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5 Books to Read this Summer

By Claire Bromm

 

Summer is right around the corner (yay!) and that means having extra time to do all the things you didn’t have time for during the busy school year. This could be spending more time with family, finally getting around to working out, creating that DIY you’ve been looking at on Pinterest or sitting down and reading some good books.

Here are five books you should check out this summer.

 

  1. The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

If you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life? It’s 1969 in New York City’s Lower East Side, and word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die. The Gold children, four adolescents on the cusp of self-awareness, sneak out to hear their fortunes. The prophecies inform their next five decades.

 

  1. The Winds of Winter by George R. R. Martin

The sixth installment of the A Song of Ice and Fire series is slated to be released this summer, however fans of the book, and the HBO series Game of Thrones, have been burned by Martin and his long-writing process before.

 

  1. The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy English village and looking for any taste of excitement they can get. The chalk men are their secret code: little chalk stick figures they leave for one another as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing is ever the same.

 

  1. So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

Ijeoma Oluo explores the complex reality of today’s racial landscape–from white privilege and police brutality to systemic discrimination and the Black Lives Matter movement–offering straightforward clarity that readers need to contribute to the dismantling of the racial divide.

 

  1. White Chrysanthemum by Mary Lynn Bracht

Korea, 1943. Hana has lived her entire life under Japanese occupation. As a haenyeo, a female diver of the sea, she enjoys an independence that few other Koreans can still claim. Until the day Hana saves her younger sister from a Japanese soldier and is herself captured and transported to Manchuria. There she is forced to become a “comfort woman” in a Japanese military brothel. But haenyeo are women of power and strength. She will find her way home.

It’s National Poetry Month

By Maison Horton

Welcome to April, writers! The month of spring showers brings with it a chance to nourish our own writing. That’s because April is National Poetry Month and, consequently, National Poetry Writing Month (often abbreviated as NaPoWriMo). The idea is simple: thirty poems for thirty days. To honor National Poetry Month, poets across the country are challenged to let go of their inhibitions and just write for thirty consecutive days. Such concentration during a one-month period has the potential to take our writing into territory never explored. In this blog post, we’ll talk a little bit more about the NaPoWriMo event, as well as some reasons why you should consider participating this year.

 

Background

In 1996, The Academy of American Poets established the first National Poetry Month to be celebrated every April. The Academy’s website lists the goals of national observance, and those goals were to:

With these ideas in mind, it makes sense that a poet would seek to honor National Poetry Month by writing poems. Poet Maureen Thorson had that exact spirit when she started the poem-a-day event for the month of April. According to napowrimo.net, what began as a project by Thorson eventually inspired other poets to follow suit:

“This website is owned and operated by Maureen Thorson, a poet living in Washington, DC. Inspired by NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, she started writing a poem a day for the month of April back in 2003, posting the poems on her blog. When other people started writing poems for April, and posting them on their own blogs, Maureen linked to them. After a few years, so many people were doing NaPoWriMo that Maureen decided to launch an independent website for the project.”

The event site’s “About” page also mentions, “But this site isn’t meant to be ‘official,’ or to indicate ownership or authority over the idea of writing 30 poems in April.” Essentially, NaPoWriMo is purely for the joy of writing poetry and sharing that joy with like-minded poets. The event also gives poets a way to actively participate in the observance of National Poetry Month that is also personal.

 

NaPoWriMo Today

The expansion of social media has only extended NaPoWriMo’s reach. These days, a poet can find a wealth of resources to inform and inspire their poetic endeavors. There are numerous websites and blogs (Tumblr is one platform that comes to mind) that provide writing prompts for each day in April, prompts that often cater to a writer’s needs and goals.

