Roosevelt MFA Program Reading Series: Camille Bordas

Camille Bordas Image

Roosevelt University’s Creative Writing program and the Oyez Review are proud to present author Camille Bordas.

As part of the Fall 2017 Reading Series, Bordas will be reading from her first English language novel How To Behave in a Crowd, which was recently published by Tim Duggan Books (Penguin Random House) in August 2017.

Born in France and raised in Mexico City and Paris, Bordas now lives in Chicago. She is the author of two previous novels in French, Les treize desserts and Partie commune. Her short fiction has appeared in The New Yorker.

Please join Camille Bordas and the Roosevelt University writing community Tuesday, November 7th at Roosevelt University’s Spertus Lounge (AUD 241). The event begins at 5:00 PM with doors opening at 4:30.

Location: Spertus Lounge, Auditorium Building, Chicago Campus

Date: November 7th, 2017

Time: 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM

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Eduardo Rebasa Joins Roosevelt for a Reading and Q&A!


The MFA Program Reading series, in conjunction with Roosevelt University, the MFA in Creative Writing Program, Oyez Review, the Department of Literature & Language, and the Lit & Luz Festival, is proud to present Eduardo Rebasa!

As seen on the Lit & Lutz Festival participants page:

Eduardo Rabasa is the founding editorial director of Sexto Piso Editorial, the winner of the 2004 International Young Publisher of the Year Award. He writes for the newspaper Milenio. His first novel was A Zero-Sum Game (Deep Vellum 2016). Rabasa was named one of the top 20 Mexican writers under the age of 40 by the Mexico20 project.

On Wednesday, October 18,  please join Eduardo Rabasa, Roosevelt University, and Lit & Luz at Roosevelt University’s Spertus Lounge in our Auditorium Building. The event begins at 5:00 PM with doors opening at 4:30.



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Roosevelt MFA Program Reading Series: Jac Jemc


New semester, new Reading Series! Roosevelt University’s Creative Writing program and the Oyez Review are proud to present the first visiting writer of our Fall 2017 Reading Series: Jac Jemc!

Jac Jemc lives in Chicago. Her novel The Grip of It was published by FSG Originals (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) in August 2017. Jemc is also the author of My Only Wife (Dzanc Books), named a finalist for the 2013 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction and winner of the Paula Anderson Book Award; A Different Bed Every Time (Dzanc Books), named one of Amazon’s Best Story Collections of 2014; and a chapbook of stories, These Strangers She’d Invited In (Greying Ghost Press). Jac’s nonfiction has been featured on the long list for Best American Essays and her story “Women in Wells” was featured in the 2010 Best of the Web anthology. She was named as one of 25 Writers to Watch by the Guild Literary Complex and one of New City’s Lit 50 in Chicago. She’s taught English and Creative Writing at a number of universities and currently serves as a web nonfiction editor for Hobart.

Please join Jac Jemc and the Roosevelt University writing community this October 2nd at Roosevelt University’s Spertus Lounge in our Auditorium Building located at 430 South Michigan Avenue. The event begins at 5:00 PM with doors opening at 4:30.


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Interview with Emanuel Rios

The staff of Oyez Review is honored with the opportunity to foster artists of all kinds throughout the world – of the written word, canvas, and lens. We took the time to sit down and talk with one such up and coming photographer, Chicagoan Emanuel Rios, about his form and inspiration in the Windy City.

Alicia Drier, Oyez Review (OR): What are some of your favorite places to capture in Chicago?

Emanuel Rios (ER): Museum campus has one of the best views of the city year round, but the lakefront in general presents a great juxtaposition. There is a liminal nature to the lakefront that I’ve always found captivating. Otherwise, I think I have a favorite time rather than a favorite place. I love shooting at odd times in order to capture the city during its quieter moments.


I took one of my favorite quiet moment photos in NYC while I was wandering through Brooklyn late one Friday night. It was a part of Brooklyn that must have had a very concentrated Hasidic Jewish population because the streets were eerily empty and then all of the sudden there were scattered clusters of families walking past me. Within what seemed like 15 minutes they were all gone again and I was basically alone, wandering down the street. At the time I was completely confused by the experience. I probably wouldn’t have noticed this shop in the picture had I not been in such a perplexed, yet fascinated mood.


OR: What is your favorite subject to capture in your photography?

ER: I love when a subject makes me feel extremely small, so I tend to seek out views of vast expanses of land or cityscapes. I’ve spent most of my life in the city, so the stars tend to invoke that sensation too, when I get the opportunities to see them.


