Valeria Luiselli reading on Wednesday, October 15.

Valeria Luiselli is reading at the Gage Gallery on October 15 at 5:00 pm in collaboration with MAKE Literary Productions’ Lit & Luz Festival. We’re excited to welcome Ms. Luiselli, so here are a few facts to get to know her a bit better before Wednesday’s reading…

Five Facts for your Friday about Valeria Luiselli:

  1. Luiselli was just named one of the “5 under 35” by the National Book Foundation.
  2. She wrote a ballet libretto for the British choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, which was performed by the New York City Ballet in Lincoln Center in 2010.
  3. She was born in Mexico City and grew up in South Africa, after traveling to India and Western Europe during her life, she now lives in New York City, teaching creative writing at Columbia University and pursuing a PhD in comparative literature. She first learned to speak in Spanish, but she learned to read and write in English.
  4. Faces in the Crowd was started in English and then predominantly written in Spanish, and finally translated back to English. “When I’m working on a book I always write, almost simultaneously, in two languages, and I always read in three or four different languages, until I reach a point where I have to just commit to one language,” Luiselli said.
  5. She writes both fiction and non-fiction, and published two books at one time this year, Faces in the Crowd, a novel, and Sidewalks, a collection of essays.

Bonus Fact: While she was “pregnant and drunk on prenatal hormones,” as she describes it, she planted a tree in Mexico City next to a historic building, a tree that will grow to be huge. The two can’t coexist, so she’s convinced that if the tree keeps growing, and she is found out, she’ll be “imprisoned for harming the Mexican architectural patrimony.”

Be sure to stop by the Gage Gallery this Wednesday, October 15 at 5 pm for the reading, refreshments being served at 4:30 pm.

Facts complied from interviews found on:

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Five Facts about Salvador Plascencia

Salvador Plascencia is reading at the Gage Gallery on Monday, September 29 at 5:00 pm, and we’re very excited, so we’ve compiled a quick fact sheet to help you get to know Mr. Plascencia a little bit better:

Five Facts for your Friday about Salvador Plascencia

1. Guadalajara, Mexico was his hometown but he now lives in Los Angeles, California. He has said that as long as he is writing he will be in Los Angeles.

2. George Saunders was his mentor.
George Saunders was his teacher and mentor at Syracuse University where he received his MFA. Plascencia credits much of his unique character development to Saunders.
“He’s my teacher. I can’t say anything better than him. It’s the sophistication of not having a type of character but a really well-rounded, tough, shy, aggressive — everything that’s possible in a single character in a multi-dimensionality. That was the big George lesson. You don’t need to put up these characters that are archetypes. You need to break them down.”

3. Some readers thought he had included a code in his table of contents. He didn’t.
In People of Paper, the table of contents has various numbers of dots next to the chapter numbers. After publication many speculated that in true meta-fiction experimental fashion, it was a code. It was not. The dots signify the number of narrators in the chapter.

4. McSweeney’s published People of Paper in 2005 after rejections from most of the other major publishing houses.
Plascencia said that all the other major publishing houses rejected his book because they were afraid it wouldn’t sell. “What’s strange is that the companies that have the resources to take the risks don’t take them. Those who take them are some little independent like McSweeney’s. They take something on when they have very few resources.”

5. El Monte, one of the settings in People of Paper, was supposed to read like a love story to his hometown.
“Growing up, I loved my neighborhood, I loved my friends, I loved the community, and in a way I wanted to pay tribute to that, to El Monte. In a way it was always seen. It was on Cops a lot, it was a James Ellroy crime novel, but that wasn’t my El Monte.”

Bonus Fact: Check out the acknowledgements page at the end of People of Paper for a special thank you to someone important to the Roosevelt MFA Department.

Be sure to stop by Monday, September 29 at the Gage Gallery, 18 Michigan Avenue, refreshments being served at 4:30 pm, reading will begin at 5:00 pm.

These quotes came from a Bookslut Interview June 2006 by Angela Stubbs

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Don’t forget, you still have 6 days to submit your work for Oyez Review 42! Hurry!


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Roosevelt’s Reading Series for Fall is announced!

