Archive for the ‘Games, Contests, & Diversions’ Category

From Our Winners

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

We’re on a bonus-material kick, so here’s some good stuff related to our contest—statements from the readers of your many amazing entries and a bit from the winners on their moolah-worthy works.

NOTE on the POETRY: We were impressed with the formal variety of this year’s contest submissions. The things you’ve done with a page!  There were sonnets, of course, and even sestinas (a few!). There were poems about water in very long lines stretched out like rivers. There was a series of LA Haiku. There were prose poems, prose poems with holes to fall (or think) in, lineated proselike poems in which every line was end-stopped. There was a “Poem as a Field of Action.” There were elegies, histories, taxonomies, narratives, and lists. There were tiny, itty-bitty, microscopic lyrics. And the content! There was a poem for Thelma & Louise and one for Charlie Chaplin. There were pomegranates, epidemics, vibrators, and snow. You sent us your most romantic love poems, the finest tributes to your very best friends, your brightest joys, your deepest heartbreaks. And having to choose just one winner, for us, was the biggest heartbreak of all.​

Chelsea Jennings (on her winning poem, “Elegy”): Birds appear often and with great symbolic power in elegies. Watching the birds that perch on the telephone wires outside my window or that have nested in my kitchen vent, I wondered what it might mean to live among these creatures that harbor our losses. I began to imagine every bird as bearing the weight of someone’s grief. “Elegy” is a record of the world created through that perspective—when the feeling of loss collides with the peculiar, everyday magic of birds.

NOTE on the PROSE: It was a pleasure to read so many well-crafted and accomplished stories. We got absurd and surreal stories, like the one featuring absurd postcards from D. H. Lawrence’s trip to Mexico in which Frieda has a prosthetic head. We received imaginative, magical realist stories—one starring a spell-casting farmer creating magical problems for encroaching suburbanites. You sent us meditative and emotionally moving personal essays, telling us (for example) about loving the film Father of the Bride and your conservative father when you eloped into same-sex marriage. We got lyrical and psychologically acute realist stories, like the one where a man has an existential crisis at a bird fair with a much younger girlfriend.  You send us so many wonderful stories that to pick just one winner was downright traumatic. We had to do it, but we’ll never be the same again.

Tom Howard (on his winning story, “The Magnificents”): I started with the little scene in the beginning of the story: a dumbshow in which the character of Death is savagely beaten in front of cheering spectators on someone’s front lawn, as part of an extravagant birthday celebration.  And I imagined this strange middle-aged guy standing and watching, hopelessly out of place—kind of lonely, holding a bottle of meat-flavored champagne, with his head halfway in the clouds. I didn’t think this world had much use for someone like him, someone without any real talent or ambition or ruthlessness. But I liked him. And it became (among other, stranger things) a story about giving him a chance to show what he, or anyone, is really worth.

News from the Crypt

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

Hey, CR followers. We’re breaking our summer skeleton-crew silence with a reminder, an update, and a treat.

First, don’t forget our summer contest. There’s some lovely moolah attached to the Schiff Prizes—and even if the eds don’t pick your piece to win, they may still want to publish it at our usual per-page rate ($30 for poetry, $25 for prose). In the event that we don’t opt to publish your stuff this time around, you still get a full year’s subscription to the mag, which includes bonus music features AND the 64-page, full-color graphic play MOTH, which we plan to mail out with our November issue. Illustrator Gable Ostley is hard at work and sending us new “rough inks” almost daily, and playwright Declan Greene is supplying captions and dialogue for Gabe’s sketches. The finished product is going to be amazing.

Now for the update: We just approved the final proof for our summer issue and expect the shipment in the next week or so. Our TEN-tacular issue includes last year’s Schiff Prize winners, three reviews that meditate on the staying power of the classic Moby-Dick, the usual complement of terrific stories and poems, another great translation feature,  and—bonus—it will be accompanied by our latest music feature, composer Sarah Hutchings’s score for Jeff Gundy’s poem “March Ode.”

Today’s treat comprises a last delightful look at our winter number in the form of our (relatively) new blog feature Pas de Deux, in which contributors to a given issue interview each other about what intrigued, puzzled, or impressed them in the another writer’s story, poem, or essay. This installment features an exchange between Daniel A. Hoyt and Douglas Silver on the latter’s story  ”Found Peoples.”  Check back in a couple of days for the switcheroo: Doug’s questions and Dan’s responses!