OR: How does Chicago compare to other subjects you have approached with your camera?

ER: Chicago offers a ton of great street photography options, though I often find myself uncomfortable photographing strangers. The “look up” opportunities are also endless in the city. Most landscapes are about look horizontally, but the city is built on so many different vertical levels that can capture your attention.


OR: How does photography work for you as a form of expression? What sort of dialogue do you hope to develop with your photos?

ER: I work a 9 to 5 desk job, so photography works as a calming escape from the mundane repetition throughout the week. I love to toss on headphones and just wander around the city without any destination in mind. In some sense I guess you could say I take the photos to remind myself to get outside more than anything else.


OR: How do literature and photography connect for you?

ER: I think photography and its relationship to journalism are crucial. National Geographic sparked my interest in photography, but the photos within each article usually served as my motivation to read the contents. There is something about the visceral experience of seeing something that adds a depth difficult to reach through words.

OR: Who are your top three go-to photographers for inspiration?

ER: Ansel Adams is always my number one go to. From a technical perspective, I greatly admire everything he’s done. I sometimes feel lucky that I get to work with modern DSLR cameras, which just makes his photographs all the more impressive to me. Jimmy Chin and Paul Nicklen both photograph for National Geographic and have taken some of the most stunning photos I’ve seen. The lengths they both go to get their shots are astounding. Jimmy Chin and Paul Nicken serve as my motivation to actually get off my butt and go shoot, while Ansel Adams influences aspirations for becoming a better photographer.

OR: How did you develop an interest in photography?

ER: My family had a subscription to National Geographic when I was a kid and even before I was old enough to read the articles, I would flip through each issue just to see their pictures of far off places. I took a few photography courses in high school that focused on developing film shots, but I grew up just as things kind of transitioned over to digital. I’ve always wanted to develop my own film, but it’s a pain in the butt (for me at least), so I committed to digital photography a few years ago. You can do some amazing things with current cameras and editing software, though I try to keep most of my edits simple and capture things as they genuinely exist in the real world.

You can find more of Emanuel Rios’ work on his Instagram.

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Blogging Wins and Losses

by: Melanie Jones

Someone once said to me, “I don’t understand people who consider themselves a writer, but don’t write.” That same day I created a blog and began putting out some work. A lot of it was what I referred to as unpolished rants. I would copy styles from Buzzfeed, like Top Five blah blah. I also wrote rebuttals to the content of other blogs I didn’t agree with, and would link their posts in my own blog.


(photo cred:

The first thing that’s difficult about having a blog is getting a fan-base large enough that you don’t feel like you’re writing for an empty (chat)room. Gaining followers on outlets like Tumblr is difficult. Tumblr is not Facebook, not everyone and their grandma has one so if you are relying on followers from people you already know, that’s not very likely. If your only purpose in writing is to get your work shared, then you are on the wrong outlet. Writing a blog should first be a form of self-expression that is fulfilling and enjoyable for you regardless of followers, notes, and shares. You might get lucky and be featured on a larger-name site and gain followers for one timely, well-written piece, but that’s a small percentage of people who regularly upkeep a blog. 

If that does happen, you aren’t fully in control of what type of followers you may gain. In my unique case I wrote a rebuttal to a man who complained about doing sexual favors for a woman because he didn’t find them pleasurable. Due to the nature of my blog and the crass language, it was reblogged more times than anything else I’ve ever written. I gained several followers. These followers focused on sexual expression and sex in general on their pages, and some even featured pornographic images. My family asked if I was going to delete my account, but it didn’t bother me. I relay this story just so you are aware of the possibilities.

Another thing to consider before starting a blog is the recognition that any content you put on your blog is considered published work. Many literary journals, including Oyez Review, do not accept previously published work, so if you submit something that’s appeared on your blog for consideration by such a literary journal or magazine, it will probably be denied. Editors and staff will search the internet for works to make sure that it does not appear anywhere else. They want to publish content that’s new, and that could actually lead to more people looking at your blog in the end because they like your writing style. If you’d like to still have a blog then I’d suggest not putting your best work on there, especially if you’d like to submit it to a larger publication.

Having a blog can be satisfying. If you’re not in a writer’s group or a program where you can regularly share your work and receive feedback, a blog is a great option to show your pieces to other writers and receive critiques, or start a conversation about your given topic. Either way, there are gives-and-takes with featuring your work on any site or platform, but regardless of this, if you love writing keep doing it, even if you never plan on sharing it at all.

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Roosevelt Spring 2017 MFA Readings Series begins with Rion Amilcar Scott!