The seasons are changing, and one of our favorite things about Fall is the kick-off of the Roosevelt Reading Series! Each year the MFA program brings in writers that we feel are making a difference in the literary world. The series showcases authors reading their work in a relaxed environment for the public to meet some literary notables. The reading series has delivered, once again, a great lineup:

Salvador Plascencia, novelist, September 29
Salvador Plascencia was born in Guadalajara, Mexico. He graduated with his MFA in fiction from Syracuse University. The recipient of a National Foundation for Advancement of the Arts Award in Fiction in 1996 and the Peter Neagoe Prize for Fiction in 2000. In 2001 he was awarded the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans, its first fellow in fiction. His first published fiction appeared McSweeney’s Issue 12. McSweeney’s also published his first novel, People of Paper, in 2005. He now resides in Los Angeles, California.

Valeria Luiselli, novelist and essayist, October 15
Valeria Luiselli was born in Mexico City and grew up in South Africa. Her novels and essays have been translated into many languages and her work has appeared in publications including the New York Times, Granta, and McSweeney’s. Some of her recent projects include a ballet libretto for the choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, performed by the New York City Ballet in Lincoln Center in 2010; a pedestrian sound installation for the Serpentine Gallery in London; and a novella in installments for workers in a juice factory in Mexico. She lives in New York City.This event is presented in conjunction with MAKE Literary Productions’s Lit & Luz Festival.

Lori Rader-Day, novelist, November 4
Lori Rader-Day is a graduate of the Roosevelt University MFA program and is the author of the mystery The Black Hour (Seventh Street Books, 2014). She was born and raised in central Indiana, and now lives in Chicago. Her fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Time Out Chicago, The Madison Review, and others.

Tim Kinsella, novelist and featherproof books editor, November 18
Tim Kinsella has an MFA in writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His first novel, The Karaoke Singer’s Guide to Self-Defense was published in 2011. He also is the CEO of featherproof books, which is an independent book publisher housed at Roosevelt University.

MFA Fall Graduates, December 1
Roosevelt University’s Fall MFA graduates will read from their works in celebration of their commencement.

The readings are held at The Gage Gallery at 18 S. Michigan Ave. and are free and open to the public. Readings are from 5:00-6:00 p.m., and refreshments begin at 4:30 p.m.

This semester we’re also excited that Roosevelt’s St. Clair Drake Center is hosting the essayist Ta-Nahisi Coates, October 9. Ta-Nehisi Coates is the senior editor and writer for the Atlantic and journalist-in-residence, School of Journalism, City University of New York, will discuss “The Case for Reparations.” Coates has been called “the young James Joyce of the hip hop generation.” The free event will begin at 5 p.m. in the Auditorium Library.

Stay tuned for more updates on the writers before their readings, and for other great opportunities we find around campus and around town.

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Submissions Now Open!

Readers and Writers:

Submissions are now open for Vol. 42 of Oyez Review, which will be published early in 2015. We’re seeking original, unpublished work: Literary fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and artwork.

Our Submittable page is here. Our complete submission guidelines can be found here.

Happy writing, y’all. Let’s do this.

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The Beauty of the Byline

Our humble little blog rolls along…

Today, Oyez Review reader/editor Phyllis Lodge offers notes about bylines and publishing.

You recently completed a piece of creative nonfiction, poetry, fiction, or artwork that you’d love to showcase. You do some online research and browse through various literary marketplaces.

One way your creative spark is fanned into a flame is through readers. You’ve been published, or you want to be published. Identifying quality reviews and journals, places that are proper fits for your work, is the ticket. For the writers who travel through the self-publishing route, you’re paying for readership. That’s fine in some cases. Yet you may soon discover this option is painstaking and frustrating. Yes, you can pay organizations to print and bind your work. Or, you can keep honing your craft and find the right editor and publisher to give you a home. There are editors and publishers seeking you, the artist, as eagerly as you’re seeking them. If what you have produced is unique, well-written, and captivating, a journal will want to showcase you. This is a point of pride for the editors of Oyez Review.

Oyez Review is gearing up for its newest submission period (starting August 1st). Seek out our guidelines. Whichever journal or periodical you consider demands that you adhere and read their guidelines. By not doing this, you’re all but assuring that your work won’t be accepted. We love submissions, but we’re no exception to this rule.

You want to have your work out there in the world. You want the beauty of the byline. Keep reading, keep editing, keep crafting, and perhaps Oyez Review can be your future home.

Phyllis Lodge is an MFA Candidate at Roosevelt University, and served as an editor/reader for Oyez Review 41.

