storytelling

13th Floor Magazine: The Meaning of Our Name

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By: Madison Larimore

October is special. Fall has settled in, the leaves are turning, Halloween is fast approaching, and another Friday the 13th is behind us. This time of year like no other marks change, transition, tradition, and superstition, and this October, we are thinking about our origins.

13th Floor Magazine was born in 2013. The original members, all graduated now, were searching for a unique, evocative name to call their new publication. One of the members lived on the thirteenth floor of an apartment building in downtown Omaha. 13th Floor Magazine had a nice ring to it, and though it was important that the publication name was catchy, it was more important for it to be meaningful.

The number thirteen has a bad reputation, scaring people so much with the threat of bad luck that most thirteenth floors are skipped altogether. But it can also be thought of as a number associated with things that are strange, misunderstood, weird, quirky, or unexpected. We strive to make our magazine just that—an outlet where students can be honest, creative, and best of all, where they can defy expectations.

This magazine doesn’t skip floors. We do not exclude. We embrace and we celebrate.

Share your unique voice with us by our next publication deadline: Halloween.

Publishing Tips

By: Kelsey M. Bee

As writers, many of us can agree that the publishing process is exciting, but at times, it can be equally panic-inducing. So often do we pour ourselves into that one piece that inevitably becomes a tender extension of ourselves. We owe it to that piece to let it breathe outside of our notebook; we know it deserves a life beyond our laptop. But then, we start to think about the logistics of sending that piece out, and the alarms in our heads go off: How do I go about doing this? What if it gets rejected? What if it gets accepted?!

When it comes to publishing, it is okay—normal even—to feel a little out of the loop. Publishing know-how comes with trial and error, familiarizing oneself with the market and the process, and consistent research. Below are some tips that might help those who are considering sending out pieces for publication, to 13th Floor Magazine or otherwise.

Tiered Lists

To help combat some of the fear and frustration, it is a good idea to compile a tiered list of journals or magazines in which you hope to be published. This list, which often has three or four tiers, enables you to narrow down the possible outlets for your work while also pushing you to research the publications. If that sounds tricky or time consuming, that’s because it is. Luckily, websites like Duotrope, Submittable, and Poets&Writers have gathered information about numerous publications, their submission deadlines, and any upcoming writing contests. These sites are great starting points for crafting your own tiered list. It will help you assess which publications are top-tier, second-tier, or third-tier. This might depend on the reputation of the publication, but it can equally depend on what you value in an outlet for your creative work.

Submission Guidelines & Masthead

When sending out your work, it is imperative to look through each journal’s submission guidelines and masthead. Often times, submissions can get rejected for not adhering to the guidelines, and we can all probably agree that if we are to get a rejection letter, we’d rather it be for the actual work rather than submitting incorrectly. Many publications have a masthead, or a Meet the Staff page, which identifies editors and their specific positions. If this is available, it is beneficial to know a little bit about which editors will likely be reading your piece. Additionally, it might be a good idea to address your cover letter to the lead editor of the genre that corresponds to your piece.

Attend Conferences

One way to help ease the stress of sending work out for publishing is to attend conferences. This can sometimes be expensive, but universities frequently offer travel funding for students, and it is definitely worth looking into. Conferences are a great place to network with fellow writers—established or up-and-coming—with representatives from MA or MFA programs, and with representatives from literary magazines or journals. Although networking might seem just as frightening as sending work out for publication, it can be a lot of fun even for the most introverted of writers. Conferences are great opportunities for like-minded people to learn from one another about the ins and outs of our industry, something that has proved invaluable over and over again.

If you’re feeling nervous about publishing fiction, nonfiction, or poetry, that’s natural and understandable. Just be sure it doesn’t hold you back from submitting your work.

Creative Writing + Nonfiction

By: Madison Larimore

My mom gets nervous at the thought of my concentration, creative nonfiction.

“Are you going to write about me? What are you going to say? Does the creative part mean you get to lie?” she asked, when I explained my degree to her for the fifth time.

I don’t blame my mom for having so many questions. I even find it difficult to answer those questions as a student who has studied the craft for three years. But creative nonfiction is not unfamiliar to us, no matter how hard to define the term may be.

The last time my mom asked me about it, I mentioned that the way we communicate on social media is a form of creative nonfiction: we use creative tools to best represent the nonfiction elements of our own personal lives.

In the craft of creative nonfiction, the creative tools are generally literary devices commonly found in fiction and poetry to tell the story well by crafting a scene, establishing character, etc. Of course, in creative nonfiction, the subject matter is true.

Creative nonfiction is not an oxymoron.

In other words, nonfiction, or the truth, does not have to be told boring and lifeless, and good writing does not have to be made up or imagined to be creative. Creative nonfiction can have literary merit, and those pieces that do represent the truth in a way that allows the reader to experience it in the most realistic, purposeful way possible. Creative nonfiction gives you an opportunity to directly expand your perspective through experiencing a piece of someone else’s.