Join us on March 20th at 5:00 PM for our first reading event with Rion Amilcar Scott!

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Graphic Novels for Adults

“Graphic novel” may sound like a fancy name for a long comic book, but thanks to recent graphic memoir artists, this book category is growing up and moving on from super heroes and childish cartoon characters without losing any of its entertainment value. Below are five nonfiction graphic novels to help you revitalize your reading life without sucking away all your free time.

Maus, by Art Spiegelman

Don’t be fooled by the mice and cats on the cover – this is very much a story for a mature audience. Art Spiegelman uses this relationship of the animal kingdom to tell the story of his relationship with his father, a survivor of the Jewish Holocaust, and their mutual struggle to reconcile with the truth of endurance beyond tragedy.

Relish, by Lucy Knisley

One part cookbook, one part personal narrative, this story tells of Knisley’s lifelong romance with food. You’ll love it for its comic-styled recipes from around the world, for Knisley’s beautifully drawn portrayals of herself and those around her, and for the sharing of universal feel-good food love that we’ve all felt in our lives.

Blankets, by Craig Thompson

Arguably one of the longest graphic novels I’ve ever picked up (592 pages!), I promise it’s still worth the read. You will fall in love with Thompson’s portrayal of the Wisconsin landscape in winter and his unflinching record of growing up with his brother, questioning his Christian upbringing, and falling in love for the first time.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, by Alison Bechdel

Known originally for her web comic Dykes to Watch Out For, this graphic novel is Alison Bechdel at her finest. You as a reader will not be disappointed, as you follow Bechdel through a non-linear narrative about her relationship with her father, their mutual struggle with being gay in small Pennsylvania town, and the family “fun home” funeral business.

American Born Chinese, by Gene Luen Yang

This graphic novel tells the story of a young boy growing up in America with two Chinese native parents. Cultural disparities and racial stereotypes quickly leave Yang as a misfit of two worlds and unlikely to ever be given the choice of where he’d like to belong. The novel’s visual journey will take you through the geography of creating an identity for yourself in America.

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Interview with Lucy Knisley

You’re never too old to read comics. Lucy Knisley, an authority on all things food and graphic literature, would be the first to tell you that. From French Milk to Relish to her latest novel Something New, Knisley has made a career out of turning her life of travel, eating, and coming of age stories into art on the page. Recently, Knisley spoke with Oyez Review about her experience as a writer all over the world.

Alicia Drier, Oyez Review (OR): It’s been almost 10 years since your first graphic novel was published. How do you think your concept of art and story-telling have changed in that time?

Lucy Knisley (LK): I certainly have honed my methods and techniques a lot more than they were ten years ago! I think that’s a constant process. But I know that self-doubt was a major motivator when I first started out. I didn’t know if I would ever have the stamina or patience to draw a whole book. With every book I draw and write, I get more confident in my abilities– that I’m able to do more and interesting things with my work– things people haven’t seen before. At first, it was just “can I ever be nearly as good as my heroes?” And now it’s more “What can I make that will inspire people?”

OR: What do you feel the graphic novel genre allows you to do that traditional novel-writing would not?

LK: The interplay between the visuals and the text are really important to how I tell stories– there is so much there that would be missing without one or the other. Humor and pathos and metaphor can be so well conveyed in the graphic narrative, and I love that I’m able to dance the line between the two.

OR: Your work fits beautifully into this nouveau genre of graphic memoir. How does it feel to write so honestly and openly about your life?

LK: I came of age in the time when every teenager had their own blog. The Internet seemed so much cozier, then. Just a bunch of kids on Livejournal, drawing pictures and complaining about school. So it was always pretty automatic, for me to write about my life and share it in this way. I’m very touched and honored when people remember things about me that they’ve read in my work. I have readers tell me “This must be so weird, that I know about your cat!” But all my comics are filtered and edited and shared with purpose– I love that you know about my cat! Let’s talk about my cat!

OR: When was your moment when you felt you had made it as an author?

LK: I think this is an ongoing experience. You can forget, day-to-day, that your work is read and seen by people. It’s easy to become used to the vacuum that’s created when you’re working on your own. Whenever I have a signing or go to a comic show, I’m reminded by the faces and kindness of readers who I meet, that my work is reaching out past my own bubble and touching other people. It’s lovely to get those reminders.

OR: You’ve been honest in your writing about shifting back and forth between New York and Chicago through most of your life. How do these two spaces compare to you?

