Monthly Archives: September 2013

What Works for You…

doesn’t work for the person next to you, and that’s the problem with writing. There are no set of rules, no guidelines to follow. Instead it’s just you and whatever you choose to write with at the moment. It could be the laptop to your right, the pen to your left, or the brain in your head. Everyone writes differently because no two people have the same style or ritual when it comes to writing.

      I always write with my eyes closed. It’s weird, but it’s how I’ve always done it. I don’t care about mistakes, there’s spell-check for a reason—all I care about is the picture I’m trying to convey through language. I’ve always thought of a scene as a black and white picture. My objective is to add the color—that’s why I write with my eyes closed. You can’t see a picture if you’re staring at words.

      Stephen King, however, doesn’t have a particular writing style; he just writes. In an interview with The Paris Review, he stated, “believe it or not, I was about six or seven, just copying panels out of comic books and then making up my own stories.” For him, it started with pictures, too, but in a different way, with comic books. I’ve always loved Stephen King, not because of his writing (which is good), but because of his persistence. Forty-three novels, eight short story collection, eleven screenplays, two books on the craft of writing and three hundred million books sold. If that’s not something to marvel at then I don’t know what is. Most of us will never reach his status, his portfolio, or even his persistence, but if we keep writing, maybe we can get close. If you want to read more about the interview with King, please visit this link.

      Another author, Seth Godin, is a little unknown, but he has a writing process all his own, which he describes on his blog. He starts by reading books in the genre in which he’s writing the novel and then goes from there. His process looks like this: “Eight hours a day for a year. I read hundreds of books, filled notebooks with ideas and wrote more than 600 pages, less than half of which I ended up using.” We’re all familiar with writing in excess, but it’s finding the process that works that will help us in the end.

      It doesn’t matter if you’re Stephen King or Seth Godin, no writers write the same. We find processes the work for us. Whether it’s comic books or reading books, we do what works best. If it doesn’t work, we start over and find a new way because writers are persistent. We may doubt ourselves often. We may ask ourselves if we’re really any good, but we will never give up because writing is what we love.


Keep writing,



The Only Thing to Fear Is…



I’m not talking arm bar, leg bar, triangle chokehold, or any other UFC submission tactic. Instead, I’m talking about the one thing all writers fear the most: submitting our work. When it comes to submitting work, there are more magazines available every day, and knowing which one to submit your work to makes all the difference.

There are themed magazines, genre magazines, and even magazines focused purely on prompts. The key is finding a magazine that fits your style of writing. There are two very successful websites that do just this so you don’t have to Google individual magazine types. Review Review and Poets & Writers manage to have searchable database of magazines that might fit your writing style. AWP is another wonderful free alternative much like Poets &Writers and Review Review. To save space and your time, I’m only going to cover two of the free databases. However, there is another paid website, Doutrope, that does the same, but requires an account to access the database. Doutrope is reasonably priced and includes Bluestem as one of it’s indexed journals, so if you have the money and the time, Doutrope is great site.

Review Review is an easy site to navigate.

 In the upper menus, there is a tab for tips, this tap highlights a magazine genre.

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I’m sure they change it weekly, so before searching the database check the tips tab first.

For more Publishing tips, there is a drop down menu, to the right that allows you to pick a category.

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To proceed from the tips page there is a search box in the upper right hand corner below the menu tabs. In this search box type any keywords you want to look up:

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I used the keyword: Non-fiction. This is what your search results will look like:

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Feel free to search a number of keywords to accommodate any number of your writing styles. After the search is complete, look through the results and find the magazine that fits your style.

Poets & Writers is also a great resource for writers. Here’s how to navigate:

In the upper right corner, there is a search bar much like Review Review.

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Type keywords and get results. Once again, I used “Non-fiction:”

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After you receive your results, feel free to scroll through them and if none of them seem to be of any help, click the tab entitled, “Tools for Writers:”

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This is the page in which you’ll find and the tool bar that you’ll need to use is highlighted:

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The only thing left to do is explore the tabs highlighted. My favorite is the “Writing Prompts” tab.

I’ve given you the tools to search two very helpful websites when getting prepared to submit your work. I, however, cannot prepare you for the right hooks of rejection or the left jabs of revision, but I can give you one piece of advice: don’t quit.


As Always,

Keep Writing.



Prompt Up

      Writing prompts are a staple of creative writing courses.. As an aspiring writer myself, I use prompts to fuel my creativity, but most of the time, I use prompts to have a little fun between essays and structured writing for my professors. Writing prompts are a good way to release any pent up anger or depression.

      From the book, 642: Things to Write About, I’ve decided to write a flash fiction piece and give you an idea of how prompts work.


            Step One: Pick a prompt

            Step Two: Set a time

            Step Three: Write




            Step One: The prompt: “Write a scene that begins: ‘I killed a man once.’”

