The OAR started as a group of student volunteers lead by Professor Alison Powell. She was integral in creating and directing everyone to a path where we, as mostly inexperienced undergrads, could edit, produce, and run a literary magazine. For the last blog post of the semester I wanted to go back and speak with Professor Powell’s about her thoughts on the OAR’s journey so far.  Many thanks to Professor Powell for her guidance and support in starting this journal.

-Bethany Olson

What made you decide to start, or to work on, the inception of a literary journal?

There are actually few undergraduate literary journals which have a national focus; that is, there are few journals which publish students at institutions other than their own. It seemed to me that undergraduates across the country would appreciate having a journal in which to showcase their work; and at the same time, the project gives our own students an opportunity to try their hand at editing, layout, all the things that go along with publishing. 

What has been the biggest challenge getting things started?

Just figuring out where to begin! We had a blast getting the first issue out, but it was admittedly a chaotic experience – learning how to generate submissions, get the word out about our journal, figure out how to lay out a magazine with poetry, short fiction, and visual art – that was all quite a steep learning curve!

What has been the most rewarding for you?

Working with the students, without a doubt. All the students who worked on the journal impressed me with their commitment, ambition, and the passion they brought to the table.

What are your hopes for the future of the OAR?

Literary journals have a tendency to sink or swim within the first few years. I want OAR to continue as a long running project, and would love to have us continue to generate international submissions. In our first issue we have a poem by a student at Hong Kong Baptist University!

What does having a literary journal mean for the future of OU? How will this affect the wiring program and English department? 

Next year students who work on the journal will do so as part of a 300 level Special Topics class, available in the English Department and open to majors and nonmajors. This is our attempt to institutionalize the journal, and make sure it’s a regular offering every year; the class will also learn about the history of literature that has appeared in literary journals, and consider the unique issues and challenges that arise in literary journal publishing. Next year it will be taught by Prof. Jeff Chapman.

The OAR started, and remains, a student run voluntary organization. How was the experience of working with student volunteers? 

Amazing! The undergrad volunteers were so positive and upbeat, and game for anything – I was really so impressed with them.

Which magazines would you recommend to people who are new to literary journals?

Students who are interested in publishing their own work should look to OAR’s website, www.oaklandartsreview.com, for a list of journals that publish undergraduate writers (we publish no more than one OU student per issue). But in terms of national magazines, that publish writers from all backgrounds / ages, some great ones are Paris Review, Tin House, Ploughshares, Granta, and The Kenyon Review. But there are tons out there – those are just a few!

Headshot CameraMost people are familiar with the saying, “patience is a virtue.” In an effort to be better than our egos, we try to extend our patience and wait for the benefits to fall into our laps. Unfortunately, we’re often discouraged by anything that doesn’t pay off immediately. After multiple rejection letters from contests and literary journals, continued writing projects that just don’t end up the way that you imagined them, and nights spent writing things that ultimately don’t end up in your novel, it gets harder to believe that patience works. We’re all ready for our ‘big break’ as a writer, and the longer it takes, the less hope we have for the future.

Something to remember is that you’re not alone in your struggles! Your peers, and even big name writers, have all experienced that same dissatisfaction with how long it takes to get recognized. The good news is that there are things you can do to get you through those moments when you’re questioning everything:

  1. Enjoy the journey.

A common offense of impatience is focusing too heavily on your ultimate goal. While it’s important not to lose sight of your final destination, it’s equally as important to not get so engrossed that you forget to enjoy the stops along the way. Whenever I get too caught up in my goals, I try to refocus on the smaller things in my life. How can I work a conversation from class into my next short story? What can I do to make my work read more relatable? By turning my priorities away from the goal towards the work that actually has to be done to reach the goal, I’m able to find the fun in my writing. These little moments that you have before your work gets greenlighted – from getting praise from your editor, to finishing a draft you think might be the last one before the final draft – are things you need to appreciate, because they’re the stepping stones that got your target. Which brings us to our next point.

  1. Celebrate the small things.

As you’re working on that story that’s going to launch you to stardom, don’t forget to be proud of the little things you accomplish along the way. The first time you finished Nanowrimo successfully, winning a flash fiction contest at your university, or being asked to speak at a conference are all things that, while maybe not your main goal, are awesome things to celebrate and commemorate your journey as a writer! Showing gratitude for those experiences, as well as pride for your accomplishments, reminds you that you are making progress.