 

Participation is Key to Growth

So, why participate in NaPoWriMo? What can a poet (or essayist, novelist, screenwriter, etc.) gain from writing a poem-a-day for thirty days? Below are some reasons to consider taking part in the fun this April:

  1. Flexibility. Beyond writing one poem per day, there are no rules! There are infinite ways to move forward with your writing goals for the month. It’s possible to borrow the rules from NaNoWriMo and meet a word count each day. Perhaps you want to work on existing poems instead of composing new ones. Maybe you’re the rebellious type—so instead, you’re thinking of working on that memoir manuscript. The main idea is to find a writing goal and to stick to it, as long as that goal gets you writing.
  2. Discovery. New and fresh ideas will arise, especially if writers choose to create brand new poems this April. I can speak to this method from personal experience. Last year I participated in NaPoWriMo, and I generated so much surprising material. I let my inner critic take a seat for the entire month. After April ended, I went back to my poems and underlined (and later, compiled) any threads—words, phrases, even whole lines—I thought had potential. NaPoWriMo is a chance to let the gems from your subconscious mind float to the surface and onto the page.
  3. Adventure. NaPoWriMo isn’t just for poets. Writers of all disciplines can benefit from experimenting with poetry, as poetry is one method that can help us practice creating compelling images through metaphor, simile, etc. If you’ve been avoiding writing a stanza or two, there’s never been a better time to get started on a new project!
  4. Community. In addition to providing writing prompts, many writing blogs accept and post NaPoWriMo submissions on their webpages. Inspiration abounds; know that by participating in NaPoWriMo, you’re not alone! The community surrounding the event is supportive and always encouraging. Having such a wide collection of artists engaging in the same event makes NaPoWriMo satisfying year after year.

4 Tips for Staying Motivated to Write

By Emily Kern
As the semester continues to flash by at an almost indescribable pace, it is easy to get swept away with the tide of homework, work, and other random to-dos, losing your motivation to write in the process. Despite majoring in Creative Writing, I definitely have experienced this inevitable reality of being pulled in a million directions, and my level of motivation for writing produced zero short stories and very few ideas. Because of that, I wanted to share 4 of my favorite tips for how to remain motivated to write even if other things require your immediate attention.
    1. Make time. It is easy to admit defeat and say we don’t have time. The simple solution is to say: make time. The more complicated solution is to actually follow through. Whether it is five minutes or two hours devoted solely to the words (and worlds) in your head, actively schedule time to write just as you would plan for an assignment for class.

     

    1. Set goals but make them reasonable. Knowing exactly what you want to accomplish can help you to stay motivated. Whether you decide to write a poem, a chapter, or just 100 words, having realistic goals that you know you can (and will) accomplish will help you stay excited, and motivated, to write.

     

    1. Reading the work of others can help to reignite the flame within us and remind us why we started. By opening your mind to the world of another, you open your mind to new ideas for your own work. Getting out of your own head is crucial for creativity. If you take the time to read a book, you are allowing your mind to wander in the background.

     

    1. Keep writing. There is no wrong way to write. If you are able to write short stories, essays, or poems every time you write, that’s great. But maintaining your motivation to write doesn’t have to mean always writing in your medium. The act of writing itself can help you to stay motivated. Try writing a letter to a friend or loved one, keep a journal and write down what happened in the day, write about what is bothering you, or try a brain dump. No matter how “productive” your writing feels, keep writing. It’s the only way to get better.

Life On Mars Review

By: Henry Nunn

Before the book is even open, Life on Mars offers a sense of its existential heft. An image of the Cone Nebula: taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. The turbulent mass of gas and dust has the potential to produce stars and planets—perhaps, to produce life. In her third collection of poetry, Tracy K. Smith explores grief and what it means to be human through a masterful conceit of space. She honors the life of her father, Floyd William Smith, who worked as an engineer on the Hubble Telescope. She questions the nature of God—a nature that seems to be shared with humanity. She celebrates the otherworldly zest of David Bowie and pries at the overstimulating political and social fabrics of the 21st century. She ponders reincarnation through the immutable laws of energy and mass conservation. By the book’s end, the reader is able to share in the cosmic tension one experiences looking into endless space, overcome by the fundamental paradoxes of existence and time’s inescapable transformations. And yet, there is still hope to enjoy life as simply as we sometimes know it to be.