LK: I’ll always have one foot in New York and one in Chicago, I think. I grew up in Manhattan in the eighties and nineties, and I think that sort of bohemian-art-food-grime-utopia-morphing-into-wealthy-tourist-hub experience of New York has given me some good and terrible views of New York. I love its history and its tradition and arts/culture, but I hate its expense and hype and crowds.

Chicago has a lot going on, but it’s spread out over a lot more space. There’s a tradition of blue-collar hard work here in Chicago, which is different from the feeling of “luck and who you know” success of New York, which makes being an artist here a different story. Here, you can afford to have a house and raise a family as a hard working artist, whereas in New York you have to either come from money or fall into some serious good fortune to afford to live well as an artist.

Sometimes I get sad that I’m so far away from cool stuff happening in New York, but I also looooove that I’m able to have a baby AND go out to dinner from time to time, here in Chicago.

OR: What advice can you give to up and coming writers?

LK: Please take care of yourself. Up and coming anybodies tend to forget that their bodies and minds are their tools, and neglect both. Don’t compare yourself to others too much, or despair over blocks, or get angry that you’re not better/more successful/more adept/etc– it’ll hurt your brain to berate yourself so much. Don’t draw/write until your hands/back are torched– you’ll need them later. Better to slowly build up the strength and stamina you’ll need later on. It can be hard to be patient about these things, but I promise you that the muscle memory– to be kind to yourself, to consistently create work that you’re proud of, to have a steady output– will develop in time.

For more information about Lucy Knisley and her work, check out her website. You can also follow her work on both Twitter and Instagram.

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Handle Workshop Like a Champ


by: Melanie Jones

Oh yes, workshopping is an activity all writers in a MFA Creating Writing program are subjected to. It can be nerve wracking, upsetting, fulfilling, and satisfying, all within one class. At times a writer may find it difficult not to take feedback personally, and in some cases you, your professor, and your classmates may flat out disagree. What’s important is understanding every workshop (good or bad) is part of the writing journey.

Keep in mind that you are paying tuition to attend a university and receive a master’s degree. Part of receiving this degree is going through the workshopping process proctored by your professor and carried out by your peers. In other words, you’re paying to be told what worked and what didn’t. No writer is perfect, not even best-sellers, and no matter how many times you rewrite something you will receive critiques.

When your piece is being workshopped it is very important not to fall in love with your first draft. Admit to yourself that it is impossible to get it perfect the very first time and your workshop will help you see the holes in your first draft that you cannot see on your own. Not every criticism has to make it into your next draft. Take what you find useful and incorporate it into your rewrite. If multiple people have the same issue with a certain section or choice, even if you disagree with them, take a few days to consider what they’ve said and how you can address the issue while staying true to your vision.

If you’re part of the group workshopping a fellow classmate’s piece it’s important to remain constructive and respectful at all times. Offering feedback like, “I just didn’t like this.” isn’t helpful. If you didn’t like something about the piece think of what tools and devices the writer could use to improve it. Make your criticisms academic. Suggest things like, “If you wrote this part in scene it would help the reader understand your main character’s motives better.” Keep in mind how it feels to have your writing critiqued and operate with the same type of respect you’d like from a fellow classmate.

Workshopping is often when something clicks for you and your writing style, but if you’re not receptive to feedback you will miss it. It’s also during this time when you become closer with your classmates. You learn from each other. While one person may be great with grammar, another is spectacular at character auditing. Regardless of their strengths, there is always (and I mean always) something to learn from every piece you have workshopped as well as every piece you workshop.

Look, criticism is scary, but if you remember the purpose isn’t to be judgmental but to be helpful, you’ll always come out the other side better than you were. At the end of the workshop you’ll usually have a chance to ask questions, and this is your opportunity to clarify any notes or suggested edits you didn’t understand so you can fully appreciate the feedback.

Once it’s all over and you start to incorporate the edits you like, you’ll realize how useful the process is to help flesh out your piece. From there you can enter it into literary magazines, contests, and more. And if you win, don’t forget to thank your classroom of editors.

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Interview with Sandra Newman


Sandra Newman is the author of seven books, most recently a novel, The Country of Ice Cream Star, which was long-listed for the Folio Prize and the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction. Her other novels are The Only Good Thing Anyone Has Ever Done and Cake, and she is also the author of a memoir and three books of non-fiction, including How Not to Write a Novel (co-authored by Howard Mittelmark).

Nergal Malham (Oyez Review): Your post-apocalyptic novel, The Country of Ice Cream Star is written in a slang-style sort of speech. Many a writer has tried and failed to write, even just dialogue alone, in a slang or patois. How did you begin tackling this obstacle?