  1. Remember why you started writing.

When our heads get too clouded by the prospects of awards, money, or recognition, we can forget the real reason why it is we’ve become a writer in the first place: we love it. In a world where many people don’t pursue their passion, we’re some of the lucky ones who made that choice to do what we love. We all reach that realization I different ways, but those feelings, personally, are what started it all for me, because it’s what makes me feel like me. Remembering that your goal, whatever it may be, is just a temporary state of success, reminds us that the real goal is to keep doing what makes us feel alive. And that’s what really counts.

While I can’t promise that any of these things will magically make your impatience fade away, I can promise that a little perspective can go a long way when you’re waiting for your moment to shine. As long as you’re doing what you love and growing in your craft you’ll get what you’re aiming for. Just remember patience is key.

-Camera Martin

The first thing to consider when making a webcomic is how you will create the art. There Snapchat-351645379541516396.jpgare two main ways to make art: traditionally or digitally. A lot of artists blend the styles in some way, but for this post I will focus on talking about art software and tools that can help with making webcomics.

Art software:

  • Manga Studio 5: This costs $48 and is software made specifically for comic artists. It has an incredible range of features available, everything a comic artist would need. It’s my number one recommendation for those that are planning to make webcomics for the long haul.
  • Photoshop CC: This costs $20 a month, and can handle pretty much everything, from making webcomics to making standalone pieces of art. It has a massive user base and multitudes of tutorial videos, so learning how to use it is easy.
  • GIMP: This is free and has most of the capabilities that Photoshop CC has. It is a bit harder to master than Photoshop, but there are tutorials online, and they should help you learn it easily.

 

The next thing to consider is how to host your webcomic. When it comes to hosting your webcomic, you have two choices: hosting your own webcomic, or finding someone to host it for you.

Hosting Your Own Website:

  • Pros:
    • Can fully customize your website to your heart’s content
    • Can market and advertise your comic without limitations
    • You can make money off of your webcomic if you want to by selling a print version of it or whatever without worry
  • Cons:
    • Administration can be a nightmare at times, especially if you have no experience in making and maintaining your own website
    • It’s a bit harder to advertise your webcomic since no one is going to automatically do it for you

 

Finding a Hosting Website:

  • Pros:
    • You won’t have to worry about security or issues with the bandwidth of the website
    • Hosting websites offer free publicity and advertising
    • They’re good for figuring out if you want to commit to making comics long term, since all you have to do is upload your comic, and you can take down your comic whenever you want as well
  • Cons:
    • Most hosting websites don’t allow you to customize your page
    • If the website crashes, or if the host of the website decides not to host your webcomic, there’s nothing you can do about it

If you decide to find a host website, I recommend The Duck and Comic Genesis. The Duck offers art and writing tutorials for comics, is one of the biggest hubs for webcomics ever, and offers free publicity for different webcomics just for meeting certain criteria. Comic Genesis allows you to customize your own web page, has built in content management, and a subdomain, all in exchange for a single banner ad on your site.

 

The last thing you have to consider is publicity. There are a few ways to get foot traffic on your website, and here are some of the most true and tried ways:

  • Submit your comic to webcomic lists/directories. These are websites that list webcomics from everywhere, and people can find your webcomic by using the search engine the website uses.
  • Be active on social media. Make a page for your comic on Facebook or Tumblr or other online platforms. It helps to have a presence on multiple social media sites. Be very active on these websites, and try to interact with fans. Being friendly can go a long way.
  • Become friends with other webcomic creators. It will take a while, but other webcomic creators will advertise for you in exchange for you advertising them, whether it’s putting a banner ad on their website or them doing plugin for you on social media.
  • Become a part of the webcomic community. Spread your knowledge of making comics and connect with people in the community without expecting anything in return. Being kind and generous helps immensely with finding an audience for your comic.
  • Maintain a consistent update schedule for your comic. Updating on specific days without fail keeps readers engaged in your work. If you can’t keep up the schedule once or twice, be sure to make the readers know why. Keeping a schedule and keeping readers in the loop makes them feel engaged and like they matter, which will seriously help with keeping an audience.

 

I am a huge advocator for webcomics and webcomic artists, and I want to help everyone who aspires to join the webcomic community. You won’t become a famous, money making webcomic creator overnight, so remember to hang in there and work hard.