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Terrible Cover Letters: A List of Do’s and Don’ts

You may glance at this title and think “C’mon, really? With writing, editing, reading, submitting, and so on, what’s the big deal about a cover letter?” Brendan Delaney is back to provide some sound advice. Cover letters matter. Seriously, take heed. 

 1.) Don’t make your bio a lyrical essay. If you’ve never been published before, just tell us. 

2.) Do address a specific editor if you haven’t met him/her in person and have been encouraged to submit. 

3.) Don’t include bumper sticker slogans like “Art isn’t competition.” We’ve seen them all. Everyone’s seen them all. 

4.) Do provide ALL relevant contact information. This includes your full name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address. We would like to reach you as soon as we accept your piece. Having this information up front makes it easier for everyone. You want to be notified ASAP, right? 

5.) Don’t use first-person in your bio. 

6.) Do use first-person in your cover letter, though. “Brendan is very excited to submit to your magazine” just sounds weird. 

7.) Don’t skip the cover letter. C’mon now. 

8.) Don’t use double negatives in your cover letter. If we’re judging your grammar in your letter, we won’t have high hopes for your actual submission.

9.) Don’t list every single publication you’ve had. Do tell us the main journals you’ve been featured in, though, or the ones you’re most proud of, or your most recent ones. 

10.) Don’t write your cover letter by hand on personalized stationary if you’re submitting via snail mail. We appreciate lovely handwriting and cat-themed letterheads, but be professional. Type. 

11.) Don’t describe your work as “anything-esque.” We all have our inspirations. But we want to read your work for what it is, and we won’t be swayed if it’s “Bukowski-esque” or “Alice Munroe-esque.” Let us be the judge. 

12.) In fact, don’t describe your work at all. We’re writers. We’re readers. Trust us to figure out what your work is doing.

13.) Don’t include blurbs about your work from other writers. Even if it’s Stephen King. 

14.) Do submit your work early and often, and if you are rejected, remember that tastes differ. A different set of eyes at a different publication may see your work in ways we don’t. Everyone is human, and tastes aren’t uniform throughout the literary world. 

Brendan Delaney is an MFA Candidate in Creative Writing at Roosevelt University. He served as a reader/editor for Issue 41 of Oyez Review, and will serve as the student editor/intern this fall for Issue 42. 

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The New Angst

Today, Oyez Review 41 reader/forthcoming fall intern Brendan Delaney explores common tropes in submissions and how to make one’s polished work stand out. Brendan will have another post here next week; stay tuned.

A staggering number of submissions use technology as a casual theme for a loss of humanity. “Technology is killing us” is a new trope. Of course, there are valuable things to be said about disillusionment and depression related to an ultra-connected digital culture, but creative works that have substance and subtlety on this topic are harder to find. We pride ourselves as editors to look dispassionately and wholeheartedly at an individual poem or story, yet we read hundreds of pieces in a very short time, and it’s impossible not to be affected by the sheer volume of what we read.

So when the first twenty poems I review are all about how no one goes to the library anymore and kids would rather fiddle with video games than play outside, my reaction becomes “so what?” I become hostile to the work I’m reading. We all know it’s important to set yourself apart in language and structure in whatever creative piece you’re submitting. It’s even more important to have something unique to say. Think about your topics. No, really think about it. Too often, creative works feature surface-level meditations on given subjects.

We crave submissions with fresh perspectives. Write a poem about a couple at a romantic dinner, their faces buried in their phones, not talking to each other or making any eye contact. Instead of leaving it at this voyeuristic perspective, take the reader closer. Show the couple texting each other from across the table, a private language that connects rather than alienates. It is this last part, where technology and humanity are complicated by their relationship, and harsh conclusions are not drawn. Don’t be afraid to be funny, wacky, or happy in your submissions. I would jump out of my chair if I read a polished work about the positive effects of technology and our connected culture.

Literary journals like Oyez Review need and want to stand out. There are many ways in which we strive to do this, but the biggest factor is unique content. Most submissions seem to be about depression and angst. If you want to stand out, dare your work to smile.

Brendan Delaney is an MFA Candidate in Creative Writing at Roosevelt University. He served as a reader/editor for Issue 41 of Oyez Review, and will serve as the student editor/intern this fall for Issue 42. He hails from Baltimore, loves basketball, and appreciates a rousing discourse about Jimmy Butler’s defense.


