Mitch James, Managing Editor
Mitch likes big ideas, believable characters, and lucid prose. He’s moved by points of contact, places where characters and their lives come together with each other or the world and systems around them. He finds tremendous meaning in the scraps left in the wake of living. Some of the best books Mitch has read in the past year are Lidia Yuknavitch’s Book of Joan, Sybil Baker’s While You Were Gone, Charles Frazier’s Thirteen Moons, George Saunder’s Lincoln in the Bordo and Erin Morgenstern’s The Starless Sea. Some of his favorite short stories this past year include Saunders’ “Sticks,” “Puppy,” and “Simplica Girl Diaries;” Joycelyn Nicole Johnson’s “Control Negro,” Téa Obreht’s “Items Awaiting Protective Enclosure,” and Ben Passmore’s “Your Black Friend.” Some of his favorite non-fiction reads this year include Seo-Young Chu’s “Woven: A Refuge for Jae-in Doe: Fuges in the Key of English Major,” J. B. Mackinnon’s “Tragedy of the Common,” and Robert Wolff and Thom Hartman’s Original Wisdom: Stories of an Ancient way of Knowing. In short, though Mitch prefers his steak medium rare, he likes his writing well-done.
He tells notoriously bad jokes.
Find more of Mitch’s work at mitchjamesauthor.com.
Michael Billings, Fiction Editor
I don’t necessarily fancy myself a formalist or classist; call me a generalist, if you must. In my own work, I tend to explore narrative possibilities or impossibilities; in short, I wrestle with improbabilities straying from the perceived path failing to latch onto the welcome wagon. I drift toward multimedia these days but still love the written text. All that being said, I find myself drawn to works that expand conventions, literature that takes one outside of comfort zones and challenges perceptions. I am enthralled with Murakami and his Kafkaesque adventures. The absurdist realms of John Kennedy Toole, Laurie Foos and David Bowman, along with Beckettian banality, are familiar playgrounds. Investigating the barren landscapes of brutal prose from Anchee Min, J.M. Coetzee and Han Kang offer sobering perspectives on depravity. Shifting focus, the wordplay of Joyce and the jazzy riffs of Kerouac soothe the aural senses. Delving further into wordplay and speaking in two tongues, the work of Theresa Hak Kyung Cha explores marginality and displacement. Finally, it is refreshing to settle in with the calming straightforward narratives of David Hinton.
Margie Griffin, Fiction Editor
Margie Griffin’s ever-evolving goal in life is to live on a sailboat and travel the world by sea. Until then, she is limited to living out her dreams through reading. Because of this, she wants to read new and exciting stories from authors who challenge their characters to do the unexpected. She wants to see polished and well-thought-out pieces with character-driven plots and distinct voices from authors of varying backgrounds. Whether you write stories like Ruth Ware’s thrilling page-turners or characters like Angie Thomas’ and Margaret Atwood’s world-changers, Margie wants to read them. Learn more about Margie.
Jacob Hart, Fiction Editor
While he’s a hopeless sucker for the thought of originality, Jacob is more inspired by great story-telling. Anything can make him feel a certain sort of way, but a well told story keeps his attention, and it’ll be something he remembers days after sitting with your work. Humor is his weapon of choice, and though he might not be an avid reader of genre fiction, he respects well-written and well-paced stories. He’s an advocate for experimentalism, as long as it makes sense; like taking a common thematic element in literature and flipping it right on its head. As taboo as it might seem, his all-time favorite work is the Fear & Loathing series by Hunter Thompson; however, Bullet in the Brain by Tobias Wolff is one of his go-to fiction works for inspiration. He wishes everyone the best of luck in all their writing endeavors, and stay dirty.
Jimmy Hollenbeck, Fiction Editor
Jimmy Hollenbeck currently lives smack in the middle of Michigan. He reads voraciously, but the stories that stand out most to him are those that push linguistic boundaries, blending prose with the innate poetics of language to create something altogether new and unique. One of his favorite novels that he feels does exactly that is Matt Bell’s In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods.
Follow Jimmy’s reading and writing adventures on Twitter @JimmyHollenbeck.