Daniel A. Hoyt: I have lots of questions about bodies and lots of questions that seem to beget more questions. “Found Peoples” starts with such gripping, visceral language as Feng, the story’s protagonist, examines a dead body he’s fished from the river. I was immediately convinced by the body; I was there with Feng as he “pinched the green eye, and the contact lens peeled off.” How did you create these artful and disturbing states of decay? What kind of research did you do? Is this a feat of imagination, of medical textbooks, of Google?

Douglas Silver: Google is generally my first stop—be it for a spicier Massaman curry recipe or the particulars of each stage of human decomposition. Numerous websites and academic journals provided an indispensable foundation in the science of decay. I read a lot and emailed a few experts and saw many images I would like to unsee. From there, it was a matter of backtracking—from ashes to animation—and deciding upon those details that provide a glimpse into the lives of the deceased.

DH: How about your depiction of China? How did you go about imagining and creating the physical setting and the rich sociological dynamics underpinning the story?

DS: China’s abysmal record on human rights and personal expression is infamous the world over. It is a dreadful place to be writer and a fascinating place to write about. Much of the societal and physical depictions were the product of research, but the narrative atmosphere was strongly influenced by my visit to China after graduating high school. When I arrived at the airport in Beijing, I noticed a sign that read Warning: Drug Trafficking is Punishable by Death in the R.O.C. Being 18 and an idiot, I thought this a superb photo-op. Before I could put away my camera, two officers approached me. One took my luggage and emptied it in front of everyone while the other demanded my passport. When they didn’t find drugs, they repacked me (admittedly neater than I had packed myself) and welcomed me to the country. When I told someone I met about this interaction, an American who had lived in China for years, she explained how lucky I was, how much worse it would have been if I were Chinese. I sought out that airport photograph when I began the story and kept asking myself what becomes of the unlucky.

DH: Because these questions are for a Pas de Deux feature, this question seems almost mandatory: Will you discuss the way you use foils in “Found Peoples”?

DS: One of the challenges of the piece was providing the reader a palpable sense of Feng’s former life. It seemed the most organic method to achieve this was through Feng’s encounters with those who were devoted to his family, and leveraging this juxtaposition for the benefit of both characterization and narrative tension. At some point, it occurred to me that it is Feng’s contact with the living through which the reader derives the clearest prospective into Feng’s past, i.e., the life he lost. Conversely, it is his dealings with the dead that most clearly render his present life—a paradigm that is upended by his time with the young woman’s body.

DH: There’s a strangely mundane yet magical moment in “Found Peoples” when Feng thinks of and explains the story of the prodigal son. To many members of a western audience and to many western characters, that explanation is unnecessary, but Feng has to think about it in a different way. How did you discover Feng’s point of view? How do you go about shaping point of view in your stories?

DS: I’m of the belief that the surest way to figure out a character is to determine what he or she most desires. If my character doesn’t have an urgent need, then I don’t have a character. At least not one I have any right to expect readers to invest in. I start by asking myself the basics: What does CHARACTER want? Why does CHARACTER want it? What is preventing CHARACTER from getting it? In Feng’s case, while he spends his days working vigilantly and dishonorably to afford basic human necessities, he desires at his core the safe return of his family and the communal acceptance that carries. But he is powerless to achieve that desire; his sole option is faith—something he has never possessed, what divided him from his family prior to their incarceration and what he can’t acquire without them. Once I realized the paradox of Feng as a man who doesn’t believe and therefore isn’t believed in (and therefore can’t believe), I felt like I might have character worth following.

DH: This one may seem like an assignment rather than a question, but I wish more people would read Our Mutual Friend (you too, Gentle Reader of The Cincinnati Review blog!), so here goes: As I first read “Found Peoples,” I immediately thought of Gaffer Hexam, the “night bird” in Our Mutual Friend, who, like Feng, fishes corpses from a river and strips them of valuables.  Here’s a link to the opening chapter, when we first meet Gaffer and his daughter, Lizzie. Doug, I know you were initially inspired by a news article about men who retrieve dead bodies from rivers in China, but had you read Our Mutual Friend? What kind of dialogue do you see between your story and the opening of Dickens’s novel?