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Finding Your Audience as a Minority Writer

In today’s post, Oyez Review 41 reader/editor N’Kyenge Ayanna Brown examines the issues and realities of being a minority artist. When submissions for Oyez Review 42 open this August, we want submissions from everyone! We want to see creative writing from female, black, and LGBT artists. 

I am a woman! I am a writer! I am a minority! I am a woman minority writer looking for the right audience. As a minority writer, I have found that I am often unable to access the majority. Within academia, this can be extremely challenging, but not impossible.

So what does one do when he/she is “the only” in a workshop course? What if you have to submit a story to ten or more individuals who may not have any understanding of your background or story concepts?

My advice is to first stay true to yourself as a writer because your creativity is stimulated from within. Also, when working on a given piece, consider the workshop as a source of feedback to assist in the final editing stages. I have been in the position of “the other” the majority of the time as an MFA candidate, and this is what I’ve learned.

Your Audience is Out There: Command Their Attention!

While differences in age, gender, and ethnicity may be present, the focal point must always be on the intended audience, not necessarily the immediate audience. Study your genre, familiarize yourself with the best writers who work within the same mentalities. You should reach out to professors and ask them to share their vast knowledge of authors, but if this isn’t an option or their information is limited, you can always use a variety of resources: libraries, bookstores, mentors, the internet. The list goes on.

This is How I Found My Audience

I made a list. Lists work well for me. I listed the genres I focus on: poetry, short stories, and novels. Then, I created a file and notebook for each to keep track of authors I was already familiar with, as well as potential authors suggested to me by friends, classmates, and professors. Once I had this list, I was able to move forward. I also considered the subjects, language, and characters of the works I created to help me categorize each piece into sub categories. I was able to decipher which work fit specific audiences. While much of my research stemmed from outside sources, I still find assurance in knowing that I first used my immediate resources in the MFA program, information I was able to gain via networking, research, attending creative events, and talking with friends and family.

Finally, the easiest way to find an audience is to identify who you are as a writer and look for others who share your outlook and values. Get out there, attend readings, participate, share your work. The literary circles have so much to offer. This is a sure way to get closer to an established audience.

I am an Afro-Caribbean female writer. I have found my audience, but I’m always looking for new outlets.

N’Kyenge Ayanna served as a reader and editor for Oyez Review 41. She lives in Chicago, blogs, and is a culinary rock star.

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Journey to Genre (Part Two)

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be featuring blog posts by current and former Oyez Review student editors. Today’s post is the second of a two-part entry by Ryan Michael Johnson. As we transition from celebrating Issue 41 to opening submissions for Issue 42 in August, more attention will be paid to creative nonfiction. In this post, Johnson closes with some technical thoughts about the creative nonfiction genre. 

Journey to Genre

Part Two: So What’s the Point?

The last sentiment from the first half of this post was that I have pieces that will be ready for publication. Therein lies the point, kiddos. Creative nonfiction is a relatively young genre and it is still searching for a bigger niche. Guess what that means? There isn’t enough out there, yet. So send out work!

As a creative nonfiction editor for Oyez Review, I helped sift through submissions, searching for gold within the sand so that our journal represented the best of each genre. Overall, our submissions for Volume 41 were 45% fiction, 40% poetry, and less than 5% creative nonfiction. Some submissions were great, some were good, and some weren’t ready, but the overall number is something we’d like to see increased this fall.

As editors, we were assigned to review and analyze other literary magazines, ones that we wanted to submit to in the future. With my new interest in the genre, I focused my search on journals that were standouts in creative nonfiction. As I perused the shelves of my local bookstore, I found that there was seldom an issue with a dominance of creative nonfiction. Why? While the genre is relatively new, a good deal of writers have published some stellar essay and nonfiction collections. So why don’t writers submit these pieces more often?

With regards to Oyez Review, we are always look for promising creative nonfiction. Our previous publications in the genre were captivating, honest stories, with ideas and subject matters that were unique yet very universal. One writer explored the development of her sexual identity; another wrote about a tragic childhood of abuse and neglect, but in a fashion that created universality.

Everyone has experienced something in his or her life that is worth of being told. The job of the writer is to take that experience and think about how to write it in a captivating, inventive way. When this task has been accomplished, it needs to be shared.

Ryan Michael Johnson is an MFA Candidate in Creative Writing at Roosevelt University. He served as a reader and editor for Issue 41 of Oyez Review, and his writing has been published in Chicago Quarterly Review.

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