Literary Journal Review: Greatest Uncommon Denominator (GUD) Magazine Issue 5

April 14, 2010

Greatest Uncommon Denominator (GUD) Magazine: Issue 5, Winter 2009

Editors: Kaolin Fire, Debbie Moorhouse, Julia Bernd, J. Dale Humphries, Sal Coraccio, Sue Miller, & Michael Ellsworth

The advance copy of GUD Issue 5 for today’s review was provided by the editors at GUD Magazine.

Read GUD 5 Contributor Bios here.

Follow @GUDmagazine on Twitter

Most literary journals that I enjoy possess just a few jewels which I treasure – the stories and poems that draw me back to the shelf to reread over the years. What makes GUD Magazine different is that I can’t pick “just a few” favorite jewels to share with you today – the contents are really that good.*

Whenever I pickup a lit journal, I always flip to a poem first. Usually I scan the index by title, or pick through the pages until the shape of a stanza attracts my eye. My introduction to GUD was the poem “Suggestions for Distributing Your Poems” by Tammy Ho Lai-Ming. For me, her piece sets the tone for the entire issue: playful, thoughtful, passionate… reaching. In this poem, and in all the works selected for GUD Issue 5, I find authors seeking connection and affirmation, casting their bottled messages out upon the purple sea.

Why a purple sea? Well why not? GUD Magazine offers a delicious buffet of speculative fiction, and so much more. Where else could you pick à la carte between a “Deadman on the Titanic” (Alicia Adams) or “a self-made billionaire, a man who had spent his childhood in poverty, the son of a Martian pig farmer” (Andrew N. Tisbert) served side by side with the birth of the PC and “the mother of all demos” (Paul Spinrad) ? I don’t use the metaphor of limitless preferential dining lightly – there’s something to please every reader in GUD Issue 5, and there’s nothing that doesn’t warrant a second and third read.

Ready to visit another place? Another time? Start with Nature’s Children by T. F. Davenport, Aftermath by Isabel Cooper Kunkle, or Getting Yourself On by Andrew N. Tisbert. I admire writers like these who can strike that harmonious balance between confusion and clarity – I enjoy the puzzle of trying to figure out what’s going on, but I get frustrated if I can’t get some kind of foothold so that I can follow the story. These authors make you work – but not too hard – to imagine and create along with them. They succeed by inviting you to pour your own humanity into their seemingly-alien characters, and take a look around.

Of the many surprises I found in Issue 5, Sweet Melodrama by Tristan D’Agosta was one of the finest. I don’t know how the editors secured this piece, but I just want to say thank you all around. Lovers of all things Shakespearean will swoon over this tasty dessert. And for the logophiles, “The Grammar of Desire” by Paul J. Kocak offers choice, lusty locution.

Another great feature of GUD 5 is the selection of works which remove you only a tiny step from “normal reality.” These works are a little more insidious – they’re more apt to get under your skin and haunt you for a few days. The Tiger Man by Geordie Williams Flantz is light and tender, yet biting and saucy – a perfect example of seemingly “alien” characters who are rather quite close to home. Mirror close. I also appreciate how pieces like Lost Lying on Your Back by Steven J. Dines or Birthday Licks by Kevin Brown offer a counterbalance of redemption, or at least a broken beauty, to temper the sharp brutality of their contents.

I have to point out The Pearl Diver With the Gold Chain by Paul Hogan for a couple of reasons. Maybe it’s just because I lived in Chester County, Pennsylvania for three years, or maybe it’s because I have a soft spot in my heart for the wanderers of the world (the old wheels as much as the old feet), but whatever it might be, I have this message for Mr. Hogan: Sir, it’s all I could do not to run to my jewelry box and try to tune in too. (Maybe I’m failing my inner child by not having done so already? Note to self… find a nice quiet spot… remember to relax…)

I’d be remiss if I didn’t offer some words for the visual pleasures in GUD 5. If you’re the type who likes to start with the pictures in a mag, then flip to page 84 and whet your appetite with a helping of Ada Lovelace: The Origin! by Sydney Padua. Two words: EVIL and EXCELLENT! So what’s the fate of Ada Lovelace, “the only legitimate child of mad, bad, and dangerous to know poet and nutcase Lord Byron”? You’ll have to get your own copy to find out.

I’m new to GUD as of Issue 5, but I find it nonetheless appropriate that their cover image should draw our thoughts toward vision and perspective, the act and emotion of searching. Everything in GUD 5 is vivid, brilliant, and inquisitive. As the reader I found myself constantly asking, “what if?” and “would it be different?” and “what would we do?” and “what have we done?” This isn’t a journal you get bored with and never finish – you’re going to want to suck the marrow out of this journal until you’re left with the satisfying skeleton.

There’s another question I asked myself while reading GUD 5 – how did the editors find so much excellent work to dish up in one place? Take a look at the About page at GUD and the answer is summarized in elegant simplicity: GUD is for the writers, the readers, the editors, the world. This isn’t lip service – the GUD business model and editorial approach are clearly succeeding as evidenced by the cornucopia of work which entertains while it provokes. In Issue 5 I don’t find myself yawning over stale academic bread, but rather devouring literary delights with gusto, and savoring the discovery of so many talented artists.

My observation is that GUD seeks work which satisfies both editors and audience, and it attracts the zine-shy writer with cold, hard compensation. Most of us write for reasons other than money, but that doesn’t mean we writers don’t like to get paid. I want to applaud GUD for building their business to both compensate artists and demand excellence. The fruits of your labors, dear editors, are sweet indeed… like a wriggling dish of gagh, very fresh.**

* See: Change in Pronunciation – Please Comply! April 1, 2010

** See: Star Trek Library – Food – gagh


Discussions on the Craft of Storytelling

February 9, 2010

During Pennwriters Presents today, Guest Speaker Jamie Ford articulated the difference between writing and storytelling.  This is a subject upon which Anita Marie Moscoso and I typically deliberate at some point during most of our chats.  (Anita is a superb storyteller.)

In addition to being a Pennwriters member, I’m also a member of Willamette Writers, and the Pacific Northwest Writers Association.  Willamette Writers Office Manager Bill Johnson is one of the names I see the most, so today I decided it was time to learn a bit more about him.  Johnson is an author, teacher, story analyst, and produced playwright from Portland, Oregon.

If you visit Johnson’s website A Story is A Promise you’ll find numerous essays and videos wherein he shares his knowledge of the storytelling process.  He especially likes to analyze the introductory pages from selected works of fiction and discuss the breakdown of what’s written and why.

I like that Johnson emphasizes the importance of invoking questions and engagement from the audience (I always feel that I’ve crafted a good story or poem when my readers ask a lot of curious questions).  Johnson’s website is one, big friendly reminder to all authors to always consider audience, intent, and the promise of each story.


Ash Krafton: Secret Book Spy

October 15, 2009

Author and fellow Pennwriters member Ash Krafton is sharing a fun two-part series of articles that discuss the process of evolution from novel-writer to novel-author.  Join us at the Pennwriters Area 6 blog for parts 1 & 2:

Part 1: From Writer to Author: How I Became a Secret Book Spy


Inspiration from Louise Erdrich

September 16, 2009

My summer reading has included several novels by Louise Erdrich, one of the great contemporary storytellers, and an inspiration for me as an evolving writer.

Here is an interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! and Louise Erdrich.  Take a moment to hear Erdrich speak about the origins, motivations, and methods of her writing.


In Vino Veritas (Truth in Wine) Short Fiction Contest at The Clarity of Night

July 8, 2009

In Vino Veritas Jason EvansIt’s that time again:  Jason Evans is joined by co-host and debut author Jaye Wells for the “In Vino Veritas (Truth in Wine)” Short Fiction Contest at The Clarity of Night.

The “In Vino Veritas (Truth in Wine)” Short Fiction Contest launches today, July 8, 2009, in honor of Jaye Wells.   A signed copy of Jaye Wells’ debut novel Red-Headed Stepchild is included among the usual prizes of Amazon gift certificates.

The contest will be open for one week.  As with past contests, the limit is 250 words. Any genre or form is welcome so long as it is inspired by the “In Vino Veritas (Truth in Wine)” photo.  Complete rules are available at The Clarity of Night blog.  See you there!


Busy at Brainripples

June 10, 2009

Hot Cup of Inspiration

Greetings all: time for a little update on Jade Blackwater’s corner of the world.  Photos, notes, sketches, and ideas all pile up, but time just slips right past.  The June Solstice is a mere 10 days away!

Spring has had three main foci for me: garden, writing, and home.  As many of you know I am recently resettled in my home in the forests of Kitsap County, Washington; after nearly four years away, there’s a lot of work to be done.

The garden (i.e. the food supply) has been an important part of my springtime work, and I am pleased to say that small harvests of greens, herbs, fruits, and other cold-weather veggies are finally back on my table.  Pumpkins, corn, beans, melons, and other warm-weather crops are now in the ground.

My writing, while subdued, is slowly reemerging with the restoration of my personal creative studio and the return to my writing routines.  In addition, I’ve teamed up with Anita Marie Moscoso of Owl Creek Bridge to create the Pacific Northwest Pennwriters Chapter.  More on that ahead!

At the house, there are repairs and improvements to be made.  Mousies, bats, birds, insects, snakes, squirrels, and other beasties have all taken advantage of my absence.  Their slow, careful extrication is a part of chores like painting, sealing, cleaning, and clearing.  Gotta love forest life!

Speaking of forests, I am excited to share that Nalini Nadkarni’s book Between Earth and Sky: Our Intimate Connections to Trees was selected among the Best Spiritual Books of 2008.  If you haven’t found time to pick up this book, I hope you’ll add it to your reading list this season for a little green inspiration!

My projects this summer will include more of garden, writing, and home, hopefully with extra emphasis on the writing.  Now that I’m nearly settled I can tackle the hairy, scary task of sifting through several boxes of writing notes from the past five (ok, 10) years, and putting those ideas to work.  I’ll let you know when I find something good.

Until then, enjoy a hot, bittersweet cup of inspiration!

Hot Cup of Inspiration


Show and Tell Friday

February 13, 2009

 Awning Icicles, © Copyright 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

Welcome back to Show and Tell Friday!  I am slowly easing into my blogging routines, which means a return to our regular features here at Brainripples.

 

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, © Copyright 2009 Jamie FordToday we’re talking about writers, and to kick off I’d like to share Jamie Ford’s debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet which was released just two short weeks ago by Ballantine Books.  I finished reading Hotel today, and have long anticipated the arrival of this book since reading its predecessor “I Am Chinese”, a short story which was first published by the Picolata Review in 2006.

In Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet Ford artfully educates his readers on our not-too-distant past of WWII by telling us an accessible story about the love and friendship of two young Americans from Seattle, Washington. 

I’ll give you a full review another day.  Until then, there’s no reason not to hop on the bus and head to Seattle to pick up your own copy and meet Jamie Ford in person.  To see the rest of the stops on his nationwide booktour, visit JamieFord.com.

 

Now I’d like to point you to up-and-coming author and fellow Pennwriters member Ash Krafton.  Last year Krafton’s urban fantasy novel Bleeding Hearts won first prize for science fiction/fantasy novel and overall grand prize in the Maryland Writers Association 2008 Novel Contest.  She is currently marketing the Bleeding Hearts manuscript for publication.

Krafton just started the new Kraftmatic Adjustable Blog.  Be sure to check out her photo tour of Edgar Allen Poe.  I am embarrassed to admit that my announcement here is a bit late to encourage you to participate in the “Quoth the Raven” Poe Exhibition at The Free Library of Philadelphia, which finished today (February 13, 2009).

Also, check out Krafton’s short story Boots on a Branch, included in The Festival of the Trees 28, which celebrates the pursuit of inspiration, entertainment, and life-long youth.  Her poem Line will appear in the May 2009 issue of Numinous: Spiritual Poetry journal.

 

Next, I’d like to introduce writer Persephone Vandegrift whose work I first encountered while serving as Poetry Judge at Notes & Grace Notes.  Vandegrift writes beautiful poetry and fiction, and is a regular participant and multiple winner at Notes & Grace Notes, which is a new online writing community created by Harmoni McGlothlin.  Be sure to read Vandegrift’s winning poem Adam Paints a Picture; while you’re there take plenty of time to explore the other great writers sharing at Notes & Grace Notes.

 

Fellow Seattle-area writer Anita Marie Moscoso is still twisting our imaginations with her tales of the macabre at her Owl Creek Bridge.  Moscoso has been generous enough to invite me to share my darker shades of poetry at the Owl Creek Bridge, which most recently includes my poem Dehiscent.  In turn I invite you to join us there to read poetry and stories (such as my current favorite, “Typical Trixie“), and to explore Anita Marie Mosocoso’s hand-picked links to a wealth of writers, artists, and creative resources, which are certain to fire your inspiration.

 

My newest blog discovery is Mattie’s Pillow.  In fact, it is the author Cindy who happened upon the Brainripples blog and reached out to introduce herself.  Mattie’s Pillow shares a common interest in writing, art, and creativity, and includes extra inspiration from dreams, gardens, and horses, among other things.  Check out her Poetry Challenge 6 – my biggest challenge with this is, with which dream would I like to play today?


The Monongahela Review, Issue 3, © Copyright 2009Finally, as you can see from my previous post I’ve recently had two poems published at The Monongahela Review, an independent literary journal edited by Luke Bartolomeo.  Issue 3 of The Monongahela Review includes a beautiful selection of poetry, fiction, and visual art, so be sure to set aside a little time to wander and enjoy.

 

I’ll stop for now and save more for the next Show and Tell.  Feel welcome to share your latest goals, discoveries, or accomplishments, and have a wonderful weekend!