 

I fell in love with flash fiction a year ago, and often use it when I’m stuck on a longer piece2016-02-15 10.52.58 (1) but don’t want to stop writing altogether. If I’m working on a larger piece of writing and get stuck, I like to write a flash fiction piece. When I do, I take a current character, or a new one, and explore POV to try to flush out my character’s personality a bit more. This helps tackle my writers block and helps me learn things about my character that I didn’t know before. Flash fiction is easy because you do very little writing and revising. There also is no genre limit. If you’re a historical fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, horror, or contemporary writer, you can write flash fiction. The larger question often asked is, “Can I write a story with plot and character development in less than 1,000 words?”

Yes you can! And I’ll tell you how.

  1. Start your story in the middle, or wherever the plot conflict begins. You don’t have a lot of room for a lot world building or large bouts of summary, so you need to develop your character and their conflict from the get go.
  2. Have as few characters as you can. I usually only stick with about two characters. If you have four or five characters, it will crowd your narrative and you’ll end up going over your word limit.
  3. Use lots and lots of showing and no telling. If this rule applies most anywhere it is here. You want to display vividly painted characters whose actions will stick with your reader. Also try not to use too many adjectives. You don’t want to clutter up your narrative.
  4. The ending should be as big as your beginning. You’re trying to get your point across to your reader in as few words as possible. That being said, no cliffhangers, or confusing drop offs at the end. You want your reader to have a clear vision of what happens long after the story is over.

Flash fiction is difficult to master. It doesn’t follow traditional story arc, and the shorter your word count, the harder it becomes to develop a character and plot. However, as writers we need to challenge our skills. Being outside of your comfort zone when writing is often where the most learning and inspiration is gained. Happy writing!

-Sharnita Sanders

Sharnita Sanders – La mejor tinta is my all-time favorite Spanish poem (when it comes to English I have a whole different set of favorites). It was written by Armando Valladares

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when he was a prisoner in La Habana during Castro’s rule. He literally says in the first line: “me lo han quitado todo/la pluma/los lapices/ la tinta.” Translated to mean: “they have taken everything from me/the pen/the pencils/the ink.” Yet, what I love most is that they didn’t necessarily take “everything.” Valladares wrote this poem using la mejor tinta. His own blood, or as he says, “mi propia sangre.”

Camera Martin – My absolute favorite poem since high school has been To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvell. In three stanzas, it packs in so many rich allusions of religion, metaphors to time, morality, and the death of desire, it can be a little dizzying to keep up with. Besides the scholarly appeal of the challenge it poses for interpretation, the subject matter makes me smile, and constantly reminds me that humanity has always been motivated by the libido.

Erin Norton-Lannen – [as freedom is a breakfastfood] by e.e. cummings. The sing-song tone and the word choice make me nostalgic for the Shel Silverstein poems I grew up with, but what I really love about this poem is the last four lines.

Paige Rowland – The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Elliot. This is is my favorite poem of all time because of how purely pathetic Prufrock is as a character. He is beyond hopeless when it comes to interacting with people. He overthinks himself to death before he can even make eye contact with someone. He is so pathetic, but he is so very relateable. Every single person in the world has been melodramatic when it comes to someone they find attractive. People have felt like they were worthless and unworthy of anyone’s attention. It’s such a great representation of insecurity and feelings of inferiority, but it is also a great piece to look at to study some of the relationships that men have with power and the pressures that men do come under in society both back then and today. I love this poem a whole lot is what I’m trying to say I guess.

Haylie Armbruster – Zwei Manner (Two Men) by Wolfgang Borchert. Wolfgang Borchert was a humanist, and wrote poetry, screenplays, and short stories. He fought in World War II and was only 27 when he died. He is best known for writing in the German genre “Trümmerliteratur (rubble literature).” This genre evolved in Germany after WWII. This poem, I think, represents what Trümmerliteratur is about, but also reflects Borchert’s hatred of the war. The words are simple but evoke so much thought about wars and those that fight in them, as well as a war’s place in history. The melancholy of the piece, typical of Trümmerliteratur, sums up the experience of what happened to those affected by the war. The last line is so chilling!

Bethany Olson – Wild Geese by Mary Oliver. My favorite part of Wild Geese is the opening line, “You do not have to be good.” Throughout the poem, Oliver uses a casual tone to create an intimacy with the reader, but the opening line is especially comforting. For me, it feels more like chatting to a close friend than anything else. The entire poem serves as a reminder to let things go, and look at the bigger picture. To look, literally, at your place in the world at large. Whenever I have moments of anxiety or stress, I go back to this poem as a reminder to put things into perspective.