DS: I’m embarrassed and grateful that I had not heard of Our Mutual Friend. Having now read the first chapter, I am not sure I would have had the confidence to write the piece had I known that none other than Charles Dickens had employed a similar conceit, especially given that both stories start out in medias res. While it appears Gaffer and Feng are not driven by similar desires, both have no qualms about plundering the dead. Gaffer’s rhetorical statement “Has a dead man any use for money? Is it possible for a dead man to have money? What world does a dead man belong to? ‘Tother world. What world does money belong to? This world. . . .” places a premium on corporeality similar to that of Feng, whose ken is viewed through the lens of materialism. Again, I have read one chapter, so my analysis might prove to be total bunk. (But I’m enjoying it thus far, as might you, Gentle Reader of The Cincinnati Review blog!)

Five (well, technically ten) Golden Tickets

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

Yep, it’s our tenth. And if you’ve been reading our blog posts and status updates, you know celebratory mailings and events are spilling like silk scarves out of the CR tophat. But there’s one we haven’t mentioned yet—the equivalent of the coveted rainbow scarf, rainbow meaning it’s got it all, that we’re going all out, or all in, or a combination of those and some other confusing, very nearly meaningless phrases. Yes, friends, we mean we’re having a gala. In Seattle. When many of you fine writer types will be there. A gala involving fancy hors d’oeuvres (like shrimp toast), and free drinks at the extremely sleek-looking bar, and a huge saltwater fishtank (a WALL of FISH), and a synapse-leaping lineup of readers (Kevin Prufer, Jamie Quatro, Roger Reeves, and Joanna Scott), not to mention a lot of extremely experienced listeners. There’s only one hitch: You have to be invited. We wish there were shrimp toast for all, but the seas are already overfished, so we have to be careful of the numbers. Still, we want to see our most passionate subscribers, those of you who murmur lines from our pages in your sleep, who develop restless leg syndrome when you know a new issue is in the mail. To you—actually only five of you—we offer a chance to attend our swanky offsite soiree (Friday, February 28, from 7 to 10) and to bring a friend. In other words, the first five people to open the current issue of CR and respond to this post with the first four words (a bit of dialogue) on page 71 get the CR tenth-anniversary full monty. By which we mean an invitation and a spare (for a pal)—not that we will get naked. Okay, Trapp might get naked.

We won’t approve the responses until we receive five—which means you can’t cheat by copying someone else. Submit your entry by commenting on this post (click the title). Subscribers, run for your 10.2’s!

Game of the Month: February Is Like…

Monday, February 11th, 2013

So: February. Did you know that this month’s observances include American Crossword Puzzle Week and National Fettuccine Alfredo Day? Until a few minutes ago, neither did we, because the miseries of February have blinded us to its less horrendous aspects. But we’re trying to make it more bearable by having a bit of fun with February in our new game of the month (our last one, unfortunately, was lame, or dull, or something that resulted in no one even trying). To make up for it, we’re going to award five prizes this time out. We want you to win. Really.

How to play? Tell us what February’s like. Come at us with your best metaphors and other literary lampoonings. Here are a few examples to get you started:

Short and brutal—a Napoleon of a month. —Alli Hammond

February makes a bridge, and March breaks it. —George Herbert

Kath says February is always like eating a raw egg;
Peter says it’s like wearing a bandage on your head;
Mary says it’s like a pack of wild dogs who have gotten into medical waste
and smiles because she clearly is the winner.

—Tony Hoagland

Submit your entry by commenting on this post (click the title) by Friday, February 15. Writers of the five best similes win their choice of thermos, slingpack, or CR back issue (2.2 excluded). Good luck!

Game of the Month: Guess the Drawer

Friday, February 1st, 2013

We’ve stocked up on the essentials as we finish our copy editing and prepare to send the next issue (due out in May!) to our amazing typesetter and designer. Over time, we’ve collected an odd mix of things on our desks: highlighters, flavored waters, and a sharp knife on one; a king-cake baby, Starbucks mug, and the AWP Writer’s Chronicle on another; and a ham sandwich, Irish breakfast tea packets, and a piece of paper describing proofreading marks on a third.

