January/February 2017

Our annual Inspiration Issue features essays on writing about trauma as a subversive act, finding inspiration in rejection, the art of collaboration, the importance of publishing black writers, and our twelfth annual look at the year’s best debut poets; plus writing prompts for the new year, advice from agent Anna Ghosh, an interview with Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, information about more than a hundred contests with upcoming deadlines, and more.

Special Section

The Long Thaw: How a Concussion Revolutionized My Writing Life

by Nancy M. Williams
Print Only

When a writer suffers a serious concussion as a result of a car accident, she fears she might never write again. What she discovers instead on the long journey to recovery is a whole new writing practice.

Open to Interpretation: Fifteen Notes on Form and Failure

by Kevin Simmonds
Print Only

A composer and writer discusses the inspiration behind his play Emmett Till a river, which employs the Japanese theater form Noh, and the ways in which artistic practice can succeed through failure.

Emotion and Suspense: The Essence of Rasa Theory

by Rita Banerjee
Print Only

Developed in Sanskrit literature, rasa theory is an intense, visceral, and emotional response to viewing or reading a work of art. It can also help artists and writers effectively represent and harness emotions, creating suspense and surprise in...

News and Trends

Dear Readers, You Are Not Alone

by Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum

A new literary trend is gaining traction across the country: Silent Book Clubs, parties in which a group of people gather at a bar, library, or private home to read together silently.


Muslim Americans Take the Mic

by Marwa Helal

“The M Word: Muslim Americans Take the Mic,” a new series of readings and events from PEN America, aims to give voice to Muslim American writers and advance the conversation about the challenges that Muslims face today.

Page One: Where New and Noteworthy Books Begin

by Staff

With so many good books being published every month, some literary titles worth exploring can get lost in the stacks. Page One highlights the first lines of a dozen recently released books, including Roxane Gay’s Difficult Women and Kevin Wilson’s Perfect Little World, offering a glimpse into the worlds of these new and noteworthy titles.

Sharing Louisville’s Untold Stories

by Adrienne Raphel

The Louisville Story Program, a nonprofit dedicated to publishing unheard voices in Louisville, Kentucky, focuses on book projects in which community members tell their stories. Their latest project, We Can Hear You Just Fine: Clarifications From the Kentucky School for the Blind, features essays from seven visually impaired teenagers.

Small Press Points: Phoneme Media

by Staff

Small Press Points highlights the innovation and can-do spirit of independent presses. This issue features Los Angeles–based Phoneme Media, which publishes poetry in translation, with a focus on books from lesser-known countries and those written in uncommon languages like Isthmus Zapotec and Uyghur.

Literary MagNet: Aaron Gilbreath

by Dana Isokawa

Literary MagNet highlights an author alongside the journals that have published that author’s work. This issue’s MagNet features Aaron Gilbreath, who takes us through five journals that first published essays appearing in his debut essay collection, Everything We Don’t Know (Curbside Splendor).

The Written Image: The Art of the Affair

by Staff

Novelist Catherine Lacey’s latest book, The Art of the Affair: An Illustrated History of Love, Sex, and Artistic Influence, maps romantic entanglements, collaborations, and friendships between famous writers and artists, and features original artwork by Forsyth Harmon.

The Practical Writer

Learning From No: Finding Inspiration in Rejection

by Michael Bourne
Print Only

After having a story rejected by several literary magazines, contributing editor Michael Bourne discusses the lessons he learned from the experience, including the feedback and notes for revision he received from editors that helped him write—and...

The Literary Life

Vision, Interpretation, Play: A Portrait of Collaboration

by Suzanne Bowness
Print Only

The often playful process of writer-artist collaboration is explored through a close examination of the book Alphabetique: 26 Characteristic Fictions by poet Molly Peacock and visual artist Kara Kosaka.

Swimming to the End: A (Plot) Twist in the River

by Peter Selgin
Print Only

A precarious attempt to swim across the Hudson River helps a fiction writer explore the pathways of plot—through shifting currents, pain and exhaustion, and an unanticipated twist.

The Time Is Now: Writing Prompts and Exercises

by Staff
Print Only

Compose a series of poems addressed to an unknown person, write a story with an unexpected arc, or predict the future—three prompts to spark your creativity.