“The Weather in Space”, the collection’s opening poem, introduces the final frontier as a metaphor to signify a state of being, a state of mind—a place of perpetual suspense and possibility, and yet emptiness. In the collection’s elegies to Smith’s father, such a representation of grief is especially compelling. While there is no “weather” as we know it in outer space, solar winds, magnetic fields, and other extraterrestrial phenomena are frequently referred to as space weather. These unpredictable behaviors caused by the Sun move the speaker to reflect on her life: “When the storm/ Kicks up and nothing is ours, we go chasing…/”. This sense of awe, and perhaps fear, in the face of forces beyond control seems to be embraced, or at least appreciated, by the speaker in the final lines of the poem: “After all we’re certain to lose, so alive—/ Faces radiant with panic.”

In “Solstice”, the speaker turns her cosmic lens to the United States. The title’s lack of specificity is worth noticing. Is this is the longest or shortest day of the year—the brightest or the darkest? The villanelle addresses the gassing of geese that were interfering with flights to and from the JFK International Airport in New York City and the protests following the 2009 Iranian presidential election. Ultimately, the poet uses the intertwining form to muddy the speaker’s perspective and overwhelm the reader: “So much of what we’re asked is to obey—/ A reflex we’d abandon if we could./ The Times reported 19 dead today.” At this point in the poem, the reader is unclear whether the “19 dead” refer to the geese or to people killed in the protests in Iran. This confusion is intentional; the poet wants to highlight the effects of humanity’s extraordinary leaps in technology and political investments on the everyday citizen. The speaker seems to fight against this apparently unstoppable progress but is unsuccessful. “We dislike what they did at JFK./ Our time is brief. We dwindle by the day.”

The range of subject matter in this collection is staggering. The existential poems are balanced by a lightness that can be found in various David Bowie cameos (e.g. “Don’t You Wonder, Sometimes?”—in fact, the title of the collection is taken from Bowie’s song “Life on Mars?”) and references to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, but that lightness does not compromise the dignity or emotion of the collection. Smith crafts an impressive balance of emotion and enlightenment with such a technical prowess and raw artistic talent—it is no surprise that she is the current Poet Laureate of the United States.

Life on Mars was originally published in 2011 and received the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 2012. One of those genuine examples of greatness, it is a collection that stands out among other collections of the 21st century for its potent imagination, technical brilliance, and visceral emotion. It is a rare work of genius that is accessible to readers of all backgrounds and interests.

Positive Psychology

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By: Moises Delgado

As we continue to settle into this new semester, let’s take a moment to talk about positive psychology. Typically, when we think psychology, we think symptoms, we think negatives, we think what has me down? And that is alright. Please do make time to think about what is troubling you, and to think about what can be done to battle those issues. But I also want to point out that we often give the negatives too much importance, we give them too much strength over us. So, I want to propose that we try and infuse more positivity into our daily lives.

First, what is positive psychology? To sum it up, it’s a movement to change the usual focus in psychology from the negative to the positive. To celebrate and improve strengths, dreams, and happiness. To build resilience. It’s inevitable: the semester will be more stressful as we continue. We’ll feel down, we’ll ponder purpose, we’ll lose sight of our goals. We’ll ignore the good and allow the bad to weigh us down. Therefore, here are some exercises that can be used to reign in positivity:

 

  1. Daily Achievements

At the end of the day, grab a notebook, a scrap piece of paper, or your phone, and jot down a few of the day’s successes. Any success, minor or major. For example, eating breakfast would be something that would go on my list. I, more often than not, skip breakfast and wait until late in the afternoon to have a single bite of food. Perhaps this will motivate me to change my eating habits. The point of this list is to make you feel good about yourself. To feel proud no matter how big or small the achievement.

And alternative is to make a checklist the night before. Reinforce your day’s successes by getting satisfaction from crossing off things off that list!