For our Game of the Month, you get to guess which staff member has filled this desk drawer with these particular items! Your options are:

A) Becky Adnot-Haynes, associate editor

B) Lisa Ampleman, associate editor

C) Don Bogen, poetry editor

D) Michael Griffith, fiction editor

E) Nicola Mason, managing editor

F) Matt O’Keefe, senior associate editor

G) Brian Trapp, assistant editor

If you get that answer right, you’ll receive a free slingpack, thermos, back issue (excluding 2.2), or we can add an issue to your current subscription—your choice.

And BONUS!! If, in addition to explaining whose drawer it is, you can say WHY it is filled Lay’s potato chips, you’ll receive a FREE one-year subscription.

Leave your comments by clicking on the title above. (Volunteers and former staff are ineligible for this game. You people know too much.)

Game of the Month: Copyediting Extravaganza!

Friday, January 11th, 2013

It’s that time of the year: We’re copyediting like mad. Colored pencils are flying across pages. Brian’s downing thermosfuls of coffee. Becky’s chain-eating Laffy Taffy because the sugar and constant jaw movement “help her concentrate.” Nicola’s using her eraser so furiously that a small cloud of rubber-scented dust hangs above her desk. Lisa complains that her body is becoming withered and atrophied from lack of sunlight and exercise, but we’ve noticed that her forearm muscles are getting totally ripped from lifting The Chicago Manual of Style so many times.

In the midst of our copyediting blitz, we’re pausing to let you, readers, sample the process. Submit your answers to the Chicago-inspired quiz below by clicking on the post’s title. First five readers to get all of the answers right win their choice of free back issue or CR-branded thermos or slingpack.

In accordance with the 16th edition of the CMOS, answer the following questions.

1. Titles. Choose the correct version of the following sentence.

A. DILBERT is my favorite cartoon.
B. Dilbert is my favorite cartoon.
C. “Dilbert” is my favorite cartoon.
D. Dilbert is my favorite cartoon.

2. Time. True or false: In the following sentence, the a before quarter is optional.

He left the office at a quarter of four.

3. Numbers. How are percentages typically expressed in text (nontechnical)?

A. With both the number and the word percent spelled out: “Fewer than three percent of the employees used public transportation.”
B. With numerals and symbols: “Fewer than 3% of the employees used public transportation.”
C. With numerals and the word percent (spelled out): “Fewer than 3 percent of the employees used public transportation.”

4. Hyphens. Identify the incorrectly hyphenated words or phrases in the sentences below.

He suffered acutely from a tooth-ache.
Her career was a flash in the pan.
He had recently been diagnosed with type A diabetes.
She treasured her mother’s old cook-books.
It was a commonly-held belief.

5. Punctuation and Spacing. True or false: In typeset matter, two spaces should be used between sentences.

The Blue Pencil Prize

Friday, November 30th, 2012

As we mentioned Wednesday, we’ve sent off Issue 9.2 to subscribers, no matter the spilled Laffy Taffy, tangled tape, or papercuts necessary to complete the shipping project. Keep an eye on the mailbox for your issue (or order it here if you forgot to renew your subscription!), and when it arrives and you open it with reverence, immediately grab a pen or pencil (even better if it’s blue) and take a careful look for mistakes. Despite our thorough proofreading process, which involves six sets of eyes, we’re not perfect. If you can prove that by finding one legitimate typo or mistake in Issue 9.2, we’ll post the results on our blog—and you’ll win a prize!

Leave your comments by clicking the post title above (unless you can already see the comments section). The first five to respond get their choice of a free issue, thermos, or slingpack, along with a blue Col-Erase pencil, the old-timey editor’s tool of choice. Yes, we’re old school, and we like it that way.

Furry Walls and Medieval Weaponry

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Yep, these are just part and parcel of the average EGO (English Graduate Organization) reading. The last event for the semester, which took place this past Thursday, featured two of CR’s esteemed staff—Lisa Ampleman, poet extraordinaire, whose area of study is courtly love; and Brian Trapp, fictionisto, who studies the letter R (serif and sans-serif permutations), which was once in the ampersand family, which was once in the clef family, before a tragic breach that the other letters attribute to a long-ago dispute over whether ampersand (representing in one elegant sweep what is a group effort for A, N, and D) was full of herself. R voted yes—and also implied ampersand’s butt was too big. Ampersand responded in a taunting singsong: “Jealous.”

