, The Black Hour, was published by the Seventh Street Press in 2014. She is also the recipient of the Chris O’Malley Prize in Fiction from The Madison Review, and has had stories published by TimeOut Chicago, Crab Orchard Review, and others.
  2. She grew up in central Indiana, but has lived in Chicago for a decade now and has become a staple in the literary community. She is the vice president of the Midwest Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America, a member of Sisters in Crime Chicagoland and the International Thriller Writers, was a member of the 2014 debut author class on the Debutante Ball blog, and frequently teaches students through StoryStudio Chicago.
  3. She finished the first draft of her second book, Little Pretty Things, in August. She wanted to finish it “before anything anyone says about my first book (good or bad) burrows into my brain and stops me cold.”
  4. She wrote the equivalent of two books during her three years at Roosevelt, and still wishes she had written more. “The best stuff I learned at Roosevelt had to do with discipline…You’ll never be sorry for writing more than you were assigned to write.”
  5. She wrote The Black Hour while working a full-time job. She is the Office of Communications Director at Northwestern University. She said that she “wrote the first draft between January 2010 and July 2011—and then spent another year revising and getting it right.” Sometimes writing during lunch breaks, before work or even 10,000 words on a cruise in the Caribbean because “That’s vacation to me—having time to write.”

Bonus fact: Ms. Rader-Day found her soundtrack to her second book in Lorde’s “Buzzcut Season”. She acknowledges that this makes her seem that she’s a teenage girl, but alas, she’s not, but admits that “I’m writing about some, and also some women who used to be teen girls and aren’t quite done with it.”

Be sure to stop by the Gage Gallery Tuesday, November 4 at 5 pm for the reading, refreshments being served at 4:30 pm.

One last fun fact, TUESDAY IS ELECTION DAY! Go vote. Only those with “I Voted” stickers will be allowed into the reading. (Not really, but maybe…)

Facts compiled from:

http://www.susannacalkins.com/blog/writing-about-campus-violence-an-interview-with-lori-rader-day

http://www.thedebutanteball.com/author/lori/

And a lovely email interview with Ms. Rader-Day.

Cassandra Morrison is a MFA Candidate in Creative Writing at Roosevelt University and serves as a reader/editor for issue 42 of Oyez Review.

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Lori Rader-Day reads next in the Reading Series on November 4 at the Gage Gallery. Stay tuned for more information about the Roosevelt MFA alum!

LRD Flyer

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