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 novels Mitch has read in the past year are Hilary Plum’s Strawberry Fields, Robert Olmstead’s Coal Black Horse trilogy, Wiley Cash’s The Last Ballad, Abi Andrew’s The Word for Woman is Wilderness, Sarah Rose Etter’s Book of X, Catherine Lacey’s Pew, and Evie Wyld’s Bass Rock. Some favorite short story collections include Michael Croley’s Any Other Place: Stories and Jamie Lyn Smith’s Township, and favorite poetry collections include Ron Riekki and Andrea Scarpino’s Undocumented: Great Lakes Poets Laureate on Social Justice, Lauren Shapiro’s Arena, Zach Savich’s Century Swept Brutal, James Richardson’s for Now, and Kari Gunter-Seymour’s A Place So Deep inside American It Can’t Be Seen. Some memorable non-fiction reads this year include David Christian’s Maps of Time, John McWhorter’s Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue, Matthew Salesses’ Craft in the Real World, and Eric Bennett’s Workshops of Empire.
In short, though Mitch prefers his steak medium rare, he likes his writing well-done.
Find more of Mitch’s work at mitchjamesauthor.com.
J.R. Allen, Fiction Editor
A lifelong Michigander, J.R. Allen recently moved to southwestern Ohio to pursue an MFA at Miami University. 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 J.R.’s reading and writing adventures on Twitter @JRAllenWrites
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.
Brittany N. Jaekel, Nonfiction Editor
Brittany N. Jaekel writes from her home in the Twin Cities. She is particularly drawn to cross-genre experiments, memoir that plays with form and language (think Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir by Lucille Clifton), and stories of “human and natural histories” (think Judith Schalansky’s [Pocket] Atlas of Remote Islands or John McPhee’s Annals of the Former World). Send creative nonfiction that engages the reader long after the work has been set down, and/or writing that boldly experiments with language or genre while telling a compelling story. Brittany’s work has appeared in RHINO, The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, and elsewhere.
Learn more about Brittany on her website.
Joanna Acevedo, Reviews Editor
Joanna Acevedo is interested in fiction with a strong sense of narrative, poetry that goes to unexpected places with language, and above all, writing that hits hard and is emotionally resonant. She thinks often of the Emily Dickinson quote: “If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can warm me, I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.” She is always trying to surprise herself and be surprised by writing, and she is always looking for the next big thing. Some books she’s read this year and loved include Recollections of My Nonexistence by Rebecca Solnit, Bad Summon by Phillip Schaefer, Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino, and F*ckface by Leah Hampton. She likes variety and is a genre pansexual—she reads and writes fiction, nonfiction, and poetry in equal amounts. Learn more about her and her writing.
Emily Updegraff, Reviews Editor
Born and raised in the western U.S., Emily has lived in the Chicago area for over twenty years and now calls it home. As a reader of fiction, she loves books that open windows into the inner lives of others, think works by Alice Munro, Jhumpa Lahiri, Kazuo Ishiguro, and Wallace Stegner. Family dramas like the Gilead series by Marilynne Robinson are also favorites. As a reader of poetry, she is drawn to work that resonates–both sonically through the music of spoken word, and through likenesses to common human experiences. She particularly admires Ada Limón, Wisława Szymborska, Lucille Clifton, Stephen Dunn, Mary Oliver, and Gerard Manley Hopkins. As a poet, her work has appeared in Great Lakes Review, River and South Review, Third Wednesday, and elsewhere.
Gillian DiPofi, Photography Editor
Gillian DiPofi is an artist from Geneva on the Lake, Ohio. Her preferred mediums are watercolor and photography. She is in search of photographs that relate the photographer’s intention without the use of repetitive form or subject matter. She enjoys photography that provokes feelings of nostalgia and familiarity. She is a big fan of Street Photography because of the small, fleeting moments it captures of people’s everyday lives. In her own work, she tends to paint or shoot “What feels right to me in that moment.”
Michael Billings, Review Editor, Fiction
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, Review Editor, Fiction
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.
Elizabeth Katavich, Review Editor, Fiction
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.
Lauren Frick, Review Editor, Poetry
A Northwest Indiana native, Lauren grew up a short drive from Lake Michigan. For now, she will be reading, writing, and grad school-ing in the foothills of the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains. Lauren is drawn to pieces that explore the intricacies of the mind on the page—the pieces that follow the obscure, stray thought wherever it may go. If a poem grapples with the questionable state of our planet, rages against the machine, or reflects on the interdependencies of the life supported on this very cool planet we live on, she will read it. Lauren wants to see softness and razor-sharp edges, bluntness and irony, cynicism and hope, rage and compassion—all of the emotional extremes and all of the in-betweens. She likes poems that do weird things with language and poems with profanity. Some of her favorite poems include Adrienne Rich’s “Twenty-One Love Poems” (especially the Floating Poem), Erika Meitner’s “To Gather Together,” Elizabeth Alexander’s “Ars Poetica #100: I Believe,” Benjamin Garcia’s “The Great Glass Closet,” and anything by Danez Smith.