            Step Two: The time: 10 minutes

            Step Three:

      “I killed a man once,” she says as she stretches out on the couch. “At first it was a game,” she says as she looks across the room, “but then it turned into something else. You know?” She asks, but no one replies.

      It’s a small room she occupies with a bay window over looking the lake on a winter’s day. She turns to her side as she watches out the window and takes a deep breath, “I loved him,” she sighs. “He was a good man. Wouldn’t you say?” She asks, but no one replies.

      “We could’ve had it all.” She says smiling towards no one. “The house, the family, the love,” she pauses, “but he ruined it with his stupid freaking self. You know what I mean?” She asks, but no one replies. “You know exactly what I mean.” She stretches out an arm and adds, “he never listened the way you do.” She smiles as she sits up on the couch and stares down at the wooden coffee table in front of her. “If he’d chosen to do as I say, we wouldn’t be in this situation. Would we?” She asks, but no one answers.

      She gets up from the couch and heads into the kitchen, where she finds a ceramic bowl. She takes it from the cabinet and looks around for the bag of food that he was suppose to pick up from the story. She searches the kitchen and finds nothing. “Big shocker,” she mumbles as she fishes through the fridge from last night’s leftovers.

      The plastic container holds the remaining meatloaf from the night before as she opens it and empties it into the bowl. She places it in the microwave and watches it go round and round as she glances at the floor.

      “He should’ve listened.” She adds as she places the bowl on the floor. “Come.” She calls as she moves towards the table where her husband sits from the night before.

      He doesn’t move. He doesn’t say a word. He’s just there, in the chair, slumped over like a sack of potatoes. “You couldn’t listen,” she says as she lays his head on the table and moves towards the cabinet where she left the bottle.

      She stops short of the cabinet bends down to pet her dog. “It’s not that hard to listen, is it?” She asks, but there’s no reply.




      Literary blogs are full of writing prompts and stories that involve those prompts, but it’s not easy to write a flash fiction story in 10 minutes and it’s not easy to make it sound good either. I’m not saying my story is good. If anything, it lacks more than I’d like to admit, but in order to be a good writer; you need to know how to fail. If you want to feel a little failure, try coming up with a story in five minutes or less. The great thing about writing prompts is that you’re never wrong with what you come up with and no one ever has to read them unless you want them to, of course.

      If you want to try using writing prompts to make your creativity flow, or you just need ideas for a class project, here are a couple websites I find helpful. The first is a literary magazine that deals with submissions based on writing prompts called Prompt Lit Mag, and if that isn’t your interest, Litbridge, is another site that deals with writing prompts and can help you come up with prompts that might get you published in Prompt Lit Mag.

      Or if websites aren’t your thing, Amazon will probably always have a copy of 642: Things to Write About, which is where I get most of my ideas.  No matter what you choose, prompt writing isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.


Keep writing,


Upcoming Events at Eastern Illinois University


Allen Neff Memorial Poetry Reading featuring D. Nurkse
Thursday: September 19, 2013
Doudna Fine Arts Center
6:00 p.m.

A Thousand Ways to Die in Print

Okay, not a thousand, more along the lines of three really good ways to die in print. The world has gone digital and there is nothing we can do to stop it, but embrace it. Print isn’t dead, but it’s not “healthy” either. As the print world seems to have hit its peak, the digital market is bigger than ever. We can blame ourselves for wanting the next big technological device or we can blame the companies that push them on us like the drug kingpins of the digital world that they are, either way, we have to accept that the digital world isn’t going anywhere. So, what makes digital publishing better than print? Is it cheaper? Is it all about looking cool in front of your friends? Or are we as consumers to blame for the decline in print publishing?

1. Cost

    • Cheaper. Yes. Why? Because there is no need for the middleman or as we know them, print companies. When printing is out of the way, the cost of making a book goes down, and if the cost of making a product goes down then the price does the same; simple economics. And when big-named internet companies, Amazon, selling both side-by-side offer an e-book version for $3 or less, it’s a no-brainer what readers are going to pick. E-books may have made up only 18% of U.S. books sales in 2012, but the numbers are surely going to double by this time next year.

2. Trends

    • Cool. Maybe. From iPads to laptops, the world is digital. Last November a reported 83%-88% of the world’s newspapers and books were offered in some version of digital format. When everyone in the world has a bookshelf in his or her hands, there is no real reason to visit a bookstore, and that’s the sad reality of the state we’re currently occupying. And when your best friends have the latest iPhone, it only makes sense to buy one as well because no one likes to be the odd one out in a world of digitally-captivated citizens.

3. Consumers

    • What? Us. Yes. We affect the print world and we are subsequently killing it. Why? Because even though only 40% of the U.S. read digitally last year, all of them shared those books electronically with friends and family doubling or even tripling the readership. Is it fair? Probably not, but that is the who we are in today’s society. It is believed that sharing books electronically is illegal, but if you pay for the book and lend it to someone else, is that still illegal? According to a survey, 42% of people who publish books electronically believe it is acceptable to share or copy the content without permission. (By the way, that’s stealing.)