In creative nonfiction, instead of the imagination, our main tool is memory. That’s where we get the term memoir, which is one of the largest sub-genres within the autobiography category. Another popular sub-genre is the personal essay, which commonly explores a question in the writer’s life. Sometimes you will hear both creative nonfiction and fiction referred to as prose, as opposed to poetry.

At the University of Nebraska at Omaha, students are lucky to have two departments with programs in creative nonfiction: the Writer’s Workshop in CFAM and the English department in ASH. Both of these departments are great resources to learn more. And of course, 13th Floor magazine, our campus literary magazine, publishes creative nonfiction. If you have any questions, please email me, the Lead Creative Nonfiction editor, at mlarimore@unomaha.edu.

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.

Save the Date for the 700 Words Prose Slam!

Have you ever wanted to read your work before an audience? UNO’s Writer’s Workshop and English Department will be holding a prose slam at Apollon Art Space on Thursday, April 6, 2017. Come out at 7:00 to read your work. Or, if you don’t have anything to read, stop by and support the readers for free!

Slipping Into Something a Little More Uncomfortable with “The Lobster”: Tone in Visual Story Telling

In a sea of summer Rom-Coms and big-budget franchise films, director Yorgos Lanthimos’ the Lobster emerged much quieter but just as decadent with an interesting aftertaste.

To briefly explain, the narrative centers on a society in which being single has been deemed illegal and the concept of love, impractical. Hours after his wife has left him, our protagonist is forced into a hotel where he must find a new companion within 45 days, based on even the most inane similarities, such as being nearsighted or be turned into the animal of his choice to try again in that realm. The plot alone is enticing, but what really makes the film work is how the story is presented. Like any good dystopian sci-fi film, the viewers are made to feel unsettled, presumably to invoke cultural or self-reflection. The Lobster is far from discreet in its criticism of a culture that commercializes swiping right to find a soulmate but it also pokes fun at the over-romanticization of “the single life”.

Although dystopian in nature, the world presented looks no different than our own, creating an eerie sense of reality that makes the subtle but strange sci-fi elements (like a random camel roaming in an out of frame) pop. It’s made even more uninviting by creating a sideline perspective; much like Scorsese’s Raging Bull, the audience watches the confrontations from a distance, from behind branches, or passenger seats of the car— almost as if we aren’t supposed to be seeing it. Yet, with long tracking shots and scenes devoid of any musical cushioning, we’re stuck. Stuck searching for any sense of warmth and relief— much like the main character.

The hotel represents the rational side of a partnership with indifference and consistency proving to be the quickest way to a mate (and if that doesn’t cut it, you get the bonus of a child to smooth things over). The environment is muted, a bland barrage of yellows and greys. Everyone dresses the same and most, if not every interaction is spoken through soft, monotone dialogue. Every act of passion is met with horrific punishment, whether its a man having his hand burnt via toaster for pursuing his “animal nature” or a woman’s screams from failed suicide attempt ignored. These shots are not short. The pacing of the hotel sequence drags and is done so to raise the tension in these characters. Stress, anxiety, and almost boredom stack on each other until the protagonist eventually escapes. Suddenly the screen is filled with a burst of color.

The second act of the film in which the protagonist lives with the Loners in the woods acts as a stark contrast to the hotel, filled with a lightness and that the audience quickly laps up. The pacing speeds up and just as we are getting comfortable a newfound and naturally intimate relationship, we’re reminded that there’s no in between in this world. The group sneaks into the city to gain supplies, posing in couples, but the protagonist and his love interest stick out without the lushness of the woods to hide them. And in this world, you are either blandly together or vividly alone. After they return the love interest is blinded, taking away the near-sightedness that had matched them.

Although we’re shown scenes of them attempting to continue the relationship, filled with the hope of a happy ending— of beating the system, the final shot is of her sitting alone. She waits for him to return after blinding himself as a sign of true love. The viewer sits waiting for a release, any sign of commitment, and we’re left wanting as the last thing we see is her alone.

The question ever-present in the Lobster is this: what is worse, being alone and “free” or being loved and less alive? And much like the ending of the film, no one knows the right answer, so, we sit and wait to decide what we would— or should—  do if placed in these circumstances. Even the promotional posters speak to this absence of an answer to what we’re really looking for by having both characters lovingly embrace empty space.

Lanthimos has created a message that stays with his audience well after the lights come back on, and he did this not only through the intriguing world he created but in the way he served it to us. Pacing, lighting, color, sound, and staging are all crucial seasonings added into the pot that makes this type of narrative so striking. Trust me, there aren’t many fish out there in the sea like this one.

To see more  discussion of visual storytelling technique and development of craft in film, check out the marvelous youtube channels, Every Frame A Painting and Channel Criswell

To read more reviews of “The Lobster”:

“The The Lobster (2016) Is Thought Provoking Indie-Weirdness – Movie Review”

“Yorgos Lanthimos: ‘I just think it’s interesting to start a dialogue’”

“The Lobster review: ‘like nothing you’ve seen before’ “

“Why ‘The Lobster’ Is So Lopsided”