Matthew Gilbert, Review Editor, Poetry
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.
Wesley Scott McMasters, Review Editor, Poetry
Wesley Scott McMasters is from the hills of Pennsylvania but now lives just within sight of the Great Smoky Mountains and has a dog named Poet (who came with the name, he swears). He loves poetry that is carefully written and contains multitudes–but also is accessible and real, written for people who are real. Poetry that can uncover emotions we are all familiar with but in ways we have never seen before. Poetry that finds the beautiful in everything; poetry that makes things holy. Wesley’s favorite poetry over the past few years has come from Li-Young Lee’s The Undressing and Kaveh Akbar’s Calling a Wolf a Wolf.
Check out Wesley’s most recent chapbook, Trying to be a Person (2016).
AJ Schmitz, Review Editor, Poetry
AJ Schmitz NEEDS poetry to push against constraints. It needs to explore the gray-matter, to manipulate language, manipulate the boundaries of the genre. There is a Psychogeographical element that all poetry needs, pushing against convention, working within its parameters while simultaneously reshaping the lay of the land. Take academic prose and put its back on the canvas like he does in his poem LA Story; Or Songs On My Ipod; mess with structural mores as Frank O’Hara does in his “Meditations In An Emergency”; or focus on Place the way Langston Hughes does in “Juke Box Love Song”. Let the words ululate, defamiliarize, pioneer the blank spaces of creativity. Use language to SHOW, not tell; narrative poems are tremendous, but be sure the work speaks in multiple levels, in multiple voices, to multiple audiences. Poetry need not be Experimental, but it MUST be Exploratory.
For more on his Aesthetics and Attitudes, follow AJ on Twitter @Dr_AJknowsaword.
Kate Watt, Review Editor, Poetry
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.
Lindsay Adams, Review Editor, Nonfiction
Lindsay is drawn to memoir that relates or speaks to a larger moment or social issues, or that discovers the personal through an investigation of something else, like Simi Linton’s My Body Politic: A Memoir or Durga Chew-Bose’s Too Much and Not the Mood. She also often recommends “The Crane Wife” by CJ Hauser to innocent bystanders who are wearing a shirt with a bird pattern or look particularly resigned. Lindsay loves short form prose, micro flash, flash, and the short-short story. Some of my favorite nonfiction and fiction is work that muddies time and genre or, perhaps more accurately, explodes them into a billion fragments, like Jennifer Egan’s “Black Box.” She loves work that can envelop us in a character’s longing, novels like Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle or Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain. Lindsay is always looking for work that deals with the worst of humanity and satisfies her deeper, sadistic, middle-school love for psychopaths and sickos and sad people but doesn’t settle for easy cynicism or easy answers.
You can read one of her creative nonfiction pieces online at Oxford Magazine.
Andrea Bossi, Review Editor, Nonfiction
Andrea Bossi is a poet and journalist from Chicago’s South Side. She’s on hiatus from her studies at Harvard College, where she studies cognitive neuroscience and African American Studies. In nonfiction, Andrea looks for pieces that reel her in and give her no choice but to become intellectually curious and emotionally invested. Work like this tends to be/come quite personal to the writer, influenced by their identity and experiences as appropriate. And a poetic quality is always a bonus. While Andrea doesn’t necessarily expect investigative journalism, Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah’s “A Most American Terrorist: The Making of Dylann Roof” is a great example of the excellence she seeks.
Kelsey Askwith, Copy Editor
Kelsey Askwith is a fiction writer with short stories published in several literary journals. She is currently working on completing her first short story collection. An avid reader, her dream job is to be paid to read amazing fiction and nonfiction, preferably by a pool, but a sunny patch on the porch will do in a pinch. She lives on a small farm where she tends a large garden, chickens, rabbits, and cats. She is also busy raising her four children whom she adores.
Amira Hegazy, Layout Editor
Amira is a multimedia artist and poet who spends most of her time making books by hand and mentoring the next generation of emerging artists and designers. She loves to design in ways that amplify and contribute to the dynamic understanding of texts and artworks. She sees collaboration, play, and abandon as an essential part of design and artmaking and loves to work with people who feel the same. Amira is obsessed with all things print and paper related especially the intimacy of books and printed media in our lives. She loves Krista Franklin’s “Under the Knife” published by Candor Arts, e.e. cummings’ experimental forms, and all of Hanif Abdurraqib’s poems about flowers.
To experience Amira’s artistic and design work you can visit her website.
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.