Elizabeth Katavich, Fiction Editor
Elizabeth Katavich commends writing with great heart and personality, showcasing a strong sense of voice and individual identity. Her favorite works include “A Dam Is a Promise” by Michael Salisbury and “Detroit” by Craig Bernier. She herself is a seasoned fiction writer and author of several works of her own, resulting in her earning a Certificate for Superior Writing in 2017. Having found a passion for English literature and composition, she currently attends Lakeland Community College with a focus in journalism.
Chital Mehta, Fiction Editor
Chital Mehta loves to read work that resonates with the writer’s world, inside and out. No hard and fast formula. Just work that echoes the reality around us in words that are shaped by fresh imagination. She loves to read work like Kailash Srinivasan’s “Bandar.”
Learn more about Chital on her website.
Venus Davis, Poetry Editor
Venus Davis likes to read devastating writing. She likes when writers pack a meaningful punch in their work and are able to create raw, unfiltered, unpretty emotions. For example, “To the Man Who Shouted ‘I Like Pork Fried Rice’ at Me on the Street” by Franny Choi does a wonderful job of attacking her subject in a very necessary way. Franny doesn’t hold back out of fear for what the reader may think, and Venus loves that kind of bravery in writing. She also likes weird writing; see “Ballad in A” by Cathy Park Hong. Obscure forms and unexpected stories fall high on the list of her favorite things to read. Learn more about Venus Davis on Twitter @VenusBeanus.
Dom Fonce, Poetry Editor
A publishable poem is a exhibition of precise and intentional language, thought, and craft. The characteristics of successful poems vary widely in the world. If you choose to be straightforward, be like Robert Fanning in “Staying the Night.” If you choose to be magical and curious, be like Mary Szybist in “On Wanting to Tell [ ] about a Girl Eating Fish Eyes.” If you choose to be political, be like Danez Smith in “dogs!” If you choose to be emotional and personal, be like Max Ritvo in “Poem to My Litter.” If you choose to connect identity to place, be like Allison Pitinii Davis in “Ohio” and Rochelle Hurt in “In the Century of Lunch Pails.” Ultimately, a poem is successful when, after the basics are achieved, it forces the reader to consider the world from many unique and surprising angles. Learn more about Dom Fonce on Facebook.
Matthew Gilbert, Poetry Editor
Matthew Gilbert enjoys writing that crackles and burns with emotion. He wants works that push the boundaries between writing and lived experience — works where language and form delight or agonize the speaker. Imagine poems like Ocean Vuong’s “Kissing in Vietnamese,” which layers reminiscence and sensation with longing for what is gone, or Joy Harjo’s “Fear Poem, or I Give You Back” where fear is expelled through the power of words and shapes a complex history of the speaker. Shock him with powerful images like Sharon Old’s “Still Life in Landscape” or break him with the raw truth of a world in need of transformation like Crystal Valentine’s “#feminism.” Poetry is fire to illuminate and remold. Learn more about Matthew Gilbert.
Will Russo, Poetry Editor
Will is most interested in work that demonstrates an astute sense of control. No matter the subject, a poem should guide the reader with careful diction and formal choices, such that the poem transcends mere description and is couched in the voice and perspective of the speaker. A few short favorites Will’s: “White Dog” by Carl Phillips, “Elms” by Louise Glück, “To the Harbormaster” by Frank O’Hara.
Kate Watt, Poetry Editor
Poetry that turns Kate on could be described in traditional terms as poetry that is playful with patterns, has fresh energy and imagery, tension within the form and the content, acute attention to the line, and that offers organic insight born out of the poem’s curiosities. But really, what it all boils down to is voice. The poems she responds to are those that have discernible attitude and urgency about them; those that aren’t afraid to piss her off and hold her accountable in their truth. It boils down to voices that take risks and unnerve. Voices that haunt, both on the page and long after the pages fall silent. Check out Franny Choi’s latest book, Floating, Brilliant, Gone, to enjoy such a voice. Learn more about Kate.
Emily Weber, Social Media Coordinator
When she’s not holding down her day job as a digital marketing manager, Emily loves finding the perfect GIF to accompany tweets @GreatLakesRev and sharing your work and other interesting reads on GLR’s Facebook Page.