Sandra Newman: As with most fictional tasks, most of the answer is just in the years and years you spend working on the same problems until you figure them out. The particular language of Ice Cream Star also involved years of studying other languages and understanding something about how languages evolve over time. Not that I intended to write this book all along, just that since I happened to have studied languages before, it was possible to write this book, which otherwise would have been a non-starter.

So that’s a way of saying that, really, once I had the idea for the language, I just sat down and started to write it. All the building blocks were already in my head, and it was a lot of fun to put them together. After a very short period of time, the whole world of the book became very real to me, and the character of Ice Cream was very real to me, so writing the language, from my point of view, was just like trying to hear what was already there. Most of the work was in making sure the language would be comprehensible to other people.

NM: The most memorable part of How To Not Write A Novel for me was the “We’re Going To Need a Bigger Closet” excerpt. In grade school, we read A Separate Piece and all of the kids were absolutely convinced the main character was gay because he was checking out the ass of another boy. Our teacher tried to convince us that he only did that because the boy had an exceptionally flat ass. I still don’t believe him to this day. What part of the book comes back to you the most?

SN: At this point, with How Not to Write a Novel, what I mostly remember are the jokes Howard made me cut with some flimsy excuse, and then replaced with his own far inferior jokes, or the jokes he made which were better than my jokes. Like, I often think about his joke, “This is called deux ex machina, which is French for “Are you fucking kidding me?” That’s a really good joke, and it still upsets me that it was Howard who made it. And what was also great was that a timid editor at HarperCollins made a note on the joke, drawing an arrow to “deus ex machina” and saying “Pretty sure this is Latin.”

NM: A writer I follow on Twitter mentioned one day that their credit card information had been stolen because someone had used their autograph to make fraudulent purchases. It never occurred to me that this could be a problem for anyone with a relatively well-known signature. Has there been anything about the author life that has surprised you?

SN: The main thing that’s surprising about the author life (and almost everyone finds this) is that, when you’re young and looking forward to being an author, you fantasize about being interviewed, and in the fantasies somehow it’s great to have people interview you, and you’re really enjoying explaining your views on everything. In real life, being interviewed is just embarrassing and nerve-wracking, and then afterwards you think about all the stupid things you said and suffer the torments of the damned and wish you had gone to medical school. But then, if no one is interviewing you, you panic about the fate of your book, and worry obsessively about whether anyone will buy it, and suffer the torments of the damned about that. Generally, the author life is mostly about wishing you had gone to medical school.

NM: You mentioned in a previous interview that you turned down a potential large offer because you didn’t want to write The Country of Ice Cream Star in ‘regular’ English. How would you tell other writers to balance preserving their artistic vision and taking and applying the advice of oft-villainized editors?

SN: The truth is that editors are almost always right. But sometimes they’re hazardously wrong, so it’s a little terrifying. The agent who wanted me to change the language of Ice Cream Star was right about the commercial aspect, and I knew that at the time. I just had a vision of the book I was going to write, and it was worth it to me to sacrifice the money, because the book he wanted me to write might have sold more copies, but it wouldn’t have been a particularly good book. I don’t think it’s psychologically possible to deliberately set out to write a mediocre book, when you think you have a great book in your head.

But more generally, ignoring editors can be treacherous because often you just don’t want to hear what an editor is saying because it hurts your feelings, in addition to involving a lot more work. And sometimes you really do have a great idea that needs to be protected but it isn’t coming across. So in both these cases, you have to listen to the editor and figure it out through both your hurt feelings and your natural dread of all the work it will take to fix the problem.

And then occasionally the editor is just wrong on all counts. Even in these cases, you have to listen carefully (the editor is a reader, after all, so everything they tell you is information about a reader’s reaction) but it is a good feeling when you make the decision and go ahead and ignore them.

NM: What was the last thing you read that made you go “Oh, fuck this!”

SN: I had to review a recent much-hyped novel. Its author is genuinely talented, but he was just losing control all over the place, writing insane passages of purple prose, and then forgetting to write purple prose and writing sub-standard pulp fiction. The book contains the word “octoroonish”. Cockroaches are referred to as “six-legged forest creatures”. It’s 1000 pages long, and I think I must have thought “Oh, fuck this,” 1000 times.

NM: Thank you again for your time!

SN: Thank you!

Nergal Malham is a MFA Candidate in Creative Writing at Roosevelt University and serves as a reader/editor for issue 44 of Oyez Review. She earned her BS in Accounting from Northeastern Illinois University in 2014.

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