 

  1. Goals / Dreams / Aspirations 

Take a moment to remember why you’re in school, and/or why you’re working a certain job, and/or why you’ve joined a certain club, whatever it may be. Stop and use a few minutes to list in your mind (or on a sheet of paper) what your goals are. Most important, after you have your list, make another list and title it: “What I’m Doing to Achieve My Dreams.”

It’s easy to think about what we are not doing and why we may not be able to accomplish our goals, but that is not the purpose of this. Consider instead what you are doing now to reach your dream(s). Throw in what you’ve done already to be a step closer. Mix in your strengths, your connections, your experiences and think about how they will help and have helped you get closer to your goal(s).

 

  1. What Makes You Happy? 

Consider what makes you happy. Spending time with family, hanging out with friends, folding origami, writing, playing video games, reading manga, observing the moon. Make a list. What makes you happy? The purpose of positive psychology is to promote mental health, to build resilience through happiness, to focus on the strengths of an individual. So, after you have your list, go and do the things that make you happy! I understand life can be busy, but find, or make, some time to focus on you and your mental health.

It won’t always be easy to look at the positive side. I am a pessimist who often sees an empty cup no matter how much water is in there. But too much negativity is debilitating. At the end of the day, remember that your mental health is as important as your physical health. It can be easy to ignore, but tend to it as you would tend to a physical bruise. If need be, seek out help; you’re not alone.

 

Here is a link for UNO’s counseling services: https://www.unomaha.edu/student-life/wellness/counseling-center/services.php

Songwriting for Everyone

songwriting-2757636_960_720By: Virginia Gallner

When I started coaching for Omaha Girls Rock last summer, I found myself stumbling to find words for the process of songwriting. Standing in the Holland Center, surrounded by campers with so many of their own stories to tell, I struggled to find a way to explain how to unearth those stories and turn them into songs.

We started by being silly. Songs about potatoes, favorite colors, beloved pets. After much laughter and fun, we started to get more comfortable with the idea of digging deeper. Sometimes you have to give voice to the silly things, the jokes and absurdities, just to get comfortable with your voice as a songwriter.

But that’s just for getting started. If you want to write songs, the best advice I can offer is to listen.

Listen to all different kinds of music. Music that you might not normally enjoy. Listen to the way the words roll around each other, the way the melody chooses certain syllables to sustain and others to cut short. Songs are a very different beast compared to poetry, fiction, or nonfiction, because they have the added variable of melody. If you have ever performed slam poetry, you might know some of these techniques already.

Listen to the people around you for a taste of their stories. Songs, just like poems, do not have to be written from your perspective. Some of the greatest songwriters of our time—think of John Prine, for example, or Bob Dylan—wrote many of their songs about other people, sometimes even strangers. I invite you to sit in a coffee shop and listen to the conversations of strangers, and craft them into a ballad or lament spun out of your imagination.

Listen to your instincts. This process is an excavation, perhaps even more so than writing prose or poetry. Music is something primal and deep. But how do you take these very personal things and turn them into something universal, without saying something that hasn’t already been said before?

Everyone experiences the human condition. If you write about your own experiences, chances are, someone will connect with your story. It is all too easy to accuse a songwriter of being unoriginal with their choices of words and metaphor. But the most predictable songs, the ones that are loved and remembered, are the ones that speak to the human condition that we all know.

As we like to say here at 13th Floor Magazine, everyone has a story to tell, and I firmly believe that anyone can tell their story through song.

Fall 2017 Issue is Now Available!

Fall Cover

The Fall 2017 issue is here!

Check out some amazing pieces of writing and art for free via Amazon.com. This free edition is only available as an ebook. Make sure to download the Fall 2017 issue before September 1st. Click here to get your free copy.

Print versions of the Fall 2017 issue will also be available on blurb.com for only $11! Get yours here. Hurry, this sale will only last until September 1st!

We will also be selling print issues (while supplies last) at every Writer’s Workshop Reading Series event, starting Tuesday, September 20, from 7:30-8:30 p.m., at the University of Nebraska Omaha Art Gallery or Milo Bail Student Center, depending on where the reading takes place. You can see a list of the reading series dates and locations here.