But back to the EGO reading—to see the above-mentioned walls and weaponry, as well as the shining visages of many of our staff and volunteers (past, present, and future), friend us on Facebook.

The Final Ballot-Shower: Election Day Reflections

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

We members of the CR staff are taking seriously our role as swing-state voters. We got up early, braved the final desperate reaching hands of the canvassers outside the polling places, carefully colored within the lines of the Ohio ballot’s rectangles, and now sport snazzy stickers proclaiming  that we made a difference. As you wait in line or anticipate the evening news coverage of the election results, we wanted to extend an election day offering: quotes from writers about the valiant act of voting. Happy Election Day!




“In reality, there is no such thing as not voting: you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some Diehard’s vote.”

—David Foster Wallace, from the essay “Up Simba”


“All voting is a sort of gaming, like checkers or backgammon, with a slight moral tinge to it, a playing with right and wrong, with moral questions; and betting naturally accompanies it.”

—Henry David Thoreau, from “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience”



“A great event has recently occurred in our parish. A contest of paramount interest has just terminated; a parochial convulsion has taken place. It has been succeeded by a glorious triumph, which the country—or at least the parish—it is all the same—will long remember. We have had an election; an election for beadle. The supporters of the old beadle system have been defeated in their stronghold, and the advocates of the great new beadle principles have achieved a proud victory.”

—Charles Dickens, from the story “The Election for Beadle”



“In the lack of judgment great harm arises, but one vote cast can set right a house.”

—Aeschylus, from The Eumenides



“Those who stay away from the election think that one vote will do no good: ’Tis but one step more to think one vote will do no harm.”

—Ralph Waldo Emerson



“Come, let us vote against our human nature, / Crying to God in all the polling places / To heal our everlasting sinfulness / And make us sages with transfigured faces.”

—Vachel Lindsay, from “Why I Voted the Socialist Ticket”



“Election Day, November, 1884”

by Walt Whitman

If I should need to name, O Western World, your powerfulest scene and show,
’Twould not be you, Niagara—nor you, ye limitless prairies—nor your huge rifts of canyons, Colorado,
Nor you, Yosemite—nor Yellowstone, with all its spasmic geyser-loops ascending to the skies, appearing and disappearing,
Nor Oregon’s white cones—nor Huron’s belt of mighty lakes—nor Mississippi’s stream:
—This seething hemisphere’s humanity, as now, I’d name–the still small voice vibrating–America’s choosing day,
(The heart of it not in the chosen–the act itself the main, the quadriennial choosing,)
The stretch of North and South arous’d–sea-board and inland—Texas to Maine—the Prairie States—Vermont, Virginia, California,
The final ballot-shower from East to West—the paradox and conflict,
The countless snow-flakes falling—(a swordless conflict,
Yet more than all Rome’s wars of old, or modern Napoleon’s:) the peaceful choice of all,
Or good or ill humanity—welcoming the darker odds, the dross:
—Foams and ferments the wine? it serves to purify—while the heart pants, life glows:
These stormy gusts and winds waft precious ships,
Swell’d Washington’s, Jefferson’s, Lincoln’s sails.

Monthly Contest: Issue 9.1 Mash-Up

Monday, September 24th, 2012

For this month’s contest, associate editor Becky Adnot-Haynes took a cue from Glee (back when it used to be good) and created a mash-up of words and phrases from choice poems and stories in CR’s latest issue. And now we want you, readers, to get in on the fun: Take out your super-secret spy glasses, pull out issue 9.1, and unlock our code! Be one of the first five people to send us the correct sentence (we will wait till we have five before we release the comments) and win your choice of free back issue, CR thermos, or CR slingpack.

(Note: Instructions do not take into account titles or author names; for example, “line ten” refers to the tenth line of the body of the poem).

The fourth word of the thirtieth line on page 92.

The last word of the tenth line on page 18.

The fourth word of the fourth line on page 150.

The fourteenth and fifteenth words of page 71.

The fourth word of the second line on page 80.

The third through seventh words of line 6 on page 74.

LEAVE YOUR COMMENTS BY CLICKING THE TITLE OF THE POST ABOVE.