Happy National Poetry Month!

-Bethany Olson

 

March was Women’s History Month, a month in which people celebrate women and all of the incredible things women have done throughout history. At first I was skeptical about what this would actually mean. It seems like celebrating minority groups for a month at a time leaves a lot to be desired. What happens for the rest of the year? And how exactly do you celebrate a group of people who have been ignored throughout history? Yet, during this time I was able to learn about so many of those women who had not gotten the recognition they deserved. This attention lead me to the #readwomen trend, where bookish people read and recommended books about and for women for an entire month. Through these lists I’ve nearly doubled my To Read list, and found so many authors I hadn’t heard of before. So, inspired by the #readwomen trend happening on Tumblr and Instagram, I’ve complied a list of my favorite books written by and about women. If you have any books you’d recommend, or any books that would show up on your #readwomen list, leave them in the comments below.

-Bethany Olson

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“In English my name means hope. In Spanish it means too many letters. It means sadness, it means waiting. It is like the number nine. A muddy color. It is the Mexican records my father plays on Sunday mornings when he is shaving, songs like sobbing.” The House on Mango Street – Sandra Cisneros

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“Like a tropical storm, I, too, may one day become ‘better organized.” The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis – Lydia Davis

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“Along with the idea of romantic love, she was introduced to another–physical beauty. Probably the most destructive ideas in the history of human thought. Both originated in envy, thrived in insecurity, and ended in disillusion.” The Bluest Eye – Toni Morrison

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“She was learning, quite late, what many people around her appeared to have known since childhood—that life can be perfectly satisfying without major achievements. It could be brimful of occupations which did not weary you to the bone.” Family Furnishings – Alice Munro

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“She had the perpetual sense, as she watched the taxi cabs, of being out, out, far out to sea and alone; she always had the feeling that it was very, very, dangerous to live even one day.” Mrs. Dalloway – Virginia Woolf

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“Two or three things I know for sure, and one of them is the way you can both hate and love something you are not sure you understand.” Bastard Out of Carolina – Dorothy Allison

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“A room is, after all, a place where you hide from the wolves. That’s all any room is.” Good Morning, Midnight – Jean Rhys

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“She herself is a haunted house. She does not possess herself; her ancestors sometimes come and peer out of the windows of her eyes and that is very frightening.” The Bloody Chamber – Angela Carter

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“No matter how happy I had been in the past I do not long for it. The present is always the moment for which I love.” Autobiography of My Mother – Jamacia Kincaid

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“Love is like the rain. It comes in a drizzle sometimes. Then it starts pouring and if you’re not careful it will drown you.” Breath, Eyes, Memory – Edwidge Danticat

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“They had nothing to say to each other. A five-year age gap between siblings is like a garden that needs constant attention. Even three months apart allows the weeds to grow up between you.” On Beauty – Zadie Smith

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“Racism should never have happened and so you don’t get a cookie for reducing it.” Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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“I had the epiphany that laughter was light, and light was laughter, and that this was the secret of the universe.” The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt

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“Isolation offered its own form of companionship: the reliable silence of her rooms, the steadfast tranquility of the evenings. The promise that she would find things where she put them, that there would be no interruption, no surprise. It greeted her at the end of each day and lay still with her at night.” The Lowland – Jhumpa Lahiri

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“Because, once alone, it is impossible to believe that one could ever have been otherwise. Loneliness is an absolute discovery.” Housekeeping – Marilynne Robinson

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“How can I explain to anyone that stories are like air to me, I breathe them in and let them out over and over again.” Brown Girl Dreaming – Jacqueline Woodson

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“I was doing well enough until you came along and kicked my stone over, and out I came, all moss and eyes.” Nightwood – Djuna Barnes

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“Just as when we come into the world, when we die we are afraid of the unknown. But the fear is something from within us that has nothing to do with reality. Dying is like being born: just a change” The House of the Spirits – Isabel Allende

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“We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories.” The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood 

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“If neurotic is wanting two mutually exclusive things at one and the same time, then I’m neurotic as hell. I’ll be flying back and forth between one mutually exclusive thing and another for the rest of my days.” The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath