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


Friday Inspiration from Author Gerri George

January 15, 2010

Start your weekend with a little inspiration from author and fellow Pennwriters member Gerri George.  George’s short fiction piece “Henry Moore and the Bookstore Clerk” appears in the current issue of Wild River Review.

What I like most about this piece, beyond George’s talent for textural, present prose, are her reflections on art and its place in life.  I’m positively smitten by the main character, and I love George’s careful treatment of all people as observers, listeners, and participants in the greater conversation of art.  Take a few minutes to read, and listen.


Jade Blackwater’s Poetry in The Monongahela Review

February 9, 2009

monrev_iss3I am pleased to announce that two of my poems have been included in Issue 3 of The Monongahela Review, an independent literary journal edited by Luke Bartolomeo.  Both poems were written while I lived in a small cottage on a farm in Pennsylvania.

To read current and past issues of The Monongahela Review, please visit their website, or peruse their pages at Issuu publications.  As excited as I am to share my own writing, I encourage you to take the time to read the other fine works included in this issue.  Let your fellow writers inspire your work!

Submissions are now open for Issue 4 of The Monongahela ReviewSubmission guidelines are available at their website.

Stay True to Your Poetic Voice

July 29, 2008

This article first appeared in the July-August 2008 issue of The Penn Writer, a bi-monthly newsletter published by Pennwriters, Inc. 


I am a business writer by trade, and a poet by craft.  Poetry doesn’t pay bills, but when I think of all the things I love about writing, poetry is always at the forefront of my thoughts.  For me, the process of creating poetry is one of exploration and growth.


About five years ago I began to seriously consider pursuing publication for my poetry.  Most of my life poetry has been an independent pursuit, shared occasionally with colleagues, friends, and the random coffee-house audience.  When I began to write professionally, I realized that I was ready for the next step: I wanted to improve my poetry to be appropriate for an audience much bigger than myself.


The path to publication is neither direct nor generous.  Like most writers, I have a healthy stack of form rejection letters, each offering the same unhelpful response, “Thanks, but no thanks.”  From time to time, I’m inclined to wonder if I should reign in my poetic voice – modify my own work to emulate the more popular forms, tones, and styles that I see in contemporary publications.  While I might wonder about conformity, my conclusion is always the same: I must stay true to my own unique poetic voice.


I come to this conclusion by considering my original goals: I pursue publication for improvement and an audience, not for a byline.  How then, do I turn rejection notices into a useful tool for growth?  For me, the answer is in the editors, and in the pages of the journals to which I submit.


Recently I received a form rejection letter from Editor Paul B. Roth of The Bitter Oleander Press.  I like to send my work to Roth for two reasons: 1) I admire the work he publishes in The Bitter Oleander, and 2) he is one of the first editors who ever sent me thoughtful feedback on my poetry.


The form rejection letter is new for Roth.  He traditionally has taken the time to ensure that each submission receives a brief, personalized response.  However, like many editors, Roth faces ever-increasing numbers of submissions (hence the new form letter).  Nonetheless, in his letter Roth writes,


“Without the give-and-take between writer and editor, we know the effort each of us puts into our work may somehow seem a bit emptier.”


Herein I find the opportunity for growth:  Paul Roth and editors like him value the individuality of the writer, and are interested in the conversation of art – the interplay of creator, audience, and critic.  Roth may never find a place for my work in his pages, but the professional relationship we build – no matter how remote – is a critical part of my growth as a writer and poet.


I develop my trust in certain editors by reading the journals they compose.  When my work is sent back, I immediately return to the most recent issue of the selected publication and review my favorite works.  Again, I ask myself same questions that I always pose before I submit: Can I see my work in these pages?  Can I see my poems on the page facing the best works in each issue?


Although I may not find clear answers to these questions, I am consistently reminded of the fact that I submit to these journals because I admire what is contained in their pages.  I value individuality, and I am attracted to writers with unique voices.  I do not want to modify my work to match the common voice simply to earn a byline: I want to clarify my own voice so that it has the potential to find its own harmony in the contemporary chorus.


Poets must be brave.  We must conjure the strength to be mercilessly self-reflective.  We must be willing to be concise in both thought and form, sacrificing beautiful phrases for the counterweight of whitespace.  Poets and other creative writers must be willing to endure the sea of rejection letters in order to preserve our own small islands of creative individuality.  These are the challenges and rewards of the poet.


To poets and all writers, I offer these few words of encouragement: stay true.  Poetry is by definition an art of innovation.  In our struggle to find and nurture our own, unique poetic voice, we have the potential to create something new.  I encourage all persistent poets out there to embrace the rejection letter like a dear friend: the one who reminds us to be ourselves at the risk of not fitting in, because our individuality is our strength.

Apple Valley Review Spring 2008 Issue Now Online

March 1, 2008

The Apple Valley Review enters its third year of sharing excellent contemporary literature with the online community.  Apple Valley Review Editor Leah Browning never fails to prepare a unique and thoughtful selection of literary voices offering short fiction, poetry, and essays.

Explore the Apple Valley Review carefully and slowly: Browning affords each voice added depth by regularly publishing multiple works by individual authors, and supplementing each author’s work with a brief, relevant biography.  These final notes usually include the author’s reflection on a given work – a unique opportunity to see the method (and the madness) behind the creative process.

Clarity of Night Short Fiction Contest 8: Whispers

February 20, 2008

Attention writers! Jason Evans and Aine at Clarity of Night are hosting Whispers, number eight in their series of popular short fiction contests.  Participants enjoy a unique opportunity to engage with other writers across the blogosphere.  Winners receive generous prizes compliments of our hosts.  All participants have the opportunity to gain visibility, receive real-time feedback, and engage in a part of the larger artistic discussion via the language of short fiction.

Visit the Clarity of Night blog for contest information, and be sure to let us know when your work is posted online.  I hope to find an hour or two for writing my own entry as well!  Bon Chance!

Update: You can read my entry Night Owls, Entry 12 at The Clarity of Night.  There are many excellent entries already posted online – I encourage you to take some free time and read!  The Whispers Short Fiction Contest is open for entries until 11:00 p.m., Wednesday, February 27, 2008 EST.  Again – happy writing and good luck!

Show and Tell Friday

January 18, 2008

Rabbit Tracks, Chester County December 2007, © Copyright 2008 Jade Leone Blackwater

Greetings everyone!  I’ve been pleasantly busy with new projects, and today I get a chance to catch up on blogging.  It seems as though Show and Tell Friday is long overdue.  Here are a few artists and writers I’ve encountered among my travels:

Etsy Artists

Etsy is an online marketplace for independent artists of handmade goods.  Their mission statement reads: “Our mission is to enable people to make a living making things, and to reconnect makers with buyers.”

Mission accomplished.  This holiday season I had a chance to purchase through Etsy for the first time, and had a lovely experience.  I was able to connect personally with each creator via the “Conversation” or “Convo” tool which sends instant messages between customer and artist.  I purchased items from the following independent artists:

Designs By Flo

Flo designs jewelry and other small goods, including friendship bracelets!  Like many Etsy artists, she even accepts custom orders (thanks Flo)!

Artemisia Designs

Lupe designs jewelry which positively glows, and she also writes an inviting art blog, Handmade Garden.


Colleen’s work is 100% funky.  She creates jewelry and knick-knacks with genuine retro flare.

Also on Etsy:

Vaeda Baty – Fine Art Photography is a luminescent offering.  Her work emphasizes organic forms, and her compositions possess a soft aura.

Dana Lynn Driscoll and family own the Artistic Journeys Etsy shop.  Dana’s creation The Tree Tarot is a new tarot deck-in-progress which can be seen at the Artistic Journeys blog.  The Driscoll family also makes jewelry, purses, and other crafts.

Eric Keast (whom we’ve interviewed at Brainripples) is his usual busy self, as evidenced by his work on Bingorage.  He has a Bingorage shop on CaféPressCheck out his gorgeous coral earrings (up for auction on Ebay).  Keast has even generously offered a little “Coral Stitch How-To” for others to enjoy!

Writer Updates 

You may recall Francine M. Tolf from previous reviews at Brainripples of the Apple Valley Review.  Tolf wrote the essay Viola Pruessner, and recently published The Summer Before Eighth Grade in the current issue of Toasted Cheese.  And if you can believe it, I still haven’t had a chance to read it!  Take a look and let us know what you think.

I am a member of Pennwriters, a non-profit group for writers based in Pennsylvania.  I think the best part about Pennwriters is meeting different writers: this month I discovered Barbara Purbaugh.  Barbara published an article in the monthly Penn Writer which invited other Pennsylvania poets to get in touch.  Barbara is a member of the Works in Progress Writers’ Workshop which meets the third Thursday of every month, at 6:00 pm at Laurel Arts in Somerset, PA.

In fact, The Works in Progress Writers’ Workshop in Somerset is hosting Poetry Readings on these dates from 7-9pm: Sat, April 12, 2008, Sat., June 7, 2008, Sat., August 2, 2008, Sat., October 4, 2008.

Check out Barbara Purbaugh’s website for more details and upcoming events.


Also: the Philaldelphia area writers’ critique group is meeting regularly at its new location at the Valley Fair Barnes and Noble.  New members are always welcome!  Check out the critique group page here at Brainripples to learn more!


And in other news..


If you’re in the dancing mood, visit Arboreality to view a YouTube video preview of Biome, Capacitor’s newest dance video, shot in Costa Rica’s Monteverdi rainforest.  Capacitor is an interdisciplinary dance company based in San Francisco which works with the scientific community to compose dance.  Biome is positively vibrant!

And finally, here is a handful of literary journal’s I’ve discovered while browsing in recent weeks.  One of my goals this year is to make more time to resume submitting my poetry and creative writing.  I’ll be sure to update you on my progress in the Spring!

One Less – A Literary Arts Magazine 

Philadelphia Stories 

Pregnant Moon Review 

Low Rent Online 

Have a great weekend folks!