What do I think? It’s simple. I believe in publishing any way you can, but print will always be my favorite because there is nothing like holding a cold hardcover novel in my hands. Digital may be cheaper, it may be the recent trend, and my best friend may read six books on her kindle app a week, but when it comes to publishing; I think I want to leave it in the hands of the very capable print companies. Plus, I would hate to see Benjamin Franklin’s hard work at the printing press in the 1800’s go to waste because digital is so much ‘cooler.’


Keep reading,


A Blog About Blogs

        As the new editorial assistant, I want to welcome readers back to the Bluestem blog. Bluestem is a journal that publishes poetry, fiction, and nonfiction both in print and online. As the blog continues, my goal is to help you better understand me as well as the world of literary journals both online and in print.
        The internet is full of literary journals and blogs hosted by literary journals. I don’t want this to be just another literary journal blog, but I do want to give you a heads up on some of the good literary blogs on the net. Blogs are a big part of the internet and if it’s not blogs, it’s vlogs. From Youtube to Tumblr to Pinterest, they all represent blogging in different ways and forms. Before I get into literary journal blogs, I want to introduce you to three blogs that I love on the internet.
        Writers publish blogs about everything from food to the best comeback jokes. Blogs are a part of the internet that are here to stay and these are just a handful I love.
        Food. We all love food and as a foodie, there isn’t a show I haven’t seen on The Food Channel. Spoon Fork Bacon is one of my favorite food blogs. It covers anything from twice-baked sweet potatoes to pizza wheels. I personally love the five cheese baked mac and cheese. But if mac and cheese isn’t your thing and meat is out of the question, they have vegetarian recipes that are probably just as good.
        When I’m not trying ridiculous recipes or watching the latest competition on The Food Channel, I’m reading the news or watching it. My favorite newspaper will always be USA Today, but when it’s not handy I visit Anderson Cooper’s blog on CNN. The blog covers the stories from Cooper’s show, Anderson360. It covers anything from the Syria debacle to bloopers from his show. Plus, who can resist the silver fox.
        I can’t resist poetry. I love reading it and Pleached Poetry is one of my favorite poetic blogs. The poems focus around nature, which reminds me of growing up on a farm. My farming past may be the reason I secretly love the poetry of Robert Frost. Nature is a great influence on many writers. If you love nature and poetry, Pleached Poetry is the blog for you.
        Even though, Pleached Poetry, is not a literary journal or a blog about literary journals, doesn’t mean there aren’t good literary journals/blogs out there. Literary journals publish blogs for writers and readers. There are blogs for all sorts of creative minds across the world.
        Brevity is an online literary journal that focuses on brief nonfiction. One of my favorite posts is the one that covers faux celebrity memoirs especially the upcoming release of Ron Burgundy’s memoir, Let Me Off at the Top! My Classy Life and Other Musings, due out in November. Ron Burgundy is a character played by Will Farrell in Anchorman, a comedy about local television newscasters and their rival networks. Brevity’s blog covers anything from faux celebrity memoirs to short essays by everyday people. If you like funny, sad, or creative ways to embody the non-fiction world, Brevity has the literary blog for you. I prefer funny and creative styles, but you may prefer serious and classic styles and the internet can provide both.
        The Poetry Foundation, however, is a literary journal that focuses on exactly what you think, poetry. The Poetry Foundation is a literary journal that works hard to keep poetry present in the modern world. The Poetry Foundation tries to keep poetry relevant in their blog by including anything from upcoming competitions to an article on Walter White (played by Bryan Cranston) from Breaking Bad (one of my favorite television shows) and his connection to Leaves of Grass. The best part of The Poetry Foundation is that everyday has a poem of the day and how fitting that today’s poem is, “The Way,” by Rea Armantrout. If you feel the desire to support poets and their poetry, please visit The Poetry Foundation because all literary blogs need support.
        Ploughshares is a literary journal that has a blog that covers flash fiction prompts and humorous blog posts about writing. Humor is my thing, if it makes me laugh then it’s definitely worth reading. My favorite post is “The Revenge Society,” by Amber Kelly-Anderson that discusses a writing prompt for a flash fiction piece all about wanting to punch someone in the face. We all get angry sometimes, and wanting to punch someone in the face is a valid reaction, but since we see enough violence in the world on a daily basis, Anderson gives us a unique humorous way to vent our anger. If you like fun, interesting, or unique writing prompts or literary ideas, Ploughshares’ blog is definitely a win.
        Blogs are here to stay and if you can’t find one you love, then keep looking because it’s out there somewhere. I hope you find a little happiness in the blogs that I’ve mentioned.

Until next time,
Keep Reading.