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Three Questions with 2015 Fiction Contest Judge, Melanie Rae Thon

Award-winning novelist and this year’s Fiction Contest judge, Melanie Rae Thon, recently sat down with Puerto del Sol to talk about the writing life and the art of fiction. Here’s what she had to share with us. PDS: What is the best advice you wish you’d been given when you first began your career as a writer?  MRT: Who among us ever learned anything by having wisdom bestowed upon us?  The enterprise of offering advice reminds me of our parents’ futile efforts to spare us the anguish and errors of adolescence—but I do try to remind my students  (and myself!)  that…

Review: Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

  CITIZEN: AN AMERICAN LYRIC by Claudia Rankine Graywolf Press, 2014 Reviewed by Diana Arterian Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric is the second of her books bearing the same subtitle. The first, Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric, came out in 2004, also from Graywolf. Don’t Let Me Be Lonely was undeniably revolutionary for several reasons beyond its displaying Rankine’s incredible capacity as a writer. In it, Rankine uses a hybrid form of images and prose poems to interrogate many subjects—predominantly violence against black bodies in the United States, prescription drugs, September 11th, and the media—in order…

Review: Elegant Punk by Darlin’ Neal

  ELEGANT PUNK by Darlin’ Neal Press 53, 2012 Reviewed by Emily Haymans There are as at least as many ways to be dazzled by Darlin’ Neal’s Elegant Punk as there are stories in this collection. On a craft level, the stories are stunning examples of the power of brevity and sensory details. On a human level, the stories cut straight to the reader’s heart. Neal fuses pristine language with harsh subjects to create scenic wastelands where her characters live and struggle and sometimes, against all odds, find beauty. In stories sometimes no longer than a paragraph, Elegant Punk takes…

Review: Our Prayers After the Fire by Katie Jean Shinkle

    OUR PRAYERS AFTER THE FIRE by Katie Jean Shinkle Blue Square Press, 2014 Reviewed by Kelsie Hahn Katie Jean Shinkle’s debut novel Our Prayers After the Fire is about the aftermath of disaster. The novel is comprised of flash chapters that have been widely published as small sections and individual pieces, including “A Labor ofLove” in Puerto del Sol 47.1. A selection of chapters was also awarded the University of Louisville Calvino Prize in 2011, which honors innovative writing. On their own, the chapters are dazzling and sharp. Together, they reverberate. Echo. Sing. They are pings of sonar…

Review: Soul Over Lightning by Ray Gonzalez

    SOUL OVER LIGHTNING by Ray Gonzalez University of Arizona Press, 2014 Reviewed by David Antonio Reyes The line separating Ciudad Juarez from El Paso has always been a legendary bridge for artists and common folk alike: Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Ray Gonzalez, hermana, hermano. The Westward Expansion knows a geography in grids, but nature knows the geography carried in the echoes of the Chihuahua Desert. Soul Over Lightning is an excavation for truths, a history of healing written with a reverence for the people and the land. In this new collection of poems, Ray Gonzalez voices a lyric…

Tips and Tasks for your MFA Program Application: December

Now is the time to apply! Obtain copies of all transcripts required from your school Make sure the people writing letters of recommendation have the address and deadline for your application. Write your letter of intent and have some trusted people look it over. Make sure you carefully follow directions. Do not wait until the last minute! Keep in mind that if you are sending your application to a PO box, you cannot go to FedEx and have them send it overnight. Once it is all in the mail, reward yourself! This is part of a series. If you are…

CALL FOR WORK

Black lives and voices matter. Full stop, no qualifiers. In a time when it is harder and harder to believe that minority lives are valued, it is imperative that our creative spaces open to accommodate the voices and writings of those that are disenfranchised and oppressed, those full of rage and fear and heartbreak. We at Puerto del Sol are proud of maintaining a literary space in which diverse voices are culled. Saying that black lives and voices matter is important, but it is not enough. In an industry where minority writers have often been underrepresented in publication, where white…

Books We Love: In Country by Bobbie Ann Mason

In this series of blog posts, Puerto editors will discuss older books that they love. Who: Bobbie Ann Mason, author of several short story collections and novels What: In Country When published: 1985 Where it takes place: Hopewell, a small town just outside of Murray, Kentucky Why I love it: The first novel written by Kentucky writer Bobbie Ann Mason is full of the stuff I love in good fiction: vivid details, contemplations on pop culture and the state of the world, and reflections on the workings of the human heart. I love the structure of this novel, which hooks…

Tips and Tasks for your MFA Program Application: September

  Since deadlines start in November, you’re going to pick up the pace a bit with your application process. Learn about your schools in depth. Keep in mind that some schools have more than one MFA program. Some schools have specialized MFA programs, such as UTEP’s Bilingual MFA or [the popular fiction]. Some schools encourage or even require studying other genres, offering classes in poetry, literary nonfiction, playwriting, or screen writing. Besides classes, what other opportunities does the school offer? Is there a reading series? A literary journal? Service opportunities? Make a list of the faculty. Usually this information is…

2014 Fiction & Poetry Contest Results

The results are (finally) in! Puerto del Sol is pleased to announce the following contest winners in our fiction and poetry contests. Thank you, again, to all who participated this year. We hope to read more of your entries in the future. Fiction: Judged by Lydia Millet 1st Place: Benjamin Obler, “The White Man’s Incredulity Furrows His Brow” 2nd Place: Ryan Burruss, “The River of Lost Sharks”   Poetry: Judged by Sarah Vap 1st Place: Gail Waldstein, “Embryopathology” Finalists: Erin Bertram, “from the Vanishing of Camille Claudel” Susan Roszak, “My Mother Folds Herself In” Alexa Doran, “After you said an…

Author Spotlight: Sequoia Nagamatsu

Groundbreaking short story writer Sequoia Nagamatsu, whose story “The Inn of the Dead’s Orientation for Being a Japanese Ghost” can be found in Issue 49.2 of Puerto del Sol, discusses his take on the writing process, fracturing myths, and what he’s learned about storytelling. You’ve probably heard my story, or some movie version of it––poisoned with face cream by a woman who wanted my betrothed, my man asking his friend to rape me, so he could toss me away with shame, my hands, upon seeing my sagging face like melted clay, grabbing a sword and puncturing my throat, cursing those…

Tips and Tasks for your MFA Program Application: May

This post is part of an ongoing series to help you through the MFA application process. You might also want to read March and April’s posts. May’s tasks: Make a list of what’s important to you in a school. Keep in mind that many schools offer funding, but not to everybody. Funding usually comes with graduate assistantship responsibilities such as teaching. If you are already working full time and don’t want to move, you might consider a low residency program. Research schools to find ones with the qualities you want. Narrow your original list to 10 schools. It’s fine to read…